News Releases

U.S and Venezuela: Who’s the Security Threat?

Reuters reports: “The United States on Monday declared Venezuela a national security threat and ordered sanctions against seven officials from the oil-rich country in the worst bilateral diplomatic dispute since socialist President Nicolas Maduro took office in 2013.”

Tinker Salas is author of Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know, which will be released next month. He is professor of history and Latin American studies at Pomona College; his previous books include The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela.

He recently wrote the piece “Mexico and Venezuela: A Study in U.S. Bias,” which states: “The government of President Nicolás Maduro is depicted as losing popular support and purportedly relying on repression to stay in power. Meanwhile, in Mexico — where, according to a recent study, thirteen Mexicans disappear every day, and President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration has violently repressed public protests — Washington and the U.S. media have remained largely silent.”

Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research; Beeton is the group’s international communications director. Weisbrot just wrote the article “Obama Absurdly Declares Venezuela a Security Threat,” which states: “Yesterday the White House took a new step toward the theater of the absurd by ‘declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela,’ as President Barack Obama put it in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.

“It remains to be seen whether anyone in the White House press corps will have the courage to ask what in the world the nation’s chief executive could mean by that. Is Venezuela financing a coming terrorist attack on U.S. territory? Planning an invasion? Building a nuclear weapon?

“Who do they think they are kidding? Some may say that the language is just there because it is necessary under U.S. law in order to impose the latest round of sanctions on Venezuela. That is not much of a defense, telling the whole world the rule of law in the United States is something to be skirted around whenever the president decides it’s inconvenient.

“That was the approach of President Ronald Reagan in 1985 when he made a similar declaration in order to impose sanctions — including an economic embargo — on Nicaragua. Like the White House today, he was trying to topple an elected government that Washington didn’t like. He was able to use paramilitary and terrorist violence as well as an embargo in a successful effort to destroy the Nicaraguan economy and ultimately overturn its government. …

“The world has moved forward, even though Washington has not. Venezuela today has very strong backing from its neighbors against what almost every government in the region sees as an attempt to destabilize the country.

“’The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) reiterates its strong repudiation of the application of unilateral coercive measures that are contrary to international law,’ read a statement from every country in the hemisphere except for the U.S. and Canada on Feb. 11. They were responding to the U.S. sanctions against Venezuela that Obama signed into law in December.

“Didn’t read any of this in the English-language media? Well, you probably also didn’t see the immediate reaction to yesterday’s White House blunder from the head of the Union of South American Nations, which read, ‘UNASUR rejects any external or internal attempt at interference that seeks to disrupt the democratic process in Venezuela.’

“Washington was involved in the short-lived 2002 military coup in Venezuela; it ‘provided training, institution building and other support to individuals and organizations understood to be actively involved in the brief ouster’ of President Hugo Chávez and his government, according to the U.S. State Department. The U.S. has not changed its policy toward Venezuela since then and has continued funding opposition groups in the country. …

“The Venezuelan government has produced some credible evidence of a coup in the making: the recording of a former deputy minister of the interior reading what is obviously a communique to be issued after the military deposes the elected government, the confessions of some accused military officers and a recorded phone conversation between opposition leaders acknowledging that a coup is in the works.”

How Brennan’s CIA Plan Facilitates Future Wars Based on Lies

On Friday afternoon — when stories are frequently put out to avoid scrutiny — a plan by CIA head John Brennan to restructure the agency was made public. Much of the major media portrayed it as a reform to make Americans safer: The New York Times headline read: “CIA to Be Overhauled to Fight Modern Threats.” However, many CIA veterans argue that it is a step toward further politicization of intelligence:

MELVIN GOODMAN, goody789 at
Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University. A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and the forthcoming The Path to Dissent: A Whistleblower at CIA. Goodman is the national security columnist for

He said today of Brennan’s plan: “Simply, it takes the CIA further from Truman’s concept and closer to the ability to politicize intelligence. Operations are part of the policy world and not the intelligence world. The Centers have made it too easy to provide the intelligence that the ‘masters’ desire, whether they are the masters on CIA’s 7th floor or the policy masters. Brennan’s world was the Center for Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism, and many of the intelligence errors and operational errors of the past 15 years have emanated from those centers. Organizationally, it makes no sense — what are the directorates of operations and analysis — they sound as if they are HR experts.”

