Let’s look at 50 reasons, some large and some small, why W. inspired so much anger.
1. He stole the presidency in 2000. People may forget that Republicans in Florida purged more than 50,000 African-American voters before Election Day, and then went to the Supreme Court where the GOP-appointed majority stopped a recount that would have awarded the presidency to Vice-President Al Gore if all votes were counted. National news organizations verified that outcome long after Bush had been sworn in.
2. Bush’s lies started in that race. Bush ran for office claiming he was a “uniter, not a divider.” Even though he received fewer popular votes than Gore, he quickly claimed he had the mandate from the American public to push his right-wing agenda.
3. He covered up his past. He was a party boy, the scion of a powerful political family who got away with being a deserter during the Vietnam War. He was reportedly AWOL for over a year from his assigned unit, the Texas Air National Guard, which other military outfits called the “Champagne Division.”
4. He loved the death penalty. As Texas governor from 1995-2000, he signed the most execution orders of any governor in U.S. history—152 people, including the mentally ill and women who were domestic abuse victims. He spared one man’s life, a serial killer.
5. He was a corporate shill from Day 1. Bush locked up the GOP nomination by raising more campaign money from corporate boardrooms than anyone at that time. He lunched with CEOs who would jet into Austin to “educate” him about their political wish lists.
6. He gutted global political progress. He pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol which set requirements for 38 nations to lower greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change, saying that abiding by the agreement would “harm our economy and hurt our workers.”
7. He embraced global isolationism. He withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, over Russia’s protest, taking the U.S. in a direction not seen since World War I.
8. He ignored warnings about Osama bin Laden. He ignored the Aug. 6, 2001 White House intelligence briefing titled, “Bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S.” Meanwhile, his chief anti-terrorism advisor, Richard Clarke, and first Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, testified in Congress that he was intent on invading Iraq within days of becoming president.
9. Ramped up war on drugs, not terrorists. The Bush administration had twice as many FBI agents assigned to the war on drugs than fighting terrorism before 9/11, and kept thousands in that role after the terror attacks.
10. “My Pet Goat.” He kept reading a picture book to grade-schoolers at a Florida school for seven minutes after his top aides told him that the World Trade Centers had been attacked in 9/11. Then Air Force One flew away from the school, vanishing for hours after the attack.
11. Squandered global goodwill after 9/11. Bush thumbed his nose at world sympathy for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, by declaring a global war on terrorism and declaring “you are either with us or against us.”
12. Bush turned to Iraq not Afghanistan. The Bush administration soon started beating war drums for an attack on Iraq, where there was no proven Al Qaeda link, instead of Afghanistan, where the 9/11 bombers had trained and Osama bin Laden was based. His 2002 State of the Union speech declared that Iraq was part of an “Axis of Evil.”
13. Attacked United Nation weapons inspectors. The march to war in Iraq started with White House attacks on the credibility of U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq, whose claims that Saddam Hussein did not have nuclear weapons proved to be true.
14. He flat-out lied about Iraq’s weapons. In a major speech in October 2002, he said that Saddam Hussein had the capacity to send unmanned aircraft to the U.S. with bombs that could range from chemical weapons to nuclear devices. “We cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” he said.
15. He ignored the U.N. and launched a war. The Bush administration tried to get the U.N. Security Council to authorize an attack on Iraq, which it refused to do. Bush then decided to lead a “preemptive” attack regardless of international consequences. He did not wait for any congressional authorization to launch a war.
16. Abandoned international Criminal Court. Before invading Iraq, Bush told the U.N. that the U.S. was withdrawing from ratifying the International Criminal Court Treaty to protect American troops from persecution and to allow it to pursue preemptive war.
17. Colin Powell’s false evidence at U.N. The highly decorated soldier turned Secretary of State presented false evidence at the U.N. as the American mainstream media began its jingoistic drumbeat to launch a war of choice on Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
18. He launched a war on CIA whistleblowers. When a former ambassador, Joseph C. Wilson, wrote a New York Times op-ed saying there was no nuclear threat from Iraq, the White House retaliated by leaking the name and destroying the career of his wife, Valerie Plame, one of the CIA’s top national security experts.
19. Bush pardoned the Plame affair leaker. Before leaving office, Bush pardoned the vice president’s top staffer, Scooter Libby, for leaking Plame’s name to the press.
20. Bush launched the second Iraq War. In April 2003, the U.S. military invaded Iraq for the second time in two decades, leading to hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and more than a million refugees as a years of sectarian violence took hold on Iraq. Nearly 6,700 U.S. soldiers have died in the Iraq and Afghan wars.
21. Baghdad looted except for oil ministry. The Pentagon failure to plan for a military occupation and transition to civilian rule was seen as Baghdad was looted while troops guarded the oil ministry, suggesting this war was fought for oil riches, not terrorism.
22. The war did not make the U.S. safer. In 2006, a National Intelligence Estimate (a consensus report of the heads of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies) asserted that the Iraq war had increased Islamic radicalism and had worsened the terror threat.
23. U.S. troops were given unsafe gear. From inadequate vests from protection against snipers to Humvees that could not protect soldiers from roadside bombs, the military did not sufficiently equip its soldiers in Iraq, leading to an epidemic of brain injuries.
24. Meanwhile, the war propaganda continued. From landing on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit to declare “mission accomplished” to surprising troops in Baghdad with a Thanksgiving turkey that was a table decoration used as a prop, Bush defended his war of choice by using soldiers as PR props.
25. He never attended soldiers’ funerals. For years after the war started, Bush never attended a funeral even though as of June 2005, 144 soldiers (of the 1,700 killed thus far) were laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, about two miles from the White House.
26. Meanwhile, war profiteering surged. The list of top Bush administration officials whose former corporate employers made billions in Pentagon contracts starts with Vice-President Dick Cheney and Halliburton, which made $39.5 billion, and included his daughter, Liz Cheney, who ran a $300 million Middle East partnership program.
27. Bush ignored international ban on torture. Suspected terrorists were captured and tortured by the U.S. military in Baghdad’s Abu Gharib prison, in the highest profile example of how the Bush White House ignored international agreements, such as the Geneva Convention, that banned torture, and created a secret system of detention that was unmasked when photos made their way to the American media outlets.
28. Created the blackhole at Gitmo and renditions. The Bush White House created the offshore military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as secret detention sites in eastern Europe to evade domestic and military justice systems. Many of the men still jailed in Cuba were turned over to the U.S. military by bounty hunters.
29. Bush violated U.S. Constitution as well. The Bush White House ignored basic civil liberties, most notably by launching a massive domestic spying program where millions of Americans’ online activities were monitored with the help of big telecom companies. The government had no search warrant or court authority for its electronic dragnet.
30. Iraq war created federal debt crisis. The total costs of the Iraq and Afghan wars will reach between $4 trillion and $6 trillion, when the long-term medical costs are added in for wounded veterans, a March 2013 report by a Harvard researcher has estimated. Earlier reports said the wars cost $2 billion a week.
31. He cut veterans’ healthcare funding. At the height of the Iraq war, the White House cut funding for veterans’ healthcare by several billion dollars, slashed more than one billion from military housing and opposed extending healthcare to National Guard families, even as they were repeatedly tapped for extended and repeat overseas deployments.
32. Then Bush decided to cut income taxes. In 2001 and 2003, a series of bills lowered income tax rates, cutting federal revenues as the cost of the foreign wars escalated. The tax cuts disproportionately benefited the wealthy, with roughly one-quarter going to the top one percent of incomes compared to 8.9% going to the middle 20 percent. The cuts were supposed to expire in 2013, but most are still on the books.
33. Assault on reproductive rights. From the earliest days of his first term, the Bush White House led a prolonged assault on reproductive rights. He cut funds for U.N. family planning programs, barred military bases from offering abortions, put right-wing evangelicals in regulatory positions where they rejected new birth control drugs, and issued regulations making fetuses—but not women—eligible for federal healthcare.
34. Cut Pell Grant loans for poor students. His administration froze Pell Grants for years and tightened eligibility for loans, affecting 1.5 million low-income students. He also eliminated other federal job training programs that targeted young people.
35. Turned corporations loose on environment. Bush’s environmental record was truly appalling, starting with abandoning a campaign pledge to tax carbon emissions and then withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases. The Sierra Club lists 300 actions his staff took to undermine federal laws, from cutting enforcement budgets to putting industry lobbyists in charge of agencies to keeping energy policies secret.
36.. Said evolution was a theory—like intelligent design. One of his most inflammatory comments was saying that public schools should teach that evolution is a theory with as much validity as the religious belief in intelligent design, or God’s active hand in creating life.
37. Misguided school reform effort. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative made preparation for standardized tests and resulting test scores the top priority in schools, to the dismay of legions of educators who felt that there was more to learning than taking tests.
38. Appointed flank of right-wing judges. Bush’s two Supreme Court picks—Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito—have reliably sided with pro-business interests and social conservatives. He also elevated U.S. District Court Judge Charles Pickering to an appeals court, despite his known segregationist views.
39. Gutted the DOJ’s voting rights section. Bush’s Justice Department appointees led a multi-year effort to prosecute so-called voter fraud, including firing seven U.S. attorneys who did not pursue overtly political cases because of lack of evidence.
40. Meanwhile average household incomes fell. When Bush took office in 2000, median household incomes were $52,500. In 2008, they were $50,303, a drop of 4.2 percent, making Bush the only recent two-term president to preside over such a drop.
41. And millions more fell below the poverty line. When Bill Clinton left office, 31.6 million Americans were living in poverty. When Bush left office, there were 39.8 million, according to the U.S. Census, an increase of 26.1 percent. The Census said two-thirds of that growth occurred before the economic downturn of 2008.
42. Poverty among children also exploded. The Census also found that 11.6 million children lived below the poverty line when Clinton left office. Under Bush, that number grew by 21 percent to 14.1 million.
43. Millions more lacked access to healthcare. Following these poverty trends, the number of Americans without health insurance was 38.4 million when Clinton left office. When Bush left, that figure had grown by nearly 8 million to 46.3 million, the Census found. Those with employer-provided benefits fell every year he was in office.
44. Bush let black New Orleans drown. Hurricane Katrina exposed Bush’s attitude toward the poor. He didn’t visit the city after the storm destroyed the poorest sections. He praised his Federal Emergency Management Agency director for doing a “heck of a job” as the federal government did little to help thousands in the storm’s aftermath and rebuilding.
45. Yet pandered to religious right. Months before Katrina hit, Bush flew back to the White House to sign a bill to try to stop the comatose Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube from being removed, saying the sanctity of life was at stake.
46. Set record for fewest press conferences. During his first term that was defined by the 9/11 attacks, he had the fewest press conferences of any modern president and had never met with the New York Times editorial board.
47. But took the most vacation time. Reporters analyzing Bush’s record found that he took off 1,020 days in two four-year terms—more than one out of every three days. No other modern president comes close. Bush also set the record for the longest vacation among modern presidents—five weeks, the Washington Post noted.
48. Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld. Not since Richard Nixon’s White House and the era of the Watergate burglary and expansion of the Vietnam War have there been as many power-hungry and arrogant operators holding the levers of power. Cheney ran the White House; Rove the political operation for corporations and the religious right; and Rumsfeld oversaw the wars.
49. He’s escaped accountability for his actions. From Iraq war General Tommy Franks’ declaration that “we don’t do body counts” to numerous efforts to impeach Bush and top administration officials—primarily over launching the war in Iraq—he has never been held to account in any official domestic or international tribunal.
50. He may have stolen the 2004 election as well. The closest Bush came to a public referendum on his presidency was the 2004 election, which came down to the swing state of Ohio. There the GOP’s voter suppression tactics rivaled Florida in 2000 and many unresolved questions remain about whether the former GOP Secretary of State altered the Election Night totals from rural Bible Belt counties.
Seymour Hersh has got some extreme ideas on how to fix journalism – close down the news bureaus of NBC and ABC, sack 90% of editors in publishing and get back to the fundamental job of journalists which, he says, is to be an outsider.
It doesn’t take much to fire up Hersh, the investigative journalist who has been the nemesis of US presidents since the 1960s and who was once described by the Republican party as “the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist”.
He is angry about the timidity of journalists in America, their failure to challenge the White House and be an unpopular messenger of truth.
Don’t even get him started on the New York Times which, he says, spends “so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would” – or the death of Osama bin Laden. “Nothing’s been done about that story, it’s one big lie, not one word of it is true,” he says of the dramatic US Navy Seals raid in 2011.
Hersh is writing a book about national security and has devoted a chapter to the bin Laden killing. He says a recent report put out by an “independent” Pakistani commission about life in the Abottabad compound in which Bin Laden was holed up would not stand up to scrutiny. “The Pakistanis put out a report, don’t get me going on it. Let’s put it this way, it was done with considerable American input. It’s a bullshit report,” he says hinting of revelations to come in his book.
The Obama administration lies systematically, he claims, yet none of the leviathans of American media, the TV networks or big print titles, challenge him.
“It’s pathetic, they are more than obsequious, they are afraid to pick on this guy [Obama],” he declares in an interview with the Guardian.
“It used to be when you were in a situation when something very dramatic happened, the president and the minions around the president had control of the narrative, you would pretty much know they would do the best they could to tell the story straight. Now that doesn’t happen any more. Now they take advantage of something like that and they work out how to re-elect the president.
He isn’t even sure if the recent revelations about the depth and breadth of surveillance by the National Security Agency will have a lasting effect.
Snowden changed the debate on surveillance
He is certain that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden “changed the whole nature of the debate” about surveillance. Hersh says he and other journalists had written about surveillance, but Snowden was significant because he provided documentary evidence – although he is sceptical about whether the revelations will change the US government’s policy.
“Duncan Campbell [the British investigative journalist who broke the Zircon cover-up story], James Bamford [US journalist] and Julian Assange and me and the New Yorker, we’ve all written the notion there’s constant surveillance, but he [Snowden] produced a document and that changed the whole nature of the debate, it’s real now,” Hersh says.
“Editors love documents. Chicken-shit editors who wouldn’t touch stories like that, they love documents, so he changed the whole ball game,” he adds, before qualifying his remarks.
“But I don’t know if it’s going to mean anything in the long [run] because the polls I see in America – the president can still say to voters ‘al-Qaida, al-Qaida’ and the public will vote two to one for this kind of surveillance, which is so idiotic,” he says.
Holding court to a packed audience at City University in London’s summer school on investigative journalism, 76-year-old Hersh is on full throttle, a whirlwind of amazing stories of how journalism used to be; how he exposed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, how he got the Abu Ghraib pictures of American soldiers brutalising Iraqi prisoners, and what he thinks of Edward Snowden.
Hope of redemption
Despite his concern about the timidity of journalism he believes the trade still offers hope of redemption.
“I have this sort of heuristic view that journalism, we possibly offer hope because the world is clearly run by total nincompoops more than ever … Not that journalism is always wonderful, it’s not, but at least we offer some way out, some integrity.”
His story of how he uncovered the My Lai atrocity is one of old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism and doggedness. Back in 1969, he got a tip about a 26-year-old platoon leader, William Calley, who had been charged by the army with alleged mass murder.
Instead of picking up the phone to a press officer, he got into his car and started looking for him in the army camp of Fort Benning in Georgia, where he heard he had been detained. From door to door he searched the vast compound, sometimes blagging his way, marching up to the reception, slamming his fist on the table and shouting: “Sergeant, I want Calley out now.”
Eventually his efforts paid off with his first story appearing in the St Louis Post-Despatch, which was then syndicated across America and eventually earned him the Pulitzer Prize. “I did five stories. I charged $100 for the first, by the end the [New York] Times were paying $5,000.”
He was hired by the New York Times to follow up the Watergate scandal and ended up hounding Nixon over Cambodia. Almost 30 years later, Hersh made global headlines all over again with his exposure of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
Put in the hours
For students of journalism his message is put the miles and the hours in. He knew about Abu Ghraib five months before he could write about it, having been tipped off by a senior Iraqi army officer who risked his own life by coming out of Baghdad to Damascus to tell him how prisoners had been writing to their families asking them to come and kill them because they had been “despoiled”.
“I went five months looking for a document, because without a document, there’s nothing there, it doesn’t go anywhere.”
Hersh returns to US president Barack Obama. He has said before that the confidence of the US press to challenge the US government collapsed post 9/11, but he is adamant that Obama is worse than Bush.
“Do you think Obama’s been judged by any rational standards? Has Guantanamo closed? Is a war over? Is anyone paying any attention to Iraq? Is he seriously talking about going into Syria? We are not doing so well in the 80 wars we are in right now, what the hell does he want to go into another one for. What’s going on [with journalists]?” he asks.
He says investigative journalism in the US is being killed by the crisis of confidence, lack of resources and a misguided notion of what the job entails.
“Too much of it seems to me is looking for prizes. It’s journalism looking for the Pulitzer Prize,” he adds. “It’s a packaged journalism, so you pick a target like – I don’t mean to diminish because anyone who does it works hard – but are railway crossings safe and stuff like that, that’s a serious issue but there are other issues too.
“Like killing people, how does [Obama] get away with the drone programme, why aren’t we doing more? How does he justify it? What’s the intelligence? Why don’t we find out how good or bad this policy is? Why do newspapers constantly cite the two or three groups that monitor drone killings. Why don’t we do our own work?
“Our job is to find out ourselves, our job is not just to say – here’s a debate’ our job is to go beyond the debate and find out who’s right and who’s wrong about issues. That doesn’t happen enough. It costs money, it costs time, it jeopardises, it raises risks. There are some people – the New York Times still has investigative journalists but they do much more of carrying water for the president than I ever thought they would … it’s like you don’t dare be an outsider any more.”
He says in some ways President George Bush‘s administration was easier to write about. “The Bush era, I felt it was much easier to be critical than it is [of] Obama. Much more difficult in the Obama era,” he said.
Asked what the solution is Hersh warms to his theme that most editors are pusillanimous and should be fired.
“I’ll tell you the solution, get rid of 90% of the editors that now exist and start promoting editors that you can’t control,” he says. I saw it in the New York Times, I see people who get promoted are the ones on the desk who are more amenable to the publisher and what the senior editors want and the trouble makers don’t get promoted. Start promoting better people who look you in the eye and say ‘I don’t care what you say’.
Nor does he understand why the Washington Post held back on the Snowden files until it learned the Guardian was about to publish.
If Hersh was in charge of US Media Inc, his scorched earth policy wouldn’t stop with newspapers.
“I would close down the news bureaus of the networks and let’s start all over, tabula rasa. The majors, NBCs, ABCs, they won’t like this – just do something different, do something that gets people mad at you, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing,” he says.
Hersh is currently on a break from reporting, working on a book which undoubtedly will make for uncomfortable reading for both Bush and Obama.
“The republic’s in trouble, we lie about everything, lying has become the staple.” And he implores journalists to do something about it.
The British government has asked the New York Times to destroy copies of documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden related to the operations of the U.S. spy agency and its British partner, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), people familiar with the matter said.
The British request, made to Times executive editor Jill Abramson by a senior official at the British Embassy in Washington D.C., was greeted by Abramson with silence, according to the sources. British officials indicated they intended to follow up on their request later with the Times, but never did, one of the sources said.
On Friday, in a public statement, Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, said his newspaper, which had faced threats of possible legal action from British authorities, on July 20 had destroyed copies of leaked documents which it had received from Snowden.
Rusbridger said that two days later, on July 22, the Guardian informed British authorities that materials related to GCHQ had made their way to the New York Times and the independent investigative journalism group ProPublica.
Rusbridger said in his statement that it then took British authorities “more than three weeks before anyone from the British government contacted the New York Times.
“We understand the British Embassy in Washington met with the New York Times in mid-August – over three weeks after the Guardian’s material was destroyed in London. To date, no-one has contacted ProPublica, and there has been two weeks of further silence towards the New York Times from the government,” Rusbridger said.
Rusbridger added that, “This five week period in which nothing has happened tells a different story from the alarmist claims made” by the British government in a witness statement it submitted on Friday to a London court hearing regarding an investigation by British authorities into whether the handling of Snowden’s leaks violated British anti-terrorism and official secrets laws.
A spokesman for the British Embassy in Washington told Reuters: “We are not going to get into the specifics about our efforts but it should come as no surprise if we approach a person who is in possession of some or all of this material.”
The spokesman added: “We have presented a witness statement to the court in Britain which explains why we are trying to secure copies of over 58,000 stolen intelligence documents – to protect public safety and our national security.”
A spokeswoman for the New York Times said the paper had no comment.
The British investigation was opened after authorities at London’s Heathrow Airport earlier this month used an anti-terrorism law to detain David Miranda, the domestic partner of Glenn Greenwald, a Guardian writer who has met with Snowden and has played a lead role in writing about material the former NSA contractor leaked.
Miranda was held and questioned for nine hours before being allowed to resume his trip from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro, where he and Greenwald live. Greenwald has said that Miranda had carried Snowden related material from him in Brazil to Laura Poitras in Berlin, an American film-maker who has also met with Snowden, and that Miranda was carrying Snowden-related materials which Poitras gave to him back to Greenwald.
In her witness statement submitted to the British court on Friday, Detective Superintendent Caroline Goode, who said she was in charge of Scotland Yard’s Snowden-related investigation, said that among materials officials had seized from Miranda while detaining him was an “external hard drive” containing data encrypted by a system called “True Crypt,” which Goode said “renders the material extremely difficult to access.”
Goode said the hard drive contained around 60 gigabytes of data, “of which only 20 have been accessed to date.” She said that she had been advised that the hard drive contains “approximately 58,000 UK documents which are highly classified in nature, to the highest level.”
Goode said the process to decode the material was complex and that “so far only 75 documents have been reconstructed since the property was initially received.”
Goode also said that it was “likely” that Scotland Yard “is investigating a conspiracy with a global dimension. It is necessary to ascertain if this stolen, classified material has been disseminated to others in order to prevent further disclosure which would prove valuable to terrorists, thereby preventing further offences and protecting public safety.”
She also said that “Disclosure of any information contained within those documents would be gravely injurious to UK interests, would directly put lives at risk and would pose a risk to public safety and diminish the ability to counter terrorism.”
(Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)
The popular New York Times website returned to service Wednesday after hackers forced it down for nearly a day, with a group backing Syria’s government claiming responsibility. The website nytimes.com, one of the most influential sources of news in…
On March 17, 2011, four Hellfire missiles, fired from a U.S. drone, slammed into a bus depot in the town of Datta Khel in Pakistan’s Waziristan border region. An estimated 42 people were killed. It was just another day in America’s so-called war on terror. To most Americans the strike was likely only a one-line blip on the evening news, if they even heard about it at all.
But what really happened that day? Who were those 42 people who were killed, and what were they doing? And what effect did the strike have? Did it make us safer? These are the questions raised, and answered, in a must-watch new video just released by Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Foundation.
The attack was what has come to be called a “signature strike.” This is when the CIA or the military makes the decision to fire based not on who the targets are but on whether they are exhibiting suspicious patterns of behavior thought to be “signatures” of terrorists (as seen on video from the drone). Given that the CIA is killing people it’s never identified based on their behavior, one would assume a certain rigor has gone into defining the criteria for the kinds of behavior that get one killed.
So what’s a signature behavior? “The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40,” former ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter told the Daily Beast’s Tara McKelvey. “My feeling is one man’s combatant is another man’s — well, a chump who went to a meeting.” The New York Times quoted a senior State Department official as saying that when the CIA sees “three guys doing jumping jacks,” the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp.
That day in Datta Khel, the signature behavior was a meeting, or “jirga,” which is an assembly of tribal elders who convene to settle a local dispute. In this case, a conflict over a chromite mine was being resolved. And, in fact, the elders had informed the Pakistani army about the meeting 10 days in advance. “So this was an open, public event that pretty much everyone in the community and surrounding area knew about,” says Stanford law professor James Cavallaro in the video.
Pretty much everyone in the community and surrounding area. But not U.S. intelligence. Or the head of the CIA. Or the president. Or the guy in Virginia or Nevada or some other undisclosed location pressing the button on the drone controller.
And so, almost all the tribal elders of the area were killed by the drone missiles. Akbar Ahmed is a retired Pakistani ambassador to the UK and now a professor at American University. “It’s feeding into the sense that no one is safe, nowhere is safe, nothing is safe,” he says in the video. “Even a jirga, the most cherished, the most treasured institution of the tribal areas. So we cannot even sit down and resolve an issue — that is not safe anymore.” As professor Cavallaro put it, “the loss of 40 leaders on a single day is devastating for that community.”
And far from building stability in places like Pakistan, something the administration talks a lot about, in fact the strike actually removed, in one fell swoop, the most stabilizing forces in an entire community.
Jalal Manzar Khail was at his nearby home that day and remembers the attack, which also claimed four of his cousins. Khail’s six-year-old son was later afraid — not unreasonably — to sleep in their house. “We cannot go home,” Khail recounts his son saying. “We have to spend the night in the tree.” Khail adds, “Convey my message to Americans: The CIA and America have to stop … they’re just creating more enemies and this will last for hundreds of years.”
Khail’s message is not uncommon. “At the end of almost every interview I did,” Greenwald told me, “the person would say, ‘Please tell President Obama I am not a terrorist and he should stop killing my family.'”
There was a time when President Obama might have been more receptive to that message. In the book Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency, Daniel Klaidman recounts another drone strike just days after President Obama had been inaugurated. Among those killed were a pro-government tribal elder and two of his children. Obama “was not a happy man,” an official told Klaidman.
The concept of the signature strike was then explained to him. “Mr. President,” said CIA deputy director Steve Kappes, “we can see that there are a lot of military-age males down there, men associated with terrorist activity, but we don’t always know who they are.” Obama responded, “That’s not good enough for me.”
It would appear that he has since warmed to the concept. It’s unknown how many have died — combatants or civilians — in signature strikes, since the administration still doesn’t acknowledge that they happen. In February, Robert Gibbs told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that when Gibbs became Obama’s press secretary he was told not to acknowledge the drone program at all. “You’re not even to discuss that it exists,” Gibbs remembers being told.
Of course, since then, given how increasingly ludicrous — and insulting to the country — this stance appeared, the administration has acknowledged the drone strikes, though not much more. But estimated numbers have been compiled by other sources. As Klaidman points out, by the time Obama accepted his Nobel Peace Prize 11 months into his presidency, he’d already ordered more drone strikes than George W. Bush had in his entire presidency. By the end of 2012, he’d ordered six times as many strikes in Pakistan as Bush had. One study, conducted by professors from Stanford (including Cavallaro) and NYU, found that from 2004 to 2012, between 474 and 881 civilians were killed in Pakistan drone strikes. This includes 176 children — the subject of another Greenwald video, which I encourage you to watch. For fiscal year 2013, the administration has requested $26.16 billion for the drone program — at least that’s the portion that we know about.
In a speech in May at the National Defense University, President Obama gave what was billed as a major national security address meant to clarify his policy on drones, surveillance, and Guantanamo. It seemed to signal a transition in his approach. “With a decade of experience to draw from,” he said in the hour-long address, “now is the time to ask ourselves hard questions — about the nature of today’s threats, and how we should confront them.” In parts of the speech he even made a good case against the use of drones:
… force alone cannot make us safe. We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root; and in the absence of a strategy that reduces the well-spring of extremism, a perpetual war — through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments — will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways.
He also admitted that “U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties.” This was a far cry from the claim made in 2011 by John Brennan, at the time the president’s chief counterterrorism advisor, that “there hasn’t been a single collateral death” from the strikes. He later amended this to say there’s been no “credible evidence of collateral deaths.” This ridiculous claim was demolished in an article in Foreign Policy by Micah Zenko, who concluded that Brennan either doesn’t get the same briefings given to other administration officials or he doesn’t have Internet access. Or “he was lying.” In any case, it didn’t stop his confirmation as director of the CIA.
US intelligence agencies have sprung so many leaks over the last few years—black sites, rendition, drone strikes, secret fiber taps, dragnet phone record surveillance, Internet metadata collection, PRISM, etc, etc—that it can be difficult to remember just how truly difficult operations like the NSA have been to penetrate historically. Critics today charge that the US surveillance state has become a self-perpetuating, insular leviathan that essentially makes its own rules under minimal oversight. Back in 1975, however, the situation was likely even worse. The NSA literally “never before had an oversight relationship with the Congress.” Creating that relationship fell to an unlikely man: 30 year old lawyer L. Britt Snider, who knew almost nothing about foreign intelligence.
Snider was offered a staff position on the Church Committee, set up by Congress in 1975 to function as a sort of Watergate-style inquiry. This initiative focused on CIA subversion of foreign governments and spying on American citizens, recently revealed in the New York Times by noted investigative reporter Seymour Hersch. Congressional “oversight” of intelligence agencies was, at the time, nearly useless, as the Senate’s official history of the Church Committee notes:
In 1973, CIA Director James Schlesinger told Senate Armed Services Chairman John Stennis that he wished to brief him on a major upcoming operation. “No, no my boy,” responded Senator Stennis. “Don’t tell me. Just go ahead and do it, but I don’t want to know.” Similarly, when Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman J.W. Fulbright was told of the CIA subversion of the Allende government in Chile, he responded, “I don’t approve of intervention in other people’s elections, but it has been a long-continued practice.”
The committee was initially given nine months and 150 staffers to conduct its work. Snider was tasked with expanding the committee’s inquiry to the NSA, which was so opaque that no one in Congress could even come up with an org chart for the Fort Meade-based operation. Years later, Snider became the CIA’s inspector general. In late 1999 he wrote up his memories of that early NSA investigation and how it helped to reveal a massive program of NSA spying on telegrams—including those sent by US citizens. It turned out that the telegram companies had secretly agreed to the scheme out of a sense of “patriotic duty.” Sounds a bit like the NSA of today, no?
“No Such Agency”
Snider and a colleague named Peter Fenn were told to look into the NSA, but it wasn’t a simple job. They had no evidence that the NSA even did anything wrong.
Unlike the CIA and FBI, which were the agencies principally in the Committee’s sights—thanks to a number of sensational press accounts—there had been no press exposés about NSA. Our supervisor, in fact, seemed to take particular delight in pitting Pete and me against this mysterious Goliath. “They call it ‘No Such Agency,'” he said. “Let’s see what you boys can find out about it.” It was the first time I had heard the agency referred to this way, and it was not long before I understood why. What ensued was something of an odyssey that lasted over the better part of a year. It began with a series of fruitless, sometimes comical, efforts to penetrate NSA’s defenses. (“They must have done something,” our boss wailed.)
The pair knew almost nothing about the NSA, so they asked the Congressional Research Service (CRS) to dig up every scrap of public information on the agency. They received in response “a one-paragraph description from the Government Organization Manual and a patently erroneous piece from Rolling Stone magazine”—and this from an agency that had existed for more than 20 years. So Snider started sniffing about in Congress, going to the two committees nominally tasked with overseeing the NSA budget (though not with actually overseeing the agency’s work). Only a single person on each committee was cleared to know budget details, and neither person heard anything about NSA abuses. The two staffers appear from the modern perspective to be amazingly credulous. “You’ve got to understand,” Snider reports them saying, the NSA would only “focus on foreign targets.” Case closed.
So Snider and Fenn skipped the obvious channels and sought out former NSA employees who might be willing to talk. They found several of them, but learned little of interest:
While we were encouraged by their willingness to talk with us, the most egregious “abuses” we were told about were complaints about how NSA allocated its parking spaces among employees and about a few cases of time and attendance fraud. None of the people we interviewed had any knowledge of NSA’s having undertaken surveillance against American citizens. It became clear to us from these interviews that NSA’s operations were so compartmented that, unless we had the right person, others were not apt to know. How, though, did we find the right person? At that point, we did not even have an organization chart.
So they went directly to the NSA and secured a meeting with its director, Air Force Lt. General Lew Allen. “Broadly smiling” NSA handlers met them and escorted them through the NSA’s Maryland headquarters and into Allen’s office. Allen offered to arrange any briefings that might be helpful to the pair, and together Snider and Fenn began to learn how the NSA actually operated. But they still saw nothing that smacked of abuse:
These occurred over the ensuing weeks, and implicitly the message came through: “Whatever you do, kids, don’t screw this up—it’s important to the country.” In fact, the briefings did give us a considerably improved understanding of NSA’s mission and accomplishments, but they failed to identify a single avenue that appeared promising from an investigative standpoint. Part of it was due to our own ignorance and uncertainty in terms of where to probe and how hard to push, and part of it was due to NSA’s uncertainty in terms of what to share with us. Given the current highly intrusive nature of Congressional oversight, it may seem strange that in 1975 NSA was an agency that had never before had an oversight relationship with the Congress. That became painfully clear as our investigation progressed.
After months of work, the two men had nothing. Perhaps there was no breakthrough on the horizon.
Finding a SHAMROCK
In May 1975, the Church Committee received an 800 page report from the separate Rockefeller Commission. The report contained hundreds of pages of testimony from CIA employees about possible problems at that agency, but Snider and Fenn also found two small references to the NSA. The first mentioned an office in New York, loaned from the CIA to NSA in order to spy on telegrams; the second “disclosed that CIA had asked NSA to monitor the communications of certain US citizens active in the antiwar movement.”
Snider took the first of these. He asked the NSA to explain the telegram-spying program, but the agency didn’t respond. Pulling out the big guns, Snider sent the NSA another round of questions, this time signed by Senator Church, the committee chairman. The NSA objected, saying that it could only talk about the secretive program to the two senators running the committee—no one else. Snider couldn’t get the meeting arranged for months; the two senators were too busy to make the joint scheduling work, in part because of how much other work they were doing on matters of more direct concern to the committee. As the Senate history of the Church Committee notes, it “interviewed 800 individuals and conducted 250 executive and 21 public hearings. At the first televised hearing, staged in the Senate Caucus Room, Chairman Church dramatically displayed a CIA poison dart gun to highlight the committee’s discovery that the CIA directly violated a presidential order by maintaining stocks of shellfish toxin sufficient to kill thousands.”
That August, Snider’s scheduling problem suddenly evaporated. The New York Times dropped another bombshell, reporting that NSA had been spying on US citizens who were communicating abroad.
With the allegations now a matter of public record, NSA wanted to explain its side of the story. So, in late August, NSA told me that a briefing was being arranged.
I can remember the clean-cut, earnest man in his early forties who met with me, but I do not recall his name. It was true, he said, that NSA had access for many years to most of the international telegrams leaving New York City for foreign destinations. The program was codenamed SHAMROCK and known to only a few people within the government. Every day, a courier went up to New York on the train and returned to Fort Meade with large reels of magnetic tape, which were copies of the international telegrams sent from New York the preceding day using the facilities of three telegraph companies. The tapes would then be electronically processed for items of foreign intelligence interest, typically telegrams sent by foreign establishments in the United States or telegrams that appeared to be encrypted.
While telegrams sent by US citizens to foreign destinations were also present in the tapes NSA received, the briefer said that, as a practical matter, no one ever looked at them. “We’re too busy just keeping up with the real stuff,” he said. The program had been terminated in May, he told me, by order of the Secretary of Defense. I asked if the Secretary had ended it because he knew the Committee was on to it. “Not really,” he said, “the program just wasn’t producing very much of value.”
But even the NSA briefer didn’t know the full details of SHAMROCK, especially historical information about when it had started and how. It appeared that only one man had that information: recently retired NSA Deputy Director Dr. Louis Tordella.
As Chief Economist at a major international consulting firm, John Perkins advised the World Bank, United Nations, IMF, U.S. Treasury Department, Fortune 500 corporations, and countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. He worked directly with heads of state and CEOs of major companies. His books on economics and geo-politics have sold more than 1 million copies, spent many months on the New York Times and other bestseller lists, and are published in over 30 languages.
John’s Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (70 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list) is a startling exposé of international corruption. His The Secret History of the American Empire, also a New York Times bestseller, details the clandestine operations that created the world’s first truly global empire. His Hoodwinked is a blueprint for a new form of global economics. The solutions are not “return to normal” ones. Instead, John challenges us to soar to new heights, away from predatory capitalism and into an era more transformative than the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. His writings detail specific steps each of us can take to create a sustainable, just, and peaceful world
Over the course of two hours in a military courtroom today, Bradley Manning explained why—and in precise detail, how—he sent WikiLeaks confidential diplomatic cables and “war logs.” Bradley’s 35-page statement, read over the course of a few hours this afternoon, followed the news that he had pleaded guilty to 10 lesser counts among the many charges against him. The admissions were not part of a plea bargain; Manning still faces trial in June on the most serious charges, such as “aiding the enemy.”
The Guardian‘s Ed Pilkington sets the scene:
Manning was flanked by his civilian lawyer, David Coombs, on one side and two military defence lawyers on the other. Wearing full uniform, the soldier read out the document at high speed, occasionally stumbling over the words and at other points laughing at his own comments.
The American people had the right to know “the true costs of war,” Manning said in court today today. He continued:
“I felt we were risking so much for people who seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and hatred on both sides. I began to become depressed at the situation we found ourselves mired in year after year.” [CBS News]
“We were obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and ignoring goals and missions. I believed if the public, particularly the American public, could see this it could spark a debate on the military and our foreign policy in general [that] might cause society to reconsider the need to engage in counter-terrorism while ignoring the human situation of the people we engaged with every day.” [The Guardian]
He was particularly upset by video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack that was ultimately found to have killed civilians and a Reuters journalist. “[T]he bloodlust they seemed to have, they seemed not to value human life,” said Manning. “For me that was like a child torturing an ant with a magnifying glass.”
Ultimately, Manning decided not to keep the video classified. He uploaded it to WikiLeaks and it spread like wildfire, becoming known as the infamous “collateral murder” video. Manning used Tor anonymizing software to upload the video.
Rebuffed by newspapers, Manning turns to an admired website
That was the first step in what became a deluge of leaked data. After the video went viral, Manning was approached by a WikiLeaks figure named “Ox,” whom he assumed to be Julian Assange. Manning gave himself the codename of “Nathaniel Frank,” after a character in a novel he’d recently read.
First, Manning decided to leak the millions of war documents he had from Iraq and Afghanistan. Remarkably, he actually tried to give them to two leading US newspapers—and was turned away. Manning said a message he left at the New York Times was not returned, and a reporter at The Washington Post didn’t take him seriously. He also considered contacting the website Politico but ultimately didn’t approach them because of bad weather conditions.
Spokespeople for the Post and the Times both said today that those newspapers had no knowledge of an attempt by Manning to offer information to them.
At one point during pre-trial motions, prosecutors suggested they would have taken legal action against the Times had they published the information before Wikileaks had. “Publishing information in a newspaper [can] indirectly convey information to the enemy,” a military prosecutor told Col. Denise Lind, who is overseeing the case.
Manning ultimately decided to send the documents to Wikileaks. He had become aware of the website in 2009, the same year it released more than 500,000 text messages sent the day of the 9/11 attacks—a move that had impressed him.
The location from which Manning decided to send what he called “the most significant documents of our time”? A Barnes & Noble in suburban Maryland. He saved the files on the memory stick on his camera and uploaded them from the bookstore during his mid-tour leave.
Late in the day, Col. Lind questioned Manning about the seeming contradiction between his justification for his actions and his admission in his guilty plea that he had undermined the “good order and discipline” of the armed forces.
“Regardless of my opinions, it’s beyond my pay-grade, it’s beyond my authority to make these decisions,” Manning replied, according to The Guardian. “There are channels you are supposed to go through. I didn’t even look at those channels–that’s not how we do business.”
Just based on the 10 charges Manning has pled guilty to, he faces up to 20 years in prison. If convicted on additional charges after his June trial, he could receive a life sentence.
American officials confirmed Turkish news reports on Friday that two Tunisian men had been detained in Turkey in connection with the killing of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in the attack on a United States diplomatic post in Libya on Sept. 11.
But the officials said they were awaiting more information from the Turkish authorities, and it remained unclear whether the two were considered to be suspects or witnesses in the violent attack in Benghazi, which fell on the 11th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Kanal D, a private Turkish television network, said the two were stopped at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on Wednesday as they tried to enter the country using false passports.
Another report, in Sabah, a Turkish newspaper, said that immigration officials had matched the names of the men, who were said to be in their mid-30s, to a list of possible suspects that American intelligence agencies had given to security services in the region.
Turkish police officials declined to comment.
Video: Benghazi attack likely pre-planned, officials say (on this page)
A State Department spokesman, Mark C. Toner, said Friday that American officials “have been in contact with the Turkish government on this issue,” but he referred more detailed inquiries to the F.B.I. Asked about the detained Tunisians, an F.B.I. spokesman, Paul E. Bresson, said officials were not “ready to discuss at this point or in any way characterize what their involvement may or may not have been.”
President Obama has repeatedly pledged to “bring to justice” those responsible for the deaths of Mr. Stevens, a popular ambassador whose death provoked a protest by Benghazi residents, as well as Sean Smith, a computer specialist, and Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty, both former members of the Navy SEALs.
But investigators have faced many obstacles. So far, Libyan officials have issued sometimes conflicting reports about arrests that offer little hard information. And security concerns had prevented an F.B.I. team from visiting Benghazi until Thursday, when they spent several hours on the scene of the attack.
At a news conference on Thursday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. declined to comment in detail on the investigation. But he suggested that the F.B.I. team’s limited access to the crime scene in Benghazi had not prevented investigators from following other leads.
“You should not assume that all that we could do or have been doing is restricted solely to Benghazi,” Mr. Holder said. “There are a variety of other places in country and outside the country where relevant things could be done and have been done.”
American investigators have been compiling information on the militants implicated in the attack, drawing in part on witness accounts and interviews with suspected attackers identifying some as members of a local militia, Ansar al-Shariah. That raises questions about what kind of role the detained Tunisians might have played.
Senior American military and counterterrorism officials say they are preparing for operations to kill or capture the suspected perpetrators, though any American action will be politically delicate. Much of the Libyan population is friendly to the United States, which supported the revolution that overthrew Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, while some of the country’s many militias are not. Unilateral American military action, including drone strikes or commando raids, could set off resentment that might cut across such divides.
This story, Turkey Detains 2 in Connection With Killings in Libya, originally appeared in the New York Times.
Copyright © 2012 The New York Times
Despite the official US military withdrawal last December, American special forces “recently” returned to Iraq on a counter-terrorism mission, according to an American general in charge of weapons sales there. The mission was reported by the New York Times, in the fifteenth paragraph of a story about deepening sectarian divides.
The irony is that the US is protecting a pro-Iran Shiite regime in Baghdad against a Sunni-based insurgency while at the same time supporting a Sunni-led movement against the Iran-backed dictatorship in Syria. The Sunni rebellions are occurring in the vast Sunni region between northwestern Iraq and southern Syria where borders are porous.
During the Iraq War, many Iraqi insurgents from Anbar and Diyala provinces took sanctuary in Sunni areas of Syria. Now they are turning their weapons on two targets, the al-Malaki government in Baghdad and the Assad regime in Damascus.
The US is caught in the contradictions of proxy wars, favoring Iran’s ally in Iraq while trying to displace Iran’s proxy in Syria.
The lethal complication of the US Iraq policy is a military withdrawal that was propelled by political pressure from public opinion in the US even as the war could not be won on the battlefield. Military “redeployment”, as the scenario is described, is a general’s nightmare. In the case of Vietnam, a “decent interval” was supposedly arranged by the Nixon administration to create the appearance of an orderly American withdrawal. During the same “interval”, Nixon massively escalated his bombing campaign to no avail. Two years after the 1973 Paris peace accords, Saigon collapsed.
It is unlikely that the Maliki regime will fall to Sunni insurgents in Iraq, if only because the Sunni population is approximately twenty percent of the population. However, the return of US Special Forces is not likely to restore Iraqi stability, and they may become trapped in crossfire as the sectarian tensions deepen. The real lesson may be for Afghanistan, where another unwinnable, unaffordable war in support of an unpopular regime is stumbling towards 2014.