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Seymour Hersh Honored for Integrity

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | September 1, 2017

Journalist Seymour Hersh is to be honored with this year’s Sam Adams Award for Integrity to be presented to him at the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII) award ceremony on the evening of Sept. 22 at American University.

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh

Sam Adams Associates, who selected Hersh last month from a truly impressive roster of truth-tellers, are enthusiastic at the prospect of Sy joining the ranks of the 15 earlier awardees – from Coleen Rowley (2002) to John Kiriakou (2016). Included among those in between are other patriots: like Katharine Gun, U.K. Ambassador Craig Murray, Col. Larry Wilkerson, Julian Assange, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Fingar, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Bill Binney. [To learn more about previous honorees, as well as other material on whistleblowing, go to samadamsaward.ch.]

SAAII confers its annual award on a member of the intelligence profession or related field who exemplifies the courage, persistence and devotion to truth of Sam Adams, a CIA analyst on Vietnam who exposed the lies of the generals in Saigon and was then silenced. Later – but too late – Sam realized he should have gone public. (Yes, during the 1960s and 1970s, more of the U.S. media was able to put the national interest first and was open to whistleblowers.)

Sam, who was a fourth cousin seven times removed of President John Adams, died prematurely at age 55, nagged by the thought that had he not let himself be diddled by the system, thousands of lives might have been saved in Indochina. His story is told in War of Numbers, published posthumously. Several of Sam’s former colleagues are included in SAAII, as well as others who hold up the experience he underwent as a lesson for those who now know that, if they wish to succeed in getting the truth out, “going thru channels” normally is not only quixotic but also dangerous.

In 1967, Sam discovered that there were more than a half-million Vietnamese Communists under arms in South Vietnam – roughly twice the number that the U.S. command in Saigon would admit to, lest the outside world learn that American generals’ claims of “progress” were bogus. Commanding general William Westmoreland had put an artificial limit on the number that Army intelligence was allowed to carry on its books.

On Aug. 22, 1967, Westmoreland’s deputy, Gen. Creighton Abrams, specifically warned the Johnson administration back in Washington that the press would have a field day if Adam’s numbers were released, and that this would weaken the war effort. In a SECRET/EYES ONLY cable from Saigon, Abrams wrote: “We have been projecting an image of success over recent months,” and cautioned that if the higher figures became public, “all available caveats and explanations will not prevent the press from drawing an erroneous and gloomy conclusion.”

The Communist countrywide offensive during Tet (January/February 1968) made it painfully clear that the generals had been lying and that Sam Adams’s higher figures were correct. A few weeks after Tet, Daniel Ellsberg rose to the occasion and leaked the truth. Dan had learned that Westmoreland was asking for 206,000 more troops to widen the war into Cambodia, Laos and North Vietnam — right up to the border with China, and perhaps beyond.

After the 206,000 request was leaked by someone else to the New York Times, Ellsberg leaked Sam Adams’ information on actual enemy strength. Dan had come to the view that leaking truth about a deceitful war would be “a patriotic and constructive act.” It was his first unauthorized disclosure, and it was effective. On March 19, 1968, the Times published a stinging story based on Adams’s figures.

On March 25, President Johnson complained to a small gathering, “The leaks to the New York Times hurt us. … We have no support for the war. This is caused by the 206,000 troop request [by Westmoreland] and the leaks. … I would have given Westy the 206,000 men.” On March 31, 1968, Johnson introduced a bombing pause, opted for negotiations, and announced that he would not run for another term in November.

Enter Sy Hersh

Sy Hersh, who was already famous for bringing the My Lai massacre story to global attention in 1969, found Sam Adams and pursued this other story of Vietnam deception. Thus, there is poetic justice in Sy Hersh receiving this award named for Adams, since it was he who first reported (in the New York Times on Feb. 26, 1973) on Sam’s David vs. Goliath struggle against a military/political/intelligence establishment eager to cover up the politically driven undercounting of Communist fighters in South Vietnam.

In an article on Feb. 26, 1973, Hersh duly quoted Army officials who were still disparaging Sam’s courageous pursuit of the truth. But the quote that Sy chose to conclude the article reflects his well honed smell for the truth. He wrote, “’The trouble with Sam is that he has always been right,’ one former colleague remarked. ‘He always told the truth and never cared whose toes he stepped on.’”

Sy Hersh has no doubt worn out several pairs of shoes stepping on the toes of a well-heeled Establishment. The current response from the mainstream media to Hersh’s latest exposés that challenge the lies and propaganda of Official Washington is to say: “We’ll show you, Hersh. Just you try to get published anywhere in the English-speaking world.”

Sy tried in vain to find an American or British outlet that would publish his most recent report on President Donald Trump’s lie that a Syrian aircraft carried out a “chemical weapons attack” in Syria’s Idlib Province on April 4. This disclosure of a deception by the new President would have been a big deal, at least by the journalistic standards of the past, since Trump openly attacked Syria with 59 cruise missiles on April 6 in ostensible “retaliation.”

