News Releases

Obama’s War Escalation and Whistleblowers: Historic Resonance

One of the billboards in DC featuring Dan Ellsberg encouraging whistle-blowing is just outside the Iraqi embassy.

As war escalates in the Middle East, the Obama administration’s policies toward transparency and disclosure of key information are taking on heightened importance. Such issues will come into sharp focus later this week when Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg speaks at a rare news conference in Washington.

Praised as a “patriot” by Secretary of State John Kerry on national TV last spring, Ellsberg remains an outspoken critic of government actions that suppress information and punish whistleblowing. His news conference is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 18, at the National Press Club (1 p.m., Murrow Room). For background on Ellsberg, click here.

The following policy analysts are available for interviews:

WILLIAM BINNEY, williambinney0802 at
Binney is a former high-level National Security Agency intelligence official who, after his 2001 retirement after 30 years, blew the whistle on NSA surveillance programs. He said today: “The pattern with Ellsberg is remarkably similar to how virtually all whistleblowers are treated: They expose something that is illegal, criminal or just plain stupid. They get attacked. The problem isn’t fixed, it just gets perpetuated because there’s an entire complex that defends itself at all cost. You have so many culpable people in the executive, in Congress, in the courts that basically defend each other because they know if one goes down, they’ll all go. And they should all go down. One great irony is that under Executive Order 13526, sec 1.7 — this is the executive order that governs classification for the U.S. government — you cannot use classification to cover up an illegality or abuse in any form.”

Binney’s outspoken criticism of the NSA during the George W. Bush administration made him the subject of FBI investigations that included a raid on his home in 2007. Even before Edward Snowden’s NSA whistleblowing, Binney publicly revealed that NSA had access to telecommunications companies’ domestic and international billing records, and that since 9/11 the agency has intercepted some 15 to 20 trillion communications. The Snowden disclosures confirmed many of the surveillance dangers Binney — without the benefit of documents — had been warning about under both the Bush and Obama administrations.

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at
Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He said today: “We’re at a pivotal historic moment, bringing to mind the comment that history doesn’t exactly repeat itself but it tends to rhyme an awful lot. Fifty years ago, the suppression of accurate information and the intimidation of would-be whistleblowers were integral to the escalation of the U.S. war effort in Vietnam. Today, such suppression and intimidation are integral to the escalation of the U.S. war effort in the Middle East. Obama is not Johnson or Bush, but fundamental and grim patterns are rhyming.”

The Ellsberg news conference is sponsored by, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy. Ellsberg is a founding member of the ExposeFacts advisory board.

Scottish Referendum: Nationalism or Democracy?

On Thursday, people in Scotland are slated to vote on whether to become an independent country.

DAVID MILLER, d.miller at
Co-editor of Neoliberal Scotland: Class and Society in a Stateless Nation, Miller is professor of sociology at the University of Bath, England, UK.

He said today: “For me the first question is what is the best outcome in terms of the power of the British state in the world. Given its historically negative role (not least in Iraq), anything that challenges its power has my support. In London they are scared that they will be ejected from the UN Security Council and the G8 and that they will lose their ‘independent nuclear deterrent’. All would make a real contribution to global security.

“Most importantly they are scared that their ability to borrow (to be the second most indebted nation on earth after the U.S.) will be compromised by independence as they will not have the oil for the collateral they need.

“But the thing which is driving so many people to consider a vote for yes is the failure of Westminster politics. The lies, the corruption, the growing inequality and the attacks on public services. There is a crisis of credibility throughout the UK. In Scotland the experience of the Scottish Parliament, created in 1999, has been broadly positive. The parliament has devolved responsibility for health, education and a number of other powers. The people of Scotland have seen small but real differences in Scotland as compared with the rest of the UK. Free personal care for the elderly, a halt to private involvement in the National Health Service and free university education are all notably not available south of the border.

“In the end this is not a question of nationalism for most people in Scotland but one of democracy.”

