Exclusive: President Obama claims to value “openness” as a core principle of democracy, but the truth is that his administration has been among the most secretive and manipulative in modern times, tailoring what the public hears about foreign crises to what serves his agenda, writes Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
In disclosing the deaths of two Western hostages in a U.S. drone strike on an Al-Qaeda compound, President Barack Obama said on Thursday that he had ordered the declassification of the secret operation because “the United States is a democracy committed to openness in good times and in bad.”
But the reality of the past six years has been that his administration has enforced wildly excessive secrecy, selectively declassified material to mislead the American people, and failed to correct erroneous information on sensitive international issues.
This failure to trust the people with accurate information has arguably done great harm to U.S. democracy by promoting false narratives on a range of foreign conflicts. With all its talk about “public diplomacy” and “information warfare,” the Obama administration seems intent on using half-truths and falsehoods to herd the people into a misguided consensus rather than treating them like the true sovereigns of the Republic, as the Framers of the Constitution intended with the explicit phrase “We the People of the United States.”
For instance, the Obama administration rushed to judgments on pivotal international events such as the Syrian-sarin case in 2013 and the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down over Ukraine in 2014 and then refused to update those assessments as new evidence emerged changing how U.S. intelligence analysts understood what happened.
Instead of correcting or refining the record and pursuing meaningful accountability against the perpetrators of these crimes the Obama administration has left outdated, misleading accusations in the public domain, all the better to fit with some geopolitical goals, such as delegitimizing the Syrian and Russian governments. In other words, providing the American people with substantive updates on these atrocities and advancing the cause of justice take a back seat to keeping some geopolitical foe on the defensive.
In both the Syrian-sarin case and the MH-17 shoot-down, I’ve been told that U.S. intelligence analysts have not only refined their understanding of the events but to a significant degree reversed them. But the original assessments, which were released nine and five days after the events, respectively, were still being handed out to the press many months later. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Fact-Resistant Group Think on Syria” and “US Intel Stands Pat on MH-17 Shoot-down.”]
What is perhaps most troubling in both cases, however, is that the killings involved serious crimes against humanity and the perpetrators have not been identified and brought to justice. Whatever new evidence U.S. intelligence has collected could help track down who was responsible but that doesn’t appear to be a priority for President Obama.
In the MH-17 case, the timetable for the next scheduled release of information is on the first anniversary of the shoot-down, which occurred on July 17, 2014. Given that the shoot-down, which killed 298 people, should be an active criminal investigation, it makes little sense to delay disclosures for something as artificial as an anniversary, giving whoever was responsible more time to slip away and cover their tracks.
In the meantime, the U.S. government continues to re-release its initial claims putting blame on foreign adversaries the governments of Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin so the assumption may be drawn that the updated analyses go in different directions, possibly implicating U.S. allies, such as Turkey or Saudi Arabia regarding the sarin attack and elements of the U.S.-backed Ukrainian regime in the MH-17 case. Whatever the truth, however, it is hard to justify why the U.S. government has withheld evidence in these criminal cases, whoever is implicated.
Of course, double standards sometimes appear to be the only standards when the U.S. government is involved these days. When ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine resist a coup that overthrew their elected president in 2014 and get some help from Russians next door the Obama administration and the mainstream U.S. news media decry “Russian aggression.”
On Wednesday, the Obama administration declassified its own claims that Russia had deployed air defense systems in eastern Ukraine and had built up its forces along the border with Ukraine, assertions that Russian officials denied, though those denials were not included in the article on Thursday by New York Times’ national security reporter Michael R. Gordon, who treated the allegations essentially as flat fact.
After citing some analysts musing about different explanations for Russian President Putin’s supposed actions, Gordon wrote, “Either way, the new military activity is a major concern because it has significantly reduced the amount of warning that Ukraine and its Western supporters would have if Russian forces and separatists mounted a joint offensive.”
Gordon then quoted State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf saying: “This is the highest amount of Russian air defense equipment in eastern Ukraine since August. Combined Russian-separatist forces continue to violate the terms of the ‘Minsk-2’ agreement signed in mid-February.”
Though Gordon included no Russian response to these charges, he did mention that Russia had complained about what Gordon called “a modest program” of 300 American troops in Ukraine training national guard units, a program that Russian officials said could “destabilize the situation.” Gordon wrote that the Obama administration, in response to this Russian complaint. “declassified intelligence describing a range of Russian military activities in and near Ukraine.”
But the intelligence appeared to be just U.S. accusations. In Kiev, U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt tweeted about “the highest concentration of Russia air defense systems in eastern Ukraine since August” and illustrated his claim by showing a photo of a BUK anti-aircraft missile system. But the photo appeared to be an Associated Press photograph taken of a BUK system on display at an air show near Moscow two years ago, as the Russian network RT noted.
Gordon, who co-authored with Judith Miller the famously bogus Times’ exposÃ© in 2002 about Iraq procuring aluminum tubes for building nuclear bombs, has been an eager conduit for U.S. government propaganda over the years, including his role last year in a page-one Times scoop that cited State Department and Ukrainian government claims about photographs that proved Russian troops were in Ukraine but turned out to be false. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Retracts Russian Photo Scoop.”]
Yet, while Russia is not supposed to mind the forced ouster of a friendly government on its borders or the presence of U.S. and NATO forces supporting the successor regime, a more sympathetic view is taken when Saudi Arabia intervenes in Yemen’s civil war by bombing the country indiscriminately, reportedly killing hundreds of civilians and devastating ancient cities with priceless historical sites that date back thousands of years.
“They’re worried about their own security and of course we’ve supported them,” stated White House communications director Jen Psaki. “But, again, we’re trying to redirect this to a political discussion here.” (The New York Times article about this “Saudi resolve” with a similarly understanding tone toward the Saudis was co-authored by Gordon.)
This pattern of perverting U.S. intelligence information to bolster some U.S. foreign policy agenda has become a trademark of the Obama administration along with an unprecedented number of prosecutions of U.S. government whistleblowers who release real information that exposes government wrongdoing or waste. This double standard belies President Obama’s assertion that he values openness in a democracy.
[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “President Gollum’s ‘Precious’ Secrets.”]
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.
With all my due respect to all people who voiced their opinion current and no so current Administrations think that situation today is much worse than transparency, lies etc. Current situation is best described as “Dizziness from success”, as Joseph Stalin put it back in 1930. For the US was extremely successful in world affairs starting from 1898, the first war re-distribution spoils of previous colonial adventures of European Powers starting from “discovery” America and India. The congenital problem with new player in colonial onslaught of the West the fact that the US was and still is so called “Powder Empire”, that is, whilst being geographically protected from foreign invasions, she always was fighting wars of choice and never, I repeat, never fought for its existence. Both American people and their leaders has never met REAL enemy. Hence such cavalier approach to the most dangerous situation that was brought upon humankind by such nobody as Harry “Plain Spoken” Truman, who open Pandora Box with bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Needless to say that compared with current coach warriors, Truman was giant of the thinker.
only those armies, which were far inferior armed.
Vitaly, your reminiscing of U.S. history brings up the question over our country’s culture. While I agree with you, I must also admit how this violent culture scares me. If I may add to what you wrote, would you not agree that the U.S. prior to 1898 stole this land from the Native Americans who once owned this very land we are now living on. Add to that, did not early U.S. settlers profit by exploiting the African slave.
You are right about bringing up life after Truman. I sometimes look upon his time in office as being one of the most pivotal moments in our modern times. If only Henry Wallace had been the one to replace FDR instead of Harry. Oh well, it didn’t work out that way, and we are where we are. Nice post Vitaly.
I must disagree. The US Civil War was a fight for the nation’s existence. It’s true a foreign invader wasn’t involved, but the US of A would have ended if the North hadn’t won.
World War 2 was a fight forced on the US by circumstances, and good thing too! Had Japan not attacked the US when it did, it’s my opinion that Germany would have won that war. When Hitler (mistakenly) thought he’d defeated the USSR, he began a massive naval program which included landing ships and aircraft carriers. He planned to be ruler of the Earth before he died, and there is no reason to believe he wouldn’t have been. By the way, the German soldiers of WW2 were “real” enough enemies. At every point except the very end they were superior at a ratio of at least 2:1 to US soldiers. Their training was better, and so was their weaponry and unit cohesion. Discipline in the German Army was ferocious, far more so than in the US forces. The US was very fortunate to have had so many Allies in WW2. (this is NOT a slander against the WW2 US soldiers. I have many relatives who fought in that war)
Regarding Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those atomic weapons existed. The inhabitants of both cities were going to die unless Japan surrendered pronto. Not only that, but so were hundreds of thousands of Allied troops and millions of other Japanese – both civilian and military. Under the circumstances, their use was a genuine case of a “lesser evil”. The bombings shocked the Emperor – the only man in Japan who really mattered – into ending the war.
I expect to see a flood of the annual Evil US articles around August of each year. Spring is a bit early.
senryu â€“ double standard, u. s . style
â€˜rule of lawâ€™: POTUS
demands others follow it –
he flouts it freely
~ Greg Driscoll
I agree that this “administration has been among the most secretive and manipulative in modern times”, if by “modern times” you’re also including George W., Clinton, George H.W., Reagan, Carter, Ford, NIXON!, Johnson, Kennedy, & Eisenhower, to name just the administrations in my lifetime. In other words, when has it been any different? Having voted for the man twice (because, let’s face it, living in a swing state as I do my choice was limited to the lesser of two evils) I’m disgusted by a foreign policy heavily influenced by a cabal of neoconservative war criminals (who’d be spending the rest of their natural lives in prison in a just world) as well as his neoliberal economic agenda that will soon be sacrificing us to the TPP. However, ranting aside, singling out the Obama administration as uniquely “secretive and manipulative” is unexpectedly amnestic coming from the author of Lost History, America’s Stolen Narrative, etc.
For me the establishment lying started happening when I was thirteen years old. That was in 1963 when for the first time Americans were able to watch a presidential assassination play out on TV. Then not longer after that LBJ started beating the war drums over the Gulf of Tonkin Bay. So, here we are some fifty two years later, and one would think I would have learned to just believe their lies and move on. I will admit that for more than once I have fallen for their promises and campaign rhetoric, only to be let down when my winning candidate took office. As George W. Bush had said, ‘fool me once, that’s on me. Fool me twice…oh, you know how it goes’!
The good news is reading all these comments here on this site gives me hope. Mr. Parry’s reporting, along with the other authors who write for Consortiumnews helps me survey the news for what it is. A person must really work hard to even attempt to learn the truth.
Robert, very thoughtfully and eloquently put! America began in blood, the extinction of a whole galaxy of Native peoples and cultures. Let it not end in the same, for the hour is nigh. Nothing is permanent.
Robert, very thoughtfully and eloquently put! America began in blood, the extinction of a whole galaxy of Native peoples and cultures. Let it not end in the same, for the hour is nigh. Nothing is permanent.
“…and then refused to update those assessments as new evidence emerged changing how U.S. intelligence analysts understood what happened.”
It’s not just to keep the spotlight on this or that boogeyman; Update / revision, in itself, is an admission of incomplete knowledge or error, or a deliberate cook. US ain’t havin’ it.
Robert Scheer, of TruthDig, has called Obama america’s worst president for civil rights. Rightly. Obama is also the worst in cynicism, through his deliberate or deluded fraudulence. And he’s made a good portion of the people cynical, never again to hope in this demented system.
Which is why Bernie Sanders has the best chance to win the White House.
People are tired of politicians talking like progressives, but acting for the benefit of the corporate people, instead of We the People.
The term “U.S. intelligence” always makes me squirm-there is no intelligence ie brainwork, except for propaganda, in the information given out by “our leaders”. Even worse is the almost complete subservience of the allegedly free media in reporting and commenting on the official line.
They seem to be on this path where chaos is just part of the scenery, and if things should develop into some kind of worldish war, they are confident that the white race will come out on top. Maybe Obama thinks he’s more white than black.
US AND THEM
Of course it is terrible that anyone—repeat anyone—should hurt any “redblooded
American” human being. Other two-footed creatures aka humans— are of no
interest to the superior US mind. Not thousands of Palestinians, their homes,
their families, their children. Not even a word. Is it because they are inferior
beings and Israelis are “the chosen people”? Is it because of the quintessential
nature of “settler colonialism” with the mantra “What’s yours is mine and what’s
mine is my own?”
Among the absurdities is the imitation of “shock” that another nation, any other
nation, might send weapons anywhere. The United States and its allies (such as
Israel among others) dominates the vast international weapons market. It is
sending and/or selling its weaponry to nations all over the globe, to hundreds
of US bases, to manufacturing plants in other nations (Israel, Belgium, Turkey etc.)
to grease sales. Since it would be inadept for Obama to wish for a World War
Three (US manufacturing plants were humming, jobs were plentifull, money was
as well) the US has settled for proxy wars through its “allies” such as Saudi Arabia,
Israel and so forth. While that fails to get US plants humming again as in WW II,
it does provide profits for the three major weapons makers in the US many of
whom have transferred their plants to foreign nations.
And of course, if the US destroys families, homes, people in foreign lands, that is
for “US security”. Perhaps Yemenis are about to attack Washington. If so, that
information too has been kept classified. But Americans in smaller towns believe
it is a real possibility —our American government says so— just as faithfully as
we schoolchildren once believed that “the Russians were coming” [to attack us]
and dutifully hid under our old wooden desks with “CB LOVES TR” carved on them
for our own safety.
Only America has the “right” to invade, to move its troops into foreign nations,
wantonly kill abroad…but you already know that.
Since we never know when it is sinful for anyone else to do as we do (it is classified),
we permit ourselves to believe the information of our government and the MSM.
It is the only game in town we think…
—-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA
Rightly said all, except you wonder why the Saudis, Bahrainis, UAEers -all kin to the palestinian have moneys for such things as Snow Resort Domes in the Desert, Mile or Kilometre-High Towers and not for their relatives? Why do they put their peoples in the killing machine of strangers? Of all we do wrong, that cannot be blamed on us, they can not do.
IMO Obama is more Indonesian than white or black. Race is irrelevant. I say Obama is Indonesian because of his behavior and because he went to Indonesian schools. Upper class Indonesian, that is.
If race is irrelevant, then why are you dwelling on race?
Obama is half black and half white. What does that have to do with his performance as a pResident, besides nothing?
Obama, Iin the last year and a half of his tenure, is doing nothing nothing more tha pading his war chest vis a vis the Clintons. From poverty to smoking the big stogies with the rich and powerful (in their own minds) and amassing a small fortune on the backs of Americans and the death, destruction and rubble of a lot of the rest of the world. The Nobel laureate is a disgrace to the committee but a gift to the corporate bankers. Obama has done more to kill any trust remaining for honesty in politics than anyone coming before him. We lost all faith in our elections with Bush v Gore; all faith in politicians with obama ’08 and obama ’12. Fool me once………. It is way past time for a truly new America with a truly new government of, by and for the people.
There is not even a pretense toward believability. It’s as if the administration has decided they don’t care whether they are believed or not which may be the case. There are worries about military drills, specifically (Jade Helmet?), that will take place this summer across the southwestern section of the United States. No one knows what is really behind this. It appears to be just more of the same, i.e., hanky-panky with a sinister twist.
It seemed very clear last summer when MH17 crashed in Eastern Ukraine that this was a false flag perpetrated by the United States. It had all the earmarks of 9/11 when we were told, even as the buildings were coming down, that Osama bin Laden did it. In the case of MH17 the newspapers and news outlets in Southeast Asia began to accuse Putin within 24 hours of the demise of MH17.
The people running us are either very very dense or they just don’t give a damn because they’ve already decided how this is going to end. Either way, we’re in terrible straits. Thanks to Robert Parry for hammering that point home.
Thanks, Bob, for another first-rate article
The same can be said of Obama’s refusal to disclose to the American public or to any members of Congress, until the last minute, (unless it has been ‘sub rosa’) the provisions of the TTIP and TPP treaties, and instead to force their fast tracking and approval without Congressional or other public debate. These treaties are an important economic component in the necons’ cold war strategy, and will result in tectonic changes in our political, economic and legal system- including allowing the multinationals and international banks to run roughshod over our nation’s (both federal, and state and local) sovereignty, constitution, democracy, and economy.
Obama has been a waterboy for these interests, and his record to date suggests that like most everyone else in Washington, he is nothing more than a puppet that has been bought and sold. Whether or not he would risk suffering the fate of JFK if he were to chart an independent course for international peace or to seek meaningful rapprochement with Russia and China or stop the inexorable march of our nation to a becoming national security fascist state with no way out, the point remains that he is our President and the Commander and Chief. So, if he lacks the integrity to do the right thing, and courage to stand the heat, he should never have run- and it is the same for his Vice President and every member of Congress- and every one with their eye on 2016.
It is time the most important issues of our country are put on the table, debated, meaningfully addressed and solved, before the system collapses into chaos and worse.
Well put all around. But with gold in control of elections, mass media, and judiciary, democracy is lost, and on the historical evidence, a collapse into chaos will probably precede its restoration. It is more likely in China and Russia than in the thoroughly corrupted US.
Oh please. Anyone who becomes either the Democratic or Republican pResidential nominee is already compromised, and so have most of the Democrats and Republicans running for office in Congress.
Of course, double standards sometimes appear to be the only standards when the U.S. government is involved these days.
“These days” = several decades.
Obama once was hope
For goodness, race-less-ness
Most of all, peacefulness
The ground plowed well
Turned fertile of our soul
Promise would be seed.
Obama shame on you.
Sprouts and offshoots
Turned devil with power
You are worst hypocrite.
Let us see
For death of hostages
American, Italyâ€™s, Pakistan
It is sad; they were killed.
But by who?
Was it not your order?
Isnâ€™t same everywhere?
You give green light; planes bomb
All around are drones (your device)
And the boats and the dhows
Refugees in the sea, among rocks of Hellas
All of them innocents
Escapees of your bombs and drones.
You issued â€˜Green Lightâ€™
Syria, Libya, and Yemen
Everywhere, Pakistan to Iraq
Arenâ€™t you hypocrite?
Sure you are.