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The al-Qaeda Menace: A Tale of Two Headlines

Posted on | February 6, 2014 | 2 Comments

What exactly is al-Qaeda?

Is it a group of committed jihadists previously led by Osama bin Laden? Or is it a “brand?”

Is the enemy just the so-called “core” al-Qaeda, or is it now an amorphous conglomerate of affiliates, franchisees and enthusiasts?

If “core al-Qaeda” is, as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper just said in his most recent congressional testimony, those “remnants” of the original ideological core still in Pakistan and Afghanistan, by what criteria are other groups not self-identifying as “al-Qaeda” then deemed as “designated al-Qaeda”

Considering the President’s State of the Union anti-terrorist to-do list of Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and Mali, is al-Qaeda really “on the path to defeat?” Is it “resurgent?” Or is the to-do list just a broad wish list of militants and insurgents not really associated with “core” al-Qaeda?

And now that Osama bin Laden is long-since dead, is Ayman al-Zawahri truly running a massive network of evildoers? Or is he, as CNN’s Peter Bergen wrote in 2012, “a black hole of charisma” who will never fill the void left behind by Osama bin Laden?

Questions are manifold. Answers are, as ever, scarce.

The confusion about al-Qaeda’s role in Syria and Iraq—supposed fronts in the nearly thirteen year war on those responsible for 9/11—illustrates the extent to which an ill-defined al-Qaeda is the crucial element sustaining the War On Terror.

It has been both officially asserted and widely accepted that al-Qaeda is actively fighting to take control of both Syria and Iraq. Both print and television news media used alarming headlines to emphasize the persistent specter of al-Qaeda in Syria and to bemoan its takeover of two Iraqi cities—Fallujah and Ramadi.

But then came a poser. Zawahri seems to have distanced himself and his “core” version of al-Qaeda from the proceedings in Syria. The way two major news agencies handled the story tells as much about the problem of defining al-Qaeda as it does about al-Qaeda itself.

Here’s how the Associated Press headlined the story: “Al-Qaida breaks with Syria group in mounting feud.”

However, that was not the first version to appear on AP’s website. The original headline from AP was: “Al-Qaida breaks ties with group in Syria.” And that was the headline run by Yahoo!News, US News & World Report, the San Francisco Chronicle and a variety of outlets that use AP’s wire service. FOX News altered AP’s headline a bit: “Al Qaeda announces it’s breaking ties with militant group fighting in Syria,” and the Times of Israel followed suit by also adding a qualifier: “Al-Qaeda breaks ties with rebel group in Syria.”

On the other hand, The Guardian took the story from Reuters and, therefore, a completely different tack: “Al-Qaida denies links to ISIL in Syria.”

This isn’t a simple difference in style. In this second headline, al-Qaeda “denies” a connection to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)—a group consistently identified as “al-Qaeda” by the U.S. news media. Other European outlets used both “denies” and “ISIL” in their versions, and Haaretz used the Reuters wire story and an even more precise headline: “Al-Qaida denies link to Syrian militant group ISIL.”

“Syrian militant group” is a far cry from al-Qaeda, which is how the ISIL is consistently referred to by the US government, members of Congress and much of the U.S. media. Make no mistake, it matters how these groups are characterized. Although decision-makers like to raise the all-inclusive threat posed by “The Terrorists,” there is a black and white distinction at the very center of who’s who in the wide world of terrorism.

That’s because the War On Terror depends upon the Authorization For Use Of Military Force (AUMF). Passed on Sept. 14, 2001 and signed by President Bush four days later, the AUMF authorized the President to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations, or persons.”

This is the authorization President Obama uses every time a drone kills “suspected militants” in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. Although 9/11 was officially the alpha and the omega of the AUMF, the expansive language of “designated al-Qaeda,” its affiliates and various linked groups provides an evergreen public relations cover story for the mostly-secret program of targeted killings. Mostly secret.

While relentless gumshoes at The Bureau of Investigative Journalism piece together the details of the killer drone program from numerous sources and tabulate the mounting death toll in spite of official silence, Team Obama happily leaks information when it suits their purposes. An unnamed official told the Washington Post that the killer drone program was being curtailed in Pakistan as a concession to the Pakistani government’s peace talks with the Taliban. The official did note that the U.S. reserves the right to kill “…senior al-Qaeda targets, if they become available, and move to thwart any direct, imminent threat to U.S. persons.”

But aren’t senior al-Qaeda targets who directly and imminently threaten U.S. persons the whole point of AUMF? Aren’t these the “core al-Qaeda” DNI Clapper defined in his testimony? Also, has the killer drone program been assassinating people who are not “core” evildoers? The anonymously-confirmed pseudo-hiatus implies that the U.S. has been killing insurgents engaged in a political battle with their government. In fact, former Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf stated exactly that after he returned to home to run for office, but then ended up on trial for treason.

This is the ultimate danger of this program—that the ever-expanding AUMF transforms the killer drone program into a de facto assassination tool used in quid pro quo agreements with governments, to shore up factional allies or to tip the balance of power in sovereign nations. It’s something that got the CIA into trouble back in the 1970s.

And it’s something made so much easier by the advent of drones and the secrecy surrounding the program. Ever since Dick Cheney hailed a taxi to the dark side, it’s been harder and harder to trust executive power operating under the cover of national security. Perjury by DNI Clapper about the NSA’s spying program makes it difficult to trust him on anything—including about the parameters and capabilities of al-Qaeda.

So, what is al-Qaeda? And what happened in Syria?

The AP characterized Zawahri’s statement as an “apparent” move “to reassert the terror network’s prominence in the jihad movement across the Middle East amid the mushrooming of extremist groups during the upheaval of the past three years.”

The Reuters story stated, “Al-Qaida‘s general command has said it has no links with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in an apparent attempt to assert authority over the Islamist militant groups involved in Syria‘s civil war.”

Apparent? To whom?

Reassert prominence? Or assert authority?

Are extremist groups really “mushrooming,” and do they, like “core al-Qaeda,” now fall under the AUMF?

What is the truth? How can we verify it? And without it, will the war ever really end?

Big Ag’s GMO Gambit: Defeat Labeling & Label Opponents as Terrorists

Posted on | January 21, 2014 | No Comments

from the film “GMO OMG”

GMOs are not popular and Big Ag knows it.

That’s why the industry opened its wallet to defeat attempts to pass mandatory labeling of food containing genetically modified components in California ($46m) and in Washington ($22m). It is also why the Grocery Manufacturers Association recently launched a “pre-emptive strike” against labeling at the Federal level.

The plan is to lobby Congress into setting a national labeling standard that would supersede labeling laws passed at the state or local level. If adopted, that labeling “requirement” will be every corporate captain’s favorite type of regulation—it will be a voluntary requirement!

Even without a “voluntary requirement” in place, the folks at General Mills realized the perception of GMOs is negative enough to warrant the elimination of genetically modified ingredients from one of America’s most iconic brand identities—Cheerios. It may just be a gimmick. Or it may be a test run to see if the “GMO-free” label generates a sales spike. Or it may be an admission of the real and dire image problems GMOs have with the public.

Is there any doubt General Mills did its due diligence—with copious test marketing and numerous focus groups—before modifying their flagship Cheerios brand?

No, Big Ag and Big Food know they have a big problem. But voluntary labeling is just the most visible part of a long-term strategy for shoving their food agenda down Americans’ throats. Another tactic involves using the specter of “terrorism” as a weapon against a growing army of activists. And a new front in the war on so-called “environmental terrorism” is, oddly enough, a Federal Court in Honolulu, Hawai‘i.

According to a lawsuit filed on January 10, 2014, three of biotech’s biggest players—Syngenta, Pioneer-DuPont and Dow Chemical’s Agrigenetics, Inc—claim an anti-GMO law passed by the County of Kaua‘i exposes them and their operations to “risks of corporate espionage, vandalism and environmental terrorism.”

The law in question—Ordinance 960—forces farmers to disclose information about the use of pesticides and genetically modified seeds and crops. This requirement is not voluntary. Not coincidentally, the three companies filing suit qualify as “farmers” under the ordinance since they lease a total of 11,500 acres on the island. Its remote location makes Kaua‘i, like the other Hawai‘ian islands, a perfect laboratory for testing new and exciting seeds, pesticides, herbicides and “poison-ready” crops. But people don’t like to be lab rats. Perhaps that is why there has been so much resistance to Big Ag in paradise, particularly on the Big Island.

Last December, Hawai‘i County Mayor Billy Kenoi signed a nearly-complete ban on all new genetically altered crops on the island. That’s a big “No!” to Syngenta, Dow, DuPont and Monsanto. And this resistance is spreading around the island chain. More directly, this backlash at the state and local level is exactly the sort of direct democracy Big Ag and Big Food both want to forestall at the federal level with their voluntary labeling ploy.

As the casino-like haggling over the Farm Bill illustrates each and every year, they’ve got the lobbyists and the bankrolls to make a whole-lotta hay in Gucci Gulch. But even more troubling than run-of-the-mill palm greasing is how anti-terrorism laws have turned state, local and federal law enforcement into a de facto corporate security force deployed on an ad hoc basis against environmental activists and protesters. As the lawsuit in Hawai‘i shows, the industry is well aware of the implications of labeling—in this case, the importance of labeling their opponents as agents of environmental terrorism.

But it isn’t limited to just “terrorism.” Sometimes it’s about stopping a “terrorism hoax.”

As independent journalist Will Potter reported in Vice, two anti-tar sands activists were recently arrested at the headquarters of Devon Energy in Oklahoma City. Devon Energy led the way on fracking and its CEO sits on the board of TransCanada—the prime mover behind the KeystoneXL pipeline. The two “radicals” unfurled a Hunger Games-themed protest banner in the building’s atrium, and some of the glitter they’d used fell to the floor. Of course, police were on the scene immediately and, because 9/11 changed everything, they decided to cordon-off the glitter and investigate it as a possible “biochemical assault.”

Much to the surprise of no one, it turned out that the glitter was, in fact, glitter. But the fear and loathing caused by the glitter was, according to charges filed, tantamount to terrorism and, therefore, a terrorism hoax—which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in jail.

What isn’t a hoax is the terrifying “chemical assault” on the environment and ground-water by fracking chemicals and by tar sands production. The irony of this juxtaposition is almost comical. The fracking industry doesn’t have to disclose information about the poisonous chemical cocktails it injects into the drinking water of millions. And federal authorities recently stopped investigating chemical assaults in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming. Nor will police cordon-off the toxic waste from tar sands piling up along the Detroit River. But they did arrest two activists protesting in accordance with their First Amendment rights. Or so those protesters thought.

In case you missed it, the ability of corporations to use “anti-terrorism” to shield their unsavory practices has been rooted in law since Congress passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act in 2006. It’s primary target was, and still is, activists who engage in protests, civil disobedience and undercover activities that expose another of Big Ag’s public relations disasters—factory farming.

The signing of that bill into law opened the door to a host of “Ag-Gag” laws at the state level. These are, in fact, anti-whistleblower laws designed to keep shocking pictures of abused and infirm animals from disrupting the revenue stream flowing out of Big Ag’s industrialized food-chain. We are not talking about Earth First blowing up loggers to protect spotted owls. We are talking about people doing the sort of thankless investigative work that, in a bygone era, made Upton Sinclair a household name and inspired passage of regulations meant to ensure a level of safety in the food people eat.

A century later, the hard work of muckrakers is being undone. New rules allow poultry “processing” plants to self-regulate while Big Ag hides behind specious laws that taint whistleblowers as terrorists. Ag-Gag laws and the claims of Big Biotech in Kaua‘i echo an FBI document classifying the surreptitious videotaping of animal abuse by factory farmers as “terrorism” and, by extension, the activists and whistleblowers who do it as “terrorists.”