Nobel Peace Prize Winners Urge Obama To Halt Legal Action Against Journalist

Two winners of the Nobel Peace Prize on Monday urged President Obama to halt legal action by his administration against New York Times journalist James Risen.

In a statement addressed to Obama, the Nobel Peace Laureates — Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland and Jody Williams of the United States — said that they “urge a swift end to the U.S. government’s legal threat of imprisonment and harsh fines for New York Times reporter James Risen, who has covered issues of war and peace.”

Maguire and Williams added: “Without confidential sources, journalism would be reduced largely to official stories and propaganda — a situation antithetical to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution that has served as a beacon of press freedom for more than two centuries, inspiring people all over the world.”

The Nobel Peace Prize winners addressed what a front-page New York Times article this summer called “the most serious confrontation between the government and the press in recent history.”

The U.S. Department of Justice is now considering whether to attempt to force Risen to testify against an alleged source. If Risen refuses, as he has vowed to, he would likely face harsh fines or imprisonment. Risen has refused to identify a source for information about a bungled CIA operation involving flawed nuclear weapons blueprints, aimed at Iran in 2000, that appeared in his 2006 book State of War.

Here is the complete text of the statement by Maguire and Willliams, released on Monday by, a U.S.-based activist organization that has been among the groups campaigning in support of Risen:

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear President Obama:

Because a free press is vital for democracy and peace, we urge a swift end to the U.S. government’s legal threat of imprisonment and harsh fines for New York Times reporter James Risen, who has covered issues of war and peace. Without confidential sources, journalism would be reduced largely to official stories and propaganda — a situation antithetical to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution that has served as a beacon of press freedom for more than two centuries, inspiring people all over the world.

We concur with the 100,000 signers of the petition submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice on August 14, 2014, which urges you to “halt all legal action against Mr. Risen and to safeguard the freedom of journalists to maintain the confidentiality of their sources.”


Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize, 1976

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, 1997


The following people are available for interviews about the significance of the Risen case:


Halgand is the U.S. director of Reporters Without Borders. She advocates for a wide range of journalists and media rights worldwide.

GREGG LESLIE, gleslie at
Leslie is legal defense director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He has served as a member of the American Bar Association’s Fair Trial and Free Press Task Force.

The Endless Death of Perpetual War

MATTHEW HOH, mphoh at
Hoh recently wrote the piece “The Beheadings Are Bait.” He also wrote “BDA, Genocide and Oil in Iraq,” which notes that examining the battle damage assessment shows that “most of what the U.S. has bombed in Iraq has not been heavily armored equipment or advanced weaponry, but rather a limited number of makeshift vehicles and roadside barricades.” He also recently wrote “Iraq War Veterans Should Know Better.”

He said today: “The President’s citing of the success of American military policy in Somalia and Yemen show how intellectually and morally dishonest this administration, like the previous administration, is. Both nations are chaotic and violent and American military action, particularly drone strikes that often kill innocents have not diminished al Shabaab in Somalia or al-Qaeda in Yemen, rather those groups continue to operate and enjoy the recruitment benefits of American airstrikes against Somalia and Yemeni civilians, as well as how American actions play into their propaganda narratives and raison d’être.

“A more apt comparison would have been Afghanistan, where a continued U.S. military policy of picking sides in a foreign civil war has seen American troops beginning their 13th year in combat in Afghanistan, violence against civilians at its highest level, the Taliban stronger and more confident than they have ever been, and Afghanistan’s government in Kabul in its most severe political crisis since 2001.

“What President Obama stated last night, which if put into policy will in effect be a re-invasion of Sunni lands by Shia and Kurdish forces backed by American firepower, will greatly exacerbate the Iraqi Civil War and will revert Iraq to the bloody days of 2006.”

Hoh, now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and on U.S. Embassy teams in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He was subsequently appointed Senior Civilian Representative of the U.S. government for Zabul Province in Afghanistan. Five months into his year-long contract in 2009, Hoh resigned and became the highest-ranking U.S. official to publicly renounce U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Hoh was awarded The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling in 2010.

