Sunday, February 10, 2013

A New Manhattan Project


The Cedar Creek wind farm east of Grover, Colorado.The Cedar Creek wind farm east of Grover, Colorado. (Photo: AtmosNews - NCAR & UCAR) 
Something interesting is happening in Australia.

A new study by the research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance has found that unsubsidized renewable energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels like coal and gas.

In fact, it’s a lot cheaper.

Data shows that wind farms in Australia can produce energy at AU$80/MWh. Meanwhile, coal plants are producing energy at AU$143/MWh and gas at AU$116/MWh.

Unlike the United States, where energy companies can pollute and have the costs (from illness to environmental degradation) picked up by the taxpayers, Australia has a carbon tax, which partially explains why renewables have a price advantage. But the data shows that even without the cost of carbon tax factored in; wind energy is still 14-cents cheaper than coal and 18-cents cheaper than gas. 

And this is in a nation that relies more heavily on coal than any other industrialized nation in the world. But that coal reliance will soon change, as companies in Australia are quickly adopting new, cheaper renewable energies. As the study found, banks and lending institutions in Australia are now less and less likely to finance new coal plants, because they've simply become a bad investment.

And, while Australian wind is cheapest now, by 2020 - and maybe sooner - solar power will also be cheaper than coal and gas in Australia. The energy game is rapidly changing in that country.

Michael Liebrich, the chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, noted, “The perception that fossil fuels are cheap and renewables are expensive is now out of date.”

Well, here’s a news flash: That perception has been out of date for a while now – even right here in the United States.

According to the Energy Information Administration, looking ahead to 2016, natural gas is the cheapest energy in the United States at roughly $66/MWh. Coal comes in second at $94/MWh. But right behind coal is renewable wind at $97/MWh, which in large part accounts for why U.S. wind energy production has tripled since 2000.

And, unlike in Australia, none of those US prices account for the externalities associated with fossil fuels like pollution, cancers, military protection, or global warming. In America, the fossil fuel industry has made sure those externalities are paid for not by the coal and gas energy producers, but instead by you and me.

The fossil fuel industry doesn't pay a penny of the cost of rapidly accelerating climate change. Or the healthcare costs from exhaust- and refinery-driven diseases and deaths from air, water, and other pollution. Not to mention the community costs of decreasing property values when a coal plant is put in your backyard. Nor do they put a cent toward the cost of our Navy keeping the oil shipping lanes open or our soldiers “protecting” the countries that “produce” all that oil.

All of these externalities come with fossil fuel production, but pretty much don't exist with renewable energy production. And those externality costs are not only not paid for by the fossil fuel industry – they're never even mentioned in the corporate-run “news” media in America.

Research from the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences concludes that the total cost of these externalities, if paid by the polluters themselves, would raise US fossil fuel prices by as much as nearly $3/MWh. And that’s an extremely conservative estimate. Which puts wind power on parity with coal in America.

The trend lines here are pretty clear: Buggywhip, meet automobile! 

Renewables are getting cheaper, and fossil fuels are getting more expensive.

Which is why we as a nation need to throw everything we have at making renewable energies our primary way of powering America into the 21st century.

Think of it as a new Manhattan Project. We need green energy, local energy, and a 21st century smart grid to handle it all. 

Over time, the marketplace will do this for us. But with just about every developed country in the world ahead of us, and our dependence on oil making us more and more tightly bound to Middle Eastern dictators and radicals, to wait and hope big transnational corporations will help birth a new America is both na├»ve and stupid. Instead of depending on them, we should be recovering from them the cost of those externalities – a carbon tax – that can be used to build a new energy infrastructure in America.

Let’s take a lesson from Australia and the Eurozone, which have both set up carbon taxes to make 19th century energy barons pay for at least some of the damage they've done. And then use that revenue for a green energy revolution here in America.

Considering the threats of climate change, war, and disease, only an idiot – or a fossil-fuel billionaire like Charles or David Koch – would want us to bring in more oil with a pipeline or take any other steps to continue America's dependence on dirty and costly last-century fuels.

Radioactive Metal from Nuclear Weapons Facilities May End up in Your Shopping Bag

If the Department of Energy gets its way you may up with eye glasses, pacemakers, zippers, braces and more made from our nuclear weapons complex.

Go To Original

How would you like radioactive metal from nuclear weapons facilities to be recycled for use in consumer goods like silverware, pots and pans, eye glasses, zippers, kid’s braces, and even pacemakers and artificial hip joints? If the U.S. Department of Energy gets its way (after a public comment [5] period ends Feb. 11), that is exactly what we can expect in our future.

DOE, the steward of the sprawling—and massively contaminated—American nuclear weapons complex, wants to lift a ban on recycling imposed in 2000. That action came in response to an earlier proposal to sell radioactive metal from DOE facilities to scrap metal recyclers. Once the contaminated metal is mixed into the scrap supply, it could be turned into virtually anything made with metal.

The problem is, products contaminated with radiation give off alpha particles, beta particles, or gamma rays, depending on the radioactive element (radionuclide or radioisotope) present. Though these three kinds of radiation have different properties, all are ionizing, meaning that each is energetic enough to break chemical bonds in the cells in our bodies. That kind of damage can result in cancer and other illnesses.

DOE’s current plan is to release 13,790 metric tons of metal the department says is “uncontaminated” or just contaminated on the surface. This material would likely include things like metal desks, pipes, and perhaps construction equipment from radiation-contaminated areas, Robert Alvarez, a nuclear expert and former senior policy advisor to the Secretary of Energy during the Clinton administration, told WhoWhatWhy. (Click here [6] for more information on the places from which DOE proposes to release the metal.)

Alvarez, a key player in stopping DOE’s earlier attempt to release its low-level nuclear waste into the public sphere, described the new effort as “a toe in the water” toward overturning the ban; in the future, it could lead to the release of a large part of the department’s vast stockpile of waste materials.

“DOE’s been pushing this scheme for 30 to 35 years,” he said. “They just don’t want to give up on it.”

The Department of Energy did not respond to an interview request.

The Dirtiest Legacy

The top-secret effort that began during World War II to develop the atomic bomb—and then build America’s nuclear arsenal to ensure the country’s continued global military dominance—has been an especially dirty enterprise [7]. Creating and maintaining it has resulted in the release of vast but unknowable amounts of radioactive, chemical, and other toxic contamination on much of the DOE’s 2.4 million acres as well as in surrounding communities.

DOE’s Hanford site in eastern Washington state, for example, is the most contaminated place in the Western hemisphere [8] and the site of the world’s largest cleanup operation. An article[9] in Der Spiegel notes that “240 square miles are uninhabitable due to the radioactivity that has seeped into the soil and ground water: uranium, cesium, strontium, plutonium and other deadly radionuclides.” Maps showing DOE cleanup sites are here [10] and here [11].

