The Senate Select Intelligence Committee convened Thursday to question CIA Director Nominee John Brennan
WASHINGTON — Thursday CIA Director Nominee John Brennan answered questions from members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on his relationship to the “enhanced interrogation” program, the company’s targeted killing of Americans, as well as the nominee’s role in advising the media.
A memo leaked to NBC News’ Michael Isikoff, published yesterday, reveals the Justice Department’s rationale for greenlighting the assassination of Americans it deems “co-belligerents” with al-Qaida and the Taliban. In a Page 1 footnote, the memo defers to a 2009 definition from Hamlily v. Obama, in which a district court decided that “lack of combatant status in non-international armed conflicts does not, by default, result in civilian status for all, even those who are members of enemy ‘organizations’ like al Qaeda.” Justice Department internal deliberations appear to have concluded that serving as a “co-belligerent,” a term of international law, need not require that an American be a “combatant” actively engaged in hostilities.
Initiating an eight-minute question period, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) said, “It’s the idea of giving any president unfettered power to kill an American without checks and balances that’s so troubling. Every American has the right to know when their government believes it’s allowed to right to kill them.”
Mr. Brennan responded by saying “there’s a misimpression on the part of the — some American people who believe that we take strikes to punish terrorist for past transgressions. Nothing could be further from the truth. We only take such actions as a last resort to save lives where there’s no other alternative to taking an action that’s going to mitigate that threat.”
In April of last year a district court sentenced Tareq Mehenna, of Massachusetts, to 25 years in prison for “aiding” al-Qaida by translating documents out of Arabic and redistributing them on the Internet. While Massachusetts U.S. attorneys, including Aaron Swartz prosecutor Carmen Ortiz, claimed that Mr. Mehenna had unsuccessfully sought out training as a terrorist, the man’s conviction was ultimately not the product of his having editorialized on the communications he made available in English.
Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, said that the targeted killing of Americans has been more “casual than a last-ditch effort,” a practice that “has strayed well beyond focused killings of the ‘senior operational’ leaders against whom strikes are authorized under the DOJ memo leaked earlier this week.”
Protests, which Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) attributed to the “Code Pink organization,” became so frequent both before and during Mr. Brenna’s opening statement that the senator closed the hearing to the general public, directing attendees to an alernate observation area in which the reactions of only of hearing speakers were evident.
The Final Act of Hearing Protest, which drove Chairman Feinstein to Close the Hearing to the Public.
The nominee said that the protesters “have a misunderstanding of what we do as a government.” Protesters, most of whom occupied the public rows closet to the nominee, he stated, underestimate the care the CIA takes to avoid collateral damage, and the agony that officers go through in ensuring it protects innocent bystanders. As the public left Room 216 of Hart Senate Office Building, one protester yelled that she was Pakistani, and that the nominee was “killing my people.”
Another protester, who attended 2010 protests at CIA headquarters, held up a sign with the name of 16-year-old American citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, targeted along with his father, Anwar, in Yemen. Before the meeting he remarked that the United States was turning into the “Third Reich.”
Go to 1:56 in the above clip to see Sierra Adamson pose a question to White House Adviser Robert Gibbs,as he speaks to the targeted killing of Abdulrahman al-Alwaki. Mr. Gibbs said that the elder Mr. al-Awlaki was an al-Qaida commander “hoping” to inflict harm on Americans. When Ms. Adamson pressed the former press secretary about the death of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, Mr. Gibbs responded that the younger Mr. al-Awlaki “should have [had] a far more responsible father.” He added that if Anwar al-Awlaki was “truly concerned about the well-being of [his] children, I don’t think becoming an al-Qaida jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.”
The United States, says Human Rights Watch counterterrorism counsel Andrea Prasow, “has never disclosed the legal framework in which it claims to operate [when conducting targeted killing], adding, “It should specify whether it believes it has authority to conduct targeted killings under the laws of war, or some other framework.”
Wednesday Boy Scouts of America decided to hold off until May a decision on whether to allow gay scouts or scout masters. The May vote, to take place in Grapevine, Texas among 1,400 national council members, will decide a potential religious and ethical turn for the federally funded youth organization. For decades the Boy Scouts have been encumbered by debates about the meaning of their public support in relationship to values that critics see as springing exclusively from the domain of religion.
Six years ago this reporter interviewed the unsuccessful plaintiff in a suit regarding the religiosity of the Scouts’ oath, which calls on members to be “morally straight” as well as theistic, in relationship to the organization’s federal funding. Scout leadership has decided that that oath prohibits homosexuality among the ranks. The report was filed in relationship to a Virginia beat.
At least someone among the federal authorities funding the Boy Scouts long ago began to imagine that they could pin God down like a frog under academic dissection – any confounding or appealing mystery to the whole matter officially sliced into ribbons by the magistrate. Though it has left the womb of the state, religion has hung onto the establishment by a seemingly indestructible umbilical cord.
The cord’s transfusion flows strongest at times like the beginnings of legislative or city council meetings, wherein a preacher or other religious authority is called in by custom to ceremonially unite representatives through their faith in a mortality-transcending god or gods.
In 2007 Rajan Zed, a Hindu cleric from the Reno-based Indian Association of Northern Nevada, appeared as Senate guest Chaplain, to jeering:
That same year, 2007, Attorney General Bob McDonnell — now the governor of the purple Commonwealth of Virginia — sent an advisory brief to an Illinois Federal District Court, his public relations efforts chalking up his intended influence as defending “traditional understanding of religious freedom” and halting “the possible loss of the direct and substantial impacts [a military base Boy Scout event] has on the Commonwealth.” Mr. McDonnell’s intended consequence was to defend the the Defense Department’s monetary and logistical support for the National Boy Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, near Bowling Green, Virginia. By email, he expressed his pleasure to the press that a Chicago decision indicting the Defense Department had been overturned.