RAED JARRAR, rjarrar at
Policy impact coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, Jarrar said today: “President Obama’s four-pronged strategy, announced in a brief speech last night, is still based on the myth that extremism can be defeated by military force. The plan includes using direct U.S. airstrikes, arming local ‘partners’ (i.e. proxy groups) for ground combat operations, preventing attacks against the U.S., and continuing humanitarian aid. The word ‘political’ was not mentioned a single time while discussing the situation in Iraq.

“Bombing Iraq and Syria into moderation and stability is one of the main underlying assumptions of the President’s strategy. While I wish there was a way to get rid of extremism this easily, this is why the President’s plan will not work:

- The U.S. tried this before, and failed. Actually, the U.S. tried to destroy ISIS while we had a full-on military occupation of the country with over 100,000 boots on the ground. The group, dubbed as ISI [Islamic State of Iraq] at the time, was weakened but — as we can all see now — was never defeated.

- Our Iraqi ‘partners’ are not that different from ISIS. They’re brutal, corrupt, sectarian and dysfunctional. Although the White House makes it seem like we’re stepping in to support our good friends to get rid of the one bad guy, facts in Iraq suggest that there is no legitimate Iraqi force that the U.S. can support. As Reuters reported earlier this week, in a piece entitled ‘Iraq’s Shi’ite militia, Kurds use U.S. air strikes to further own agendas,’ ‘Shi’ite militia and Kurdish forces fought under their own banners and the least visible flag was that of Iraq.’ A Kurdish commander quoted in the piece described the Shi’ite militia he’s coordinating with as the ‘Shi’ite ISIS.’ Human Rights Watch and other international organizations have documented numerous war crimes and gross human rights violations committed by Iraqi factions supported directly and indirectly by the U.S.

- Like in Syria, where the White Houses refuses to lump all armed opposition factions into one umbrella, Iraq has other armed opposition groups behind the uprising. These groups include remnants of the old regime and army, tribal militias, and other local groups. None of these agree with the ideology of ISIS, but they tolerate or coordinate with it hoping to get some leverage in addressing their legitimate grievances. Rather than attempting to draw a wedge between them and ISIS, the President’s plan will end up uniting them.

“There are very thoughtful and long term plans that can eliminate extremism in Iraq and Syria, but the U.S. military intervention, and continuing to support some Iraqi factions against others, will only delay real solutions.”

13 Years After 9/11: Has ISIS Been “A Saudi Project”?

At 9:00 ET this evening, President Obama is scheduled to address the nation on ISIS and waging war in Iraq and Syria.

ALI AL-AHMED, alialahmedx at, @AliAlAhmed_en
Director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, al-Ahmed said today: “We need political solutions rather than military solutions. U.S. allies have basically been the ones feeding violent groups like ISIS: Saudi Arabian, Qatari and Jordanian regimes. None of them have been held accountable for that. Quite the contrary, sometimes it seems to have been done with the approval of at least some U.S. officials.

“As Steve Clemons recently wrote: ‘Qatar’s military and economic largesse has made its way to Jabhat al-Nusra, to the point that a senior Qatari official told me he can identify al-Nusra commanders by the blocks they control in various Syrian cities. But ISIS is another matter. As one senior Qatari official stated, “ISIS has been a Saudi project.”‘

“Saudi officials like Bandar [bin Sultan] and Turki [bin Faisal al-Saud] come before U.S. audiences as enlightened individuals representing a ‘moderate’ government when their role in the region is anything but that. In fact, the ideology of the Saudi regime is remarkably similar to that of ISIS. You can see that in their statements and text books. The Saudi regime poses now as being critical of ISIS, but it’s great at speaking in different voices.

“The reality is that many of the suicide bombers in Iraq have been Saudis — and of course most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi.