Late last year, Goodman wrote the piece “The Latest Flawed Reorganization Scheme: The Decline of the CIA,” which anticipated and criticized many of Brennan’s proposals. Goodman just wrote the piece “David Petraeus and the Hypocrisies of National Security: The CIA’s Double Standard.”

The following are members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, which just released a memo on Brennan’s plan:

RAY McGOVERN, rmcgovern at, @raymcgovern
McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years, whose duties included preparing the President’s Daily Brief and chairing National Intelligence Estimates. He now works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.

ELIZABETH MURRAY, emurray404 at, @elizabethmurra
Murray is available for a limited number of interviews. She served as deputy national intelligence officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the U.S. government, where she specialized in Middle Eastern political and media analysis.

McGovern and Murray are among the signers to a just released, posted at “U.S. Intel Vets Oppose Brennan’s Plan to Restructure CIA,” which takes the form of a memo to the President: “Mr. President, The CIA reorganization plan announced by Director John Brennan on Friday is a potentially deadly blow to the objective, fact-based intelligence needed to support fully informed decisions on foreign policy. We suggest turning this danger into an opportunity to create an independent entity for CIA intelligence analysis immune from the operational demands of the ‘war on terror.’

“On Feb. 5, 2003, immediately after Colin Powell’s address to the UN, members of VIPS sent our first VIPS memorandum, urging President George W. Bush to widen the policy debate ‘beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.’

“The ‘former senior officers’ whom Brennan asked for input on the restructuring plan are a similar closed, blinkered circle, as is the ‘outstanding group of officers from across the Agency’ picked by Brennan to look at the Agency’s mission and future. He did not include any of the intelligence community dissidents and alumni who fought against the disastrous politicization of intelligence before the attack on Iraq. Nor does Brennan’s plan reflect the lessons learned from that debacle. …

“President Harry Truman wanted an agency structure able to meet a president’s need for ‘the most accurate … information on what’s going on everywhere in the world, and particularly of the trends and developments in all the danger spots.’ In an op-ed appearing in the Washington Post exactly one month after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Truman added, ‘I have been disturbed by … the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment … and has become an operational and at times policy-making arm of the Government.’ …

“You are fully aware, we trust, that our analysts’ vaunted ethos of speaking unvarnished truth to power was corrupted by Director George Tenet and Deputy Director John McLaughlin, who outdid themselves in carrying out the instructions of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. The new ethos boiled down to this: If the President wants to paint Iraq as a strategic threat, it is our job to come up with the ‘evidence’ — even if it needs to be manufactured out of whole cloth (or forged, as in ‘yellowcake uranium from Africa’ caper). …

“There is hope to be drawn from those occasions where senior intelligence officials with integrity can step in, show courageous example, and — despite multiple indignities and pitfalls in the system — can force the truth to the surface. We hope that you have been made aware that, after the no-WMD-anywhere debacle on Iraq, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence Thomas Fingar did precisely that during 2007, supervising a watershed National Intelligence Estimate on Iran that concluded unanimously, ‘with high confidence,’ that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003.

“President Bush concedes in his memoir that this put the kibosh on his and Dick Cheney’s earlier plan to attack Iran during their last year in office. So, character (as in Fingar) counts, and people of integrity can make a difference — and even help thwart plans for war — even in the most politicized of circumstances.”

Race in Politics: Voting Rights Act at 50

POC UnderrepThis year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic “Bloody Sunday” on March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, and the enactment of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965.

