Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

The CIA/MSM Contra-Cocaine Cover-up

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | September 26, 2014

In 1996 – as major U.S. news outlets disparaged the Nicaraguan Contra-cocaine story and destroyed the career of investigative reporter Gary Webb for reviving it – the CIA marveled at the success of its public-relations team guiding the mainstream media’s hostility toward both the story and Webb, according to a newly released internal report.

Entitled “Managing a Nightmare: CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Story,” the six-page report describes the CIA’s damage control after Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series was published in the San Jose Mercury-News in August 1996. Webb had resurrected disclosures from the 1980s about the CIA-backed Contras collaborating with cocaine traffickers as the Reagan administration worked to conceal the crimes.

Although the CIA’s inspector general later corroborated the truth about the Contra-cocaine connection and the Reagan administration’s cover-up, the mainstream media’s counterattack in defense of the CIA in late summer and fall of 1996 proved so effective that the subsequent CIA confession made little dent in the conventional wisdom regarding either the Contra-cocaine scandal or Gary Webb.

In fall 1998, when the CIA inspector general’s extraordinary findings were released, the major U.S. news media largely ignored them, leaving Webb a “disgraced” journalist who – unable to find a decent-paying job in his profession – committed suicide in 2004, a dark tale that will be revisited in a new movie, “Kill the Messenger,” starring Jeremy Renner and scheduled to reach theaters on Oct. 10.

The “Managing a Nightmare” report offers something of the CIA’s back story for how the spy agency’s PR team exploited relationships with mainstream journalists who then essentially did the CIA’s work for it, mounting a devastating counterattack against Webb that marginalized him and painted the Contra-cocaine trafficking story as some baseless conspiracy theory.

Crucial to that success, the report credits “a ground base of already productive relations with journalists and an effective response by the Director of Central Intelligence’s Public Affairs Staff [that] helped prevent this story from becoming an unmitigated disaster.

“This success has to be viewed in relative terms. In the world of public relations, as in war, avoiding a rout in the face of hostile multitudes can be considered a success. … By anyone’s definition, the emergence of this story posed a genuine public relations crisis for the Agency.” [As approved for release by the CIA last July 29, the report’s author was redacted as classified, however, Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept identified the writer as former Directorate of Intelligence staffer Nicholas Dujmovic.]

According to the CIA report, the public affairs staff convinced some journalists, who followed up Webb’s exposé by calling the CIA, that “this series represented no real news, in that similar charges were made in the 1980s and were investigated by the Congress and were found to be without substance. Reporters were encouraged to read the ‘Dark Alliance’ series closely and with a critical eye to what allegations could actually be backed with evidence. Early in the life of this story, one major news affiliate, after speaking with a CIA media spokesman, decided not to run the story.”

Of course, the CIA’s assertion that the Contra-cocaine charges had been disproved in the 1980s was false. In fact, after Brian Barger and I wrote the first article about the Contra-cocaine scandal for the Associated Press in December 1985, a Senate investigation headed by Sen. John Kerry confirmed that many of the Contra forces were linked to cocaine traffickers and that the Reagan administration had even contracted with drug-connected airlines to fly supplies to the Contras who were fighting Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.

However, in the late 1980s, the Reagan administration and the CIA had considerable success steering the New York Times, the Washington Post and other major news outlets away from the politically devastating reality that President Ronald Reagan’s beloved Contras were tied up with cocaine traffickers. Kerry’s groundbreaking report – when issued in 1989 – was largely ignored or mocked by the mainstream media.

That earlier media response left the CIA’s PR office free to cite the established “group think” – rather than the truth — when beating back Webb’s resurfacing of the scandal in 1996.

A ‘Firestorm’ of Attacks

The initial attacks on Webb’s series came from the right-wing media, such as the Washington Times and the Weekly Standard, but the CIA’s report identified the key turning point as coming when the Washington Post pummeled Webb in two influential articles.

The CIA’s PR experts quickly exploited that opening. The CIA’s internal report said: “Public Affairs made sure that reporters and news directors calling for information – as well as former Agency officials, who were themselves representing the Agency in interviews with the media – received copies of these more balanced stories. Because of the Post’s national reputation, its articles especially were picked up by other papers, helping to create what the Associated Press called a ‘firestorm of reaction’ against the San Jose Mercury-News.

The CIA’s report then noted the happy news that Webb’s editors at the Mercury-News began scurrying for cover, “conceding the paper might have done some things differently.” The retreat soon became a rout with some mainstream journalists essentially begging the CIA for forgiveness for ever doubting its innocence.

“One reporter of a major regional newspaper told [CIA] Public Affairs that, because it had reprinted the Mercury-News stories in their entirety, his paper now had ‘egg on its face,’ in light of what other newspapers were saying,” the CIA’s report noted, as its PR team kept track of the successful counterattack.

“By the end of September [1996], the number of observed stories in the print media that indicated skepticism of the Mercury-News series surpassed that of the negative coverage, which had already peaked,” the report said. “The observed number of skeptical treatments of the alleged CIA connection grew until it more than tripled the coverage that gave credibility to that connection. The growth in balanced reporting was largely due to the criticisms of the San Jose Mercury-News by The Washington Post, The New York Times, and especially The Los Angeles Times.”

The overall tone of the CIA’s internal assessment is one of almost amazement at how its PR team could, with a deft touch, help convince mainstream U.S. journalists to trash a fellow reporter on a story that put the CIA in a negative light.

“What CIA media spokesmen can do, as this case demonstrates, is to work with journalists who are already disposed toward writing a balanced story,” the report said. “What gives this limited influence a ‘multiplier effect’ is something that surprised me about the media: that the journalistic profession has the will and the ability to hold its own members to certain standards.”

