Daily Archive: 08/22/2013

Aug 22 2013

A Heavy Price for Our Freedom

David Coombs, attorney for Army Private Bradley Manning, read Pvt. Manning’s statement to the press after his sentencing to 35 years in prison. Immediately after the sentence was read, Pvt. Manning turned to Mr. Coombs telling him, “It’s okay. It’s alright. I know you did your best. I’m going to be okay. I’m going to get through this.”

Bradley Manning: “Sometimes You Have to Pay a Heavy Price to Live in a Free Society”



Transcript can be read here

Just after the court adjourned and after the press conference, Mr. Coombs  was interviewed by independent journalist Alexa O’Brien which aired exclusively on Democracy Now!

“He Wanted To Help America”: Manning Attorney in First Extended Interview After 35-Year Sentence



Transcript can be read here

Coombs talks about the government’s use of classified evidence, Manning’s reaction to the sentence and how much of the court record was hidden from the public. “I can’t believe that was actually the sentence he received,” Coombs tells O’Brien. “Anyone who sat through the hearing and heard all the evidence, even in the closed sessions, there is not evidence there where you would think 35 years would be the appropriate sentence. I wonder now if there had actually been damaged or if he had really intended to harm the United States or wanted to obtain personal gain from selling classified information, just what the sentence would have been. Because this was a person who had true intentions. He wanted to help America. He wanted to get people to think about what was going on in Iraq. He didn’t have an evil motive in what he did.”

Aug 22 2013

Transparency

Yup, not too hard to figure out what this is all about-

Advocate of Secret Infiltration, Cass Sunstein, on Obama’s "Committee To Make Us Trust the Dragnet"

by emptywheel

August 22, 2013

ABC reports that, along with former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morrell, former Homeland Security Czar Richard Clarke, and former Obama special assistant for economic policy Peter Swire, the White House (or James Clapper – who knows at this point) has picked Cass Sunstein for its Review Committee on NSA programs.

Frankly, a lot of people are investing misplaced confidence that Richard Clarke will make this committee useful. While he’s good on a lot of issues, he’s as hawkish on cybersecurity as anyone else in this country. And as I keep pointing out, these programs are really about cybersecurity. Richard Clarke is not going to do a damned thing to rein in a program that increasingly serves to surveil US Internet data to protect against cyberthreats.

But Sunstein? Really?

As Glenn Greenwald (yeah – that Glenn; did they really think no one would raise this point?) reported back in 2010, Sunstein wrote a paper in 2008 advocating very creepy stealth measures against “conspiracy theories.”



And remember, a big mandate for this committee is not to review the programs to see if we can make them more privacy-protective, but simply to increase our trust in them. Which goes to the core of what Sunstein was talking about in his paper: using covert government propaganda to, in this case, better sell covert government spying.

Well, if Obama and Clapper’s rollout hadn’t already discredited this committee, Sunstein’s selection sure does.

Obama confidant’s spine-chilling proposal

Glenn Greenwald, Salon

Friday, Jan 15, 2010 1:16 PM UTC

Sunstein advocates that the Government’s stealth infiltration should be accomplished by sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups.”  He also proposes that the Government make secret payments to so-called “independent” credible voices to bolster the Government’s messaging (on the ground that those who don’t believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who appear independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government).   This program would target those advocating false “conspiracy theories,” which they define to mean: “an attempt to explain an event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role.”  Sunstein’s 2008 paper was flagged by this blogger, and then amplified in an excellent report by Raw Story’s Daniel Tencer.



Initially, note how similar Sunstein’s proposal is to multiple, controversial stealth efforts by the Bush administration to secretly influence and shape our political debates.  The Bush Pentagon employed teams of former Generals to pose as “independent analysts” in the media while secretly coordinating their talking points and messaging about wars and detention policies with the Pentagon.  Bush officials secretly paid supposedly “independent” voices, such as Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher, to advocate pro-Bush policies while failing to disclose their contracts.  In Iraq, the Bush Pentagon hired a company, Lincoln Park, which paid newspapers to plant pro-U.S. articles while pretending it came from Iraqi citizens.  In response to all of this, Democrats typically accused the Bush administration of engaging in government-sponsored propaganda – and when it was done domestically, suggested this was illegal propaganda.  Indeed, there is a very strong case to make that what Sunstein is advocating is itself illegal under long-standing statutes prohibiting government “propaganda” within the U.S., aimed at American citizens.

A provision just eliminated, how convenient.  To continue-

Covert government propaganda is exactly what Sunstein craves.  His mentality is indistinguishable from the Bush mindset that led to these abuses, and he hardly tries to claim otherwise.  Indeed, he favorably cites both the covert Lincoln Park program as well as Paul Bremer’s closing of Iraqi newspapers which published stories the U.S. Government disliked, and justifies them as arguably necessary to combat “false conspiracy theories” in Iraq – the same goal Sunstein has for the U.S.

Sunstein’s response to these criticisms is easy to find in what he writes, and is as telling as the proposal itself.  He acknowledges that some “conspiracy theories” previously dismissed as insane and fringe have turned out to be entirely true (his examples:  the CIA really did secretly administer LSD in “mind control” experiments; the DOD really did plot the commission of terrorist acts inside the U.S. with the intent to blame Castro; the Nixon White House really did bug the DNC headquarters).  Given that history, how could it possibly be justified for the U.S. Government to institute covert programs designed to undermine anti-government “conspiracy theories,” discredit government critics, and increase faith and trust in government pronouncements?  Because, says Sunstein, such powers are warranted only when wielded by truly well-intentioned government officials who want to spread The Truth and Do Good – i.e., when used by people like Cass Sunstein and Barack Obama.



Consider the recent revelation that the Obama administration has been making very large, undisclosed payments to MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber to provide consultation on the President’s health care plan.  With this lucrative arrangement in place, Gruber spent the entire year offering public justifications for Obama’s health care plan, typically without disclosing these payments, and far worse, was repeatedly held out by the White House – falsely – as an “independent” or “objective” authority.  Obama allies in the media constantly cited Gruber’s analysis to support their defenses of the President’s plan, and the White House, in turn, then cited those media reports as proof that their plan would succeed.  This created an infinite "feedback loop" in favor of Obama’s health care plan which – unbeknownst to the public – was all being generated by someone who was receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret from the administration (read this to see exactly how it worked).

In other words, this arrangement was quite similar to the Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher scandals which Democrats, in virtual lockstep, condemned.  Paul Krugman, for instance, in 2005 angrily lambasted right-wing pundits and policy analysts who received secret, undisclosed payments, and said they lack “intellectual integrity”; he specifically cited the Armstrong Williams case.  Yet the very same Paul Krugman last week attacked Marcy Wheeler for helping to uncover the Gruber payments by accusing her of being “just like the right-wingers with their endless supply of fake scandals.”  What is one key difference?  Unlike Williams and Gallagher, Jonathan Gruber is a Good, Well-Intentioned Person with Good Views – he favors health care – and so massive, undisclosed payments from the same administration he’s defending are dismissed as a “fake scandal.”



What is most odious and revealing about Sunstein’s worldview is his condescending, self-loving belief that “false conspiracy theories” are largely the province of fringe, ignorant Internet masses and the Muslim world.  That, he claims, is where these conspiracy theories thrive most vibrantly, and he focuses on various 9/11 theories – both domestically and in Muslim countries – as his prime example.

It’s certainly true that one can easily find irrational conspiracy theories in those venues, but some of the most destructive “false conspiracy theories” have emanated from the very entity Sunstein wants to endow with covert propaganda power:  namely, the U.S. Government itself, along with its elite media defenders. Moreover, “crazy conspiracy theorist” has long been the favorite epithet of those same parties to discredit people trying to expose elite wrongdoing and corruption.

Who is it who relentlessly spread “false conspiracy theories” of Saddam-engineered anthrax attacks and Iraq-created mushroom clouds and a Ba’athist/Al-Qaeda alliance – the most destructive conspiracy theories of the last generation?  And who is it who demonized as “conspiracy-mongers” people who warned that the U.S. Government was illegally spying on its citizens, systematically torturing people, attempting to establish permanent bases in the Middle East, or engineering massive bailout plans to transfer extreme wealth to the industries which own the Government?  The most chronic and dangerous purveyors of “conspiracy theory” games are the very people Sunstein thinks should be empowered to control our political debates through deceit and government resources:  namely, the Government itself and the Enlightened Elite like him.

It is this history of government deceit and wrongdoing that renders Sunstein’s desire to use covert propaganda to “undermine” anti-government speech so repugnant.  The reason conspiracy theories resonate so much is precisely that people have learned – rationally – to distrust government actions and statements.  Sunstein’s proposed covert propaganda scheme is a perfect illustration of why that is.  In other words, people don’t trust the Government and “conspiracy theories” are so pervasive precisely because government is typically filled with people like Cass Sunstein, who think that systematic deceit and government-sponsored manipulation are justified by their own Goodness and Superior Wisdom.

Remember-

a big mandate for this committee is not to review the programs to see if we can make them more privacy-protective, but simply to increase our trust in them

Most.  Transparent.  Administration.  Ever.

Aug 22 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Ellen Brown; Not Too Big to Jail: Eliot Spitzer Is Wall Street’s Worst Nightmare

Before Eliot Spitzer’s infamous resignation as governor of New York in March 2008, he was one of our fiercest champions against Wall Street corruption, in a state that had some of the toughest legislation for controlling the banks. It may not be a coincidence that the revelation of his indiscretions with a high-priced call girl came less than a month after he published a bold editorial in the Washington Post titled “Predatory Lenders’ Partner in Crime: How the Bush Administration Stopped the States from Stepping in to Help Consumers.”  The editorial exposed the collusion between the Treasury, the Federal Reserve and Wall Street in deregulating the banks in the guise of regulating them, by taking regulatory power away from the states. It was an issue of the federal government versus the states, with the Feds representing the banks and the states representing consumers.[..]

Lynn Parramore, who considers herself a feminist, countered in an August 8th Huffington Post article that it is likely to be in the best interests of the very women who are opposing him to forgive and move on.  His stand for women’s reproductive rights and other feminist issues is actually quite strong, and his role as Wall Street watchdog protected women from predatory financial practices. As New York Attorney General, he was known as the “Sheriff of Wall Street.” He is one of the few people with not only the insight and experience to expose Wall Street corruption but the courage to go after the perpetrators.

Chris Hedges: Bradley Manning and the Gangster State

FORT MEADE, Md.-The swift and brutal verdict read out by Army Col. Judge Denise Lind in sentencing Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison means we have become a nation run by gangsters. It signals the inversion of our moral and legal order, the death of an independent media, and the open and flagrant misuse of the law to prevent any oversight or investigation of official abuses of power, including war crimes. The passivity of most of the nation’s citizens-the most spied upon, monitored and controlled population in human history-to the judicial lynching of Manning means they will be next. There are no institutional mechanisms left to halt the shredding of our most fundamental civil liberties, including habeas corpus and due process, or to prevent pre-emptive war, the assassination of U.S. citizens by the government and the complete obliteration of privacy.  

New York Times Editorial Board: Pardon Rates Remain Low

Attorney General Eric Holder said many encouraging things in his important speech on the future of sentencing reform, but the most striking thing may have been what he did not say. In all his 4,000 words on America’s “broken” legal system – and particularly on its outlandishly harsh and ineffective sentencing laws – there was not one mention of executive clemency.

That power, which the Constitution explicitly grants to the president, has always served as an indispensable check on the injustices of the legal system and as a means of demonstrating forgiveness where it is called for. It was once used freely; presidents issued more than 10,000 grants of clemency between 1885 and 1930 alone. But mercy is a four-letter word in an era when politicians have competed to see who can be toughest on crime.

New York Times Editorial Board: Bradley Manning’s Excessive Sentence

Certainly, Private Manning faced punishment.  [..]

But 35 years is far too long a sentence by any standard. In more than two weeks of hearings, government lawyers presented vague and largely speculative claims that Private Manning’s leaks had endangered lives and “chilled” diplomatic relations. On the other hand, much of what Private Manning released was of public value, including a video of a military helicopter shooting at two vans and killing civilians, including two Reuters journalists. [..]

Army Col. Denise R. Lind, the judge who sentenced Private Manning, also reduced his rank to the lowest in the military and dishonorably discharged him. Those are appropriate punishments. But the larger issue, which is not resolved by Private Manning’s sentencing, is the federal government’s addiction to secrecy and what it will do when faced with future leaks, an inevitability when 92 million documents are classified in a year and more than 4 million Americans have security clearance.

In their drastic attempt to put Private Manning away for most of the rest of his life, prosecutors were also trying to discourage other potential leakers, but as the continuing release of classified documents by Edward Snowden shows, even the threat of significant prison time is not a deterrent when people believe their government keeps too many secrets.

Robrt Sheeer: The Moment the U.S. Ended Iran’s Brief Experiment in Democracy

Sixty years ago this week, on Aug. 19, 1953, the United States, in collaboration with Britain, successfully staged a coup in Iran to overthrow democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh that a newly declassified CIA document reveals was designed to preserve the control of Western companies over Iran’s rich oil fields.

The U.S. government at the time of the coup easily had manipulated Western media into denigrating Mossadegh as intemperate, unstable and an otherwise unreliable ally in the Cold War, but the real motivation for hijacking Iran’s history was Mossadegh’s move to nationalize Western-controlled oil assets in Iran.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Cynicism Is Corporate America’s Greatest Weapon. Disarm It.

September’s coming up fast, and we know what that means. Soon Congress will be back in session and we’ll be inundated with fresh evidence that our democracy is broken. That makes this a good time to reflect on the powerful forces arrayed against the public interest –

– and to remind ourselves that they can still lose.

If you’re a citizen who’s willing to take action, you have more power than you realize.  As the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington approaches, it’s a good time to remember that too.

Granted, my perspective may be a little skewed. I spent several years of my professional life working primarily behind the Iron Curtain – before, during, and after the fall of European Communism. That experience, for someone interested in economics, was something like what an astronomer might feel at the birth of a star.  And for anyone who believes in political activism, it was inspiring and enlightening.  In a few short months the impossible became the imaginable, the imaginable became an opportunity, and an opportunity was turned into the event that transformed the world.

Aug 22 2013

On This Day In History August 22

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

August 22 is the 234th day of the year (235th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 131 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1950, Althea Gibson became the first African American on the US Tennis Tour.

On this day in 1950, officials of the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) accept Althea Gibson into their annual championship at Forest Hills, New York, making her the first African-American player to compete in a U.S. national tennis competition.

Growing up in Harlem, the young Gibson was a natural athlete. She started playing tennis at the age of 14 and the very next year won her first tournament, the New York State girls’ championship, sponsored by the American Tennis Association (ATA), which was organized in 1916 by black players as an alternative to the exclusively white USLTA. After prominent doctors and tennis enthusiasts Hubert Eaton and R. Walter Johnson took Gibson under their wing, she won her first of what would be 10 straight ATA championships in 1947.

In 1949, Gibson attempted to gain entry into the USLTA’s National Grass Court Championships at Forest Hills, the precursor of the U.S. Open. When the USLTA failed to invite her to any qualifying tournaments, Alice Marble–a four-time winner at Forest Hills–wrote a letter on Gibson’s behalf to the editor of American Lawn Tennis magazine. Marble criticized the “bigotry” of her fellow USLTA members, suggesting that if Gibson posed a challenge to current tour players, “it’s only fair that they meet this challenge on the courts.” Gibson was subsequently invited to participate in a New Jersey qualifying event, where she earned a berth at Forest Hills.

snip

Though she once brushed off comparisons to Jackie Robinson, the trailblazing black baseball player, Gibson has been credited with paving the way for African-American tennis champions such as Arthur Ashe and, more recently, Venus and Serena Williams. After a long illness, she died in 2003 at the age of 76.

Ms. Gibson became the first African American woman to join the Ladies Professional Golf Association  tour, in 1963, retiring in 1978.

Aug 22 2013

NSA Was Found in Violation of the Fourth Amendment

The Electronic Freedom Foundation has won a victory in its fight with the government in federal court to release a FISA court ruling that found the NSA in violation of the Fourth Amendment, illegally collecting e-mails of tens of thousands of Americans.

NSA illegally collected thousands of emails before Fisa court halted program

by Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Declassified court ruling from 2011 found government ‘disclosed substantial misrepresentation’ of data collection program

In his 86-page opinion, declassified on Wednesday, Judge John Bates wrote that the government informed the court that the “volume and nature of the information it has been collecting is fundamentally different from what the court had been led to believe”.

The ruling is one of three documents released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and comes amid growing public and congressional concern over the scope of NSA surveillance programs. [..]

Wholly domestic communications are banned from the NSA’s collection under section 702 of the 2008 Fisa Amendments Act. An NSA document leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden and published by the Guardian on August 9 referred to an October 2011 change in the rules, by which the NSA must purge data it improperly collected but that said the NSA could still search its so-called “702” databases for “certain US person names and identifiers,” though not until an “effective oversight process” was implemented.

Senator Ron Wyden, a member of the intelligence committee, refers to the NSA’s still-current authorities to query those databases for US person information as a “backdoor search” loophole.

“The ruling states that the NSA has knowingly acquired tens of thousands of wholly domestic communications under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, even though this law was specifically written to prohibit the warrantless acquisition of wholly domestic communications,” Wyden said.

“The FISA Court has noted that this collection violates the spirit of the law, but the government has failed to address this concern in the two years since this ruling was issued. This ruling makes it clear that FISA Section 702, as written, is insufficient to adequately protect the civil liberties and privacy rights of law-abiding Americans and should be reformed.”

October 3, 2011 FISC Opinion Holding NSA Surveillance Unconstitutional

Anchor and managing editor for “Dan Rather Reports” on AXS-TV, Dan Rather joined Rachel Maddow to talk about the abuse of power and general bungling undermines the credibility of the US and calls into question how the “war on terror’ has been conducted over the last 12 years since 9/11.

The NSA has “built a surveillance network that covers more Americans’ Internet communications than officials have publicly disclosed, current and former officials say. The system has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic in the hunt for foreign intelligence, including a wide array of communications by foreigners and Americans.”

Aug 22 2013

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