News Releases

CIA Whistleblower Sentencing Today

Nearly four months after a jury returned a guilty verdict on government charges that Jeffrey Sterling gave classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen, the former CIA officer is scheduled to be sentenced at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va. today.

The sentencing, by Judge Leonie Brinkema, is set for 2 pm. Immediately afterward, former CIA official Ray McGovern and former Justice Department official Jesselyn Radack will be available for comment in front of the courthouse.

McGovern and Radack — as well as NSA whistleblower Kirk Wiebe — will also be available for interviews later in the day. Contact information and summaries of their backgrounds are below.

Detailed coverage of the trial, which happened in January, is posted at ExposeFacts.org, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy. See letter from Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the case.

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. Radack wrote the new Salon article “The Shocking Court Case That Proves The Government’s Shameful Petraeus Hypocrisy.”

RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at gmail.com, @raymcgovern
McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years and now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

J. KIRK WIEBE, jkwiebe at comcast.net, @KirkWiebe
Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for 36 years.

Ray McGovern, a retired CIA analyst turned political activist and speaker, chaired the National Intelligence Estimates in the 1980s. He prepared the daily briefs for presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush. For his CIA service he received the Intelligence Commendation Medal, which he returned in 2006 in protest of the CIA’s involvement in torture. In 2003, he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, an organization committed to analyzing and criticizing the use of intelligence. McGovern was one of four American whistleblowers who met with Edward Snowden in Russia in 2013 to present Snowden with an award for integrity in intelligence for providing NSA documents to the press.

Jesselyn Radack is the director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project (GAP), the nation’s leading whistleblower organization. Her program focuses specifically on secrecy, surveillance, torture, and discrimination. She has been at the forefront of defending against the government’s unprecedented “war on whistleblowers,” which has also implicated journalists. Among her clients, she represents seven national security and intelligence community employees who have been investigated, charged or prosecuted under the Espionage Act for allegedly mishandling classified information, including Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, and John Kiriakou. She also represents clients bringing whistleblower retaliation complaints in federal court and various administrative bodies. Previously, she served on the DC Bar Legal Ethics Committee and worked at the Justice Department for seven years, first as a trial attorney and later as a legal ethics advisor. Radack is author of TRAITOR: The Whistleblower & the “American Taliban”. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times,Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Guardian, The Nation, Salon, and numerous academic law reviews. Radack received the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence Award in 2011. She was named one of Foreign Policy magazine’s “Leading Global Thinkers of 2013,” and is a 2014 Woodrow Wilson Fellow.

J. Kirk Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for over 32 years. During his tenure there, he received the Director CIA’s Meritorious Unit Award and the NSA’s Meritorious Civilian Service Award – that Agency’s second highest distinction – for work against foreign strategic weapons systems. Wiebe’s colleague William Binney developed the ThinThread information processing system that, arguably, could have detected and prevented the 9/11 terrorist attacks. NSA officials, though, ignored the program in favor of Trailblazer, a program that ended in total failure in 2005 with costs of billions of dollars. Wiebe, together with colleagues William Binney, Diane Roark (former HPSCI senior staffer), and Ed Loomis (former NSA computer systems analyst) blew the whistle on NSA mismanagement and waste of billions of dollars on Trailblazer in a complaint to the Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD IG), but to no avail. Post 9/11, the NSA used ThinThread to illegally spy on U.S. citizens’ communications. Unable to stay at NSA any longer in good conscience, Wiebe, along with colleagues Binney and Loomis retired in October 2001. Since retiring, Wiebe has made several key public disclosures regarding NSA’s massive surveillance program subverting the U.S. Constitution.

The Clintons and Their Banker Friends

NOMI PRINS, via Jaime Leifer, jaime.leifer at publicaffairsbooks.com, @nomiprins
Prins’ latest book is All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power, just out in paperback. Her piece, “The Clintons and Their Banker Friends, The Wall Street Connection (1992-2016),” was just published by TomDispatch.com.

Prins writes: “When Hillary Clinton video-announced her bid for the Oval Office, she claimed she wanted to be a ‘champion’ for the American people. Since then, she has attempted to recast herself as a populist and distance herself from some of the policies of her husband. But Bill Clinton did not become president without sharing the friendships, associations, and ideologies of the elite banking sect, nor will Hillary Clinton. Such relationships run too deep and are too longstanding.

“To grasp the dangers that the Big Six banks (JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley) presently pose to the financial stability of our nation and the world, you need to understand their history in Washington, starting with the Clinton years of the 1990s. Alliances established then (not exclusively with Democrats, since bankers are bipartisan by nature) enabled these firms to become as politically powerful as they are today and to exert that power over an unprecedented amount of capital. Rest assured of one thing: their past and present CEOs will prove as critical in backing a Hillary Clinton presidency as they were in enabling her husband’s years in office. …

“No matter what spin is used for campaigning purposes, the idea that a critical distance can be maintained between the White House and Wall Street is naïve given the multiple channels of money and favors that flow between the two. It is even more improbable, given the history of connections that Hillary Clinton has established through her associations with key bank leaders in the early 1990s, during her time as a senator from New York, and given their contributions to the Clinton foundation while she was secretary of state. At some level, the situation couldn’t be less complicated: her path aligns with that of the country’s most powerful bankers. If she becomes president, that will remain the case.”

Left and Right Team Up to Opposing “Patriot Act” Extension

National Journal reports this morning: “A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of U.S. phone records is illegal, dealing a startling blow to the program just as Congress is weighing reforms to surveillance authorities.”

A host of groups and government surveillance whistleblowers have signed a letter stating:

“In the two years since Edward Snowden began disclosing proof of mass, warrantless surveillance of Americans and the rest of the world, surveillance proponents have had ample opportunity to provide proof of its efficacy, legality, and its necessity. They have failed to do so on every front. Instead, they have systematically misled both the public and Congress.

“Under incredible public pressure, the White House and surveillance agencies have telegraphed acquiescence to minimal reforms in exchange for extension of Section 215 via legislation that would also eviscerate numerous court challenges to lawless surveillance and provide for legal immunization and compensation of companies that provide the government with customers’ private information, even where that company knows it is unlawful.

“The sacrifices made by the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 are unacceptable. The modest changes within this bill, in turn, fail to reform mass surveillance, of Americans and others, conducted under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 and Executive Order 12333. Given intelligence agencies’eagerness to subvert any attempts by Congress to rein in massive surveillance programs by changing the legal authorities under which they operate, the modest, proposed changes are no reform at all.

“Section 215 was designed to sunset, and it is well past time that it did so. A vote for USA FREEDOM Act does too little to reform surveillance, and it does so at too great an expense. A vote against it, and against any law that reauthorizes Section 215, is the best step toward ending mass surveillance of Americans. We urge you to pursue such a path in defense of American civil liberties.”

Among the signers:

DAVID SEGAL, david at demandprogress.org, also via Mark Stanley, mark at demandprogress.org, @demandprogress
Segal is with the group Demand Progress, a “grassroots organization with 2 million affiliated activists who fight for Internet freedom, civil liberties, and government transparency and reform.”

NORM SINGLETON, norm.singleton at campaignforliberty.com, @C4Liberty
Singelton is with Campaign for Liberty, which works to “reclaim the republic and restore the Constitution.” USA Today reportedWednesday:  “A debate over the USA Patriot Act is spotlighting a split between security hawks and privacy advocates within the Republican congressional majority, and analysts say the privacy faction appears to have the upper hand.

See Singleton’s piece “What did the USA FREEDOM Act Mark-Up have in common with WrestleMania?” and other related articles here.

Is Post Office Ignoring Internal Report on Sen. Feinstein’s Husband’s Real Estate “Shakedowns” and “Kickbacks”?

IMG_5285The Intercept reports: “Government Says Company Part-Owned by Feinstein’s Husband Abuses Post Office Contract,” that “CBRE, a giant real estate company partially owned by Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum, is costing the U.S. Postal Service millions of dollars a year in lease overpayments, and its exclusive contract should be immediately canceled, the service’s inspector general has found.

“Eyebrows rose when the USPS made the contract with CBRE in June 2011 for all real estate transactions. Blum chaired CBRE at the time; he stepped down last year, but remains a director and a major shareholder. Feinstein, D-Calif., has always denied involvement in the deal, which proved lucrative as the cash-strapped Postal Service looked to its excess real estate to finance operations.

“The contract enables CBRE to market and sell properties, and conduct negotiations for leases of postal buildings. Prior to the contract, USPS negotiated leases directly with landlords. Now, CBRE often represents both the Postal Service and the landlord in negotiations, known as ‘dual agency transactions.’

“The inspector general’s report described something akin to a shakedown, with a kickback thrown in.”

