Monday, March 30, 2015

Imperialist "Peacekeeping": One nation neoconned, with liberty and justice for none.




"Always question a paradigm promoted by those who's livelihood depends on it"
                                                                            ~ Rock Cosmos



In 2004 (and updated in 2006), "The Lancet," published "Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey" (Dr Les Roberts, PhD, Riyadh Lafta, MD, Prof Richard Garfield, Dr PH, Jamal Khudhairi, MD, Gilbert Burnham, MD), boldly claiming the "excess" (the numbers above the pre-invasion death rate) death toll of Iraqis after the "Shock and Awe" invasion was as high as 100,000 between March, 2003 and September 2004, basing their study on the number of violent deaths (mostly by gunshot) reported by families in interviews and morgue statistics (noting that not all casualties were sent to the "morgue" for a variety of reasons to include religious, fear, access, as well as location). The updated version appearing in 2006, put the figures from the beginning of "Shock and Awe" through July, 2006, closer to 601,027 (426,369–793,663).

From "The Lancet" Report (2006):

There has been widespread concern over the scale of Iraqi deaths after the invasion by the US-led coalition in March, 2003. Various methods have been used to count violent deaths, including hospital death data from the Ministry of Health, mortuary tallies, and media reports. The best known is the Iraq Body Count, which estimated that, up to September 26, 2006, between 43 491 and 48 283 Iraqis have been killed since the invasion.1 Estimates from the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior were 75% higher than those based on the Iraq Body Count from the same period. An Iraqi non-governmental organisation, Iraqiyun, estimated 128 000 deaths from the time of the invasion until July, 2005, by use of various sources, including household interviews.
The US Department of Defence keeps some records of Iraqi deaths, despite initially denying that they did.4 Recently, Iraqi casualty data from the Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC-I) Significant Activities database were released. These data estimated the civilian casuality rate at 117 deaths per day between May, 2005, and June, 2006, on the basis of deaths that occurred in events to which the coalition responded. There also have been several surveys that assessed the burden of conflict on the population. These surveys have predictably produced substantially higher estimates than the passive surveillance reports.

Aside from violence, insufficient water supplies, non-functional sewerage, and restricted electricity supply also create health hazards. A deteriorating health service with insecure access, and the flight of health professionals adds further risks. People displaced by the on-going sectarian violence add to the number of vulnerable individuals. In many conflicts, these indirect causes have accounted for most civilian deaths.

In 2004, we did a survey of 33 randomly selected clusters of 30 households with a mean of eight residents throughout Iraq to determine the excess mortality during the 17·8 months after the 2003 invasion. The survey estimated excess mortality of at least 98 000 (95% CI 8000–194 000) after excluding, as an outlier, the high mortality reported in the Falluja cluster. Over half of excess deaths recorded in the 2004 study were from violent causes, and about half of the violent deaths occurred in Falluja.

To determine how on-going events in Iraq have affected mortality rates subsequently, we repeated a national household survey between May and July, 2006. We measured deaths from January, 2002, to July, 2006, which included the period of the 2004 survey.

As expected, the outrage poured in from Washington to London accusing the researchers of everything from manipulated statistics, errors in methodology to out right lying. Sure, the research methodology used was not quite what the US' own DOD reported, though the DOD claimed they "don't do body counts" (US General Tommy Franks declared in 2002: "We don't do body counts.") - they do, they did and Wikileaks proved it; Sure, they used a small sampling and anecdotal evidence, but the question of war caused death to a civilian population, created solely by the hubris of American neoconned imperialism, hung in the air like the stench of death and white phosphorus over Fallujah.


From "US War On Iraq Claimed Half a Million Lives, Study Finds," By Joseph Brownstein, 2013
(Please note the numbers are even higher than this article reports)

Late last month,  Physicians for Social Responsibility (aka, PSR) released "Body Count - The report: Casualty Figures after 10 Years of the 'War on Terror',” again, addressing the question of civilian deaths, as well as human suffering, as a result of America's latest war on the Middle East:
The picture of physically wounded military personnel for both war theatres is incomplete. Only the U.S. military is identified: (a) 32,223 were wounded during the 2003 Iraq invasion and its aftermath, and (b) until November 2014 20,040 were wounded in Afghanistan.

No figures are known for mental disorders involving military personnel who have been deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Officially ignored are casualties, injured or killed, involving enemy combatants and civilians. This, of course, comes as no surprise. It is not an oversight but a deliberate omission. The U.S. authorities have kept no known records of such deaths. This would have destroyed the arguments that freeing Iraq by military force from a dictatorship, removing Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and eliminating safe-havens for terrorists in Pakistan’s tribal areas has prevented terrorism from reaching the U.S. homeland, improved global security and advanced human rights, all at “defendable” costs.

However, facts are indeed stubborn. Governments and civil society know now that on all counts these assertions have proved to be preposterously false. Military battles have been won in Iraq and Afghanistan but at enormous costs to human security and trust among nations. One must not forget the financial costs. The 21st century has seen a loss of innocent civilian life at an unprecedented scale, especially in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nobody should even dare to ask the question whether it was worth it! As independent U.S. journalist Nir Rosen noted, “the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis are not better off, […] the children who lost their fathers aren’t better off, […] the hundreds and thousands of refugees are not better off.”

The IPPNW Body Count publication must be seen as a significant contribution to narrowing the gap between reliable estimates of victims of war, especially civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and tendentious, manipulated or even fraudulent accounts. These have in the past blurred the picture of the magnitude of death and destitution in these three countries. Subjective and pre-conceived reporting certainly is a serious matter. This includes the dissemination of deliberately falsified information. In the context of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, there are many examples of manipulated “facts.” The U.S. Department of Defense’s shortlived (2001/02) Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) is one stark example of government-generated mis- and dis-information meant to influence public opinion in supporting its Iraq policies.

The Human loss of life as a cost of the War on Terror?  Again, from the report:
This investigation comes to the conclusion that the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan, i.e. a total of around 1.3 million. Not included in this figure are further war zones such as Yemen. The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware of and propagated by the media and major NGOs. And this is only a conservative estimate. The total number of deaths in the three countries named above could also be in excess of 2 million, whereas a figure below 1 million is extremely unlikely.

Investigations were based on the results of individual studies and data published by UN organizations, government bodies and NGOs. Figures for Afghanistan and Pakistan are only estimates based on the numbers of observed or reported deaths (passive determination).In Iraq, however, several representative surveys were also conducted in the context of studies seeking to determine the increase in the mortality rate since the onset of war, and therefore the total death toll among Iraqis arising from war or occupation. Although extrapolation of the results of such ‘active’ determination techniques inevitably causes significant breadth of range, this investigation shows that the data it provides is still far more reliable
As far as the financial cost to the US taxpayer (without regard for the financial cost to the people in the Middle East):

As if in response to the latest figures of blood and gore [we caused] in the Middle East (like some reptilian brain being cued by the stench of rotting corpses and blood), the US "National Philosophers," the Neo-Conservatives, have been beating the war drums even harder.

Neo-Cons are nothing new for DC - They started infiltrating in the 50's; becoming advisers in the 60's; taking the WH and cabinet in the 80's; continuing their roles in the 90's and becoming fully entrenched on both sides of the aisle in the 21st century - but it doesn't stop there. In 2015, they are on the airways every night; filling TV screens as they run the circuit of Sunday morning talk shows; given forum as "columnists" in the major papers like "The Washington Post," the "New York Times" "The Wall Street Journal"; and whine in Congress on a daily basis (well, on the few days that Congress is in session).  The Neo-Con war drums beat loud and long for decades - Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Iran, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Iraq, Palestine, Kosovo, Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Libya.

Today, all of them, each and every Neo-Con (Cheney, Friedman, McCain) to Neo-Con Lite (Obama, Clinton, Kerry), continue to pound those drums. Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iran, Pakistan, Somalia... The beat goes on.

Perpetual war perpetuated.

At one time, the war hawks attempted the appearance of "good taste" by waiting a few minutes before jumping into another war - World War II gradually moved into Korea that slowly sidled into Vietnam, expanding to Laos and Cambodia (sorry, the Pentagon's "we were never there" lie didn't quite sell the public) as they began "maneuvers" in the Middle East. Politicians bickered war vs. diplomacy but somehow war usually won.

The 21st Century Neo-Con war hawks don't even bother with appearances. The only bickering left is how big we bomb and where next to drop them; whether or not 10,000 troops of 50,000 troops should be in an occupied land and where next to put more boots on the ground. Calls ring out for bombing Iran; boots in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and leaving more in Afghanistan and Iraq; bombing ISIS; drones used for killing across any border; and expanding occupation anywhere there are "people in need of democracy" (code for occupation and exploitation).

The US has gone into full on, 1984, perpetual war mode - destruction of entire regions of the world, raining fire from the skies by remote control, and let's not forget the covert operations of CIA backed contractors, agents, and "rebels" in Yemen, Syria, Somalia and anywhere we can sneak them in.

The people of the US, after over a decade of warring in Iraq and Afghanistan, claimed we were tired of war.  One year after drawing down a few troops and listening to the war drums beat, we are ready to war, once again.

Now, those drums are beating louder and stronger....

Over the past few weeks, we saw John Bolton (former undersecretary of state for the GW Bush administration turned into the United States ambassador to the United Nations from August 2005 to December 2006 and now considered a "scholar" with, of course, AEI), in his commentary for the "New York Times, call for bombing Iran:

The inescapable conclusion is that Iran will not negotiate away its nuclear program. Nor will sanctions block its building a broad and deep weapons infrastructure. The inconvenient truth is that only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq or its 2007 destruction of a Syrian reactor, designed and built by North Korea, can accomplish what is required. Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed.

Rendering inoperable the Natanz and Fordow uranium-enrichment installations and the Arak heavy-water production facility and reactor would be priorities. So, too, would be the little-noticed but critical uranium-conversion facility at Isfahan. An attack need not destroy all of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but by breaking key links in the nuclear-fuel cycle, it could set back its program by three to five years. The United States could do a thorough job of destruction, but Israel alone can do what’s necessary. Such action should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran’s opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran.

Mr. Obama’s fascination with an Iranian nuclear deal always had an air of unreality. But by ignoring the strategic implications of such diplomacy, these talks have triggered a potential wave of nuclear programs. The president’s biggest legacy could be a thoroughly nuclear-weaponized Middle East.
(US backing for regime change? That worked so well before, didn't it?)
Hear those drum beats?
"We need to encourage this administration to go take out Iran’s nuclear capability," he said on the Family Research Council's "Washington Watch" radio show, according to a Right Wing Watch recording. "I don’t think we ought to put Israel in position of having to save both themselves and the United States. I think it’s time to bomb Iran — anything that resembles a nuclear facility."
Those drums getting louder.
O.K., so we learn to live with Iran on the edge of a bomb, but shouldn’t we at least bomb the Islamic State to smithereens and help destroy this head-chopping menace? Now I despise ISIS as much as anyone, but let me just toss out a different question: Should we be arming ISIS? Or let me ask that differently: Why are we, for the third time since 9/11, fighting a war on behalf of Iran?

In 2002, we destroyed Iran’s main Sunni foe in Afghanistan (the Taliban regime). In 2003, we destroyed Iran’s main Sunni foe in the Arab world (Saddam Hussein). But because we failed to erect a self-sustaining pluralistic order, which could have been a durable counterbalance to Iran, we created a vacuum in both Iraq and the wider Sunni Arab world. That is why Tehran’s proxies now indirectly dominate four Arab capitals: Beirut, Damascus, Sana and Baghdad.

ISIS, with all its awfulness, emerged as the homegrown Sunni Arab response to this crushing defeat of Sunni Arabism — mixing old pro-Saddam Baathists with medieval Sunni religious fanatics with a collection of ideologues, misfits and adventure-seekers from around the Sunni Muslim world. Obviously, I abhor ISIS and don’t want to see it spread or take over Iraq. I simply raise this question rhetorically because no one else is: Why is it in our interest to destroy the last Sunni bulwark to a total Iranian takeover of Iraq? Because the Shiite militias now leading the fight against ISIS will rule better? Really?
John McCain continuing to be John McCain, who called for boots on the ground in 7 countries during the last RNC convention in 2008, proposes that Israel "go rogue" and attack Iran.

More drum beats even from the floor of the Senate.

It's not just far right wing or Republicans clamoring for war.  President Barack Obama has been calling for action in Syria for over 2 years; JSOC continues to carry out operations in foreign lands; More drones fly over and hit more targets (people); more US arms are given away or sold to nearly everyone; and Republicans and Democrats alike are supporting the use of US military might over the Middle East as the corporate owned US media rarely discusses any alternative to war.

As far as the American people, worn and battered from years of war; US war veterans left to fight a failing VA system just to get benefits and assistance; and the entire nation's infrastructure crumbling around us, we still seem easily swayed by the idea that "the road to peace" is just pouring more money into more war.

We have become one nation, neoconned with liberty and justice for none.

Our perpetual warring will do little more than leave more innocents slaughtered, nations destroyed, land poisoned, resources exploited, and anger in our wake.  With that anger will be more overtly hostile acts against us that will be used to justify, in our minds anyway, the continuation of perpetual war.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The real war will not be televised...and now a word from our sponsor, the MIC


Ronald Haeberle's Photo of the My Lai Massacre (March 16, 1968)

Imagery has the power to destroy and the power to heal; the power to make humans quake in their boots or soar with ecstasy.

Vietnam was the first televised war.....



The battle of la Drang Valley - 1965


The Tet offensive - 1968


Hue City 1968

Medic Thomas Cole of Richmond, Virginia, looks up with his one unbandaged eye as he continues to treat wounded S.Sgt. Harrison Pell of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, during a firefight, January 30, 1966. The men belonged to the 1st Cavalry Division, which was engaged in a battle at An Thi, in the Central Highlands, against combined Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces. This photo appeared on the cover of Life magazine, February 11, 1966, and photographer Henri Huet’s coverage of An Thi received the Robert Capa Gold Medal from the Overseas Press Club

........ that coverage - those images - spurred a near revolt confronting the war paradigm as promoted by the Pentagon and those in support of the Pentagon.



San Francisco 1965

October, 1967 - Exorcise and Levitate the Pentagon


1968 Police Riot - DNC Convention


Vietnam Moratorium October 15, 1969 and again November 15, 1969

Taking that lesson to heart, the war paradigm promoters from the Oval Office to the Pentagon have learned to manipulate the message by banning coverage, embedding only those "journalists" willing to be sycophants and mewling cronies, and through a protracted plan to discredit anyone they can who might not report what they want (and the corporation lawyers for NYT, Comcast, WaPo,  Clear Channel, Time-Warner, Scripps and all the rest fall to the pressure).


Lie by Lie - Mother Jones Illustration: John Ueland

Media coverage of the most recent War on Iraq....











Slick productions; limited ground coverage; military created videos - mainstream media companies ate it up...


And what mainstream coverage was regurgitated 24/7 was interspersed with ...








We were left with jingoistic diatribes repeated, ritualistically, until they became the only message heard on major television stations in the US. The message set for the masses to believe.

From "New York Times," (April 20, 2008)...setting the message:

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access...

...Five years into the Iraq war, most details of the architecture and execution of the Pentagon’s campaign have never been disclosed. But The Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantánamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.

These records reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”

From Democracy Now! (2007):


Bill Moyers, April 5, 2007:




(Please note: Night Ridder, noted in the above story, was sold to McClatchy, June, 2006)

And from the "National Security News Service," (September 30th, 2013):

The Department of Defense has turned its huge public affairs program into an offensive propaganda campaign being run by the same contractors that spy on the world through the intelligence agencies, according to a DCBureau-National Security News Service (NSNS) investigation





The positive public image of the military has allowed defense contractors and the military leadership to replace traditional public outreach with an aggressive propaganda effort that has little to do with providing factual information about the armed forces. Nearly every element of outreach now must go through a maze of strategic communication contractors to decide whether or not a reporter is given an interview or information.

While the changes to the Pentagon outreach effort accelerated during the George W. Bush administration, the confluence of a “strategic communications” approach that once was reserved for foreign targets of military operations is now used for domestic consumption. Under President Obama and his defense secretaries – Gates, Panetta, and Hagel – hundreds of millions of dollars in propaganda and strategic communication contracts have been let, with the details of many of them classified...

...In 2009, an Associated Press investigation found that the Pentagon’s public affairs budget had grown by 63 percent in the past five years. Pentagon officials set aside $4.7 billion for recruiting, advertising, public affairs and psychological operations. But that number may not even be the total as millions more dollars are buried in classified budgets hidden from the public. When broken down, $1.6 billion is set aside for recruitment and advertising, $547 million for public affairs, roughly $489 million for psychological operations that reach foreign audiences, and $2.1 billion for staff for these areas. One Navy document posted online a few years ago, reveals that thousands of enlisted personnel and officers are assigned to public relations on every ship and submarine, at every base and station in the Navy. The numbers are similar for the other services.

According to internal memorandum, Pentagon public relation messages are being delivered by new and different means. Emerging technologies have created new opportunities to get their messages out to a wider audience and a narrower audience. E-mail messages can target individuals within the government and military, while Internet websites can blanket mass audiences. Repetition is the key for oral learning. Military themes, phrases, or slogans are repeated to ensure the targeted audience gets the desired message. For example, the public has been trained to automatically thank troops for their service.

Each branch of the military has its own operations. The Navy, for example, has the capability, according to internal memorandum, to produce audiovisual products from the Fleet Audio-Visual Command, Pacific; Fleet Imagery Command, Atlantic; fleet combat camera groups; various film libraries; and Naval Imaging Command. Naval assets have the capability to broadcast AM/FM radio and produce documents, posters, articles, and other materials.

A growing portion of the Pentagon budget goes to contractors who are merging their intelligence and eavesdropping activities into propaganda and media. A former undersecretary of defense during the Reagan years called the changes “absolutely chilling.” He says, “Fundamentally what it means is the contractors now have full control of the military. It is the contractors and not the officer corps that has control of the institution that is our military. The ability for these companies to control all the information and cycle the senior officer corps from the Pentagon to their boardrooms makes the system foolproof and completely corrupt.”