Sy ended up having to go to the mainstream German newspaper Die Welt to get the results of his investigation published. [See here and here.]

As for the New York Times – the so-called “paper of record” – and its proud tradition of publishing “all the news that’s fit to print,” its hallowed pages have made no mention of Pulitzer Prize-winning Sy Hersh’s article on the chemical incident in Syria on April 4. The slogan should be changed to “all the news that fits neatly into the government narrative we print.” Many Sam Adams Associates have also been active with Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and have faced similar ostracism from the mainstream media for almost 15 years.

Until He Was Silenced

Besides revealing the My Lai massacre in 1969, Hersh exposed illegal CIA domestic operations against the antiwar movement in 1974. More recently, in 2004, he reported on the torture and other abuses at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, and he exposed the Obama administration’s lies used to justify a bloody proxy war in Syria. None of this, however has left him cynical or dulled his conscience.

Sy told Die Welt that he still gets upset with government lying and at the reluctance of the media to hold governments accountable. Summing up lessons from Trump’s reaction to the April 4 chemical event in Syria, Sy said this: “We have a President in America today who lies repeatedly … but he must learn that he cannot lie about intelligence relied upon before authorizing an act of war. There are some in the Trump administration who understand this, which is why I learned the information I did.”

The common challenge we all face is getting such information into media outlets that Americans regularly access. Encouragement comes from Sy Hersh’s example of grit, integrity and stick-to-itiveness, which have already had a powerful influence on Sam Adams Associates. In sum, this year’s awardee is a wonderfully good fit.

Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. A former CIA analyst and colleague of Sam Adams, Ray co-founded Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence and Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

September 1, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 3 Comments

On Hersh, Higgins, Whitaker and Ghouta

Interventions Watch | December 12, 2013

A few brief thoughts on Seymour Hersh’s article on the chemical weapons attack in Syria in August: Elliot Higgins’ response to it; and Brian Whitaker’s take on things.

Here are the bits from Whitaker’s article that I thought were worth commenting on:

‘On one side of the chemical weapons debate is Seymour Hersh, the veteran investigative journalist, who suggested in an article for the London Review of Books that rebel fighters, rather than the Syrian regime, were to blame for the Damascus attacks’.

That isn’t really the point Hersh was making though, is it? The gist of the story was that the case against the Assad regime wasn’t as strong as the Obama regime made out, and that the Obama regime knew this.

As Hersh told Democracy Now – ‘I certainly don’t know who did what, but there’s no question my government does not’, and that Obama ‘was willing to go to war, wanted to throw missiles at Syria, without really having a case and knowing he didn’t have much of a case‘.

Hersh and his sources saw that as a major scandal: a President deciding to start a war, with all that entails, based on a case that was less than watertight.

They also refused to even entertain the possibility, at least in public, that a rebel faction may have been responsible, despite knowing that at least one rebel faction had ‘mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity’.

‘Given that Hersh has spent decades working for mainstream media, that Media Lens disapproves of anonymous sources’.

An apparent ‘Gotcha!’ moment, no? But maybe there’s a difference between people leaking and briefing anonymously to promote Establishment narratives and aims, and people leaking and briefing anonymously to challenge them. Hersh has, throughout his career, promoted the latter with a very good hit rate. Simply put, anonymous leaks designed to whistleblow are not the same as anonymous leaks designed to mislead and confuse.

‘Some of his other exposes have misfired, though’

Some examples might be nice.

‘he has often been criticised for his use of shadowy sources. In the words of one Pentagon spokesman, he has “a solid and well-earned reputation for making dramatic assertions based on thinly sourced, unverifiable anonymous sources”‘.

Hersh has spent decades shining lights into places ‘Pentagon spokesmen’ types don’t want him to look. So it’s not surprising that they’d try and discredit his work. Would Whitaker, for example, quote an Iranian military spokesman to try and rubbish the work of an Iranian dissident journalist? I doubt it. And the fact he does it here perhaps says much about his unexamined assumptions and biases.

‘Higgins, meanwhile, is the antithesis of a “corporate” journalist’.

At this point in his career, it’s not like Higgins is some obscure, insurgent outsider. He has had his work published in The New York Times and Foreign Policy, has had a lengthy profile written about him in The New Yorker, has worked with Human Rights Watch, and has been interviewed more than once on T.V. News. Does this make him wrong? Of course not. But the line between him and ‘old media’ isn’t quite as defined as Whitaker would like to make out.

It is perhaps instructive that in this case, Hersh struggled to get anyone to publish his chemical weapons piece, while Higgins had no problem in getting Foreign Policy, an Establishment journal if ever there was one, to publish his rebuttal pretty much straight away.

‘Hersh’s source on the supposed sarin-manufacturing capabilities is an unnamed “senior intelligence consultant”:

‘Already by late May, the senior intelligence consultant told me, the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on al-Nusra and its work with sarin, and had sent alarming reports that another Sunni fundamentalist group active in Syria, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), also understood the science of producing sarin’

. . . Interestingly, though, EAWorldView has an idea who this consultant might be. It notes that Michael Maloof, who formerly worked in the US Defense Department, has made very similar claims in an article for the right-wing World Net Daily, and also on the Russian propaganda channel, RT’.

