News Releases

“Abusive Cop Picked to Head Police Reform Commission”

MARA VERHEYDEN-HILLIARD, via Sarah Sloan, ss at justiceonline.org
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, is quoted in this piece by Steven Rosenfeld for AlterNet: “Abusive Cop Picked to Head Police Reform Commission,” which states: “Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey, one of two co-chairs apppointed by President Obama to head a commission on ways to demilitarize local police, is known for leading repeated bloody and abusive crackdowns on protesters when he was Washington, D.C.’s chief a decade ago, according to a civil rights attorney who won millions in damages for hundreds of citizens attacked by D.C. police.

“‘If the president’s idea of reforming policing practices includes mass false arrests, brutality, and the eviscerating of civil rights, then Ramsey’s his man. That’s Charles Ramsey’s legacy in D.C.,’ said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard … speaking of the ex-D.C. chief and current Philadelphia Police Commissioner. ‘Obama should immediately rescind his appointment of Commissioner Ramsey, who is a mass violator of civil rights and civil liberties.’

“On Monday, Obama appointed Ramsey and Laurie Robinson, a George Mason University professor of criminology, law and society, to head a commission that the president said will suggest steps that the executive branch can take to unwind the most visible aspects of America’s militarized police — its domestic use of military gear. …

“More than a decade ago, when Ramsey was the D.C. police chief, he lead numerous crackdowns and mass arrests of protesters — starting in 2000. His most high-profile assault was in September 2002 at Pershing Park, where demonstrators protested World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings. The police locked down the park and arrested everyone there — 400 people — including journalists, legal observers and bystanders.

“The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund sued and won millions for protesters. The April 2000 protest settlements totalled $13.7 million and Pershing Park/2002 settlement was $8.25 million. Verheyden-Hilliard said the settlements highlight a larger and especially bloody pattern of police crackdowns on protesters ordered by Ramsey. She listed the following six events in an e-mail that ‘are demonstrative of his leadership and the force under his command.’ The first example is an earlier three-day World Bank/IMF protest from spring 2000 in downtown Washington. …”

EDDIE BECKER, eddie_becker at yahoo.com
Becker is an independent D.C.-based filmmaker. He said today: “Ramsey’s style is to provide lip service to the law, while allowing bad cops to ‘take care of business’ as they see fit. After abuse is uncovered, Ramsey acts shocked and declares a thorough investigation that drags on and does not get to the root cause of much of the underlying problem. Which is basically let bad cops ‘take care of business’ as they see fit.

“1) In Chicago, before coming to D.C., Ramsey was deputy police superintendent during a period where his direct supervisor, Superintendent Leroy Martin, was actively covering up findings of ‘systematic’ police torture. We’re talking about the coverup of major torture and forced confessions that sent many innocents to jail.

“2) In D.C., Chief Ramsey militarized the D.C. police and used it to violate the rights of peaceful protesters then oversaw a disinformation campaign and massive cover-up, inventing evidence, and when that failed, false testimony, and the disappearance of police records.

“3) After Ramsey’s termination from D.C., he became Police Chief in Philadelphia. Now the Philadelphia police is being sued for using force to stop citizens from filming the police. Civil rights lawsuits against the Philly police have steadily risen under Ramsey. The Police Department has a questionable track record of disciplining troublesome cops. A Philadelphia Daily News review of dozens of high-dollar settlements paid in recent years shows that most involve officers who flout police policies or have racked up piles of citizen complaints of misconduct.”

See: “Philadelphia police sued by ACLU, which says filming led to arrests.”

From Philly.com: “Civil-rights lawsuits against police spiked in 2013.”

From 2004: “Report on Investigation of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Policy and Practice in Handling Demonstrations in the District of Columbia.”

Ashton Carter: * Insider * Spawned Nuclear Buildup

carter-300x200The Washington Post is reporting: “Ashton Carter to be nominated as next defense secretary.”