When asked about congressional oversight, the former Reagan official says, “Look at where these congressmen and senators get their contributions. Even when our soldiers, sailors and Marines are damaged by a contractor’s action, there are no hearings, no penalties to pay.”

This is the dark side of the Pentagon’s outreach effort. Defense contractors that are largely reliant on the Pentagon for their shareholders’ profits are deeply involved in what the intelligence community used to call deception operations and what the public relations industry rebranded “strategic communication” or more recently “communications synchronization.” One veteran Washington editor whose publication covers the military told NSNS, “The days of a reporter calling a DOD press representative and getting a straight answer to a question are a quaint part of the past.” Inserted between press officers and the Pentagon brass are the contractors who actually make “strategic” decisions about whether it is in the Pentagon’s interest to provide a reporter with information or withhold cooperation.

A former top Army information officer told NSNS, “The change is now complete in the military. The trust between PAOs and the media has been eroded. It used to be if a tough reporter had a story that was going to make us look bad, we would use the trust that was built up with the reporter and the outlet to work the issue through. Now the door is slammed on the reporter and the strategic advice is usually just to blacklist the guy and his outlet. Sometimes the strategic advice includes putting out a fictional narrative and the outcomes have been horrible for the Army. What they call strategic communication is simply deception. We have had horrible outcomes to story after story because of this policy.” The former official cited the phony cover story about pro football player Pat Tillman’s death during the Afghan War. The Army portrayed Tillman as being killed by enemy fire when, in fact, they knew he had been killed by friendly fire. The Army also knowingly distributed a false story about a young private named Jessica Lynch describing her fictional heroics during the Iraq War.

The former Army officer says, “Strategic communications may sound like pr to the public. That is not what it is. These are offensive propaganda operations that often include trying to discredit news organizations and reporters who endanger the military reputation or disagree with the information the military wants out. The truth of the information reporters have is not relevant to these guys…One technique used is to exploit inexperienced bloggers and new media types to put out what they want. They actually hold briefings that target the dumbest of these folks, and they carry the DOD’s message, thinking they got some big scoop.”

A top editor for a major military publication says that the military has “almost no respect for today’s web based reporters.” The editor says, “They hold sessions for bloggers and feed them tidbits and manipulate them because the bloggers, for the most part, don’t have a clue about what questions to ask. The truth is there are very few good reporters still covering the military. Because the news organizations don’t have the resources, the DOD is using contractor-produced, unvetted material to fill this information vacuum. Because of the declining financial condition of the media, this is what has replaced real reporting for many news organizations.”

Many of the major Pentagon exposés of the 1980s and 1990s came from nonprofit watchdog organizations that focused on military waste, fraud and abuse. The handful of NGOs that did the stories like $600 toilet seats, secret multi-billion dollar programs to resume atmospheric nuclear testing, the infamous School of the Americas, and a general flying his mistresses at taxpayers’ expense across the Atlantic stopped getting funding when many of the large foundations’ priorities changed and they redirected the NGOs to other areas. One NGO investigator says, “The money dried up after 9/11. We just don’t have the money to carry out many deep dive investigations anymore. Without the nonprofits doing the spadework on these kinds of stories, the public is being fed a diet of DOD-contractor propaganda.”

According to a senior editor whose publication focuses on the Pentagon, “Every senior commander is expected to take advice from an expert in strategic communication before agreeing to a media interview. Inside every DOD facility is a team of Public Affairs Officers whose first job when contacted by a reporter is to determine if the reporter has been friendly to the DOD or unfriendly. If the reporter has been tough or critical, he or she will not get the interview. It is that simple. They can afford to do this because the media is so ineffective now, they can just communicate through their own outlets. Enough editors will take their unverified, free story packages and run them without warning their readers or viewers that the material is Pentagon produced.”

A veteran civilian Pentagon official told NSNS, “What is more worrying is they are combining public affairs and outreach with propaganda. They consider social media as a propaganda tool. They are treating communication with the public in the same way they do propaganda overseas.”

Nearly every service likes to show a friendly, inspiring public face from military bands to honor and color guards for large and small community and commercial events. What the Pentagon refuses to allow is free access by the media of returning caskets from the war. Studies show that images of soldiers killed in the line of duty undermines public support for war. These actions are all part of the partnership between contractors and the military. President Dwight D. Eisenhower became so concerned about the nexus between corporate money and the Defense Department that he gave a farewell address in 1961 warning the nation of the threat of what he called “the growing military-industrial complex.”

President Eisenhower is the Army general who led the United States and our allies to victory in Europe during World War II. Over the years, others have reinforced the president’s warnings, most notably, an Emmy award-winning CBS News report called “The Selling of the Pentagon” by correspondent Roger Mudd and producer Peter Davis, which aired in February 1971. That report was so devastating, defense contractors conducted a huge public relations campaign to try to counteract its effect on the public perception of the defense and weapons business.

It used to be called “the revolving door” – where military officers went to work for companies they had given contracts. One of the issues that worried President Eisenhower was how shamelessly the defense complex would use the reputation earned by the blood of our troops to mitigate contractor abuses. This is why many military leaders favored a draft, convinced that citizens who were forced to serve would keep the entire system accountable. It is not coincidental that the role of contractors increased dramatically after the draft was eliminated. Now the revolving door from Pentagon to contractor and back goes from five star officers all the way down to grunts with specialized training. It is seamless. It has evolved into a very lucrative job-for-life safety net for the military. High-ranking officers become millionaires overnight. There is no “assault on the middle class” among the military, even in many of the lower ranks.

Public affairs is a relatively new addition to the military. During World War II, the Department of War became aware of the need for military officials to be able to supply news to the public. The civilian media was often misinformed about news on the frontline, so soldiers, airmen, and sailors stepped up as public affairs officers. In 1946, the Army formed it first information school to train military members in journalism and public affairs. The DOD has always maintained a longstanding relationship with the American public. Decades ago, posters showed Uncle Sam urging young men outside of recruiting stations to join up. Recently, an “Army Strong” commercial portrays proud men and women jumping out of airplanes to rescue villagers. But as the Blue Angels roar overtop stadiums and children wave their American flags with pride, few are noticing that the Pentagon is reaching deeper into the taxpayers’ pocket.

By 2009, Americans spent over $4.7 billion a year to fund Department of Defense public affairs, a number that has multiplied. A high-level Department of Defense official said the total number “is deliberately disguised in a maze of budgets.” He says, “The real total for outreach and recruitment now exceeds $15 billion annually and is growing.” Adding to the number are contractors who sell systems and logistical support to the government. They are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on their own public relations and advertising campaigns and charging that money off on their Pentagon contracts.

Fifty-three-years after President Eisenhower’s warning, the situation has gotten far more serious. Even the current Pentagon spokesman is not a distinguished former journalist or service member but George Little, a former employee of defense-intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, the same company that constructs and maintains the NSA-CIA surveillance apparatus for which whistleblower Edward Snowden worked. Attempts to get answers directly from the Pentagon public affairs staff are completely stymied all the way to Little’s office. While he publicly preaches openness when he lectures at the Defense Information School, he and his staff have no real interest in helping the media.

NSNS reporters wanted to know why the military’s public relations apparatus promises cooperation only to violate every promise of assistance it makes. The simple answer turned out to be the Pentagon has no reason to fear the media because it knows that poll numbers conclusively demonstrate the armed forces are the most trusted institution in the country. That support reflects the massive contraction in the news industry since the recession. The remaining news management fear a backlash against any organization that takes on the military. Any criticism will be portrayed as being “against our troops” or “unpatriotic” by a team of strategic communications contractors. Pentagon management now thumbs their collective noses at the news media. PAOs still cater to the large broadcast and cable networks. But producers for these correspondents seldom undertake critical Pentagon stories. As one major network senior news manager says, “We are well aware the Pentagon can deny access. When we do a critical story we understand the Pentagon and services have the firepower to fight back.”

The natural tension between an independent press and government-controlled public affairs is all but gone as the national media has shrunk in both numbers and resources. Corporate style media operations are now common across the government. But no government agency has seen a more profound change than the Department of Defense. The scrutiny of national, local, and regional news outlets that focused on Pentagon coverage has been replaced by bloggers often of dubious origin. Media budget constraints has created an opening for government contracted propagandists to supplant genuine reportage with internally produced news “packages” and “feel good” stories, like service members returning from war and surprising their children or being reunited with their dog. The gee-whiz latest unmanned weapons systems stories are Pentagon-contractor created diversions that consume column inches, web space, and airtime that would be more meaningfully spent on serious issues like contractor fraud, the increased rates of suicides, and an officer corps even more reliant on private contractors.

Equally disturbing is that the oversight committees in Congress have ignored the contractors’ control of Pentagon propaganda and strategic communications. When NSNS reporters reached out to both the House and Senate Armed Services Committee for assistance on how much was being spent on Pentagon public communications, the committees had no comment. The military contractors are generous contributors to members of the oversight committees. One veteran Republican staff member was blunt in laying out the reality: “There is no upside to going after the Pentagon on wasteful spending. The truth is it does not matter what reporters like you do. The public trusts the military over the media. Our polling confirms that. The truth is the media has lost its power and the military establishment no longer needs you to tell its story. …Welcome to the 21st Century.”