The report then praises the neoconservative American Journalism Review for largely sealing Webb’s fate with a harsh critique entitled “The Web That Gary Spun,” with AJR’s editor adding that the Mercury-News “deserved all the heat leveled at it for ‘Dark Alliance.’”

The report also cites with some pleasure the judgment of the Washington Post’s media critic Howard Kurtz who reacted to Webb’s observation that the war was a business to some Contra leaders with the snide comment: “Oliver Stone, check your voice mail.”

Neither Kurtz nor the CIA writer apparently was aware of the disclosure — among Iran-Contra documents — of a March 17, 1986 message about the Contra leadership from White House aide Oliver North’s emissary to the Contras, Robert Owen, who complained to North: “Few of the so-called leaders of the movement . . . really care about the boys in the field. … THIS WAR HAS BECOME A BUSINESS TO MANY OF THEM.” [Emphasis in original.]

Misguided Group Think

Yet, faced with this mainstream “group think” – as misguided as it was – Webb’s Mercury-News editors surrendered to the pressure, apologizing for the series, shutting down the newspaper’s continuing investigation into the Contra-cocaine scandal and forcing Webb to resign in disgrace.

But Webb’s painful experience provided an important gift to American history, at least for those who aren’t enamored of superficial “conventional wisdom.” CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz ultimately produced a fairly honest and comprehensive report that not only confirmed many of the longstanding allegations about Contra-cocaine trafficking but revealed that the CIA and the Reagan administration knew much more about the criminal activity than any of us outsiders did.

Hitz completed his investigation in mid-1998 and the second volume of his two-volume investigation was published on Oct. 8, 1998. In the report, Hitz identified more than 50 Contras and Contra-related entities implicated in the drug trade. He also detailed how the Reagan administration had protected these drug operations and frustrated federal investigations throughout the 1980s.

According to Volume Two, the CIA knew the criminal nature of its Contra clients from the start of the war against Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. The earliest Contra force, called the Nicaraguan Revolutionary Democratic Alliance (ADREN) or the 15th of September Legion, had chosen “to stoop to criminal activities in order to feed and clothe their cadre,” according to a June 1981 draft of a CIA field report.

According to a September 1981 cable to CIA headquarters, two ADREN members made the first delivery of drugs to Miami in July 1981. ADREN’s leaders included Enrique Bermúdez and other early Contras who would later direct the major Contra army, the CIA-organized FDN. Throughout the war, Bermúdez remained the top Contra military commander.

The CIA corroborated the allegations about ADREN’s cocaine trafficking, but insisted that Bermúdez had opposed the drug shipments to the United States that went ahead nonetheless. The truth about Bermúdez’s supposed objections to drug trafficking, however, was less clear.

According to Hitz’s Volume One, Bermúdez enlisted Norwin Meneses, a large-scale Nicaraguan cocaine smuggler and a key figure in Webb’s series, to raise money and buy supplies for the Contras. Volume One had quoted a Meneses associate, another Nicaraguan trafficker named Danilo Blandón, who told Hitz’s investigators that he and Meneses flew to Honduras to meet with Bermúdez in 1982. At the time, Meneses’s criminal activities were well-known in the Nicaraguan exile community. But Bermúdez told these cocaine smugglers that “the ends justify the means” in raising money for the Contras.

After the Bermúdez meeting, Contra soldiers helped Meneses and Blandón get past Honduran police who briefly arrested them on drug-trafficking suspicions. After their release, Blandón and Meneses traveled on to Bolivia to complete a cocaine transaction.

There were other indications of Bermúdez’s drug-smuggling tolerance. In February 1988, another Nicaraguan exile linked to the drug trade accused Bermúdez of participation in narcotics trafficking, according to Hitz’s report. After the Contra war ended, Bermúdez returned to Managua, Nicaragua, where he was shot to death on Feb. 16, 1991. The murder has never been solved. [For more details on Hitz’s report and the Contra-cocaine scandal, see Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

Shrinking Fig Leaf

By the time that Hitz’s Volume Two was published in fall 1998, the CIA’s defense against Webb’s series had shrunk to a fig leaf: that the CIA did not conspire with the Contras to raise money through cocaine trafficking. But Hitz made clear that the Contra war took precedence over law enforcement and that the CIA withheld evidence of Contra crimes from the Justice Department, Congress and even the CIA’s own analytical division.

Besides tracing the evidence of Contra-drug trafficking through the decade-long Contra war, the inspector general interviewed senior CIA officers who acknowledged that they were aware of the Contra-drug problem but didn’t want its exposure to undermine the struggle to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government.

According to Hitz, the CIA had “one overriding priority: to oust the Sandinista government. . . . [CIA officers] were determined that the various difficulties they encountered not be allowed to prevent effective implementation of the Contra program.” One CIA field officer explained, “The focus was to get the job done, get the support and win the war.”

Hitz also recounted complaints from CIA analysts that CIA operations officers handling the Contras hid evidence of Contra-drug trafficking even from the CIA’s analysts.

Because of the withheld evidence, the CIA analysts incorrectly concluded in the mid-1980s that “only a handful of Contras might have been involved in drug trafficking.” That false assessment was passed on to Congress and to major news organizations — serving as an important basis for denouncing Gary Webb and his “Dark Alliance” series in 1996.