SPENCER OVERTON, via Lavina Ramchandani, lramchandani at, press at, @JointCenter
Overton is president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which just released the report: “50 Years of the Voting Rights Act: The State of Race in Politics.” Among the study’s key findings:

“Since 1965, the black/white racial gap in voter turnout has decreased dramatically in presidential elections. Turnout among black Southerners exceeded that of their white counterparts in four of the twelve presidential elections since 1965, and nationwide black turnout clearly exceeded white turnout in presidential elections in 2012 and perhaps in 2008.

“Local election turnout is lower and possibly less diverse. Presidential general election turnout is generally 60 percent of the voting-age population, but local election turnout averages 27 percent and in some cases is less than 10 percent. As overall turnout declines in local elections, the electorate may become less representative of the racial diversity of the community as a whole. …

“Party politics is increasingly polarized by race. Since 1960, the party identification and partisan voting patterns of blacks and whites have become sharply divided.

“Race is the most significant factor in urban local elections. In urban local elections, race is a more decisive factor than income, education, political ideology, religion, sexual orientation, age, gender, and political ideology. The 38 point racial gap exceeds even the 33 point gap between Democratic and Republican voters.

“Since 1965, the number of elected officials of color has grown enormously. Over this period, African Americans went from holding fewer than 1,000 elected offices nationwide to over 10,000, Latinos from a small number of offices to over 6,000, and Asian Americans from under a hundred documented cases to almost 1,000.

“People of color remain underrepresented in elected office. Based on the most recent data, African Americans are 12.5 percent of the citizen voting age population, but they make up a smaller share of the U.S. House (10 percent), state legislatures (8.5 percent), city councils (5.7 percent), and the U.S. Senate (2 percent). Latinos make up 11 percent of the citizen voting age population, but they are a smaller share of the U.S. House (7 percent), state legislatures (5 percent), the U.S. Senate (4 percent), and city councils (3.3 percent). Asian Americans are 3.8 percent of the citizen voting age population but a smaller share of the U.S. House (2 percent), state legislatures (2 percent), the U.S. Senate (1 percent), and city councils (0.4 percent).”

Health Law’s Complexity Invites Legal Attack, Even as it Fails to Cure Ailment

ROBERT ZARR, via Mark Almberg, mark at, @PNPH
President of Physicians for a National Health Program, Zarr is a D.C.-based pediatrician who will be in front of the Supreme Court buildingon Wednesday at 10 a.m. Zarr said today: “The King v. Burwell case is yet another reason to swiftly move beyond the failing ACA to a simpler, publicly financed, improved-Medicare-for-All system. Such a system would cover everyone, make care affordable, and control costs. Based on our experience with the Medicare program and the experience of other nations, we know it will work. It’s the only moral and fiscally responsible thing to do.” Zarr just wrote the piece “The Obamacare Challenge We Need? Improved, Expanded Medicare for All.”

Almberg is PNHP communications director. The group just released a statement “Health law’s complexity invites attack, even as it fails to cure ailment: doctors group,” which states: “This week’s arguments before the Supreme Court in the case of King v. Burwell demonstrate once again how the Affordable Care Act’s administrative complexity and flaws — largely reflecting its accommodation to the private health insurance industry and other corporate, profit-oriented interests in U.S. health care — make it vulnerable to legal attacks by its opponents.

“The ACA clearly lacks the simplicity and legal robustness that a single-payer plan would have. Single-payer would be simple: everyone in the U.S. would be covered for all medically necessary care in a single program financed by equitable taxes.

“If the court upholds King and his fellow plaintiffs’ challenge to premium subsidies in over 30 states, the health and financial harms to our patients will be considerable. By some estimates, more than 8 million people will quickly lose insurance coverage, increasing the intolerable suffering we already see today.

“One consequence of this loss of coverage would be an additional 8,000 ‘excess deaths’ each year — deaths linked to lack of insurance. That figure is over and above the estimated 30,000 annual preventable deaths that are currently occurring under the ACA due to its having left 30 million people uninsured. This is completely unacceptable.

“Regardless of how the court rules, the unfortunate reality is that the ACA won’t be able achieve universal coverage. It won’t make care affordable or protect people from medical bankruptcy. Nor will it be able to control costs.

“The ACA is fundamentally flawed in these respects because, by design, it perpetuates the central role of the private insurance industry and other corporate and for-profit interests (e.g. Big Pharma) in U.S. health care.

“In contrast, a single-payer system — an improved Medicare-for-All — would achieve truly universal care, affordability, and effective cost control. It would be simple to administer, saving approximately $400 billion annually by slashing the administrative bloat in our private-insurance-based system. That money would be redirected to clinical care. Copays and deductibles would be eliminated.

“A growing section of the insured population is already facing very high copays, deductibles and coinsurance, deterring them from seeking needed care. This trend is toxic and unsustainable.”

Petraeus Gets Hand-Slap for Leaking

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at, @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

She just wrote the piece: “David Petraeus Gets Hand-Slap for Leaking, Two Point Enhancement for Obstruction of Justice,” which states: “As a supine Congress sitting inside a scaffolded dome applauded Benjamin Netanyahu calling to reject a peace deal with Iran, DOJ [the Department of Justice] quietly announced it had reached a plea deal with former CIA Director David Petraeus for leaking Top Secret/Secure Compartmented Information materials to his mistress, Paula Broadwell.

“Among the materials in the eight ‘Black Books’ Petraeus shared with Broadwell were:

“‘…classified information regarding the identities of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and mechanisms, diplomatic discussions, quotes and deliberative discussions from high-level National Security Council meetings, and defendant DAVID HOWELL PETRAEUS’s discussions with the President of the United States of America.

“‘The Black Books contained national defense information, including Top Secret/SCI and code word information.’…

“For lying to the FBI — a crime that others go to prison for for months and years — Petraeus will just get a two point enhancement on his sentencing guidelines. The Department of Justice basically completely wiped away the crime of covering up his crime of leaking some of the country’s most sensitive secrets to his mistress.

“When John Kiriakou pled guilty on October 23, 2012 to crimes having to do with sharing a single covert officer’s identity just days before Petraeus would lie to the FBI about sharing, among other things, numerous covert officers’ identities with his mistress, Petraeus sent out a memo to the CIA stating:

“‘Oaths do matter, and there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate with the requisite degree of secrecy.’”

Netanyahu Speech: Nuclear Threat

MARK GAFFNEY, markhgaffney at
Gaffney is the author of Dimona: the Third Temple, a pioneering study of Israel’s nuclear weapons program. He recently wrote: “After many years of official hypocrisy, a U.S. president appears to be playing hardball with Israel. The other day, the U.S. government declassified a 1987 report documenting Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program.” See IPA news release: “Netanyahu’s Nuclear ‘Chutzpah’ — As U.S. Government Releases Documents on Israel’s Nukes.”

Faculty associate in Middle East Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Loewenstein just wrote the piece “Netanyahu in Congress,” which states: “Either Netanyahu doesn’t read the news, [or] he is hoping that nobody else notices Israel’s de facto alliance with ISIS, or he is more concerned with poking Obama in the eye publicly than in the future of his country, a fact that would not surprise me. Focusing on the dangerous forces lurking in his ‘neighborhood,’ Netanyahu singles out Iran, Lebanon (by which he presumably means Hizbullah), Syria, and Hamas. Unlike most Americans, Netanyahu views the potential of a nuclear capable Iran as a greater threat to regional stability than the spread of ISIS and extremist groups, such as al-Qaida.”