Then Governor Tim Kaine, now a senator, voiced his understanding that the case was a federal, as opposed to a commonwealth, funding matter. “It’s not one that I have really focused on at all,” he said. Though, he alluded to having supported the Boy Scouts in one way or another while Richmond mayor.
Mr. McDonnell’s press secretary, Justin Tucker Martin, explained the governor’s advisory brief to me as this: “The Boy Scouts of America are a theistic organization, not a religious one.” Mr. Martin advised me that the Boy Scout Jamboree’s standing congressional support did not constitute a violation of the establishment clause, which prohibits the government from prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
Soon after the federal trial had wound down in early April, I conversed with Eugene Winkler, the primary plaintiff on the suit against the defense secretary. Winkler was at the time the head of Gary United Methodist Church in Wheaton, Illinois. We spoke on the phone for a few minutes.
Tyler Bass: What was your personal stake in preventing the federal funding from going to the Jamboree?
Eugene Winkler: The Boy Scouts discriminate. I am not only a religious man, a pastor. I was an Eagle Scout, and have served on regional Boy Scout councils. So all of those are in my favor in terms of the Boy Scouts, OK? I am not antagonistic toward the Boy Scouts, but the Boy Scouts have a very limited understanding of what it means to believe in God. On their authority, if you don’t believe in their concept of God, you can’t be a Scout. Their concept of god is — it is my concept of god, certainly — a Judeo-Christian concept of God, but if you don’t accept that concept of God, you can’t get into the Scouts. And they’re a discriminatory organization and federal funding is being spent on the Jamboree to further that kind of discrimination. That’s why the suit was filed.
TB: Why exactly did they decide that you didn’t have standing? Because it’s not like they weren’t acknowledging many of the facts that you’re presenting to me right now; for example, that they recognize a monotheistic, Judeo-Christian, Islamic-even concept of God. Why is it that they rule that you don’t have standing to make this suit as a taxpayer?
EW: Two words: beats me. If you read there right on the first page, second page of the brief, they admit that they are ignoring the other issues, and that they are just simply saying that I don’t have standing, which is a chicken way out of it.
TB: They said –
EW: Let me just say one other thing. These are three old Republican guys.
TB: The judges?
EW: These judges. They just didn’t want to deal with the issue.
TB: When you were a Boy Scout, did you ever question this when you were younger? Did you have atheist colleagues or associates or people who were polytheistic? Did you raise the question in your own youth?
EW: No, of course not. I wasn’t aware of those kinds of issues when I was in the Boy Scouts. I mean, I was 12 years old!
TB: Do you know of Boy Scouts who are atheist or polytheistic who are just like you – you’re a monotheist? When did it first start to occur to you that it was perhaps discriminatory to have this sort of oath?
EW: Well, I guess when I became an adult and was a scout master and was working in regional Scout councils, it became apparent to me that there was a very limited understanding in the Scouts of what it means to be — what the Scout motto means for them.
TB: Do you guys plan to appeal the decision?
EW: I’m not sure yet because our ACLU lawyer is traveling and we won’t be talking this week. You know, I’m confident, from my point of view, that I want to appeal certainly. Because I think it’s a vital issue that has to be faced.
TB: Would you still raise the issue even if the feds or the Congress weren’t funding the Boy Scouts, and the Boy Scouts were simply discriminatory?
EW: Oh, we’ve already raised it in a number of other venues, with the Chicago Board of Education. We’ve already won other suits on this same matter.
TB: I noticed. I mean, if the Boy Scouts were a private organization, and you clearly have –
EW: They are a private organization!
TB: But they receive funding from the Congress, do they not?
EW: Well, that’s why they shouldn’t receive funding from the Congress, and, certainly, they shouldn’t receive that kind of blessing because it’s an issue of church and state really.
TB: So you would rather see the Boy Scouts as a separate organization that still kept their [religious] motto?
EW: Oh, sure!
TB: I was trying to see if you were opposed to the motto itself.
EW: Oh, no, no, no. Not at all. They can do whatever they want with the motto, or they can discriminate against whomever they want as long as they don’t get federal funding for it.
Former CIA Case Officer John Kiriakou, Earnest, Goes to Jail (Screenshot: Democracy Now!, Wednesday)
WASHINGTON — An unidentified journalist’s ethical breach with whistle-blowing source John Kiriakou resulted this week in the former case officer and father of five’s being sentenced to 30 months in prison. Although promising Mr. Kiriakou anonymity, the journalist redistributed CIA torture information from his or her source to Guantanamo Bay defense attorneys, helping direct the Justice Department investigation that led to Mr. Kiriakou’s undoing.
Former CIA legal chief John Rizzo and former Director Michael Hayden addressed an American Enterprise Institute forum Tuesday to offer their take on Kathryn Bigelow’s film “Zero Dark Thirty,” a dramatic interpretation of the bin Laden hunt, as well as the interrogation tactics it entailed. Forum host Marc Thiessen said that as early as 2006 Mr. Hayden had assisted him in drafting a speech for President George Bush revealing the “existence” of the CIA’s interrogation program.
President Bush’s speech read, “I cannot describe the specific [interrogation] methods used — I think you understand why — if I did, it would help the terrorists learn how to resist questioning, and to keep information from us that we need to prevent new attacks on our country,” adding that methods “were tough, and they were safe, and lawful, and necessary.”
