And The Hit Job On The Late Gary Webb Continues

The recent release of the Jeremy Renner vehicle Kill The Messenger has, predictably, led some of the papers who attacked Webb’s work on the Dark Alliance series to resurface to resume their attacks on the deceased investigative reporter. Jeff Leen’s hitjob in the Post took a familiar approach: claim superior knowledge of the subject, then denigrate the weak points in the opponents story while ignoring the elephant in the room.

What’s most interesting about Leen’s piece is not what’s in it, but what is not. A few examples will help illustrate the point:

Marc Cooper of the LA Weekly told Schou in the book Kill The Messenger that “If Gary Webb made mistakes I have no problem with exposing them. But given the sweep of American journalism of the past fifty years, this is an outstanding case where three of the major newspapers in the country decided to take out somebody, a competitor whose mistakes seem by any measure to be very minor.”

Very minor, given the Post’s boostership of the 2003 Iraq war with its “reporting”.

Dawn Garcia, Webb’s immediate editor at the Mercury News during the “Dark Alliance” series and its aftermath, told Schou that “Two years after that series ran, a CIA Inspector General’s report acknowledged that the CIA had indeed worked with suspected drug runners while supporting the contras. The IG report would not have happened if ‘Dark Alliance’ had not been published.”

And then of course, there are the files of the LA County Sheriff’s department records on Ronald Lister (an arms merchant) and his ties to CIA and Reagan administration officials, including Oliver North. Schou’s elucidation on Lister is too lengthy to quote here, but it is damning.

There are many more such examples I could cite, such as how the CIA worked the press behind the scenes to smear Webb and his reporting, but I think these are more than sufficient to support what others have said: that the Post, LA Times and NY Times got scooped by a medium-sized paper in California by a reporter who went were they refused to go. They just couldn’t get over it then, and it seems things haven’t changed very much since “Dark Alliance” was published in 1996.

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On Ending The Surveillance State

Some fresh musings on Medium

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CNN, Anonymous Sources, And Fear Hyping

This is “breaking news” according to CNN:

The U.S. government has warned airlines to pay particular attention to the possibility of terrorists attempting to hide explosives in shoes.

The officials stressed there is no specific threat or known plot.

Intelligence collected by the United States and other countries has indicated terror groups have been working on new shoe-bomb designs, the sources said.

No actual working device involved in a real/developing plot. Just anonymous “sources” peddling speculation offered as “intelligence”.

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NSA And “Turnkey Totalitarianism”

From the speech given at MIT yesterday by former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman:

Mr. Snowden has brought home to us that, while we Americans do not yet live in a police state or tyranny, we are well along in building the infrastructure on which either could be instantly erected if our leaders decided to do so.  No longer protected by the law, our freedoms now depend on the self-restraint of men and women in authority, many of them in uniform.  History protests that if one builds a turnkey totalitarian state, those who hold the keys will eventually turn them.

The punch line paragraph from a brilliant speech.

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Jon Stewart on Obama and NSA


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NSA Reform Legislation Update

I’ll withhold final judgement on the pending Conyers-Sensenbrenner bill until I see the bill text, but here’s a reality check based on the summary provided thus far by the bill’s authors and some accounts online:

Conyers-Sensenbrenner would leave the Surveillance State intact. It would NOT restore the probable cause-based warrant standard required by the Fourth Amendment.

Conyers-Sensenbrenner does not end the PATRIOT Act’s “sneak and peak” search provision, the expansive use of “national security letters”, or abolish the radical “material support” provision that was used to prosecute staff of the Humanitarian Law Project in California.

Conyers-Sensenbrenner does not even address the NSA encryption subversion scheme.

Conyers-Sensenbrenner provides no protections for national security whistleblowers like Snowden or Drake–and this debate would not even be happening without the disclosures those men have made.

Conyers-Sensenbrenner does nothing to strengthen oversight mechanisms to actually provide the public with some assurance that the bulk collection schemes really will end.

And it’s chances of actually getting to the House floor? Right now, zero. Boehner, Cantor and Goodlatte (House Judiciary chairman) are all apostles of the Surveillance State. So is the leadership of HPSCI (which would have to clear the bill as well since it clearly falls within HPSCI’s purview). 

So a lot of time and energy is going to be expended promoting a bill that 1) leaves the Surveillance State intact, 2) does not address other critical abuses revealed by Snowden, et. al., and 3) has no prayer of making it out of the Judiciary Committee, much less to the House floor. 

If you want to see what a real reform bill looks like, check out the Surveillance State Repeal Act (HR 2818). It’s endorsed by key groups sponsoring the StopWatchingUs protest, including the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, CREDO Action, and the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition. 

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Richard Cohen’s Edward Snowden Assessment, Revised

You can read his column here.

Being both a former CIA analyst-turned-whistleblower-turned-Hill staffer, my background–and my sense of the history of these things–lead me to offer the following:

The only traitors in this episode are executive branch officials who knowingly subverted the Constitution through the radical abuse of these surveillance authorities behind a cloak of secrecy–from the flagrantly illegal STELLAR WIND warrantless surveillance program to the PATRIOT Act’s Sec. 215 and the FISA Amendments Act’s Sec. 702/703/704 authorities.

In October 2011, the FISA court ruled the Sec. 702 authorities unconstitutional as implemented by the Obama administration, yet the Congress as a whole was not made aware of that ruling in the run up to the reauthorization vote on the FISA Amendments Act in 2012. A secret ruling declaring a key surveillance statute unconstitutional was withheld from the Congress as a whole prior to a key vote to reauthorize said authorities. Let that sink in.

What Snowden helped expose was the subversion of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States behind a cloak of secrecy…and the classification system cannot be used to conceal crimes, including crimes against the Constitution. The question Mr. Cohen–and every other American–should be asking is whether that subversion took place with the knowledge, and thus the assent, of a sitting President.

If the Attorney General did not make President Obama aware of the October 2011 FISC ruling, it means that cabinet and sub-cabinet executive branch officials effectively conspired to keep the Congress as a whole in the dark about the ruling before the vote, and that those involved should be fired and prosecuted for lying to Congress. And if President Obama did know about the ruling and elected not to share it with the Congress as a whole before the 2012 FISA Amendments Act reauthorization vote, it raises the kinds of questions the Senate Select Committee confronted in the Watergate scandal.

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