Although Hitz’s report was an extraordinary admission of institutional guilt by the CIA, it went almost unnoticed by major U.S. news outlets. By fall 1998, the U.S. mainstream media was obsessed with President Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. So, few readers of major U.S. newspapers saw much about the CIA’s inspector general admitting that America’s premier spy agency had collaborated with and protected cocaine traffickers.

On Oct. 10, 1998, two days after Hitz’s Volume Two was posted on the CIA’s Web site, the New York Times published a brief article that continued to deride Webb but acknowledged the Contra-drug problem may have been worse than earlier understood. Several weeks later, the Washington Post weighed in with a similarly superficial article. The Los Angeles Times, which had assigned a huge team of 17 reporters to tear down Webb’s work, never published a story on the release of Hitz’s Volume Two.

In 2000, the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee grudgingly acknowledged that the stories about Reagan’s CIA protecting Contra drug traffickers were true. The committee released a report citing classified testimony from CIA Inspector General Britt Snider (Hitz’s successor) admitting that the spy agency had turned a blind eye to evidence of Contra-drug smuggling and generally treated drug smuggling through Central America as a low priority.

“In the end the objective of unseating the Sandinistas appears to have taken precedence over dealing properly with potentially serious allegations against those with whom the agency was working,” Snider said, adding that the CIA did not treat the drug allegations in “a consistent, reasoned or justifiable manner.”

The House committee still downplayed the significance of the Contra-cocaine scandal, but the panel acknowledged, deep inside its report, that in some cases, “CIA employees did nothing to verify or disprove drug trafficking information, even when they had the opportunity to do so. In some of these, receipt of a drug allegation appeared to provoke no specific response, and business went on as usual.”

Like the release of Hitz’s report in 1998, the admissions by Snider and the House committee drew virtually no media attention in 2000 — except for a few articles on the Internet, including one at Consortiumnews.com.

Killing the Messenger

Because of this abuse of power by the Big Three newspapers — choosing to conceal their own journalistic negligence on the Contra-cocaine scandal and to protect the Reagan administration’s image — Webb’s reputation was never rehabilitated.

After his original “Dark Alliance” series was published in 1996, Webb had been inundated with attractive book offers from major publishing houses, but once the vilification began, the interest evaporated. Webb’s agent contacted an independent publishing house, Seven Stories Press, which had a reputation for publishing books that had been censored, and it took on the project.

After Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion was published in 1998, I joined Webb in a few speaking appearances on the West Coast, including one packed book talk at the Midnight Special bookstore in Santa Monica, California. For a time, Webb was treated as a celebrity on the American Left, but that gradually faded.

In our interactions during these joint appearances, I found Webb to be a regular guy who seemed to be holding up fairly well under the terrible pressure. He had landed an investigative job with a California state legislative committee. He also felt some measure of vindication when CIA Inspector General Hitz’s reports came out.

However, Webb never could overcome the pain caused by his betrayal at the hands of his journalistic colleagues, his peers. In the years that followed, Webb was unable to find decent-paying work in his profession — the conventional wisdom remained that he had somehow been exposed as a journalistic fraud. His state job ended; his marriage fell apart; he struggled to pay bills; and he was faced with a forced move out of a just-sold house near Sacramento, California, and in with his mother.

On Dec. 9, 2004, the 49-year-old Webb typed out suicide notes to his ex-wife and his three children; laid out a certificate for his cremation; and taped a note on the door telling movers — who were coming the next morning — to instead call 911. Webb then took out his father’s pistol and shot himself in the head. The first shot was not lethal, so he fired once more.

Even with Webb’s death, the big newspapers that had played key roles in his destruction couldn’t bring themselves to show Webb any mercy. After Webb’s body was found, I received a call from a reporter for the Los Angeles Times who knew that I was one of Webb’s few journalistic colleagues who had defended him and his work.

I told the reporter that American history owed a great debt to Gary Webb because he had forced out important facts about Reagan-era crimes. But I added that the Los Angeles Times would be hard-pressed to write an honest obituary because the newspaper had not published a single word on the contents of Hitz’s final report, which had largely vindicated Webb.

To my disappointment but not my surprise, I was correct. The Los Angeles Times ran a mean-spirited obituary that made no mention of either my defense of Webb or the CIA’s admissions in 1998. The obituary – more fitting for a deceased mob boss than a fellow journalist – was republished in other newspapers, including the Washington Post.

In effect, Webb’s suicide enabled senior editors at the Big Three newspapers to breathe a little easier — one of the few people who understood the ugly story of the Reagan administration’s cover-up of the Contra-cocaine scandal and the U.S. media’s complicity was now silenced.

No Accountability

To this day, none of the journalists or media critics who participated in the destruction of Gary Webb has paid a price for their actions. None has faced the sort of humiliation that Webb had to endure. None had to experience that special pain of standing up for what is best in the profession of journalism — taking on a difficult story that seeks to hold powerful people accountable for serious crimes — and then being vilified by your own colleagues, the people that you expected to understand and appreciate what you had done.

In May 2013, one of the Los Angeles Times reporters who had joined in the orchestrated destruction of Webb’s career acknowledged that the newspaper’s assault was a “tawdry exercise” amounting to “overkill,” which later contributed to Webb’s suicide. This limited apology by former Los Angeles Times reporter Jesse Katz was made during a radio interview and came as filming was about to start on “Kill the Messenger,” based on a book by the same name by Nick Schou.

On KPCC-FM 89.3′s AirTalk With Larry Mantle, Katz was pressed by callers to address his role in the destruction of Webb. Katz offered what could be viewed as a limited apology.