The problem for Big Ag and Big Food is that these videos work. People are outraged once they see what happens to their dinner before it gets to their plates. In 2011, Activists at Mercy for Animals produced footage of horrific abuse of chickens at Sparboe Egg Farms and it wasn’t long before McDonald’s and Target dropped the callous egg supplier.

It worked when Upton Sinclair published The Jungle a century ago, and it works today when activists and whistleblowers expose the seamier side of big business. In this corporate age, image matters more than ever. And images that affect how consumers regard corporations affect the bottom line, and the bottom line affects every decision corporations make. They know that labels are important—whether it be “GMO” or “terrorist.”

For America, Denial is a River in Iraq

Posted on | January 15, 2014 | 4 Comments

Americans don’t know much about geography.

In 2006, three years into the bloody War on Iraq, 63% of Americans aged 18-24 couldn’t find the “target-rich” nation on a map.

To be fair, only half could find New York State on a map, so it is unsurprising that, in spite of its then-dominance of the news cycle, they couldn’t locate the principal fixation of American foreign policy on a map that still brims with U.S. military bases and deployments.

It’s been nearly eight years since that geography test and just over two years since President Obama declared an all-too-Pyrrhic victory as some of the last remaining troops returned home. In March of 2012, just a few months after Obama opined about Americans leaving with “their heads held high,” the President’s current Deputy National Security Adviser, Antony J. Blinken, proclaimed at the Center for American Progress that “Iraq today is less violent, more democratic and more prosperous” than “at any time in recent history.”

Armed with this rosy view of “recent” history, Blinken doubled-down on Iraq’s bright future in July of 2012 when he wrote with a sunny, Reaganesque optimism that it was “Morning in Mesopotamia!” And that was it. For all intents and purposes, Iraq disappeared from the map as soon as America walked away from the furies it had capriciously and illegally unleashed on the Iraqi people.

Like geography, America doesn’t do accountability.

But now Iraq is back in the headlines and, as with every day since the 2003 invasion, there is a great deal of mourning in Mesopotamia. And, as with every day since the snipe hunt for WMDs could no longer be justified, the story of Iraq remains cloaked in denial about America’s responsibilities to sovereign nation that was invaded under false pretenses, its government toppled, its infrastructure obliterated and its people killed in numbers that still haven’t been accurately tabulated.

The names are familiar—Fallujah, Ramadi and Anbar Province.  And so is the unwillingness of the political, military and foreign policy establishments to deal directly with the fact that serious crimes have been committed and nothing has been done to reconcile the U.S. with Iraq—no formal apology has been made, no decision-makers held to account nor any reparations paid to the Iraqi people.

This fundamental denial flows right through the middle of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Although the War on Iraq is widely and quite cavalierly regarded as a “strategic blunder” in the United States, the view around the world and in the region is quite different. After the Shock and Awe, world opinion shifted almost immediately against the United States. More importantly, the Pew Global Attitudes Research Project found in 2012—the same year as “Morning in Mesopotamia”—that the median favorability rating for the U.S. among key nations in the region was 21%. China came in at 45%. The survey didn’t include the nations most affected by the war—Iraq, Iran and Syria. And that median number reflects to some extent Israel’s 83% favorable view of the U.S. The next highest was Lebanon at 47%.

Back in the U.S., a reliably myopic and co-dependent media encourages denial among Americans. Since CNN “quietly” shuttered its Baghdad bureau last year, news from the steadily decaying country has been hard to come by, even as Iraq suffered a daily onslaught of bombings and attacks that made 2013 its deadliest year since 2007. Perhaps to its credit, CNN was the last TV news operation standing, but its departure completed a full retreat by the American news media that began, perhaps coincidentally, shortly after Obama won the White House.

After taking office, Obama dismissed the idea of accountability for the second Bush Administration or, by extension, for those within his own party who—like pre-emptive 2016 front-runner Hillary Clinton—aided and abetted its grand schemes in Congress. To wit, he quickly declared that he wanted his administration to “look forward, as opposed to looking backwards.”