Pure speculation, of course. Even if the source is Maloof, it doesn’t automatically follow that Maloof is wrong.

Nor is Maloof, or any other source Hersh might have, the only person to have suggested a rebel faction may have access to chemical weapons.

In May 2013 for example, Carla Del Ponte, one of the overseers of the UN commission of Inquiry on Syria, told Swiss T.V. that ‘there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas’ by rebel factions, and that she was ‘a little bit stupefied by the first indications we got . . . they were about the use of nerve gas by the opposition’.

Predictably, her comments quickly disappeared down the Memory Hole, even though she is a very credible and well respected source, and likely wasn’t just making it all up.

She was, incidentally, also smeared and/or discredited by those who simply don’t want to see any kind of challenge to the Establishment narrative on Syria, much like is happening to Hersh now.

December 13, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama administration ‘cherry-picked intelligence’ to justify Syria strike

RT | December 9, 2013

Washington knew Syrian rebels could produce sarin gas but “cherry-picked” intel to blame President Assad for the Aug. 21 attack on Ghouta, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed, citing senior US security sources.

The report was published in the London Review of Books after two of Hersh’s regular publishers, The New Yorker and The Washington Post, turned the article down.

Hersh, whose Pulitzers were for his exposes on American military misconduct in the Iraq and Vietnam wars, got his information on Syria from whistle-blowing acting and former intelligence and military officers, who for security reasons were not identified in the report.

According to Hersh’s findings, months before the chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus, which almost prompted US air strikes on Syria, “the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports… citing evidence that the Al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity.”

The attack took place on August 21, the same day UN inspectors arrived in Damascus to investigate allegations of use of chemical weapons. The casualty figures have ranged from several hundred to more than 1,400 deaths.

Before the attack, the Obama administration repeatedly described the use of chemical weapons in Syria as a “red line,” which would signal the US could intervene in the conflict.

Hersh wrote that he does not believe that the intelligence data, pointing at the rebels’ having capability for making sarin, could have in any way escaped the White House’s attention.

“Already by late May, the senior intelligence consultant told me, the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on Al-Nusra and its work with sarin,” he wrote.

Obama’s laying the blame for the nerve gas attack on Assad’s forces, completely disregarding Al-Nusra as a suspect in the case, is thus described in the report as the administration’s having “cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.”

“The cherry-picking was similar to the process used to justify the Iraq war,” Hersh wrote.

It’s because of the lack of sufficient evidence against Assad that Obama quickly abandoned his plan for military strikes.

“Any possibility of military action was definitively averted on 26 September when the administration joined Russia in approving a draft UN resolution calling on the Assad government to get rid of its chemical arsenal,” the report reads. “Obama’s retreat brought relief to many senior military officers. (One high-level special operations adviser told me that the ill-conceived American missile attack on Syrian military airfields and missile emplacements, as initially envisaged by the White House, would have been ‘like providing close air support for al-Nusra’.)”

The investigative journalist then points at an annual budget for all national intelligence programs, leaked to the media by Edward Snowden and partly published by The Washington Post. According to the document, by the time of the Eastern Ghouta chemical attack, the NSA “no longer had access to the conversations of the top military leadership in Syria, which would have included crucial communications from Assad, such as orders for a nerve gas attack”. That puts to question the confidence with which Obama spoke of Assad’s responsibility for the deaths.

The same document described “a secret sensor system inside Syria, designed to provide early warning of any change in status of the regime’s chemical weapons arsenal”. Hersh wrote it was suspicious that the US intelligence received no alarm, if the Assad forces really prepared for an attack.

Hersh also analyses the news coverage of the chemical gas attack investigation, pointing to instances when the media outlets omitted the information that suggested there could be other suspects, beside Assad.

The UN September 16 report, confirming the use of sarin, contained one part that noted that the organization’s experts did not have immediate access to the attack sites controlled by rebels, so potential evidence could have been manipulated there. The passage was largely ignored in the news.

Following the release of the report, the spokesman for Director of National Intelligence, Shawn Turner, denied the report’s major point – that the US knew of the rebel group being capable of creating sarin.

“We were clear with The Washington Post and Mr. Hersh that the intelligence gathered about the 21 August chemical weapons attack indicated that the Assad regime and only the Assad regime could have been responsible,” Turner told Buzzfeed. “Any suggestion that there was an effort to suppress intelligence about a nonexistent alternative explanation is simply false.”

Hersh has remained unconvinced by the denial and has summed it up with a warning against ignoring alleged Al-Nusra’s chemical weapons potential.

“While the Syrian regime continues the process of eliminating its chemical arsenal, the irony is that, after Assad’s stockpile of precursor agents is destroyed, Al-Nusra and its Islamist allies could end up as the only faction inside Syria with access to the ingredients that can create sarin, a strategic weapon that would be unlike any other in the war zone. There may be more to negotiate.”

December 9, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment