Brett Kavanaugh Threatens Racial Justice & Voting Rights

Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s disturbing record on racial issues would put the Voting Rights Act in further jeopardy if he were to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, argues Marjorie Cohn.

By Marjorie Cohn

Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s record on racial issues and his answers to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearings have raised red flags about how he would rule on voting rights if confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

During his hearing, Kavanaugh bragged about hiring people of color as law clerks and said he decried the use of the “n” word. But when Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) asked him whether he agreed with President Donald Trump that there was blame on both sides during the Charlottesville neo-Nazi rally, Kavanaugh refused to say “no.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) queried Kavanaugh about an amicus brief he co-authored with Robert Bork in a 1999 case in which they argued it was unconstitutional to prevent non-Native Hawaiians from voting for trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a public agency set up in 1978 to defend the rights of Native Hawaiians..

Hirono said Kavanaugh’s views on Native Hawaiians are “factually wrong” and incredibly offensive. Hirono told the nominee: “I think you have a problem here. Your view is that Hawaiians don’t deserve protections as Indigenous people under the Constitution and your argument raises a serious question on how you would vote on the constitutionality of programs benefiting Alaska natives. I think that my colleagues from Alaska should be deeply troubled by your views.”

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Kavanaugh called the program “Hawaii’s naked racial spoils system.” Harris asked Kavanaugh whether he knew that “racial spoils system” is commonly used by white supremacists. Kavanaugh said he didn’t.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) confronted Kavanaugh about another racist expression he had used, this time while working in the George W. Bush administration. Booker queried the nominee about his characterization of an affirmative action program as “a naked racial set-aside.” Kavanaugh had used the phrase in an email criticizing an affirmative action program under consideration by the Supreme Court. Like Hirono, Booker risked censure, discipline or removal by releasing this email, which had been marked “committee confidential.”

Voting Rights Act in Jeopardy

Kavanaugh has only decided one voting rights case. In 2012, he wrote the opinion for a three-judge panel in South Carolina v. United States, which upheld a voter ID law. The Obama Department of Justice had opposed the law, finding it violated the Voting Rights Act because it could disenfranchise tens of thousands of non-white voters who were less likely than whites to have identification.

The Justice Department presented evidence demonstrating that the South Carolina law disproportionately and materially burdened non-white voters. Expert testimony showed that Black voters were more than twice as likely as white voters not to have the required identification.

But Kavanaugh assigned more weight to elected officials. He bought into the argument that the law would prevent voter fraud, even though the state introduced no evidence to support that claim.

The landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act prohibits any voting practice or procedure that “results in a denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”

A person who claims that a county, municipal or state law violates the Voting Rights Act need not prove the law was enacted with racist intent. He or she need only prove the law would have the effect of making it more difficult for a person of color to vote.

NAACP President Cornell Brooks called the Voting Rights Act “the crown jewel of civil rights” at Jeff Sessions’s confirmation hearing for attorney general.

In the 2013 case of Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down Section 5 of the Act, which established a formula for pre-clearance of jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination.

We’ve seen nothing less than a Machiavellian frenzy of voter disenfranchisement from one end of the country to the other” since Shelby was decided, Brooks said.

In the South Carolina voter ID caseKavanaugh had declined to join a separate concurrence signed by the other two judges on the panel, reaffirming the “vital function that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has played here.”

Voter fraud is used as a pretext to suppress voting rights. A 2014 study reported by The Washington Post found only 31 incidents of voter fraud out of more than 1 billion ballots cast from 2000 to 2014.

From Ohio to Wisconsin to Georgia, the vestiges of Jim Crow have resurfaced under a new cloak, unchecked and unabated,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-Louisiana), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, in a statement to the senators at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing.

Indeed, since 2010, 23 states have enacted more restrictive voting laws, according to the Brennan Center.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) cited two examples — North Carolina and Texas — while questioning Kavanaugh.

In 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in NAACP v. North Carolina struck down North Carolina’s 2013 voting law that established a photo ID requirement and eliminated same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting and preregistration of high school students. After requesting data on voting patterns of different races, North Carolina legislators had written a law that would “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision,” the court said.

And in Veasey v. Perry, a U.S. District Court held that Texas’s voter ID law created an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, had an impermissibly discriminatory effect on Latinos and African Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose. The court also found the provision in question constituted an unconstitutional poll tax.

After reciting Texas’s dismal history of denying access to the polls, the court noted, “This history describes not only a penchant for discrimination in Texas with respect to voting, but it exhibits a recalcitrance that has persisted over generations despite the repeated intervention of the federal government and its courts on behalf of minority citizens.”

Early last year, Attorney General Sessions reversed the Obama Justice Department’s policy of challenging voter ID laws. Now the Justice Department intervenes in favor of states that enact measures to restrict equal ballot access.

In light of the proliferation of laws that pose obstacles to voting, the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to further eviscerate the Voting Rights Act.

Conservative organizations continue to cry “voter fraud” as a foil to enact laws that suppress voting rights for people of color. Kavanaugh’s entry onto the nine-member Court would make five solidly right-wing justices. The fate of the Voting Rights Act hangs in the balance.

Copyright Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and an advisory board member of Veterans for Peace. An updated edition of her book, Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues, was recently published.




Ellsberg Says Assange, as a Journalist, Can’t Be Tried Under Espionage Act

In an interview with Consortium News Editor-in-Chief Joe Lauria, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg says the Espionage Act, under which he was indicted, cannot apply to Julian Assange because he is a journalist. 

Speaking during an online vigil for Assange organized by Unity4J.com, Ellsberg told Lauria that the motive for U.S. leaders to protect their secrets and go after Assange has nothing to do with their mantra of “national security.” 

“The purpose is not to protect national security, but to protect the asses of the people who wrote the directives” of classified material, most of which should never have been classified, Ellsberg said. 

Ellsberg, 87, said that as a publisher and journalist, the Espionage Act cannot be applied to Assange, as it should not have been applied to Ellsberg for non-spying activities when he released the Pentagon Papers revealing that the U.S. government long knew it was losing the Vietnam War but continued lying to the American public. 

“Julian is not a whistle blower per se, but a facilitator of whistleblowing,” Ellsberg said, “…the point being that as a journalist, he can not fairly be tried under the Espionage Act.”

As one who only received classified material and published it, “It is essential that Julian Assange not be indicted, be convicted, or be extradited to the United States,” Ellsberg said. 

You can watch the entire 38 minute and 17 second interview here:




John McCain: The View from the Middle East

Being on the deadly end of his policies, many Arabs view John McCain in a very different way than the U.S. mass media has presented him, as As’ad AbuKhalil says.  

By As`ad AbuKhalil
Special to Consortium News

It is not unusual that Arabs and Americans look at the same event from divergent lenses. Take, for instance, a scene from John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign when he told  a woman in the audience who had called Obama an Arab: “No, Ma`am. He is not an Arab. He’s a decent family man.” 

That brief exchange has been tweeted and retweeted thousands of time in the last few days following McCain’s death. It has been promoted by people in mainstream media (and think tanks and academia) as evidence of the civility, “classiness”, and lack of prejudice of McCain.  Yet, Arabs saw something entirely different in that exchange.  They saw bigotry from McCain, who was denying that Obama was Arab in the same way one denies that someone is a Nazi.  He clearly implied that an Arab can’t be a decent family man.  In fact, Gen. Colin Powell was the only U.S. politician who pointed this out at the time.  But a new image of McCain is being formulated before our eyes.

For Arabs in the Middle East and in the U.S., the view of McCain does not conform to the hagiography of U.S. media.  People in the region remember well that McCain supported every U.S. and Israeli war, invasion, or attack against any Arab target. They remember that he was a major proponent of invading Iraq and argued for the expansion of U.S. wars into Iran, Libya and Syria in the wake of Sep. 11. 

While the Washington director of Human Rights Watch was writing tributes to McCain, Arabs were remembering him as a champion of Middle East dictators (except those on bad terms with the U.S. and Israel.) It was not a coincidence that both the official Saudi regime lobby in DC and AIPAC promptly released emotional eulogies for McCain. The English-language, Arab Times (a mouthpiece of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman) dedicated a special issue to him.

McCain never wavered in his conformity with AIPAC’s agenda.  He never had disagreements with the Israeli government except in outbidding them in his hostility to Palestinian rights and the usefulness of negotiations with Arabs.

Yet in the context of Washington politics, McCain was not regarded as the anti-Arab/anti-Muslim that he was, perhaps because there were Arabs and Muslims that he approved of. He championed, for instance, Iraqi opposition figure Ahmad Chalabi (a key fabricator in the buildup to the U.S. invasion of Iraq) and the Afghan Muhajedeen. He was very close to Arab despots and approved arms sales to their repressive armies and intelligence apparatuses. He spoke of democracy but in the way that invading and colonizing states glorify “freedom” to justify conquest.

McCain was a champion of Syrian rebels and pictures of him with Jihadi extremists (in Libya and in Syria) were circulated by Arabs on social media in the last week. while the Washington press corps and Human Rights Watch were paying tribute him as “a defender of democracy.”

Schooled by Scoop

McCain was mentored on the Middle East, according to his biographies, by Henry “Scoop” Jackson, who for years was the dean of ardent Zionists in the U.S. Congress. Those were in the days when a few members—mostly Republicans—dared to challenge AIPAC. McCain’s first trip to Israel was a member of a delegation led by Jackson when McCain was the Navy’s liaison to the Senate.  Typically, like all U.S. politicians who visit Israel, McCain became convinced by  the view from Israeli military helicopters of the vulnerability of “little Israel” and that Israel needed to continue to occupy, invade, attack and assassinate.

In Congress, McCain managed to become associated with AIPAC’s agenda more than his colleagues.  He always argued for more support for Israel. And when Israel and the U.S. both accepted negotiations with Yasser Arafat, he remained skeptical, raising doubts about the intentions of the Palestinians.

After his election to Congress, McCain quickly set himself up as an expert on defense and foreign policy. His first foreign policy posture in Congress was in 1983, when he opposed U.S. intervention in Lebanon, but not on humanitarian grounds. Instead he basically argued that far more force was needed against Syria and its allies in Lebanon. This became a pattern for the Vietnam veteran: that more force is always needed wherever U.S. troops are deployed. Some attribute the “surge” to him, as if the surge really salvaged American fortunes in Iraq.

In an article written during his 2008 presidential campaign, The New York Times talked about the McCain Doctrine and referred to his reaction to Sep. 11, when he argued for war on Syria, Iran, and Afghanistan.  For McCain, war was the only recourse for dealing with foes of the U.S. and Israel. And war was not effective for McCain without massive force and heavy troop deployments.

The Senator and the Ikhwan

McCain was a champion of the Muslim Brotherhood (Jam’iyat al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin), even if that put him at odds with Gulf rulers who he also supported.  This position may seem uncharacteristic given his longstanding fealty to AIPAC and its agenda, and his general unfriendliness to Arabs and Muslims. But McCain may have undertaken this role at the behest of AIPAC. 

In the aftermath of the Arab uprisings, McCain negotiated with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.  It was after a series of visits from leaders of those movements to Washington that they basically reversed their traditional position on Israel.  Leaders of An-Nahda rescinded their plan to criminalize normalization with Israel, while leaders of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood pledged commitment to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.  Similarly, the stance of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood abandoned any hostility toward Israel and even toward its occupation of the Golan heights.  McCain’s confidence in the ability of the Ikhwan to deliver the interests of Israel and U.S., led him to oppose Sisi’s coup as he trusted that Mohammed Morsi would be able to guard U.S. interests and the interests of the Egyptian-Israeli military-intelligence alliance.

McCain became, in this manner, an unabashed champion of what is called in the West (and in the Gulf regimes’ media) the “Syrian revolution”.  He also trusted the Islamists in the “revolution” and hoped that Israeli interests would be served by a change of regime that would be aligned with the U.S. and Israel.  The risk of promoting Jihadi Islamist rebels was, for McCain and the Israeli lobby, worth the effort.  For that, McCain’s death was mourned by leaders of the “liberal” exile opposition and by Jihadis of the Syrian rebels, including Huthaifah `Azzam, the son of `Abdullah `Azzam (the mentor of Usamah bin Laden). (Huthaifah `Azzam later deleted his post after I drew attention to it).

The career of McCain intersected with the rise of AIPAC on Capitol Hill.  He also benefited from the Reagan and Bush Doctrines, both of which relied on the use of massive force against the enemies of U.S. and Israel. 

The assessment of McCain can’t hope to achieve a measure of balance given the adulation by mainstream media for a man whose political sins were always instantly forgotten.  His reference to Vietnamese by a pejorative term was seen as an example of his frank talk—not of his prejudice. His involvement with Charles Keating was seen as an example of a minor error and not of the corruption of an influential senator.  His endorsement of war, the Israeli occupation, and his embrace of tyrants (especially in the Gulf and North Africa) have not been perceived as inconsistent with the media’s image of a champion of human rights. 

In the end, John McCain was a major face of American empire, just as were two people who attended his funeral–Obama and Bush –and one who did not, Trump.  

As’ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Lebanon (1998), Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New “War on Terrorism” (2002), and The Battle for Saudi Arabia (2004). He also runs the popular blog The Angry Arab News Service

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An Online Vigil in Defense of Julian Assange With Daniel Ellsberg, Craig Murray, Bill Binney and Ray McGovern

Joe Lauria, editor-in-chief of Consortium News, on Saturday helped moderate a daylong chain of interviews in defense of WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange, including a discussion with Daniel Ellsberg. 

#Unity4J online vigil was held on Saturday to defend the WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, whose sanctuary at the Ecuadorian embassy in London has turned into torturous solitary confinement.

Among the participants on Saturday were Craig Murray, a former U.K. ambassador; Nat Parry, son of Consortium New’s founder and first editor, Robert Parry; Bill Binney, former technical director at the National Security Agency, and Ray McGovern, a former CIA officer. Joe Lauria interviewed Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower and author of The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. 

The entire 11 hour and 45 minute event can be viewed here:

International media have reported that Ecuador may hand over Assange to United Kingdom authorities, with a fear that he then would be extradited to the United States. The U.K. and Ecuadorian sides are engaged in ongoing negotiations, but Jennifer Robinson, a lawyer for Assange and WikiLeaks since 2010, has acknowledged that Assange’s legal team is not part of those talks.

The fate of Assange represents a threat to human rights, asylum rights, liberty and press freedoms. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights already have found in Assange’s favor.

#Unity4J originated from an unplanned but timely response to injustice when Assange’s internet access and visitation rights were taken away. The action has grown into a series of high-profile monthly online vigils. 

A dynamic new format for the monthly online vigils was introduced on Saturday.  Conceived by organizer Suzie Dawson, the concept is described as a “daisy-chain style digital relay”—which featured more than  twenty guest appearances of 30 minutes duration each. At the conclusion of each segment, the guests transitioned from interviewee to interviewer. 

“Every time we witness an injustice and do not act,” Assange reminds us, “we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love.”

For more information about Assange and WikiLeak’s legal situation, visit iamwikileaks.org and justice4assange.com  and unity4J.com .




‘Journey for Justice’ Caravan Launches Cross-Country Trek

The Trump administration is dismantling Temporary Protected Status, a program that protects people from deportations to countries destabilized by war, civil conflict, or natural catastrophe. One group is fighting back.

By Dennis J Bernstein

The Trump Administration, with Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as its willing lightning rod, is in the process of dismantling key aspects of the United States political asylum program. To that end, the administration has begun to zero in on what is known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS was established by Congress in the Immigration Act of 1990. It’s a humanitarian program that mandates that the U.S. should suspend deportations to countries that have been destabilized by war, civil conflict, or natural catastrophe.

According to the National TPS Alliance, if the Trump administration manages to crush the program, over 450,000 people would face possible deportation, putting them in harm’s way, facing extreme violence and possible death.

In response, a national grassroots coalition of refugee and immigrants rights activists will caravan from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. Those who are directly affected by Trump’s extreme anti-immigrant policy–the TPS recipients themselves–will lead the Journey for Justice Caravan.

The Caravan will travel across the country to visit over 50 cities in a span of 12-weeks, kicking off the campaign from Los Angeles on Friday, Aug. 17. The movement to save TPS has greatly expanded in recent days and weeks in response to the Trump administration’s hard-line decision to terminate the life-saving program as part of his ongoing and unrelenting attacks against immigrant communities from coast to coast.

The caravan will consist of over 50 TPS holders, from various countries that are currently designated TPS. “The goal of the caravan is to lift the collective voices against the termination of TPS,” according to a recent press release. “The cruel dehumanization of families at the southern border and against the criminalization of immigrants throughout the United States. For 12 weeks, TPS families will ride a bus across the country, and throughout the way, the justice riders will participate in vigils, community assemblies, know-your-rights sessions, forums, roundtable discussions, concerts, demonstrations, leadership-development activities and meetings with political candidates and elected officials.”

The National Day Laborer Organizing Network or NDLON is a key co-sponsor of the national action. NDLON is a coalition of worker-centered organizations across the country that defend day laborers from exploitation and extreme immigration enforcement, help people find jobs and recover wages, and train workers in health and safety.

I spoke with NDLON Executive Director Pablo Alvarado on Aug. 9 in Los Angeles about the reasons for the cross-country action to save TPS. Alvarado knows firsthand and up-close what violence looks like in El Salvador. Alvarado witnessed the death squad murder of his fifth grade teacher, before he fled the violence and the U.S.-funded military death squads that ruled El Salvador with a bloody iron fist. His own relatives in El Salvador continue to face death threats.

Dennis Bernstein: How would you assess the current administration’s policy toward immigrants and undocumented people from Central America?

Pablo Alvarado: This action on the part of the Trump administration is not just an act of cruelty but also of hatred, of bigotry. This president decided to terminate an incredible program that has facilitated the immigration of thousands and thousands of migrants. Today, 30 percent of these people own homes, over 90 percent have jobs. And yet, in an act of cruel racism, this administration has decided to get rid of this program. Their motivation is very clear: to reduce the number of non-white immigrants. They are scared of the changing demographics in our country. This is their way of slowing down the emergence of a new majority. They are no longer just going after undocumented people. They are taking away the papers of people with documents.

DB: You are from El Salvador yourself. Could you talk a little bit about the kinds of violence that people fled during this period of U.S.-supported death squads?

PA: It is important to note how many times the U.S. has intervened in Central America. The latest case is our recognition of a president in Honduras that 80 percent of the Honduran people don’t want. Honduras will continue to be in flames for months to come. Already, death squads are emerging, and activists have been disappeared and tortured. Children are being gassed while protesting. All of this will lead to even greater poverty and feed the cycle of migration. This is the same thing that the United States has done in El Salvador, in Nicaragua, and throughout the region. The widespread gang violence in El Salvador is something that was imported from Los Angeles.

I can tell you that my two brothers, who are teachers and make $450 a month, are being extorted by gang members. Temporary Protected Status was introduced following the great earthquake, but the reality is that El Salvador has not yet recovered from that natural disaster. The country is still in dire circumstances. There are many villages that subsist on the remittances of family members who are here in the United States. This action by the Trump administration is going to lead to an even larger humanitarian crisis.

DB: Do you see this as a form of ethnic cleansing?

PA: It is clearly an effort, as I said, to slow down the emergence of a new majority. This has always been the strategy of the people around Trump. They refer to it as attrition through enforcement. This involves making the lives of immigrants so miserable that they will want to pack their bags and leave on their own. Ending TPS is essentially a step in that direction. It is interesting, right-wing pundits say, that it is the Democrats who want to allow these immigrants to come because they want to turn them into Democratic voters. This is so ridiculous. These people are leaving their countries not to be able to vote here. They are fleeing violence and extreme poverty and persecution. Any country that respects human rights is going to want to provide safe haven to people fleeing such conditions.

DB: What kinds of actions are you planning to take now?

PA: We recently put together the National TPS Alliance, a coalition of about 50 committees of TPS recipients across the country who have come to Washington several times and are coming again in the first week of February. Prior to this recent decision, they were already doing lobbying work, trying to persuade politicians from both sides of the aisle of the seriousness of their plight. Out of those conversations, four legislative proposals have been introduced to provide a permanent solution for TPS holders. The administration may want to see TPS fade away in 18 months, but we are determined to make these proposals a reality.

Dennis J. Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net. You can get in touch with the author at dbernstein@igc.org.




Senator Richard Burr: a Longtime Fan of Torture

Newly released declassified documents prove once and for all that CIA Director Gina Haspel oversaw torture in Thailand, which the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee knew all along, as Ray McGovern explains.

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

Newly released official documents obtained by the National Security Archive showing that CIA Director Gina Haspel directly supervised waterboarding at the first CIA “Black Site” simply confirm what Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) already knew as he orchestrated the charade that was Haspel’s confirmation hearing.  Burr allowed her to “classify” her own direct role in waterboarding and other torture techniques so that it could be kept from the public and secure her confirmation—-further proof that this Senate oversight committee has instead become an overlook committee.

That Haspel supervised the torture of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri at the first CIA “black site” for interrogation was already clear to those who had followed Haspel’s career, but she was able to do a song and dance when Sen. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) asked her about it.  Haspel declined to reply on grounds that the information was classified. It was of course because Haspel herself had classified it. All the senators knew that only too well. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) had strongly objected to this bizarre practice only minutes before. 

Witnessing this charade from the audience prompted me to stand up, excuse myself for interrupting, and suggest that the committee members were entitled to an honest answer since this was a public hearing with thousands watching on TV.  The American people were also entitled to know whether or not Haspel was directly involved in torture. As I was calmly pointing out that any Senate Intelligence Committee member who prepared for the hearing already knew the answer, I was “escorted out,” manhandled and charged with disrupting Congress and resisting arrest.

Jeremy Scahill later did a good job on Democracy Now! in putting needed context around the free pass and encouragement CIA torturers continue to enjoy at the hands of co-conspirators like Sen. Burr.

I have now had time to read through the documents obtained by the National Security Archive via Freedom of Information Act requests.  Suffice it to say they are so sad and sickening that I had to stop reading.

Corruption on Steroids

Burr was on the House Intelligence Committee, led by Porter Goss (R-FL) and later by Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), that winked at torture (not to mention blindly accepting the faux intelligence used to “justify” war on Iraq).  Might the CIA remind Burr of his condoning of torture, were he to chose not to play along with the Haspel nomination?

Burr’s record on the Senate Intelligence Committee is equally dubious. In January 2015, as soon as he took the Senate Intelligence Committee chair from Feinstein, he recalled all copies of the four-year committee study based on official CIA documents, which not only exposed unimaginably heinous forms of torture but found no evidence that any actionable intelligence was obtained from them.  To her credit, Feinstein had faced down both President Barack Obama and CIA Director John Brennan and got a long Executive Summary of the committee investigation published just before she had to relinquish the chair. 

Truth, Conscience, and Consequences

As an act of conscience, on March 2, 2006 I returned the Intelligence Commendation Medallion given me at retirement for “especially meritorious service,” explaining, “I do not want to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture.”  I returned the medallion to Hoekstra (R, Michigan), who was then-Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with a statement explaining my reasons.  

Hoekstra then secretly added to the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY’07 (HR5020) a provision enabling the government to strip intelligence veterans of their government pensions. HR5020 passed the full House, but Congress opted instead for a continuing resolution.

On December 11, 2014, I had an opportunity to tell Hoekstra exactly what I thought of his underhanded, Lone-Ranger attempt (he did not inform his House Intelligence Committee colleagues) to make it possible to revoke the government pensions of people like me.  I confronted the former Congressman in person off-air, after we two were interviewed live on CCTV’s “The Heat” about the Senate Intelligence Committee findings regarding CIA torture.  It was an uncommon chance to hold Hoekstra publicly accountable for condoning torture, and the Michigan congressman rose to the occasion. (See minutes 8:15 to 10:41) 

The bottom line?  The foxes have been guarding the chicken coop for many years now.  Haspel will fit right in. O Tempora, O Mores.

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He was an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years, and was a Presidential briefer from 1981 to 1985.




Flotilla Passengers Released by Israel; Many Battered and Bruised; USS Liberty Survivor Held For Days

Defending their illegal blockade of Gaza against what they see as infiltrators rather than activists bringing aid and making a point, Israeli soldiers physically assaulted a number of delegates and arrested them, including a USS Liberty survivor. 

By Ann Wright

U.S. Navy Signalman Joe Meadors was standing watch on deck of the USS Liberty off the coast of Gaza on June 8, 1967 when a 90-minute aerial and sea attack by Israel against the ship killed 34 U.S. sailors and wounded 174 . Meadors watched as the Israeli military almost sank the Liberty and began machine-gunning the lifeboats. A 2003 U.S. commission led by Admiral Thomas Moorer found Israel guilty of the attack. But the motive is still shrouded in mystery.

Fifty-one years later, on July 29, Meadors was again on board a ship in international waters, again off the coast of Gaza. And once again Israel brutally attacked his ve. But this time Israel’s motive was clear. Meadors was aboard an unarmed civilian boat named Al Awda that was trying to break Israel’s seven-year old illegal blockade of Gaza.

Meadors said six large patrol craft and four zodiac boats appeared when the Al Awda was 49 nautical miles off Gaza. While one group of crew and passengers protected the pilot house, Meadors said the Israeli forces who stormed the boat then beat the captain, hitting him and knocking his head against the sides of the ship. The captain was threatened with being brought down below to be killed, according to a Facebook post in Hebrew by Yonatan Shapira, one of two Israeli citizen delegates onboard. Both were arrested with everyone on board but were the first to be released. Shapira’s Facebook message was translated by Ofer Neiman for Mondoweiss.

Four crew members and delegates were tasered by Israeli forces. One crew member was repeatedly tasered on the head and neck and another also received multiple taser shocks, said Shapira. Both were in serious medical condition and were semi-conscious during the seven hour trip to Givon prison in Ashdod, Israel. An IDF Spokesperson said: “The overtaking of the Al-Awda ship was carried out without violence and without exceptional events.” Mondoweiss reported that the IDF Attorney unit said there’s no need for an investigation of what happened onboard the Al Awda.

Meadors Arrested

Meadors was held in Israeli detention until he was deported back to the U.S. on July 31, arriving in Corpus Christi, Texas on Aug. 4. Activists from Dallas and Houston traveled to Corpus Christi to greet him the following day. No newspaper or TV station in Corpus Christi or Houston called Meadors despite being sent copious materials and updates.

Meadors survived the Israeli attack on his U.S. Navy ship, has been outspoken about the incident for years causing embarrassment to Israel, and was now under arrest in an Israeli jail. His alleged crime was being aboard a boat trying to break an illegal blockade in international waters and bring medical supplies to Gazans.

Meadors says he was not mistreated while in detention. He said neither he nor the Israeli authorities brought up the USS Liberty during his questioning.

Other passengers on the Al Awda were not so well treated.

Renown orthopedic surgeon from the United Kingdom, Dr. Swee Ang, who is about 4 feet, 8 inches and weighs about 80 pounds was hit on the head and body and ended up with two broken ribs. Dr. Swee wrote:

After a while the boat engine started. I was told later by Gerd who was able to hear Captain Herman tell the story to the Norwegian Consul in prison that the Israelis wanted Herman to start the engine, and threatened to kill him if he would not do so. But what they did not understand was that with this boat, once the engine stopped it can only be restarted manually in the engine room in the cabin level below. Arne the engineer refused to restart the engine, so the Israelis brought Herman down and hit him in front of Arne making it clear that they will continue to hit Herman if Arne would not start the engine. Arne is 70 years old, and when he saw Herman’s face went ash color, he gave in and started the engine manually. Gerd broke into tears when she was narrating this part of the story. The Israelis then took charge of the boat and drove it to Ashdod.

Once the boat was on course, the Israeli soldiers brought Herman to the medical desk. I looked at Herman and saw that he was in great pain, silent but conscious, breathing spontaneously but shallow breathing. The Israeli Army doctor was trying to persuade Herman to take some medicine for pain. Herman was refusing the medicine. The Israeli doctor explained to me that what he was offering Herman was not army medicine but his personal medicine. He gave me the medicine from his hand so that I could check it. It was a small brown glass bottle and I figured that it was some kind of liquid morphine preparation probably the equivalent of oromorph or fentanyl. I asked Herman to take it and the doctor asked him to take 12 drops after which Herman was carried off and slumped on a mattress at the back of the deck. He was watched over by people around him and fell asleep. From my station I saw he was breathing better.”

‘Most Moral’

An Indigenous leader from Canada, Larry Commodore, was thrown to the deck and injured his foot when he requested to have his passport back as the passengers were being taken from the boat. He told The Real News Network that a few hours after his return to Givon prison, he developed bladder problems resulting from his injuries and had to be re-hospitalized as he could not pass urine. Prison guards did not believe he was injured and forced him to drink more water which resulted in a worsened bladder. Commodore had to wait 10 hours for a doctor to come to the prison for him to be taken to the hospital for a catheter.  When he was deported to Canada, he was taken to a Toronto hospital where he received further treatment. His injured foot was also sewn up. He said he passed out several times during the procedure.

Several delegates were not given their prescribed daily medicines.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu describes the Israeli military as the most “moral” military in the world. Crew and delegates on Al Awda found that the Israeli commandos and military administrative staff and prison staff did not act morally.  

Six delegates said that cash, credit cards, clothing and personal items were taken from them and never returned. An estimated $4000 in cash and numerous credit cards were stolen. Delegates are cancelling their credit cards upon their return home and will be monitoring whether there are charges from July 29 onward, as happened in 2010 when Israeli soldiers reportedly used credit cards of passengers from the six ships of the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

‘Freedom’ Stopped

Israeli commandos stopped Freedom, the second ship in the 2018 Gaza Freedom Flotilla, 40 miles off Gaza on Aug. 3. Twelve delegates and crew from five countries have been taken to Givon prison. It’s not clear whether the Freedom delegates were also abused. The Gaza Freedom Flotilla Coalition continues to demand that the State of Israel send to the Gazan people the €13,000 worth of medical supplies, primarily gauze and sutures, in 116 boxes onboard Al Awda and Freedom.

Twelve national campaigns organized the 2018 Gaza Freedom Flotilla to not only bring much needed aid, but also attention to the illegal Israeli blockade and repeated, attacks on Gaza.

As Dr. Swee wrote on 21st Century Wire:

In the week we were sailing to Gaza, they had shot dead 7 Palestinians and wounded more than 90 with live bullets in Gaza. They had further shut down fuel and food to Gaza. Two million Palestinians in Gaza live without clean water, with only 2-4 hours of electricity, in homes destroyed by Israeli bombs, in a prison blockaded by land, air and sea for 12 years. 

The hospitals of Gaza since the 30 March had treated more than 9,071 wounded persons, 4,348 shot by machine guns from a hundred Israeli snipers while they were mounting peaceful demonstrations inside the borders of Gaza on their own land. Most of the gun-shot wounds were to the lower limbs and with depleted treatment facilities the limbs will suffer amputation. In this period more than 165 Palestinians had been shot dead by the same snipers, including medics and journalists, children and women.

The chronic military blockade of Gaza has depleted the hospitals of all surgical and medical supplies. This massive attack on an unarmed Freedom Flotilla bringing friends and some medical relief is an attempt to crush all hope for Gaza.”

* * *

The Al Awda was part of a four-boat 2018 Gaza Freedom Flotilla that began its voyage in mid-May from Scandinavia and arrived 75 day later off the coast of Gaza. Al Awda arrived on July 29 followed by Freedom on August 3. The two other boats of the flotilla, the Filestine and Mairead Maguire,  were unable to complete the voyage due to damages incurred during a storm off Sicily and maintenance problems.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said Meadors was held for six days by Israel. He was arrested on July 29 and deported on July 31 to Miami and returned home to Texas on Aug. 4. He was held for three days.

Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel.  She was also a US diplomat and was in US Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.  She resigned from the US government in March 2003 in opposition to the lies the Bush administration was stating as the rationale for the invasion, occupation and destruction of Iraq. She is the co-author of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”




The Hidden History of the Women Who Rose Up

John Pilger asks where the spirit of rebellion has gone that once led to numerous uprisings at a female prison factory in Australia where his great-great grandmother was once interned.

By John Pilger 

Like all colonial societies, Australia has secrets. The way we treat Indigenous people is still mostly a secret. For a long time, the fact that many Australians came from what was called “bad stock” was a secret.

“Bad stock” meant convict forebears: those like my great-great grandmother, Mary Palmer, who was incarcerated here, at the Female Factory in Parramatta in 1823.

According to nonsense spun by numerous aunts – who had irresistible bourgeois ambitions — Mary Palmer and the man she married, Francis McCarthy, were a lady and a gentleman of Victorian property and propriety.

In fact, Mary was the youngest member of a gang of wild young women, mostly Irish, who operated in the East End of London.  Known as “The Ruffians”, they kept poverty at bay with the proceeds of prostitution and petty theft.

The Ruffians were eventually arrested and tried, and hanged — except Mary, who was spared because she was pregnant.

She was just 16 years old when she was manacled in the hold of a ship under sail, the Lord Sidmouth, bound for New South Wales “for the term of her natural life”, said the judge.

The voyage took five months, a purgatory of sickness and despair. I know what she looked like because, some years ago, I discovered an extraordinary ritual in St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney.

Every Thursday, in a vestry, a nun would turn the pages of a register of Irish Catholic convicts — and there was Mary, described as “not more than 4ft in height, emaciated and pitted with the ravages of small pox”.

When Mary’s ship docked at Sydney Cove, no one claimed her as a servant or a skivvy. She was a “third class” convict and one of “the inflammable matter of Ireland”. Did her newly born survive the voyage? I don’t know.

They sent her up the Parramatta River to the Female Factory, which had distinguished itself as one of the places where Victorian penal experts were testing their exciting new theories. The treadwheel was introduced in the year Mary arrived, 1823. It was an implement of punishment and torture.

The Cumberland Pilgrim described the Female Factory as “appallingly hideous … the recreation ground reminds one of the Valley of the Shadow of Death”.

Arriving at night, Mary had nothing to sleep on, only boards and stone and straw, and filthy wool full of ticks and spiders. All the women underwent solitary confinement. Their heads were shaved and they were locked in total darkness with the whine of mosquitoes.

There was no division by age or crime. Mary and the other women were called “the intractables”. With a mixture of horror and admiration, the Attorney General at the time, Roger Terry, described how the women had “driven back with a volley of stones and staves” soldiers sent to put down their rebellion. More than once, they breached the sandstone walls and stormed the community of Parramatta.

Missionaries sent from England to repair the souls of the women were given similar short shrift.

I am so proud of her.

Then there was “courting day”. Once a week, “bereft gentlemen” (whomever they might be) were given first pick, followed by soldiers, then male convicts.

Some of the women found “finery” and primped urgently, as if an inspecting male might provide a way out of their predicament. Others turned their backs should an aspiring mate be an “old stringybark fella” down from the bush.

During all this, the matron would shout out what she called “the good points” of each woman, which was a revelation to all.

In this way, my great-great grandparents met each other. I believe they were well matched.

Ticket of Leave’

Francis McCarthy had been transported from Ireland for the crime of “uttering unlawful oaths” against his English landlord. That was the charge leveled at the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

I am so proud of him.

Mary and Francis were married at St Mary’s Church, later St Mary’s Cathedral, on November 9th, 1823, with four other convict couples. Eight years later, they were granted their “ticket of leave” and Mary her “conditional pardon” by one Colonel Snodgrass, the Captain General of New South Wales — the condition being she could never leave the colony.

Mary bore 10 children and they lived out hard lives, loved and respected by all accounts, to their ninetieth year.

My mother knew the secret about Mary and Francis. On her wedding day in 1922, and in defiance of her own family, she and my father came to these walls to pay tribute to Mary and the intractables. She was proud of her “bad stock”.

I sometimes wonder: where is this spirit today? Where is the spirit of the intractables among those who claim to represent us and those of us who accept, in supine silence, the corporate conformity that is characteristic of much of the modern era in so-called developed countries?

Where are those of us prepared to “utter unlawful oaths” and stand up to the authoritarians and charlatans in government, who glorify war and invent foreign enemies and criminalise dissent and who abuse and mistreat vulnerable refugees to these shores and disgracefully call them “illegals”.

Mary Palmer was “illegal”. Francis McCarthy was “illegal”. All the women who survived the Female Factory and fought off authority, were “illegal”. The memory of their courage and resilience and resistance should be honoured, not traduced, in the way we are today. For only when we recognise the uniqueness of our past — our Indigenous past and our proud convict past — will this nation achieve true independence.

John Pilger gave this address on the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Parramatta Female Factory, Sydney, a prison where ‘intractable’ women convicts from mostly Ireland and England were sent to Britain’s Australian colony in the early 19th century.

John Pilger is an Australian-British journalist based in London. Pilger’s Web site is: www.johnpilger.com. His new film, “The Coming War on China,” is available in the U.S. from www.bullfrogfilms.com




The Eerie Silence Surrounding the Assange Case

Julian Assange remains cut off from the world in Ecuador’s London embassy, shut off from friends, relatives and thousands of supporters, leaving him unable to do his crucial work, as John Pilger discusses with Dennis J. Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

In a recent communication between Randy Credico, an Assange supporter, comic and radio producer, and Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, Assange’s fear of arrest and extradition to the US was confirmed by the leader of the Russia-gate frenzy.

Credico received the following response from Schiff after meeting the the Congressman’s staff, in which Credico was trying to connect Assange with Schiff: “Our committee would be willing to interview Assange when he is in U.S. Custody and not before.”

Dennis Bernstein spoke with John Pilger, a close friend and supporter of Assange on May 29. The interview began with the statement Bernstein delivered for Pilger at the Left Forum last weekend in New York on a panel devoted to Assange entitled, “Russia-gate and WikiLeaks”.

Pilger’s Statement

“There is a silence among many who call themselves left. The silence is Julian Assange. As every false accusation has fallen away, every bogus smear shown to be the work of political enemies, Julian stands vindicated as one who has exposed a system that threatens humanity. The Collateral Damage video, the war logs of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Cablegate revelations, the Venezuela revelations, the Podesta email revelations … these are just a few of the storms of raw truth that have blown through the capitals of rapacious power. The fakery of Russia-gate, the collusion of a corrupt media and the shame of a legal system that pursues truth-tellers have not been able to hold back the raw truth of WikiLeaks revelations. They have not won, not yet, and they have not destroyed the man. Only the silence of good people will allow them to win. Julian Assange has never been more isolated. He needs your support and your voice. Now more than ever is the time to demand justice and free speech for Julian. Thank you.”

Dennis Bernstein: We continue our discussion of the case of Julian Assange, now in the Ecuadorian embassy in Great Britain. John Pilger, it is great to talk to you again. But it is a profound tragedy, John, the way they are treating Julian Assange, this prolific journalist and publisher who so many other journalists have depended on in the past. He has been totally left out in the cold to fend for himself.

John Pilger: I have never known anything like it. There is a kind of eerie silence around the Julian Assange case. Julian has been vindicated in every possible way and yet he is isolated as few people are these days.  He is cut off from the very tools of his trade, visitors aren’t allowed. I was in London recently and I couldn’t see him, although I spoke to people who had seen him. Rafael Correa, the former president of Ecuador, said recently that he regarded what they are doing to Julian now as torture.  It was Correa’s government that gave Julian political refuge, which has been betrayed now by his successor, the government led by Lenin Moreno, which is back to sucking up to the United States in the time-honored way, with Julian as the pawn and victim.

Should be a ‘Constitutional Hero’

But really it comes down to the British government. Although he is still in a foreign embassy and actually has Ecuadorian nationality, his right of passage out of that embassy should be guaranteed by the British government. The United Nations Working Party on Unlawful Detentions has made that clear. Britain took part in an investigation which determined that Julian was a political refugee and that a great miscarriage of justice had been imposed on him.  It is very good that you are doing this, Dennis, because even in the media outside the mainstream, there is this silence about Julian. The streets outside the embassy are virtually empty, whereas they should be full of people saying that we are with you. The principles involved in this case are absolutely clear-cut. Number one is justice. The injustice done to this man is legion, both in terms of the bogus Swedish case and now the fact that he must remain in the embassy and can’t leave without being arrested, extradited to the United States and ending up in a hell hole.  But it is also about freedom of speech, about our right to know, which is enshrined in the United States Constitution. If the Constitution were taken literally, Julian would be a constitutional hero, actually. Instead, I understand the indictment they are trying to concoct reads like a charge of espionage! It’s so ridiculous.That is the situation as I see it, Dennis. It is not a happy one but it is one that people should rally to quickly.

DB: His journalistic brethren are sounding like his prosecutors. They want to get behind Russia-gate freaks like Congressman Adam Schiff and Mike Pompeo, who would like to see Assange in jail forever or even executed.  How do you respond to journalists acting like prosecutors, some of whom used his material to do stories? This is a terrible time for journalism.

JP:You are absolutely right: It is a terrible time for journalism. I have never known anything quite like it in my career. That said, it is not new. There has always been a so-called mainstream which really comes down to great power in media. It has always existed, particularly in the United States. The Pulitzer Prize this year was awarded to The New York Times andThe Washington Post for witch-hunting around Russia-gate! They were praised for “how deeply sourced their investigations were.” Their investigations turned up not a shred of real evidence to suggest any serious Russian intervention in the 2016 election.

Like Webb

The Julian Assange case reminds me of the Gary Webb case. Bob Parry was one of Gary Webb’s few supporters in the media. Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series contained evidence that cocaine trafficking was going on with the connivance of the CIA. Later Webb was hounded by fellow journalists and, unable to find work, he eventually committed suicide. The CIA Inspector General subsequently vindicated him. Now, Julian Assange is a long way from taking his own life. His resilience is remarkable. But he is still a human being and he has taken such a battering.

Probably the hardest thing for him to take is the utter hypocrisy of news organizations—like The New York Times, which published the WikiLeaks “War Logs” and “Cablegate,” The Washington Post and The Guardian, which has taken a vindictive delight in tormenting Julian. The Guardian a few years ago got a Pulitzer Prize writing about Snowden. But their coverage of Snowden left him in Hong Kong. It was WikiLeaks that got Snowden out of Hong Kong and to safety.

Professionally, I find this one of the most unsavory and immoral things I have seen in my career. The persecution of this man by huge media organizations which have drawn great benefit from WikiLeaks. One of Assange’s great tormentors, The Guardian‘s Luke Harding, made a great deal of money with a Hollywood version of a book that he and David Lee wrote in which they basically attacked their source. I suppose you have to be a psychiatrist to understand all of this. My understanding is that so many of these journalists are shamed. They realize that WikiLeaks has done what they should have done a long time ago, and that is to tell us how governments lie.

DB:One thing that disturbs me greatly is the way in which the Western corporate press speculate about Russian involvement in the U.S. 2016 election, that it was a hack through Julian Assange. Any serious investigator would want to know who would be motivated. And yet the possibility that it might be the dozen or so pissed-off people who went to work for the Clinton machine and learned from the inside that the DNC was all about getting rid of Bernie Sanders…this is not a part of the story!

Eight Hundred Thousand Disclosures on Russia

JP:What happened to Sanders and the way that he was rolled by the Clinton organization, everybody knows that this is the story. And now we have the DNC suing WikiLeaks! There’s a kind of farcical element to this. I mean, none of this came from the Russians. That WikiLeaks is somehow in bed with the Russians is ludicrous. WikiLeaks published about 800,000 major disclosures about Russia, some of them extremely critical of the Russian government. If you are a government and you are doing something untoward or you are lying to your people and WikiLeaks gets the documents to show it, they will publish no matter who you are, be they the United States or Russia.

DB:Randy Credico, because of his work and his decision to devote a very high-profile series to the persecution of Julian Assange, recently found himself under attack. He went to the White House Press Roast and, after having a nice discussion with Congressman Schiff, he yelled out “What about Julian Assange?”  The room was packed full of reporters but Randy was attacked and dragged out. It was if everyone there was embarrassed to recognize that one of their brethren was being brutalized.

JP:Randy shouted some truth. It is very similar to what happened to Ray McGovern. Ray is a former member of the CIA but extremely principled. I might suggest he is a renegade now.

DB:It was hysterical to watch these four armed guards who kept shouting “Stop resisting, stop resisting!” and they are beating the hell out of him!

JP:I thought the image of Ray being hauled off was particularly telling. These four overweight, obviously ill-trained young men manhandling Ray, who is 78 years old. There was something highly emblematic about that for me. He stood up to challenge the fact that the CIA was about to hand over leadership to a person who had been in charge of torture. It is both shocking and surreal, which of course the Julian Assange case is as well. But real journalism should be able to get through the shocking and the surreal and get to the truth. There is so much collusion now, with all these dark and menacing developments. It is almost as if the word “journalism” is becoming blighted.

DB:There has certainly been a lot of collusion when it comes to Israel. Then the word “collusion” is quite appropriate.

JP:That’s the ultimate collusion. But that’s collusion with silence. Never has there been a collusion like the one between the U.S. and Israel. It suggests another word and that is “immunity.” It has a moral immunity, a cultural immunity, a geopolitical immunity, a legal immunity, and certainly a media immunity. We see the gunning down of over 60 people on the day of the inauguration of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. Israel has some of the most wickedly experimental munitions in the world and they fired them at people who were protesting the occupation of their homeland and trying to remind people of the Nakba and the right of return. In the media these were described as “clashes.” Although they did become so bad that The New York Times in a later edition changed its front page headline to say that Israel was actually killing people. A rare moment, indeed, when the immunity, the collusion was interrupted. All the talk of Iran and nuclear weapons is without any reference to the biggest nuclear power in the Middle East.

DB:What would you say have been the contributions that Julian Assange has made in this age of censorship and cowardice in journalism? Where does he come into the picture?

JP:I think it comes down to information. If you go back to when WikiLeaks started, when Julian was sitting in his hotel room in Paris beginning to put the whole thing together, one of the first things he wrote was that there is a morality in transparency, that we have a right to know what those who wish to control our lives are doing in secret. The right to know what governments are doing in our name—on our behalf or to our detriment—is our moral right. Julian feels very passionately about this. There were times when he could have compromised slightly in order to possibly help his situation. There were times when I said to him, “Why don’t you just suspend that for a while and go along with it?” Of course, I knew beforehand what his answer would be and that was “no.” The enormous amount of information that has come from WikiLeaks, particularly in recent years, has amounted to an extraordinary public service. I was reading just the other day a 2006 WikiLeaks cable from the U.S. embassy in Caracas which was addressed to other agencies in the region. This was four years after the U.S. tried to get rid of Chavez in a coup. It detailed how subversion should work. Of course, they dressed it up as human rights work and so on. I was reading this official document thinking how the information contained in it was worth years of the kind of distorted reporting from Venezuela. It also reminds us that so-called “meddling” by Russia in the U.S. is just nonsense. The word “meddling” doesn’t apply to the kind of action implied in this document. It is intervention in another country’s affairs.

WikiLeaks has done that all over the world. It has given people the information they have a right to have. They had a right to find out from the so-called “War Logs” the criminality of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They had a right to find out about Cablegate. That’s when, on Clinton’s watch, we learned that the NSA was gathering personal information on members of the United Nations Security Council, including their credit card numbers. You can see why Julian made enemies. But he should also have made a huge number of friends. This is critical information because it tells us how power works and we will never learn about it otherwise.  I think WikiLeaks has opened a world of transparency and put flesh on the expression “right to know.” This must explain why he is attacked so much, because that is so threatening. The enemy to great power is not the likes of the Taliban, it is us.

DB:And who can forget the release of the “collateral murder” footage by Chelsea Manning?

JP:That kind of thing is not uncommon. Vietnam was meant to be the open war but really it wasn’t. There weren’t the cameras around. It is indeed shocking information but it informs people, and we have Chelsea Manning’s courage to thank for that.

DB:Yes, and the thanks he got was seven years in solitary confinement. They want to prosecute Assange and maybe hang him from the rafters in Congress, but what about Judith Miller and The New York Times lying the West into war? There is no end of horrific examples of what passes for journalism, in contrast to the amazing contribution that Julian Assange has made.

Click here to listen to this interview.

Dennis J. Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.  You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net. You can get in touch with the author at dbernstein@igc.org.




OAS Facing Call for New Probe into RFK Murder

Robert Kennedy was shot on June 5 and died June 6, 1968, fifty years ago today. A new examination of evidence is forcing human rights organizations — including the OAS— to consider probing the case.

By Dr. William Pepper and Andrew Kreig

Recent news about Robert F. Kennedy’s fatal shooting sharpens the challenge for human rights organizations in how to address the shocking justice issues raised by the continued imprisonment of RFK’s convicted slayer Sirhan Sirhan.

Reporters and researchers have recently shown the disturbing pattern of suppressed evidence and other legal irregularities that led to Sirhan’s 1969 murder conviction after his scanty defense at trial.

On Sunday, May 26, The Washington Post published a front-page story by Tom Jackman headlined Who killed Bobby Kennedy? His son RFK Jr. doesn’t believe it was Sirhan Sirhan.

The report constituted a breakthrough for a mainstream news organization, particularly because the article extensively examined scientific and other evidence supporting Sirhan’s innocence.

The official story is that Sirhan was a Kennedy-hating killer who acted alone to kill the senator at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles following RFK’s speech thanking his supporters for victory in the 1968 California Democratic presidential primary.

More than any other mainstream media journalist, the Post’s Jackman delved in depth into the evidence in both that first story and in a follow up on June 4, Was Sirhan Hypnotically Programmed to Assassinate RFK? Jackman, while presenting diverse views in a professional manner, clearly showed anyone with an open mind that important evidence has been withheld and that Sirhan may well have been a victim of CIA MK Ultra mind control efforts with the goal of setting Sirhan up to be a patsy through the use of hypnosis and chemicals.

Many other researchers such as filmmaker, author and professor Shane O’Sullivan have shown that Sirhan’s role was to perform a distraction so that the real assassin could do his work and put three bullets into RFK’s body at much closer range while Sirhan was always three to five feet in from of the senator, according to eye witnesses.

It is now up to human rights organizations to step up to the challenge of confronting evidence that the United States and its vaunted legal system may have wrongfully convicted on murder charges and kept imprisoned in near solitary confinement a defendant in one of the most notorious U.S. murders in modern times.

An International Case

This challenge is particularly acute for the Inter-American Human Rights Council (IAHRC) of the 35-nation Organization of American States (OAS).

Last July, Sirhan acting through his attorneys, filed a 200-page petition to IAHRC seeking the first real evidentiary hearing ever on his case. This would address for the first time the scientific and other evidence showing that he could not have fired the shots that killed Kennedy in the hotel’s kitchen pantry after the senator left the speaking stage.

The defense has exhausted direct legal appeal avenues in the United States without ever having the opportunity to have a hearing on the enormous and important evidence showing Sirhan’s likely innocence. Few alternatives are left. But Article 18 of the Declaration of Human Rights under the OAS Treaty, requires a fair trial. Clearly, Sirhan did not have a fair trial and experience shows that he has little or no chance of getting one in the U.S.

Yet this is a particularly sensitive case for human rights organizations and personnel, whether public or private. On the one hand, it’s exactly the type of injustice that those with a calling for this work should want to examine, particularly because the murder victim, RFK, is still so widely admired and the accused, Sirhan, has from the first been dubbed a pariah.

Other the other hand, the current target of the inquiry is inevitably the U.S. justice system and by implication the government, NGO, media and academics (not to mention intelligence services) that have allegedly allowed any injustices to fester for decades. Any aggressive, independent investigators face not only potential funding and other career disincentives, but the possibility of cognitive dissonance. That discomforting affliction can easily occur if a leading global beacon for “rule of law” falls woefully short of basic legal standards in one of its most important crime cases in living memory.

Regarding Sirhan’s Petition No. IACHR – 0000038395, an IACHR spokesperson commented in early May, with no update in time for this column: “The petition is still in preliminary study. This means there is no information whatsoever of public character on this petition that I can share.”

Kennedy Jr. Calls for New Probe

Jackman, a Post reporter covering law enforcement since 1998, obtained this scoop: Kennedy Jr. decided to go public after spending months re-examining the evidence and meeting in prison with Sirhan Sirhan.

I got to a place where I had to see Sirhan,” Kennedy told Jackman.

I went there because I was curious and disturbed by what I had seen in the evidence,” said Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and the third oldest of his father’s 11 children. “I was disturbed that the wrong person might have been convicted of killing my father. My father was the chief law enforcement officer in this country. I think it would have disturbed him if somebody was put in jail for a crime they didn’t commit.”

More than any other mainstream media journalist, Jackman has delved deeply into the evidence of the case related to Sirhan’s alleged guilt. He has clearly shown that evidence was withheld and that Sirhan was selected as a victim of CIA MK Ultra mind control efforts to be set up as a patsy through the use of hypnosis and chemicals.

Jackman and O’Sullivan have quoted Harvard Medical School Professor Dr. Daniel P. Brown, an expert in forensic psychiatry and hypnosis. Brown extensively interviewed Sirhan and also studied the MK Ultra program.

O’Sullivan’s June 5 piece, which appeared on the investigative online site WhoWhatWhy, contains a 67-minute video with hypnosis experts — including excerpts from six hours with Brown — that Netflix spiked entirely from its recent documentary Bobby Kennedy For President.

Conventional wisdom holds that reporters, editors and their news outlets always seek to publish verifiable information challenging the power structure, especially for suspected misconduct in something like a high-profile murder case.

But the track record on truly sensitive topics is less than impressive if new reporting undermines decades of previous coverage and longstanding relationships between the press and powerful sources.

The Post ran other piece on RFK that upheld the conventional wisdom. A Post Sunday Magazine, What is it like to be the brother of Robert Kennedy’s assassin? The life of the other Sirhan, accepts Sirhan’s guilt with scant attempt to explore the possibility of his innocence. And then on June 5, Post editorial board member and op-ed columnist Charles Lane dismissed any new evidence or calls for a new investigation as crackpot ideas unworthy of discussion except (apparently) to insult those proposing them.

A Kennedy Family Divide

The Boston Globe, New England’s largest circulation newspaper, followed up Jackman’s May 26 scoops by reporting on May 31 that the late senator’s oldest child, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, has been persuaded by her brother to join in seeking a new investigation of the murder.

But the Globe story, RFK’s children divided over calls for a fresh investigation of his assassination by Michael Levenson, also reported that two other children of the slain senator said this week that they opposed a re-investigation. Levenson reported that this opposition underscores “how divisive the second-gunman theory continues to be, a half-century after the presidential candidate, former attorney general, and senator from New York, was killed in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.”

The two children objecting to a new investigation are former Massachusetts Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II and Kerry Kennedy, who is president of a human rights organization named for her father. The irony is striking. The head of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Foundation opposes a new investigation into alleged human rights violations that allegedly protected his murderer.

A version of this article was originally published on the Justice Integrity Project website.

Dr. William F. Pepper is a human rights lawyer most known for his defense of James Earl Ray in the trial for the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. and of Sirhan Sirhan in the trial for the murder of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Pepper is the author of “The Plot To Kill King” (Skyhorse Publishing, 2016), the final volume of a trilogy. 

Andrew Kreig is a Washington, DC-based investigative reporter, non-profit executive, attorney and author. He edits the non-partisan Justice Integrity Project, which has published separate “Readers Guides” to the MLK, RFK and JFK assassinations.