Jun 092013
 

Source for the Guardian’s NSA files on why he carried out the biggest intelligence leak in a generation – and what comes next

The Guardian
Ewen MacAskill

Edward Snowden was interviewed over several days in Hong Kong by Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill.

Q: Why did you decide to become a whistleblower?

A: “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.

“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”

Q: But isn’t there a need for surveillance to try to reduce the chances of terrorist attacks such as Boston?

A: “We have to decide why terrorism is a new threat. There has always been terrorism. Boston was a criminal act. It was not about surveillance but good, old-fashioned police work. The police are very good at what they do.”

Q: Do you see yourself as another Bradley Manning?

A: “Manning was a classic whistleblower. He was inspired by the public good.”

Q: Do you think what you have done is a crime?

A: “We have seen enough criminality on the part of government. It is hypocritical to make this allegation against me. They have narrowed the public sphere of influence.”

Q: What do you think is going to happen to you?

A: “Nothing good.”

Q: Why Hong Kong?

A: “I think it is really tragic that an American has to move to a place that has a reputation for less freedom. Still, Hong Kong has a reputation for freedom in spite of the People’s Republic of China. It has a strong tradition of free speech.”

Q: What do the leaked documents reveal?

A: “That the NSA routinely lies in response to congressional inquiries about the scope of surveillance in America. I believe that when [senator Ron] Wyden and [senator Mark] Udall asked about the scale of this, they [the NSA] said it did not have the tools to provide an answer. We do have the tools and I have maps showing where people have been scrutinised most. We collect more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians.”

Snowden is a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA
Q: What about the Obama administration’s protests about hacking by China?

A: “We hack everyone everywhere. We like to make a distinction between us and the others. But we are in almost every country in the world. We are not at war with these countries.”

Q: Is it possible to put security in place to protect against state surveillance?

A: “You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place.”

Q: Does your family know you are planning this?

A: “No. My family does not know what is happening … My primary fear is that they will come after my family, my friends, my partner. Anyone I have a relationship with …

I will have to live with that for the rest of my life. I am not going to be able to communicate with them. They [the authorities] will act aggressively against anyone who has known me. That keeps me up at night.”

Q: When did you decide to leak the documents?

A: “You see things that may be disturbing. When you see everything you realise that some of these things are abusive. The awareness of wrong-doing builds up. There was not one morning when I woke up [and decided this is it]. It was a natural process.

“A lot of people in 2008 voted for Obama. I did not vote for him. I voted for a third party. But I believed in Obama’s promises. I was going to disclose it [but waited because of his election]. He continued with the policies of his predecessor.”

Q: What is your reaction to Obama denouncing the leaks on Friday while welcoming a debate on the balance between security and openness?

A: “My immediate reaction was he was having difficulty in defending it himself. He was trying to defend the unjustifiable and he knew it.”

Q: What about the response in general to the disclosures?

A: “I have been surprised and pleased to see the public has reacted so strongly in defence of these rights that are being suppressed in the name of security. It is not like Occupy Wall Street but there is a grassroots movement to take to the streets on July 4 in defence of the Fourth Amendment called Restore The Fourth Amendment and it grew out of Reddit. The response over the internet has been huge and supportive.”

Q: Washington-based foreign affairs analyst Steve Clemons said he overheard at the capital’s Dulles airport four men discussing an intelligence conference they had just attended. Speaking about the leaks, one of them said, according to Clemons, that both the reporter and leaker should be “disappeared”. How do you feel about that?

A: “Someone responding to the story said ‘real spies do not speak like that’. Well, I am a spy and that is how they talk. Whenever we had a debate in the office on how to handle crimes, they do not defend due process – they defend decisive action. They say it is better to kick someone out of a plane than let these people have a day in court. It is an authoritarian mindset in general.”

Q: Do you have a plan in place?

A: “The only thing I can do is sit here and hope the Hong Kong government does not deport me … My predisposition is to seek asylum in a country with shared values. The nation that most encompasses this is Iceland. They stood up for people over internet freedom. I have no idea what my future is going to be.

“They could put out an Interpol note. But I don’t think I have committed a crime outside the domain of the US. I think it will be clearly shown to be political in nature.”

Q: Do you think you are probably going to end up in prison?

A: “I could not do this without accepting the risk of prison. You can’t come up against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and not accept the risk. If they want to get you, over time they will.”

Q: How to you feel now, almost a week after the first leak?

A: “I think the sense of outrage that has been expressed is justified. It has given me hope that, no matter what happens to me, the outcome will be positive for America. I do not expect to see home again, though that is what I want.” Continue reading »

Jun 092013
 

PRWatch
Brendan Fischer

“Citizen Koch,” a documentary about money in politics focused on the Wisconsin uprising, was shunned by PBS for fear of offending billionaire industrialist David Koch, who has given $23 million to public television, according to Jane Mayer of the New YorkerThe dispute highlights the increasing role of private money in “public” television and raises even further concerns about the Kochs potentially purchasing eight major daily newspapers.

Citizen KochThe film from Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin documents how the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision helped pave the way for secret political spending by players like the Kochs, who contributed directly and indirectly to the election of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in 2010 and came to his aid again when the battle broke out over his effort to limit collective bargaining.

Originally slated to appear on PBS stations nationwide as part of the “Independent Lens” series, “Citizen Koch” had its funding pulled after David Koch was offended by another PBS documentary critical of the billionaire industrialists.

“People like the Kochs have worked for decades to undermine public funding for institutions like PBS,” Deal told the Center for Media and Democracy. “When public dollars dry up, private dollars come in to make up for the shortfall.”

And that private funding can conflict with PBS’ “public” mission and its editorial integrity. The PBS distributor “backed out of the partnership because they came to fear the reaction our film would provoke,” Deal and Lessin said in a statement. “David Koch, whose political activities are featured in the film, happens to be a public-television funder and a trustee of both [New York PBS member station] WNET and [Boston member station] WGBH. This wasn’t a failed negotiation or a divergence of visions; it was censorship, pure and simple.”

“Park Avenue” Documentary Raised Koch Hackles

In November of last year, the New York PBS affiliate WNET aired a documentary by Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, “Park Avenue,” that explored growing income inequality by contrasting the lives of residents in a luxury apartment building in Manhattan with individuals living on the other end of Park Avenue, in the Bronx. The film focuses on one of the apartment’s wealthiest residents, David Koch, and does not paint a particularly positive image of the billionaire industrialist and his brother, Charles.

Koch is also a board trustee and major donor to WNET. And WNET’s president called him before the documentary aired to alert Koch to the critical content — and took the nearly unprecedented step of airing a disclaimer from Koch following the film calling it “disappointing and divisive.” WNET also replaced the original introduction to the film, which had been narrated by actor Stanley Tucci, with one calling the film “controversial” and “provocative.”

“They tried to undercut the credibility of the film, and I had no opportunity to defend it,” the film’s director Gibney told Mayer. “Why is WNET offering Mr. Koch special favors?”

Independent Television Service (ITVS), an arm of PBS that funds and distributes independent films, had funded “Park Avenue,” and aired it as part of ITVS’ popular “Independent Lens” series that runs on dozens of PBS member stations. ITVS also funded “Citizen Koch” and it was also slated to be aired on the Independent Lens series.

But “Citizen Koch” got caught in the blowback.

Fearing Koch Backlash, Funding Pulled on “Citizen Koch”

ITVS was excited about the “Citizen Koch” documentary before “Park Avenue” aired. In April 2012, the company informed Deal and Lessin their film would receive $150,000, and that “Everyone here at ITVS looks forward to working with you on your very exciting and promising program.”

But once “Park Avenue” aired, WNET blamed ITVS for impacting its relationship with David Koch and not providing advance notice of the film’s contents. Mayer writes:

“[WNET President Neal] Shapiro acknowledged that, in his conversations with ITVS officials about ‘Park Avenue,’ he was so livid that he threatened not to carry its films in the future. The New York metropolitan area is the largest audience for public television, so the threat posed a potentially mortal blow to ITVS.”

ITVS got the message, and quickly changed its tune on “Citizen Koch.”

Lessin and Deal began receiving pressure from ITVS executives to change the title and de-emphasize the Kochs’ political influence. One executive told the filmmakers the title was “extremely problematic” and that “we live in a world where we have to be aware that people with power have power.”

On a conference call in January, ITVS executives acknowledged the push-back from WNET over the “Park Avenue” film, and again urged the filmmakers to change the storyline. Sources told Mayer that what their message was “Get rid of the Koch story line … Because of the whole thing with the Koch brothers, ITVS knew WNET would never air it.”

“It is always a struggle for documentaries to get out there,” Deal told CMD. “That’s why PBS and ITVS are so important: they support independent filmmakers to say new things on the public airwaves.” But because of funding pressures, “we won’t have access to that audience now,” he said. “We’re disappointed.”

PBS Reaction to “Citizen Koch” Proved the Film’s Point: Money Talks

“Citizen Koch,” which premiered at Sundance in January and competed for Best Documentary, followed the activism and struggles of former Republicans who felt betrayed by Walker’s union-busting move (which he never mentioned on the campaign trail). The film documents the role of Koch-funded entities like Americans for Prosperity, which spent $10 million aiding Walker in his recall election. The film’s final scene shows an Americans for Prosperity official making the incredible claim the group is “just like the Red Cross, just like any other nonprofit.”

In April of this year, one day after the film had its Dairy State premiere at the Wisconsin Film Festival, ITVS informed Lessin and Deal it had “decided not to move forward with the project.”

In a statement, the filmmakers said this is an ironic turn: “It’s the very thing our film is about—public servants bowing to pressures, direct or indirect, from high-dollar donors.”

ITVS wrote in a prepared statement: “ITVS commenced negotiations to fund the film ‘Citizen Corp’ based on a written proposal. Early cuts of the film did not reflect the proposal, however, and ITVS ceased negotiations.” The filmmakers disagreed. “The film we made is identical in premise and execution to the written and video proposals that ITVS green-lit last spring,” they said in a statement.

“I don’t believe there was a concerted conspiracy to keep ‘Citizen Koch’ off of public television, with David Koch as a ringleader,” Deal told CMD. “Instead, Koch’s presence and role in that world created an environment that was hostile to our message. And that was enough.”

Just before Mayer’s New Yorker article was published, on May 16, David Koch resigned from WNET’s board. The resignation was the result, a source told Mayer, “of his unwillingness to back a media organization that had so unsparingly covered its sponsor.”

As has been widely reported, the Kochs are now considering a purchase of eight major daily newspapers currently owned by the Tribune Companies. And that has Deal worried.

“For anybody who says the owner or funder of an outlet doesn’t have an impact on what gets published, I hope they’ll think again.”

This article has been updated. Continue reading »

Jun 072013
 

 
Internet Users Targeted In Massive NSA Spy Program

According to a report released by The Washington Post, the National Security Agency and the FBI have been partnering up to take user data from nine major Internet companies. Meghan Lopez explains the PRISM program.

 

POLICE STATE: Obama Administration Caught Spying on your emails, phones calls, bank records & Internet usage.

 

In what could be one of the largest scandals, and breach of public trust to come out of the white house, information is coming today suggesting that our government is involved in one of the largest collections of private American public data in the history of our country.

 

They’re Specifically Targeting Americans

 

The National Security Agency has long argued that their power allows them to spy on those outside the United States, while always maintaining that private American Communications were off limits. But it looks like the latest Obama Administration scandal has The FBI, on the NSA’s behalf, forcing Verizon Communications to turn over data on millions of U.S. customers.

 

The order specifically targeted American Citizens, and explicitly excluded those outside of America.

 

The Obama administration, who had to respond to yet another scandal this morning, tried to defend the actions by claiming that the massive amount of telephone records were part of U.S. counterterrorism efforts that were critical to protecting Americans from attacks.

 

Do they really expect us to believe that millions of Americans are terrorists?

 

So based on the Obama administration’s admission, one would have to believe that millions of Americans are now in some way taking part in terrorist activity or plotting to attack America. Do they really think that people are going to buy this crap.

http://offgridsurvival.com/obamaadministration-caughtspying/

Phone Sex, Banks & Google for Emails: The NSA Spying Is Bigger Than Verizon

“And the NSA isn’t just collecting the things we say. It’s also tracking what we buy and where we go”

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/06/nsa-spying-verizon-analysis/65963/

CIA Chief: We’ll Spy on You Through Your Dishwasher…

CIA Director David Petraeus cannot wait to spy on you through Smart Products.

Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an “Internet of Things” — that is, wired devices — at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm.

All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you’re a “person of interest” to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the “smart home,” you’d be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room’s ambiance.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/03/petraeus-tv-remote/

Whistleblowers: NOT JUST VERIZION.. NSA DEMANDED records from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile

http://www.kval.com/news/national/Whistleblowers-NSA-wanted-phone-records-from-Verizon-ATT-T-Mobile-210458811.html

Continue reading »

Jun 032013
 

The Blaze
Jason Howerton

A high-ranking Mexican drug cartel operative currently in U.S. custody is making startling allegations that the failed federal gun-walking operation known as “Fast and Furious” isn’t what you think it is.

It wasn’t about tracking guns, it was about supplying them — all part of an elaborate agreement between the U.S. government and Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa Cartel to take down rival cartels.

The explosive allegations are being made by Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, known as the Sinaloa Cartel’s “logistics coordinator.” He was extradited to the Chicago last year to face federal drug charges.

Sinaloa Cartel Operative Jesus Vincente Zambada Niebla Makes Explosive Allegation About Operation Fast and Furious

Zambada-Niebla claims that under a “divide and conquer” strategy, the U.S. helped finance and arm the Sinaloa Cartel through Operation Fast and Furious in exchange for information that allowed the DEA, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other federal agencies to take down rival drug cartels. The Sinaloa Cartel was allegedly permitted to traffic massive amounts of drugs across the U.S. border from 2004 to 2009 — during both Fast and Furious and Bush-era gunrunning operations — as long as the intel kept coming.

This pending court case against Zambada-Niebla is being closely monitored by some members of Congress, who expect potential legal ramifications if any of his claims are substantiated. The trial was delayed but is now scheduled to begin on Oct. 9.

Zambada-Niebla is reportedly a close associate of Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and the son of Ismael “Mayo” Zambada-Garcia, both of which remain fugitives, likely because of the deal made with the DEA, federal court documents allege.

Based on the alleged agreement  ”the Sinaloa Cartel under the leadership of defendant’s father, Ismael Zambada-Niebla and ‘Chapo’ Guzman, were given carte blanche to continue to smuggle tons of illicit drugs into Chicago and the rest of the United States and were also protected by the United States government from arrest and prosecution in return for providing information against rival cartels which helped Mexican and United States authorities capture or kill thousands of rival cartel members,” states a motion for discovery filed in U.S. District Court by Zambada-Niebla’s attorney in July 2011.

A source in Congress, who spoke to TheBlaze on the condition of anonymity, said that some top congressional investigators have been keeping “one eye on the case.”  Another two members of Congress, both lead Fast and Furious Congressional investigators, told TheBlaze they had never even heard of the case.

One of the Congressmen, who also spoke to TheBlaze on the condition of anonymity because criminal proceedings are still ongoing, called the allegations “disturbing.” He said Congress will likely get involved once Zambada-Niebla’s trial has concluded if any compelling information surfaces.

“Congress won’t get involved in really any criminal case until the trial is over and the smoke has cleared,” he added. “If the allegations prove to hold any truth, there will be some serious legal ramifications.”

Earlier this month, two men in Texas were sentenced to 70 and 80 months in prison after pleading guilty to attempting to export 147 assault rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition to Mexico’s Los Zetas cartel. Compare that to the roughly 2,000 firearms reportedly “walked” in Fast and Furious, which were used in the murders of hundreds of Mexican citizens and U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry, and some U.S. officials could potentially face jail time if they knowingly armed the Sinaloa Cartel and allowed guns to cross into Mexico.

If proven in court, such an agreement between U.S. law enforcement agencies and a Mexican cartel could potentially mar both the Bush and Obama administrations. The federal government is denying all of Zambada-Niebla’s allegations and contend that no official immunity deal was agreed upon.

To be sure, Zambada-Niebla is a member of one of the most ruthless drug gangs in all of Mexico, so there is a chance that he is saying whatever it takes to reduce his sentence, which will likely be hefty. However, Congress and the media have a duty to prove without a reasonable doubt that there is no truth in his allegations. So far, that has not been achieved.

Zambada-Niebla was reportedly responsible for coordinating all of the Sinaloa Cartel’s multi-ton drug shipments from Central and South American countries, through Mexico, and into the United States. To accomplish this, he used every tool at his disposal: Boeing 747 cargo planes, narco-submarines, container ships, speed boats, fishing vessels, buses, rail cars, tractor trailers and automobiles. But Guzman and Zambada-Niebla’s overwhelming success within the Sinaloa Cartel was largely due to the arrests and dismantling of many of their competitors and their booming businesses in the U.S. from 2004 to 2009 — around the same time ATF’s gun-walking operations were in full swing. Fast and Furious reportedly began in 2009 and continued into early 2011.

According Zambada-Niebla, that was a product of the collusion between the U.S. government and the Sinaloa Cartel.

Sinaloa Cartel Operative Jesus Vincente Zambada Niebla Makes Explosive Allegation About Operation Fast and Furious

The claims seem to fall in line with statements made last month by Guillermo Terrazas Villanueva, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state government in northern Mexico who said U.S. agencies ”don’t fight drug traffickers,” instead “they try to manage the drug trade.”

Continue reading »

Jun 012013
 

Global Research
David Ray Griffin

Osama bin Laden Responsible for the 9/11 Attacks?  Where is the Evidence?

The idea that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks has been an article of faith for public officials and the mainstream media. Calling it an “article of faith” points to two features of this idea. On the one hand, no one in these circles publicly challenges this idea.

On the other hand, as I pointed out at length in two of my books – 9/11 Contradictions1 and The New Pearl Harbor Revisited,2 no good evidence has ever been publicly presented to support it.

Colin Powell’s Withdrawn Promise Two weeks after 9/11, Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking to Tim Russert on Meet the Press, said that he expected “in the near future . . . to put out . . . a document that will describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linking [bin Laden] to this attack.”3

Powell reversed himself, however, at a press conference with President Bush in the White House Rose Garden the next morning, saying that, although the government had information that left no question of bin Laden’s responsibility, “most of it is classified.”4 According to Seymour Hersh, citing officials from both the CIA and the Department of Justice, the real reason for the reversal was a “lack of solid information.”5

This was the week that Bush, after demanding that the Taliban turn over bin Laden, refused their request for evidence that bin Laden had been behind the attacks.6 A senior Taliban official, after the US attack on Afghanistan had begun, said: “We have asked for proof of Osama’s involvement, but they have refused. Why?”7 Hersh’s answer was that they had no proof.

Tony Blair’s Weak Document

The task of providing such proof was taken up by Bush’s chief ally in the “war on terror,” British Prime Minister Tony Blair. On October 4, 2001, Blair made public a document entitled: “Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States.” Listing “clear conclusions reached by the government,” it stated: “Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the terrorist network which he heads, planned and carried out the atrocities on 11 September 2001.” Blair’s report, however, began by saying: “This document does not purport to provide a prosecutable case against Osama Bin Laden in a court of law.”8 Although the case was not good enough to go to court, Blair seemed to be saying, it was good enough to go to war.

The weakness in Blair’s report, in any event, was noted the next day by the BBC, which said: “There is no direct evidence in the public domain linking Osama Bin Laden to the 11 September attacks. At best the evidence is circumstantial.”9

The FBI’s Surprising Statement

What does our own FBI say? Here is a surprising but little-known fact, because it has scarcely been reported in the mainstream media: The FBI’s “Most Wanted Terrorist” webpage on “Usama bin Laden” does not list the 9/11 attacks as one of the crimes for which he is wanted. It does list bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi as terrorist acts for which he is wanted. But it makes no mention of 9/11.10 In 2006, Rex Tomb, then the FBI’s chief of investigative publicity, was asked why not. He replied: “The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Usama Bin Laden’s Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11.”11

After this story started flying around the Internet and was even covered by a TV station in Louisiana,12 Dan Eggen tried to downplay its significance in an August 2006 Washington Post article entitled “Bin Laden, Most Wanted For Embassy Bombings?”13 Complaining about “conspiracy theorists” who claimed that “the lack of a Sept. 11 reference [on the FBI's "Most Wanted" webpage for bin Laden] suggests that the connection to al-Qaeda is uncertain,” Eggen quoted the explanation offered by a former US attorney, who said that the FBI could not appropriately “put up a wanted picture where no formal charges had been filed.”

But that explanation, while true, simply pushes the issue back a step to this question: Why have such charges not been filed? Rex Tomb’s fuller statement, which Eggen failed to mention, had answered this question the previous June, saying:

The FBI gathers evidence. Once evidence is gathered, it is turned over to the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice then decides whether it has enough evidence to present to a federal grand jury. In the case of the 1998 United States Embassies being bombed, Bin Laden has been formally indicted and charged by a grand jury. He has not been formally indicted and charged in connection with 9/11 because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11.14

The 9/11 Commission

What about the 9/11 Commission? Its report gave the impression that it was in possession of solid evidence of bin Laden’s guilt. But the Commission’s co-chairs, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, undermined this impression in their follow-up book, which they subtitled: “The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission.”15 (I discussed this book at length in Chapter 2 of my 2007 book, Debunking 9/11 Debunking.16)

As the endnotes for The 9/11 Commission Report reveal, whenever the Commission referred to evidence of bin Ladin’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, the Commission was always referring to CIA-provided information, which had (presumably) been elicited during interrogations of al-Qaeda operatives. By far the most important of these operatives was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, generally called simply “KSM,” who has been called the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. The Commission, for example, wrote:

Bin Ladin . . . finally decided to give the green light for the 9/11 operation sometime in late 1998 or early 1999. . . . Bin Ladin also soon selected four individuals to serve as suicide operatives. . . . Atta – whom Bin Ladin chose to lead the group – met with Bin Ladin several times to receive additional instructions, including a preliminary list of approved targets: the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the U.S. Capitol.17

The note for each of these statements says: “interrogation of KSM.”18

Kean and Hamilton, however, reported that they had no success in “obtaining access to star witnesses in custody . . . , most notably Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.”19 Besides not being allowed to interview these witnesses, Commission members were not even permitted to observe the interrogations through one-way glass or to talk to the interrogators.20 Therefore, Kean and Hamilton complained: “We . . . had no way of evaluating the credibility of detainee information. How could we tell if someone such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed . . . was telling us the truth?”21

An NBC “deep background” report in 2008 pointed out an additional problem: KSM and the other al-Qaeda leaders had been subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques,” i.e., torture, and it is now widely acknowledged that statements elicited by torture lack credibility. “At least four of the operatives whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report,” NBC pointed out, “have claimed that they told interrogators critical information as a way to stop being ‘tortured.’” NBC then quoted Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, as saying: “Most people look at the 9/11 Commission Report as a trusted historical document. If their conclusions were supported by information gained from torture, . . . their conclusions are suspect.”22

The “Bin Laden Confession Tapes”

As we have seen, neither the 9/11 Commission, the Bush-Cheney White House, the FBI, the British government, nor the 9/11 Commission provided good evidence that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Many people, however, have assumed that the question of his responsibility was settled by the existence of videotapes and audiotapes in which he himself confessed to the attacks. There are, however, good reasons to believe that these so-called confession tapes are fakes. I will illustrate this point in terms of the two best-known videotapes of this nature.

The “Jalalabad Video” Released December 13, 2001: The first and most famous of the “Osama bin Laden confession video tapes” was released by the Pentagon on December 13, 2001. It had purportedly been made on November 9, 2001, after which it was allegedly found by US forces in a private home in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. In this video, an Osama bin Laden figure is seen talking about the 9/11 attacks with a visiting sheikh. During the course of the conversation, the bin Laden figure boasts about the success of the attacks, saying that he had planned them.23 Both US and British officials claimed that this tape left no doubt about bin Laden’s guilt.24

Stories in both the Canadian and British media, however, raised questions about the tape’s authenticity. These stories, besides pointing out the existence of the technical ability to create fake video tapes, also mentioned the suspicion of some people that the bin Laden figure was not Osama bin Laden himself.

A BBC News report said: “Washington calls it the ‘smoking gun’ that puts Bin Laden’s guilt beyond doubt, but many in the Arab world believe the home video of the al-Qaeda chief is a fake.”25 This report was, in fact, entitled, “Could the Bin Laden Video Be a Fake?”

This question was also raised in Canada by CBC News, which pointed out that some people had “suggested the Americans hired someone to pretend to be the exiled Saudi.”26

This question was raised even more insistently in a Guardian story with the title, “US Urged to Detail Origin of Tape.” Reporting “growing doubt in the Muslim world about the authenticity of the film,” writer Steven Morris said:

The White House yesterday came under pressure to give more details of the video which purports to show Osama bin Laden admitting his part in the September 11 attacks.27

Morris, pointing out that the White House had provided no details about how the Pentagon came to be in possession of the tape, added:

According to US officials the tape was found in a house in Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan, and handed to the Pentagon by an unnamed person or group. . . . But for many the explanation is too convenient. Some opponents of the war theorise that the Bin Laden in the film was a look-alike.

Morris then quoted one such opponent in Pakistan, who said: “This videotape is not authentic. The Americans made it up after failing to get any evidence against Osama.”

Morris also cited Bob Crabtree, the editor of Computer Video magazine, who explained that it was impossible to determine whether the video was authentic without more details of its source, adding: “The US seems simply to have asked the world to trust them that it is genuine.”28

This skepticism about the authenticity of this “Jalalabad video” was based on sound reasons. For one thing, this video’s bin Laden figure appeared too heavy and healthy, compared with the bin Laden who made the last of the undoubtedly authentic bin Laden videos, which was made sometime in 2001 between November 16 (on which occurred an event mentioned on the tape) and December 27 (the date on which the tape was released). In this post-November 16 video, bin Laden’s beard was white, he had a “gaunt, frail appearance,” and his “left arm hung limply by his side while he gesticulated with his right.”29 This immobile left arm, Dr. Sanjay Gupta observed on CNN, suggested that bin Laden had suffered a stroke, adding that this plus a “frosting of the appearance” suggested that bin Laden was in the final stages of kidney failure.30

But in the “Jalalabad video,” which was reportedly made at about the same time (being dated November 9 and released December 13), the bin Laden figure was heavier and also darker, in both skin and beard color; his nose had a different shape;31 and his hands were shorter and heavier than those of Osama bin Laden as seen in undoubtedly authentic videos.32

Still another problem is that, whereas bin Laden was left-handed, the man in the “Jalalabad video” wrote with his right hand. Although it might be thought that this was because his left arm was immobile, the bin Laden figure in this video was easily able to lift his left arm above his head.33

If this video was made on November 9, as claimed, then it would have been made at most only a few weeks before the post-November 16 video. It is very hard to believe that the heavy, dark-skinned, healthy-looking man with a dark beard could have, within two or three weeks, turned into the pale, gaunt, white-bearded, man seen in the post-November 16 video.

If one accepts the Jalalabad video as authentic, one not only has to accept these radical changes in bin Laden’s physical appearance; one must also accept a complete change in his statements about 9/11. In the previous weeks, he had repeatedly – on September 12, 16, 17, and 28 – stated that he had had nothing to do with the attacks.34 In the September 28 statement, he had even declared:

I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children and other people. Such a practice is forbidden even in the course of a battle. . . . [W]e are against the American system, not against its people, whereas in these attacks, the common American people have been killed.35

Is it likely that he would have made such statements if he himself had authorized the attacks and thereby the killing of innocents?

Whatever be one’s opinion about that, the bin Laden figure in the “Jalalabad video” made other statements that Osama bin Laden himself would surely not have made. For example, he said:

[W]e calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy who would be killed based on the position of the tower. . . . [D]ue to my experience in this field, I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only. This is all that we had hoped for.36

But in light of the real bin Laden’s “experience in the field” as a building contractor, he would have known that high-rise buildings are framed with steel, not iron. Even more important, he would have known that the buildings’ support columns – whether made of steel or iron – would not have been melted by the “fire from the gas in the plane.” Why? Because he would have known, on the one hand, that a building fire, even if fed by jet-fuel (which is essentially kerosene), could not, even under the most ideal conditions, have risen above 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius). And he would have known, on the other hand, that iron and steel do not begin to melt until they are heated to a temperature far higher than that: to almost 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,540 degrees Celsius). The real bin Laden, therefore, would not have expected any iron or steel to melt.

A final reason to consider the “Jalalabad video” a fake is that bin Laden experts have declared it to such. When Dr. Bruce Lawrence, a Duke University history professor widely considered the country’s leading academic bin Laden expert,37 was asked what he thought about this video, he said, bluntly: “It’s bogus.” Some friends of his in the US Department of Homeland Security assigned to work “on the 24/7 bin Laden clock,” he added, “also know it’s bogus.”38

General Hamid Gul, former head of Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), suggested that the man in the video was an “Osama bin Laden lookalike.”39

Former Foreign Service officer Angelo Codevilla, after saying “[t]he guy just does not look like Osama,” added: “The fact that the video had been made for no self-evident purpose except perhaps to be found by the Americans should have raised suspicion.”40

A fourth expert opinion has been issued implicitly, it would seem, by the Department of Justice and its FBI. If they considered this “confession video” authentic, would they not consider it “hard evidence” of bin Laden’s responsibility for 9/11? They say, however, that they have no such evidence, so they must not consider this video authentic.

The “October Surprise Video of 2004: The other most famous of the “bin Laden confession tapes” is the video tape that was released on October 29, 2004, just before the presidential election between George W. Bush and John Kerry, leading to its being called “the October Surprise video.” In this one, for the first time, a bin Laden figure directly addressed the American people. The Associated Press, focusing on the most important aspect of the speaker’s message, entitled its story: “Bin Laden, in Statement to U.S. People, Says He Ordered Sept. 11 Attacks.”41 However, although the AP accepted the authenticity of the tape, there are serious reasons to doubt it.

A reason to be at least suspicious is the very fact that it appeared just four days before the presidential election and seemed designed to help Bush’s reelection – an assessment that was made even by CIA analysts.42 The video, moreover, evidently did help: Bush’s lead over Kerry in national polls increased right after it appeared,43 and both Bush and Kerry said that this tape was significantly responsible for Bush’s victory.44 Given the fact that this video would quite predictably help Bush win reelection, it would seem to have been issued by his friends, not his enemies.

There are also substantive reasons to doubt this tape’s authenticity, one of which is the speaker’s language. The clearly authentic bin Laden messages were filled with religious language. A bin Laden video released October 7, 2001, for example, began thus:

Praise be to God and we beseech Him for help and forgiveness. We seek refuge with the Lord of our bad and evildoing. He whom God guides is rightly guided . . . . I witness that there is no God but God and Mohammed is His slave and Prophet.45

Even though this talk as a whole had only 725 words, bin Laden referred to God (Allah) 20 times and to the prophet Mohammed 3 times. Likewise, his message of November 3, 2001, which contained 2,333 words, referred to God 35 times and to the prophet Mohammed 8 times.46 By contrast, the 2004 October Surprise video, which had almost the same number of words as the November 3 video, referred to God only 12 times. The only “Mohammad” mentioned, moreover, was Mohamed Atta.

Another substantive difference involved the type of causal analysis provided. Bin Laden’s clearly authentic messages had portrayed historical events as occurring only because they were caused, or at least allowed, by God. In his message of October 7, 2001, for example, he said: “God Almighty hit the United States. . . . He destroyed its greatest buildings.” Human agents were involved, to be sure, but they were successful only because “Almighty God . . . allowed them to destroy the United States.”47 In his message of November 3, likewise, bin Laden said that, if people are helped or harmed, it is always by “something that God has already preordained for [them].”48

The message on the 2004 confession video, however, reflected a worldview in which events can be understood through a causal analysis based on secular rationalism. “One of the most important things rational people do when calamities occur,” the lecturer asserted, “is to look for their causes so as to avoid them.” He himself, in analyzing “the [Iraq] war, its causes and consequences,” provided a causal analysis involving purely human actors: Bush, al-Qaeda, and the American people. Far from suggesting that everything is finally in the hands of God, he said to the American people: “Your security is in your own hands” – a statement that a devout Wahabi Muslim such as Osama bin Laden would surely have considered blasphemous.

Still another reason to doubt the authenticity of this 2004 video is that, although the speaker was addressing the American public, he spoke Arabic rather than English. This is strange, because Osama bin Laden was reportedly fluent in English, which he had started studying when he was 11 years old.49 A British journalist reported that, when he and bin Laden met in 1989, they conversed in English for 45 minutes.50 General Hamid Gul, speaking to United Press International in 2001, said: “I know bin Laden and his associates. They are graduates of the best universities and . . . speak impeccable English.51 If bin Laden spoke impeccable English, would he not have used it when speaking directly to the American people?52

Accordingly, this video does not, any more than the “Jalalabad video,” provide evidence that Osama bin Laden himself confessed to planning the 9/11 attacks.

Conclusion

I showed in a previous essay that, according to the best evidence presently available, Osama bin Laden has been dead for many years.53 In the present essay, I have shown that there is not even any good evidence for the claim that bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Accordingly, insofar as the justification for the continuation of the AfPak war is based on the fact that bin Laden in the region both before and after the 9/11 attacks, that justification would seem to be doubly baseless.

David Ray Griffin is the author of 36 books, nine of which are about 9/11. His most recent book is The Mysterious Collapse of World Trade Center 7: Why the Final Official Report about 9/11 Is Unscientific and False (Olive Branch, 2009). In 2008, he put out two books: The New Pearl Harbor: 9/11, the Cover-Up, and the Exposé (which was named a “Pick of the Week” by Publishers Weekly) and Osama bin Laden: Dead Or Alive? (which has generated considerable media coverage in England).

David Ray Griffin is professor emeritus at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University. He is the author of The New Pearl Harbor – Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 ,  The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions — A Critique of the Kean-Zelikow Report as well as Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive?

Notes

  1. 9/11 Contradictions: An Open Letter to Congress and the Press (Northampton: Olive Branch, 2008), Chap. 18, “Does the Government Have Hard Evidence of Bin Laden’s Responsibility?”
  2. The New Pearl Harbor Revisited: 9/11, the Cover-Up, and the Exposé (Northampton: Olive Branch, 2008). This book was named Publishers Weekly’s “Pick of the Week” on November 24, 2008 (http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6617001.html?industryid=47159).
  3. “Meet the Press,” NBC, September 23, 2001 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/specials/attacked/transcripts/nbctext092301.html).
  4. “Remarks by the President, Secretary of the Treasury O’Neill and Secretary of State Powell on Executive Order,” White House, September 24, 2001 (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010924-4.html).
  5. Seymour M. Hersh, “What Went Wrong: The C.I.A. and the Failure of American Intelligence,” New Yorker, October 1, 2001 (http://cicentre.com/Documents/DOC_Hersch_OCT_01.htm).
  6. “White House Warns Taliban: ‘We Will Defeat You,’” CNN, September 21, 2001 (http://archives.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapcf/central/09/21/ret.afghan.taliban).
  7. Kathy Gannon, “Taliban Willing to Talk, But Wants U.S. Respect,” Associated Press, November 1, 2001 (http://nucnews.net/nucnews/2001nn/0111nn/011101nn.htm#300).
  8. Office of the Prime Minister, “Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States,” BBC News, October 4, 2001 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/1579043.stm).
  9. “The Investigation and the Evidence,” BBC News, October 5, 2001 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1581063.stm).
  10. Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Most Wanted Terrorists: Usama bin Laden” (http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/terrorists/terbinladen.htm).
  11. Ed Haas, “FBI says, ‘No Hard Evidence Connecting Bin Laden to 9/11′” Muckraker Report, June 6, 2006 (http://www.teamliberty.net/id267.html).
  12. “Bin Laden’s FBI Poster Omits Any 9/11 Connection,” KSLA 12 in Shreveport, Louisiana
    (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6443576002087829136).
  13. “Bin Laden, Most Wanted For Embassy Bombings?” Washington Post, August 28, 2006 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/27/AR2006082700687.html)
  14. Haas, “FBI says, ‘No Hard Evidence Connecting Bin Laden to 9/11.’”
  15. Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, with Benjamin Rhodes, Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006).
  16. David Ray Griffin, Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory, revised and updated edition (Northampton: Olive Branch, 2007). This book won a bronze medal in the 2008 Independent Publishers Book Awards.
  17. The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, authorized edition (New York: W. W. Norton, 2004), 149, 155, 166; henceforth 9/11CR.
  18. See 9/11CR Ch. 5, notes 16, 41, and 92.
  19. Kean and Hamilton, Without Precedent, 118.
  20. Ibid., 122-24.
  21. Ibid., 119. I have discussed this issue at greater length in Ch. 8, “9/11 Commission Falsehoods about Bin Laden, al-Qaeda, Pakistanis, and Saudis,” of The New Pearl Harbor Revisited.
  22. Robert Windrem and Victor Limjoco, “The 9/11 Commission Controversy,” Deep Background: NBC News Investigations, January 30, 2008 http://deepbackground.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/01/30/624314.aspx).
  23. “U.S. Releases Videotape of Osama bin Laden,” Department of Defense, December 13, 2001 (http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=3184); “Pentagon Releases Bin Laden Videotape: U.S. Officials Say Tape Links Him to Sept. 11 Attacks,” National Public Radio, December 13, 2001 http://www.npr.org/news/specials/response/investigation/011213.binladen.tape.html). The entire video can be viewed at this NPR Web page.
  24. See my book Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive? (Northampton: Olive Branch [Interlink Books], 2009), 23-26.
  25. “Could the Bin Laden Video Be a Fake?” BBC News, December 14, 2001 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/1711288.stm).
  26. “‘Feeble’ to Claim Bin Laden Tape Fake: Bush,” CBC, December 14, 2001 (http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2001/12/14/bush_osama011214.html).
  27. Steven Morris, “US Urged to Detail Origin of Tape,” Guardian, December 15, 2001 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/dec/15/september11.afghanistan).
  28. Ibid.
  29. Toby Harnden, “US Casts Doubt on Bin Laden’s Latest Message,” Telegraph, December 27, 2001
  30. “Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Bin Laden Would Need Help if on Dialysis,” CNN, January 21, 2002
    (http://www.cnn.com/2002/HEALTH/01/21/gupta.otsc/index.html). For the tape, see “”Osama Bin Laden Tape Dezember [sic] 2001″ (http://www.myvideo.de/watch/3760193/Osama_Bin_Laden_Tape_Dezember_2001).
  31. For a nose comparison, see “Osama bin Laden Gets a Nose Job” (http://www.awitness.org/news/december_2001/osama_nose_job.html),
    or “Bruce Lawrence,” Radio Du Jour (http://www.radiodujour.com/people/lawrence_bruce).
  32. Compare his hands with bin Laden’s hand as shown in the post-November 16 video (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1729882.stm).
  33. This can be seen in a portion of the Jalalabad video placed on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0FVeqCX6z8).
  34. For documentation and discussion, see Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive? 27-29.
  35. “Interview with Usama bin Laden,” Ummat (Karachi), September 28, 2001
    http://www.robert-fisk.com/usama_interview_ummat.htm).
    Bin Laden’s statement about innocents repeated what he had said in an interview with John Miller of ABC News in 1998: “Our religion forbids us from killing innocent people such as women and children”
  36. “Transcript of Usama bin Laden Video Tape,” Department of Defense, December 13, 2001 (http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Dec2001/d20011213ubl.pdf).
  37. Bruce Lawrence is the editor of Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden (London and New York: Verso, 2005).
  38. Lawrence made these statements on February 16, 2007, during a radio interview conducted by Kevin Barrett of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. It can be heard at Radio Du Jour (http://www.radiodujour.com/people/lawrence_bruce).
  39. BBC News, “Tape ‘Proves Bin Laden’s Guilt,’” December 14, 2001 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1708091.stm).
  40. Angelo M. Codevilla, “Osama bin Elvis,” American Spectator, March 2009 (http://spectator.org/archives/2009/03/13/osama-bin-elvis/print).
  41. Maggie Michael, “Bin Laden, in Statement to U.S. People, Says He Ordered Sept. 11 Attacks,” Associated Press, October 29, 2004 (http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/nation/terror/20041029-1423-binladentape.html).
  42. Ron Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006), 336.
  43. Philip Sherwell, “Bush Takes a Six-Point Lead After New Bin Laden Tape,” Telegraph, November 1, 2004 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1475515/Bush-takes-a-six-point-lead-after-new-bin-Laden-tape.html).
  44. “Kerry Blames Defeat on Bin Laden,” BBC News, January 31, 2005 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4222647.stm); “Bush Says Bin Laden Tape Aided Re-Election: Report,” Reuters, February 28, 2006 http://www.redorbit.com/news/politics/408991/bush_says_bin_laden_tape_aided_reelection_report/).
  45. “Bin Laden’s Warning: Full Text,” BBC News, October 7, 2001 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1585636.stm).
  46. “BBC Transcript Of Osama Bin Laden Statement,” November 7, 2001 (http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO0111/S00049.htm).
  47. “Bin Laden’s Warning: Full Text.”
  48. “BBC Transcript Of Osama Bin Laden Statement.”
  49. See “In the Footsteps of Bin Laden,” CNN, August 23, 2006 http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0608/23/cp.01.html), and Steve Coll, “Young Osama,” New Yorker, December 12, 2005 http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/12/12/051212fa_fact).
  50. “In the Footsteps of Bin Laden.”
  51. “Arnaud de Borchgrave Interviews Hameed Gul, Former Chief of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence,” UPI, September 26, 2001 (http://www.strategypage.com/militaryforums/594-499.aspx; also available at(http://www.robert-fisk.com/hamid_gul_interview_sept26_2001.htm).
  52. I have given a more thorough analysis of the problems in these two “confession videos” in my book Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive? (Northampton: Olive Branch [Interlink Books, 2009).
  53. “Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive?” Veterans Today, October 22, 2009 (http://www.veteranstoday.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=9079

Continue reading »

May 262013
 

Story Leak
Anthony Gucciardi

In another verbal assault on net neutrality, Obama is now warning that both recent and future acts of terrorism stem from the accessibility of information on the internet.

obama-internet-terrorismIn his speech yesterday, Obama said that information available online fuels ‘violent agendas’ through ‘hateful propaganda’ that drives terrorism. Warning that ‘internet materials’ are fueling domestic terror threats and actually causing people to go out and commit mass acts of terrorism, Obama is once again following in the footsteps of his fellow control freak associates in assaulting the openness of the internet that is now a hot spring for alternative news amid the frozen depths of the mainstream media.

In the speech, Obama said:

“Today, a person can consume hateful propaganda, commit themselves to a violent agenda and learn how to kill without leaving their home.”

The simple reality is that the internet is the largest threat to corrupt government officials. It’s how we managed to break open the entire IRS scandal that has blown up in Obama’s face and led to calls for criminal action against top officials responsible for targeting Constitution-based groups with phony financial assaults. It’s also how we know about the truth surrounding Benghazi and what went down there. An event that has also generated serious awareness and even calls for impeachment.

Internet-Based Alt News Growing At Record Levels

So it should come as no surprise to find that Obama and others want the internet to be not only monitored by the government, but regulated as well. By using the ever-looming threat of domestic terrorism, it is simple to trace back extremists to certain internet sites that can be used as catalysts to enact legislation that endangers and annihilates internet freedom. Specifically, people like myself and others can be targeted in these crackdowns in order to give alternative news sources a bad name.

Obama’s latest speech is similar to his previous, in which he warns against those who question what he calls our ‘brave’ new government and warn of tyranny and corruption within it. The bottom line is that Obama is setting the stage here, as he has been for quite a while along with others, for an informational crusade against websites and blogs that dare to criticize government. Already labeled as ‘conspiracy’ and ‘extremist’ websites for even asking the simplest questions of government, the fight against net neutrality and alternative news sources is about to be taken to a whole new level. Continue reading »
May 242013
 

Memory Hole
Professor James Tracy

To posit that one’s government may be partially composed of unaccountable criminal elements is cause for serious censure in polite circles. Labeled “conspiracy theories” by a corporate media that prompt and channel emotionally-laden mass consent, such perspectives are quickly dispatched to the memory hole lest they prompt meaningful discussion of the political prerogatives and designs held by a global power elite coordinating governments and broader geopolitical configurations.

Cultural historian Jack Bratich terms such phenomena “conspiracy panics.” Potentially fostered by the coordinated actions of government officials or agencies and major news organs to generate public suspicion and uncertainty, a conspiracy panic is a demonstrable immediate or long-term reactive thrust against rational queries toward unusual and poorly understood events. To be sure, they are also intertwined with how the given society acknowledges and preserves its own identity—through “the management and expulsion of deviance.”[1]

In the American mass mind, government intelligence and military operations are largely seen as being directed almost solely toward manipulation or coercion of unfortunate souls in foreign lands. To suggest otherwise, as independent researchers and commentators have done with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the CIA-Contra-crack cocaine connection, and 9/11, has been cause for sustained conspiracy panics that act to suppress inquiry into such events by professional and credentialed opinion leaders, particularly journalists and academics.

At the same time a conspiracy panic serves a subtle yet important doctrinal function of manifesting and reproducing the apt ideational status quo of the post-Cold War, “War on Terror” era. “The scapegoating of conspiracy theories provides the conditions for social integration and political rationality,” Bratich observes. “Conspiracy panics help to define the normal modes of dissent. Politically it is predicated on a consensus of ‘us’ over against a subversive and threatening ‘them.’”[2] These days especially the suggestion that an official narrative may be amiss almost invariably puts one in the enemy camp.

Popular Credence in Government Conspiracy Narratives

The time for a conspiracy panic to develop has decreased commensurately with the heightened spread and availability of information and communication technology that allows for the dissemination of news and research formerly suppressed by the perpetual data overload of corporate media. Before the wide access to information technology and the internet, independent investigations into events including the JFK assassination took place over the course of many years, materializing in book-length treatments that could be dismissed by intelligence assets in news media and academe as the collective activity of “conspiracy buffs”—amateurish researchers who lack a government or privately-funded sinecure to overlook or obscure inquiry into deep events.

Not until Oliver Stone’s 1991 blockbuster film JFK, essentially an adoption of works by author Jim Marrs, Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty, and New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, did a substantial conspiracy panic take shape as a response to such analysis thrust upon the public in popular narrative form. This panic arose from and centered around Hollywood’s apt challenge to traditional journalism’s turf alongside commercial news outlets’ typically deceptive  interpretation of the event and almost wholly uncritical treatment of the Warren Commission Report.

Shortly thereafter investigative journalist Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series for the San Jose Mercury News demonstrated the internet’s capacity to explain and document a government conspiracy. With Webb’s painstaking examination of the CIA’s role in the illicit drug trade hyperlinked to a bevy of documentation and freely distributed online, the professional journalistic community and its intelligence penumbra fell silent for months.

In the interim the story picked up steam in the non-traditional outlets of talk radio and tabloid television, with African Americans especially intrigued by the potential government role in the crack cocaine epidemic. Then suddenly major news outlets spewed forth a vitriolic attack on Webb and the Mercury News that amazingly resulted in the Mercury‘s retraction of the story and Webb’s eventual departure from the paper and probable murder by the US government.[3]

Criticism of Webb’s work predictably focused on petty misgivings toward his alleged poor judgment—specifically his intimation that the CIA intentionally caused the crack epidemic in African American communities, an observation that many blacks found logical and compelling. So not only did Webb find himself at the center of a conspiracy panic because of his assessment of the CIA’s role in the drug trade; he was also causing mass “paranoia” within African American communities allegedly predisposed toward such thinking.

Since the mid-1990s conspiracy panics have increasingly revolved around an effort by mainstream news media to link unorthodox political ideas and inquiry with violent acts. This dynamic was crystallized in Timothy McVeigh, the principal suspect in the April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombing,  who through the propaganda-like efforts of  government and major news media was constructed to symbolize the dangers of “extremist” conspiratorial thought (his purported fascination with white supremacism and The Turner Diaries) and violent terrorist action (the bombing itself). Conveniently overlooked is the fact that McVeigh was trained as a black ops technician and still in US Army employ at the time of his 2001 execution.[4]

Through a broad array of media coverage and subsequent book-length treatments by the left intelligentsia on the “radical right,” the alleged lone wolf McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing became forever coupled in the national memory. The image and event seemingly attested to how certain modes of thought can bring about violence–even though McVeigh’s role in what took place on April 19 was without question one part of an intricate web painstakingly examined by the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee [5] and in the 2011 documentary A Noble Lie: Oklahoma City 1995.

The Quickening Pace of Conspiracy Panics

Independent researchers and alternative media utilizing the internet have necessitated the rapid deployment of conspiracy panic-like reactions that appear far less natural and spontaneous to neutralize inquiry and bolster the official narratives of  momentous and unusual events. For example, wide-scale skepticism surrounding the May 1, 2011 assault on Osama bin Laden’s alleged lair in Pakistan was met with efforts to cultivate a conspiracy panic evident in editorials appearing across mainstream print, broadcast, and online news platforms. The untenable event supported only by President Obama’s pronouncement of the operation was unquestioningly accepted by corporate media that shouted down calls for further evidence and alternative explanations of bin Laden’s demise as “conspiracy theories.”

Indeed, a LexisNexis search for “bin Laden” and “conspiracy theories” yields over five hundred such stories and opinion pieces appearing across Western print and broadcast media outlets for the week of May 2, 2011.[6] “While much of America celebrated the dramatic killing of Osama bin Laden,” the Washington Post opined, “the Sept. 11 conspiracy theorists still had questions. For them and a growing number of skeptics, the plot only thickened.”[7]

Along these lines retired General Mark Kimmitt remarked on CNN, “Well, I’m sure the conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this, about why it was done? Was it done? Is he still alive?”[8] “The conspiracy theorists are not going to be satisfied,” Glenn Beck asserted. “Next thing you know, Trump is going to ask for the death certificate, and is it the real death certificate? And then all hell breaks loose.”[9]

Like 9/11 or the Gulf of Tonkin, the narrative has since become a part of official history, disingenuously repeated in subsequent news accounts and elementary school history books—a history handed down from on high and accepted by compromised, unintelligent, or simply lazy journalists perpetuating nightmare fictions to a poorly informed and intellectually idle public.

This psycho-symbolic template is simultaneously evident in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and Boston Marathon bombing (BMB) events and their aftermaths. Indeed, the brief yet intense Sandy Hook conspiracy panic, and to a lesser degree that of the BMB, revolved at least partially around the “conspiracy theory professor,” who, as a credentialed member of the intellectual class, overstepped his bounds by suggesting how there are many unanswered questions related to the tragedies that might lead one to conclude—as social theorist Jean Baudrillard observed concerning the 1991 Gulf War—that the events did not take place, at least in the way official pronouncements and major media have represented them. It is perhaps telling  that critical assessments of domestic events and their relatedness to a corrupt media and governing apparatus are so vigorously assailed.

Yet to suggest that the news and information Americans accept as sound and factual on a routine basis is in fact a central means for manipulating their worldviews is not a matter for debate. Rather, it is an empirically verifiable assertion substantiated in a century of public relations and psychological warfare research and practice. Such propaganda efforts once reserved for foreign locales are now freely practiced in the US to keep the population increasingly on edge.

Still, a significant portion of the population cannot believe their government would lie to or mislead them, especially about a traumatic and emotional event involving young children or running enthusiasts. To suggest this to be the case is not unlike informing a devoted sports fan that her team lost a decisive game after she’s been convinced of an overwhelming win. Such an allegation goes against not only what they often unconsciously accept to be true, but also challenges their substantial emotional investment in the given mediated event.

In a revealing yet characteristic move the reaction by corporate media outlets such as the New York Times, FoxNews, CNN, and in the case of the BMB the New York Times-owned Boston Globe, has been not to revisit and critique their own slipshod coverage of the Newtown massacre or BMB that often bordered on blatant disinformation, but rather to divert attention from any responsible self-evaluation by vilifying the messenger in what have been acute conspiracy panics of unusual proportion.

As a disciplinary mechanism against unsettling observations and questions directed toward political leaders and the status quo, conspiracy panics serve to reinforce ideas and thought processes sustained by the fleeting yet pervasive stimuli of infotainment, government pronouncements, and, yes, the staged events that have been part and parcel of US news media and government collaboration dating at least to the Spanish-American war. Despite (or perhaps because of) the immense technological sophistication at the dawn of the twenty-first century a majority of the population remains bound and shackled in the bowels of the cave, forever doomed to watch the shadows projected before them.

Notes

[1] Jack Z. Bratich, Conspiracy Panics: Political Rationality and Popular Culture, Albany NY: State University of New York Press, 2008.

[2] Bratich, Conspiracy Panics, 11.

[3] Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson, “Evidence Begins to Indicate Gary Webb Was Murdered,” prisonplanet.com, December 15, 2004; Charlene Fassa, “Gary Webb: More Pieces in the Suicided Puzzle, Pt. 1,” Rense.com, December 11, 2005.

[4] Death Certificate of Timothy James McVeigh, June 11, 2001, http://www.autopsyfiles.org/reports/deathcert/mcveigh,%20timothy.pdf

[5] Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, Final Report on the Bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, April 19, 1995, 2001. See also Oklahoma City: What Really Happened? Chuck Allen, dir., 1995.

[6] See James F. Tracy, “State Propaganda, Historical Revisionism, and Perpetuation of the 911 Myth,” memoryholeblog.com and GlobalResearch.ca, May 6, 2012.

[7] Emily Wax, “Report of bin Laden’s Death Spurs Questions From Conspiracy Theorists,” Washington Post, May 2, 20111.

[8] Gen. Mark Kimmitt on CNN Breaking News, “Osama bin Laden is Dead,” CNN, May 2, 2011.

[9] Glenn Beck, “Beck for May 2, 2011,” Fox News Network, May 2, 2011.

-JFT
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May 242013
 

Harford Courant
Jon Lender, Edmund H. Mahony, Dave Altimari

The staffs of the state’s top prosecutor and the governor’s office have been working in secret with General Assembly leaders on legislation to withhold records related to the police investigation into the Dec. 14 Newtown elementary school massacre — including victims’ photos, tapes of 911 calls, and possibly more.

The behind-the-scenes legislative effort came to light Tuesday when The Courant obtained a copy of an email by a top assistant to Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, Timothy J. Sugrue. Sugrue, an assistant state’s attorney, discussed options considered so far, including blocking release of statements “made by a minor.”

“There is complete agreement regarding photos etc., and audio tapes, although the act may allow the disclosure of audio transcripts,” Sugrue wrote to Kane, two other Kane subordinates and to Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky, who is directing the investigation of the killings.

The bill that’s being crafted has not been handled under routine legislative procedures — it hasn’t gone through the committee process, which includes a public hearing, for example. Sugrue’s email Tuesday indicated that a draft of the bill was being worked on by leaders in both the House and Senate, and might be ready as soon as the end of the day.

He wrote: “I just received a call from Natalie Wagner” — a member of the legal counsel’s staff in the office of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

“She believes that draft language will be forthcoming today (the work of both houses) in the form of a special act. …” Sugrue wrote that Wagner “will send me the draft in confidence when she receives it, and I will immediately forward it.”

However, late Tuesday, the legislation proposed by Kane wasn’t ready to be acted on in either legislative chamber, said Malloy’s director of communications, Andrew Doba. He said he did not know when that might happen.

“A lot of people, including our office, have heard the concerns expressed by the families of Newtown victims, and are exploring ways to respect the families’ right to privacy while also respecting the public’s right to information,” gubernatorial chief of staff Mark Ojakian said in a statement released by Doba.

A major question yet to be settled is whether the legislation would apply only to the Newtown case, or to documents from other criminal cases that are now subject to public disclosure. A report on the police investigation into the Newtown shooting is expected to be released in June.

As envisioned by Kane, the bill wouldn’t be limited to the Newtown file.

“We are seeking legislation to protect crime scene photographs protecting victims and certain 911 tapes,” Kane told The Courant Tuesday. “It is something that I have been concerned about for years and years and the situation in Newtown brings it to a head. I don’t want family members seeing pictures of their loved ones publicized in a manner in which these are subject to be published.”

He said as he sees the legislation, it would apply to “basically crime scene photographs depicting injuries to victims and recordings, 911 recordings displaying the mental anguish of victims. Things like that, of that category. And it seems to me that the intrusion of the privacy of the individuals outweighs any public interest in seeing these.”

Sugrue said in his email that the “forthcoming” language would be “in the form of a special act, not an amendment to the [state's Freedom of Information Act].”

As originally discussed behind the scenes, the proposed legislation would have amended the state’s freedom of information law by adding a blanket exemption to disclosure of any “criminal investigation photograph, film, videotape, other image or recording or report depicting or describing the victim or victims.”

Colleen Murphy, the director of the state’s FOI Commission, said Tuesday that her staff had argued against the idea of such a blanket change. She said a couple of weeks ago the office of House Speaker Brendan Sharkey provided her agency with a draft including the blanket exception. She said she was advised that this draft would not be put to a vote, but she knew nothing abut the contents of the “forthcoming” draft.

Murphy said she’d urged that lawmakers be “thoughtful and careful about any legislation” and to “not be reactive to one situation” by making changes that could have long-term, unintended effects.

Murphy was unaware of Sugrue’s email when The Courant told her about it late Tuesday afternoon. She said she and her staff had not been receiving detailed updates. Asked if she would have liked to have been kept aware of developments such as Sugrue’s email, she said yes.

The killing of 20 first-graders and six women at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown has sparked a number of legislative proposals this year to protect the privacy of the victims’ families and spare them further pain. One example is a bill that would exempt the death certificates of minors from public disclosure for six months.

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