After an amazingly encouraging week or two, we head into the July 4th weekend with a whole bunch of stuff we've been trying to clear off our desk. Plus: Lots of breaking news and an encouraging ending for the weekend...
Those shocked about the indictment of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) wouldn't be so surprised had they been long time readers of The BRAD BLOG. As to the resignation of "wife-beating" U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller (R-AL), well, no surprise there either. Only question is whether he'll face any real accountability or continue living off the federal dole for the rest of his life, even after the 11th U.S. Circuit's Court's Judicial Conference has found "grounds for impeachment".
Special coverage of both breaking news stories on today's BradCast --- a show that we were never supposed to do, since we were supposed to be off and traveling today! Just had to come back early for these. You're welcome!
Tune in for exclusive audio about alleged "blackmail", "bribery" and "immoral acts" by Hastert from the sworn 2009 testimony of FBI translator-turned-whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. And the remaining questions about whether the disgraced Judge Fuller is actually going to make out like a bandit despite his announced resignation.
While we post The BradCast here everyday, and you can hear it across all of our great affiliate stations and websites, to automagically get new episodes as soon as they're available sent right to your computer or personal device, subscribe for free at iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or our native RSS feed!
* * *
MONTHLY BRAD BLOG SUBSCRIPTION
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
CHICAGO (AP) — Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million in hush money to keep an unidentified person silent about "prior misconduct" by the Illinois Republican who was once third in line to the U.S. presidency, according to a federal grand jury indictment handed down on Thursday in Chicago.
The indictment, which does not describe the misconduct Hastert was allegedly trying to conceal, charges the 73-year-old with one count of evading bank regulations as he withdrew tens of thousands of dollars at a time to make the payments. He is also charged with one count of lying to the FBI about the reason for the unusual bank withdrawals.
Each count of the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Hastert withdrew a total of around $1.7 million in cash from various bank accounts from 2010 to 2014, and then provided it to the person identified in the indictment only as Individual A. Hastert allegedly agreed to pay the person $3.5 million, but never apparently paid that full amount.
Specifically, the indictment reads, the payoffs were to cover up "past misconduct by defendant against Individual A that had occurred years earlier." That "years earlier" part could be important here. See AP's story for much more, including the 7-page indictment itself.
I'll be on the road for a few days as of Friday for some long-scheduled family obligations, so I won't be able to delve much into this for the moment. However, we covered a number of questions about Hastert and criminality in some detail here as far back as 2006. At the time, many seemed to think such questions were outlandish. Much of our coverage stemmed from allegations made about Hastert by former FBI translator-turned-whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. She had charged, years ago, that Hastert was mixed up with shadowy Turkish interests and even suitcases full of cash, generally speaking. For example, from the 241-page transcript [PDF] her sworn video taped testimony during a 2009 case, Edmonds claimed Hastert was involved in...
On today's premiere edition of the now-daily BradCast, we cover the violence on the ground in Baltimore during protests of the death of Freddy Gray in police custody, and the ongoing disaster following the weekend's earthquake in Nepal.
Then, I speak to legendary 'Pentagon Papers' whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg from the National Press Club in D.C. about the Obama Administration's unprecedented prosecution of national security whistleblowers and the slap-on-the-wrist sentence given to disgraced CIA director General David Petraeus, versus the severe treatment to actual recent whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.
"Our democracy has eroded very very heavily since 9/11," Ellsberg tells me in a fascinating conversation. "More than people realize. And maybe not more than they were willing to see, but it hasn't been an informed change on their part. When they think 'I'm willing to give up a little democracy here to have more security,' they don't know how much they're giving up and they don't know how little more security they're getting."
Near the end of our conversation, Ellsberg was also kind enough to say some very nice things about the work we've been doing here at The BRAD BLOG for so many years. Coming from someone like him, that means a great deal.
Plus, Loretta Lynch finally sworn in as the next AG; Dubya criticizes Obama's Mid-east foreign policy (!) and climate deniers head to the Vatican...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Sec. John Kerry slams climate change deniers in government; More whistleblowers corroborate a Florida ban on 'climate change'; Solar energy is booming, in the good, non-explosive, jobs-creating kind of way; PLUS: Great news for the oil industry! Thanks to the oil industry, Arctic sea ice heads to a record low....All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): World record-breaking 8 ft of snow in 18 hours hits Italy; Scientists near breakthrough on artificial photosynthesis; Leaked emails reveal who' who list of climate denialists; India to hide pollution data from the public; Math and myth clash in Senate hearing on Clean Power Plan; The Hydraulic Hypothesis and the 'ends' of civilization; Plastic runs through everything; Farmers take up no-till agriculture ... PLUS: Unlike temperatures, climate change deniers falling fast... and much, MUCH more! ...