MELVIN GOODMAN, goody789 at verizon.net
In his recent piece “The Dumbing Down of National Security Policy” following the resignation of Chuck Hagel, Goodman wrote: “The inability of three secretaries of defense [under President Obama] to ride herd on senior general officers at an important juncture in national security policy points to the need for a seasoned expert who can reexamine use of force issues, gain control over weapons acquisition policy, and take a hard look at defense spending. The mainstream media is already speculating that former deputy defense chiefs, such as Ashton Carter or Michele Flournoy, are leading candidates to replace Hagel but neither one is strong enough for such a difficult assignment.”

Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and adjunct professor of government at Johns Hopkins University. His 42-year government career includes tours with the U.S. Army, the CIA, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. His most recent books are The Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism.

USA Today notes that Carter “worked in the Clinton administration, helping develop the U.S. nuclear weapons policy after the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

ALICE SLATER, aslater at rcn.com
Slater will be leaving the U.S. for Vienna for a week beginning Thursday for a conference organized by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. She is with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Abolition 2000 coordinating committee. Slater said today: “Carter has been through the revolving door between industry, the military and academia — advising Goldman Sachs and other investment firms on military technology along the way.

“He was present at the desecration of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, signed by Bill Clinton with a $6 billion promise to the Dr. Strangeloves in the U.S. weapons labs that they could do computer simulated laboratory tests of nuclear weapons, coupled with sub-critical tests a thousand feet below the desert floor at the Nevada test site, where plutonium is blown up with explosives, but because there is no chain reaction, the Clinton administration contended it was not a test, kind of like not inhaling or not having sex with that woman.

“It was because the U.S. refused to preclude advanced technical testing that India announced it would do a whole new series of nuclear tests, developing its own nuclear arsenal, swiftly followed by Pakistan. This $6 billion program grew like a cancer upon the nation and is now projected to cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years with projections for new bomb factories, new warheads, and delivery systems.

“Carter was also instrumental in establishing the policy that led to the new demonization of Russia which we see today. He advised Clinton on missile technology and how the U.S. could begin to deploy a missile shield in Alaska while claiming it was not violating the 1972 anti-ballistic Missile treaty with Russia, although Russia was not convinced. Bush actually walked out of the ABM treaty, which Clinton had already violated, and the missile race was on. Carter also advised Obama on expanding the U.S. empire to Asia in the so-called Asia pivot, which resulted in new bases in the Pacific, expanded missile shields with Japan and South Korea, and actually stationing troops in Australia.”

See Carter’s profile on RightWeb.

In 2006, Carter outflanked the Bush administration, advocating a strike on North Korea if they did a ballistic missile test in a Washington Post op-ed titled “If Necessary, Strike and Destroy.”

In 1996, he warned of the presumed threats posed by Iraq and Iran’s alleged weapons of mass destruction programs.

Beyond Money in Politics: Corruption Now “Business as Usual”

unaccountable_bookJANINE WEDEL, jwedel at gmu.edu
Wedel, an anthropologist and professor at George Mason University’s School of Policy, Government and International Affairs, is the author of the just-released Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt our Finances, Freedom and Security.

She recently wrote in USA Today: “What do the words ‘dark money’ mean to you? Unless you slept through the entire 2014 midterm election, you’ve heard the phrase again and again, almost always referring to undisclosed donors swaying political elections. But the insidious reach of dark money goes far beyond any blizzard of TV ads sponsored by groups you couldn’t quite identify.

“Donors and corporate interests try to shape policy, professional practices and public opinion, not just every two years, but all the time, affecting our health, habitats and pocketbooks. And we have little way of knowing who’s behind it.”

Wedel gives several examples, including “Your Health,” noting: “For nearly every disease there is a patient advocacy group, which do attract real sufferers and sincere advocates. But in recent years, Big Pharma has been exploiting their vulnerabilities to conduct veiled PR campaigns. Companies push their preferred drugs on prospective patients and their doctors. Advocacy groups can also serve as conduits of money and influence in advocating for legislation favored by drug-makers, under cover of ‘grassroots’ advocacy. And they often find handmaidens among elite physicians — so-called Key Opinion Leaders, or KOLs. KOLs are paid or perked by Big Pharma to convince fellow professionals that a particular company’s product is most effective.”