“We never asked anybody anything we didn’t know the answer to,” said Mr. Hayden at the AEI forum, “while they were undergoing the enhanced interrogation techniques. The techniques were not designed to elicit truth in the moment.” If a prisoner would confirm the known knowns, he said, agency operatives could reinforce to the prisoner their current level of trust in him. “Zero Dark Thirty” showed CIA case officers water-boarding a prisoner while inquiring about what were to them total mysteries, such as the location of Osama bin Laden.
Despite laws purporting to protect whistle-blowers in the event of genuine government wrongdoing, motivation and success in prosecuting them does not have to do with conscience pangs’ particular depths but with ultimately the consequences and nature of that information leaked. Throughout history the legislative and judicial branches have wavered in their interpretations of “cruel and unusual” punishment, for decades at a time placing moratoriums and then restarting even the federal death penalty for American nationals.
“Zero Dark Thirty” director Kathryn Bigelow’s big-budget portrayal of the decade-long bin Laden hunt, like Mr. Kiriakou himself, reinforces the viewpoint torture may have been effective in encouraging 9/11 suspects to reveal further information about their organization and tactics. Mr. Kiriakou claims however that whether torture encouraged suspects to reveal information is irrelevant to their appropriateness. Former Vice President Dick Cheney saw torture as protecting American citizens, reasoning that whatever damage was done to the country’s reputation due to aggressive tactics would not outweigh lives saved and terrorist attack thwarted due to those tactics. Meanwhile other voices, such as interrogator “Matthew Alexander,” have spoken of many individuals attacking U.S. service people in Iraq, attackers who felt that brutal interrogation tactics, such as those utilized at Abu Ghraib, ultimately justified their actions. Furthermore Mr. Alexander, who has written under that pseudonym a book and various columns, has said that torture is ineffective at acquiring information in the first place.
Advertising Jeremy Scahill’s new documentary on America’s post-9/11 military agenda, the website of “Dirty Wars,” a movie which premiered this week at Sundance film festival, references American CIA human intelligence operatives as “agents,” as Democracy Now! did Mr. Kiriakou (above). The “Dirty Wars” website advertises its sources as “the CIA agents, Special Forces operators, military generals, and U.S.-backed warlords who populate the dark side of American wars go on camera and on the record, some for the first time.”
As Jeffrey Richelson’s The US Intelligence Community makes clear, in the world of human intelligence “agents” are “foreign nationals recruited by U.S. intelligence officers to collect information either in their home country or in a third nation.” Lindsay Moran, a former case officer herself, put it a bit more blithely in Blowing My Cover:
Contrary to popular jargon, a CIA agent is not the actual employee of the CIA but rather the hapless schlub who has been recruited by a CIA case officer to spy on behalf of the United States, usually in exchange for money. The whole process of spotting, assessing, developing, and enlisting foreign agents is called “The Recruitment Cycle.”
The terminology of the “Dirty Wars” and Democracy Now! website is imprecise, relying on a perception of Mr. Kiriakou as “used” by the CIA. The term “agent” implies that Mr. Kiriakou was unwittingly exploited by the agency, a paramilitary and intelligence infrastructure whose implementation of extra-legel interrogation practices is decades old.
Once Mr. Kiriakou first revealed the use of water-boarding in a 2007 interview with ABC’s Brian Ross, perhaps he was surprised that CIA leadership, along with the White House, came out in defense of water-boarding, as opposed to having to backpedal on the policy or attempt to obscure the practice. President Barack Obama, despite stating in his first inaugural address that torture would not be used, had expressed a desire to “look forward,” meaning at least that his priority was his stopping further abuses, not making examples of those complicit in the previous administration’s abusers. An executive order from the 1980s banned the use of torture, it being in addition to supranational prohibitions to which the United States is bound by force of treaty.
Yesterday Mr. Kiriakou said that his ABC interview — in which he opined water-boarding constituted torture, and that torture was official government policy — had dire consequences:
Within 24 hours, the CIA filed what’s called a “crimes report” against me with the Justice Department, saying that I had revealed classified information, which was the torture program, and asking for an investigation with an eye toward prosecuting me. The Justice Department decided at the time that I had not revealed classified information, that the information was already in the public domain. But immediately, within weeks, I was audited by the IRS. I’ve been audited by the IRS every single year since giving that interview in 2007.
In conversation with Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman yesterday morning, Mr. Kiriakou said, “You know, we haven’t — we haven’t even investigated the torturers, as [Kiriakou attorney] Jesselyn [Radack] said.” Last August Attorney General Eric Holder announced the closing of a CIA torture investigation resulting from the agency’s interrogation tape destruction, the investigation that revealed a journalist’s betrayal of Mr. Kiriakou. All along the Obama administration never hinted at prosecuting operatives for water-boarding, though Mr. Kiriakou himself considered water-boarding torture.
A March 2010 Washington Times article said that the Holder investigation yielded “signs that the senior al Qaeda detainees at Guantanamo gained intelligence on CIA interrogators through their lawyers that could be used in future legal proceedings.”
CIA counterintelligence officials have “serious concerns” that the information will leak out and lead to the terrorists targeting the officers and their families, if the identities are disseminated to terrorists or sympathizers still at large, said one official.
“They have put the lives of CIA officers and their families in danger,” said a senior U.S. official about the detainees’ lawyers.
Naturally, interrogators who abused the terms of the Geneva Conventions, in addition to fearing terrorist retribution, might have wished to avoid nonviolent, domestic stigma, daresay legal civil or criminal repercussions. Whether water-boarding per se constitutes torture has long been the subject of popular debate; in some polls, majorities of respondents supported “torturing” 9/11 suspects, either way. Despite Mr. Kiriakou’s touting logistical support for the neutralization of violent Islamist operatives bent on killing Americans, many of his countrymen and women not sharing his outrage over water-boarding is key to understanding why public pressure will not keep him out of prison.
WASHINGTON — Following days of Anonymous defacement and deactivation of the U.S. Sentencing Commission website, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) wrote a letter Monday to the attorney general requesting a briefing on attempts to prosecute late Internet activist Aaron Swartz for computer fraud and theft.
As to whether Anonymous computer fraud spurred the letter, the committee majority’s staff had not responded to requests for comment, and minority press staff say they have “no comment” beyond the letter itself. Meanwhile members of the hacktivist collective are likely to claim the timing of the letter as a success in their “OpLastResort” campaign to draw attention to overzealous copyright enforcement, particularly by former Swartz prosecutor Carmen Ortiz. To the end of drawing that attention, operation participants have loaded a whimsical, custom game of “Asteroids” onto the Justice Department’s Sentencing Commission website, or employed Structured Query Language injection causing its total inaccessibility, such as at the time of this writing.
Notably using the passive voice, the Oversight Committee representatives’ letter to Attorney General Eric Holder reads in part:
They ask that Mr. Holder schedule a committee briefing by next Monday and be prepared to answer the following questions:
As of midday Monday the following presentation from the OpLastResort (Operation Last Resort) campaign was the most viewed YouTube video in any category.
The video claims that federal sentencing guidelines are out of keeping with the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. To encourage authorities to institute enforcement and legislative changes, the video encourages members of Anonymous to download and redistribute “warheads,” information files encoded via the same PGP “.aes256″ standard WikiLeaks utilized for its eventually unraveled Cablegate “insurance” file. The video says that activists will release heavily redacted, private government files to a select media outlet. In order for authorities to deter the release of the full information “warheads,” the video makes the following demands:
 There must be reform of outdated and poorly-envisioned legislation, written to be so broadly applied as to make a felony crime out of violation of terms of service, creating in effect vast swathes of crimes, and allowing for selective punishment.
 There must be reform of mandatory minimum sentencing.
 There must be a return to proportionality of punishment with respect to actual harm caused, and consideration of motive and mens rea.
 The inalienable right to a presumption of innocence and the recourse to trial and possibility of exoneration must be returned to its sacred status, and not gambled away by pre-trial bargaining in the face of overwhelming sentences, unaffordable justice and disfavorable odds.
 Laws must be upheld unselectively, and not used as a weapon of government to make examples of those it deems threatening to its power.
While Anonymous has become famous for inciting vigilantism with imagery from the 2005 film “V for Vendetta,” this video also promotes action using scenes and music from the Batman “Dark Knight Trilogy.”
In publishing his tome, Let the Dead Bury the Dead, Indiana-based researcher Matt Janovic documents pervasive corruption, zany paranoia culture and desperate legal harassment. Although he had a list of prostitutes, servicing the capital region’s elites, employed by Jeane Palfrey, former Johns were “going after all of them,” he says, “to shut them up.” For 13 years Ms. Palfrey was able to sell sex to thousands of D.C. clients, including politicians, and well-compensated defense and intelligence contractors.
The Johns’ attempts to shut up their prostitutes worked, far more than the prostitutes’ fear of their own criminal liability. Mr. Janovic, along with the rest of the team working for the cause of defending Ms. Palfrey, “couldn’t find [the former prostitutes].”
Following D.C. Federal Judge Gladys Kessler’s having obtained in late 2007 subpoena power over various law enforcement and intelligence agencies in connection to Ms. Palfrey’s case, Judge Kessler was replaced by Judge James Robertson, who subsequently quashed that subpoena power. “All of a sudden,” says Mr. Janovic, “Judge Kessler is replaced without any explanation, nothing.” It was at this time, he says, that Ms. Palfrey threatened, in front of defense counsel Montgomery Sibley, to kill herself. The author speculates that a suicide threat even in front of Judge Kessler may have been the reason for her replacement.
Mr. Janovic makes clear that he hates conspiracy nuts. These peddlers of fear, he says, are “incredibly irresponsible, dishonest with themselves and everybody.” Their distrust of absolutely all parties to everything, says the author via phone, is “intellectually lazy,” adding that their unhealthy distrust is a “cop-out.” He thinks their basic view of the world is, “like, ‘well, if I don’t have to be a responsible citizen I can just go running to irrationality.” This is the reason that, despite prostitution ring operator Jeane Palfrey’s radio show assurances that she would not commit suicide, he was entirely certain that her suicide was not the product of any foul play whatsoever.
But after being her investigated for fraud by the Postal Service, and informants turning on her multimillion-dollar sex ring — and receiving numerous, spurious legal threats, intended to intimidate him into silence — Matt Janovic, a former researcher for Ms. Palfrey, has still come to the conclusion that there are practical and ethical limits to unhinged distrust. The Postal Service busted Ms. Palfrey twice in the early ’90s for money laundering. He says, “I was getting the fake cease-and-desists for a while, but now they’ve halted because the book is out,” adding that letter writers were “just trying to fake me out and intimidate me into not putting the book out . . . If anything they emboldened me to do it.”
The evidence that Ms. Palfrey hung herself, as his book’s maccabre cover makes clear, is her “making comments that were filled with absolutes: ‘I will not serve one more day in prison;’ ‘they’re not getting one penny of my money;’ ‘I’m getting it all back.’” Because the “D.C. Madam,” as the press would advertise her, killed herself before sentencing, the government was not able to keep as many of her assets, of which her estate eventually received the majority.
Mr. Janovic’s skill as a researcher, apparent to her by his early comments on the case, made it unnecessary for him to solicit his considerable talents. She hired him directly. The author thinks, in addition to his own blogging, that that philosophical coinage of Sun-Tzu, “keep your friends close but your enemies closer,” also informed her decision to hire him.
“She contacts me after I write these observations, maybe a month after. I think about a week after she contacts me, she starts making comments about suicide. And we started talking about one of her former escorts, Brandy Britton. She was a sociology professor at the University of Maryland. And [Ms. Britton] killed herself the same way. And [Ms. Palfrey] said in an email . . . June 20, 2007, ‘oh, I’ve thought many times of killing myself but apparently I’m a tougher nut than [Ms. Britton] was.’”
In February 2008 Ms. Palfrey sent an email to Jason Leopold and Mr. Janovic’s co-researcher, carbon-copying Mr. Janovic, “kind of like, ‘OK, I want you to bear witness to this.’” While Truthout’s own Mr. Leopold tried to reassure her of her odds in the federal investigation, she responded nonetheless with, “Jason… let’s put it like this, the bastards aren’t going to take me alive.” She struggled with the idea of doing only three years in jail, daresay the far longer, bluffing sentences tossed before her by federal prosecutors.
Actress Mimi Kennedy, who portrayed Jeane Palfrey in an episode of ABC Drama “Scandal” (via: IMDB)
Additionally she made other statements to Mr. Janovic that made him suspect she was on the way self-down — suicidal themes pervading her conversations with the author of this 600-page tell-all. Mr. Janovic relays the story of an acquaintance who met Ms. Palfrey in Florida, the operator of a straightforward escort service, who saw Ms. Palfrey taking anti-depressents, “very casually, popping [them] in front of her.” Ms. Palfrey eventually overdosed on anti-depressants to ensure that she could not be revived following her own hanging. The author says, “She was drugging herself to keep her head on.”
For 10 months after June 2007, the author of Let the Dead Bury the Dead was deeply frightened of an upcoming suicide on the part of Ms. Palfrey, whose clients included Senator David Vitter (R-LA), former USAID Administrator Randall Tobias, political consultant Jack Berkman, and political analyst Dick Morris. Regulars included Mr. Morris, Sen. Vitter, and former Naval Commander Harlan Ullman, author of the Iraq War’s “shock and awe” doctrine, which called for “overwhelming power, dominant battlefield awareness, dominant maneuvers, and spectacular displays of force to paralyze an adversary’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight.”
Mr. Janovic says, laughing,”Some of the girls complained about him having problems with bathing hygiene and that he was abusive emotionally.”
Of particular frustration to Mr. Janovic is the continuing power of client Jack Burkman, a former lobbyist for James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, and 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign strategist. The author writes in Chapter Eight:
[Mr.] Burkman was provided supporting fire (cover) by the mainstream press. They let him off the hook completely when it was blatantly obvious that he was in the phone records; published the finding at that time. But the mainstream media can ignore that when it has to, and it did. They wouldn’t touch it.
The Associated Press and ABC’s Brian Ross, says the author in his Internet Chronicle phone interview, “stayed as far away from the true nature of the case as they possibly could.” If Jack Burkman’s claims that he denied to mainstream media sources having purchased sex can be believed, the author blames those (unknown) sources for having taken Mr. Burkman at his word. Gawker, says Mr. Janovic, pulled several links down relating to Mr. Burkman’s own, other sexual foibles, specifically an account two lesbian women posted to a MySpace page, claiming that Mr. Burkman offered them a thousand dollars to have sex in front of him. Mr. Burkman threatened the two women legally, and they pulled the tale. The two had a scan of Mr. Burkman’s business card, which he offered them.
One commenter on Mr. Janovic’s blog, an NPR employee who spoke to the author from her place of work, spoke to the author of dating Mr. Burkman. Mr. Janovic says her story jives with that of the two women from MySpace.
As to why Sen. Vitter escaped the scandal without prosecution, and with re-election, Mr. Janovic blames U.S. attorneys kowtowing to those who place them in power. The author considers these attorneys and assistant attorneys “handlers and fixers” for senators, who “clean up their messes for them.” Sen. Vitter, says the author, had a “favorite” prostitute at Pamela Martin & Associates, who the feds “put on ice,” into protection.
The escort agency’s subpoenaed Verizon phone records, to which the author was privy, he says, are “the smoking gun for Hookergate.” Included in the phone records “was even the archbishop of D.C.” Ms. Palfrey would tell the author that other clients of Pamela Martin & Associates included Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and then Halliburton CEO and future Vice President Dick Cheney.
“She also mentioned Fred Thompson,” says Mr. Janovic. “And then,” he starts to say with a laugh, “– and this is interesting because I started writing about it. You know, I actually started writing about it after she was dead. And then lo and behold I start getting on his mailing list in my email box.” The former senator was at the time launching what would be an ill-fated campaign for the Republican Party presidential nomination.
Massachusetts District U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz (Courtesy: Wikipedia)
WASHINGTON — In a not-so-stirring defense of academic conglomerate JSTOR, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said of Aaron Swartz‘s offenses, “Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars. It is equally harmful to the victim whether you sell what you have stolen or give it away.” While common sense and lore would tend to at least lend more sympathy to Robin Hood- or Jean Valjean-type characters, who might be at least functioning out of some concern for others, Ms. Ortiz remained steadfast in her pursuit of recent “an Hero” Mr. Swartz, trying to see him put in jail for potentially the rest of his life.
Over at WhoWhatWhy Christian Stork does a nice little breakdown of this U.S. attorney’s wading into murky waters of civil asset forfeiture, one particular case in which she agreed to help confiscate a rundown, mom-and-pop Massachusetts motel because because “from 2001 to 2008, .05 [percent of at least 125,000 visitors] were arrested for drug crimes on the property.” This was a theft just like Aaron Swartz’s. Except not it was not a theft in the high-minded name of educating the world’s downtrodden, but in that of fattening the pockets of law enforcement agencies, treating poor drug abusers as criminals, alongside those who might dare house them.
Mr. Stork paints a disturbing picture of a civil asset forfeiture system in which being in debt vis-a-vis a mortgage — meaning that a bank, and its lawyers, has some has some skin in the game — means that the owners of this motel would have been in an even better position to disavow their affiliation with three handfuls of guest drug offenses. But alas they ran out of lawyer money, and the government all at once took five decades of family property worth $1.5 million.
Mr. Stork also outlines a direct financial, not an external ethical, motive for law enforcement to take on these kinds of civil asset forfeitures. He cites the testimony of a DEA agent claiming that federal attorneys never go after anything with less than $50,000 in equity. Additionally, local law enforcement, for cooperating with the feds, can look to take home up to 80 percent of what was seized. That’s a major incentive to turn a blind eye to a violation of property rights. In fact it’s more of an incentive to turn a blind eye to property-rights violations than the Pirate Party ever had: It’s money straight to the bank!
The same prosecutor, Carmen Ortiz, who sought to lock up Aaron Swartz for his failure to respect property rights of the proprietors of academic information also sought to seize a family’s business because an extreme minority of their clientele used drugs. Mr. Stork’s article makes clear that this was ultimately the DEA’s initiative, with Ms. Ortiz simply acting as its lawyer. But that doesn’t change that this U.S. attorney lacks any consistency in her modus operandi. It’s pretty obvious that the low rates for staying at this establishment, Motel Caswell, made it an even more tempting target.
Ms. Ortiz’s office released a statement about the seizure, saying: “The government believed that this was an important case . . . because of the deterrent message it sends to others who may turn a blind eye to crime occurring at their place of business.” But Mr. Stork shows this is shmoax because local crime rates dictate that there would have been just as much of a rationale for seizing nearby Walmart, Home Depot, Applebees, Motel 6 and IHOP. But those are large businesses, and no matter how many people shoot up or each other inside, they’ll have the lawyers to keep the whomever or the DEA at bay.
Air Force Global Strike Command Image Celebrating Martin King’s 83rd Birthday
WASHINGTON — Monday the Air Force Global Strike Command Programming Division published commentary claiming that slain civil rights leader and proponent of nonviolence Martin Luther King would be proud of a team commandeering the military’s nuclear-capable assets. The command’s ethnic, religious and socioeconomic diversity, presumably deduces commentary author Mr. Warren Ward, would outweigh any concerns by Mr. King that the vast technological enterprise could capably end the lives of all people on earth.
Dr. King would be proud to see our Global Strike team — comprised of Airmen, civilians and contractors from every race, creed, background and religion — standing side-by-side ensuring the most powerful weapons in the U.S. arsenal remain the credible bedrock of our national defense. . . [ellipses AFGSC's] Our team must overlook our differences to ensure perfection as we maintain and operate our weapon systems. . . Maintaining our commitment to our Global Strike team, our families and our nation is a fitting tribute to Dr. King as we celebrate his legacy.
This is not the first time that Defense Department officials have tried to co-opt the legacy of the slain civil rights activist to forward the cause of military operations following his death. At a press conference January 13, 2011, then Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson, who heard Mr. King speak in person, said, “I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation’s military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack.” Mr. Johnson acknowledged Mr. King’s opposition to America’s involvement in Vietnam but claimed that contemporary military theaters constitute involvements with which Mr. King would have had special sympathy.
In analysis of Mr. Johnson’s remarks, Terri Moon Cronk for American Forces Press Service wrote, “[Mr.] Johnson said today’s service members might wonder whether the mission they serve is consistent with King’s message and beliefs.”
Quoting pieces of Mr. Johnson’s remarks, Ms. Cronk continued:
“The question is not, ‘If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?’ The question is, ‘If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?’”
Johnson compared today’s troops to the Samaritan, who chose to help instead of taking an easier path.
“I draw the parallel to our own servicemen and women deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, away from the comfort of conventional jobs, their families and their homes,” Johnson said.”
“Every day, our servicemen and women practice the dangerousness — the dangerous unselfishness Dr. King preached on April 3, 1968.”
Mr. Johnson further said that day, “Those in today’s volunteer Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps have made the conscious decision to travel a dangerous road, and personally stop and administer aid to those who want peace, freedom and a better place in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in defense of the American people. Every day our servicemen and women practice that ‘dangerous unselfishness’ Dr. King preached on April 3, 1968.”
That evening in 1968, while giving his famous “Mountaintop” speech, Mr. King allowed his imagination to expand on the text of Luke and ponder the motivations of those two Hebrews who ignore the victim of robbers.
Mr. King said:
It’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure.
If we expand on Mr. Johnson’s take on the “Moutaintop” address, and the former general counsel’s drawing a parallel between the robbers, Pashtun and dissident militias; U.S. service people and the Good Samaritan, Mr. King would have intended the Samaritan to search nearby hills to capture or kill the robbers so that they did not trouble another traveler. If Mr. Johnson’s metaphor for the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts is naturally expanded in light of Mr. King’s speech, whether apparent Afghan and Iraqi victims are genuinely seeking “peace, freedom and a better place” should have remained suspect to American service men and women.
Of course Martin King’s legacy borders on an intensely critical eye towards U.S. military involvement overseas, repeatedly denouncing those who would decry a role for America as the world’s “police men.” His actual statements reveal a man who talked in absolute terms about violence and nonviolence, not in relationship just to the Vietnam War but to humanity’s longer-term plight and condition. Also in the “Mountaintop” speech Mr. Johnson referenced was this claim by Mr. King:
Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.
A year before that speech, on April 30, at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. King would lay out his specific rationalization for opposing the war in Vietnam, the conditions of which stand in the face of the conflict in Afghanistan and a global annihilation strike force, whose technological prowess dwarfs any of the late 1960s.
I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money, like some demonic, destructive suction tube. And you may not know it, my friends, but it is estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier, while we spend only $53 for each person classified as poor, and much of that $53 goes for salaries to people that are not poor. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor, and attack it as such.
Mr. King wrote that the violence pervading America’s inner cities drew ferocity from the death tolls the U.S. government threatened or did visit on millions of people in Vietnam. Today the U.S. government has legislatively enshrined the practice of killing minor citizens without trial, and a tolerance for murdering children reigns in the new, glorified technological wonder of drones, which have since replaced the vast carpet bombings of Vietnamese civilians. Mr. King rejected those bombings as evil.
Mr. King further said:
As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young [American] men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action; for they ask and write me, “So what about Vietnam?” They ask if our nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence I cannot be silent.
He added, “[T]he Vietcong, or to Castro, or to Mao, as a faithful minister to Jesus Christ . . . [,] can I threaten them with death, or must I not share with them my life?” What Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro and South Vietnam’s National Liberation Front had in common were much larger threats and actualizations of democide. Yet in the face of disenfranchised Islamist extremists, the Air Force Global Strike Command and Jeh Johnson would have the American people believe that Mr. King would have celebrated the maintenance and deployment of nuclear weapons, in addition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
How could the legacy of a man, who leaned quite nearly into pacifism, be thought of as pro-interventionist war? How has his legacy been co-opted by the huge defense establishment of the United States? How has this symbol of defiance and subversion become understood as an enemy of a state’s enemies?
To this end Internet Chronicle readers should look to 20th century French philosopher Roland Barthes’ and his dissection in Mythologies of a piece of 1950s nationalistic propaganda, a cover of Paris-Match, a publication incidentally still in print.
African Soldier Boy on Cover of mid-’50s Imperial French Periodical
Wrote Mr. Barthes (see Page 116) in 1955, “On the cover, a young Negro in a French uniform is saluting, with his eyes uplifted, probably fixed on a fold of the tricolour [French flag]. All this is the meaning of the picture. But, whether naively or not, I see very well what it signifies to me: that France is a great Empire, that all her sons, without any colour discrimination, faithfully serve under her flag, and that there is no better answer to the detractors of an alleged colonialism than the zeal shown by this Negro in serving his so-called oppressors. I am therefore again faced with a greater semiological system: there is a signifier, itself already formed with a previous system (a black soldier is giving the French salute); there is a signified (it is here a purposeful mixture of Frenchness and militariness); finally, there is a presence of the signified through the signifier.”
This week the Air Force has tried to contrast its organization’s relatively sexist and (internally) racist practices from the ’60s, Mr. King’s world, with that of today. Mr. King signified equality in a sense in the ’60s and in the modern ’10s. However, it is by forwarding this image of Mr. King as a symbol of equality that the Air Force’s article seeks to whitewash his image as a proponent of nonviolence, as an enemy of militarism, as an advocate against a philosophy of retaliation.
As Mr. King said in an April 30 1967 speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered.”
Indeed, maintaining a commitment to one’s nation, to the exclusion of other nations, touted by Mr. Ward flies in the face of the Ebenezer speech’s “call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation” and “call for an all-embracing, unconditional love for all men.”
Anecdotes evincing the inappropriateness of the Air Force’s most recent appropriation of Mr. King’s legacy flow freely, including this example from Riverside Church, New York City on April 4, 1967, in which he unequivocally said, “War is not the answer,” speaking not just of the Vietnam conflict but war in general. He added. “Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons.” It was in that same speech that the southern reverend saw a fork in the road for human beings between “nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.” Violence and coexistence have no apparent ready place in the rhetoric of Mr. King.
Barthes, again in Mythologies, wrote: “[T]he signifier already postulates a reading, I grasp it through my eyes, it has a sensory reality (unlike the linguistic signifier, which is purely mental), there is a richness in it . . . the Negro’s salute” is a credible whole, at its disposal “a sufficient rationality. As a total of linguistic signs, the meaning of the myth has its own value, it belongs to a history, that of . . . the Negro: in the meaning, a signification is already built, and could very well be self-sufficient if myth did not take hold of it and did not turn it suddenly into an empty, parasitical form. The meaning is already complete, it postulates a kind of knowledge, a past, a memory, a comparative order of facts, ideas, decisions. When it becomes form, the meaning leaves its contingency behind; it empties itself, it becomes impoverished, history evaporates, only the letter remains. [emphasis, mine]”
With respect to the Paris-Match cover Mr. Barthes adds: “[O]ne must put the biography of the Negro in parentheses if one wants to free the picture, and prepare it to receive its signified.”
1/21/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 83rd birthday was Jan. 15. . . His courageous crusade for equality was first nationally recognized on Jan. 20, 1986, when President Reagan established the third Monday in January as an official federal government holiday.
Our country, our Air Force and Air Force Global Strike Command can learn much from Dr. King’s drive for America to be a nation of equals. . . During his “I Have a Dream” speech given at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 28, 1963, King told a gathering of more than 200,000 Americans, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the meaning of its creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.’”
Dr. King completed his moving presentation with an emphasis on the freedom that equality brings, “…from every mountainside, let freedom ring. . . And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men, white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty we are free at last!”
The Department of Defense is a leader in equal opportunity for all patriots seeking to serve this great nation. . . The vigilant warriors in AFGSC understand they are all equal and unified in purpose to provide a safe, secure and effective deterrent force for the United States. . .
Dr. King would be proud to see our Global Strike team – comprised of Airmen, civilians and contractors from every race, creed, background and religion – standing side-by-side ensuring the most powerful weapons in the U.S. arsenal remain the credible bedrock of our national defense. . . Our team must overlook our differences to ensure perfection as we maintain and operate our weapon systems. . . Maintaining our commitment to our Global Strike team, our families and our nation is a fitting tribute to Dr. King as we celebrate his legacy.
WASHINGTON — Returning to the 113th Congress, for the first time since the late ’90s, is conservative iconoclast Steve Stockman (R-TX), who was one of only 10 Republican representatives this month to oppose the reappointment of John Boehner to the speakership.
Rep. Stockman’s uncompromising conservative position on the gamut of issues made him the subject of a mocking editorial by The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, who led with the thesis that the House’s being more conservative than ever puts the former “radical’ into a modern mainstream. Mr. Milbank’s partisanship became more pronounced after he was lifted from straightforward reporting for having referred to President George W. Bush in a pool report as “our protagonist.”
Rep. Stockman joined a former Reagan attorney general this week in calling for the impeach of President Barack Obama over concerns that the executive branch may so too far in limiting access to weapons that it may run roughshod over ideals embodied in the Second Amendment.
The representative’s comments about the Waco law enforcement failure received additional attention this week as President Obama released 23 executive orders, as he unveiled his intention to seek the reinstatement the ’90s and ’00s’ assault weapons ban. With the House still under GOP control, the odds of reinstating remain tenuous at best of reinstating the ban, which included a limit of 10 rounds in a magazine. Both the Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut shooters used 30-round magazines. Legislators like Rep. Stockman will be leading the charge against limitations placed on gun buyers, who last month made record purchases.
Rep. Stockman gained special attention in his first congressional term for a June 1995 Guns & Ammo article in which he implied that the Clinton administration murdered members of the
Representative Steve Stockman (R-TX, 36)
religious group not out of a concern about child sexual abuse or David Koresh’s cult’s gun cache but because of a desire to see Americans’ semiautomatic firearms taken away from law-abiding citizens. Rep Stockman’s press secretary would later walk back those writings to The New York Times, saying, “The Congressman said he has no conspiracy theories about that,” adding, “He phrased it badly.”
Despite his walking back his original print claims, the congressman’s concerns about government provocation of massacres were very much alike many individuals today, including a Florida public college professor, who seek to promulgate the view that many recent mass shootings were false-flag operations intended to intimidate the public into giving up gun rights. Rep. Stockman has introduced legislation, the Safe Schools Act, intended to deter what the bill calls a “tragic” set of shootings. This act forwards an idea about reducing mass shootings much like the NRA’s, particularly armed police officers in schools.
Tuesday Rep. Stockman took to Fox News Channel’s “On the Record” to compare President Obama to former Iraq President Saddam Hussein for what he said was their mutual willingness to use children to forward government action. As President Obama signed his executive orders, several children stood by his side, as the 44th president urged Americans to listen to the “voices of children” when considering further gun-control measures.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) received National Media Attention, after Having Attacked Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for, he said, Having Stalled a Relief Bill from Congress 112 to Conress 113
WASHINGTON — This week an over $50 billion aid funding deal to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, which left hundreds of thousands without power for weeks, made its way out of the House, following a series of attempts to amend the bill to cut spending. There were even more minor, local-issue amendments, such as one originating from the Utah delegation, successfully passing, requiring that national parks not expand their territories.
Representative Bob Bishop’s [(R-UT)] amendment, which passed the House late Tuesday on a near party-line vote of 223-198, is aimed at ensuring the National Park Service doesn’t try to add land to its inventory . . . [Rep.] Bishop, along with fellow Utah GOP Reps. Jason Chaffetz [(R-UT)] and Chris Stewart [(R-UT)], voted against the overall Sandy relief bill.
The Hill’s Erik Wasson observed that some of the amendments that were offered in the House Rules Committee earlier in the process would have “offset the new spending in the bill through cuts to other programs, including by . . . cuts to domestic programs,” predicting that these domestic cuts would doom the aid package in the Senate. To The Hill, Representative Steve King (R) of heavily affected New York state, noted, “There have never been offsets before to emergency aid.”
Even in the less party-balanced House, though, proposed cuts to foreign spending died earlier in the legislative process this week than the floor. Speaking before the Rules Committee, Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL) tried to forward a source for funding for the monies that would be spent for disaster relief, offering amendments that would have cut into foreign aid, with the exception of aid going to Israel, Afghanistan or Pakistan. He said that servicing the debt with interest was already doing sufficient damage to the nation. “Twelve or 13 NASAs,” said Rep. Brooks in testimony, constituted the amount of funding it took to pay for the amount of borrowing in which the United States government is engaged.
Following alterations in committee, Tuesday afternoon Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) offered a floor amendment to the Hurricane Sandy relief package. Rep. Mulvaney’s amendment would have instated a 1.63 percent across-the-board discretionary spending cut, but 71 Republicans broke what was virtually total party rank to help block the amendment.
Interestingly, the largest newspaper in Rep. Mulvaney’s district, South Carolina’s 5th, only noted the representative this week, in an editorial, for his having made amends with House Speaker John Boehner after having opposed the speaker’s re-election to leadership with a “silent protest.” Rep. Mulvaney’s having rallied the entire GOP House base for spending cuts, as Northeastern Republicans pushed for aid funding, made surprisingly little wave in his home district press. The representative is the first Republican to represent that region since the 1880s, he having previously represented the voters of the 6th District.