“As an L.A. Times reporter, we saw this series in the San Jose Mercury News and kind of wonder[ed] how legit it was and kind of put it under a microscope,” Katz said. “And we did it in a way that most of us who were involved in it, I think, would look back on that and say it was overkill. We had this huge team of people at the L.A. Times and kind of piled on to one lone muckraker up in Northern California.”

Katz added, “We really didn’t do anything to advance his work or illuminate much to the story, and it was a really kind of a tawdry exercise. … And it ruined that reporter’s career.”

Now, with the imminent release of a major Hollywood movie about Webb’s ordeal, the next question is whether the major newspapers will finally admit their longstanding complicity in the Contra-cocaine cover-up or whether they will simply join the CIA’s press office in another counterattack.

~

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

September 27, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cameron vows to ‘hunt down’ non-violent conspiracy theorists, demands international coordinated action

Cameron announces joint bombing plan after insisting on restriction of speech in universities. Intellectual enquiry to be banned as “incitement”.
Full transcript

~

“Lies”, says Cameron, as he launches another war

Ian Fantom | RINF Alternative News

Britain is again on the verge of war. Every time they say it’s different this time, and it never is. They say the first casualty of war is truth, but it’s not true; the truth is dead before the war even begins. War is the result of lies, and this war is no exception.

A 93-year-old said to me: “I’m getting confused on who’s fighting who”. I replied, “We’re all confused. It’s ludicrous”. Who is ISIS? No-one seems to know. Has a war ever been won by bombing alone? No-one seems to know. “What could be the purpose of posting videos of beheadings?” No-one seems to know. What is the long-term strategy for winning this war? No-one seems to know. It’s as if the political establishment together with mainstream political journalists have gone into premature dementure.

Clearly, the purpose of the public beheadings can only be to enrage public opinion in the West to such an extent that they will allow their governments to send in their armed forces into the areas said to be controlled by ISIS. Who would want to do that? Would Middle-Eastern Islamicists intent on setting up an Islamic State in Syria and Iraq want to provoke and enable the mightiest military force the world has ever known to move in and obliterate them? Of course not.

Many people now think that ISIS is in all probability a creation of the US, or at least of the Neoconservative-Likud-CIA-MI6 alliance that seems to be running the Military Industrial Complex. It is said to be an offshoot of Al Qaeda, which originated as a US database of fighters opposing the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The case for war is being fabricated, and David Cameron is every bit as bad as Tony Blair, when he fabricated the myth of Weapons of Mass Destruction in order to give a pretext to invade Iraq. He is every bit as bad as Tony Blair when he told the House of Commons that he had proof that Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11, but that he wasn’t going to tell them what that proof was, but would deposit it in the House of Commons Library; he didn’t. David Cameron is every bit as bad as Adolf Hitler when his men burned down the Reichstag and blamed it on the Communists. Mercifully we haven’t yet had a Kristallnacht in the UK, but I fear that’s where we’re heading.

On 24 September David Cameron made a speech to the UN Security Council, which was posted on the Prime Minister’s website under the title: “Only a coherent, coordinated response can tackle what is a truly global and indiscriminate threat”. It’s a rehash of the Policy Exchange stuff, in which he links Islam with terrorism through constant use of the word “extremism”. What, I wonder, is the “poisonous ideology of extremism” he refers to? Is it not extremist to go to war? Then he spews out the Policy Exchange stuff about non-violent extremism: “But as the evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist of offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by preachers who claim not to encourage violence, but whose world view can be used as a justification for it”. What evidence? After his Munich speech, saying that multiculturalism had failed, I gave a talk to our Keep Talking group in London, tracing his speech to Policy Exchange. I listed all those convicted of terrorist offences. I could see no evidence of these people being influenced by preachers. Look at the wording, “convicted of terrorist offences”. That has to exclude all alleged suicide bombers, the most notorious of which would be the four alleged Muslim terrorists behind 7/7 – the terrorist attacks on the London transport system of 7 July 2005. They were just declared guilty by the coroner before the inquest opened, and because they were guilty they were excluded from the inquest. Were they fanatical Muslim extremists? Well, no. This is pure deception on David Cameron’s part.

But then he accuses the truth movement of telling lies: “And we know what this worldview is–the peddling of lies: that 9/11 was a Jewish plot or the 7/7 London attacks were staged; the idea that Muslims are persecuted all over the world as a deliberate act of Western policy; the concept of an inevitable clash of civilisations. We must be clear: to defeat the ideology of extremism we need to deal with all forms of extremism – not just violent extremism. That means banning preachers of hate from coming to our countries. It means proscribing organisations that incite terrorism against people at home and abroad. It means stopping extremists whether violent or non-violent from inciting hatred and intolerance in our schools, in our universities and even sometimes in our prisons. In other words, firm, decisive action – to protect and uphold the values of our free and democratic societies”.

Who is making the allegation that 9/11 was a Jewish plot? Certainly evidence has been appearing that extremist Israeli nationalists were involved, but I have been at pains to point out in my newsletters, that it’s not “the Jews”; most British Jews were against the setting up of a Jewish state in Palestine, and many have been protesting more recently about the genocide in Gaza. David Cameron is putting out a straw man argument, in order to deflect from the blatent lies in the 9/11 cover-up. He is now maliciously using 9/11 in order to justify yet another post-9/11 war.

He accuses us of telling lies about 7/7. How could 7/7 not have been staged? Note the careful use of language here. The plain fact is that the government’s version of events just does not tie up. They even took a year to acknowledge that the train from Luton to London by which MI5 claimed the terrorists had travelled had in fact been cancelled that day. Are MI5 seriously incompetent, or was that blatent deception? How could the government simply dismiss that as a mistake, with no consequences?