Wedel also wrote the piece “Booted by Voters? Still in Hot Demand: 5 Places Former Pols Go After Leaving Congress,” which states: “1. Think Tanks: After being elected to nine terms in Congress, Jane Harman abruptly ended her tenure by joining a growing number of former elected officials who have joined or become the head of think tanks. Many think tanks, no longer bastions of wonkiness and long-term studies, operate like partisan fighters, armed with rapid-response teams and quickly assembled reports. …Even popular Senators like Jim DeMint, who joined the Heritage Foundation back in 2013, have found ways to influence policy without voting on legislation. …”

“2. Public Relations: After Senators Kent Conrad and Judd Gregg, both past Chairmen of the Senate Budget Committee, left office, they joined the world’s biggest public relations firm, Edelman, as ‘strategic advisors,’ newly created roles that ‘provide public policy advice and communications counsel to a wide variety of corporate, association and nonprofit clients’ according to a company press release. …”

Wedel describes her work in the preface: “I wrote Unaccountable to bring to your attention the invisible corruption that has become business as usual when it comes to how so much power and influence work nowadays. I come to this work as a social anthropologist — not the stereotypical one who dons a pith helmet to live among a long-lost tribe in Borneo, but one who has spent her career in exotic places like Washington and Warsaw as a participant observer in think tanks, government agencies, and academic institutions. As an anthropologist who has long studied how systems and organizations actually work (as opposed to how they purport to work), it is my job to identify and explain patterns.”

Police Militarization “Quick Fix”

51J0HZM4E9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_CNN is now reporting: “Obama preparing order on police militarization.”

PETER KRASKA, peter.kraska at eku.edu
Kraska is professor and chair of Graduate Studies and Research in the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University. He is considered a leading expert on police militarization and is author or co-author of numerous books including Essential Criminal Justice and Criminology Research Methods and The American Criminal Justice System: The Changing Roles of the Armed Forces and Police. In recent months, he’s met at the White House and has given Congressional testimony.

He said today: “It’s positive to see the White House addressing the issue of police militarization as it relates to Ferguson but the approach that they’re they’re taking is a minor step in addressing the overall militarization trend.

“From my meeting at the White House, frankly, they — like most political players — were interested in a quick fix. They want to hear that by somehow tweaking the 1033 program (which transfers equipment from the Pentagon to local law enforcement) that they can have an impact. That program is important symbolically, but there’s an entire for-profit police militarization industry that wouldn’t be affected.

“You also have to review the Department of Homeland Security grant program which provides far more than the military. Also, far more military-style training occurs under DHS and DOD. Local law enforcement also pays for heavy military-type equipment from civil asset forfeiture funds. At the end of the day, what really needs to be addressed is a 25-year-long process of militarizing the culture of military police.

“There needs to be a focus on the demand side rather than the supply. As long as there is a high level of demand for heavy military equipment by local law enforcement, you’re not really fixing the problem.”

On Tuesday, Kraska will be speaking in Seattle on “Militarized Policing and Public Protest: From the WTO Protests to Ferguson.” It’s been 15 years since the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle.

Kraska said today: “The WTO protests were one of the first public instances of obvious police militarization. It was targeted not at low level drug dealers or struggling communities, but many middle and upper class folks in what’s considered an affluent city.”

See video of Kraska’s congressional testimony from October.

See his piece: “Militarization of U.S. Police: Ferguson, Mo.”
In it, he says: “Even though I was the first academic to identify, research, and write about these trends — even I would not have predicted the extent to which the Military Model would overtake the Community Policing reform movement so rapidly.”