The fact that the Pentagon dissembles to the media on a regular basis is also ignored by most of the major media. For example, the DOD has made much of sequester cuts damaging national security. One way the Pentagon PR machine tries to get attention is to tug on the national heartstrings. Recently there were news reports that a fly over Arlington National Cemetery to salute two MIAs being interred had to be canceled because of budget woes. What is not shown are a laundry list of other activities that are ongoing. For example, there is plenty of money to allow West Point cadets to parachute out of a Lakota Helicopter for fun several times a week as part of an informal jumping group. It costs thousands of dollars per hour to keep a Lakota chopper with a full crew in the air...

...The Pentagon and national security establishment are using the same contractors who have built the post 9/11 spy apparatus to control the U.S. military version of its activities. Corporations with no stake in openness or experience in providing the public information are being paid hundreds of millions of dollars to fend off reporters and control what comes out of the battlefield and from the Pentagon. These same companies, reliant on the Pentagon and intelligence community for more contracts, have no motivation or incentive to release information that might embarrass the national security establishment. So when wrongdoing does take place, there is virtually no chance of it being revealed to the American public. For example, when hundred of National Guard reservists during the Iraq War were exposed to cancer causing chemicals at an Iraqi power plant that supposedly was made safe by defense contractor KBR, the Pentagon and Army sided with the contractor when reservists came down with cancer. The contractor’s influence was so great that the sick veterans could not even get an official hearing from the Senate or House Armed Services Committees. Instead, only the Democratic Policy Committee, which has no official standing, bothered to hold hearings.

The worry about unfavorable publicity seems to dominate every aspect of current Pentagon media policy. Directly attacking reporters came into vogue in the 1990s after the Navy’s Tailhook scandal. The Navy’s aggressive head of public affairs at the time, Rear Admiral Kendall Pease, set a new harsh tone toward reporters who took on the Navy. After Pease retired from the Navy, he, too, went to work for a contractor, General Dynamics. The training for Navy public information officers changed dramatically under Pease in 1996, and this new aggressive attitude toward reporters deemed unfriendly was adapted by the other services. For the first time reporters were openly seen as adversaries. The policy was to assist “friendlies” and discredit “unfriendlies.”...


...Perhaps the most embarrassing failure of the major networks was their complicity in selling the invasion of Iraq to the American public. It is also an example of how the Pentagon’s strategic communications efforts were used by willing network executives. The networks had on their payrolls retired senior officers who were telegenic and seemed authentic heroes. What was not mentioned is many of them were also working for defense contractors who had a vested interest in keeping the wars going. Bush administration Pentagon officials brought these former officers in regularly for special briefings. The idea behind the briefings was to give these network consultants special access so they could be “message force multipliers” to sell the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the American public. The trouble is that much of the information given to them was wrong. NSNS assisted New York Times Reporter David Barstow with his investigation into these retired military officers. The devastating stories revealed both the mendacity of the consultants and the indifference by network news management. NBC News fared the worst. The Barstow stories revealed the hold the military industrial complex has on network media. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for these stories.

The Pentagon investigated and cleared itself in the consultant scandal. The networks, with the single exception of Public Broadcasting, accepted no responsibility for misleading the public, and in the case of NBC continued to use a former general who had the greatest conflicts of interest.

...U.S. military propaganda is everywhere. It’s on Netflix, ipads, cellphones, television sets and movie screens.

....Offensive operations are run against reporters critical of the military and intelligence communities. In addition, the Obama administration has aggressively prosecuted military and intelligence whistleblowers and allowed wiretaps and surveillance of reporters and news bureaus. One recent court decision suggests it a crime for a reporter to receive classified information from a source. The country was founded on the concept of “checks and balances.” There are only two institutions large enough to provide “checks” on the military and intelligence communities: Congress and the media. Congress chooses not to do its job. The media no longer can.

There were a few smaller stations and web-based publications reporting more accurate accounts of the lead up to war:

Democracy Now!  September, 2002:
White House officials say a centerpiece of the strategy is to use Bush’s speech on September 11th to bolster support for an attack. Chief White House political adviser Karl Rove said, quote, "Everybody felt that was a moment that Americans want to hear from him, to seize the moment to make clear what lies ahead." Toward that end, the White House picked Ellis Island in New York Harbor for Bush’s September 11th speech. The television camera angles were most spectacular there, where the Statue of Liberty will be seen glowing behind Bush. His September 11th remarks are to serve as the emotional precursor for a tougher speech at the United Nations General Assembly the following day. The White House has dispatched envoys to Moscow, Beijing and Paris for follow-up discussions to the UN speech.


Democracy Now!  brought stories of the human toll, the effect of destroying water and power systems on the innocent people of Iraq



And brought coverage of the deception used to promote the war


Jeremy Scahill put himself on the ground to report on Iraq before, during.....



...And after and continues to report on Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia (now sold as "The War On Terror")...



Jason Leopold wrote about the behind the scenes stories of corruption and manipulation from the planning of the War on Iraq (February 23, 2003):

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz undertook a full-fledged lobbying campaign in 1998 to get former President Bill Clinton to start a war with Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein's regime. They claimed that the country posed a threat to the United States, according to documents obtained from a former Clinton aide.

This new information begs the question: what is really driving the Bush Administration's desire to start a war with Iraq if two of Bush's future top defence officials were already planting the seeds for an attack five years ago?

To the big money received by preferred companies formerly run by White House officials (May, 2003):

Halliburton Corp., the second largest oil services company in world, is the poster child for corporate greed and terror. And it seems that nothing will stop Vice President Dick Cheney's old company from repeatedly breaking the law to save and earn mountains of cash.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this week, Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton unit that won a controversial no-bid contract to extinguish Iraqi oil well fires, disclosed that it paid $2.4 million in bribes to a Nigerian tax official to obtain favorable tax treatment in the country where it's building a natural gas plant and an offshore oil and gas facility.

The bribes were paid between 2001 and 2002 to "an entity owned by a Nigerian national who held himself out as a tax consultant, when in fact he was an employee of a local tax authority," the company said in the SEC filing, which was discovered during an internal audit...

...News of KBR's expanded role in Iraq prompted criticism from some congressional critics who were under the impression that the company's job would be limited to putting out fires and repairing damage to Iraq's rich petroleum fields. The Army Corps of Engineers said KBR actually had been authorized under the original contract to operate and distribute oil produced in Iraq, but the Corps of Engineers played down that aspect of the deal in its initial communications with Congress and the media. For pumping oil from Iraq's oil fields and importing gasoline and propane from Turkey and other countries, Halliburton will receive $24 million, raising to $76.8 million the amount it will have received since being awarded the contract in March, said Scott Saunders, a spokesman for the Corps of Engineers. Saunders said the Halliburton subsidiary now is pumping 125,000 barrels of oil a day, far short of the demand that is expected to reach 400,000 barrels.

Meanwhile, while KBR is skirting U.S. laws and profiting off rebuilding Iraq's oil fields, the SEC is still investigating the company for alleged accounting fraud. The SEC is examining how Halliburton booked and disclosed cost overruns on construction contracts beginning in 1998, when Cheney was chief executive officer. The SEC, according to a lawyer familiar with the matter, has not contacted Cheney. Cheney's office confirmed he hasn't been questioned, Reuters reported.

The company said Thursday it turned over about 300,000 documents to the SEC, a process that "is essentially complete," according to a regulatory filing. The company said it is continuing to make people available to testify under subpoenas.

... Michael Hastings, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, James Risen and other practitioners of adversarial journalism all tried to get these stories out in front of the people. Many ended up on web based publications like "Salon," "AlterNet," "Truthout," "Buzzfeed" or outside the US, published in Al Jazeera or the The Guardian.

Even today, 12 years after "Shock and Awe" (Isn't that a great soundbyte?), many in America still think Saddam Hussein was building WMDs; Iraqis welcomed us as "saviors" (Cheney, circa 2003); and the 6 slaughters of Fallujah were well justified.  Many still believe Guantanamo is a "resort" filled with evil terrorists, that they were all captured on the battlefield trying to kill Americans, and that torture works.


America (and the rest of the planet) needs more Amy Goodmans, Jeremy Scahills, Jason Leopolds, Michael Hastings, Glenn Greenwalds, Laura Poitras', and James Risens but get more Bill O'Reillys, Brian Williams', David Gregorys, and Chuck Todds.  Talking heads replace investigative journalists and propaganda replaces adversarial journalism.

We need journalists with big brass balls instead of tiny, fearful hearts.

Monday, February 23, 2015

From Al Jazeera: Spy Cables expose 'desperate' US approach to Hamas

Spy Cables expose 'desperate' US approach to Hamas

A CIA agent "desperate" to make contact with Hamas in Gaza pleaded for help from a South African spy in the summer of 2012, according to intelligence files leaked to Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit. The US lists Hamas as a terrorist organisation and, officially at least, has no contact with the group. That was just one…

Friday, January 30, 2015

Transparency & Accountability: The war on journalists, activists & whistleblowers took 2 more casualties

"The Scales of Justice" - (Sodahead.com)


AGENDA-ETHICS
...Protect Whistleblowers: Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.
  Change.gov            
Office of the President-Elect


In 2008, then candidate, Barack Obama, railed against the paradigm of secrecy and the lack of accountability as displayed by the US government. He promised, repeatedly, if elected, he will bring true transparency and accountability to the White House and the government. He would respect, support and protect whistleblowers; He would stop the revolving door between government and lobbyists and he would protect Americans from the overreach of surveillance...


Floor Statement General Michael Hayden Nomination

TOPIC: Foreign Policy & Defense
May 25, 2006
Senator Barack Obama
Floor Statement General Michael Hayden Nomination
Complete Text
Mr. President.

Let me start by saying that General Hayden is extremely well qualified for this position. Having previously served as head of the National Security Agency and as Deputy Director of National Intelligence under John Negroponte, he has thirty years of experience in intelligence and national security matters. And he was nearly universally praised during his confirmation to deputy DNI.

Unfortunately, General Hayden is being nominated under troubling circumstances as the architect and chief defender of a program of wiretapping and collection of phone records outside of FISA oversight. This is a program that is still accountable to no one and no law.

Now, there is no one in this Congress who doesn't want President Bush to have every tool at his disposal to prevent terrorist attacks - including the use of a surveillance program. Every single American - Democrat and Republican -- who remembers the images of falling towers and needless death would gladly support increased surveillance to prevent another attack.

But over the last six months, Americans have learned that the National Security Agency has been spying on Americans without judicial approval. We learned about this not from the Administration, but from the New York Times and USA Today. Every time a revelation came out, President Bush refused to answer questions from Congress.

This is part of a general stance by this Administration that it can operate with no restraints. President Bush is interpreting Article II of the Constitution as giving him authority with no bounds. The Attorney General and a hand full of scholars agree with this view, and I don't doubt the sincerity with which the President and his lawyers believe this constitutional interpretation. However, the overwhelming weight of legal authority is against the President on his unbounded authority without any checks or balances. This is not how our Constitution is designed.

We don't expect the President to give the American people every detail about a classified surveillance program. But we do expect him to place such a program within the rule of law, and to allow members of the other two coequal branches of government - Congress and the Judiciary - to have the ability to monitor and oversee such a program. Our Constitution and our right to privacy as Americans require as much.

Unfortunately, we were never given the chance to make that examination. Time and again, President Bush has refused to come clean to Congress. Why was it that 14 of 16 members of the Intelligence Committee were kept in the dark for four and a half years? The only reason that some Senators are now being briefed is because the story was made public. Without that information it is impossible to make the decisions that allow us to balance the need to fight terrorism while still upholding the rule of law and privacy protections that make this country great.

Every democracy is tested when it is faced with a serious threat. As a nation, we have to find the right balance between privacy and security, between executive authority to face threats and uncontrolled power. What protects us, and what distinguishes us, are the procedures we put in place to protect that balance, namely judicial warrants and congressional review. These aren't arbitrary ideas. These are the concrete safeguards that make sure that surveillance hasn't gone too far. That someone is watching the watchers.

The exact details of these safeguards are not etched in stone. They can be reevaluated from time to time. The last time we had a major overhaul of the intelligence apparatus was 30 years ago in the aftermath of Watergate. After those dark days, the White House worked in a collaborative way with Congress through the Church Committee to study the issue, revise intelligence laws and set up a system of checks and balances. It worked then and it could work now. But unfortunately, this Administration has made no effort to reach out to Congress and tailor FISA.

I have no doubt that General Hayden will be confirmed. But I am going to reluctantly vote against him to send a signal to this Administration that even in these circumstances President Bush is not above the law. I am voting against Hayden in the hope that he will be more humble before the great weight of responsibility that he has, not only to protect our lives, but to protect our democracy.

Americans fought a Revolution in part over the right to be free from unreasonable searches - to ensure that our government couldn't come knocking in the middle of the night for no reason. We need to find a way forward to make sure that we can stop terrorists while protecting the privacy, and liberty, of innocent Americans. We have to find a way to give the President the power he needs to protect us, while making sure he doesn't abuse that power. It is possible to do that. We have done it before, we could do it again.


Since his election, now President Obama has touted his administration as the "most transparent and accountable" administration in US history, a protector of whistleblowers, a respecter of Constitutional freedom and rights to privacy; a champion of justice and due process. - the facts state otherwise.

The current administration jailed John Kiriakou - a former CIA officer from 1990-2004, who blew the whistle on torture and now sitting in prison since 2013; persecuted Snowden - who blew the whistle on the NSA spying on everyone and now living in the Soviet Union for another couple of years until a review comes up as to his status or until he can seek asylum in another nation - through cancellation of his passport (then demanded he travel internationally knowing full well he  could not),intimidation (and intimidation of other nations), threats to family and friends and in the media; persecuted, tortured, prosecuted, and jailed Chelsea Manning - a former US military service member who downloaded and released the "War Logs" to WikiLeaks to include a video of the murder of civilians and a journalist by the US Military and now sits in prison; continued the prosecution, indictment and persecution of Thomas Drake - charged secretly and formally under the Espionage Act for "leaking" information on the NSA ; prosecuted and/or jailed multiple individuals for actions as part of the collective known as Anonymous when they obtained and released information proving "Security Corporations" were involved in activities to include contracting with corporations and foreign nations to spy on and obtain private information on individuals (just who is committing espionage?), activists and organizations - a violation of all of our civil and human rights; persecuted and prosecuted activists like Aaron Swartz (Swartz committed suicide after months of fighting the DOJ's persecution for a crime that even the "victim" refused to pursue).

Over the past week, we have witnessed 2 more people failed by the US system of "Justice"; 2 more fall at the hands of an administration hell bent on preventing a transparent and accountable government; hell bent on ignoring the basic promise of the US Constitution that includes the right to free speech (and the right to protest), the right to a free press (and journalist's afforded the right to protect their sources), the right to a fair and speedy trial (to include the ability to confront one's accusers and their evidence in an open court as well as present an affirmative defense), and the right to privacy.  These two are not simply a few "perps" convicted of "lawbreaking" - they are a bellwether for what seems to be a growing attack on journalists, activists and whistleblowers.



The Cruel and Unusual Case of Barrett Brown:

Last Thursday, January 22, Barrett Brown, journalist and activist, was sentenced to 63 months (minus the 30 months he has already spent in jail awaiting his trial and sentencing) and has been ordered to pay $890,000 in restitution for "making threats against an FBI agent, obstruction of a search warrant, and assisting the Anonymous hackers who infiltrated and gutted Austin, Texas–based intelligence company Stratfor" (Slate, "Bad, Bad Barrett Brown" by Gabriella Coleman, January 23, 2015).  A sentence that may leave Brown an indentured servant to the State for the rest of his life, or face more jail time.

For those unfamiliar with Brown, Barrett has been a journalist writing for some of the most  recognized publications to include the Guardian, Vanity Fair, and Huffington Post; he has written two critically acclaimed books; and has been involved in  activism for years.  His statements, articles and actions have given rise to more than a little anger by a government that deludes itself with the idea that it is "a shining beacon of hope" or a "golden city on the Hill."

From DemocracyNow!, July 11, 2013:
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As NSA leaker Edward Snowden remains at a Moscow airport, Army whistleblower Bradley Manning is on trial, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, today we look at the strange story of another man tied to the world of cyber-activism who faces over a hundred years in prison. His name is Barrett Brown. He’s an investigative reporter with ties to the hacking collective Anonymous. He has spent the past 300 days in jail and has been denied bail. He faces 17 charges, ranging from threatening an FBI agent to credit card fraud for posting a link online to a document that contained stolen credit card data. But according to his supporters, Brown is being unfairly targeted for daring to investigate the highly secretive world of private intelligence and military contractors.

AMY GOODMAN: Before Brown’s path crossed with the FBI, he frequently contributed to Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, The Guardian and other news outlets. In 2009, Brown created Project PM, which was, quote, "dedicated to investigating private government contractors working in the secretive fields of cybersecurity, intelligence and surveillance." He was particularly interested in the documents leaked by WikiLeaks and Anonymous. In the documentary We Are Legion, Barrett Brown explains the importance of information obtained by hackers.

BARRETT BROWN: Some of the most important things that have been—have had the most far-reaching influence and have been the most important in terms of what’s been discovered, not just by Anonymous, but by the media in the aftermath, is the result of hacking. That information can’t be obtained by institutional journalistic process, or it can’t be obtained or won’t be obtained by a congressional committee or a federal oversight committee. For the most part, that information has to be, you know, obtained by hackers.

AMY GOODMAN: In 2011, the group Anonymous hacked into the computer system of the private security firm HBGary Federal and disclosed thousands of internal emails. Barrett Brown has not been accused of being involved in the hack, but he did read and analyze the documents, eventually crowdsourcing the effort through Project PM. One of the first things he discovered was a plan to tarnish the reputations of WikiLeaks and sympathetic journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian. Brown similarly analyzed and wrote about the millions of internal company emails for Stratfor Global Intelligence that were leaked on Christmas Eve 2011. Shortly thereafter, the FBI acquired a warrant for Brown’s laptop and authority to seize any information from his communications—or, in journalism parlance, his sources. In September 2012, a troupe of armed agents surged into Brown’s apartment in Dallas, Texas, and handcuffed him face down on the floor. He has been in prison ever since.


From BoingBoing ("Barrett Brown’s sentence is unjust, but it may become the norm for journalists," by Trevor Timm, January 26, 2015:

Brown—a longtime journalist and activist has written for Vanity Fair, the Onion, and the Guardian—has been the subject of a controversial government witchhunt for more than two years now, stemming from his association with members of the hacker collective Anonymous and his own journalism website known as “Project PM,” which investigated shadowy intelligence contractors like Booz Allen (long before Edward Snowden made them a household name).

The FBI relentlessly pursued Brown for his relationship with source and hacker Jeremy Hammond, who last year pled guilty to hacking into Stratfor, the intelligence contractor whose emails were the subject of that notorious link. It’s important to note: the FBI never accused Brown of hacking. (For more on this, read Anonymous expert Biella Coleman in Slate: “Barrett Brown isn’t a hacker, but he’s being punished like one.”)

However, the FBI would eventually charge Brown with obstruction of justice and threatening an FBI agent that stemmed from his reaction to their hacking investigation, and also included a charge of “trafficking” in stolen information for merely sharing a hyperlink with his collaborators on Project PM.

The hyperlink, which Brown just copied from an Anonymous chatroom into a private Project PM chatroom, led to a trove of the Statfor documents, some which contained newsworthy information, and some which also contained private credentials. In other words, it’s the type of link journalists share between each other and on Twitter all the time.

After Brown’s lawyers wrote a blistering legal brief accusing the Justice Department of violating the First Amendment, the government swiftly drop the linking indictment, but Brown eventually had to plead guilty to three lesser charges (including threatening an FBI agent, which Brown freely admitted in court was wrong and stupid).

But you’d think that would be the end of trying to punish him for linking. But at the sentencing hearing on Thursday, the Justice Department again brought the hyperlink up, arguing that even though Brown was NOT charged for the linking to a public document, he should still be punished more for his other crimes because it is “relevant conduct.”

So instead of being sentenced for just his crimes, Brown—as explained in detail by his defense attorney Marlo Cadeddu—got at least a year more in jail because the judge accepted the argument sharing a hyperlink—his First Amendment right, mind you—should factor into a longer sentence.

Barrett Brown's allocution statement to the court (Free Barrett Brown, "Barrett Brown’s allocution / sentencing statement," January 22, 2015):

Good afternoon, Your Honor.

The allocution I give today is going to be a bit different from the sort that usually concludes a sentencing hearing, because this is an unusual case touching upon unusual issues. It is also a very public case, not only in the sense that it has been followed closely by the public, but also in the sense that it has implications for the public, and even in the sense that the public has played a major role, because, of course, the great majority of the funds for my legal defense was donated by the public. And so now I have three duties that I must carry out. I must express my regret, but I must also express my gratitude. And I also have to take this opportunity to ensure that the public understands what has been at stake in this case, and why it has proceeded in the way that it has. Because, of course, the public didn’t simply pay for my defense through its donations, they also paid for my prosecution through its tax dollars. And the public has a right to know what it is paying for. And Your Honor has a need to know what he is ruling on.

First I will speak of regret. Like nearly all federal defendants, I hope to convince Your Honor that I sincerely regret some of the things that I have done. I don’t think anyone doubts that I regret quite a bit about my life including some of the things that brought me here today. Your Honor has the Acceptance of Responsibility document that my counsel submitted to you. Every word of it was sincere. The videos were idiotic, and although I made them in a manic state brought on by sudden withdrawal from Paxil and Suboxone, and while distraught over the threats to prosecute my mother, that’s still me in those YouTube clips talking nonsense about how the FBI would never take me alive. Likewise, I didn’t have the right to hide my files from the FBI during a lawful investigation, and I would’ve had a better chance of protecting my contacts in foreign countries if I had pursued the matter in the courts after the raid, rather than stupidly trying to hide those laptops in the kitchen cabinet as my mother and I did that morning. And with regard to the accessory after the fact charge relating to my efforts to redact sensitive emails after the Stratfor hack, I’ve explained to Your Honor that I do not want to be a hypocrite. If I criticize the government for breaking the law but then break the law myself in an effort to reveal their wrongdoing, I should expect to be punished just as I’ve called for the criminals at government-linked firms like HBGary and Palantir to be punished. When we start fighting crime by any means necessary we become guilty of the same hypocrisy as law enforcement agencies throughout history that break the rules to get the villains, and so become villains themselves.

I’m going to say a few more words about my regrets in a moment, but now I’m going to get to the unusual part of the allocution. I’m going to make some criticisms of the manner in which the government has pursued this case. Normally this sort of thing is left to one’s lawyers rather than the defendant, because to do otherwise runs the risk of making the defendant seem combative rather than contrite. But I think Your Honor can walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. I think Your Honor understands that one can regret the unjust things one has done, while also being concerned about the unjust things that have been done to him. And based on certain statements that Your Honor has made, as well as one particular ruling, I have cause to believe that Your Honor will understand and perhaps even sympathize with the unusual responsibility I have which makes it necessary that I point out some things very briefly.

I do so with respect to Your Honor. I also do it for selfish reasons, because I want to make absolutely certain that Your Honor is made aware that the picture the government has presented to you is a false one. But it is also my duty to make this clear as this case does not just affect me. Even aside from the several First Amendment issues that have already been widely discussed as a result of this case, there is also the matter of the dozens of people around the world who have contributed to my distributed think tank, Project PM, by writing for our public website, echelon2.org. Incredibly, the government has declared these contributors — some of them journalists — to be criminals, and participants in a criminal conspiracy. As such, the government sought from this court a subpoena by which to obtain the identities of all of our contributors. Your Honor denied that motion and I am very grateful to Your Honor for having done so. Unfortunately the government thereafter went around Your Honor and sought to obtain these records by other means. So now the dozens of people who have given their time and expertise to what has been hailed by journalists and advocacy groups as a crucial journalistic enterprise are now at risk of being indicted under the same sort of spurious charges that I was facing not long ago, when the government exposed me to decades of prison time for copying and pasting a link to a publicly available file that other journalists were also linking to without being prosecuted. The fact that the government has still asked you to punish me for that link is proof, if any more were needed, that those of us who advocate against secrecy are to be pursued without regard for the rule of law, or even common decency.

Your Honor, I understand that this is my sentencing hearing and not an inquiry into the government’s conduct. This is not the place to go into the dozens of demonstrable errors and contradictions to be found in the government’s documentation, and the testimony by the government. But it would be hypocritical of me to protest the government’s conduct and not provide Your Honor with an example. I will do so very briefly. At the September 13th bond hearing, held in Magistrate Judge Stickney’s court the day after my arrest, Special Agent Allyn Lynd took the stand and claimed under oath that in reviewing my laptops he had found discussions in which I admit having engaged in, quote, “SWATting”, unquote, which he referred to as, quote, “violent activity”, unquote. Your Honor may not be familiar with the term SWATting; as Mr. Lynd described it at the hearing it is, quote, “where they try to place a false 911 call to the residence of an individual in order to endanger that individual.” He went on at elaborate length about this, presenting it as a key reason why I should not receive bond. Your Honor will have noted that this has never come up again. This is because Mr. Lynd’s claims were entirely untrue. But that did not stop him from making that claim, any more than it stopped him from claiming that I have lived in the Middle East, a region I have never actually had the pleasure of visiting.

Your Honor, this is just one example from a single hearing. But if Your Honor can extrapolate from that, Your Honor can probably get a sense of how much value can be placed on the rest of the government’s testimony in this case. Likewise, Your Honor can probably understand the concerns I have about what my contributors might be subjected to by the government if this sort of behavior proves effective today. Naturally I hope Your Honor will keep this in mind, and I hope that other judges in this district will as well, because, again, there remains great concern that my associates will be the next to be indicted.

I’ve tried to protect my contributors, Your Honor, and I’ve also tried to protect the public’s right to link to source materials without being subject to misuse of the statutes. Last year, when the government offered me a plea bargain whereby I would plead to just one of the eleven fraud charges related to the linking, and told me it was final, I turned it down. To have accepted that plea, with a two-year sentence, would have been convenient. Your Honor will note that I actually did eventually plea to an accessory charge carrying potentially more prison time — but it would have been wrong. Even aside from the obvious fact that I did not commit fraud, and thus couldn’t sign on to any such thing, to do so would have also constituted a dangerous precedent, and it would have endangered my colleagues each of whom could now have been depicted as a former associate of a convicted fraudster. And it would have given the government, and particularly the FBI, one more tool by which to persecute journalists and activists whose views they find to be dangerous or undesirable.

Journalists are especially vulnerable right now, Your Honor, and they become more so when the FBI feels comfortable making false claims about them. And in response to our motion to dismiss the charges of obstruction of justice based on the hiding of my laptops, the government claimed that those laptops contained evidence of a plot I orchestrated to attack the Kingdom of Bahrain on the orders of Amber Lyon. Your Honor, Amber Lyon is a journalist and former CNN reporter, who I do know and respect, but I can assure Your Honor that I am not in the habit of attacking Gulf state monarchies on her behalf. But I think it’s unjust of them to use this court to throw out that sort of claim about Miss Lyon in a public filing as they did if they’re not prepared to back it up. And they’re not prepared to back it up. But that won’t stop the Kingdom of Bahrain from repeating this groundless assertion and perhaps even using it to keep Miss Lyon out of the country — because she has indeed reported on the Bahraini monarchy’s violent crackdowns on pro-democracy protests in that country, and she has done so from that country. And if she ever returns to that country to continue that important work, she’ll now be subject to arrest on the grounds that the United States Department of Justice itself has explicitly accused her of orchestrating an attack on that country’s government.

Your Honor, this is extraordinary. Miss Lyon isn’t the only journalist that’s been made less secure legally by this prosecution. Every journalist in the United States is put at risk by the novel, and sometimes even radical, claims that the government has introduced in the course of the sentencing process. The government asserts that I am not a journalist and thus unable to claim the First Amendment protections guaranteed to those engaged in information-gathering activities. Your Honor, I’ve been employed as a journalist for much of my adult life, I’ve written for dozens of magazines and newspapers, and I’m the author of two published and critically-acclaimed books of expository non-fiction. Your Honor has received letters from editors who have published my journalistic work, as well as from award-winning journalists such as Glenn Greenwald, who note that they have used that work in their own articles. If I am not a journalist, then there are many, many people out there who are also not journalists, without being aware of it, and who are thus as much at risk as I am.

Your Honor, it would be one thing if the government were putting forth some sort of standard by which journalists could be defined. They have not put forth such a standard. Their assertion rests on the fact that despite having referred to myself as a journalist hundreds of times, I at one point rejected that term, much in the same way that someone running for office might reject the term “politician”. Now, if the government is introducing a new standard whereby anyone who once denies being a particular thing is no longer that thing in any legal sense, then that would be at least a firm and knowable criteria. But that’s not what the government is doing in this case. Consider, for instance, that I have denied being a spokesperson for Anonymous hundreds of times, both in public and private, ever since the press began calling me that in the beginning of 2011. So on a couple of occasions when I contacted executives of contracting firms like Booz Allen Hamilton in the wake of revelations that they’d been spying on my associates and me for reasons that we were naturally rather anxious to determine, I did indeed pretend to be such an actual official spokesman for Anonymous, because I wanted to encourage these people to talk to me. Which they did.

Of course, I have explained this many, many times, and the government itself knows this, even if they’ve since claimed otherwise. In the September 13th criminal complaint filed against me, the FBI itself acknowledges that I do not claim any official role within Anonymous. Likewise, in last month’s hearing, the prosecutor accidentally slipped and referred to me as a journalist, even after having previously found it necessary to deny me that title. But, there you have it. Deny being a spokesperson for Anonymous hundreds of times, and you’re still a spokesperson for Anonymous. Deny being a journalist once or twice, and you’re not a journalist. What conclusion can one draw from this sort of reasoning other than that you are whatever the FBI finds it convenient for you to be at any given moment. This is not the “rule of law”, Your Honor, it is the “rule of law enforcement”, and it is very dangerous.

Your Honor, I am asking you to give me a time-served sentence of thirty months today because to do otherwise will have the effect of rewarding this sort of reckless conduct on the part of the government. I am also asking for that particular sentence because, as my lawyer Marlo Cadeddu, an acknowledged expert on the guidelines, has pointed out, that’s what the actual facts of the case would seem to warrant. And the public, to the extent that it has made its voice heard through letters and donations and even op-eds in major newspapers, also believes that the circumstances of this case warrant that I be released today. I would even argue that the government itself believes that the facts warrant my release today, because look at all the lies they decided they would have to tell to keep me in prison.

I thank you for your indulgence, Your Honor, and I want to conclude by thanking everyone who supported me over the last few years. I need to single out one person in particular, Kevin Gallagher, who contributed to my Project PM group, and who stepped up immediately after my arrest to build up a citizens’ initiative by which to raise money for my defense, and to spread the word about what was at stake in this case. For the two and a half years of my incarceration, Kevin has literally spent the bulk of his free time in working to give me my life back. He is one of the extraordinary people who have given of themselves to make possible this great and beautiful movement of ours, this movement to protect activists and journalists from secretive and extra-legal retaliation by powerful corporate actors with ties to the state. Your Honor, Kevin Gallagher is not a relative of mine, or a childhood friend. This is only the third time I’ve been in the same room with him. Nonetheless, he has dedicated two years of his life to ensure that I had the best possible lawyers on this case, and to ensure that the press understood what was at stake here. Your Honor, he set up something on Amazon.com whereby I could ask for books on a particular subject and supporters could buy them and have them sent to me. And he spoke to my mother several times a week. During that early period when I was facing over a hundred years worth of charges, and it wasn’t clear whether or not I would be coming home, he would offer support and reassurance to her, an effort that I will never be able to repay. He knows how much I regret the pain and heartbreak that my family has suffered throughout this ordeal.

A few weeks ago, Kevin got a job at the Freedom of The Press Foundation, one of the world’s most justifiably respected advocacy organizations. And, according to the government, he is also a member of a criminal organization, because, like dozens of journalists and activists across the world, he has been a contributor to Project PM, and the government has declared Project PM to be a criminal enterprise. I think that the government is wrong about Kevin, Your Honor, but that is not why I’ve brought him up. And although I am very glad for the opportunity to express my gratitude to him in a public setting, there are some gifts for which conventional gratitude is an insufficient payment. One can only respond to such gifts by working to become the sort of person that actually deserves to receive them. A thank-you will not suffice, and so I am not bringing him up here merely to thank him. Instead, I am using him in my defense. Your Honor, this very noble person, this truly exemplary citizen of the republic who takes his citizenship seriously rather than taking it for granted, knows pretty much everything there is to know about me — my life, my past, my work, from the things I’ve done and the things I’ve left undone, to the things I should not have done to begin with — and he has given himself over to the cause of freeing me today. He is the exact sort of person I tried to recruit for the crucial work we do at Project PM. I am so proud to have someone like him doing so much for me.

Your Honor, the last thing I will say in my own defense is that so many people like Kevin Gallagher have worked so hard on my behalf. And having now said all those things that I felt the need to say, I respectfully accept Your Honor’s decision in my sentencing.

Thank you.
The case of Barrett Brown proves that the US "Justice" system will allow for journalists to be prosecuted for their stories if those stories don't reflect the current paradigm promoted by that system; it will protect private corporations before the public interest; and will use manipulation tactics and innuendo to effect the sentencing of journalists instead of provable facts.

The obscene sentence handed down in the Brown case, based in part on an unproven and untried charge, should strike anger in any people still deluding themselves that "the American Justice System" is a fair process or still believing they have any Constitutionally guaranteed "Free Press." 

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, second from left, leaves the Alexandria Federal Courthouse, Jan. 26, 2015, in Alexandria, Va., with his wife, Holly, second from right, attorney Barry Pollack, right, and attorney Edward MacMahon, after his conviction. KEVIN WOLF/AP

The long and winding circumstantial case against Jeffrey Sterling:

Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer turned whistleblower, left the CIA in 2002...

"...As for Sterling, [John] Brennan played a role in his unhappy departure from the CIA a dozen years ago. In 2000, Sterling filed a discrimination complaint within the agency, asserting that he had been denied certain assignments because of his race. (Sterling was one of the CIA’s few African-American officers.) Brennan, as deputy executive director, was involved in rejecting Sterling’s claim. Sterling responded by suing the CIA; he was fired in 2002. The CIA rebuffed a number of settlement offers and then won dismissal of the entire lawsuit in 2004 after claiming that the litigation would expose state secrets.

In early March 2003, Sterling met with two Senate Intelligence Committee staffers to report that Operation Merlin—the CIA’s ill-conceived and bungled effort in 2000 to use a former Russian scientist to pass flawed nuclear-weapons blueprints to Iran—may have helped Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The government concedes that Sterling went through proper channels when he “disclosed classified information” to committee staff. (In court documents, the prosecution has complained that Sterling was unfairly critical of that operation when he spoke to committee staffers.)

The story of both "Operation Merlin" and US government warrantless wire-tapping under the GW Bush administration were exposed in Journalist James Risen's book, State of War, after the journalist's repeated attempts to get his employer, The New York Times, to publish his exposes over 6 years.

One might ask, what stopped The New York Times from publishing the stories?  The Times met with Bush Administration officials who threatened the paper and James Risen - a violation of the 1931 Supreme Court decision in the case, Near v Minnesota, the 1971 Supreme Court decision in New York Times Co. vs. United States, and the 1976 Supreme Court decision in Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart.

Once the book was published, the persecution of, both, John Risen and Jeffrey Sterling escalated - James Risen because he refused to reveal his source for the stories; Jeffrey Sterling because the CIA and the Bush DOJ,  Alberto Gonzales, decided that the stories "had" to come from Sterling.

Again, from The Nation:

Alarm bells had gone off as soon as the National Security Council got a bootlegged copy of State of War before its publication. Frantic skimming of the book alighted on its final chapter, devoted to the highly classified and embarrassing story of Operation Merlin. On the last day of 2005, officials at an emergency White House meeting tried to figure out how to block distribution. “As best anyone could tell, the books were printed in bulk and stacked somewhere in warehouses,” Rizzo’s memoir recalls. “We arrived at a rueful consensus: game over as far as any realistic possibility to keep the book, and the classified information in it, from getting out.”

The leak investigation of Sterling stretched over seven years, from suspicion in 2003 to indictment in 2010. The Justice Department has sought to justify the delay by relying on a McCarthy-era extension of the statutes of limitation associated with charges against him, and by holding Sterling responsible for the publication of Risen’s book chapter rather than for the conversations the two men allegedly had back in 2003.

The US government has been relentless in its pursuit of Risen in the Sterling investigation. Along with serving three subpoenas on the reporter, the DOJ obtained his credit reports, travel records, credit-card records and bank records. “One former official was asked to sign a document stating he was not a confidential source for New York Times reporter James Risen,” ABC News reported in May 2006. And the government appears to have obtained Risen’s phone records without alerting him, as required by DOJ guidelines. In an affidavit, Risen said that a witness who testified to the grand jury investigating the domestic wiretapping story had been shown “copies of telephone records relating to calls made to and from me.”

In its 2011 Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, the FBI formally authorized the use of national-security letters to obtain the call records of journalists who are witnesses to a crime. (NSLs are secret orders that the FBI can issue with no judicial review. Recipients are prohibited from telling anyone they’ve received such an order.) The FBI has not publicly changed this policy despite the attorney general’s revised guidelines issued last year and touted as protection for the press. The judge in the Sterling case, Leonie Brinkema, even pointed out that the government has never said whether prosecutors have recordings of Sterling’s conversations with Risen, indicating that she may suspect they do.

The way the Justice Department has constructed its legal case against Risen reeks of retaliation. With the rationale of seeking to rule out people other than Sterling as his sources, the government says it wants to make Risen go through the book’s offending chapter—statement by statement—and identify his sources by alias, at least, to indicate when he learned a certain fact. Such a process could implicate other sources. Given the small universe of people who knew about Operation Merlin (at least according to the government’s claims), such an extent of detail would likely identify all of Risen’s sources, regardless of any role Sterling may have had.

Meanwhile, the prosecution claims that Sterling lied about the details of Operation Merlin in order to get the Senate Intelligence Committee as well as Risen interested in the story. According to a government brief in Sterling’s case, “The grand jury specifically found that the defendant provided information to Risen in a false and misleading manner specifically as a means of inducing Risen to write about it, thus severely undercutting any First Amendment protection to be afforded that information.” (The government even claims that Sterling lied about believing that the Merlin scheme might help, rather than hurt, Iran’s nuclear ambitions.) But according to Rizzo’s memoir, the CIA came to very different conclusions about the accuracy of Risen’s reporting on Operation Merlin. The memoir, which went through CIA review and approval before publication, says the CIA’s chief of operations “confirmed that the details largely were all too distressingly accurate and damaging to CIA sources and methods.” In its prosecution of Sterling, the Justice Department is telling a notably different tale.

Legal maneuvers and contradictions aside, the government insists that such strenuous prosecution efforts are all about safeguarding the CIA’s “sources and methods” to collect information and run covert ops. But neither Risen nor Sterling had anything to do with the serious damage to sources and methods in Iran that the CIA actually suffered during the Bush years. Rather than being caused by journalism or whistleblowing, that damage was entirely self-inflicted. In 2004, an officer at the agency’s headquarters in Virginia mistakenly sent data to an agent that “could be used to identify virtually every spy the CIA had inside Iran,” Risen reported in his book. The mistake morphed into spook disaster when it turned out that the supposed CIA agent on the receiving end was a double agent. Wrote Risen: “The agent quickly turned the data over to Iranian security officials, and it enabled them to ‘roll up’ the CIA’s agent network throughout Iran.” But CIA leaders have no interest in acknowledging their Iran-related failures. Instead, they’ve made vague assertions that Sterling and Risen have caused harm. “All too frequently,” Risen points out, “the government claims that publication of certain information will harm national security, when in reality, the government’s real concern is about covering up its own wrongdoing or avoiding embarrassment.”
The DOJ finally dropped their case against Risen.  On January 12, 2015, it decided that it would no longer seek to compel James Risen to testify in the case they were continuing against Jeffrey Sterling.

For Sterling, now charged under the "Espionage Act," Obama's DOJ was not so "magnanimous."  On Monday, January 26, 2015, Jeffrey Sterling was convicted in a completely circumstantial case .


"... Because, along the way to the conviction of Sterling this week on all nine counts – including seven counts under the Espionage Act — something far more banal yet every bit as dear to D.C.’s economy of secrets may have been criminalized: unclassified tips.

To understand why that’s true, you need to know a bit about how the Department of Justice larded on charges against Sterling to get to what represents a potential 80-year maximum sentence (though he’s unlikely to get that). Sterling was accused — and ultimately convicted — of leaking two related things: First, information about the Merlin operation to deal flawed nuclear blueprints to Iran, as well as the involvement of a Russian engineer referred to as Merlin in the trial. In addition to that, the government charged Sterling separately for leaking a document (one which the FBI never found, in anyone’s possession): a letter Merlin included along with the nuclear blueprints he wrapped in a newspaper and left in the mailbox of Iran’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency. So the government convicted Sterling of leaking two things: information about the operation, and a letter that was used in the operation.

Then, having distinguished the operation from the letter, DOJ started multiplying. They charged Sterling for leaking the operation to Risen, then charged him for causing Risen to attempt to write a 2003 New York Times article about it, then charged him for causing Risen to publish a book chapter about it: one leak, three counts of espionage.

Then they charged Sterling for improperly retaining the letter (again, FBI never found it, not in CIA’s possession, not in Sterling’s possession, and Merlin purportedly destroyed his version before anyone could find it in his possession). Then DOJ charged Sterling for leaking the letter to Risen, then charged him for causing Risen to attempt to write a 2003 New York Times article including it, then charged him for causing Risen to publish a book chapter including verbatim excerpts from it (apparently Risen is a better investigator than FBI, because he found a copy): one letter, four more counts under the Espionage Act.

The participants in the economy of shared tips and intelligence in Washington D.C., breathed a collective sigh of relief when, on January 12, the government announced it would not force James Risen to testify in the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling. “Press freedom was safe! Our trade in leaks is safe!” observers seemed to conclude, and they returned to their squalid celebration of an oppressive Saudi monarch.

That celebration about information sharing is likely premature. Because, along the way to the conviction of Sterling this week on all nine counts – including seven counts under the Espionage Act — something far more banal yet every bit as dear to D.C.’s economy of secrets may have been criminalized: unclassified tips.

To understand why that’s true, you need to know a bit about how the Department of Justice larded on charges against Sterling to get to what represents a potential 80-year maximum sentence (though he’s unlikely to get that). Sterling was accused — and ultimately convicted — of leaking two related things: First, information about the Merlin operation to deal flawed nuclear blueprints to Iran, as well as the involvement of a Russian engineer referred to as Merlin in the trial. In addition to that, the government charged Sterling separately for leaking a document (one which the FBI never found, in anyone’s possession): a letter Merlin included along with the nuclear blueprints he wrapped in a newspaper and left in the mailbox of Iran’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency. So the government convicted Sterling of leaking two things: information about the operation, and a letter that was used in the operation.

Then, having distinguished the operation from the letter, DOJ started multiplying. They charged Sterling for leaking the operation to Risen, then charged him for causing Risen to attempt to write a 2003 New York Times article about it, then charged him for causing Risen to publish a book chapter about it: one leak, three counts of espionage.

Then they charged Sterling for improperly retaining the letter (again, FBI never found it, not in CIA’s possession, not in Sterling’s possession, and Merlin purportedly destroyed his version before anyone could find it in his possession). Then DOJ charged Sterling for leaking the letter to Risen, then charged him for causing Risen to attempt to write a 2003 New York Times article including it, then charged him for causing Risen to publish a book chapter including verbatim excerpts from it (apparently Risen is a better investigator than FBI, because he found a copy): one letter, four more counts under the Espionage Act.

Altogether, seven counts of spying, for one leak.

Here’s the really scary part though: the jury convicted Sterling based entirely on circumstantial evidence: there was not one shred of evidence showing Sterling handing Risen classified information on the operation, the Russian asset, or the letter that Risen found but FBI could not."

Sterling will be sentenced April, 2015.  The CIA thinks they will "save" their reputation (not even by a long shot will that happen) and the Obama Administration will have another bright, bloody red feather in their cap on "leaks" and "protection of whistleblowers" sham.

The Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act of 1917 than any other president in history.  Since 1917, 11 people have been charged and prosecuted under the "Act," 8 of whom have been prosecuted under the Obama Administration.  

I imagine Jeffrey Sterling's conviction, in only 7 days, must have sent "whoops" of celebratory "congratulations" through the Capitol - "Hey, guys, we finally got another one!"

For the people who still actually believe in transparency and accountability, Constitutional rights, and the right of the people to know what the hell is being done in our name,  Jeffrey Sterling's conviction should enrage us all.


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