Incredibly enough, it's been ten years this month since we broke the story about vote-rigging software whistleblower Clint Curtis. It was certainly the biggest story we'd broken up until that time, in December of 2004, and, for some, it is still the story we may be best known for.
That's not surprising as it involves election fraud, touch-screen voting systems, Florida, a powerful Congressman, the Bush family, Chinese spies and several disturbing deaths.
For those not familiar with it, you can find a quick summary here. The index of most of the key articles in our years-long series, beginning with our 12/6/2004 exclusive on Curtis' sworn affidavit can be found at BradBlog.com/ClintCurtis. (And, yes, if you're looking for the horrifying NSFW "crime scene photos" of the main death involved in this case, those are here.)
In short, Curtis was a software programmer from Oviedo, FL who claimed in a sworn 2004 affidavit and then sworn testimony before members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, that he was asked to create a vote-rigging software prototype for touch-screen voting systems back in 2000 by then Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL), a very powerful Republican in the Sunshine State and a close friend of the Bush family. At the time, Curtis worked for a company named Yang Enterprises, Inc., which had many contracts with NASA and the state of Florida. In 2000, when he says Feeney asked him to create the vote-rigging software, Feeney was both the Speaker of the FL House, as well as a registered lobbyist for Yang. Feeney would also go on to great ignominy due to his dealings with Republican uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
There is much much more to this story, much of which was also eventually told in Murder, Spies and Voting Lies: The Clint Curtis Story, an award-winning documentary film by Patty Sharaf. It includes spying for China and at least two deaths in addition to the vote-rigging allegations, but I'll let you explore it all via the links above and/or in my all-new interview with Curtis from this week's KPFK/Pacifica RadioBradCast
As it's been 10 years since we broke the initial story, it seemed a good time to get caught up with Curtis, reminisce a bit about the original story (and his eventual, gutsy, and at times hilarious campaign to run against Feeney for the U.S. House), as well as find out what he (and Feeney) have been up to since then --- even as we've been almost-continuously reporting on new developments in the case over the years since we originally broke the story in late 2004.
I gotta say I enjoyed this interview with Clint --- it was great to catch up with him --- and I hope you will too.
Please help support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system and much more --- now completing our ELEVENTH YEAR! --- as available from no other media outlet in the nation...
MONTHLY BRAD BLOG SUBSCRIPTION
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
The Politicus USA headline typified MSM coverage of what Brad Friedman often refers to as the "horse race" --- "Democrats Surge As Michelle Nunn Leads Georgia Senate Race In Third Straight Poll."
For The BRAD BLOG, and for a good many election integrity advocates and computer scientists, that narrow focus ignores "the track conditions," which, in Georgia entails the continued use of touchscreen voting systems courtesy of a 2009 determination by the Georgia Supreme Court that "unverifiable elections are just fine."
Where horse race coverage focuses exclusively on the here and now, this site feels it helpful to look back a dozen years to what took place in Georgia shortly after Democratic Secretary of State Cathy Cox signed a May 2002 contract with what was then known as Diebold Election Systems Inc....
President Obama included this in his response [emphasis added]:
OBAMA: ...Germany is one of our closest allies and our closest friends, and that's true across the spectrum of issues --- security, intelligence, economic, diplomatic. And Angela Merkel is one of my closest friends on the world stage, and somebody whose partnership I deeply value. And so it has pained me to see the degree to which the Snowden disclosures have created strains in the relationship.
Got that? It was the "Snowden disclosures," apparently, not the actual U.S. policy of spying on her personal calls, that has "created strains in the relationship".
So he's not sorry we spied on her, he's simply "pained" that we got caught.
Almost three weeks ago, all three of the major Sunday network news shows --- NBC's Meet the Press, CBS' Face the Nation and ABC's This Week --- allowed very powerful elected officials, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), to come on the air and claim, without evidence, that they'd seen "clues" suggesting former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden was, somehow, a Russian agent.