Netanyahu’s Nuclear “Chutzpah” — As U.S. Government Releases Documents on Israel’s Nukes

Netanyahu (second from left) worked for a time for Heli Trading, which was owned by Hollywood producer (Pretty Woman, 12 Years a Slave, JFK, Fight Club, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith) and confessed Israeli spy Arnon Milchan (far right). Netanyahu allegedly met with Milchan to execute smuggling operations. The picture is of a meeting at Milchan’s estate with Netanyahu and Hollywood glitterati.

This morning on the program “Democracy Now,” Noam Chomsky said in reply to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims regarding Iran’s nuclear program: “The striking aspect of this is the chutzpah involved. Israel has had nuclear weapons for probably 50 years, 40 years — estimates are 100, 200 weapons. They are an aggressive state — Israel’s invaded Lebanon five times, it’s carrying out an illegal occupation, carries out brutal attacks, like on Gaza last summer.” Chomsky added that a crucial fact is that “even if Iran” were developing a nuclear weapon, “it would be part of deterrent,” given Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal. [See video beginning 31:30]

While the U.S. government has continued a policy with Israel of neither confirming nor denying the existence of Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal since the Nixon administration, a researcher has just obtained release of U.S. government documents “detailing the U.S. government’s extensive help to Israel in that nation’s development of a nuclear bomb,” reports Courthouse News.

Courthouse News continues: “The government fought to delay release of the 386-page report in hearings before Judge Tanya Chutkan in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who expressed skepticism with the government’s reasons for refusing to provide a single unclassified document.

“The report’s release … has substantial political ramifications.”

GRANT F. SMITH, gsmith at, @IRmep
Smith is director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy and has recently won release of the report. He wrote the piece “U.S. Confirmed Existence of Israeli H-Bomb Program in 1987,” which states: “The 1987 report’s confirmation of Israel’s advanced nuclear weapons program should have immediately triggered a cutoff in all U.S. aid to Israel under the Symington and Glenn Amendments to the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act. …

“Informal and Freedom of Information Act release of such information is rare. Under two known gag orders — punishable by imprisonment — U.S. security-cleared government agency employees and contractors may not disclose that Israel has a nuclear weapons program. GEN-16 is a ‘no-comment’ regulation on ‘classified information in the public domain.’ ‘DOE Classification Bulletin WPN-136 on Foreign Nuclear Capabilities’ forbids stating what 63.9 percent of Americans already know — that Israel has a nuclear arsenal.”

Also see Smith’s piece “Lawsuit Challenges U.S. ‘Ambiguity’ Toward Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal,” which states: “Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear analyst James Doyle wrote candidly about Israel’s nuclear weapons for a magazine in 2013. After a congressional staffer read the article, which had passed a classification review, it was referred to classification officials for a second review. Doyle’s pay was then cut, his home computer searched, and he was fired.”

Smith also wrote the piece “Poll: Netanyahu Should be Investigated for Nuclear Weapons Tech Smuggling Before U.S. Visit,” which states: “In 2012 the FBI declassified and released files … of its investigation into how 800 nuclear weapons triggers were illegally smuggled from the U.S. to Israel. According to the FBI, the Israeli Ministry of Defense ordered nuclear triggers (krytrons), encrypted radios, ballistic missile propellants and other export-prohibited items through a network of front companies. Smuggling ring operations leader Richard Kelly Smyth alleged that Netanyahu worked at one of the fronts — Heli Trading owned by confessed spy and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan — and met with him frequently to execute smuggling operations.” See from the Guardian: “Arnon Milchan reveals past as Israeli spy.”

Background: See by Sam Husseini: “The Absurd U.S. Stance on Israel’s Nukes: A Video Sampling of Denial,” which features major U.S. government officials declining to forthrightly acknowledge that Israel has a nuclear weapons arsenal. For example, in 2010, then-Senator Russ Feingold seemingly alluded to the gag order, that was not publicly known to exist at the time: “I’m not free to comment on that.” In contrast, when asked “Do you know that Israel has a nuclear weapons program?” in 2011, now Secretary of State and then-senator John Kerry replied to the question “Sure. Everybody — it’s common knowledge and commonly understood.” When asked “Why won’t the administration acknowledge that?” Kerry responded: “I don’t know what the administration policy is on that.” He was chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee at the time.

