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...
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...
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....
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...
"Pentagon Papers" whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg wrote an op-ed in Sunday's Washington Post explaining why he believes that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden made the right decision in fleeing the country, rather than staying here and facing charges for leaking classified NSA documents about massive government surveillance programs that he believes to be illegal and/or unconstitutional.
"The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago," writes Ellsberg, alluding to his own decision to stay in the country to face charges of espionage (which were eventually tossed out) in 1971 after he leaked thousands of pages of classified Defense Department documents to the New York Times and other media outlets about the purposely deceptive origins of the Vietnam War and lies told by American Presidents to support those deceptions.
"When I surrendered to arrest in Boston," he writes, "having given out my last copies of the papers the night before, I was released on personal recognizance bond the same day."
"For the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war. Helping to end that war was my preeminent concern. I couldn't have done that abroad, and leaving the country never entered my mind," he explains.
In the op-ed, the iconic 70's whistleblower goes on to echo several of the points he had previously made during my interview with him in mid-June, just days after Snowden outed himself as the leaker from an undisclosed location in Hong Kong: "There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon's era --- and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment --- but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to 'incapacitate me totally')."
"I hope Snowden's revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here," write Ellsberg, adding that there is "close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado."
After Snowden outed himself, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo had expressed a thoughtful skepticism of Snowden and his motivations in this affair, though Ellsberg dismissed Marshall's musings as "stupid and mistaken" when I asked him about the comments directly during my interview.
Today, Marshall says, he's "kinda curious" about what Ellsberg meant in his op-ed remark that "The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago"...
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"...
Just a quick note to mention that, after several weeks of the latest KPFK/Pacifica Radio fund drive, The BradCast will be back LIVE today (6p ET/3p PT), and my guest will be the leaker of the Pentagon Papers, the legendary whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.
Seeing as how 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," it seems a good time to chat with him about all of this.
You can listen LIVE to the show at 3p PT/6p ET on air at 90.7FM in Los Angeles (and other points of the terrestial dial around southern California), as well as via the TuneIn radio app, or streaming at KPFK's website. (The show is also now heard on the Progressive Voices channel on TuneIn at 6p ET on Saturdays and Sundays as well, btw!)
I also wanted to take a second to publicly thank Kevin D'Haeze of the video production house Rock Island Media for answering our public request for help in creating a new logo for The BradCast! You can see it up above.
Kevin's work, creativity and patience with my ridiculous requests was exemplary during the entire process. I'm endlessly grateful, and couldn't recommend him or his production house any more. For an idea of what they do to actually make a living, check out their website and cool promo video below...
Thanks again, Kevin! And now...since crowd-sourcing worked so well on this one...if anyone out there feels like helping me out with some serious WordPress programming (not just template design!) please let me know that as well!
...is posted below, commercial-free, in case you missed it the first time around when it ran live, as guest hosted by yours truly.
Lots of important stuff discussed, much of which, I predict, will be worth remembering in the days, weeks, months (and possibly even years) ahead as the fallout continues around WikiLeaks (the new new media), and as the outrageously irresponsible governmental/state media assaults against both WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and alleged leaker PFC Bradley Manning continue to disinform the American people.
HOUR 2: ...Rowley (and the 17 compatriots in her van heading back to MN with her) continue with us for a few more minutes. Then we take some calls and offer some thoughts on the allegations made against Julian Assange and the deplorably inhumane captivity of Bradley Manning. Download MP3 or listen online below...
In "Plumbing the Depths of Lawless Executive Depravity", I argued that targeted assassinations threaten the very foundation of our republic. This occurs not only due to the potential for collateral damage but due to the distinct possibility that many whom we target as "suspected" terrorists may be entirely innocent.
These two articles, and former CIA field operative Robert Baer, in a must-see RethinkAfganistan.com video (embedded at end of this article), assume the targets of the drone strike are suspected insurgents and terrorists. Both of them deal with the counterproductive effect of unintended civilian deaths ("collateral damage") which serves to destabilize "friendly" governments, provide a recruiting tool for those bent on revenge, and increase the likelihood of "blowback," a CIA term that describes "the unintended consequences of policies that were kept secret from the American people."
Have Baer and I erred in assuming these strikes are not aimed at civilians?...
Dear "Tea Party": Whether you know it or not, your founding father is below. If you are to be what you claim you are (what you've been told to believe you are), then pay attention to what Rep. Ron Paul --- who actually is --- said on the floor of the U.S. House this week.
If you really think you are "conservative", isn't it time you started acting like it? Like Paul (The Elder, unlike The Younger) has been doing now for years? Pay attention. This is for you...
It's been quiet around here over the last 24 hours or so, largely because I've been absolutely fascinated following what is going on with WikiLeaks across the net, the nation and the world, despite the decidedly much-less-than-one-might-have-otherwise-expected coverage of the continuing fall out from new documents as they are released, the unprecedented cyber/info war for and against them which continues to rage, and the various whistleblowing heroes speaking up in defense of the "revolutionary" media organization.
For the record, to date, WikiLeaks has released just 1,295 out of the 251,287 leaked diplomatic cables they purportedly have so far. That's about "0.5% down, 99.5% to go" as they tweeted today. That, despite the inaccuracies you'll continue to hear and read in the media about the organization "causing havoc" and being "anarchists" by "indiscriminately dumping 250,000 classified documents!" It should be noted that almost all of the cable documents released to date have been published first by WikiLeaks' media partners such as the UK's Guardian, Germany's Der Spiegel, Spain's El Pais and the New York Times.
Never mind the very serious substance of the cables themselves --- it's not simply "embarrassing gossip" and "nothing new" as many in the media are shamefully downplaying it, perhaps because they didn't report it first! --- there is so much information and opinion flying out here about WikiLeaks and Assange themselves, it is difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with it all. In general, if you haven't noticed over the years, I only tend post when I feel I have something to contribute to any particular issue. So, of late, I've simply been trying to take much of it in, trying to make sense of it all in this extraordinary moment in history, and tweeting items of note (via @TheBradBlog) as I come across them in the bargain.
A few of those things, and a discussion --- at times, a somewhat contentious debate --- I had with someone on Twitter today in regard to WikiLeaks and Assange et al, are below, and I'd very much love to hear your thoughts on all of it. Read on...
"One of the major reasons for government secrecy is to protect the government from its own population...[The WikiLeaks cables reveal a] profound hatred for democracy on the part of our political leadership." -Noam Chomsky, Democracy Now, 11/30/2010
There is no issue of greater import to the aspirations of a democratic people than matters of war and peace. There can be no greater display of contempt for democracy on the part of an American President than that reflected by a covert decision to engage in a secret war without the knowledge or consent of Congress or the American people.
According to Jeremy Scahill (video below), "in '03/'04 the Bush administration issued an Executive order that authorized U.S. forces to go anywhere in the world where al Qaeda was to fight them; essentially declared the whole world a battlefield..."
The WikiLeaks Pakistan/Yemen cables confirm that President Barack Obama, possibly relying upon the Bush/Cheney cabal's extremist position that the Sept. 14, 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists ("AUMF") is tantamount to a blanket license to initiate wars anywhere and everywhere there is a "suspected" presence of al Qaeda, has both perpetuated and expanded these dangerous claims of lawless Executive power...
While the article I wrote on the interview last night focused on Ellsberg's departure with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the issue of whether Hillary Clinton needs to resign, there was much more in my interview with the legendary "Pentagon Papers" whistleblower, including his opinions on the much-derided and currently-arrested PFC Bradley Manning (believed to be the leaker of a lot of the recently published classified documents) whom Ellsberg calls a "patriot" and not guilty of "treason" under the law, and on the covert bombing of Yemen being carried out by the U.S. without approval from Congress or the knowledge of the American people, as we've learned more about from WikiLeaks' release of thousands of diplomatic cables.