“More generally, the Saudi regime has been a regressive influence through much of the region. It backed the coup in Egypt against the elected government there, helped crush the popular uprising in Bahrain and took in the dictators from Tunisia and Yemen. And of course, it oppresses its own people, including being the kingdom of women’s oppression — no other government has this notion of women being the property of their male guardians. It’s not that the culture is backward, it’s the government. The monarch has even kept several of his own daughters under house arrest, one of whom recently called for an uprising against the regime.

“Obama has been part of a long line of U.S. presidents who have backed the Saudi regime as it has oppressed the people of the Arabian Peninsula. The U.S. has no credibility on human rights without publicly confronting the Saudi monarchy on its dire human rights record and its destruction of the Arab people’s desire for freedom and progress. The Saudi regime is not the solution as it’s often portrayed — it’s a huge part of the problem.”

Background: Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation recently wrote: “‘Thank God for the Saudis’: ISIS, Iraq, and the Lessons of Blowback,” which notes: “U.S lawmakers encouraged officials in Riyadh to arm Syrian rebels. Now that strategy may have created a monster in the Middle East.”

Yet, Chuck Todd in his interview with President Obama on the “Meet the Press” broadcast on Sunday portrayed more Saudi involvement as a solution: “I got a somewhat snarky email from a — from a casual viewer who said, ‘The United States gives a lotta military aid to Saudi Arabia. It’s about time they use it.’ What do you say to that?” Obama responded: “It is absolutely true that we’re going to need Sunni states to step up — not just Saudi Arabia — our partners like Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Turkey. They need to be involved.” Obama then referred to the “moderate Sunni states.”

Also, note: In fact, Saudi Arabia does not get “a lotta military aid” — but rather buys a lot of U.S. weapons, thus funding U.S. military corporations. See: “U.S. announces $60 billion arms sale for Saudi Arabia.”

Key Author of War Powers: Obama Needs Authority to Bomb Syria — Or Iraq

USA Today reports: “President Obama spends Tuesday soliciting congressional support for expanded military action against the insurgent group known as the Islamic State.”

The Jacksonville Journal-Courier in Illinois reports today: “President Barack Obama’s plans to expand the U.S. military role against Islamic extremist groups could overstep his authority, according to a longtime Jacksonville congressman who helped write the law that keeps the president’s power in check.

“Obama is expected to announce plans this week to expand the military campaign against the Islamic State. According to the Wall Street Journal, that could include intensifying air attacks to target militant strongholds.

“Paul Findley of Jacksonville, who served in Congress from 1961 to 1983 and was a principal author of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, says the president could be usurping authority specifically given to Congress.

“‘President Obama stated on network television … that he ‘may’ have authority to order airstrikes in Syria. He does not. Moreover, bombing he ordered in recent days in Iraq by U.S. aircraft violated the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973,’ Findley said.”

PAUL FINDLEY, findley1 at
Available for a limited number of interviews, Findley was a member of Congress from Illinois for 22 years. He is the author of six books including the bestseller They Dare to Speak Out. He resides in Jacksonville, Ill. The federal building in Springfield, Ill. is named for him.

He said today: “Our elected leaders are acting like jelly fish. Members of Congress must decide whether to bomb Iraq or Syria, or both. The president has no authority to bomb either country. He violates the Constitution with every bomb he sends to Iraq. Ordering acts of war is too serious a decision to leave to one man. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land.

“We just marked the 50th Anniversary of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which I voted for and which President Johnson used to dramatically escalate the Vietnam War. I never intended that Resolution to be a blank check for war against Vietnam. Yet that is exactly what Johnson used it for.

“As a consequence, in 1973, I helped draft the The War Powers Resolution and my vote helped override President Nixon’s veto.

“Enforcement of limits on presidential employment of war powers deserves the vigilance of each member of Congress. Each member should consider enforcement a grave personal responsibility. War measures that today seem inconsequential can lead to larger involvements tomorrow. Their ultimate size and duration are unpredictable, as we found in our costly war experiences in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Just recently, Congress stood by as the President ordered bombings in Iraq. Then two U.S. citizens were killed. Rather than using their deaths as a rallying cry for more war, they should be a warning of the negative consequences of war. It’s no accident that the framers deemed the decision of war-making too important to be made by one person.

“If the president orders acts of war in the absence of congressional approval, he risks impeachment by the House of Representatives for usurping a power the Constitution reserves exclusively to the Congress. If Obama wishes lawfully to order airstrikes in the territory of Iraq or Syria, he must first secure a resolution of approval from Congress.”

Behind Immigration Policy

MAEGAN ORTIZ, mala at, @mamitamala
Los Angeles-based independent journalist and organizer, Ortiz contributes to a number of media outlets and publishes VivirLatino, where she recently posted the piece “Why $3.7 Billion is Not Humanitarianism for Unaccompanied Minors at the Border.” Earlier this year, she wrote “Your 8 Biggest Questions About Immigration Reform, Answered” for Cosmopolitan.

DAVID BACON, dbacon at, @photos4justice
Bacon is author of The Right to Stay Home and three other books on immigration. He is a labor and immigrant rights activist, and part of the Dignity Campaign.

He said today: “President Obama’s decision to delay lifting the threat of deportation from many people is a retreat that will result in more deportations, detentions and firings of people who need equality, legal status and human rights. In the name of protecting Democrats in the midterm election, his decision will instead hurt those families who have been some of his greatest supporters. It does nothing to move forward to solve the problems of migration. More people will come to the U.S. tomorrow, driven by poverty and repression, made worse by our pro-corporate trade agreements and foreign intervention. Beefing up enforcement simply criminalizes them, while the continuation of pro-business guest worker programs provides a blatant subsidy for corporations who want to keep wages down and unions weak. We need pro-immigrant and pro-worker immigration reform, not more delays, draconian enforcement and corporate labor schemes.”

“Profit-Driven” BP’s “Willful Misconduct”

AP is reporting: “BP bears the majority of responsibility among the companies involved in the nation’s worst offshore oil spill, a federal judge ruled Thursday, citing the energy giant’s reckless conduct in a ruling that exposes the company to billions of dollars in penalties.” See story and PDF of decision.

HUGH KAUFMAN, hughbkaufman at
A noted expert and whistleblower at the Environmental Protection Agency, Kaufman said today: “Judge Carl Barbier has made a fair and reasoned decision, based on the facts. This means BP would have to pay a Clean Water Act penalty of over $4,000 per barrel of oil spilled instead of $1,000 per barrel or over $12 billion more in penalties. The next phase of the trial is also extremely important. Judge Barbier will determine how many millions of barrels of oil BP actually released in the spill. The government says BP spilled well over 4 million barrels, BP says just over 2 million barrels. Billions of dollars are also in play on that upcoming decision.” Kaufman is featured in the documentary “The Big Fix.” See excerpt on Vimeo.

ANTONIA JUHASZ, antoniajuhasz at, @antoniajuhasz
Author of Black Tide: the Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill, Juhasz is currently writing a feature article for Harper’s Magazine on the impacts of the disaster on the deep ocean following her participation in a submarine dive to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico at the site of the spill, which she discussed in a blog for Harper’s in April.

She said today: “Judge Barbier’s decision was both profound and significant. It demonstrates the lack of safety of all existing offshore oil operations and severely challenges the notion that those activities should be allowed to expand to areas such as the Atlantic coast and in more of the Arctic. The judge found that BP routinely put profit over prudence, people, safety, and the environment and the result was and remains catastrophic. Significantly, the judge found all three companies — BP, Halliburton, and Transocean — three of the largest offshore oil companies in the world — ALL guilty of causing this disaster and acting with negligence ultimately leading to the largest offshore oil spill in history and the deaths of eleven men.