“Don’t look back” is big hit with incoming administrations. It’s the careful karaoke and sanguine sidestep we get instead of truth and consequences. Bill Clinton sang the song as he entered the White House. His administration let a long-forgotten scandal called “Iraq-gate” just fade away and operatives in the first Bush Administration skated by without so much as a slapped wrist for the illegal arming of…wait for it…Saddam Hussein.

Funny how all roads lead to Iraq. Less funny is how often the scene of the crime involves the usual suspects.

Enter al-Qaeda. Well, not quite. Although the news media shouts alarming headlines stating that “al-Qaeda” has taken Fallujah and Ramadi, a closer read reveals that ”al-Qaeda” is actually “The Islamic State in Iraq and The Levant,” which is an “al-Qaeda linked” group (whatever that means). The editors at Time prefer to call it an “al-Qaeda franchise.”

Franchise? Like the terms “linked” and “affiliate,” it’s a handy bit of branding without discernable proof of a direct connection to the notorious al-Qaeda of Osama bin Laden. Is there an actual headquarters somewhere issuing franchisees a license to kill in the name of Allah? Can’t anyone with a Twitter account or a black flag claim the moniker of al-Qaeda? And didn’t the United States kick open the door to a regional civil war in the first place?

Perhaps the willingness of insurgents around the region to adopt the name “al-Qaeda” is more of a reflection of, and reaction to, America’s ham-fisted military policies than it is proof of a “resurgence” of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. But those nuances are lost on a media that prefers to focus on the pain and anguish of U.S. military veterans who, as the USA Today reported, “feel the sting” of losing Fallujah and Ramadi to al-Qaeda. Little attention, if any, is paid to the repeatedly stung Iraqis who’ve had to live through America’s grand adventure, enduring the sectarian hell it unleashed and the unrelenting chemical and radiological fallout that poisons their landscape and their bodies.

Rather than focus on the plight of an erroneously targeted people who were killed in vain, mainstream American media looks in vain for a salve to dull the lingering pain of those sent into a maelstrom the media itself helped to create in the first place.

Now the U.S. government is sending rockets and drones to assist Iraq in the fight against franchisees and door-to-door jihadists. Without irony, the U.S. Congress bloviates about putting conditions on military aid to an “untrustworthy” Iraqi government and it postures over sending Apache helicopters. But the U.S. will not send an apology or the one thing that could possibly make a difference—reparations. Yes, reparations. Like other wrongful wars, the War on Iraq demands a full accounting. Based on precedents set during wars in the 20th Century—like the reparations for Iraq’s illegal invasion of Kuwait—tens of billions of dollars are due the Iraq people for “death, injury, loss of or damage to property, commercial claims and claims for environmental damage.”

It’s really no different than someone who was wrongfully convicted of a crime, spent years in prison and then had the conviction vacated after being cleared by DNA evidence. Although it happens with an uncomfortable regularity, it is a reminder that it’s never to late for justice to be served. Usually, the aggrieved party is awarded a substantial amount—money he or she can use as they see fit in attempt to rebuild a life that was destroyed in error.

Isn’t that the story of Iraq?

Of course, that narrative doesn’t work for “recent” historians like Antony Blinken. Echoing George W. Bush, Blinken proposed that “the wisdom of going to war in Iraq” will be debated for years and that it is best to leave it to historians. Luckily for Blinken and the foreign policy establishment he represents, Americans know as much about history as they do about geography.

And, as the Benghazi debacle showed, Americans still don’t know much about geography. In May of 2013, only 58% of those polled could place Benghazi in Libya—the site of yet another festering sectarian conflict unleashed by U.S. policy. But when it comes to coping with the truth and consequences of America’s globe-trotting militarism, they can find denial all over the map of the Middle East. And, as the saying goes, it isn’t just a river in Egypt.

JFK & the Anti-Conspiracy Conspiracy

Posted on | November 21, 2013 | 6 Comments

Every day, people are charged with criminal conspiracy in courtrooms around the country. In those cases, a “conspiracy” merely describes a criminal act involving two or more individuals.

Also every day, the establishment media reports on various criminal conspiracies—including racketeering, insider trading, political corruption, sex scandals and murder plots.

Murder plots are their favorite, particularly when a husband or wife or crazed lover hires an assassin to knock off a troublesome or inconvenient spouse for personal gain. The details and facts of those conspiracies attract a great deal of attention from journalists and news personalities who pore over police blotters, always looking for a good hook to a shocking story with “legs” and, therefore, a long life with lots of details and great ratings.

Yet, over the last fifty years, the simple, descriptive word “conspiracy” has taken on a double life. On one hand, a feverish “true crime” obsession has spread around the news business, turning newsmagazine shows into banal police procedurals, and transforming entire cable broadcasts into tabloid mimics fixated upon mysteries, cover-ups and conspiracies.

The media literally spent years on the case of Chandra Levy and never stopped asking “Who killed JonBenét Ramsey?”

They’ve obsessed on Amanda Knox’s convoluted story and eagerly entertained various theories about the death of Princess Diana.

And they even jumped headfirst into the feeding frenzy around the murder of J.R. Ewing!

On the other hand, when faced with the crime of the 20th Century—the murder of President Kennedy—those selfsame establishment mediacrats have relentlessly and effectively mutated the term “conspiracy” into a dismissive, all-purpose epithet: the “conspiracy theory.”

Instead of handling JFK’s murder like a criminal case, they’ve treated it like an urban legend. Rather than examining eyewitness accounts or reporting on the facts and notable names associated with the murder, they’ve become a pool of official stenographers. They simply ignore conspiracy facts and make offhanded remarks about conspiracy theories.

Take note that it is always the plural: “theories.” It colors every critique or suspicion of the official story with the taint of alien autopsies, Bigfoot sightings and faked moon landings.

Even worse, they’ve established a blockade around experts and researchers and best-selling authors who have—over the last fifty years—uncovered reams of new information and documents relating to the case.

No, the establishment media prefers to consult with news personalities and pulp-trade historians who opine about the “myth” and “legend” and psychological “meaning” of JFK’s life and death.

This is an interesting, self-serving distraction. It avoids tough questions, replacing them with predictable intonations on the tragic fall of Camelot, with epic paeans to JFK’s charisma and Jackie’s panache, and with somber reflections on a nation’s shock and awe.

And it is all punctuated with the perennial question of “What if?”

“What if Jack had lived?”

Alas, it is no replacement for the far more relevant question of “How did Jack die?”

Ironically, the establishment media incessantly theorizes about “what ifs” and groans about conspiracy theories while the people they accuse in absentia of being “theorists” dutifully, often heroically, gather and share conspiracy facts.

Tune into CBS or NBC or ABC or anywhere around the dial, and you do not see James DiEugenio or David Talbot or James Douglass. Instead you get Chris Matthews and Rob Lowe and, most disappointingly of all, Ken Burns. They speak like people who haven’t read. They embrace a theory they haven’t questioned. And they explain away “the people” who believe in conspiracy theories with callow psychobabble.

In spite of all their talk, they literally say nothing.

There is no mention of the House Select Committee on Assassination’s determination that JFK was likely killed by a conspiracy or the invaluable book by Committee investigator Gaeton Fonzi. There is no mention of the information uncovered by the Assassination Records Review Board or that it was established because Oliver Stone did what many “journalists” and “mainline historians” refused to do. And, perhaps most significantly, completely absent is Jim Garrison’s prosecutorial dismantling of the Warren Commission.

It is as if none of it happened.

Just imagine if the blood, hair and brain tissue splattered and still preserved on Jackie’s pink dress elicited the same scrutiny and attention as did that tiresome little semen stain left on Monica’s blue dress. Perhaps then the New York Times would ask why, if Oswald shot JFK from the rear with a non-exploding bullet, the woman sitting to the left of him was so thoroughly sprayed by the fatal shot.

Alas, after leading with “Let them see what they’ve done”—Mrs. Kennedy’s famous response to the suggestion that she clean up prior to LBJ’s hasty inauguration—the Times’ story blathers on about fashion, archival ethics and, of course, “the rifle used by Lee Harvey Oswald.” The reporter never mentions, if only to dispute it, that it has been shown repeatedly that neither the rifle nor the bullet could have created those “iconic” stains in the first place.

America heard often about Bill Clinton’s crooked member. But it is strictly verboten to mention the Mannlicher-Carcano’s notoriously skewed gun-sight.

Instead, the murder is treated like a moment frozen in time and consecrated by some preternatural force beyond the power of mortal men. On Face the Nation, a recalcitrant and almost fanatical Bob Schieffer pronounces that Kennedy was killed by a “madman.” On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Rob Lowe compares criticism of the Warren Commission with Charlie Sheen’s belief that the moon is hollow. And the New York Times’ Executive Editor Jill Abramson takes over the Sunday Book Review to declare JFK’s life and death to be “elusive” without mentioning a single book detailing the facts that are, of course, elusive to those who choose to ignore them.

In this case, the use of the word “elusive” is a stark example of psychological projection. As David Talbot points out, it is exactly what the establishment media have been over the last fifty years.

They’re elusive about their bungled reporting on a sloppy criminal conspiracy of epic proportions. It is a failure that has metastasized over the five decades since, with those entrenched behind the privileged walls of network news, major newspapers and sanitized pulp-history continually doubling-down on a discredited theory that has them perpetually out of step with the majority of Americans who, not coincidentally, also distrust them.

Perhaps it is forgivable that many reporters and editors didn’t ask questions when faced with the rapid-fire public executions of a sitting president and his accused killer. The Cold War was hot. The Cuban Missile Crisis was fresh in the minds of many. Everything seemed dangerous and tenuous. It’s even reasonable to sympathize with Chief Justice Earl Warren, who LBJ forced—practically against his will—into an untenable situation.

But that was then. And this is now.

Now there is no excuse for what journalist Jefferson Morley calls “JFK denialism,” or for the establishment’s growing track record of repeated “failures” just like it, with the lead-up to the Iraq War standing out in a crowded field of errors and supposed ignorance.

Perhaps the anniversary of JFK’s death is also the anniversary of a birth—of the establishment media’s ultimate cover-story for ignorance and complicity. By dismissing “conspiracy theories” it is instantly possible to elude conspiracy facts. Ultimately, the real conspiracy may be the criminal contempt our media elites have for open inquiry and how it allows others to get away with murder.

originally posted at Consortiumnews.com

The CIA’s Memory Prison

Posted on | November 7, 2013 | 3 Comments

The memory hole is deep at Guantánamo Bay.

Its gaping maw has swallowed international law, the lives of hundreds of detainees and the moral consequences of torture.

And now it has quite literally swallowed the memories of five men currently engaged in a prolonged pre-trial process at the infamous prison. They are the defendants charged with the criminal conspiracy leading to the attacks of 9/11, including the alleged “mastermind” behind the attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

But the mind of this master terrorist is not his own.

That’s according to a ruling by Army colonel and military commission judge James Pohl, who issued a “protective order” in January of 2013 that, in effect, classified the memories of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other four defendants—Walid Bin Attash and Ramzi bin al Shibh of Yemen, Ammar al Baluchi of Pakistan, and Mustafa al Hawsawi of Saudi Arabia.

Their names remain opaque to most Americans, as do the legal proceedings based on their torturous experiences during “enhanced interrogation” at various “black sites.” Now, defense attorneys for the five men would like to file suit under the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which the United States signed in 1988 and ratified in 1994.

They cannot.

All legal claims of torture at the hands of the CIA during “extraordinary rendition” fall under the restrictive blanket of secrecy issued by Col. Pohl, who claims he is only empowered to classify material, not vice-versa.