Having gone to the UN Security Council to tell them that some of his own citizens are liars, when all they want is to know the truth about 9/11 and 7/7, he is now recalling Parliament on Friday 27 September, in order to get the go-ahead for war – or at least to pacify Parliament, because he doesn’t formally need Parliament’s approval; in the case of 9/11 there was just an adjournment debate, in which there was no substantive motion. Only the Prime Minister and the Queen can decide to take Britain into war. On the Prime Minister’s website there is no motion, but just a statement that the purpose of the recall is “to debate the UK’s response to the request from the Iraqi government for air strikes to support operations against ISIL in Iraq”.

I should have thought that any political journalist in the UK would be able to understand such elementary points. One has to wonder who their paymasters are.

September 27, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Video | , | 8 Comments

The lesson Hollywood cannot teach us

By Jonathon Cook | The Blog from Nazareth | September 26, 2014

Possibly the most insightful statement ever made by a journalist was from Gary Webb, who killed himself in 2004, years after the CIA and media rivals destroyed his career and credibility.

I was winning awards, getting raises, lecturing college classes, appearing on TV shows, and judging journalism contests. And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I’d enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn’t been, as I’d assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job. The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn’t written anything important enough to suppress.

Now Hollywood is making a film, called Kill the Messenger, about the San Jose Mercury News reporter. Webb briefly created a national scandal in 1996 by exposing how the CIA-backed Contras in Latin America had funded their guerrilla war through trafficking crack cocaine to African American communities in the US, with the knowledge of the CIA and other US agencies. The scandal quickly subsided because the CIA and other journalists – from the New York Times, the Washington Post and especially from the LA Times, who had been scooped on their own patch by Webb – waged a campaign of vilification. The toll eventually led Webb to take his own life.

It should be welcome news that his original revelations will be heard by a new generation, and that the US media’s hand-in-glove relationship to the US intelligence agencies will get national exposure.

A story like Webb’s ought to remind us that the CIA, the NSA and other US agencies are not there ultimately to “do good”, not even to serve us, the people, but to help prop up a world order that benefits a small, greedy global elite and to spread fear and misinformation among the rest of us to keep us divided and obedient. And the media’s role is to serve that same global elite, rarely to hold it to account. That was the mistake made by Webb and briefly by his news editors, who quickly abandoned Webb after more senior colleagues on bigger papers taught them what journalism is really about.

But I fear Hollywood’s interest should be read in different terms. It signifies a realisation by movie execs that Webb’s revelations are now old enough to constitute “history”, no more threatening to the contemporary reputations of the CIA or the US media than filming Mutiny on the Bounty was to the modern British navy.

Hollywood knows that where there’s a good story, there’s money to be made from us – audiences only too happy to be outraged at injustice but also only too wiling to believe such “ancient” injustices offer no lessons for the present. For that reason, it is doubtful Kill the Messenger’s viewers will emerge from the film more critical news consumers. They will still trust their daily paper and the TV news, and still assume that when all the president’s men tell them of events on distant shores – from Venezuela to Iran, Syria and Ukraine – they are being told the unvarnished truth.

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/09/25/managing-nightmare-cia-media-destruction-gary-webb/

September 27, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

G-77, China condemn coercive sanctions against Iran

Press TV – September 27, 2014

The coalition of developing countries at the United Nations has categorically condemned unilateral sanctions against Iran over its civilian nuclear energy program.

In a resolution issued on the sidelines of the 69th annual session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday, foreign ministers of the Group of 77 plus China for the first time explicitly rejected as unacceptable the imposition of unilateral economic sanctions against Iran.

Such sanctions would have adverse consequences on the development of the Iranian nation, the resolution said, calling for the immediate removal of the bans.

The illegal US-engineered sanctions on Iran have been imposed based on the accusation that Tehran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.

Iran rejects the allegation, arguing that as a committed signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

The 133-member Group of 77 plus China strongly rejected any unilateral punitive moves such as sanctions against developing countries and called for the removal of all such measures.

The foreign ministers of the member states noted that such measures would not only undermine the UN charter-based international law, but also would leave a negative impact on the freedom of trade and investment.

They further called on the international community to take an effective collective action to stop unilateral economic sanctions against developing states.

The Group of 77 was founded on June 15, 1964, by the “Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Developing Countries” issued at the conclusion of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva.

The Group of 77 holds a one-year and rotating presidency among Africa, Asia and Latin America. Bolivia holds the chairmanship for 2014.

September 27, 2014 Posted by | Economics | , , | 3 Comments

The CIA, the President, and the Senate’s Torture Report

By Rob Crawford | CounterPunch | September 26, 2014

Astounding events over the last several weeks have once again put U.S. torture in the spotlight. Evidence of spying by the CIA on Senate staffers investigating the Agency provoked an unprecedented apology from CIA director John Brennan, calls for his removal, and a response from President Obama at his August 1st press conference.

The backdrop is the long delayed but pending public release of the summary of the over 6000 page investigative report of the Senate Intelligence Committee on CIA torture. The investigation was initiated over five years ago. The report was approved by the committee 20 months ago and approved for release 5 months ago. As we move into autumn, the date of its official release is still in question.

I. The CIA

The CIA has done everything possible to undermine any investigation into its secret rendition, detention and interrogation program. There have been several facets to the CIA’s defensive strategy:

The Senate report will purportedly accuse the CIA of lying to the public and to Congress. That will be unsurprising to anyone who knows the long history of the CIA, first revealed in detail by the Church Committee in 1975.  Secrecy and lying have been an Agency hallmark. The pre-9/11 history of CIA involvement with torture in Latin America and Southeast Asia is just one example.