PETER BYRNE, pbyrne at sonic.net
Byrne is author of Going Postal: The Husband of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein has Been Selling Post Offices to his Friends, Cheap. He just wrote the piece: “The Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service calls for the firing of the politically connected real estate firm that has been selling post offices to its friends, cheap,” which states: “The auditors examined 21 of the 49 property sales negotiated by CBRE in 2012 – 2013. They found serious problems with 66 percent of the deals. For example, appraisals for seven of the CBRE-brokered sales were deemed ‘insufficient,’ ‘flawed,’ ‘mistaken,’ or ‘speculative.’ …

Going Postal reported that in 2011 CBRE brokered the sale of a downtown Boston parcel to one of its major corporate owners and business partners, Goldman Sachs Group. And in 2012, CBRE brokered the sale of a Las Vegas post office to its client, Boyd Gaming, which turned around and sold it a few months later for $5 million more than it had paid to the Postal Service. …

“Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan’s spokesperson told me she will not terminate the CBRE contract, which runs indefinitely into the future. Nor will the Postal Service stop CBRE from demanding commissions from landlords or from representing buyers.”

GRAY BRECHIN, gbrechin at berkeley.edu
Brechin is founder and project scholar of the Living New Deal Project at UC Berkeley. He said today: “The OIG [Office of Inspector General] has largely confirmed what Byrne found almost two years ago. I can only hope that this leads to a criminal investigation and possible prosecution of both entities.That one of the most powerful senators in Congress should be benefiting from the sale of public properties through her billionaire spouse should have raised suspicion from the get go if the press was still doing its job, but, with few exceptions, it has chosen to look the other way.

“What the OIG and this story do not address is the degree to which the USPS has largely ignored its obligations under the Environmental Protection Act and the National Historic Preservation Act to steward publicly-owned properties of great historic and artistic merit. No other nation in the world possesses not only such fine buildings but a continent-spanning collection of artworks unique to their locations. (This is no accident since, as an avid stamp collector, President Franklin Roosevelt was keenly interested not only in the postal service and the post offices built during his administration but in the artworks that embellished them: he contributed to the design of six post offices near his home in Hyde Park, NY.) The National Trust for Historic Preservation has named U.S. Post Offices as among the nation’s most endangered treasures, but Americans are unaware of what is being taken from them because of the dereliction of the press which has largely swallowed the USPS line that it must liquidate our property because of a fiscal crisis that was largely manufactured by Congress in 2006 in order to privatize the Constituionally-mandated U.S. Postal Service.

“Finally, over the last two years, Berkeley has become the epicenter of resistance to these sales; activists held rallies and marched down Montgomery Street in San Francisco between Richard Blum’s offices and those of his wife, Senator Feinstein, for example, and the City of Berkeley and the National Trust recently successfully sued the USPS to stop the sale of Berkeley’s century-old, National Register-listed downtown post office. Other cities in danger of losing their historic post offices and the art they contain should know that they can do the same. We will be having a celebration of that victory and a thank you for the attorneys at the Post Office this Saturday.”

See 2013 IPA news release: “Is Sen. Feinstein Profiting From the Fire Sale of the Public’s Property and Art?

Also, see by Sam Husseini: “Questioning Post Master General Donahoe on Sell off of Buildings and Financial Services.”

Kerry in Somalia: U.S. Should Face Up to its Role in Disaster

ABDI ISMAIL SAMATAR, samat001 at umn.edu
Samatar is professor and chair of the Department of Geography, Environment & Society at the University of Minnesota. He said today: “Kerry’s visit to Somalia seems more symbolism than anything else. It certainly won’t help the situation in Somalia. Kerry’s meeting with the so-called president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who is incredibly corrupt, will likely not help bring about the transition that is needed in Somalia. The regime in Mogadishu is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent and can not galvanize the Somali people.

“Additionally, Kerry said Kenya has a role to play in bringing stability to Somalia. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is the case. Kenya has been a major source of instability in Somalia. Kenya — as well as Ethiopia — must withdraw their troops from Somalia as well as their efforts to gerrymander politics in that country by supporting certain factions in Somalia.

“The international community, including Africans, have been not only oblivious to the plight of the Somali people, but have turned them into a disposable political football since the collapse of their state in 1991. For years the world watched warlord terrorists rape, loot and kill Somalis with impunity.

“The U.S. should face up to its role in bringing Somalia to its current state. It actually backed the warlords against the Union of the Islamic Courts (UIC), which was trying to bring some stability to the country. In 2005, the UIC defeated the warlords and created peace in Mogadishu for the first time in years and without any help from the international community. Rather than engaging with the UIC, the U.S. and its African clients considered them as terrorists and Ethiopia was given the green light to invade and dismantle it. Ethiopian forces took over Mogadishu on December 25, 2006, and the prospect of a peaceful resurrection of Somalia perished.”

See Samatar’s piece “The Nairobi massacre and the genealogy of the tragedy.”

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…”

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