This means the defendants’ personal stories, recollections and experiences cannot be told in any open court, recounted to journalists or human rights groups, nor can they be heard by international bodies like the United Nations.

In response to recent defense challenges to Pohl’s protective order, the prosecution countered with a rationale for secrecy drawn, it seems, from the pages of George Orwell or Philip K. Dick. According to Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, one government prosecutor argued that “… the United States government has absolute control of U.S. captive’s CIA memories because where they were held and what was done to them is classified as ‘sources and methods’ used by the CIA in the now defunct Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program.”

Essentially, the memories of their treatment by the CIA have become the proprietary possession of the CIA. It is the ultimate application of “national security” as a legal fig leaf. And it illustrates the reality that “national security” classification often does more to protect people in the national security business than it does to protect the security of the nation.

Yet, it doesn’t always help in a criminal prosecution—which is why Mohammed al Qahtani remains in perpetual limbo in Gitmo’s memory hole. One of the men accused of being “The 20th Hijacker,” the case against al Qahtani was finally dropped in January of 2009 by retired judge Susan Crawford, the military commission’s Convening Authority. Why? Because Judge Crawford determined that his handling by the military was, in fact, torture.

There it is—torture.

And there al Qahtani sits—out of sight and out of mind in Gitmo.

The problem with his case makes the stories of the remaining 9/11 defendants all the more troublesome for the prosecution and potentially more damning to the CIA. Although it is widely known that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (a.k.a. KSM) was waterboarded 183 times during his “interrogation,” much less is known about the depth, extent and range of the “techniques” employed on the other four by the CIA and/or their proxies.

We do know that KSM’s nephew, Ammar al Baluchi, is suffering from the lingering effects of a traumatic head injury, including memory loss, delusions and painful headaches. However, what his defense lawyer James Connell knows about the cause of the head injury comes primarily from unclassified records and what he gleaned from the movie “Zero Dark Thirty.”

That’s right.

It is believed that a sequence depicting enhanced interrogation in the film is modeled on the experiences of his client. In fact, it appears that the Obama Administration gave the filmmakers classified information relating to the treatment of al Baluchi that has not been made available to his defense lawyer. Now James Connell wants access to the same information made readily available to a few of Hollywood’s dreamweavers.

In the memory prison, one man’s classified memories are another man’s daily rushes.

And that’s not the half of it.

Although much remains classified, al Baluchi did write a first-person account of his experiences during “enhanced interrogation” and put it in an envelope. James Connell has not read it or tampered with it. He argued, thus far unsuccessfully, that he should be allowed to forward the handwritten account to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture.

But Ammar al Baluchi’s memories don’t belong to Ammar al Baluchi. They belong to the U.S. Government, which had no qualms about giving their version of his memories to entertainers manufacturing a heroic movie. It is an ironic, almost sadistic juxtaposition to the defense’s request to hand over al Baluchi’s first-person story to international officials investigating torture. But it’s also the sort of legal jiu-jitsu that typifies the post-9/11 national security state—whether it protects the prying eyes of the NSA, keeps the President’s drone kill list safely out of view or conveniently obfuscates the practice of torture.

Detainees in Gitmo, “suspected” militants targeted by drones and secret defendants in the rubber-stamping FISA court all swirl down the grand memory hole of secrecy, sucked in by the same type of circular logic keeping Ammar al Baluchi’s memories imprisoned with him at Gitmo.

It’s the logic of preemption that keeps detainees locked up even after they’ve been cleared for release and will keep others never charged with a crime in an indefinite state of limbo.

It’s the logic of blind trust used by defenders of the NSA who make claims of foiled plots that can never be verified because the details are too secret for public consumption.

It’s the logic of legal loopholes that prevents defense teams from collecting evidence of their clients’ scars while the government blithely passes their “classified” memories to filmmakers, but also restricts the U.S. Senate’s report on torture.

And it’s the specious logic of a trial-like military commission that cannot reconcile itself, the law or the nation it represents with the truth about America’s dark experiment with torture.

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