Mubarak Case Dismissed; Two Killed in Cairo Protests

B3oQRUkCAAAmcw4SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS, [in Cairo], sharif at democracynow.org, @sharifkouddous
Kouddous is a “Democracy Now!” correspondent in Cairo and a Nation Institute fellow. He said today: “There were protests the day of the decision [Saturday] just outside of Tahrir Square — Tahrir itself was closed by army tanks, APC’s [armored personnel carriers] and police armored trucks and barbed wire. But a few thousand people did gather on the outskirts protesting the verdict. There was palpable anger and two people were killed when the police attacked the protest with tear gas, and live ammunition. One of them was reportedly shot six times. The following day, yesterday, the universities across the country held protests. Students have been, really, one of the epicenters of dissent following the ouster of Muhammed Morsi last year and they continued those protests yesterday. …

“Many people weren’t that surprised by the ruling, given the nature of the judiciary we have seen over the past year, given the nature of the political situation in Egypt right now. Many were surprised at their capacity to still feel anger and indignation and to be disappointed and upset by this verdict — to see not only Mubarak but Habib el-Adly, his interior minister, and the top police chiefs all be acquitted and basically no one being held responsible after scores of police officers have been acquitted by trials as well. Hardly anyone being held responsible for the killing of nearly 1,000 people in this uprising, and we are supposed to chalk it up to something like mass suicide. So it’s a very difficult moment and again I think a dark one in Egypt’s history.

“The main refrain we have been hearing is ‘so who’s the killer?’ because everyone has gotten off scot free. … Mubarak is fair game for most people – it’s safe for a lot of these anchors to speak out against him – but still it was a change of tone from the sycophantic coverage that we’ve seen. Obviously there was that kind of coverage as well and Mubarak himself, really shockingly, was called in to one of these television stations right after the verdict was announced and he said that he had done nothing wrong during his term. He said he had laughed in 2012 when the life sentence against him was handed down, which of course has been overturned. …

“There is very little space for any kind of dissent, any kind of opposition right now in Egypt. You risk years in prison, you risk your life by going down on the streets. … This really portrays an alarmingly selective justice system in Egypt. The day after this ruling, 25 Muslim Brotherhood leaders got three years in prison for chanting in a trial and a week before 78 minors got two to five years in prison for protesting.”

USA Today is reporting today: “Militant group says it killed U.S. oil worker in Egypt.”

Note: the BBC reported on June 22, 2014 in “U.S. unlocks military aid to Egypt, backing President Sisi” that: “The U.S. has revealed it has released $575m (£338m) in military aid to Egypt that had been frozen since the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi last year.

“The news came as Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cairo just two weeks after former army chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi was sworn in as president.

“After talks with the new leader, Mr Kerry stressed the importance of upholding the rights of all Egyptians.

“Mr Sisi won May elections, vowing to tackle ‘terrorism’ and bring security.

“The retired field marshal overthrew Mr Morsi last July amid mass protests against his rule.

“He has since been pursuing a crackdown on Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which urged a boycott of the 26-28 May elections. Liberal and secular activists also shunned the poll in protest at the curtailing of civil rights.”

The Myth of Thanksgiving

ROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ, rdunbaro at pacbell.net, @rdunbaro
Dunbar-Ortiz is author or editor of seven books, including the recently-released An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. She just wrote the piece “The Myth of Thanksgiving,” which states: “Thanksgiving is the favorite holiday of many U.S. Americans; unlike the rather boring or divisive holidays that honor Columbus, Presidents, Martin Luther King, Jr., Independence, veterans and war, the birth of a religion, and a new year, Thanksgiving is centered on sharing food with family and friends. Individuals and families travel long distances at great expense to be with one another. It might be surprising to learn that the cherished tradition of Thanksgiving is, in fact, the most nationalist of all holidays because it narrates the national origin myth. The traditional meal, as we know, consists of the foods cultivated by Indigenous farmers — corn, squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and turkey.

“The U.S. origin story of a covenant with God goes back to the Mayflower Compact, the first governing document of the Plymouth Colony. It is named for the ship that carried the hundred or so passengers, half of them religious dissidents, to what is now Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in November 1620. This compact marked the beginning of settler democracy, which from its inception sought the elimination of the Indigenous. Behind the black clothed and solemn ‘Pilgrims,’ was a corporation of shareholders, the Virginia Company, accompanied by armed and seasoned mercenaries on a colonizing project ordered by the English King James. If any local Natives were present at a colonizers’ celebratory meal, they were surely there as servants, and the foods were confiscated, not offered as a gift.

“‘Thanksgiving’ became a named holiday during the Civil War, but neither Pilgrims, nor Indians, nor food, nor the Mayflower — all essential to today’s celebration — were mentioned in Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation.

“It was during the Great Depression that the Thanksgiving holiday was transformed into a nationalistic origin story to bind a chaotic society experiencing economic and social collapse. But this idea of the gift-giving Indian, helping to establish and enrich what would become the United States, is an insidious smoke screen meant to obscure the fact that the very existence of the country is a result of the looting of an entire continent and its resources.

“In 1970, on the 350th anniversary of the English settlers — ‘Pilgrims’ — occupying land of the Wampanoag Nation, the United American Indians of New England led a protest of the Thanksgiving holiday, which they called a ‘National Day of Mourning.’ Every year since that time, the National Day of Mourning has taken place at Plymouth Rock. They rightly accuse the United States government of having invented a myth to cover the reality of colonialism and attempted genocide. By Thanksgiving 1970, Native Americans from many Indigenous nations had been occupying Alcatraz Island for a year. It was the height of renewed Native resistance to U.S. colonial institutions and calls for sovereignty and self-determination, which have continued and seen many victories as well as new obstacles. In 2007, after three decades of Indigenous Peoples’ lobbying, the United Nations General Assembly passed the ‘Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.’

“Thanksgiving needs another transformation, a day to mourn U.S. colonization and attempted genocide and celebrate the survival of Native Nations through their resistance.”

See her recent talk on C-Span.

Ferguson: Prosecutor’s “Charade”; “Oppression and Pushback”

B3S10m3CYAAJ_LhVERNELLIA RANDALL,randall at udayton.edu
Emeritus professor of law at the University of Dayton, Randall’s writings are at her website: racism.org. She is author of the book Dying While Black.

MARSHA COLEMAN-ADEBAYO, nofearcoalition at aol.com, @nofearcoalition
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo is with the Washington-based Hands Up CoalitionDC, which is organizing a series of protests in Washington, D.C. See the group’s statement and planned protests, which begin tonight. She is the author of No FEAR: A Whistleblower’s Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA. Her successful lawsuit lead to the passage of the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century: the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR Act). See her blog at BlackAgendaReport.org.

KAWANA LLOYD, klloyd at piconetwork.org, @PICOnetwork
Lloyd is with the PICO National Network, [People Improving Communities Through Organizing] — which includes clergy, students, artists and others. The group put out a statement on the non-indictment: “The decision is deeply disappointing, but it comes as no surprise. It is another unconscionable blow to the St. Louis community and communities of color across America who have suffered through painful patterns of police abuses, discrimination and aggressive policing tactics at the expense of human life. … Michael Brown’s body was riddled with bullets and left lying in the street for more than four hours. The police response to a grieving and traumatized community was shocking and shameful: tear-gassing peaceful protesters, selective arrests, violations of the constitutional right to free speech and assembly, pointing military-grade weapons at unarmed young people, running police cars over Brown’s memorial, using dogs to intimidate community members, even urinating on the site of the shooting. … St. Louis County Prosecutor [Robert] McCulloch took a standard process designed to protect the public by determining whether there was probable cause in a murder case, and turned it into a charade to protect Darren Wilson from public accountability.”

MICHAEL SHANK, michael.john.shank at gmail.com,@Michael_Shank
Adjunct faculty at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Shank has written or co-written numerous articles on the militarization of policing, including: “Get the Military Off of Main Street” for the New York Times.

He said today: “Ferguson is the deadly and combustible combination of state-sponsored violence and structural racism. We are witnessing similarly sinister developments in other cities, such as Detroit. Whether it’s the weapon of economic oppression or heavily militarized suppression, the terrorizing of marginalized America is igniting a revolution. The people’s protest is just the beginning of a perpetual pushback against the increasing abuse of power. And it will be felt from coast to coast and in cities big and small.”

Hagel’s “Forced Resignation”

HAGEL-web-master675The New York Times reports: “Hagel Submits Resignation as Defense Chief Under Pressure.” The following analysts from the Center for International Policy are available for interviews:

MELVIN GOODMAN, goody789 at verizon.net
Goodman said today: “White House forced the resignation. Obama people dissatisfied with Hagel’s inability to act as spokesman for the Pentagon — and Hagel’s inability to control the public remarks of senior flag officers, particularly chairman of the joint chiefs Martin Dempsey.” Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and adjunct professor of government at Johns Hopkins University. His 42-year government career includes tours with the U.S. Army, the CIA, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. His most recent books are The Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism.

MATTHEW HOH, mphoh1 at yahoo.com
Hoh, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, previously directed the Afghanistan Study Group, a collection of foreign and public policy experts and professionals advocating for a change in U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Prior to that, Hoh served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and on U.S. Embassy teams in both Afghanistan and Iraq. During his service in Afghanistan, five months into his year-long contract in 2009, he resigned and became the highest-ranking U.S. official to publicly renounce U.S. policy in Afghanistan. He said today: “I expect Chuck Hagel’s resignation had much less to do with the as-to-be-expected political ad hominem attacks against Hagel, as it does with Hagel not wanting to go along with the re-escalation of the war in Afghanistan, the most unpopular war in American history, as well as his disagreement with the involvement of American forces in the Iraqi and Syrian civil wars that will prove counter-productive and morally and politically disastrous. I expect, in time, that Hagel’s resignation will be seen as an act of personal integrity and disagreement with perpetual war.”

WILLIAM HARTUNG, hartung at ciponline.org, @WilliamHartung
Hartung is director of the Arms and Security Project, also at the Center for International Policy, and author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. He said today: “Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s resignation underscores the missed opportunities that marked his tenure as Secretary of Defense. Hagel came into the job as a pragmatic moderate who was skeptical of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq and convinced of the need to sharply reduce U.S. nuclear forces. These were the right priorities, but it is not clear whether Hagel fought for them as Secretary of Defense. Since his appointment, the Obama administration has been moving in the wrong direction, from its renewed war in Iraq to its recent decision to pour billions of additional dollars into an obsolete and unnecessary nuclear arsenal.” Hartung’s recent articles include “The $5 Billion the Pentagon Doesn’t Need” and “Don’t Throw Billions at An Obsolete Nuclear Arsenal.”

Note: Hagel (and Secretary John Kerry) are sometimes called “critics” of the Iraq war, but they both backed the Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, as did virtually Obama’s entire foreign policy team. See IPA news releases: “Kerry Covers up Iraq War Falsifications,” “* Brennan Claimed no Civilian Drone Killings * Hagel, Smeared; Voted for Iraq War” and “Anti-War Candidate, Pro-War Cabinet?

Obama Secretly Extended Afghanistan War

obama_afghan_0_0KATHY KELLY, kathy at vcnv.org, @voiceinwild
Kelly, a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence has spent extensive time in Afghanistan with the Afghan Peace Volunteers. She appeared with Dr. Hakim (Dr. Wee Teck Young) of the Afghan Peace Volunteers from Afghanistan on “Democracy Now!” this morning.

Kelly recently wrote the piece “Obama Extends War in Afghanistan,” which states: “News agencies reported [Friday] that weeks ago President Obama signed an order, kept secret until now, to authorize continuation of the Afghan war for at least another year. The order authorizes U.S. airstrikes ‘to support Afghan military operations in the country’ and U.S. ground troops to continue normal operations, which is to say, to ‘occasionally accompany Afghan troops’ on operations against the Taliban.

“The administration, in its leak to the New York Times, affirmed that there had been ‘heated debate’ between Pentagon advisers and others in Obama’s cabinet chiefly concerned not to lose soldiers in combat. Oil strategy isn’t mentioned as having been debated and neither is further encirclement of China, but the most notable absence in the reporting was any mention of cabinet members’ concern for Afghan civilians affected by air strikes and ground troop operations, in a country already afflicted by nightmares of poverty and social breakdown.”

CommonDreams.org notes in “Endless War: Obama Secretly Extends U.S. War on Afghanistan” that “last May 27, in an announcement in the White House Rose Garden,” President Obama said: “2014, therefore, is a pivotal year. Together with our allies and the Afghan government, we have agreed that this is the year we will conclude our combat mission in Afghanistan… America’s combat mission will be over by the end of this year. Starting next year, Afghans will be fully responsible for securing their country. American personnel will be in an advisory role. We will no longer patrol Afghan cities or towns, mountains or valleys. That is a task for the Afghan people.”

U.S. and UK Whistleblowers Challenge Policies of War and Attacks on Liberty

unnamed1 (2)The Guardian writes in an editorial this morning: “A diverse quartet of characters share a platform at the Foreign Press Association in London on Friday 21 November. They are a mix of effusive and reserved, leftist, conservative libertarian and politically unaffiliated. But all four have worked for US or UK security agencies, and all four have blown the whistle on misconduct as they saw it. They’ve won accolades for their integrity, yet none was in the end able to remain in post with his or her employer after airing inconvenient truths.

“Matthew Hoh, Colleen Rowley and Kirk Wiebe are, like Edward Snowden, all one-time servants of the American security state. The former GCHQ translator, Katharine Gun, exposed an NSA plan to bug the UN offices of countries that George W Bush and Tony Blair regarded as potential swing votes in their doomed quest for a security council rubber-stamp for an invasion of Iraq, on which they were already set. She was, until the prosecution proved unwilling or unable to muster any evidence, pursued under the Official Secrets Acts, legislation that has rendered the British state a notorious shadowland for a century. The US is traditionally seen as blessed with more open government, but the immediate backdrop to today’s event is the increasingly ruthless pursuit of American whistleblowers.

“For all Barack Obama’s background in civil rights law, his administration has charged more people under the Espionage Act, a 97-year old law rushed through in the first world war, than all previous administrations combined. Phone records covering journalists and, presumably, their sources have been subpoenaed. The trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer charged with revealing details of a botched US plan to feed Iran false nuclear leads, is pending. While British journalists are, as we report, resorting to legal action against Scotland Yard for monitoring their activities as part of a ‘domestic extremism’ programme, US government directives and information campaigns are being trained on the ‘insider threat’, the new parlance for employees who are not to be trusted with classified information.”

The whistleblowers — from the NSA, FBI, State Department and GCHQ — spoke about the effects of their governments’ policies on freedom of the press and democracy. They are traveling as a delegation co-sponsored by the U.S.-based organizations RootsAction.org and ExposeFacts, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy. The U.S. whistleblowers will be back in the U.S. by Monday and are available for interviews. Brief bios of the delegation follow quotes from the U.S. whistleblowers:

J. KIRK WIEBE, jkwiebe at comcast.net
Wiebe, an NSA whistleblower, said today: “Of the ‘Five Eyes’ relationships, the one between NSA and GCHQ is the oldest, closest and most complex. It involves the sharing of data access, collection, processing, as well as the analysis and reporting of intelligence information on a wide variety of subjects of importance to the respective governments and other partners involved. The combined resources of these two behemoth intelligence organizations, augmented by their respective partner organizations in other countries, are collecting — on a 24/7 basis — massive amounts of global information belonging to millions of innocent phone and Internet users around the world. This deep betrayal of privacy on an epic scale constitutes the most egregious and most dangerous threat to democracy in the history of the world.”

COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan at earthlink.net , @ColeenRowley
Rowley, an FBI whistleblower, said today: “I keep being questioned about governmental secrecy, what changes occurred after 9-11 and what level of secrecy is necessary to protect national security. These questions especially emerged after it was learned through whistleblower disclosures that the NSA and other U.S. and UK spy agencies were illegally collecting and storing massive amounts of (non-relevant) data on hundreds of millions of innocent people of the world. Paradoxically while individuals’ privacy has been greatly reduced, governmental secrecy greatly increased. People now wonder if their own privacy even matters anymore in this ‘collect it all’ system and don’t seem to appreciate the dangers created when citizens are kept in the dark about the actions of their governments, including the cover-up of fraud, waste and abuse, illegality and serious risks to public safety. They don’t understand that it was actually the failure to share relevant information which national security agencies already possessed before the 9-11 attacks: inside and between such agencies and with the general public that enabled the terrorism to occur in the first place and which continues to endanger citizens in many ways. Of course our very form of democratic government under the rule of law is also increasingly threatened given the current state of excessive government secrecy and little personal privacy.

“The answer therefore is to right this upside-down system. There should be increased sharing of governmental information while citizens’ privacy and their legal rights to free speech, association, religion and press, the right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure, the right to due process, right to attorney, etc, should be afforded protection.”

MATTHEW HOH, mphoh1 at yahoo.com
Hoh, a State Department whistleblower, said today: “The U.S. and UK’s special relationship has evolved to the point where both governments rely upon one another, through personal relationships, infrastructure and ideological narrative to justify endless wars overseas, while engaging in a war against civil rights and individual liberties at home. It is imperative for the people of the United States and the United Kingdom to work together to resist and reform our governments’ perversion of a common and shared value system that was once dedicated to democracy, freedom and individual liberty.”

Background:

Katharine Gun is a former translator for GCHQ. In 2003, she leaked to the Observer a top-secret memorandum concerning an NSA operation to bug the United Nations offices of six countries regarded as swing votes that could determine whether the U.N. Security Council approved the invasion of Iraq. After the Observer article appeared, Gun confessed to her GCHQ superiors and was subsequently charged with violating the Official Secrets Act. The case was dropped after the prosecution declined to offer any evidence. For her whistleblowing, Gun was given the 2003 Sam Adams award by the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence. Daniel Ellsberg called Katharine Gun’s leak “the most important and courageous leak I have ever seen.” He added: “No one else — including myself — has ever done what Gun did: tell secret truths at personal risk, before an imminent war, in time, possibly, to avert it.”

Matthew Hoh, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, previously directed the Afghanistan Study Group, a collection of foreign and public policy experts and professionals advocating for a change in U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Prior to that, Hoh served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and on U.S. Embassy teams in both Afghanistan and Iraq. During his service in Afghanistan, five months into his year-long contract in 2009, he 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.

Coleen Rowley, an attorney and former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the agency’s pre-9/11 failures, was one of three whistleblowers named as Time magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. In February 2003, Rowley again wrote to the FBI Director questioning him and other Bush administration officials about the reliability of supposed evidence being used to justify the impending U.S invasion of Iraq. Under sharp criticism for her comments, Rowley stepped down from her legal position to go back to being an FBI Special Agent. She retired from the FBI in 2004 after 24 years with the agency.

Norman Solomon is the coordinator of ExposeFacts.org, a new project for whistleblowing and independent journalism in the United States. ExposeFacts is part of the Washington-based Institute for Public Accuracy, where Solomon is executive director. He is the author of a dozen books on media and public policy including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org, an online action group that currently has close to half a million active online members.

J. Kirk Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for 36 years. 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 with costs of billions of dollars. Wiebe and Binney blew the whistle internally on Trailblazer, 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 retired in October 2001. Since retiring, Wiebe and Binney have made several key public disclosures regarding NSA’s massive surveillance program.

Katharine Gun, Matthew Hoh, Coleen Rowley and Kirk Wiebe are on the advisory board of ExposeFacts.org. Norman Solomon is on the ExposeFacts editorial board.

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