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...
Picking up on The BRAD BLOG's exclusive statement from the imprisoned former Governor Don Siegelman (D-AL) in regard to the alleged $20 million money laundering conspiracy by the currently-acquitted Tom DeLay, former convict Jack Abramoff, fugitive from justice Karl Rove and others to take down Alabama's popular former Governor, I was joined by Siegelman's son Joseph on this week's KPFK/Pacifica RadioBradCast.
Not familiar with the outrageous prosecution and conviction of Siegelman? Or of what appears to be his blatantly stolen 2002 election (on a Diebold paper ballot electronic tabulator?) This is great episode to listen to, as it also includes a lot of background and a few clips from my interview with the former Governor just days before he was ordered back to federal prison last year.
But before you get outraged all over again, we started off the show with a rarely heard good news segment to help soften everything else a bit. Yes, there have been a number of things to be happy and/or encouraged by, of late...though admittedly it's been very hard to notice.
On this week's BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio we spoke first with Jim Naureckas of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) about whether the MSM --- despite recent hand-wringing over failures in the run-up to Iraq 10 years ago --- repeated the same behavior in the run-up to the almost-war in Syria.
I'm heading off the grid, and deep into the mountains this week. Don't panic.
If the bears agree, I'll be back soon. There will be no important news over the next week or so anyway. I insist. What could possibly go wrong with that plan?
If you hear from my wife, call the police. I'm not married. She's a fraud.
P.S. Don't know if there's cell coverage where I'm going --- I hope not --- but feel free to keep an eye on my twitter feed (@TheBradBlog) just in case!
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UPDATE 8/19/2013: Just off the mountain. Safely. Some of you may be disappointed to know we did not get eaten by bears. For my part, I am disappointed that the world failed to heed my pronouncement that there would be "no important news over the next week or so". So, looks like I've got some catching up to do this week. Your patience, as ever, is appreciated...
Oh, that's right. I forgot. When you call in to the Thom Hartmann Program on radio-- as I happened to last week, after Republican "Swiftboat Vets" disinformationist Jerome Corsi was on the show, claiming not to know that in his very own book, he claimed Obama's 2012 election was stolen by a secret army of illegal voters (or something) --- you end up "on TV" --- because Thom's radio show is also simulcast on FreeSpeechTV.
Next thing you know, Thom posts that video of your call-in on YouTube, and then our own not-frequent-enough guest blogger D.R. Tucker, who notices everything, happens to notice it, and then he tweets it.
My fundraising pleas have not been very successful of late. Not sure what to do about that frankly, nor how we're gonna make it around here at this rate. This has been a problem for some time, actually, but perhaps that's more my problem than yours.
While I take some time to try and figure it out, I'll just mention today's my birthday, in case anyone feels like helping us out with a birthday gift, as has occasionally been the case this time of year. It is much needed. So thanks in advance to those who can help... - Brad
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
"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...
After being largely off-grid over the weekend, I returned home late last night just as a problem with our server (not just our website, but many of them served by the same system) was coming to light. It's still unclear what happened, that's being investigated, but the result is the site had to be restored from an older backup.
In the bargain, some article comments (including some of my own) were lost, though I'm going to try to restore some of them manually today as I can, where I have the material available to do so. Where I don't, I'll see if I can get the rest from the NSA. My apologies for any comments that I cannot restore. The upside is that at least we hadn't posted a lot of new articles over the weekend while I was on the road, so not too much new material was lost.
I was planning for it to be an unavoidably busy day today anyway, as I scrambled to get caught up from several days off-line after an otherwise interesting and largely fruitful visit to Netroots Nation 2013 and related missions. Given the fast moving news events of the last few days, it was clearly going to be a race to catch-up. Now it'll just be that much busier, and that much longer before we're fully back up to speed here. So, my apologies for that as well...and thanks in advance for your patience...
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.
While The BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio usually airs live on Wednesday's, we did a special Monday version this week, as I was filling in for my friend Harrison who was on the road today and unavailable to do his normal show.
Not for nothing, but this article is number 10,000 at The BRAD BLOG. That's right, we've now filed some 10,000 items on these pages since January of 2004, as our 10th year of investigative journalism, blogging, trouble-making and muckraking continues. (I say "some 10,000" because there are certainly several score or more over the years that never got published for one reason or another.)
I had been planning to run another mini-fundraiser of late, to try and add some fumes to our bone dry gas tank, so today's 10k landmark seems as good a reason as any.
My plan: if we can just raise $2 for each blog item we've run over the past ten years, that should keep us in pretty good stead through the end of the year! Given our history of fundraisers, however, I suspect we'll be able to raise the tiniest fraction of that at best, and I'll have to bother you all again in the near future. That's what happens without corporate money, foundational money or political partisan money. I hope you understand.
So, for now, if you're able to spare $2 or $20 or $200 for the tip-jar, to help support what we've done during almost 10 years and 10,000 articles, I would very much welcome it!
You can contribute with either a credit card or PayPal at the link above (and below). Alternately, snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" is always very welcome and much-need too.