See “Israel’s Worst-Kept Secret” in the Atlantic by Douglas Birch and R. Jeffrey Smith of the Center for Public Integrity’s National Security team.

Regarding Netanyahu’s claims on Iran having a nuclear weapons program, see from Nima Shirazi “Benjamin & His Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Lies: Netanyahu Cries ‘Wolf’…Again.” Also, see by Jim Lobe: “Remember Bibi’s Wisdom on Iraq.”

Veto of Keystone Pipeline: * Fracking * Real Climate Plan?

AP is reporting: “President Barack Obama will veto a Republican-backed bill on Tuesday that would have approved construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, the White House said, putting a freeze on a top GOP priority — at least for now.”

WENONAH HAUTER, via Ryanne Waters, rwaters at, @foodandwater@wenonahhauter
Hauter is the executive director of Food & Water Watch and wrote the piece “To Save the Climate, We Need a Ban on Fracking.” She said today: “We commend President Obama for vetoing this dangerous project in the interest of millions of Americans who depend on safe drinking water. But as the debate over the future of our energy policies evolves, we also need the president to take strong action on fracking, which is threatening Americans from coast to coast with water contamination, earthquakes and alarming health effects. A fracking ban on our precious public lands would be a smart start toward a truly clean, healthy, renewable energy future.” Food & Water Watch was the first national organization to call for a complete ban on fracking in 2011 and released “The Urgent Case for a Ban on Fracking” this past September.

MICHAEL DORSEY, via Hayden Higgins, hayden at; mkdorsey at
EVAN WEBER, evan at, @usclimateplan
Dorsey is vice president for strategy and co-founder of U.S. Climate Plan. He’s quoted in a statement the group just put out: “The battle over the Keystone XL pipeline has demonstrated what is possible when a diverse movement draws a line in the sand and rallies around a single cause. The problems we’re facing are much bigger than a pipeline. More massive fossil fuel infrastructure projects continue to be proposed, and the president has shown little resolve for the transformational change the nation needs. So we must show the public and our leaders the scope of this challenge and force them to choose a side.”

Weber is executive director and co-founder of U.S. Climate Plan. He said today: “Because of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, every state in the country is now having a conversation about climate policy. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to demand solutions that match the scale of the challenge and demonstrate that people who care about climate change — especially young people — can be a political force to be reckoned with. The ‘solutions’ the government has been putting forward aren’t bold enough, so we’re launching our own plan, the Future Power Plan, to build the people power necessary to create the political will to shift the way we power our society and protect our future.”

Real American Exceptionalism: Torture and Drone Assassination?

Bloomberg is reporting: “A proposed sale of unarmed surveillance drones by General Atomics to the United Arab Emirates — the first to a non-NATO ally — is clearing its final U.S. hurdle.”

ALFRED McCOY, awmccoy at
McCoy is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation and Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State. He just wrote the piece “The Real American Exceptionalism” for, which states: “‘The sovereign is he who decides on the exception,’ said conservative thinker Carl Schmitt in 1922, meaning that a nation’s leader can defy the law to serve the greater good. Though Schmitt’s service as Nazi Germany’s chief jurist and his unwavering support for Hitler from the night of the long knives to Kristallnacht and beyond damaged his reputation for decades, today his ideas have achieved unimagined influence. …

“Washington, more than any other power, created the modern international community of laws and treaties, yet it now reserves the right to defy those same laws with impunity. A sovereign ruler should, said Schmitt, discard laws in times of national emergency. So the United States, as the planet’s last superpower or, in Schmitt’s terms, its global sovereign, has in these years repeatedly ignored international law, following instead its own unwritten rules of the road for the exercise of world power. …