“The fact that all of these companies were to blame means this is more than the problem of just one ‘bad apple.’ Tragically, yesterday, as this judgement was being handed down, a worker on a BP oil rig in the North Sea died during routine maintenance activities, highlighting anew the ongoing risks to these operations.

“The judge ruled that as leasee and operator, BP is ultimately responsible for the Gulf oil disaster and that it acted with ‘gross negligence’ and ‘willful misconduct.’ Over and over again the judge ruled that BP made decisions that were ‘profit-driven’ and an ‘extreme deviation from the standard of care and a conscious disregard for known risks.’

“By finding BP guilty of gross negligence, as the judge enters the third and final stage of the civil trial in January, BP can now be held liable for the highest possible fee under the Clean Water Act, as high as $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled, versus just $1,100 if it had only been found guilty of ‘negligence.’ BP could (and should) therefore face a fine of almost $18 billion for the 4.2 million barrels of oil released into the Gulf (5 million barrels of oil spilled from the Macondo well, but a tiny portion was recovered before entering the water). This does not include the additional fines BP will face once the Natural Resource Damage Assessment is concluded for the total environmental harm caused, which should total many more billions of dollars. The judge also left open the possibility that BP could face punitive damages in the future.” Juhasz appeared on “Democracy Now!” this morning.

“Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault”

JOHN J. MEARSHEIMER, j-mearsheimer at
Available for a limited number of interviews, Mearsheimer’s books include Why Leaders Lie: The Truth about Lying in International Politics and The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. He is distinguished professor of political science and co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago. He just wrote “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault: The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin” for Foreign Affairs.

JAN OBERG, oberg at, @TFFworldaffairs
Co-founder of the Swedish-based Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, Oberg recently wrote the piece “Ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine: Now withdrawal by Russia, the UN in and NATO out.”

NICOLAI PETRO, nnpetro at
Available for interviews until Friday, and then after Wednesday (he is going to a conference in Moscow), Petro is professor of politics at the University of Rhode Island and has recently returned from a year-long Fulbright research scholarship in Ukraine. He just wrote the piece “Eastern Ukraine: The Neverending Crisis” for the National Interest, which states: “Russia has responded to popular aspirations in eastern Ukraine very differently from the way it responded in Crimea. These differences, however, have been ignored by most Western observers, who base their analysis on three assumptions. First, that despite his disavowals, Putin is in fact actively supporting the rebels with weapons and finances. Second, that without this support, the rebellion would collapse for lack of popular support. And finally, that once the rebellion is suppressed, Ukraine will embark on economic and political reforms that will stabilize the country. Because each of these assumptions is quite far from the mark, not surprisingly, so is Western policy toward both Ukraine and Russia.”

Also, see his recent interview “Who gets to define what it means to be Ukrainian?” in Russia Direct.

NATO: Part of Solution — Or Problem

DAVID N. GIBBS, dgibbs at
Author of First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, Gibbs is a professor of history and government at the University of Arizona. He has written extensively on NATO.

He said today: “Foreign policy specialists have rightly condemned Russian intervention in the Ukraine, which has aggravated political divisions in that country. At the same time, we should recognize that the United States and NATO have also contributed to the destabilization. Russia’s actions are at least partly a response to policies adopted by the U.S. and NATO immediately following the Cold War.

“People often forget that post-Soviet Russia was at first highly cooperative with U.S. and Western policy, and they disbanded the Cold War era Warsaw Pact alliance. Russians assumed that in response the U.S. would gradually disband NATO, as a symmetrical action, or at the very least the U.S. would not expand NATO. Instead, the U.S. orchestrated NATO’s expansion, beginning in the late 1990s, incorporating several post-Soviet states. More recently, there has been open discussion of further expanding NATO, with possible membership for the Ukraine and Georgia. Russia views its interventions in the Ukraine as defensive actions, against NATO threats to its border security. NATO expansion must be viewed as a short-sighted action, one that was bound to provoke the Russians, and it laid the groundwork for the Ukraine’s civil war.”

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