JOHN KIRIAKOU: Another Whistleblower in Solitary Confinement

Marty Gottesfeld is a reminder of the Justice Department’s determination to silence truthtellers, writes John Kiriakou.

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

Last year I wrote about a whistleblower from New England who took direct action to save a child’s life and who paid for it with his freedom.  Marty Gottesfeld is now serving 10 years in prison for trying to save Justina Pelletier from abuse at the hands of her doctors at Children’s Hospital in Boston. 

At the age of 14, Justine developed searing stomach pain and inexplicable digestive problems. Her parents took her to a series of doctors until a metabolic geneticist at Tufts Medical Center diagnosed her with mitochondrial disease, a genetic malady that can lead to weakened muscles, neurological problems and dementia.

Her symptoms worsened over the course of the next 18 months until the pain was too much to bear. She began slurring her speech and was unable to stand. Finally, her parents took her to Boston Children’s Hospital, a leading institution affiliated with Harvard University. It was there that doctors said Justina didn’t have mitochondrial disease at all. They said she had mental illness and her symptoms were psychosomatic. They took her off her medications, but her parents refused to comply. When they went to take Justina home, they were blocked by hospital guards. The hospital took Justina into “state custody” and reported her parents to state officials for “medical child abuse.” It was then that the case went off the rails.

Transferred to a Psychiatric Ward

Justina was transferred to the hospital’s child psychiatric ward, where her condition worsened even more. She could no longer stand or walk and her hair fell out. Her toenails were actually ripped out when hospital staff dragged her, accusing her of refusing to walk. Justina was allowed one 20-minute call per week with her parents, but that call was monitored by staff, and they were forbidden from discussing her care. She resorted to making crafts out of paper in which she embedded messages and sent them to her parents. One said simply, “I’m being tortured.”

Justina’s parents sued Children’s Hospital with the full support of the original doctor from Tufts. But the doctors at Children’s argued that the only danger to Justina’s health was her parents. They said that Justina had been overmedicated and that her parents had ignored her mental illness. A judge agreed, at least for the time being. That was until an investigation by The Boston Globe found that Children’s Hospital had done this before, to other parents. Indeed, in the previous 18 months, the hospital had removed at least five other children from their parents for “medical child abuse,” something that hospital staffers called a “parentectomy.”

The story drew the attention of Marty Gottesfeld, a computer-security expert. He was appalled at the treatment to which Justina and her family were being subjected and he decided to act. He initiated a denial of service attack against the Children’s Hospital computer system and against the Wayside Youth and Family Support Network, where Justina was later moved. Children’s complained that the attack cost the institution $300,000 to mitigate and $300,000 in lost donations because it took place during the annual pledge drive. But that attack also served to raise public awareness of Justina’s plight and may have been the reason she was finally moved to a facility nearer her family in Connecticut.

Justina’s parents kept up the pressure on the hospital, the state, and the judge overseeing the case. Justina and her sister were able to smuggle out a 45-second video in which she implored the judge to let her go home to her family. It was clear that after 16 months in a psychiatric ward her problems were not “in her head.” They were in her genes. The original Tufts doctor was right. Justina had mitochondrial disease. The judge finally reversed his decision and sent her home.

Prosecutors, however, focused on Gottesfeld and he was soon arrested.  His case was assigned to Judge Nathaniel Gorton, the same judge who oversaw the harsh case against privacy pioneer Aaron Schwartz, who eventually committed suicide under the weight of his spurious federal charges.  Gorton is known as a hanging judge; he proved that with Gottesfeld’s sentence.

Reporting from Prison

Gottesfeld has tried to make good use of his time since he entered the “justice” system.  He has reported on waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality in the Justice Department; he’s written about the corruption and conflict of interest of his judge; and he has spoken out against intolerable prison conditions.  His punishment has been swift and severe.

Last week Gottesfeld was transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, New York.  This is the same prison that had a power outage last month resulting in conditions so severe that they violated the human rights of the prisoners there and made international news.  And to make matters worse, Marty was placed in solitary confinement and is now scheduled to be transferred to something called a Communications Management Unit (CMU).

A CMU puts onerous controls on a prisoner’s ability to communicate with the outside world.  I was in a “modified CMU” when I was at the Federal Correctional Institution at Loretto, Pennsylvania. With a modified CMU, both my incoming and outgoing mail were read, scanned, and kept in the prison’s Investigative Unit. My phone calls were all monitored in real time, and I was subjected to routine and regular “shake downs,” where the guards confiscated whatever it was that I happened to be writing at any given time. 

Marty’s experience will likely be worse.  He has been covering Justice Department malfeasance for years now at such sites as The Western Journal, Red State, World News Daily, and now The Intercept.  But CMU placement will deny him any access to the press whatsoever. It will silence him.  This is, of course, a violation of his constitutional right to freedom of speech.  But the Justice Department has only to say that Marty’s journalism is a “threat to the continuing operation of the institution” to justify this loss of rights. Solitary confinement makes everything even worse.

I called the Justice Department to ask several questions.  Why was Marty Gottesfeld transferred to MDC Brooklyn and not directly to a low-security prison? Why was he placed in solitary confinement?  And why is he being designated for a CMU?  The response was short:  No comment.

The Gottesfeld experience should be a reminder for all of us. The Justice Department will stop at nothing to silence truth-tellers.  It doesn’t want people to know about crooked judges and prosecutors, unsanitary and unhealthy conditions, animal-grade food, and the violation of constitutional rights.  It doesn’t matter who the president is.  They all do it.  We just have to keep up the fight.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

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Russia-gate Grand Wizard Deceives Audience About Assange

Obsessed Russia-gaters just can’t accept that  the Assange indictment has nothing to do with the 2016 election, writes Caitlin Johnstone. 

By Caitlin Johnstone
Caitlinjohnstone.com

When it was first revealed in November that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is under secret charges by the Trump administration, I spent the next few days being told by Russia-gaters that this was proof that I have been wrong about their demented cold war cult all along, because #MuellerTime is fast approaching. At long last, they vehemently assured me, Assange was going to prison for working with Russia to deprive Queen Hillary of her rightful throne.

None of those people have come back to apologize or admit that they were wrong when subsequent evidence disproved their claims. None of them ever do.

As it turns out, whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in a secret case investigating Assange for his 2010 role in the WikiLeaks publication of military war logs and diplomatic cables. Manning served seven years in prison for leaking those documents to the transparency advocacy outlet before her sentence was commuted by President Obama, meaning, obviously, that this sealed case has nothing to do with the 2016 leaks Russiagaters have been fiendishly obsessing over. Indeed, The Washington Post reported Tuesday that “U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of grand jury secrecy, say the case is based on [Assange’s] pre-2016 conduct, not the election hacks that drew the attention of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.”

So there you have it. Democrats like Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden who have been cheering for Assange’s arrest have actually been cheering on the Trump administration’s prosecution of a journalist for publishing facts about Bush administration war crimes. They thought they were supporting the agenda to punish Assange for publishing leaks that hurt the Hillary campaign, but in reality they were defending two Republican administrations while helping to manufacture support for a prosecution that would set a devastating precedent for press freedoms throughout the entire world.

If you are unfamiliar with the work of Russia-gate Grand Wizard Rachel Maddow, you might think she would report the revelation that an unfounded belief held by many of her acolytes has been completely and thoroughly disproven once and for all. If you are a bit more familiar with her, you might assume that she would completely ignore this revelation like she normally does when her conspiratorial ramblings are disproven by facts and evidence. But if you know Rachel really, really well, you might guess what she actually did on her show last night.

That’s right, she flat out lied about it.

On Tuesday night’s episode of MSNBC’s most popular show, Maddow blatantly deceived her audience by weaving this story about the Chelsea Manning subpoena into her conspiratorial Russia-gate ramblings about Roger Stone, despite those stories having absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with one another.

Maddow began by gushing about investigations into Roger Stone’s alleged connections to WikiLeaks, of course not mentioning the fact that the only known interactions between Stone and WikiLeaks consist of WikiLeaks telling Stone to stop lying about having connections to them. Maddow smoothly weaved this into the news that the House Judiciary Committee has formally requested documents pertaining to WikiLeaks (among many other things) from dozens of Trump associates, with a gigantic grin on her face and a tone of immense significance in her voice. Then, without pausing, Maddow began talking about the sealed case against Assange and the Manning subpoena, falsely suggesting that these had something to do with the things she’d just been speaking about.

“And because of the criminal case against Roger Stone, you should also know that today, in federal court in Virginia, little bit of drama,” Maddow said. “Today in federal court in Virginia, the U.S. attorney himself, the top of that prosecutor’s office, the EDVA U.S. attorney himself, personally turned up in court for a sealed hearing today that appears to be about some sort of legal case potentially involving WikiLeaks and/or Julian Assange.”

Maddow then went on to describe November’s revelation via court filing error about Assange’s sealed criminal complaint with her trademarked conspiratorial “you can’t tell me this is a coincidence” histrionics. She then cited a Daily Beast report that former WikiLeaks volunteer David House had accepted an immunity deal in exchange for his testimony before this grand jury, completely omitting the fact that the report explicitly states that this testimony pertained to the 2010 leak drop and not anything to do with 2016.

“Late Thursday, Manning revealed that she’s fighting a subpoena to testify before a grand jury that’s been investigating Julian Assange for nearly nine years,” the Daily Beast article reads in its second paragraph. “But Manning isn’t the only one being dragged into the aging probe of WikiLeaks’ first big haul. A former WikiLeaks volunteer who was also personal friends with Manning was subpoenaed last May.”

Maddow knew this, and willfully distorted it to fit her narrative.

“So, all of this to say between that court filing error in November, the reporting around that error that suggested that it was weird that he was in that case and it was a mistake but the information was true, and then what we saw today in Virginia, something appears to be happening in federal court that pertains to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. And this is happening as the president’s longtime advisor Roger Stone goes to trial for lying to Congress and witness tampering, allegedly, about his supposed communications with WikiLeaks during the campaign. It happens potentially as he’s going to jail for violating the gag order in that case. It happens as tons of people associated with the president and his campaign are being asked detailed questions by the Judiciary Committee about their interactions with WikiLeaks, including during the campaign, and it happens within a week of Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen testifying before Congress that the president, himself, was personally notified by phone in advance about WikiLeaks’ plans to dump stolen material that Russia hacked from the Democrats during the campaign.”

So she just plain lied. By suggesting that the Virginia grand jury has anything at all to do with Roger Stone’s walking clickbait shenanigans, the House Judiciary Committee’s investigations into possible Trump malfeasance, and Cohen’s testimony that Trump had advance knowledge of the (already publicly announced) upcoming WikiLeaks drops, Maddow knowingly deceived her tinfoil pussyhat-wearing audience into holding out hope that legal proceedings will soon be vindicating their cult.

Maddow then kicked it up into ultra-mega-Super-Saiyan-galaxy-brain Russiavaping by telling her audience not to Google any of the things she was telling them, because they’ll get computer viruses if they try.

“Now I will warn you,” Maddow said with a laugh, “if you are an interested news consumer who is interested in following this part of the story, I will warn you: just about everything that pertains to WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and Roger Stone is basically un-Googleable. All the online trash that relates to these characters, put your virus protection on. But something does appear to be happening there in federal court.”

Needless to say, this also is completely false. Google algorithms are slanted in favor of mainstream news media, not toward websites that will give you a “virus”, so the top results you get when you type in WikiLeaks or Assange’s name will always be news stories from conventional sites, many of which today refute Maddow’s claim that the Manning subpoena and grand jury have anything to do with the 2016 Trump campaign.

And of course, that’s the point. Narrative management is Rachel Maddow’s job, for which she is extremely well-compensated, and the more isolated she can keep her audience within a tight, narrow echo chamber, the better she can do that job. Rachel Maddow is nothing other than a cold war propagandist, rewarded like all her colleagues for promoting falsehoods to keep mainstream liberals supporting longstanding U.S. government agendas against noncompliant nations while still letting them feel like rebels.

In today’s media landscape, powerful and opaque government agencies are scrutinized and criticized far, far less than a lone political prisoner in an embassy who revealed inconvenient facts about those agencies. The campaign to smear, silence and imprison Assange tells you all you need to know about the governments that WikiLeaks has exposed, and the mass media’s complicity in that campaign tells you all you need to know about them as well.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on Facebook, Twitteror her website. She has a podcast and a new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” This article was re-published with permission.




JOHN KIRIAKOU: Neither Rain, Sleet, nor Snow Will Stop the Post Office From Spying on You

It’s called the “Mail Cover Program” and it’s run by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Yes, even the Post Office is spying on us, writes John Kiriakou.

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

You may remember that last year some nut was arrested for mailing bombs to prominent Democrats, media outlets, and opponents of Donald Trump. Less than a week after the bombs went out, a suspect was arrested. Almost immediately, video turned up of him at a Trump rally, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and chanting for the camera. He was soon tried, convicted, and jailed. End of story.

But it wasn’t the end of the story. The investigation into the bomb incidents focused attention on an almost unknown federal surveillance program—one that poses a direct threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of every American. It’s called the “Mail Cover Program” and it’s run by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Yes, even the Post Office is spying on us.

The Mail Cover Program allows postal employees to photograph and send to federal law enforcement organizations (FBI, DHS, Secret Service, etc.) the front and back of every piece of mail the Post Office processes. It also retains the information digitally and provides it to any government agency that wants it—without a warrant.

In 2015, the USPS Inspector General issued a report saying that, “Agencies must demonstrate a reasonable basis for requesting mail covers, send hard copies of request forms to the Criminal Investigative Service Center for processing, and treat mail covers as restricted and confidential…A mail cover should not be used as a routine investigative tool. Insufficient controls over the mail cover program could hinder the Postal Inspection Service’s ability to conduct effective investigations, lead to public concerns over privacy of mail, and harm the Postal Service’s brand.”

Return to Sender

Not only were the admonitions ignored, the mail cover program actually expanded after the report’s release. Indeed, in the months after that report was issued, there were 6,000 requests for mail cover collection. Only 10 were rejected, according to the Feb. 2019 edition of Prison Legal News (P.34-35) .

I have some personal experience with the Mail Cover Program. I served 23 months in prison for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s illegal torture program. After having been locked up for two months, I decided to commission a card from a very artistically-inclined prisoner for my wife’s 40th birthday. I sent it about two weeks early, but she never received it. Finally, about four months later, the card was delivered back to me with a yellow “Return to Sender – Address Not Known” sticker on it. But underneath that sticker was a second yellow sticker. That one read, “Do Not Deliver. Hold For Supervisor. Cover Program.”

Why was I under Postal Service Surveillance? I have no idea. I had had my day in court. The case was over. But remember, the Postal Service doesn’t have to answer to anybody – my attorneys, my judge, even its own Inspector General. It doesn’t need a warrant to spy on me (or my family) and it doesn’t have to answer even to a member of Congress who might inquire as to why the spying was happening in the first place.

The problem is not just the sinister nature of a government agency (or quasi-government agency) spying on individuals with no probable cause or due process, although those are serious problems. It’s that the program is handled so poorly and so haphazardly that in some cases surveillance was initiated against individuals for no apparent law enforcement reason and that surveillance was initiated by Postal Service employees not even authorized to do so. Again, there is no recourse because the people under surveillance don’t even know that any of this is happening.

Perhaps an even more disturbing aspect of the program is the fact that between 2000 and 2012, the Postal Service initiated an average of 8,000 mail cover requests per year. But in 2013, that number jumped to 49,000. Why? Nobody knows and the Postal Service doesn’t have to say.

The question, though, is not how many cases are opened under the Mail Cover Program or even how many requests there are for the information. The real question is, “How is this constitutional?” Perhaps a secondary question is, “Why hasn’t anybody challenged the program in the courts?” In general, Americans don’t–or at least haven’t–objected to a gradual loss of civil liberties and constitutional rights. That has to stop. When even the Post Office is spying on you, you know the republic is in trouble.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

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JOHN KIRIAKOU: Washington Insider Taken Down a Peg

A quintessential DC insider is likely going to jail on a minor charge and it’s good he’s not getting away with it, says John Kiriakou.

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

Federal prosecutors last month stepped up their investigation of Washington super-lawyer Greg Craig in what they called an “off-shoot” of the Paul Manafort investigation. The accusation against Craig was that he failed to register as a lobbyist for work he did on behalf of the Ukrainian government in 2012. His former firm, the internationally-renowned Skadden Arps, reached a $4.6 million settlement with prosecutors, but Craig may still face charges.

The accusation that Craig violated FARA, or the Foreign Agent Registration Act, isn’t a big deal in the greater scheme of things. It means he did some work for a foreign government and didn’t fill out the necessary Justice Department paperwork. He’s also accused of making false and misleading statements to the department’s FARA unit.

More importantly, it points to the impunity with which Washington big-shots normally operate. Manafort thought he was untouchable because he was the great Republican strategist, the legendary co-founder of Black, Manafort, and Stone, the most important Republican political operatives of the 1980s and 1990s. Craig is the same. He was Barack Obama’s White House counsel. And he’s former Secretary of State John Kerry’s best friend. Like Manafort (and the Podestas, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and a host of other big muckety mucks) he thought he was above the law.

Dem’s Fixer

Craig has made a career of being the go-to guy for Democrats, and especially for Democrats in trouble. First of all, the guy is crazy smart. He got a bachelor’s from Harvard, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. He earned a master’s from Cambridge and did his law degree at Yale. It was there that he was a classmate of Bill and Hillary Clinton. His career was made before he finished his education.

After graduation, Craig joined the Washington law firm of Williams and Connolly, one of the biggest and most important legal players in the capital.  He took time off to be director of policy planning in the Clinton State Department and to serve as general counsel to Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.)

Craig was one of five attorneys who defended Clinton during his impeachment hearings and was the legal team’s overall coordinator. When he returned to Williams and Connolly in 2000, he represented a myriad of high profile people from the father of Elian Gonzalez, the child who was eventually returned to Cuba after being brought to the U.S. by his mother, who drowned on the way; to Richard Helms, the former CIA director who lied to Congress about CIA involvement in the overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende. Craig even represented former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.

It was this pedigree that landed Craig back in the White House as Obama’s general counsel. When he left the White House for the second time he cashed in on his experience. Who wouldn’t, especially in Washington? And his reputation was fearsome.

I had my own brush with Craig in 2011 when I was working for John Kerry on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff. I had done the initial legwork on an investigative report on poverty in Haiti. I concluded that the country’s seven largest merchant families, all of whom happened to be white, had conspired to keep the citizenry in poverty because Haitian goods, especially textiles, were so cheap that any price inflation only further enriched the merchant families.

I sent the initial draft of the report to Kerry, who killed it on the spot. Why? I asked. The answer was clear. “Because Greg Craig represents those families and he’s my best friend.” The report was never published. Collecting riches on the backs of the oppressed wasn’t important to John Kerry. Offending or alienating one of the most powerful men in Washington was.

Enmeshed in Ukraine

Craig finally got himself into some trouble in 2012, when he bit off more than he could chew in Ukraine. He worked on an investigation commissioned by President Viktor Yanukovich (later overthrown with U.S. support in 2014) to conduct an investigation of Yanukovich’s political enemy, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who narrowly lost the 2010 presidential election to Yanukovich. Yanukovich eventually arrested and charged Tymoshenko with corruption and abuse of power and she was sent to prison. (Tymoshenko had been a leader of the U.S.-backed Orange Revolution that overturned Yanukovich’s 2004 election.)

Craig worked on a written report, paid for by Yanuklovych, justifying her arrest. Craig concluded that, while Tymoshenko had been denied access to legal counsel at critical parts of her trial, the evidence against her was solid, and her conviction should be sustained. The human rights community was outraged, calling it a “whitewash.”

Yanukovich had paid Paul Manafort $4 million for the report. It’s unclear how much of that made it to Craig, but the payoff was thought to be substantial. Craig was asked to leave Skadden Arps when one of the attorneys under his supervision, Alex van der Zwaan, was charged with lying to the FBI about the report and about the firm’s relationship with the Ukrainian government.

I don’t mean for this to sound like gloating, but I’m glad that Craig, Manafort, and others are taking it on the chin in the Mueller investigation. It’s about time. Why should the rest of us have to follow the rules if the special people in Washington don’t? Why are so many prosecutions so selective? Justice is supposed to be blind. Maybe in this case that will be true. Sure, Craig just forgot to fill out a form. But tough luck. That’s the law.

Mueller shouldn’t be blamed for focusing on something minor. If there is going to be criticism, it should be leveled at Congress, which has made us one of the most over-criminalized and over-regulated countries on the planet. Why pass a law if it’s not going to be respected or prosecuted?

Greg Craig is probably not going to go to prison for failing to register. But he is going to be knocked down a peg or two. It’s symbolic. But it’s good for the country.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

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The FBI Came Close to Staging a Coup

Andrew McCabe, a senior bureau official, provided the alarming evidence in a “60 Minutes” interview, writes John Kiriakou.

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, in an explosive interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” said that in early 2017,  in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, he and other FBI officials discussed the possibility of recruiting a cabinet secretary to help push the president out of office by using the Constitution’s 25thAmendment 

McCabe further contended that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offered to wear a wire when he was around Trump in order to gather evidence against him.  (Rosenstein

denies the allegation.)  McCabe said that Justice Department officials believed at the

time that Trump may have obstructed justice by firing Comey, and they worried that Trump was somehow under the influence of the Russian government.  In the end, nothing came of the plan. Regardless of one’s feelings toward President Trump and his

policies, what McCabe is describing is nothing less than a coup attempt. It’s something that happens in weak or nascent democracies, following interference by the CIA perhaps.  It should never happen here.

Trump has long had an antagonistic relationship with the FBI, the CIA and other elements of the intelligence community.  Indeed, in early 2017, when news of the FISA warrants and the private intelligence Steele dossier began to leak out, Trump began to tweet his disgust at news of impending investigations of him, his campaign, and his business dealings.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded almost immediately, saying “(The president) is being really dumb to do this.”  “This” was to take on the intelligence agencies, the so-called Deep State, in public.  A few days later, Schumer went on MSNBC to sharpen his warning to Trump, saying, “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community—they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”

But Trump was right.  The intelligence community—the FBI, CIA, the NSA and other three-letter agencies—are too powerful, too entrenched and two well-funded. And they have far too little oversight. They’re a threat to our democracy, not the saviors of it.  That is why it pains me to see Democrats lining up behind them to attack Trump.

Presidents Come and Go 

I was a member of that “Deep State” throughout my 15 years at the CIA.  I can tell you from first-hand experience that the CIA doesn’t care who the president is. Neither does the FBI.  Senior CIA and FBI officers are there for decades, while presidents come and go.  They know that they can outwait any president they don’t like.  At the very least, at the CIA, they could made administrative decisions that would hamstring a president:  Perhaps they don’t carry out that risky operation. Maybe they don’t target that well-placed source.  Maybe they ignore the president’s orders knowing that in four years or eight years he or she will just go away.

Even worse, these same organizations—the FBI and the CIA—are the ones that have sought to undermine our democracy over the years.  Don’t forget programs like COINTELPRO, the FBI’s operation to force Martin Luther King Jr. to commit suicide; the infiltration of peace groups; the CIA’s efforts to control the media with Operation Mockingbird; the CIA’s illegal spying on American citizens; the CIA hacking into the computers of the Senate Intelligence Committee; and the Agency’s extrajudicial assassination program; to name a few.

McCabe’s almost offhanded comments on “60 Minutes,” that the FBI actively considered deposing a sitting president should be cause for alarm.  Set partisan politics aside for a moment.  We’re talking about deposing a sitting president. We’re talking about wearing a wireto catch a sitting president saying something because you’re angry that he fired your boss.  Even the idea of it is unprecedented in American history.

The FBI is perfectly free to investigate collusion. That’s what they ought to be doing. But they ought not plot the overthrow of a president, no matter how quirky and offensive he may be.  That’s anti-democratic and illegal and it harkens back to the bad old days of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover and the CIA before the reforms of the Church Committee.

We have a way to depose presidents.  They’re called “elections.”  The FBI should familiarize itself with them.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

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How to Legalize Cannabis Throughout US

The process that ended Prohibition provides a template, writes former Senator Mike Gravel.

By Senator Mike Gravel
Special to Consortium News

In the interest of full disclosure, I have been on the board of Cannabis Sativa, Inc., for five years, including four years as CEO.  I presently serve as CEO of THC Pharmaceuticals, Inc.  My earlier professional life included being speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives and two terms representing Alaska in the U.S. Senate.  These combined experiences equip me to address some of the problems caused by the U.S. anti-drug campaign.

One of the great domestic political tragedies since the last century is the war on drugs initiated by President Richard Nixon, part of which placed cannabis (marijuana) on the list of Schedule 1 drugs under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

Nixon, seeking to shore up his position opposing cannabis, appointed Raymond Shafer, the recently retired governor of Pennsylvania, to head a commission to study the negative effects of marijuana on the American populace.  Nixon was incensed when the Shafer Commission’s 1972 report showed no negative effects from the use of marijuana on society and called for it to be decriminalized

The report was promptly shelved; and Nixon, supported by his religious backers, executed his plan of drug prohibition, interdiction and punishment without the slightest medical or legal rationale, to punish young Americans protesting his continuation of the Vietnam War.

A Failed ‘War’  

The war on drugs has not ended drug use or trafficking. Instead it has ravaged the lives of untold Americans and bloated our prison system.  It has fostered massive illegality over the decades.

But in 1996 the citizens of California passed Proposition 215 authorizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes, finally breaching the barriers of ignorance and prejudice about cannabis.

Other states followed California’s lead, some via a grassroots initiative process and others by the vote of courageous legislatures.  This state-by-state development of the cannabis industry has created inconsistencies that are further complicated by the illegality that the federal government casts over the industry. This is most obvious where the cannabis industry is denied the banking services vital to any economic enterprise for fear of federal prosecution.

On a recent visit to Sacramento to express my support for public banking, which would offer a solution, I met with Fiona Ma, California’s newly elected state treasurer. She invited me to discuss various concepts using public banking and the state’s private banking system. She asked me to critique a recent study addressing cannabis banking and public banking.

My experience with the cannabis industry and my knowledge of the Constitution led me to set aside the industry’s banking problems at this time and focus on the fundamental problem — the federal government’s war on drugs. The plan I propose to finally end it is based upon a strong precedent.

The federal government’s prohibitions of alcohol and of cannabis have both been abject failures, severely damaging American society. The prohibition of alcohol lasted 13 years, while the prohibition of cannabis has endured a little more than six decades.  

The process that ended alcohol prohibition is the template for the way we can now end the prohibition of cannabis — with a constitutional amendment.  Since prohibition of alcohol was put in place by the 18th Amendment, it required an amendment to repeal it.  This had never been done before — repealing one amendment with another amendment.

Section of Article V

There was another first. The nation was in a hurry to repeal prohibition, so to ratify their repeal of the 18th Amendment it chose a never-before used section of Article V: 

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress.

The section “… by Conventions in three fourths thereof …” of Article V,  above, was used for the first time to repeal the 18thAmendment, which was enacted on Jan. 16, 1919, by a two-thirds majority of both Houses of Congress and “… the Legislatures of three fourths of the several states.”   

The Amendment to prohibit the sale of alcohol went into effect on Jan. 17, 1920. During the 1920s Americans increasingly came to see Prohibition as unenforceable.

In 1932 Franklin Roosevelt, as a presidential candidate, called for the repeal of Prohibition.  On Feb. 20, 1933, two-thirds of both Houses of Congress voted to repeal the 18th  Amendment, including the repeal of certain elements of the Volstead Act, which enabled federal enforcement. However, rather than submit the resolution to three-fourths of the state legislatures, it was submitted to ratifying conventions in three-fourths of the states, a process noted in Article V: “… by Conventions in three fourths thereof …”

This process had never been used before or since and substantially shortened the time for ratification to a little more than eight months when ratified by the requisite number of state conventions on Dec. 5, 1933.

In 1932 the country had 48 states. Therefore, after two-thirds of the Congress voted for the resolution, it took three-fourths, or 35 state conventions, to ratify the 21stAmendment.

With today’s 50 states, it would require 38 states –– three-fourths –– to ratify the two-thirds resolution enacted by the Congress to repeal the designation of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug.

Since 33 states have legalized some form of cannabis and additional states are looking at legalization, it is highly likely that five more states would join an effort to remove cannabis from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

I believe an amendment to repeal the war on drugs could easily secure the two-thirds vote in the House. However, if blocked by the majority leader in the Senate or if Vice President Mike Pence refused to sign the resolution, another section of Article V could be used:  “… on theApplication of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several states …” 

A national campaign initiated by the political leadership of California and the cannabis industry would already be securing agreements of three-fourths (38 states) to ratify the resolution.  A simultaneous effort could approach the same 33 states (two-thirds) to approve the resolution.

California legislators and its officials, having led the nation in 1996 with Proposition 215, can now lead the nation in securing the ratification of an amendment to remove cannabis from Schedule 1.  I am convinced that the ratification of an Amendment can be secured within a year.

Mike Gravel, an author and businessman, served in the U.S. Senate from 1969 through 1981. In 1972, at the request of Dan Ellsberg, he read the “Pentagon Papers” into the Congressional Record during a subcommittee hearing that he chaired.  




Watch the 16th Julian Assange Vigil

Unity4J presented the 16th online vigil for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Friday. You can watch the replay here. Guests: Mike Gravel, Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, Brian Becker, Teodrose Fikre and more.

Among the topics discussed were the Geneva city parliament voting to ask the Swiss government to grant asylum to Assange, a 2008 WikiLeaks release that is relevant again because of Venezuela and Ambassador Tony Kevin’s plan to free Assange from the Ecuador embassy in London.  




Watch 15th Vigil for Assange

Consortium News webcast the 15th Unity4J online vigil on Friday. Watch the replay here. Guests: Brian Becker, Cathy Vogan, Gareth Porter, Lee Stranahan and Tony Kevin.

 




Judge Denies Request to Unseal Assange Criminal Complaint Saying There is No Proof it Exists

Judge Leonie Brinkema has denied an application from the Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press to unseal the U.S. government’s complaint against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

A U.S. federal judge has ruled against a petition to unseal a criminal complaint against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, arguing that there is no proof that it exists. 

Judge Leonie Brinkema of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia decided on Wednesday to turn down the request by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to make public details of the complaint, the existence of which was made known inadvertently last year. 

“The Government opposes the Committee’s application on the ground that it has neither confirmed nor denied whether charges have been filed against Assange and cannot be required to disclose that information before an arrest is made,” Brinkema wrote in her 10-page ruling.

Assange’s named appeared in a totally unrelated criminal complaint, apparently from a copy and paste mistake. The government called it an “unintentional error.” 

Brinkema ruled that despite the government’s admission of the error, “The Government has not acknowledged whether formal charges have been filed against Assange and the Committee has not cited any authority supporting the notion that the public has a right to require the Government to confirm or deny that it has charged someone.”

The Reporters Committee argued in a motion that the “case against Assange is already a matter of public knowledge” and that the government cannot “put the genie back” in the bottle. But the government argued in a court hearing in November that the only conclusion that can be drawn from its admission is that a mistake was made and “anything else is speculation.”

Brinkema came down on the side of the government. “The Committee has not demonstrated with sufficient certainty that Assange has been charged,” she wrote. 

The judge ruled:

“Until there is a sufficiently certain disclosure that charges have in fact been filed, the Committee’s common law and First Amendment claims are premature. To hold otherwise would mean that any member of the public or press–by demanding access to judicial records based on little more than speculation–could effectively force the Government to admit or deny that charges had been filed.”

The Inadvertent Paragraphs

Brinkema pointed to the two paragraphs in which Assange is mentioned in the unrelated case.  The paragraphs read:

The United States has considered alternatives less drastic than sealing, including, for example, the possibility of redactions, and has determined that none would suffice to protect this investigation. Another procedure short of sealing will not adequately protect the needs of law enforcement at this time because, due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.

The complaint, supporting affidavit, and arrest warrant, as well as this motion and the proposed order, would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.”

In her ruling, Brinkema wrote: “… news outlets and social media users noticed the two references to ‘Assange’ and surmised that the Government had instituted criminal charges against Julian Assange, the well-known founder of WikiLeaks, though there is no public record of such charges having been filed.”

She said her decision “lies at the intersection of two weighty interests.”  The first is the government’s “need to be able to investigate criminal activity and successfully bring to justice those charged with criminal conduct.”

The second is the public’s “right to access judicial records and proceedings, which is an indispensable feature of the American justice system.”

That public right is not “absolute,” Brinkema wrote and may be “rebutted” if the need to seal outweighs the public’s interest.

The judge wrote:

Of course, that a judicial record is subject to the right of access does not mean that the public is entitled to inspect the record at all times and in every case. To the contrary, that the right is presumptive means that it may be overcome, in favor of nondisclosure or sealing, where appropriate. This is usually the case before a charged person has been arrested because of the government’s well-established interests in preventing the accused from avoiding arrest, destroying or tampering with evidence, or otherwise interfering with the prosecution; securing privacy rights or confidential sources of information; and protecting the public.

Although the Government recognizes that First Amendment right-to-access analysis typically depends on what ‘type of document’ is being sought, it asserts that courts must also consider the ‘stage at which public access is sought,’ and specifically it argues that there is no First Amendment right to access charging documents ‘before an arrest.'”

Assange has been a refugee in the Ecuador Embassy in London since 2012 fearing that if he re-entered British territory he would be arrested and extradited to the United States to face charges that Brinkema says there is no evidence of. Senior U.S. officials have called for Assange’s arrest after WikiLeaks published classified documents revealing evidence of U.S. war crimes and corruption.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .




Watch the 14th Vigil for Assange

Julian Assange’s lawyers filed a petition with the Inter-American Court for Human Rights and WikiLeaks is mentioned in a new Mueller indictment unveiled Friday, two of the topics that were discussed on the 14th Vigil on Friday. 

Guests included Peter B. Collins, John Kiriakou, Brian Becker, Ian Shilling, Craig Murray, Cathy Vogan and Ray McGovern, hosted by CN Editor-in-Chief Joe Lauria.  You can watch it here in its entirety: