Standing up to the NRA after Roanoke, horrifying U.S. gun death toll; PLUS: Denying global warming on Katrina's 10th anniversary; Trump's ugly nativism; Good news for Dems; Marriage dead-enders in KY...
By now, you've certainly heard of the outrageous 9-hour detention of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda at Heathrow Airport under Great Britain's supposed "Terrorism Act" over the weekend. As Rachel Maddow amazingly, but justifiably, found it necessary to point out loudly last night, "journalism is not terrorism", and both the British government and U.S. government (which has admitted receiving a "heads-up" about the planned detention by British authorities in advance, but didn't stop it from happening) should be ashamed of themselves and held accountable for the outrage.
Many have opined, since the detention of Miranda, what an outrage something like that would have been had a similar harassment and the seizure of personal property of, say, a New York Times journalist doing his or her job, occurred in this country or by a country so closely allied with the U.S.
Well, before we took our short break last week, I had been covering some of the increasing citizen protests in several states around the U.S. in reaction to the extreme and radical Republican policies being put in place by states where the GOP has recently taken control of state government. I covered the ensuing arrests of an 83-year old Korean War vet peacefully demonstrating for voting rights in NC (as he did with MLK in Selma, AL in 1965) and of an 80- and 85-year old couple in WI arrested in a crackdown by Republican Gov. Scott Walker's Capitol Police for participating in a daily protest sing along in the state capitol building.
While I was gone, it seems, things have gotten worse in Wisconsin, as an elected official was also arrested for singing along, and even the editor of a progressive news magazine was arrested for having attempted to record it...
I was watching a segment last night on Rachel Maddow's show with Desi Doyen, concerning the recent warnings issued to Americans and the evacuations at dozens of U.S. embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Northern Africa. The actions were taken due, we are told, to "chatter" detected by intelligence services of the possibility of attacks by al-Qaeda (and/or "associated forces") to American interests in the region.
Maddow framed the actions being taken by the U.S. government in the context of the infamous August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing memo --- "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US" --- ignored by George W. Bush just one month before the 9/11 attacks. Yesterday was the 12th anniversary of that memo.
In her conversation with NBC foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, Maddow discussed the memory of that infamously ignored warning, and what effect it may have on the way the U.S. government now reacts to such detected threats. "In a post-9/11 world", the argument goes, President Obama and all future Presidents are likely to be very conscious of not underestimating such memos and "chatter," in the event that an attack does come about, for which they could later be held accountable for having ignored the "clear signs." (Not that George W. Bush or his administration was ever held accountable for such things, but that's a different matter.)
While watching the conversation about the dozens of closed diplomatic posts, I said to Desi, "I bet they're wildly over-reacting. It's not about post-9/11. It's about post-Benghazi."
In either an abundance or over-abundance of caution, U.S. embassies and consulates are being warned and shuttered and Americans are being air-lifted out of countries. It's not the memory of 9/11, at this point, that the government seems to be reacting to. It's as much the Republican reaction and/or over-reaction and/or political bludgeon made of the deaths of four U.S. personnel at our diplomatic outpost in Libya last year that seems to be leading to this reaction and/or over-reaction by the government.
Indeed, moments after I had uttered that thought to Desi, Mitchell said to Maddow: "I think, Rachel, that this is not just post-9/11, this is post-Benghazi."
The way our government now reacts to such events is not necessarily based on common sense, it seems to be as much based on fear. Not necessarily fear of being attacked, but fear of missing some important warning or another and then being held politically accountable for it later.
Since so much of this is kept secret --- except for stuff classified as "secret" and "top secret" that is routinely leaked by government officials who, unlike whistleblowers, are almost never held accountable for such leaks of classified information --- we are largely left to simply "trust" that the government is accurately portraying the threat, whether they are or not, and whether they are simply over-reacting out of caution and/or political ass-covering.
All of this, then, adds an interesting light to a curious story reported this week by Al-Jazeera English's Jason Leopold (formerly of Truthout) highlighting the government's seemingly bizarre claims that they have concerns that al-Qaeda may "attack the detention facilities at Guantanamo" or otherwise, somehow, "undermine security at the facility" if too much is known about what goes on there.