In 2005, the CIA destroyed videotape evidence of interrogations involving torture. In 2009, the it orchestrated a media campaign warning of the consequences for national security of a criminal investigation, capped by a letter to Obama from seven former directors of the CIA warning that the extremely limited, preliminary investigation of CIA personnel who went “beyond guidance” would severely compromise the Agency. (The investigation eventually closed with no criminal charges filed.)

When the Senate committee began its work, the CIA insisted investigators use a special CIA facility for the review of documents. It then monitored Senate staff computers, read staffers’ emails and removed a damning internal report. Brennan denied that the CIA had spied on the Senate staff, calling the allegations “beyond reason” but in late July the CIA’s Inspector General’s investigation confirmed it. In March, the CIA countered the charges of spying along with a referral to the Justice Department by asking the DOJ to open an investigation of illegal behavior of committee staff. In response, Diane Feinstein, the normally hawkish chair of the Senate committee, gave an unprecedented, angry speech on the Senate floor about CIA bullying.

Further, CIA officials have publicly accused the committee of bias and the Agency will write a dissent that will be appended to the report. Not least, the CIA can virtually dictate redactions. It is extraordinary that the very agency being investigated by the Senate has the power to redact the Senate’s report of its investigation. The CIA’s redaction review took months and has now moved to the center of a controversy between Feinstein and the White House (which coordinated, participated in and approved the redaction process). Feinstein asserted that the proposed redactions “eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report’s findings and conclusions.” She further said that she will not make the report public “until these redactions are addressed to the committee’s satisfaction.”

II. The President

At a news conference on August 1st, President Obama was asked about Brennan. First, Obama expressed “full confidence” in Brennan, referring to CIA spying on the Senate staff as a matter that “CIA personnel did not properly handle …” and “some very poor judgment was shown.” Given the enormous implications for a functioning democracy of the CIA’s unlawful misconduct, Obama’s language seems mild.

Second, the president acknowledged “we did some things that were wrong.” “We tortured some folks.” These comments were qualified by “in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.” Some commentators laud the president for using the word “torture” but others point out that his language actually minimized what happened.  From 2002 to 2009, hundreds of people were tortured and hundreds more subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. There have been over 100 deaths of people in detention, many likely to be a direct result of torture. The torture and abuse went on for years.  (I leave aside here continuing accusations of U.S. personnel being involved in torture since 2009.)

Third, Obama then claimed to “understand what happened.” His explanation emphasized “how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell,” “people did not know whether more attacks were imminent,” and national security officials felt “enormous pressure.” He told us that we should “not … feel too sanctimonious in retrospect,” given that officials had a “tough job.” This framing is a version of the fall-back position accompanying the more assertive claims that “enhanced interrogation” kept America safe.  Whether or not torture was ineffective; whether or not it was, as the president said, “contrary to our values”; and whether or not it was illegal, in the end it was, Obama is suggesting, understandable—that is, excusable under the circumstances.

After all, Obama asserted, the acts in question were committed by “real patriots”—i.e., right-minded people who simply acted out of love of country. The implication is that the torture is pardonable and that it would be ungrateful to criticize patriots for anything more than misjudgment under extraordinary circumstances. The logic of this nationalist rhetoric is to place off limits the harder questions about what happened and why: Why did state institutions routinely operate outside the law, lie to Congress, destroy evidence, and adopt a “by any means necessary,” “gloves-off” approach to problems of national security? Whether CIA operatives or presidents, patriots cannot be held accountable for committing war crimes. For love of country, let’s just move on. As Andrew Sullivan put it, “We tortured. It was wrong. Never mind.”

Next, Obama—again using the word “torture” and saying that “we crossed a line”–called on the country “to take responsibility for that so that hopefully we don’t do it again in the future.” Certainly. Yet, the president might have been more explicit that the line crossed was not only moral; it was legal—and no amount of Office of Legal Counsel “guidance” (based on radically distorted interpretations of what is legally permissible) or even immunities provided by Congress can alter that fact. Moreover, the “we” who “crossed a line” remains purposefully vague. After all, specific officials crossed that line, acting through the CIA, the military, the executive branch, and with possible complicity by individual members of Congress.

Finally, what does Obama mean when he urges the “country” to take responsibility? Remember it was the same Obama who in 2009 urged the country to “look forward rather than look backward,” who refused to pursue criminal accountability or even a bipartisan commission of inquiry. It is the same Obama who appears to be supporting a redaction process that Feinstein says undermines the conclusions of the report. Obama’s statement that the country should take responsibility is contradicted by his own actions.

Obama is right that Americans should grapple with their government’s use of torture. Too many Americans have chosen simply to look the other way. However, the president has not fulfilled his own responsibility to exercise moral leadership. The task of getting to the real truth of U.S. torture is difficult. To own up to the moral and criminal failure of our national leaders is even more challenging. Meaningful accountability is impossible without genuine soul-searching among leaders in government, media and in civil society. The Senate torture report is a necessary step in that direction.

III. The Report

I offer five reasons why the Senate report is important:

1)  To date, there has been no official report focusing on the CIA’s central role in carrying out the Bush-Cheney administration’s adoption of torture post-9/11.  Although the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report will be compromised by the continued suppression of the full report, by extensive redactions, and by an inevitably limited analysis, it will be the most significant government report to date on U.S. torture.  Torture will once again be given national prominence in the media.

