News Releases

Baltimore: * Curfew a Dress Rehearsal? * Israel Protests

Top: Toronto 2010; Bottom: Baltimore 2015

Top: Toronto 2010; Bottom: Baltimore 2015

The New York Times reports: “In a pair of gestures on Sunday that suggested that this riot-scarred city was staggering toward normalcy, the National Guard began to pull its troops from Baltimore, and the mayor lifted a curfew that, after several days of relative calm, had come under mounting criticism.”

PAUL JAY, paul at therealnews.com, @TheRealNews, @PaulJay_TRNN
Jay is senior editor for The Real News, which is based in Baltimore and Toronto. He said in the segment over the weekend “Was Baltimore’s Curfew a Dress Rehearsal for Martial Law?“: “Why are they still spending millions and millions of dollars doing this? They know what’s going on. There’s no serious threat. There’s no question that the police have infiltrated most of the activist groups.

Paul continued: “So why are they still doing it? I think the answer is this is a training exercise. They think — and I think rightly so — that someday it’s not just gonna be some kids out there.

“Someday unemployment’s going to hit 15, 20, 25, 30 percent nationally. Now we’re already in some of the Baltimore poor communities on unemployment at those numbers but imagine what it might be when you have another big economic meltdown. They know serious mass protests are coming. I don’t know if one year, five years. You can’t just throw cops and national guards into a situation like that — especially when the people on the streets might be 20, 30, 40-year-old workers. When they hit the streets, it’s not like kids. You can’t throw your forces into this without getting trained.

“Now, this isn’t entirely speculation on my part. In Toronto, we covered the Toronto G20 [meeting, in 2010] where there were a thousand arrests for absolutely nothing. A few windows got broken by people that they knew very well because we know from court records they infiltrated the Black Bloc. They knew exactly where and when the windows were going to get broken. More so, the police infiltrators were the ones advocating breaking windows. … The police actually left the car out in the middle of the street — they knew ahead of time, because they infiltrated, where the march was going to go — and of course the car gets lit on fire and that becomes the iconic image of the whole thing. A massive, massive police presence, like what happened here [Baltimore].”

“So I asked someone I know who is very senior in the [Toronto] police department. … Is this just a bloody training exercise in like you can’t justify what’s going on based on the threat? And he said yeah, this is that.” See: “Protestors Defy the Curfew” and from 2012: “No Accountability Yet for Toronto G20 Police Crimes.”

JARED BALL, imixwhatilike at gmail.com, @imixwhatilike
Ball is associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University and author of I MiX What I Like: A MiXtape Manifesto andA Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X. His most recent segment for The Real News is: “‘Thugs,’ ‘Hooligans,’ and ‘Riots,’ Challenging Narratives with Dominque Stevenson.”

He said today: “There is a case to be made that the ‘riot’ Monday (April 25) was a state-instigated event used for a variety of reasons: 1) To create a spectacle to drown out focus on Gray’s funeral. 2) To create a usable incident that would characterize protests or would create a false/straw argument of ‘violent’ vs. ‘peaceful’ protests. 3) Would allow for established religious and political leadership as ‘legitimate’ in their ability to maintain peace (when only the state could threaten it) and 4) To provide a ‘live’ training drill for state-wide police mobilization. There was never a threat of a real mass uprising and every ‘organized’ protest since Monday’s outburst was arranged by young, unseasoned and often non-Baltimore resident ‘activists’ who safely created a media spectacle of marches and protests, etc. but nothing that was the threat potentially represented in that initial uprising.”

AJAMU BARAKA, ajamubaraka2 at gmail.com
Baraka is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies who is based in Colombia. He is also an editor and columnist for Black Agenda Report. He recently wrote the piece “Baltimore and the Human Right to Resistance: Rejecting the Framework of the Oppressor.”

He recently posted on Facebook: “Why is there still a curfew in Baltimore and why aren’t more people outraged and calling for its removal? Answer — they are experimenting with tactics to completely clamp down on an urban area, occupy the space militarily and monitor the public response. And because most of the folks being repressed are poor black — and no one really gives a damn about the life of poor black folks, including the black middle-class — there is silence.”

The Washington Post reported Sunday: “Violence erupts as thousands of Ethiopian Israelis protest racism.” Baraka addressed this situation as well: “In largely peaceful demonstrations against racial discrimination that took place in Jerusalem, Ethiopians evoked the spirit of Baltimore. However, it was in the liberal bastion of Tel Aviv that the protests turned into a battle zone between the police and Ethiopian Israelis on Sunday. Like the black middle-class liberals of Baltimore who were incensed that the black rabble would rise up to question their authority, liberal authorities in Tel Aviv decided to violently disperse the largely peaceful demonstrators in Rabin Square in central Tel Aviv. And like the black liberals charged with upholding elite white power in the Baltimore, liberals charged with upholding Ashkenazi elite power in Tel Aviv did not understand that the people had reached a point in which the awesome power of the state no longer generated fear.”

Baltimore: Veterans Groups Call for Withdrawal of National Guard

Two national veterans organizations, Veterans For Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, are calling for the immediate withdrawal of the Maryland National Guard from the streets of Baltimore.

MICHAEL McPHERSON, michaelvfp at gmail.com, @vfpnational
MATT HOWARD, mattwhoward at ivaw.org, @ivaw

McPhearson is executive director of Veterans For Peace. He said today: “We are horrified to see military weapons, vehicles and equipment deployed in U.S. cities against U.S. citizens who are reacting to a long history of state-sanctioned violence and appalling economic and social conditions. … We are highly concerned, as we approach the 45th anniversary of Kent State this May 4th and Jackson State this May 15th, that we will see another example of nervous and fearful National Guard troops shooting and possibly killing people in the streets of this nation.” See the statement from that group.

Howard is national coordinator for Iraq Veterans Against the War. The group said in a statement “IVAW Calls on the MD National Guard to Stand Down in Baltimore“: “As veterans who have deployed to and served in support of occupations abroad, we see some of the same tactics and military equipment being used by police against the people of Baltimore, just as it was used against the people of Ferguson and Oakland. The increased militarization of our foreign policy and our domestic policing, coupled with racist violence perpetuated by our government, has to stop. The people of Baltimore who are demanding systemic change should be responded to with dialogue not an escalation of force.

“We encourage National Guard members across the country, many of whom we have served with, to begin a conversation on how they will respond when it becomes their turn to be mobilized against their own communities.

Baltimore: Who are the Thugs?

baltimore protestMARSHALL “EDDIE” CONWAY, eddie at therealnews.com, @TheRealNews
STEPHEN JANIS, stephenjanis at therealnews.com
JAISAL NOOR, jaisal at therealnews.com
Conway, Noor and Janis are producers with The Real News — an independent news organization based in Baltimore that is regularly posting new reports, interviews and other segments. Recent reports include: “How One Baltimore Community Reduced Murders Without the Police” and “Baltimore Bloods, Crips: We Don’t Need Police, We Protect Our Own.”

Conway is a former Black Panther leader in Baltimore who recently completed a 44-year prison sentence. His latest report is: “Mainstream TV’s Attention to Property Destruction Overshadows Killing of Freddie Gray.”

Janis wrote the book You Can’t Stop Murder: Truths About Policing in Baltimore and Beyond. His most recent report is: “Police Commissioner Says No New Evidence of Force-Related Injuries to Freddie Gray.”

Noor grew up in Baltimore. His most recent report is “Community Has Minimal Confidence in Freddie Gray Investigation, Says Baltimore Pastor.”

JARED BALL, imixwhatilike at gmail.com
Ball is associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University and author of I MiX What I Like: A MiXtape Manifesto and A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X. His most recent segment for The Real News is: “‘Thugs,’ ‘Hooligans,’ and ‘Riots,’ Challenging Narratives with Dominque Stevenson,” which gets an “eye-witness account on the events that precipitated Monday’s #BaltimoreUprising.” Says Stevenson: “The city government made a choice to escalate the situation, which is what they did. They escalated it. They were circulating rumors all day long, and those kids in the school were hearing different rumors than the rumors that the police were circulating outside, where they’re talking about the gangs threatening them. … The way that people are using ‘thug’ and the way that term is coming out of their mouths it sounds like a euphemism for ‘nigger’ to me.”

AJAMU BARAKA, ajamubaraka2 at gmail.com
Baraka is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies who is based in Colombia. He is also an editor and columnist for Black Agenda Report. He just wrote the piece “Baltimore and the Human Right to Resistance: Rejecting the Framework of the Oppressor.”

Rev. GRAYLAN S. HAGLER, gshagler at verizon.net
Hagler is with the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. He has been on the ground in Baltimore and is currently at the state capital in Annapolis, working on issues related to what is happening in Baltimore. He said today: “I was born and raised in Baltimore. My grandmother’s house — where I was raised — is just four blocks from where much of the attention is now. This was a thriving neighborhood when I grew up there, it now looks like a bomb hit it. Meanwhile, money is pouring into the Inner Harbor and the casinos in Baltimore.”

He recently wrote on Facebook: “Media may call it rioting, but the confrontations are targeted against law enforcement. It is clear that law enforcement has created such animosity and anger among young Black males here in [Baltimore] that the killing of Freddie Gray was the proverbial straw to break the camels back. Also, [Baltimore] political leaders cannot speak with any moral authority because they have presided all these years over increasingly devastated neighborhoods, unemployment and despair.”

See: “Despite Campaign Promises, Casinos, Not Schools, Are Big Winners When Gambling Profits Are Tallied.”

Nepal: Debt Relief Needed

Reuters is reporting today: “People stranded in remote villages and towns across Nepal were still waiting for aid and relief to arrive on Tuesday, four days after a devastating earthquake destroyed buildings and roads and killed more than 4,600 people.”

ERIC LeCOMPTE, via Sophia Har, sophia at jubileeusa.org
LeCompte is executive director of the religious development coalition, Jubilee USA Network. The group put out the statement: “Aftershocks Pummel Highly Indebted Nepal: Poor Country Spends 217 Million Annually on Debt Payments.”

MARY DesCHENE, mdeschen at wustl.edu
DesChene is an anthropologist and is the co-founder and former editor of the journal Studies in Nepali History and Society. A research associate at Washington University in St. Louis, she is fluent in Nepali and has been conducting research in Nepal for more than three decades. From 2007 to 2009 she worked in Nepal’s Ministry of Health as policy advisor for social inclusion in the national health system. She has lived and worked in hill areas similar to the epicenter region as well as in the Kathmandu Valley. She is in contact with people from the government and non-government sector who are actively engaged in the recovery operation.

DesChene said today: “The immediate situation is obviously dire and a great deal of emergency relief aid is needed. However, Nepal has a great deal of expertise in critical sectors such as health, power infrastructure, etc. But with no local elected government since 2002, and a weak central government at present, the great challenge is going to be coordination of both foreign and domestic efforts for effective recovery. Just as the quake hit, in the political arena the process of writing a new constitution was at an impasse, and on the health front, the national health system was struggling to cope with a swine flu outbreak. In normal times, the health system is insufficient for the regular needs of the population.

“The Kathmandu Valley, with a population of 4 million, already had severe water and power shortages. Government response to a recent massive landslide indicates that the most affected rural areas are going to have to rebuild largely on their own. Besides immediate relief, there are critical steps that need to be taken prior to the monsoon. A massive rainwater harvesting initiative is needed in the Kathmandu Valley for example, to avoid cholera and typhoid epidemics. Such initiatives represent opportunity amid tragedy.

“Some of the worst kinds of unsustainable ‘development’ that having been turning Kathmandu into one of the most unhealthy cities in the world, may be able to be reversed in the rebuilding. Thus even during the unfolding tragedy, it is not too soon to raise serious questions about appropriate aid for the longer term rebuilding. In normal times the country’s planning processes and policy-making are heavily interfered with by the aid agencies. Despite talk to the contrary, aid agencies operate in such a way as to make themselves permanent, and government permanently dependent.

“Among the first acts of all the major aid agencies ought to be debt cancellation, freeing up government funds for rebuilding. The IMF has a new program under which Nepal should qualify for cancellation of its $54 million debt due to the scale of the disaster. A strong call for all major lenders to follow suit is important right now.”

Whistleblowers Weighing in on Policy

Federal Times reports today on a news conference organized by ExposeFacts.org. The piece, “Whistleblowers stand by decisions despite career fallout,” says: “Urging more people like Edward Snowden and Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning to come forward … federal whistleblowers said it’s important to hold government accountable in the post-9/11 world and make sure Americans are as informed as they should be.”

John Hanrahan, a member of the ExposeFacts.org editorial board, just wrote “Whistleblowers vs. ‘Fear-Mongering.'” The piece states: “Seven prominent national security whistleblowers Monday called for a number of wide-ranging reforms — including passage of the ‘Surveillance State Repeal Act,’ which would repeal the USA Patriot Act — in an effort to restore the Constitutionally guaranteed 4th Amendment right to be free from government spying.” [See video]

“Several of the whistleblowers also said that the recent lenient sentence of probation and a fine for General David Petraeus — for his providing of classified information to his mistress Paula Broadwell — underscores the double standard of justice at work in the area of classified information handling. …

“In a news conference sponsored by the ExposeFacts project of the Institute for Public Accuracy at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., speakers included William Binney, former high-level National Security Agency (NSA) official; Thomas Drake, former NSA senior executive; Daniel Ellsberg, former U.S. military analyst and the Pentagon Papers whistleblower; Ray McGovern, formerly CIA analyst who chaired the National Intelligence Estimates in the 1980s; Jesselyn Radack, former Justice Department trial attorney and ethics adviser, and now director of National Security and Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project; Coleen Rowley, attorney and former FBI special agent; J. Kirk Wiebe, 32-year former employee at the NSA.”

The following participants are available for interviews:

THOMAS DRAKE, tadrake at earthlink.net, @Thomas_Drake1
Available for a limited number of interviews, Drake said he personally was “throwing my weight behind” passage of H.R. 1466, the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which was introduced by the bipartisan duo of Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) and Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky). According to its sponsors, the measure would remove NSA’s claimed justification for its bulk phone metadata accumulation, but would also repeal the FISA Amendments Act through which the government claims the right to spy on Internet users. The issue is coming up now because three key provisions of the Patriot Act expire later this month.

COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan at earthlink.net, @ColeenRowley
Rowley centered her remarks around a statement Obama made last week in apologizing for the deaths of two hostages — an American and an Italian — in a drone strike in Pakistan. Obama, she said, opined that “one of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.”

“I wish that were true,” Rowley said. “That would be nice if we learned from our mistakes,” but instead the government is going in the opposite direction in areas such as the drone program, as witness the accidental killing of the hostages. Gathering an accurate assessment of intelligence is inherently going to happen at the bottom levels of intelligence agencies, Rowley said, so employees in the lower positions have to resist someone at the top stating a desired outcome and asking people at the bottom to tailor the intelligence accordingly. She said that government officials and employees’ “highest loyalty is to the rule of law itself.” That is where whistleblowers come in.

RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at gmail.com, @raymcgovern
McGovern said CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling (who is to be sentenced on May 11) was convicted on “the vaguest of circumstantial evidence” in a “case that was not proven” against him. The government showed that Sterling had had telephone conversations and email communication with New York Times reporter James Risen, who had previously written about Sterling’s workplace discrimination lawsuit against the CIA — and prosecutors apparently convinced the jury that they were not discussing Sterling’s discrimination suit, but rather his knowledge of a CIA plan to provide flawed nuclear weapons blueprints to Iran.

What was the lesson any intelligence agency employee might draw from the flimsy evidence used in the Sterling case? Said McGovern: “Do not speak to journalists.” And, especially, “don’t speak to James Risen.”

Contrasting Sterling’s situation (facing a possible long prison sentence) with Petraeus (walking free, with a $100,000 fine, which McGovern noted was three-fourths of a one-hour speaking engagement fee for the general), McGovern said: “Equal justice? Forget about it.”

J. KIRK WIEBE, jkwiebe at comcast.net, @KirkWiebe
Wiebe said that the public and political response to the NSA surveillance disclosures has not been encouraging, and painted a dire picture of civil liberties abuses, the militarization of local police forces and the “de facto destruction of the Constitution.”

“I am now entering the phase where I am becoming frightened,” Wiebe said. “People have asked me, are we going to be able to get out of this mess…to turn the Titanic around?…I don’t see the way to miss hitting the iceberg.”

“We as a nation are more aware of these issues than ever before,” Wiebe said, but “we’ve become a society willing to look the other way in the face of wrongdoing,” adding: “We are no longer afraid of the police state happening. It’s here in small measures, in increasing measures, week by week, day by day…”

Baltimore: Police as “Occupation”

The New York Times reports: “Maryland’s governor activated the National Guard on Monday and the city of Baltimore announced a curfew for all residents as a turbulent day that began with the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, the nation’s latest symbol of police brutality, ended with rioting by rock-throwing youths, arson, looting and at least 15 police officers injured.”

STEPHEN JANIS, stephen at therealnews.com, @TheRealNews
Janis, an award-winning Baltimore-based investigative reporter now with The Real News, is author of You Can’t Stop Murder: Truths About Policing in Baltimore and Beyond and co-author of Why Do We Kill?: The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore. See two of his most recent reports: “In Freddie Gray’s Neighborhood, Residents Say Police Harassment is Constant” and “At Freddie Gray’s Funeral, A Call for Real Change.”

MARSHALL “EDDIE” CONWAY, eddie at therealnews.com
Conway is currently a producer at the Real News Network, which is based in Baltimore. In a new segment, he stresses that what’s going on in Baltimore is not just about “the death of Freddie Gray, but it was a situation in which the community didn’t have any support in terms of resources. The community suffered from the lack of opportunities for young people, there were no jobs in the community. Institutional racism, the way the police policed the area, was considered by a lot of the residents in the area to be an occupation. So eventually all the speakers [at Gray’s funeral] called for an investigation and they ended that with ‘No Justice, No Peace.’ …

“Maryland has the highest number of people killed in the last three years by a police department, 111 to date. It’s higher than any other state, 41 percent of them were unarmed, a large majority of them were black. … No police officers have been charged. And I think the difference between what’s happening here in Baltimore now and what happened in South Carolina just a month ago is that those officers were fired. An investigation was launched immediately. Here in Baltimore there has been no feedback whatsoever. There’s been silence from the government, there’s been silence from the police department. And young people in the street are not only frustrated, but they fear for their lives.”

In December, The Real News held a town hall: “Should the Community Control the Police?” Conway said then that the police department’s “primary mission is to protect wealth and property and to protect those people that are wealthy and that own that property. And the reaction in the community is to keep the community completely under control, those people that don’t have any wealth and don’t have any power. They have to maintain a certain level of control.”

Conway was a leader of the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panther Party and was released from prison on March 4, 2014 after having served 43 years and 11 months.

See Institute for Public Accuracy news release from Thursday: “Baltimore: Policing and “Pathology of Murder.”

Former U.N. Envoy Says Yemen Political Deal was Close Before Saudi Airstrikes Began

The New York Times reports: “Warplanes of the Saudi-led military coalition bombed targets in the Yemeni capital on Sunday for the first time since Saudi officials said they were shifting the focus of their campaign against a Yemeni rebel group toward political negotiations and humanitarian relief.”

JOE LAURIA, joelauria at gmail.com
Lauria is United Nations correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. He just co-wrote the piece “Former U.N. Envoy Says Yemen Political Deal was Close Before Saudi Airstrikes Began,” which states: “Yemen’s warring political factions were on the verge of a power-sharing deal when Saudi-led airstrikes began a month ago, derailing the negotiations, the United Nations envoy who mediated the talks said.

“Jamal Benomar, who spearheaded the negotiations until he resigned last week, told the Wall Street Journal the Saudi bombing campaign against Iran-linked Houthi rebels has hardened positions on a key point — the composition of an executive body to lead Yemen’s stalled transition. This will complicate new attempts to reach a solution, he said.

“’When this campaign started, one thing that was significant but went unnoticed is that the Yemenis were close to a deal that would institute power-sharing with all sides, including the Houthis,’ said Mr. Benomar, a Moroccan diplomat.

“Mr. Benomar is scheduled to address the U.N. Security Council behind closed doors on Monday and report on the suspended political talks.”

Myths on * Yemen * Armenian Genocide

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of Tackling America’s Toughest Questions. He said today: “The U.S. blockade of Yemen is illegal. A naval blockade is an act of war and the administration has no authorization from the U.S. Congress or the Security Council for this.”

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Porter is an investigative journalist and author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. He recently wrote the piece “Houthi arms bonanza came from Saleh, not Iran” for Middle East Eye.

“As the Saudi bombing campaign against Houthi targets in Yemen continues, notwithstanding a temporary pause, the corporate media narrative about the conflict in Yemen is organized decisively around the idea that it is a proxy war between Iran on one side and the Saudis and United States on the other.

USA Today responded like Pavlov’s dog this week to a leak by Pentagon officials that it was sending the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt to the waters off Yemen, supposedly to intercept Iranian vessels carrying weapons to the Houthis.  It turned out that the warship was being sent primarily to symbolize U.S. support for the Saudis, and the Pentagon made no mention of Iranian arms when it announced the move.  But the story of the U.S. Navy intercepting Iranian arms was irresistible, because it fit so neatly into the larger theme of Iran arming and training the Houthis as its proxy military force in Yemen. …

“According to Pentagon documents acquired under the Freedom of Information Act by Joseph Trevithick, the Defense Department had delivered about $500 million in military hardware to the Yemeni military from 2006 on. … A significant part of that weaponry and equipment was scooped up by Houthi fighters on their way into Sanaa…”

ROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ, rdunbaro@pacbell.net, @rdunbaro
Dunbar-Ortiz is author or editor of seven books, including the recently-released An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. Commemorations for the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide begin Friday. While many are criticizing the Turkish government for not acknowledging the Armenian genocide, she said today: “The United States has not acknowledge Armenian genocide either, nor any other genocide in the past except the Holocaust. The U.S. finally signed the Genocide Convention 40 years after its writing, in 1988, but even then taking exception to most of the key elements that would apply to the United States’ genocidal policies and actions against the Indigenous Peoples it invaded and colonized who still exist under U.S. colonial institutions. The U.S. historical profession remains complicit in this denial, dismissing the work of Native American historians and other scholars.”

Petraeus “Sweetheart Deal” Exposes Obama’s War on Whistleblowers

petreaus and sterlingReuters is reporting: “Former U.S. military commander and CIA director David Petraeus will appear in federal court in North Carolina on Thursday to face sentencing for allegedly leaking secrets to a mistress who was writing his biography.” Many, especially whistleblower advocates, contrast the light sentence — a fine and probation — Petraeus is widely expected to receive today with the harsh sentences whistleblowers have faced from Obama administration prosecutions.
Seven whistleblowers will be speaking to this and related issues at a news conference organized by ExposeFacts: “The Obama Administration’s War on Whistleblowers” on Monday. Speakers will include: William Binney (NSA), Thomas Drake (NSA), Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), Raymond McGovern (CIA), Jesselyn Radack (Justice Department), Coleen Rowley (FBI) and Kirk Wiebe (NSA) — see media advisory.

The Star-Ledger in a recent editorial titled “Eric Holder’s brand of justice: Whistleblowers whacked, all-star generals walk” writes that: “What makes it galling is how Petraeus compares to men like Jeffrey Sterling.” Sterling is facing decades in prison for allegedly disclosing information to New York Times reporter James Risen about an apparently bungled CIA plot to give flawed nuclear plans to Iran. He was to be sentenced tomorrow (Friday) — immediately after Petraeus’ deal is finalized today — but his sentencing has been delayed and is now scheduled for May 11.

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com, @emptywheel
Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She is the “Right to Know” investigative journalist for ExposeFacts and blogs at emptywheel.net. She just wrote the piece “DOJ Claims Grossly Disparate Treatment Will “Promote Respect for the Law.” Past related articles include “David Petraeus Gets Hand-Slap for Leaking, Two Point Enhancement for Obstruction of Justice.”

See also Wheeler’s piece: “Desmond Tutu Calls for Justice for Jeffrey Sterling, Citing Petraeus Deal.”

JOHN KIRIAKOU, jkiriakou at me.com, @johnkiriakou
Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Real News recently conducted a series of interviews with him, available here, and reports he “was recently released from prison after serving 23 months of a 30 month sentence for exposing the CIA’s illegal torture program. … He’s under house arrest after spending 23 months in jail.”

Kiriakou said today: “I don’t think General Petraeus should have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act, just as I don’t think I should have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Yet only one of us was. Both Petraeus and I disclosed undercover identities (or confirmed one in my case) that were never published. I spent two years in prison; he gets two years probation.”

JESSELYN RADACK, jradack at whistleblower.org, @jesselynradack
Radack is the director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project (GAP), the nation’s leading whistleblower organization. She will be speaking at the ExposeFacts news conference on Monday and said today: “Petraeus’ sweetheart plea deal, likely a $40,000 fine and two years of probation, for leaking classified information shows how deep the government’s hypocrisy is when prosecuting whistleblowers. I’ve had national security whistleblower clients who have disclosed far less sensitive information in the public interest and have faced decades in jail under Espionage Act charges. Patraeus’ comparative slap on the wrist shows the government has plenty of options when dealing with whistleblowers — I wish my clients could get such lenient sentences.

“Petreaus’ light sentence makes clear that the consequences for whistleblowing are far more severe than the negligible consequences for Petreaus’ leaks. GAP’s whistleblower clients lost their careers and spent millions on legal fees while Petraeus was able to retain his security clearance, advise the White House, make lucrative speeches across the globe, and pull in a massive salary as a partner in one of the world’s biggest private-equity firms.

“The fact that Petraeus is the recipient of a such a comparatively light sentence is of particular significance considering that three most recent directors of the CIA — Leon E. Panetta, Petraeus and John O. Brennan — have all leaked classified information casually, regularly and with impunity.

“The leak prosecution double standard makes clear that the Obama administration’s record breaking number of Espionage Act prosecutions has nothing to do with protecting classified information and everything to do with punishing and silencing whistleblowers. If leaks were the real concern, Petraeus would receive punishment as harsh as the government demanded for other accused leakers.”

Baltimore: Policing and “Pathology of Murder”

freddie gray deathCNN is reporting this morning: “As protesters decrying Freddie Gray’s death plan more rallies in Baltimore on Thursday, anger is mounting over a police union’s comparison of the protest to a ‘lynch mob.’ … One video of Gray’s arrest shows officers dragging him to the paddy wagon, his legs dangling limply behind him.”

The Real News Network is based in Baltimore and has been doing a series of in-depth pieces on systemic issues in the city: “The Real Baltimore.”

JAISAL NOOR, jaisal at therealnews.com, @jaisalnoor
Noor is a host, producer, and reporter for The Real News Network and largely grew up in Baltimore. See his report on protests beginning just after the death of 25 year-old Baltimore resident Freddie Gray: “Baltimore Man Dies From Injuries Sustained While In Police Detention.” Earlier this year, he did a three part series: “Why Do We Kill? The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore,” where he interviews Stephen Janis and Kelvin Sewell.

STEPHEN JANIS, stephen at therealnews.com
Janis is an award-winning investigative reporter now with The Real News. He is author of two books exposing corruption and incompetence in the Baltimore police department, which examine the confluence of poverty, poor governance, and racial mistrust that fuels violence in the city: You Can’t Stop Murder: Truths About Policing in Baltimore and Beyond and Why Do We Kill?: The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore. The second book is co-written with Kelvin Sewell, a veteran Baltimore police officer and now chief of police of Pocomoke on the Eastern shore of Maryland, who recounts in an interview with The Real News how he’d ask suspects to recite the alphabet — none of the people he asked the question to who were convicted of murder were able to do so.

Janis’ recent storys include “The True Toll of Policing in Baltimore – The Arrest of a 7-Year-Old” and “A Walk Through The Neighborhood Where Freddie Gray Lived and Died,” in which he reports: “Last week before Freddie Gray’s death we happened to be in the neighborhood taking a tour of the conditions of Gilmor Homes where Freddie lived before he was killed by police. Gilmor Homes has suffered neglect from the city. Specifically, a basketball court. It was here that we met Lawrence Bell, former city council president, and talked about problems with the city, and the conditions that precipitate police brutality in the community.

“[Bell] was a man who could have been mayor, but his life took a different path when he lost a controversial election to a then-councilman and now presidential candidate Martin O’Malley in 1999. In many ways it was a loss that has defined the city since.” See also: “Unconstitutional Policing and the Toxic Relationship Between Cops and Baltimore Communities

MARSHALL “EDDIE” CONWAY, eddie at therealnews.com
Conway was a leader of the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panther Party and was released from prison on March 4, 2014 after having served 43 years and 11 months. He is currently a producer at the Real News Network. He has interviewed people who witnessed Gray’s detention by police and states that Gray was severely injured before the released video was shot.

In December, The Real News held a town hall: “Should the Community Control the Police?” Conway said then that the police department’s “primary mission is to protect wealth and property and to protect those people that are wealthy and that own that property. And the reaction in the community is to keep the community completely under control, those people that don’t have any wealth and don’t have any power. They have to maintain a certain level of control. And now what we’re seeing is there’s no jobs in the community for a large segment of people, so that means that there’s always going to be always some sort of sub-economy going on. There’s going to be illegal activity. And that activity has to be controlled, suppressed, and whatnot, so that it doesn’t go to the inner harbor or it doesn’t go to people of power. And so pretty much the mandate is to control.” Also see his interview: “What Can The People Do to Challenge Systemic Racism in Baltimore?” Other interviews with and by Conway are here.

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