The first and only inventory of DOE’s assets, which was conducted in the nineties under Alvarez’s direction, revealed the department had 20,700 specialized facilities and buildings including 5,000 warehouses, 7,000 administration buildings, 1,600 laboratories, 89 nuclear reactors, 208 particle accelerators, and 665 production and manufacturing facilities.

“At the time, we found there was more than 270,000 metric tons of scrap, which is equivalent to two modern aircraft carriers in weight,” Alvarez said.

Adding in the three gaseous diffusion plants [12] in Paducah, Kentucky; Portsmouth, Ohio; and at DOE’s Y-25 site at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, would contribute another 1.4 million metric tons to the department’s scrap-metal heap. Gaseous diffusion, an extremely polluting technology [13], was the first technique to turn natural uranium into nuclear fuel on an industrial scale. Significant amounts of toxic and radioactive materials have been released into the air, water, and soil at all three sites.

The Midas Touch—In Reverse

So just how hazardous is all this material to living things like you and me?

DOE seems to believe that as the contaminated metal gets mixed into the larger supply of scrap metal, which in 2012 totaled 59 million tons, the contamination would be diluted enough not to cause any problems. This is the old “dilution is the solution to pollution” concept, which is belied by an onslaught of increasingly intractable local to global environmental crises [14].

Radiation, however, is a special kind of pollution. Because of the long-lived nature of many radionuclides, radioactive contamination can persist for a very long time—in the case of uranium-238[15] (the most common isotope in naturally occurring uranium, which has a half-life of 4.5 billion years) virtually forever. (Half-life measures the amount of time it takes for half of a radionuclide’s atoms to become non-radioactive. The amount of time it takes for all the radioactivity to dissipate is five to ten times the half-life.)

Radiation has another special property. As Dr. Rosalie Bertell explained [16] in her book No Immediate Danger: Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth, things that come in contact with radiation can themselves becomes radioactive: “The violence of the chain reaction is such that it can also yield what are called activation products, i.e., it can cause already existing chemicals in air, water or other nearby materials to absorb energy, change their structure slightly and become radioactive.”

In order to know the exact contamination levels of each piece of metal DOE wants to release, each piece would have to be tested to see if it is radioactive; and if so, the counts per minute of radiation it is giving off, and whether it is alpha, beta, or gamma radiation.

That, however, would be an enormous—and enormously expensive—undertaking, and there is no indication the department is considering anything like it. According to Alvarez, DOE’s main motivation for pushing its low-level waste out into the public sphere is to save it the trouble and cost of proper disposal.

“The nuclear weapons complex was a huge, huge industry that is now largely full of closed, shuttered, and antiquated operations that are loaded with crap that they haven’t gotten around to getting rid of,” he said. “It costs money and they’re really trying to find creative ways to deal with it. This is one of their ‘creative’ ways.”

Powerful Opponents

Because the American nuclear weapons complex has long operated under a heavy cloak of secrecy and privilege in the name of national security, it is accustomed to doing what it wants without much oversight or accountability. But this particular plan runs counter to the interests of the U.S. steel industry, a critical sector [17] of the American economy.

“We’re not interested in receiving material potentially contaminated with radioactivity from the DOE complex as part of its teardown in its efforts to address the Cold War situation,” Eric Stuart, vice president of energy and environment at the Steel Manufacturers Association, told WhoWhatWhy. “We’re not in the business of cleaning up after the U.S. government.”

Stuart pointed out that nearly all of the steel industry’s feed material comes from recycled scrap—more than 60 million tons a year, primarily from junked cars, appliances, steel cans, and steel construction materials—and the introduction of radiation-contaminated metals is unacceptable to the industry.

For one thing, the steel industry worries that consumers will avoid metal products because of worries over radiation contamination—a direct threat to the industry’s bottom line. For another, the mere prospect of having to deal with radioactive metals raises enormous safety and liability issues.

In order to guard against stray sources of contaminated metal that could come in with a load of scrap, steel mills already have radiation detection equipment set up at their intake points. “If some orphaned radioactive scrap made it all the way to the furnace, it would be volatized and create quite a situation,” Stuart said.

Cleaning up messes like that has cost individual mills tens of millions of dollars. In some cases the contamination has been so bad that the mill had to close, he added.

Empty Promises

In its current proposal, DOE contends that no metal with contamination exceeding 1millirem [18] (a unit for measuring radioactivity) per year above background radiation levels would be released. But, Stuart points out, background radiation varies from location to location, which means that this assurance is virtually meaningless.

“The background level of radiation in D.C. is going to be different than the background level in Kentucky, Florida, California, and Manhattan,” he says. “DOE is saying they will clean the metal to just above background. Where?”

Furthermore, if this proposal were to go ahead, once the tainted metal is made into a product, there is no way to ensure that somebody won’t acquire more than one product made from contaminated material, which would increase that person’s risk. And what if the contaminated metal ends up in a medical device that’s implanted in someone’s body, delivering an on-going dose of radiation to the surrounding tissue?

As if that prospect weren’t scary enough, there are other problems with DOE’s “don’t worry, be happy” and “one-size-fits-all” approach to radiation doses. First, recent research [19] confirms that chromosomal damage, which is a precursor to many types of cancer, occurs with much lower radiation exposures than previously thought.

Second, some population groups are more vulnerable to the effects of radiation than others. According to the 2006 U.S. National Academy of Sciences BEIR report [20] (BEIR stands for Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation), radiation exposure is nearly twice as damaging to girls than boys of the same age; in fact, an infant girl is seven times and a five-year-old girl five times more likely to get radiation-induced cancer than a 30-year-old male.

If DOE succeeds, and if Alvarez is right that this proposal is just the nuclear sector’s attempt to get its foot in the door before pushing it wide open, we could find ourselves awash in unlabeled and unmonitored products made from low-level nuclear waste.

Alvarez is not completely opposed to the idea of recycling radiation-contaminated metal. When he was still at DOE, he suggested using it to make containers to dispose of the department’s vast inventory of nuclear waste. He was told that that option would be too expensive. Apparently, running an uncontrolled experiment on the effect of radiation-contaminated metal on American consumers is more appealing to the DOE’s cost-benefit analysts.

[As mentioned above, the period for public comment on the DOE’s proposed plans ends Monday, February 11. Those wishing to share their thoughts with DOE may click here [5].]

What It's Going to Take to Claw Back Middle Class Wealth from the 1%

The US Drone Assassination Program And The Threat Of Dictatorship


Thursday’s confirmation hearing for John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s nominee for director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, provided a revealing and grim spectacle of the disintegration of what remains of democratic rights in the United States.

Some press accounts of the hearing have referred to Brennan being “grilled” on the US drone assassination program. On the contrary, the proceedings resembled nothing so much as a well-fed cat being questioned by a panel of skittish mice.

Brennan came as the representative of those within the US military-intelligence apparatus entrusted with defending the ruling class by means of killings, detentions and torture. As Obama’s counterterrorism adviser and the architect and director of an assassination program run out of the White House, he has presided over an unprecedented expansion of executive power and assault on core constitutional rights.

One senator after another, Democrats no less than Republicans, fawned over Brennan, declaring their admiration and gratitude for the bloody work of the CIA and their eager anticipation of confirming him as CIA director and working closely with him in the near future. None of them directly challenged the assertion of the most sweeping of the extra-constitutional powers with which he is identified—the power of the president of the United States to unilaterally and secretly order the assassination of American citizens.

Among those who expressed certain qualms about this system of extra-judicial executions was Senator Angus King of Maine, who helpfully suggested that a star chamber-style secret court be set up to rubber stamp and sanctify the White House’s “kill lists.”

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon—in the context of present day US politics the most “liberal” member of the Senate intelligence panel—merely pleaded with Brennan for more public information on the drone assassination program. “Americans have a right to know when their government thinks it’s allowed to kill them,” he declared.

Contained in this statement is the tacit recognition that the rights enumerated in the US Constitution, including the 5th Amendment’s guarantee that no one “shall be deprived of life … without due process,” have been turned into a dead letter.

Wyden went on to ask for clarification as to whether the administration believes that the president can use this authority inside the United States. Brennan’s response omitted any assurance that American citizens will not be secretly murdered on US soil. Instead, he cryptically asserted his determination to “optimize transparency on these issues, but at the same time, optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security.” Neither Wyden nor anyone else on the Senate committee attempted to probe further.

With this chilling exchange, the threat of a US police state dictatorship comes clearly into view. Brennan will not disavow the president’s “right” to secretly murder US citizens on American soil, because such methods may prove necessary, ostensibly for the struggle against “terrorism” and in defense of “national security.”

After all, they proved to be so in other countries. Obama and Brennan did not invent the methods of secret “kill lists” and covert assassinations. They were employed on an industrial scale less than four decades ago in the Chile of General Augusto Pinochet and the Argentina of General Jorge Videla.

There, military and intelligence officials, most of them trained in the US, drew up kill lists of tens of thousands of their own citizens and carried out their assassinations. They also acted in the name of a struggle against “terrorism” and in defense of “national security,” but had the real aim of crushing the resistance of the working class.

Workers, students, peasants, intellectuals and anyone perceived to be a potential enemy of the state were rounded up by death squads, tortured and killed in secret prisons or thrown alive from airplanes into the sea. Like Mr. Brennan, the officials of the Argentine and Chilean dictatorships refused to acknowledge any role in these state killings, leaving their victims to be counted among the “disappeared.”

Those comforting themselves with the old adage, “It can’t happen here,” should think again. The lurch to the right by the entire American political establishment and its irrevocable break with the democratic principles enunciated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are very far advanced.

Less than 40 years ago, a special Senate committee headed by Idaho Senator Frank Church did grill top CIA officials on covert assassinations, denouncing the agency for the practice and introducing a law against it. Even Republican President Gerald Ford was compelled to declare that his administration “does not condone under any circumstances any assassination attempts,” and to “condemn any CIA involvement” in “assassination planning.”

While no doubt the US government and its spy agency continued to carry out crimes in subsequent years, support for bourgeois democratic forms of rule within the political establishment remained sufficiently strong to force the government to officially reject assassination as state policy.

Just four years ago, Brennan’s involvement as a top CIA official under the Bush administration in the crimes of torture, extraordinary rendition and secret CIA “black sites” made it impossible for Obama to nominate him as CIA director. Now, not only are those crimes forgiven, but the even more serious ones involved in the drone assassination program go unchallenged.

We have already seen in the past few years anti-terror laws invoked against domestic protesters and dissidents, from the arrest of five men last May in Chicago on “conspiracy to commit terrorism” charges for their involvement in anti-NATO protests, to the revelation that the FBI carried out a nationwide investigation treating the Occupy Wall Street protests as “domestic terrorism.”

Driving the turn towards methods associated with police state dictatorships are deep-going changes in the structure of American society. The vast and ever-widening chasm between the billionaires and multi-millionaires who control economic and political life and working people, the great majority of the population, is incompatible with democracy.

This is ultimately what explains the complicity of the Obama administration, Congress, both major parties and the mass media in the drone assassination program. America’s ruling oligarchy realizes that deepening social polarization and the protracted economic crisis are creating conditions for social upheavals, and is preparing accordingly.

The working class must make its own preparations for the revolutionary battles that are to come.

More Marines To Japan; Vietnam, Cambodia Next


The Marine Corps’ shift to the Pacific will ramp up considerably this year, with more personnel and aircraft rotating to Japan and other destinations throughout the region.

As of late January, there are two infantry battalions rotating through Okinawa for six months at a time, with a third scheduled to start this summer. The Corps also intends to send a contingent of electronic warfare aircraft to its air station in mainland Japan, and a group of explosives experts will undertake a humanitarian mission in Vietnam. Future engagement with Cambodia is on the horizon, too.

The Marine Corps’ commandant, Gen. Jim Amos, told reporters at a conference in San Diego last week that the infantry units cycling through Okinawa this year will conduct training in Guam, Australia and, he hopes, the Philippines. The two battalions currently deployed are permanently based in Hawaii and North Carolina. Plans call for another infantry unit, likely from California, to deploy in August or September, Amos said.

Tell us

Have you done a unit rotation to the Pacific within the last three years? What are the pros and cons? Send us a letter to the editor: marinelet@marinecorpstimes.com.
“So we’ll actually have three rotating,” he said. “… That is part of the [Pacific] reorientation … to get these units into the theater.”

Additionally, the service will send an unspecified number of EA-6B Prowlers to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, which already hosts rotations of F/A-18 Hornet fighter squadrons. The Prowlers are long-range aircraft equipped with advanced electronic countermeasures capable of disabling enemy air defenses and gathering intelligence.

“We haven’t had them there, flying out of Iwakuni, in a long time,” Amos said. “They are going to come back. So I’m pretty excited about it.”

In July, Marines from Camp Pendleton, Calif., many expert in handling explosives and mines, will head to Vietnam, where thousands of unexploded munitions remain from the Vietnam War. They’ll teach locals how to handle and dispose of unexploded munitions, according to a Marine Corps news release.

“We are not training in Vietnam,” Amos said, “but I would hope that someday down the road, with relationships we build over the next year or two, that we’ll be able to train in Vietnam, perhaps with air forces, and operate along with them and build those relationships.”

The Navy’s top officer, Adm. Jon Greenert, said during the same conference that the U.S. is seeking new opportunities in Cambodia as well. The commanding general of Marine Forces Pacific, Lt. Gen. Terry Robling, told Marine Corps Times last fall that Vietnam and Cambodia have a strong interest in exchanges or training centered on medical and humanitarian-response missions.

Missions in Malaysia, Indonesia and India also are on the horizon, Robling said at the time.

CIA Rendition Report Author Believes UK Could Face Human Rights Court

British and 24 other European governments accused by OSJI of co-operating in global kidnap, detention and torture operation


US air force planes land at Diego Garcia in support of the 'war on terror' after 9/11 attacks. Photograph: Larry A Simmons/USAF

Up to two dozen European countries including the UK could face proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights from their involvement in the CIA's extraordinary rendition operations after 9/11, according to a human rights organisation that has documented worldwide secret support for the programme.
At least 54 different governments – more than a quarter of the world's total – were covertly engaged with the global kidnap, detention and torture programme, according to a report published on Tuesday by the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), a New York-based NGO. The greatest number – 25 – were in Europe, while 14 were in Asia and 13 in Africa.
Among the European participants, Macedonia has been found guilty by the European Court of the illegal imprisonment and torture of a German national. Proceedings are being brought against Poland, Lithuania and Romania after they permitted the CIA to operate secret prisons on their territory. Italy is facing proceedings in the European court over the state's involvement in the abduction of a Muslim cleric, who was kidnapped in Milan and flown to Egypt to be tortured. Last week an Italian appeal court upheld the conviction of the CIA's local station chief and two other Americans involved in the kidnap.
Amrit Singh, the author of the OSJI report, said she believes that other European countries that were involved in the CIA's rendition could also find themselves before the European Court. "The moral cost of these programs was borne not just by the US but by the 54 other countries it recruited to help," she said.
So extensive was the participation of governments in Europe and elsewhere across the world that the OSJI believes the CIA could not have operated its programme without their support.
"There is no doubt that high-ranking Bush administration officials bear responsibility for authorising human rights violations associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition, and the impunity that they have enjoyed to date remains a matter of significant concern," the report says.
"But responsibility for these violations does not end with the United States. Secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations, designed to be conducted outside the United States under cover of secrecy, could not have been implemented without the active participation of foreign governments. These governments too must be held accountable."
The states identified by the OSJI include those such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt and Jordan, where the existence of secret prisons and the use of torture has been well-documented for many years. But the OSJI's rendition list also includes states such as Ireland, Iceland and Cyprus, which are accused of granting covert support for the programme by permitting access to air space and airports by aircraft that the CIA used during its rendition operations. Canada not only permitted the use of its air space, but provided information that led to one of its one nationals being taken to Syria, where he was held for a year and tortured.
Iran – one of the states within President George W Bush's so-called axis of evil – is identified by the OSJI as having participated in the rendition programme, handing 15 individuals over to Kabul shortly after the US invasion of Afghanistan, in the full knowledge that they would fall under US control. Syria, another state that does not enjoy friendly diplomatic relations with the US, is said to have been one of the "most common destinations for rendered suspects".
Other countries are conspicuous by their absence from the rendition list: Sweden and Finland are present, but there is no evidence of Norwegian involvement. Similarly, while many Middle Eastern countries did become involved in the rendition programme, Israel did not, according to the OSJI research.
Many of the countries on the list are European. Germany, Spain, Portugal and Austria are among them, but France, Holland and Hungary are not. Georgia stands accused of involvement in rendition, but Russia does not.
The OSJI reports that the UK supported CIA rendition operations, interrogated people being secretly detained, and allowed the use of British airports and air space. The organisation concludes that the UK also arranged for one man, Sami al-Saadi, to be rendered, along with his entire family, to Libya, where he was subsequently tortured, and provided intelligence that allowed a second similar operation to take place.
It has recently emerged that many European countries became involved in the rendition programme as a consequence a series of decisions taken in secret at a Nato conference three weeks after 9/11. Subsequently, British intelligence officials maintained for several years that they had been kept in the dark about the programme, although it is now known that the CIA briefed MI6 about its plans five days after 9/11.Shortly after entering the White House, Obama rejected calls for an inquiry into the CIA's operations. Last December the US Senate's Intelligence Committee completed a 6,000-page study of the rendition programme, but it is unclear whether it will ever be published. Democrat committee members say the report shows the CIA committed "terrible mistakes", but Republican members are refusing to endorse it.
Publication of the 213-page OSJI report, entitled Globalizing Torture, appears to have been timed to coincide with the confirmation hearing on Thursday of John Brennan, President Obama's choice to head the CIA. Brennan is widely expected to be questioned about his association with the so-called enhanced interrogation practices adopted during the Bush years.
In 2005, Brennan said that he was "intimately familiar" with some rendition cases, and that he regarded it as "an absolutely vital tool" in countering terrorism.
Brennan withdrew from consideration as CIA chief four years ago because of his association with those practices, and instead became a senior White House adviser. He is expected to be questioned not only about the rendition programme, but about the Obama-era drone operations, and the so-called kill list over which he is reported to wield great influence.
The report says that the full scope of non-US government involvement may still remain unknown. "Despite the efforts of the United States and its partner governments to withhold the truth about past and ongoing abuses, information relating to these abuses will continue to find its way into the public domain," it says.
"At the same time, while US courts have closed their doors to victims of secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations, legal challenges to foreign government participation in these operations are being heard in courts around the world."
The OSJI is calling on the US government to repudiate the rendition programme, close all its remaining secret prisons, mount a criminal investigation into human rights abuses – including those apparently endorsed by government lawyers – and create and independent and non-partisan commission to investigate and publicly report on the role that officials played in such abuses.
The organisation is also calling on non-US governments to end their involvement in rendition operations, mount effective investigations – including criminal investigations – to hold those responsible to account, and institute safeguards to ensure that future counter-terrorism operations do not violate human rights standards.

‘Secret Virus’ Hidden in GMO Crops


Yet another disturbing reason has emerged as to why you should be avoiding health-devastating genetically modified organisms, and it may be one of the most concerning yet. We know that GMO consumption has been linked to a host of serious conditions, but one thing we are not so sure about is the recent discovery of a hidden viral gene deep within genetically modified crops.

For years, GMOs have been consumed knowingly and unknowingly around the globe, with Monsanto and the United States government claiming that the altered franken crops are perfectly safe despite very limited (or virtually none in some cases) initial testing and scientists speaking out against the dangers. One such danger that has actually not been spoken about has been revealed in a recent report by a safety watchdog group known as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).Another Dirty Secret of Monsanto

In the EFSA report, which can be read online, you can find (within the scientific wording) that researchers discovered a previously unknown viral gene that is known as ‘Gene VI’. What’s concerning is that not only is the rogue gene found in the most prominent GMO crops and about 63% of GMO traits approved for use (54 out of 86 to be precise), but it can actually disrupt the very biological functions within living organisms. Popular GMO crops such as Roundup-Ready soybeans, NK603, and MON810 corn were found to contain the gene that induces physical mutations. NK603 maize, of course, was also recently linked to the development of mass tumors in rats.

According to Independent Science News, Gene VI also inhibits RNA silencing. As you may know, RNA silencing has been pinpointed as vital for the proper functioning of gene expression when it comes to RNA. Perhaps more topically, it is a defense mechanism against viruses in plants and animals alike. On the contrary, many viruses have developed genes that disable this protective process. Independent Science News reports that the Gene VI is one such gene.

Overall, there is a degree of knowledge on Gene VI. What we do know going by information within the report is that the gene:
  • Helps to assemble virus particles
  • Inhibits the natural defense of the cellular system
  • Produces proteins that are potentially problematic
  • Makes plants susceptible to bacterial pathogens
All of which are very significant effects that should be studied in depth by an independent team of scientists after GMO products are taken off the market pending further research on the entire array of associated diseases. And that does not even include the effects we are unaware of.

This is yet another incident in which Monsanto and other biotech companies are getting away with an offense against the citizens of the world with (most likely) no action taken by the United States government. What we have seen, however, is nations like Russia, Poland, Hungary, and Peru taking a stand against Monsanto in direct opposition to their disregard for public safety. Russia, in fact, banned Monsanto’s GMO corn variety after it was linked to mass tumors in rats.

As more and more dirty secrets come out from the GMO industry at large, it gives further reason and more support to remove GMOs as a whole from the food supply.

Mini Dictatorships Form as Creeping Fascism Takes Hold


While many concerned Americans express their worries regarding the direction of the country by repeating the tired warnings of “creeping” Fascism, the reality is that predictions of our dissolve into total tyranny are no longer appropriate. This is because what once was “creeping” has finally reached its destination. Now, it is only beginning to show itself more and more openly. 

In all honesty, when one wishes to begin a conversation regarding Fascist elements in the United States, it would be hard to know where to start, given the developments that have accelerated since 9/11, each Presidential election, and, indeed, every passing year.

Yet, while many Americans, brainwashed by years of television and intellectual obsolescence, expect Fascism to rush in riding waves of tanks, parading soldiers, and dictators on megaphones, the fact is that Fascism has arrived in a slightly less advertised form.

However, while it may not have arrived in the United States in the way that Americans believed it might, there are at least two developments that have indeed followed the traditional track of the Fascism that emerged in Europe during the 1930s.

One of these forms was recently detailed by Susanne Posel of Occupy Corporatism in her article “DHS Are Militarizing Local Police to Create Federalized Law Enforcement Agencies,” where she discusses the ongoing agenda of consolidating and merging local and state police forces into one all-encompassing national police force structure.


In this regard, much of the consolidation agenda is being accomplished by virtue of private security firms, a topic which I have been forced to cover for similar reasons in the past.

In her article, Posel begins by mentioning the 2011 consolidation of police forces in Utah where an entirely new agency, the Unified Police Department (UPD) in the Salt Lake City area, was created. She writes that the UPD merged various jurisdictions and municipalities that were previously under the purview of the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Department and placed all of these jurisdictions under the authority of the UPD. Very soon after, Posel claims, the UPD became the standard for other police departments across the country.

Utah is by no means the only state with a private police force problem. States such as Florida, Minnesota, California, Louisiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Arizona, and Massachusetts, have either replaced or attempted to replace local police departments with private security firms in at least some capacity over the last two decades.

Many may remember the case of Hardin, Montana which was essentially occupied by American Police Force, a private security firm that paraded itself around town as Hardin’s police force in 2009.

In 2012, Delaware introduced legislation that would have removed the power of the Sheriff and stripped the deputies and Sheriff Departments of their arrest powers. Thankfully, H.B. 290 was not passed.

Likewise, a move was made in Kershaw County, South Carolina to remove power from the county Sheriff and create a countywide police force which was not directly accountable to the citizens. Ironically, because this move required approval from Kershaw County voters, Sheriff Jim Matthews and his position were saved by the very activists whom he labeled “domestic extremists” only months prior. Clearly, these activists were more adept at perceiving danger where it actually exists than the Sheriff himself.

Nevertheless, Horry County, South Carolina has already created a countywide police force. It should be noted, however, that the Horry County version exists (and has existed for at least 50 years) alongside the Horry County Sherriff’s office so the consolidation that has taken place in Salt Lake has not yet been fully realized in Horry.

Yet consolidation of traditional law enforcement agencies into an organization that no longer has elected officials as the head of operations is not a situation that exists only in the states mentioned above. Denver County, Colorado, for instance, maintains the Denver County Police Department, with the Sheriff’s Department assuming responsibility over mere care, custody, and transport of prisoners and detainees.

Indeed, one need only search the Web to find numerous cases of police departments and Sheriff’s offices that have been merged together to effectively remove the power of the electorate (for what it is worth) and enable larger-scale ramifications in the event that the County police department is privatized.

Of course, in reality it is obvious that the privatization of police forces has its roots in a much more sinister agenda than mere corporate greed and a desire to escape accountability.

For instance, in early 2012, a document was released by the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group, an organization closely tied to the Department of Homeland Security and co-chaired by former DHS chief Michael Chertoff, entitled, “Homeland Security and Intelligence: Next Steps in Evolving the Mission,” which states the desire of DHS and its related federal police state agencies to consume and centralize control over state and local law enforcement agencies as well as to infiltrate and co-opt the private sector. The report reads,

Partnerships and collaboration will be a determining factor in whether this refined mission succeeds. As threat grows more localized, the prospect that a state/local partner will generate the first lead to help understand a new threat, or even an emerging cell, will grow. And the federal government’s need to train, and even staff, local agencies, such as major city police departments, will grow. Because major cities are the focus for threat, these urban areas also will become the sources of intelligence that will help understand these threats at the national level, DHS might move toward decentralizing more of its analytic workforce to partner with state/local agencies in the collection and dissemination of intelligence from the local level.

This new approach to intelligence -- serving local partners’ requirements, providing intelligence in areas (such as infrastructure) not previously served by intelligence agencies, and disseminating information by new means -- reflects a transition in how Americans perceive national security. For this reason, state/local agencies, as clients for DHS intelligence, should also be involved in the development of requirements for what kinds of intelligence on emerging threats would be most helpful, from changing tactics for smuggling aliens into the United States to how to understand overseas terrorist incidents and translate them into analysis for the US.

Similarly, different private sectors in the United States, from the hospitality industry to
transportation, should drive requirements for DHS, in addition to serving as sources for information about what emerging vulnerabilities these industries are seeing. DHS should utilize existing public private partnerships to both drive requirements and aid distribution.
Indeed, one can easily see the agenda coming into view by virtue of the emergence of fusion centers infiltrating state and local law enforcement agencies all across the country, only furthering the federalization of police.

Without a doubt, the privatization of police forces is only one method of converting local and state law enforcement agencies to federally-controlled DHS public management organizations that are themselves interchangeable to the point of being one and the same as the U.S. military.

The evisceration of the rule of law (except for the force of law aimed at keeping the “little people” in check) is indeed one of the hallmarks of Fascism. But, while this may be seen in the privatization of police forces, nowhere is it more obvious than in the context of the “Emergency Manager” dictatorship being established in Michigan.

In what can easily be described as an openly Fascist law, Michigan’s Emergency Financial Management Law which was passed in March, 2011, essentially gives the Governor the authority to take over local governments and municipalities and appoint his own directors in place of elected leaders.

Although the concept of an “Emergency Manager” is not entirely new since Michigan has had a form of the Emergency Manager in place since around 1988 by virtue of a law which was passed and signed by then Governor James Blanchard, a Democrat, Republican Governor Rick Snyder has taken full advantage of both the Emergency Manager concept and the new powers of the Financial Management Law. It should also be noted that Emergency Managers have since been utilized by both Democrat and Republican administrations.

“Emergency Managers” are those individuals who are appointed by the Governor when the Governor judges a city or other municipality’s budget deficit to be in default, bankrupt, or otherwise irreparable. The Emergency Manager, as William Copeland of Dominion of New York writes, “has the absolute power to disincorporate the city, sell its assets, remove its elected leaders, privatize or eliminate services, and break union contracts, among other measures.”

The vast majority of Copeland’s claims are not only proven accurate by the history of the Emergency Manager system, they are admitted by the Michigan State Government itself. The only disagreement held by the State Government with criticism such as Copeland’s is the manner in which the Fascist method of Government is presented to the public.

One of the reasons why the term “Fascist” is appropriate here is the method of application. The EM (Emergency Manager) program is obviously a form of top-down control. It is administered and directed by those at least as high as the State government, although it is obviously controlled by interests at even higher levels still.

In this regard, the Emergency Managers act as the modern versions of Satraps, circumventing the elected governments of the cities and local municipalities. Elections are held, but are largely irrelevant in terms of finance and economics because the real authority is held by the Emergency Manager. The elected officials are mere formalities. With only a few minor aesthetic differences, this is the same system of “governance” that was used by Hitler in the form of his Gauleiter regional dictators.[1]

Interestingly enough, the system also bears a striking resemblance to the Soviet model of “rule by council.”

Although the Snyder administration (and most of the Michigan State government) denies that the Emergency Manager has been granted the unconstitutional authority of removing elected leaders from their posts, history shows these denials to be inaccurate.

During the period of 1999-2005, when Detroit’s deficit was once again an issue, the public school system was taken over by an Emergency Manager and the elected school board was subsequently disbanded.

This type of post-democratic behavior has even been the subject of a lawsuit filed in the Ingham County Circuit Court. Several groups are involved in representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, two of them being the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Sugar Law Center. John Philo, the legal director for the latter, stated in regards to the Emergency Manager Law, that “What you’re saying is that an emergency manager now controls all, including the right to enact or repeal local ordinances. What you’re saying is that one individual now without any sort of legislative process gets to enact a law.”

Another individual involved in the suit, Edith Lee-Payne, states, “We have the right to elect people and hold them accountable. We don’t have that right with an emergency manager.”

Obviously, something must be done about city budget deficits, debt, crumbling financial structure, corruption, and the like.

However, the Emergency Manager options being exercised by the Michigan State Government must be recognized for what it is – asset stripping, union busting, and repeated fleecing of the taxpayer.

Essentially, what happens in the Emergency Management process is, after the budget deficit balloons out of control and Emergency Managers are sent in, the elected officials (whether responsible for the deficits or not) are reduced to mere formalities for the policies being dictated to them by their Emergency Manager who is, in turn, merely an agent for those in higher places.

When this occurs, elected officials may remain in order to placate and fool the public, but in other cases, such as with the School Board, elected officials may be removed altogether along with any pretense of representative government.

It is here that the asset stripping begins. In a fashion which is almost identical to the methods used by the IMF over debt-laden countries, austerity measures are ordered for the paralyzed city/municipality. Drastic spending cuts are imposed on essential services while taxes are raised on the already strapped citizenry. Privatization runs rampant, allowing services and infrastructure that were once developed, maintained, and paid for by taxpayer money to be turned over to private companies whose only goal is to make a profit. After fees are raised and the infrastructure is abused and destroyed, these services are usually turned back in to the taxpayer in order to use public funding to build them back up until it is time to privatize them yet again. Other times, the services just disappear altogether.

Of course, city workers and teachers become victims of the fleecing as well. Any union contracts (where they still exist) are immediately cut off, lowering wages and the general standard of living, while teachers are undercut by outside workers and government subsidized scabs, unwitting and well-meaning as they may be.

When living standards are sufficiently lowered and books are fixed and warped to appear to have reduced the city deficit to a manageable level, the Emergency Manager leaves. However, as history shows us, cutting and gutting, particularly in difficult economic times, only produces a bigger deficit the next year. So, essentially, the Emergency Manager only leaves temporarily because he actually left the city with yet another load of debt to be collected at a future date. When the time comes for the piper to be paid, the Emergency Manager will return for yet more cutting and gutting, starting the process all over again.

Bear in mind, the Emergency Management Law also allows for the Governor to declare the need for an Emergency Manager for a variety of new reasons. No longer is the issue merely financial. As The Michigan Citizen writes, the State seized control of the DPS (Detroit Public School System) mainly because of a gap between State test score averages and DPS scores.

It should also be mentioned that, according to the Michigan Citizen, after the State returned control of the DPS to the elected School Board, the bond money had been spent and the district was looking at a projected deficit of $198.7 million.

One need only look to the three cities who were forced to take on an Emergency Manager to see the pattern. Highland Park, Hamtramck, and Flint were all subjected to the austerity programs under their Emergency Managers at some point between 2000-2007. In 2012, all three are broke and are once again being considered for an Emergency Manager.

All of this austerity and grandstanding on behalf of the State government and the Snyder administration, of course, is nothing more than an exercise in boundless hypocrisy. As Detroit City Councilwoman Joann Watson stated, “It is outrageous that a state which has its own deficit, in a country that has its own deficit, has the nerve to point fingers at our city.”

Clearly, the Emergency Manager option is not a legitimate solution to the economic issues that plague Detroit, Michigan, or the United States. The Emergency Financial Management Law is an exercise in IMF-style austerity, privatization that benefits a select group of pet businesses, union busting, lowering the standard of living, and Fascist “governance.”

As the Michigan-based Electablog expertly states:
Emergency Managers do not solve the systemic problems that bring cities and school districts to the crisis point. They are simply a band-aid on a gaping wound, temporarily staunching the flow while private businesses reap profits and anti-union forces play out a long-awaited plan to rid the state of public employee unions. Given the history of the Emergency Manager/Emergency Financial Manager system in Michigan, there is no reason to believe that they will provide the meaningful solutions that our cities and school districts so desperately need.
Indeed, something must be done about the Emergency Manager dictatorship. However, when moves are made to amend the Fascist endeavors of Governor Snyder, what results is only more Fascism.

For instance, when voters mobilized to reject Public Act 4 (aka, the Emergency Manager Law), the Michigan legislature simply passed another version which was almost identical to the one cast down by voters in the referendum. Predictably, Snyder immediately signed the new bill into law. But, while the new law contains some token provisions designed to placate voters (but with very little substance to them), many consider the new version to be even worse since the new law will not be subject to voter referendum.

 While the consolidation of police forces and the Emergency Manager’s Law in Michigan may at first appear to be completely unrelated issues, the fact is that they are much more closely related that one may believe.

Fascism does not always come in the middle of the night with armies marching in the streets, uniformed dictators clamping down on the population in one fell swoop, or stormtroopers pulling off a coup of the national governance. Fascism is capable of taking hold in many different forms and it is usually more successful if its campaign is gradual.

Thus, the term “creeping Fascism” is an accurate term for the developments we have seen taking place inside the United States for many years. Unfortunately, in 2013, it is an outdated term. Fascism is no longer creeping. It is here. The only question is what are we going to do about it.

References:

[1] Collier, Martin; Pedley, Philip. Hitler and the Nazi State. Heinemann Educational Publishers. 2005. P.42.

US Media Yet Again Conceals Newsworthy Government Secrets

The collective self-censorship over a US drone base in Saudi Arabia is but the latest act of government-subservient 'journalism'


The Washington Post this week admitted it was part of an "informal arrangement" to conceal from its readers a US drone base in Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Alamy
The US media, over the last decade (at least), has repeatedly acted to conceal newsworthy information it obtains about the actions of the US government. In each instance, the self-proclaimed adversarial press corps conceals these facts at the behest of the US government, based on patently absurd claims that reporting them will harm US national security. In each instance, what this media concealment actually accomplishes is enabling the dissemination of significant government falsehoods without challenge, and permitting the continuation of government deceit and even illegality.

One of the most notorious examples was in mid-2004 when the New York Times discovered - thanks to a courageous DOJ whistleblower - that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on the electronic communications of Americans without the warrants required by the criminal law. But after George Bush summoned to the Oval Office the paper's publisher (Arthur Sulzberger) and executive editor (Bill Keller) and directed them to conceal what they had learned, the NYT complied by sitting on the story for a-year-and-a-half: until late December, 2005, long after Bush had been safely re-elected. The "national security" excuse for this concealment was patently ludicrous from the start: everyone knew the US government was trying to eavesdrop on al-Qaida communications and this story merely revealed that they were doing so illegally (without warrants) rather than legally (with warrants). By concealing the story for so long, the New York Times helped the Bush administration illegally spy on Americans.

The Washington Post's Dana Priest, in a superb act of journalism, reported in 2005 that the CIA was maintaining a network of secret "black sites" where detainees were interrogated and abused beyond the monitoring scrutiny of human rights groups and even Congress. But the Post purposely concealed the identity of the countries serving as the locale of those secret prisons in order to enable the plainly illegal program to continue without bothersome disruptions: "the Washington Post is not publishing the names of the Eastern European countries involved in the covert program, at the request of senior US officials."

In 2011, the New York Times along with numerous other US media outlets learned that the American arrested in Pakistan for having shot and killed two Pakistanis, Raymond Davis, was not - as President Obama falsely claimed - "our diplomat", but was a CIA agent and former Blackwater contractor. Not only did the NYT conceal this fact, but it repeatedly and uncritically printed claims from Obama and other officials about Davis' status which it knew to be false. It was only once the Guardian published the facts about Davis - that he was a CIA agent - did the Times tell the truth to its readers, admitting that the disclosure "pulled back the curtain on a web of covert American operations inside Pakistan, part of a secret war run by the CIA".

The NYT, as usual, justified its concealment of this obviously newsworthy information as coming "at the request of the Obama administration, which argued that disclosure of his specific job would put his life at risk". But as the Guardian's Deputy Editor Ian Katz noted, "Davis [was] already widely assumed in Pakistan to have links to US intelligence" and "disclosing his CIA role would [therefore not] expose him to increased risk".

And now, yet again, the US media has been caught working together to conceal obviously newsworthy government secrets. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that two years ago, the Obama administration established a base in Saudi Arabia from which it deploys drones to kill numerous people in Yemen. including US citizen Anwar Awlaki and, two weeks, later his 16-year-old American son Abdulrahman. The US base was built after the US launched a December, 2009 cruise missile/cluster-bomb attack that slaughtered dozens of Yemeni women and children.

But the Post admitted that it - along with multiple other US media outlets - had long known about the Saudi Arabia drone base but had acted in unison to conceal it from the US public:

"The Washington Post had refrained from disclosing the specific location at the request of the administration, which cited concern that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an al-Qaeda affiliate regarded as the network's most potent threat to the United States, as well as potentially damage counterterrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia.

"The Post learned Tuesday night that another news organization was planning to reveal the location of the base, effectively ending an informal arrangement among several news organizations that had been aware of the location for more than a year."
The "other news organization" which the Post references is the New York Times. The NYT - in a very good article yesterday on the role played by CIA nominee John Brennan in US drones strikes in Yemen - reported that Brennan "work[ed] closely with neighboring Saudi Arabia to gain approval for a secret CIA drone base there that is used for American strikes". As the paper's Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, explained, the NYT was one of the papers which "had withheld the location of that base at the request of the CIA", but had decided now to report it. That was why the Post did so.

The existence of this drone base in Saudi Arabia is significantly newsworthy in multiple ways. The US drone program is drenched with extreme secrecy. The assassination of Awlaki is one of the most radical acts the US government has undertaken in the last decade at least. The intense cooperation between the US and the incomparably despotic Saudi regime is of vital significance. As Sullivan, the NYT's Public Editor, put it in defending the NYT's disclosure (and implicitly questioning the prior media conspiracy of silence):

"Given the government's undue secrecy about the drone program, which it has never officially acknowledged the existence of, and that program's great significance to America's foreign policy, its national security, and its influence on the tumultuous Middle East, The Times ought to be reporting as much and as aggressively as possible on it."
As usual, the excuses for concealing this information are frivolous. Indeed, as the Guardian's Roy Greenslade noted, "the location of several drone bases was published as long ago as September last year on at least one news website, as this item on the North America Inter Press Service illustrates." Gawker's Adrian Chen documents numerous other instances where the base had been publicly disclosed and writes:



"In the case of the Saudi drone base, the Times and the Post weren't protecting a state secret: They were helping the CIA bury an inconvenient story. . . . The fact that the drone base was already reported renders the rationale behind the months-long blackout a farce."
In an article on the controversy over this self-censorship, the Guardian this morning quotes Dr Jack Lule, a professor of journalism and communication at Lehigh University:



"The decision not to publish is a shameful one. The national security standard has to be very high, perhaps imminent danger. The fact that we are even having a conversation about whether it was a national security issue should have sent alarm bells off to the editors. I think the real reason was that the administration did not want to embarrass the Saudis – and for the US news media to be complicit in that is craven."
The same dynamic drives most of these acts of US media self-censorship. It has nothing to do with legitimate claims of national security. Indeed, none of these facts - once they were finally reported - ultimately resulted in any harm. Instead, it has everything to do with obeying government dictates; shielding high-level government officials from embarrassing revelations; protecting even the most extreme government deceit and illegality; and keeping the domestic population of the US (their readers) ignorant of the vital acts in which their own government is engaged.

There are, of course, instances where newspapers can validly opt to conceal facts that they learn. That's when the harm that comes from disclosure plainly outweighs the public interest in learning of them (the classic case is when, in a war, a newspaper learns of imminent troop movements: there is no value in reporting that but ample harm from doing so). But none of these instances comes close to meeting that test. Instead, media outlets overwhelmingly abide by government dictates as to what they should conceal. As Greensdale wrote: "most often, they oblige governments by acceding to requests not to publish sensitive information that might jeopardise operations."

As all of these examples demonstrate, extreme levels of subservience to US government authority is embedded in the ethos of the establishment American media. They see themselves not as watchdogs over the state but as loyal agents of it.

Recall the extraordinary 2009 BBC debate over WikiLeaks in which former NYT executive editor Bill Keller proudly praised himself for concealing information the Obama administration told him to conceal, prompting this incredulous reply from the BBC host: "Just to be clear, Bill Keller, are you saying that you sort of go to the government in advance and say: 'What about this, that and the other, is it all right to do this and all right to do that,' and you get clearance, then?" Keller's admission also prompted this response from former British diplomat Carne Ross, who was also on the program: "It's extraordinary that the New York Times is clearing what it says about this with the US Government."

After the Guardian published the truth about Raymond Davis, former Bush DOJ laywer Jack Goldsmith, in 2011, defended the New York Times' concealment of it by hailing what he called "the patriotism of the American press". He quoted former Bush CIA and NSA chief Gen. Michael Hayden as saying that "American journalists display 'a willingness to work with us' . . . but with the foreign press 'it's very, very difficult'". Goldsmith said that while foreign media outlets will more readily report on secret US government acts (he named The Guardian, Al Jazeera and WikiLeaks), US national security journalists with whom he spoke justified their eagerness to cooperate with the US government by "expressly ascrib[ing] this attitude to 'patriotism' or 'jingoism' or to being American citizens or working for American publications."

That is the key truth. The entity that is designed to be, and endlessly praises itself for being, a check on US government power is, in fact, its most loyal servant. There are significant exceptions: Dana Priest did disclose the CIA black sites network over the agency's vehement objections, while the NYT is now suing the government to compel the release of classified documents relating to Obama's assassination program. But time and again, one finds the US media acting to help suppress the newsworthy secrets of the US government rather than report on them. Its collaborative "informal" agreement to hide the US drone base in Saudi Arabia is just the latest in a long line of such behavior.

Freedom of Press foundation

As NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen perfectly described, the reason WikiLeaks and other forms of independent adversarial journalism emerged is because "the watchdog press died". It's exactly behavior like this - helping to conceal highly controversial US government programs out of allegiance to the government - that has necessitated the emergence of alternative forms of journalism devoted to real transparency.

Supporting real adversarial journalism like that is the impetus behind the formation of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, on whose board I sit and about which I wrote here. The actor John Cusack, who is also a board member and just made a large donation to the group, just published a great essay about why he is devoted to this cause and why the launch of the Foundation was so successful (raising over $200,000 for the four transparency and independent journalism groups named in the first round).

The Foundation just named its second group of beneficiaries devoted to adversarial journalism and transparency. You can read about them and - as I hope you will - donate to support them, here.

Brooklyn College update

I wrote several times in the last week about the growing censorship campaign aimed at Brooklyn College over an event some of its students organized and its Political Science department sponsored regarding Israel and the BDS movement. There is now very good news to report: namely, both Brooklyn College and academic freedom - as a result of serious public protest over the censorship efforts - have triumphed over the bullying campaign directed at the college.

The censorship campaign began to unravel when two City Council members who originally signed onto the letter threatening the College's funding renounced the letter and withdrew their support; one of them, Stephen Levin, began sending an apologetic email to constituents angry about his signing onto that letter. Then, the college's President issued a defiant and principled defense of academic freedom, and the school's Political Science Department chair did the same.

Yesterday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, while emphasizing what a stalwart defender of Israel he is, delivered a steadfast defense of Brooklyn College's right to hold whatever events it wishes, and strongly condemned the threats to its funding. Said the Mayor:

"The last thing that we need is for members of our City Council or State Legislature to be micromanaging the kinds of programs that our public universities run, and base funding decisions on the political views of professors. I can't think of anything that would be more destructive to a university and its students."


Then, the political officials who signed the original letter demanding the withdrawal of the department's sponsorship of the event completely reversed course and backed down, trying to save face by pronouncing themselves satisfied with the school's stated willingness to host anti-BDS speakers in the future (something they were willing to do from the start).

This important and surprising victory demonstrates what principled leadership combined with public activism can achieve. It can defeat even the most monied and organized factions, as it did here. All of you who made yourselves heard should be proud of the role you played in this victory (I was on Democracy Now yesterday with one of the event speakers, Omar Barghouti, talking about this controversy; the transcript and video are here).