While that sort of wholly substance-free red-baiting is now perfectly appropriate, seemingly, on network "news" shows, it's similarly remarkable that it seems those very same networks, and most of the others, obsessed with unsubstantiated bullshit claims about Snowden, failed to even note a full-length, detailed, substantive videotaped interview with Snowden on Germany television's ARD almost two weeks ago on January 26th.
Interestingly, on the ARD website, where the exclusive interview was originally posted, a note on the page explains cryptically: "Due to legal reasons the video is only available in Germany." Huh. So it can't be watched there from here in the U.S. Okay. So, here's the full interview as posted at LiveLeak...
Please decide for yourself if he's a "Russian agent", as based on his comments here and the actual public evidence that exists (none) to support the defamatory claims of the very powerful elected members of Congress. The entire interview is interesting and as fascinating as he is.
I'm not sure if it offers a lot of new information, in regard to Snowden's leaks (as he notes several times during the conversation, he's leaving it to the journalists to decide what is newsworthy and what isn't from amongst the documents which he reportedly no longer even has), but there's one section I wanted to underscore, as it's something we've discussed here for many years. Namely, the dangers of privatizing our national security/surveillance state, which he speaks to very directly in the interview...
A number of unhappy "good government" groups will file a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission next month, in hopes that the courts will force the FEC to enforce the federal campaign finance laws that the FEC is, supposedly, there to enforce.
The organizations are particularly unhappy about Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS "behemoth" outfit, which has raised hundreds of millions over the last several years to elect Republican candidates to office, recently receiving a pass from the FEC, even after the agency's Office of General Counsel found reason to believe Rove's group clearly violated campaign finance laws.
The news about the groups' intention to file suit was offered on the KPFK/Pacifica RadioBradCast this week by my guest, Craig Holman, the Government Affairs Lobbyist for Public Citizen's Congress Watch. Public Citizen, along with the Campaign Legal Center, Center for Media and Democracy, and Protect Our Elections filed the initial complaint over campaign spending in 2010 by Rove's then new non-profit 501(c)(4) organization. They now plan to sue the FEC for failing to do their job, Holman explained on the show on Wednesday. [Disclosure: Protect Our Elections is a campaign created by VelvetRevolution.us, an organization co-founded by The BRAD BLOG, though we weren't personally involved with either the complaint or the upcoming suit.]
"What's happened with the Federal Election Commission is," Holman explained during my interview [posted in full at the end of this article], Senator "Mitch McConnell [R-KY], back in about 2008, realized that even though he can't get Congress to rescind campaign finance laws --- and he certainly can't sell the public on rescinding campaign finance laws --- he realized that if he were to appoint three Republican Commissioners to the FEC, he could ensure that the campaign finance laws don't get enforced. And that's exactly what has happened." Holman detailed how three-to-three deadlock votes on whether to pursue further action in most of the campaign finance rulings by the three Democratic and three Republican Commissioners on the FEC has increased "nine-fold" since 2008. A deadlock vote effectively ends the matter, even if wrong-doing had been found by the investigative staff, as is the case here.
In the original complaint against Rove's Crossroads GPS, the FEC's Office of General Counsel (OGC) found that the group had spent a majority of its funding on campaigning in 2010. If so, that's a violation of the law, since Rove's group should have filed with the FEC as a political committee, rather than as a 501(c)(4) which is supposed to be a non-electioneering "social welfare" organization. As a political committee, funders would have to be immediately disclosed, but as a (c)(4), the identity of those funding Rove's organization can remain a secret....
Still on the road (back full time as of next week), but thought this video from yesterday's The Lead with Jake Tapper on CNN was well worth popping here quickly, if you've yet to see it.
It's a fantastic and very lively debate about Edward Snowden and, perhaps most-interestingly, Obama's Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, between journalist Glenn Greenwald and Washington Post op-ed columnist Ruth Marcus. Greenwald describes Marcus here --- much to her apparent consternation --- as an Obama Administration "loyalist" for, among other things, what he sees as a double-standard for her calls for the prosecution of whistleblower Snowden, versus the seeming free pass she's willing to give to Administration officials such as Clapper who has admitted to misleading Congress with false testimony (aka Lying to Them). That would be a felony crime...if anybody bothered to prosecute it.
Greenwald is tenacious (as usual) in forcing Marcus to answer his question about whether Clapper should be prosecuted. For her part, she does a decent job of acquitting herself, sort of, even as the entire conversation --- and the two staked-out positions here --- really do help to illustrate, as Greenwald describes it, how "the D.C. media" and "people in Washington continuously make excuses for those in power when they break the law."
"That's what people in Washington do," he charges. "They would never call on someone like James Clapper, who got caught lying to Congress, which is a felony, to be prosecuted. They only pick on people who embarrass the government and the administration to which they are loyal, like Edward Snowden. It's not about the rule of law."
"People in Washington who are well-connected to the government like she is, do not believe that the law applies to them. They only believe that the law should be used to punish people and imprison people who don't have power in Washington or who expose the wrongdoing of American political officials," Greenwald argues. I'll let you watch to see how Marcus responds.
This one is very much worth watching in full. If you prefer, the complete text transcript is posted here...
Earlier this year, in "Please Don't Notice the Global Corporate Coup", we explained how, via the TPP, giant multinational corporations --- through a secret negotiation process that they, not we, the people, have access to --- were working with the U.S. State Department and it's trade partners to supplant the sovereignty of participating nation-states with a privately-controlled, all encompassing, corporate, global "investor state". That "investor-state" is embodied in the deal through the creation of arbitration tribunals, which are granted the power to negate the effectiveness of laws passed by individual nation-states that are parties to the treaty.
The Obama Administration has taken extraordinary measures to hide the content of the TPP negotiation texts from the public as negotiations have proceeded in secret, but for the access granted to hundreds of corporate lobbyists. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), one of the few members of Congress to acquire access to the secret draft texts described the deal to date as "NAFTA on steroids." Last month, however, WikiLeaks published TPP's 94-page, Intellectual Property (IP) chapter, a chapter that would, according to WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange, permit corporate IP rights to "trample over individual rights and free expression."
The content of that chapter, according to Public Citizen's Lori Wallach will, among other things, not only extend the length of pharmaceutical patents (thus delaying the availability of more reasonably priced generic versions of the same medicine), but also attempt to expand patents to surgical procedures, both of which will serve to expand corporate profits at the expense of individual patients.
TPP represents only one-half of this ongoing, attempted, global corporate coup d'état. The second half finds its embodiment in the equally secretive TAFTA, which may prove a greater threat to our nation's sovereignty than the TPP in light of the fact that, as Public Citizen notes, "European-based corporations own more than 24,000 subsidiaries in the United States."
Like the TPP, they explain, TAFTA is also being secretly negotiated by some 600 U.S. corporate trade advisers and contains many of the very same threats to nation-state sovereignty…
A federal judge has found the bulk collection of metadata of U.S. phone calls to be "indiscriminate" and "arbitrary" and, therefore, in violation of the Constitution's 4th Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. His opinion was hailed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden who has been asserting that point as the central basis for his having leaked thousands of classified documents in regard to programs run by the federal agency.
A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency program which collects information on nearly all telephone calls made to, from or within the United States is likely unconstitutional.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon found that the program appears to violate the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. He also said the Justice Department had failed to demonstrate that collecting the information had helped to head off terrorist attacks.
Acting on a lawsuit brought by conservative legal activist Larry Klayman, Leon issued a preliminary injunction barring the NSA from collecting so-called metadata pertaining to the Verizon accounts of Klayman and one of his clients. However, the judge stayed the order to allow for an appeal.
Now, Klayman is, in fact, a Rightwing loon who is separately in the process of, literally, attempting to overthrow the U.S. government. But, as journalist Glenn Greenwald --- the man who has been most intensely reporting on Snowden's leaks --- notes today: "the ACLU has a virtually identical lawsuit against the NSA as the one where the judge today ruled against NSA".
Judge Leon went on to write in his scathing opinion...
New revelations and global protests by ordinary citizens and world leaders --- including U.S. allies --- over NSA surveillance, have now settled into an almost daily affair.
In the meantime, during an interview on Democracy Now! this week, journalist Glenn Greenwald offered up an analysis that may help explain what he now describes as an "institutional obsession" with surveillance by the U.S. government.
"If you reveal to populations around the world that their calls are being spied on by the millions, they’ll first wonder, 'Why are my calls of interest to the U.S. government?'," Greenwald observes. "But when it becomes apparent that the United States government is doing this for economic advantage, they start to feel personally implicated, like they’re being actually robbed."
While readers would do well to watch the entirety of the interview (see video below), the analysis offered within by Greenwald is especially poignant because it ties the NSA’s massive surveillance state in many of these foreign countries, not to the prevention of terrorism, but to the seemingly insatiable quest on the part of the U.S.-based, corporate global empire to secure economic advantage...