“Under Obama, drones have grown from a tactical Band-Aid in Afghanistan into a strategic weapon for the exercise of global power. From 2009 to 2015, the CIA and the U.S. Air Force deployed a drone armada of over 200 Predators and Reapers, launching 413 strikes in Pakistan alone, killing as many as 3,800 people. EveryTuesday inside the White House Situation Room, as the New York Times reported in 2012, President Obama reviews a CIA drone ‘kill list’ and stares at the faces of those who are targeted for possible assassination from the air.  He then decides, without any legal procedure, who will live and who will die, even in the case of American citizens. Unlike other world leaders, this sovereign applies the ultimate exception across the Greater Middle East, parts of Africa, and elsewhere if he chooses. …

“By the end of Obama’s first term, the NSA could sweep up billions of messages worldwide through its agile surveillance architecture. This included hundreds of access points for penetration of the Worldwide Web’s fiber optic cables; ancillary intercepts through special protocols and ‘backdoor’ software flaws; supercomputers to crack the encryption of this digital torrent; and a massive data farm in Bluffdale, Utah, built at a cost of $2 billion to store yottabytes of purloined data. …

“As a senior CIA official posted to the Near East in the early 1950s put it, the Agency then saw every Muslim leader who was not pro-American as ‘a target legally authorized by statute for CIA political action.’ Applied on a global scale and not just to Muslims, this policy helped produce a distinct ‘reverse wave’ in the global trend towards democracy from 1958 to 1975, as coups — most of them U.S.-sanctioned — allowed military men to seize power in more than three-dozen nations, representing a quarter of the world’s sovereign states. …

“Can there be any question that, in the decades to come, Washington will continue to violate national sovereignty through old-style covert as well as open interventions, even as it insists on rejecting any international conventions that restrain its use of aerospace or cyberspace for unchecked force projection, anywhere, anytime? Extant laws or conventions that in any way check this power will be violated when the sovereign so decides. These are now the unwritten rules of the road for our planet. They represent the real American exceptionalism.”

Malcolm X’s Legacy: Double Anniversary This Year

February is Black History Month. Malcolm X was assassinated 50 years ago on Feb. 21, 1965. He was born on May 19, 1925 — he would be 90 years old this year had he lived.

KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY,  kevinagray57 at, @kevinagray
Co-editor of the new book Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence, Gray said today: “Whenever anyone uses the phrase ‘by any means necessary’ we automatically think of Malcolm X, otherwise known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. The phrase means that freedom and the fight for human rights are something worth dying for. He also knew that those opposed to the idea of freedom for all would kill to protect their power over those they deemed as powerless.

“Feb. 21 marks the 50th anniversary of Malcolm Shabazz’s death at the Audubon Ballroom in New York. Malcolm knew he was about to die before he went on stage. He knew being a threat to the status quo had a cost. He knew that the enemy were those opposed to freedom for all and telling the truth about American racism and white supremacy. Malcolm spoke the truth about the demand and need for racial equality, due process and equal justice for all. He spoke the truth about men and their shortcomings, the truth about our nation and its shortcomings.

“Malcolm gave his all. He gave his life. But before he died, he spoke of civil rights being human rights and taking the black freedom struggle beyond the boundaries of the United States. Because of Malcolm we understand the connectedness we have with the struggles of oppressed people around the world. Malcolm is a shining example of courage and an unfearing challenger of the status quo. We are better because he lived.

“The protests that have arisen across the nation in the aftermath of the killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner and the countless others that have died at the hands of law enforcement and those acting under the color of law calls for connecting the struggles of oppressed people around the world to hold accountable those with unchecked power. Malcolm’s legacy calls for connecting the struggle of Ferguson, New York, Oakland, Detroit, Atlanta and many others towns, cities and states with those who struggle in Palestine. Malcolm’s legacy is to take action, even if it means giving the last measure. Or as Dr. Martin Luther King said: If someone ‘hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.’” Gray’s previous books include The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama.