But that's not the most interesting aspect of the story...
Earlier this week we detailedThe Guardian investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald's dismantling of CNN/New York's Jeffrey Toobin in regard to the Bradley Manning verdict, and Toobin's vigorous defense of the U.S. surveillance state, long and cruel sentences for patriot whistleblowers and his support of the elitist establishment media who often publish "approved" administration leaks of Top Secret material to great aplomb from folks like Toobin.
Greenwald was back with Toobin on CNN Wednesday night, this time to talk about NSA leaker Edward Snowden. And this time, they were joined by New York Times investigative journalist James Risen, who is being forced to testify concerning his reporting on an alleged U.S. cyberattack against the Iran nuclear program.
This debate between Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald and New York's Jeffrey Toobin, both legal experts, is very enlightening and much worth watching. As those who know me may guess, I tend to side with Greenwald here...
By the way, since Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg is invoked in the above, please see what he had to say about Bradley Manning when I interviewed him in 2010, as I quoted him yesterday here. My entire 2010 Ellsberg interview (text transcript and audio), including more of his thoughts on Manning is posted here.
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UPDATE 8/3/2012: Greenwald and Toobin returned for Round 2 on CNN. This time with New York Times investigative journalist James Risen as well. It didn't go any better for Toobin. Details, video here...
While Manning was acquitted today of "aiding and abetting al-Qaida" --- an unprecedented charge in a leak case --- he may still face more than 100 years in prison for the other charges, including espionage and computer theft, for which the military judge just found him guilty. That, despite the government's "failure to demonstrate even one example of someone who was hurt" by Manning's leaks, as CNN's Jake Tapper just noted. Military convictions for sentences longer than a year receive an automatic appeal.
In January, the judge in the case, Army Col. Denise Lind, ruled that Manning's imprisonment, which included some nine months of solitary, often unclothed confinement for 23 hours a day in a windowless cell, had been "excessive in relation to legitimate government interests". At the time, rather than dismiss all charges as the defense had hoped, she reduced his potential life sentence by 122 days.
In an attempted plea bargain, Manning had confessed to many of the charges he was found guilty of today. Manning had admitted to having leaked reams of classified information to the media, including Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, diplomatic cables, and raw video of U.S. Apache helicopter gunships in 2007 gunning down 11 men in a public square in Iraq. Those killed in the attack included a Reuters journalist and his driver.
The government refused to bargain with the whistleblower, and tried him for aiding the enemy under the Espionage Act nonetheless.
In December of 2010, I discussed Manning's case with Ellsberg, who has some experience in this sort of thing. He seems to have nailed it in his prediction concerning the unfounded allegation that Manning committed treason by aiding the enemy, the most serious charge then alleged against Manning, and the one for which he was acquitted today.
As Ellsberg told me at the time...
ELLSBERG: Bradley Manning is not a traitor any more than I was. I'm sure from what I've read that he in fact is very patriotic, as I was. And indeed the charge of treason in our country, in our Constitution, requires aid and comfort to an enemy with whom you adhere --- and adherence to an enemy to the disadvantage of the United States. I don't think Bradley Manning or I intended at all to be disadvantageous to the United States. Quite the contrary. To do things, as I've said, to reveal truths that would reduce the danger that our policies are subjecting Americans to. And Bradley Manning, I'm sure, does not adhere to the Taliban or to al-Qaeda any more than I adhered to the Viet Cong, which was zero. So that charge is ignorant, let's say, of what the term means in America.
• The text transcript and audio from my full December 1, 2010 interview with Daniel Ellsberg is posted here...
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UPDATE: Here is the Transcript [PDF] of Manning's judge reading today's verdict on every count against him. Sentencing will take place at 9:30am ET tomorrow morning.
UPDATE 12:31pm PT: Here are a few very quick reactions to the Manning verdict, from ACLU and others, that are worth noting...
Her career, as a White House correspondent, entailed hard-hitting journalism and the aggressive questioning of every U.S. President from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Barack Obama. Her service as part of the White House press corps began in January 1961 and abruptly ended in June 2010 when the reporter with an Arab-American background dared touch what has become a third rail in American politics, charging that Israel should "get the hell out of Palestine", a comment which she said she came to "deeply regret". Thomas was a trail blazer for both women and White House journalists as "the first female officer of the National Press Club, the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents' Association, and the first female member of the Gridiron Club."
"There's no question in my mind", he said, that the surveillance programs revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden include both illegalities and unconstitutionalities. They "violate the First and Fourth Amendment of the Constitution" and even "the plain terms of FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act], the law on which the authority is purportedly based, and...other federal statutes."
Rumold was my guest this week on the KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast where my hope was to strip away all of the nonsense "controversy" about Snowden and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald in order to focus on the actual disclosures, what we know about them, what we don't, and what we know about the lies told by the Administration about them (especially those by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.)
Also, Rumold discussed the status of his EFF lawsuit attempting to force the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to release their 2011 finding on the illegalities/unconstitutionalities of one of the very few programs that they actually rejected.
If you are confused about any or all of that, today's show is a great primer on those key points and several more. The BRAD BLOG's legal analyst Ernie Canning described today's BradCast as "fascinating stuff." And though he may be somewhat biased, I --- who am completely objective on these things --- would tend to agree with him.
We also covered the breaking news out of Egypt, as President Mohammed Morsi was forced out of office in a military coup and Al Jazeera English was pulled off the air...live. We quickly discussed the outrageous secrecy of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), I had a few (more) very choice words for national embarrassment and professional hypocrite Justice Antonin Scalia, and Desi Doyen joined us, as usual, for the latest Green News Report and details on the next billion dollar natural disaster on its way...
On MSNBC's All In Thursday night, Chris Hayes flagged Barbara Starr's Tuesday report at CNN on how, according to unnamed U.S. government intelligence officials who offer some very specific details, terrorists are now, allegedly, changing their habits in the wake of the recent surveillance disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Hayes cites Starr's reporting in order to point out the hypocrisy in how some leaks, those seemingly meant to make the Pentagon look good, are, apparently, perfectly fine in the eyes of many of the very same people who have otherwise criticized --- and even called for the arrest of --- both Snowden and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who had the temerity to report on Snowden's leaks.
The point Hayes makes here --- the last one, in particular, about the "vast and growing web of secret government" and our responsibility for "what our government does in our name," as quoted below (along with his full video commentary), is right on the money...
And somehow we managed to fit in a few phone calls and a thought or two on Wendy Davis' stand in TX late last night and the state Republicans attempt to fraudulently pass a radical anti-abortion bill anyway. We got all of that into an incredibly fast moving single show, which follows for you below. Enjoy!
That said, given this "Catch Me If You Can" international chase, this may be one (very brief) moment, in which I can (for now) forgive the mainstream corporate media for their breathless worldwide, man-of-mystery manhunt coverage. Snowden's Run is, after all, just one helluva good thriller story.
The New York Times' David Carr described it this way: "[A]s Edward J. Snowden made his way across the globe with a disintegrating passport and newly emerged allies, Twitter was there, serving up a new kind of chase coverage, with breathless updates from hovering digital observers speculating about the fleeing leaker’s next move. All day Sunday, it was like watching a spy movie unfold in pixels, except it was all very real and no one knows how it ends."
What is impossible to forgive, however, is another sideline distraction to the substance of Edward Snowden's disclosures that happened on Sunday, though it's a disturbingly important one that needs more light amidst the other, thrilling, if less important distractions. This part of the story came via the national embarrassment otherwise known as NBC's Meet the Press with David Gregory, when the titular host suggested that Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who helped break many of the Snowden disclosures, had "aided and abetted" the former NSA contractor, and should, therefore, be "charged with a crime" himself.
Gregory's friendly help to the U.S. Government's surging War on Journalism was echoed again today, by yet another supposed journalist, when Andrew Ross Sorkin, a financial columnist for the national embarrassment otherwise known as the New York Times, offered (also on live television) that he would "almost arrest" Greenwald in addition to Snowden...
Earlier this week, CNN's Anderson Cooper interviewed The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald about the baseless claim made by Rep. Peter King (R-NY), on Fox "News", that Greenwald was "threatening to disclose" the identities of covert American CIA operatives.
Cooper and Greenwald then discussed the claim that American national security has been harmed by the disclosures made by Snowden, and why both citizens and journalists should never merely accept, at face value, such claims from public officials...
ANDERSON COOPER: King also says that you should be prosecuted because of what you've already published, saying it puts American lives at risk…When Wikileaks released huge amounts of information…a lot of people said, you know, "They had blood on their hands. Julian Assange has had blood on his hands." But then U.S. officials privately admitted to people in Congress and even publicly that even though the revelations were embarrassing, were a problem, that they couldn’t name anyone who really had lost their lives because of it. So now, when people are saying that you have put American lives at risk, do you believe that at all?
GLENN GREENWALD: No. And Anderson, that point that you just made, in my opinion, is really the crucial point, for anybody listening, to take away. Every single time the American government has things that they’ve done in secret exposed or revealed to the world and they're embarrassed by it, the tactic that they use is to try and scare people into believing that they have to overlook what they have done --- they have to trust American officials to exercise power in the dark, lest they be attacked; that their security and safety depend upon placing this value in political officials. And I really think it’s the supreme obligation of every journalist and every citizen when they hear an American official say --- 'this story about us jeopardizes national security' --- to demand specifics; to ask, what exactly it is that has jeopardized national security.
King's blatant lies about Greenwald ought to underscore his point that such officials are not to be merely trusted.
Video of Anderson Cooper's 6/12/2013 interview of Glenn Greenwald follows below...
EXCLUSIVE: Legendary 'Pentagon Papers' whistleblower offers frank comment on the NSA whistleblower; the dangers of our privatized surveillance state; the failure of Congressional oversight; and journalists 'discrediting their professions'...
"I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America," Church said, "and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."
On Wednesday, during a fascinating interview on The BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio, Ellsberg said directly, in the wake of Snowden's disclosures: "We're in the abyss. What he feared has come to pass."
The Guardian has asserted that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden "will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning," do it seemed the perfect time to chat with Ellsberg about all of this.
He offered a number of thoughts about Snowden himself, from one of the few people in the world who may have real insight into what the 29-year old leaker must be thinking and dealing with right about now, and why he may have chosen to both leave the country and then come out publicly. He describes Snowden as "a patriotic American, and to call him a traitor reveals a real misunderstanding of our founding documents."
"What he has revealed, of course, is documentary evidence of a broadly, blatantly unconstitutional program here which negates the Fourth Amendment," Ellsberg said. "And if it continues in this way, I think it makes democracy essentially impossible or meaningless."
As usual, Ellsberg pulled no punches in his comments on the dangers of our privatized surveillance state; the failure of our Congressional intelligence oversight committees (which he describes as "fraudulent" and "totally broken"); and on those who have been critical of Snowden and of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist from The Guardian who has broken most of the scoops on Snowden's leaked documents.
He said that folks like attorney Jeffrey Toobin at the New Yorker and author Thomas Friedman at New York Times and Senator Dianne Feinstein "are being very strongly discredited," by their attacks on Snowden. "The criticisms they're making, I think, are very discreditable to them in their profession," he says.
And, while answering to my request for a response to Josh Marshall's recent piece at TPM, in which Marshall weights his own conscience on this matter and frankly revealing his natural tendency to support the government over whistleblowers in cases like this, Ellsberg was particularly pointed. "Marshall has a lot to be said for him as a blogger," he said, before adding: "I think what he said there is stupid and mistaken and does not do him credit." He went on to describe some of Marshall's comments as "slander" against Snowden.
One other point that merits highlight here for now, before I let ya listen below. The difference between Ellsberg's circumstances and those in play today.
Ellsberg noted that after leaking top secret Defense Department documents to the New York Times in 1971, detailing how the Johnson Administration had lied the nation into the Vietnam War, President Nixon, at the time, ordered a break-in of his psychiatrist's office and discussed having Ellsberg "eliminated".
"All the things that were done to me then," he noted chillingly, "including a CIA profile on me, a burglary of my former psychiatrist's office in order to get information to blackmail me with, all of those things were illegal, as one might think that they ought to be."
"They're legal now, since 9/11, with the PATRIOT Act, which on that very basis alone should be repealed. In other words, this is a case right now with Snowden that shows very dramatically the dangers of that PATRIOT Act, used as it is. So the fact is, that all these things are legal. And even the one of possibly eliminating him"...
I was on Abby Martin's Breaking the Set program on RT America this evening. The video is posted below.
We discussed the NSA leaks and everything related to it, including, briefly, my own disturbing experience --- which I have in common with Glenn Greenwald --- when we were both targeted by a cyber-scheme devised by government defense contractors set to turn tools developed for the "War on Terror" against us, at the behest of major corporate interests.
29-year old former CIA technical assistant and current NSA third-party contractor Edward Snowden has decided to out himself as the source of the leaked national security documents exposing the U.S. government's massive secret telephone records collection and secret access to nine major Internet services providers, as published by journalist Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian over the course of the past week.
"Any analyst, at any time, can target anyone...anywhere," he tells Greenwald in a video interview published this morning by the Guardian, as recorded in Hong Kong where Snowden has taken refuge for the time being. He adds that, "increasingly", secret intelligence collection is "happening domestically."
"Not all analysts have the ability to target everything," he explains. "But I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge or even the President if I had a personal email."
Prior to his decision to leak certain classified and top secret documents about "this massive surveillance machine" he said is being secretly built by the government --- documents which, he says, he reviewed specifically to make sure nobody was personally exposed by them --- Greenwald reports, in a separate article, that he "had 'a very comfortable life' that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves."
"I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest," he is quoted as telling the Guardian. "There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn't turn over, because harming people isn't my goal. Transparency is."
Thanks to his leaks from the NSA, "Snowden will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning" writes Greenwald, with fellow Guardian journalists Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras today.
"The public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong," Snowden tells Greenwald in the fascinating video interview...
NSA and the intelligence community in general, is focused on getting intelligence where ever it can by any means possible, that it believes, on the grounds of sort of a self-certification, that they serve the national interest. Originally, we saw that focus very narrowly tailored, as far as intelligence gathered overseas. Now, increasingly, we see that it's happening domestically. And to do that, they --- the NSA, specifically --- targets the communications of everyone. It ingests them by default. It collects them in its system, and it filters them and it analyzes them and it measures them and it stores them for periods of time, simply because that's the easiest, most efficient and most valuable way to achieve these ends. So while they may be intending to target someone associated with a foreign government or someone they suspect of terrorism, they're collecting your communications to do so.
A decade ago, Snowden had enlisted in the U.S. Army in hopes of going to Iraq with the Special Forces, the Guardian reports. He became disenchanted, he says, when "Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone." Following a serious injury during training, he was discharged, and eventually made his way into the intelligence field, and now the pages of history.
When asked why he decided to expose these programs, and now come out publicly about them at this time, as opposed to staying in the shadows until otherwise discovered, Snowden explains in the video...
The first part of this segment from last Thursday night's Last Word on MSNBC includes a quick summary by NBC's Pete Williams of the first two different blockbuster releases of classified NatSec documents by the UK Guardian's Glen Greenwald this week. (Those two stories are here and here, and came before his third one on Friday.)
If you're familiar with those stories, you can skip to the 5:15 mark in the video below, where Greenwald's appearance begins, and as he responds to threats of investigation, etc. by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) and others concerning his release of these documents journalism.
The first part of Greenwald's response: "Let them go ahead and investigate. There's this document called the Constitution, and one of the things it guarantees is the right of a free press. Which means, as a citizen and as a journalist, I have the absolute Constitutional right to go on and report on what it is my government is doing in the dark and inform my fellow citizens about that action ... And I intend to continue to shine light on that and Dianne Feinstein can beat her chest all she wants and call for investigations and none of that's gonna stop and none of it's gonna change"...
That's what journalism should look like, and what every journalist should sound like, in my opinion.
I'm very proud to call Greenwald both a colleague and a fellow target of secretly planned cyberattacks back in 2011 by incredibly powerful corporate/government forces (one of whom, by the way, may well be one of the government Defense Dept. contractors involved in the second of Greenwald's leak reports this week.)
One more point on all of this I'd like to cite, for now...