This has not happened since 2009, a pivotal year in “the torture debate” when a series of shocking revelations unsettled the normal timidity of the media establishment.  Then, editors provided space for opinions highly critical of Bush and Cheney’s interrogation program along with views defending the policies. Anxieties swelled among perpetrators and their defenders about how far Obama might go in revealing the full scope of the torture program or who might be held accountable and how.  In a highly charged partisan atmosphere, Republican hawks, led by Cheney, attacked the new president’s change of torture policy and warned of serious consequences that would follow attempts to hold perpetrators accountable.

As it turns out, perpetrators had little to worry about.  After changing torture policy, Obama quickly signaled that accountability was off the table and he remained largely silent in face of the barrage of justifications from Cheney and conservative media commentators.  This silence allowed Cheney and his supporters to shape the narrative.   Since 2009, there have been only a few brief moments—at least within the U.S media–where the torture issue resurfaced, most prominently concerning continuing claims that “enhanced interrogation” was effective in keeping America safe from another terrorist attack.  At the very least, the Senate report will provide a refutation of this argument, although the CIA and defenders of the Bush-Cheney program will mount a vigorous counter-attack.  The debate over the efficacy of torture is crucial.

2) Torture is a high crime under international and domestic law.  Whether or not the Senate report names the crime or recommends legal solutions (not likely; leaks suggest that the report doesn’t even use the word “torture”), the truth of government lawlessness will be laid before the public and will re-energize calls for legal accountability for officials at the top of the political, military and CIA chain of command.  Human rights organizations will recall that the legal prohibition of torture as reaffirmed in the UN Convention Against Torture (ratified by the U.S.) permits no exceptions whatsoever.

They will also remind Americans that their government is under legal obligation to investigate and prosecute those who authorized and carried out torture.  They will emphasize that failure to assign responsibility for past wrongful acts creates a climate of impunity and that the rule of law means nothing if state crimes are exempted.

3) The Senate torture report will also present an opportunity for commentators to ask critical questions about threats to liberal democracy inherent to a national security state.  Already critics are making parallels between the rogue behavior of the CIA and the NSA’s Orwellian, “collect it all” surveillance.  The truth is that post-9/11 was not the first time that the security agencies (CIA, FBI, NSA, Special Forces, and other components of the secret state) have deliberately disregarded, or have been ordered by a president to disregard, legal and moral restraints.  Open government groups are now citing the CIA’s conduct in relation to the Senate committee and its report as exhibit A in their case against unaccountable government agencies and how national security and presidential authority are used to justify the twin abuses of excessive secrecy and evasions of congressional or judicial oversight.  Just as Watergate era revelations led to the Church Committee hearings and reforms, the renewal of the torture debate will raise fundamental questions about the dangers of unaccountable security agencies and the requirements for reassertion of democratic control.

4) Most commentators have focused on the substantial partisan differences over the use of torture and the struggle between those who are fighting for the release of the report with few redactions and those who want to bury it.  These differences are politically significant.  Which side prevails may shape public attitudes toward torture for years to come. However, I want to suggest another dimension.  Powerful forces on both sides of the partisan divide want the torture issue to disappear altogether.  Many military, security and political elites recognize that U.S. torture, approved at the highest levels of government, created an unsurpassed crisis of legitimacy for the country.  Their foremost objective is to restore that legitimacy.

Arguably, this is the principal reason why Obama issued his executive order rejecting torture in 2009 (I believe that McCain would have likely done the same).  It is why the new president counseled amnesia about torture and why he refused to initiate criminal investigations or even a commission of inquiry.  It is why he has fallen mostly silent about the issue of torture.  The U.S. relies on an image that it conducts its wars humanely and in accordance with international law.  Brutality and illegality belong to the enemy.  Occasionally, however, the brutal and unlawful exercise of state violence becomes public knowledge.  The inhumanity of violence “shocks the conscience.”  Legitimacy crises follow.  For the U.S., the Abu Ghraib photos were a disaster but the disaster kept growing with a cascade of revelations that included documentation of torture of prisoners in Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan and CIA kidnapping, renditions, and torture in secret prisons.  The reverberations are still being felt.

In 2014, national security elites in both political parties, including those who disagree about the permissibility of “enhanced interrogation,” are worried that the Senate report will further aggravate the prolonged crisis of legitimacy caused by U.S. torture—a crisis made worse by the government’s refusal to undertake criminal proceedings and support civil suits, and partisan politics resulting in continuing indefinite detention at Guantanamo prison camp and military commission trials that admit torture as evidence.  Most Americans are still unfamiliar with the grizzly details of what their government authorized and which high officials did the authorizing.  Globally, especially in the Middle East, the report will likely reactivate multiple resentments; and it may reinforce dismay among allies.

National security elites will disagree about the efficacy of torture and other aspects of the report, but they will be united in wanting to forestall public disclosure and critical examination of America’s use of coercive power, past and present.  Torture, after all, is not the only inhumane use of state violence; nor is U.S. torture solely an aberration of the Bush-Cheney years.  For the national security elite as a whole, the history of state violence is better left buried or forgotten and dissident voices about current inhumane operations ignored.  Above all, the use of violence as an instrument of policy must remain unencumbered.

For these reasons, even though the CIA will be rebuked by liberal Democrats and perhaps some legislative reforms will be attempted, calls for accountability will continue to be opposed.  For national security elites, the release of the Senate report summary will be treated as the end of the story—time to turn the page to narratives more consistent with the myth of American Exceptionalism.  This closure will be opposed by some, especially by those who understand that post-9/11 torture was not a one-off event and that torture shares characteristics with other forms of state violence.