Excerpts from Malcolm Shabazz’s speeches (he broke with the Nation of Islam in early 1964):

“We need to expand the civil-rights struggle to a higher level — to the level of human rights. Whenever you are in a civil-rights struggle, whether you know it or not, you are confining yourself to the jurisdiction of Uncle Sam. … [T]he Negro problem is never brought before the UN. This is part of the conspiracy. This old, tricky blue-eyed liberal who is supposed to be your and my friend, supposed to be in our corner, supposed to be subsidizing our struggle, and supposed to be acting in the capacity of an adviser, never tells you anything about human rights.”
– “The Ballot or the Bullet,” April 3, 1964

“You have to read the history of slavery to understand this. There were two kinds of Negroes. There was that old house Negro and the field Negro. And the house Negro always looked out for his master. When the field Negroes got too much out of line, he held them back in check. He put ‘em back on the plantation.”

– “To Mississippi Youth,” December 31, 1964. This and many other speeches are available via YouTube.

“They have a new gimmick every year. They’re going to take one of their boys, black boys, and put him in the cabinet so he can walk around Washington with a cigar. Fire on one end and fool on the other end. And because his immediate personal problem will have been solved he will be the one to tell our people: ‘Look how much progress we’re making. I’m in Washington, D.C., I can have tea in the White House. I’m your spokesman, I’m your leader.’ While our people are still living in Harlem in the slums. Still receiving the worst form of education. …

“But how many sitting here right now feel that they could [laughs] truly identify with a struggle that was designed to eliminate the basic causes that create the conditions that exist? Not very many. They can jive, but when it comes to identifying yourself with a struggle that is not endorsed by the power structure, that is not acceptable, that the ground rules are not laid down by the society in which you live, in which you are struggling against, you can’t identify with that, you step back. …

“It’s easy to become a satellite today without even realizing it. This country can seduce God. Yes, it has that seductive power of economic dollarism. You can cut out colonialism, imperialism and all other kind of ism, but it’s hard for you to cut that dollarism. When they drop those dollars on you, you’ll fold though.”

– “The Prospects for Freedom in 1965,” at the Militant Labor Forum, New York City, Jan. 7, 1965. 
Audio from this and other speeches here.

“While I was traveling, I had a chance to speak in Cairo, or rather Alexandria, with President [Gamal Abdel] Nasser for about an hour and a half. He’s a very brilliant man. And I can see why they’re so afraid of him, and they are afraid of him — they know he can cut off their oil. And actually the only thing power respects is power. …

“This is a society whose government doesn’t hesitate to inflict the most brutal form of punishment and oppression upon dark-skinned people all over the world. To wit, right now what’s going on in and around Saigon and Hanoi and in the Congo and elsewhere. They are violent when their interests are at stake. But all of that violence that they display at the international level, when you and I want just a little bit of freedom, we’re supposed to be nonviolent. They’re violent. They’re violent in Korea, they’re violent in Germany, they’re violent in the South Pacific, they’re violent in Cuba, they’re violent wherever they go. But when it comes time for you and me to protect ourselves against lynchings, they tell us to be nonviolent. …

[On the Congo:] “And they’re able to take these hired killers, put them in American planes, with American bombs, and drop them on African villages, blowing to bits black men, black women, black children, black babies, and you black people sitting over here cool like it doesn’t even involve you. You’re a fool. …

“And with the press they feed these statistics to the public, primarily the white public. Because there are some well-meaning persons in the white public as well as bad-meaning persons in the white public. And whatever the government is going to do, it always wants the public on its side. … So they use the press to create images.”
– “The Last Message,” address to the Afro-American Broadcasting Company, Detroit, Michigan, Feb. 14, 1965, the night his home was firebombed and a week before his assassination; text and audio.

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