Alternately, if you are able, monthly sustaining subscriptions of any amount are very much appreciated and quick and easy to create, via credit card or PayPal, as you prefer, to help keep us alive year round! (For amounts other than those in the drop-down box below, please see the form in the light blue box mid-way down our right sidebar where you can specify any number you wish!)
My thanks for whatever support you can offer. And now on to 10,001...
NOTE FROM BRAD: On August 28, 2005, I was the first in the national media to interview U.S. Army Specialist Tomas Young at "Camp Casey" in Crawford, TX. He and his then wife Brie had come down from Kansas City on their honeymoon to support Cindy Sheehan, the "Gold Star Mom" who was famously demanding a meeting with George W. Bush. Tomas' unarmored vehicle had been ambushed in Sadr City, Iraq on the same day that Sheehan's son Casey was killed in the same city. The attack left Tomas paralyzed from the chest down.
Since Bush had refused to meet with Sheehan --- claiming he had already met with her some months earlier, prior to proclaiming those who had died in Iraq had done so for a "noble cause" which he refused to define --- Tomas wanted to find out if he might be able to meet with Bush himself to ask what the "noble cause" was. We came up with the idea to paint a sign to help the media notice his plight. Some of the other veterans who were there as well helped to create the sign and it was, indeed, picked up by AP at the time.
Some years later, Tomas' story would be told on 60 Minutes, and then in a heart-wrenching 2007 documentary film, Body of War, by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro. (My interview on the ground at "Camp Casey" with Tomas and Brie is seen briefly in both. The full audio of my interview with them is posted in full at the bottom of this article, after Tomas' letter.)
He and Brie have since divorced and Tomas remarried last year. Now, ten years this week after the launch of the War on Iraq, what was left of Tomas' body is failing and, as Chris Hedges recently reported, he has decided to let himself die. Now in hospice care, Tomas, who was 25 when we met and is now just 33-years old, plans to end his long fight. He says he will remove his own feeding tube sometime after his first anniversary with his new wife Claudia in April and before the second birthday of his niece in June.
To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young
I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.
I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all-the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.
I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans-my fellow veterans-whose future you stole...
So what do the Chinese Government and the Rightwing mega-lobbying group calling itself the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have in common? Apparently, they are both interested in hacking into the computer networks of their perceived political opponents and appear to be using very similar techniques and tools to do so, as The Nation'sLee Fang reported on Monday.
A computer security expert cited by Fang notes "lots of overlap" between the recent documented Chinese military cyber hacks and tactics proposed for use by federal contractors working with the U.S. Chamber and their attorneys to discredit their enemies.
Readers of The BRAD BLOG will likely remember the emails hacked by Anonymous in February of 2011 revealing that three U.S. government defense contractors had been working with U.S. Chamber of Commerce attorneys from the Washington D.C. lobbying/law firm of Hunton & Williams to develop a $12 million scheme to target their political opponents --- such as unions and progressive organizations --- by hacking into their computer networks, infiltrating the groups, planting false information in hopes of discrediting them, and using other sophisticated computer tools developed for the "War on Terror" by the three cyber-security firms.
One of the perceived political opponents targeted by the Chamber, we would learn from the hacked emails, was I. Personal details about myself and my family showed up in both the emails and a PowerPoint presentation for the U.S. Chamber prepared by "Team Themis," the name used for the illicit project by the three government contractors, HBGary Federal, Palintir, and Berico.
Lee Fang, who was then a reporter for Think Progress, and Scott Keyes, who still is, originally broke the revelations from the hacked HBGary Federal emails there. A slide in one of the presentations prepared for the U.S. Chamber scheme described the effort to "Discredit, Confuse, Shame, Combat, Infiltrate [and] Fracture" the progressive organizations with online tools, hacking and other dirty tricks in order to "mitigate [the] effect of adversarial groups."
Another slide included a photograph of me, and other personal details meant to target VelvetRevolution.us, a not-for-profit good government group (co-founded by The BRAD BLOG) which has long called for accountability for the Chamber and its mafia-like political tactics.
The news of the hack and its revelations quickly garnered front-page headlines in the U.S. and around the world as an international scandal, even as the Chamber denied having knowledge of the specific cyber-terror threat clearly being created on their behalf by the three defense contractors, and even as neither they nor their attorneys have yet to face any accountability for the scheme to terrorize public organizations and private individuals, such as myself and my family. An official Dept. of Justice investigation into the matter --- and even a brief attempt to do so by Democrats in Congress --- was no doubt crippled by both the enormous power of the Chamber, and the fact that it was the DoJ itself which had referred Bank of America to the very same defense contractors in a parallel scheme mirroring the Chamber's, as revealed by the same email hack. That scheme was being prepared to target perceived supporters of WikiLeaks at the time, including journalist Glenn Greenwald.
"[W]ho better to develop a corporate information reconnaissance capability than companies that have been market leaders within the DoD and Intelligence Community," read one of the proposals [PDF] created by "Team Themis," as delivered to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's law firm Hunton & Williams.
In Monday's report at The Nation, Fang details how recent cyber attacks against U.S. interests, which appear to be emanating from the Chinese Military, mirror tactics used by the U.S. Chamber's thugs in the eventually aborted 2010/2011 attempt to pull off what Fang describes as "one of the most brazen political espionage efforts in recent memory."