5) If torture is not wrong, nothing is wrong.  If torture is not wrong, any degradation of human beings in the name of national security is permitted.  The logic of torture not only reflects but also promotes acceptance of a “whatever it takes” paradigm of military power.  Once torture is accepted, anything goes.

Yet, the opposite is also possible. It is not a big jump from abhorrence of torture to revulsion to what other forms of military violence do to human beings.  If the U.S. adoption of torture has shattered the myth of American humane warfare, other aspects of military policy that contravene that myth may come under greater scrutiny.  I do not underestimate the power of nationalist blindness to the suffering of “enemy” others or the misleading language of “precision targeting,” “accidental” civilian casualties and “collateral damage;” but, there are simply too many examples of both global and domestic responses to the inhumane violence of war to be ignored.  In fact, threats to legitimacy stemming from that violence, as I have contended, are a principal concern of national security elites.

If a “by any means necessary” paradigm of national power is the problem rather than officials working under “enormous pressure” in a terrorist emergency, the Senate report–in criticizing claims of efficacy and CIA malfeasance—will fall short.  Nonetheless, the report will lay bare a core contradiction for any state that relies on violence as an instrument of foreign policy: the clash between an inhumane logic of war that resists moral and legal restraint and humane responses to the terrible consequences of that logic.  The best hope for modifying unrestrained violence emerges directly from such a response.

Thus, with the release of the Senate report, human rights and other civic organizations, dissenting journalists, religious organizations, the newly radicalized legal profession, and humane people everywhere have an opportunity to work against the semi-coerced silencing of critical debate not only about torture but also about the link between torture, militarism and all inhumane acts of war.

Rob Crawford is Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences University of Washington, Tacoma.

September 27, 2014 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Parliament and Congress Have No Power to Legalize War

By David Swanson | War is a Crime | September 26, 2014

Congress has fled town to avoid voting for or against a new war. Many of the big donors to Congressional campaigns would want Yes votes. Many voters would want No votes, if not immediately, then as soon as the panic induced by the beheading videos wears off, which could be within the next month. Better to just avoid displeasing anyone — other than people who notice you running away.

The standard for legal-ish cosmopolitan respectability in the U.S. now has become getting five kings and dictators to say they are on your side as you start bombing a new country.

But the British Parliament is still at the level of believing an actual vote by a legislature is appropriate. Do Americans remember that their beloved founding fathers put war powers in the hands of the legislature because of the ugly history of royal wars in Britain? Times have changed.

But if we want to actually comply with the law, we have to admit that neither Parliament nor Congress has the power to legalize attacking Syria. This is because both the U.S. and the U.K. are parties to the United Nations Charter, which bans war with very narrow exceptions — exceptions that have not been in any way met.

And if you want to get really serious about laws, the Kellogg-Briand Pact has never been repealed, the U.S. and U.K. are parties to it, and it bans all war without exception.

Now, you can interpret the Kellogg-Briand Pact to allow self-defense because the right to military self-defense, even when it’s unlikely to actually work, is just so obvious to your way of thinking. And the U.N. Charter explicitly allows military self-defense. But here’s the problem: There’s nothing defensive about attacking Syria, and President Obama himself described it as “offense” in an interview with Chuck Todd on NBC.

Another word for “offense” is aggression, which the Nuremberg tribunal called “essentially an evil thing . . . the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Asked about Congress’s responsibilities on Tuesday, Senator Tim Kaine (D., Va.) claimed that presidents could fight defensive wars without Congress but needed Congressional authorizations for offensive ones. In fact, offensive wars are not legal by any common understanding. Asked, then, about international law, at an event at the Center for American Progress, Kaine reportedly said that bombing Syria, as distinct from Iraq, was “complicated” and that he was not sure “how they would do that, perhaps using principles of self-defense or defending Iraq against other threats. I think we’ll find out more about what the administration says about that after the UN General Assembly,” he said.

Only in America. Only the White House gets to invent legal rationale for blatant crimes, with the law makers and enforcers prepared to accept the rationale before they hear it.

Prior to the U.N. meeting, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power wrote to the U.N. arguing that it is legal for the United States to attack Syria because it is legal for Iraq to defend itself. By this logic, if Canada experienced a violent rebellion, it would be legal for China to attack the United States.

It’s fun to pretend that the rule of law doesn’t matter to you because you have all the weapons. It’s fun to take two-month vacations from Washington. Just don’t count on everyone voting you back next year.

September 27, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

US considers no-fly zone over northeastern Syria: Reports

Press TV – September 27, 2014

The US Department of Defense says it is considering the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone over northeastern Syria to deny the Syrian military the ability to launch airstrikes there, reports say.

Turkey has requested the US to establish a buffer zone along the Turkish-Syrian border to protect foreign-sponsored militants and civilians.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Friday, “We’ve discussed all these possibilities and will continue to talk about what the Turks believe they will require.”

Dempsey added that “a buffer zone might at some point become a possibility.”

The US and its allies have been continuously bombing the ISIL terrorist group in northeastern Syria since Tuesday; but the Pentagon is indicating that it may decide to prevent the Syrian military from targeting anti-government militants in the same region.

Fighter aircraft from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have taken part in the airstrikes in Syria.

The ISIL terrorists, who were initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize the Syrian government, control large parts of Syria’s northern territory. ISIL sent its fighters into Iraq in June, quickly seizing vast expanse of land straddling the border between the two countries.

Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. According to reports, the United States and its regional allies – especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey – are supporting the militants operating inside the country.

According to the United Nations, more than 190,000 people have been killed and millions displaced due to the turmoil that has gripped Syria for over three years.

September 27, 2014 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment