Kwiatkowski Gets 2018 Sam Adams Award. Read the Citation and Her Acceptance Speech Here.

Here is Karen Kwiatowski’s acceptance speech for the 2018 Sam Adams Award at a ceremony in Washington on Saturday night, preceded by the citation, that was read by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern.   

Citation

Karen Kwiatkowski

If you see something, say something,” we so often hear. Karen Kwiatkowski took that saying to heart.

She saw her Pentagon superiors acting as eager accomplices to the Cheney/Bush administration’s deceit in launching a war of aggression on Iraq. And she said something — and helped Knight Ridder reporters Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay see beneath the official lies and get the sordid story right before the war.

Karen’s courage brings to mind the clarion call of Rabbi Abraham Heschel against the perpetrators of an earlier war — Vietnam. “Few are guilty,” he said, “but all are responsible. Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself.” Karen would not be indifferent to evil.

Ed Snowden, Sam Adams awardee in 2013, noted that we tend to ignore some degree of evil in our daily life, but, as Ed put it, “We also have a breaking point and when people find that, they act.” As did Karen. As did 16 of Karen’s predecessors honored with this award.

With all the gloom and doom enveloping us, we tend to wonder whether people with the conscience and courage of Ed or Karen still exist in and outside our national security establishment. Our country is in dire need of new patriots of this kind.

Meanwhile, we call to mind the courageous example not only of Karen and Ed, but also of Coleen Rowley and Elizabeth Gun, our first two awardees, who took great risks in trying to head off the attack on Iraq. And we again honor Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange who is now isolated in what the UN has called “arbitrary detention,” for exposing the war crimes resulting from that war.

Karen Kwiatkowski has made her own unique contribution to this company of conscience and courage, and Sam Adams Associates are pleased to honor her.

Presented this 8th day of December 2018 in Washington by admirers of the example set by the late CIA analyst, Sam Adams. Know all ye by these presents that Karen Kwiatkowski is hereby honored with the traditional Sam Adams Corner-Brightener Candlestick Holder, in symbolic recognition of her courage in shining light into dark places.

 

‘Thoughts on the Sam Adams Award’:
Remarks by Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatowski

I am honored beyond belief to be the 2018 recipient of the Sam Adams Award, and I thank Ray McGovern and the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay of Knight Ridder during the run up to the second invasion of Iraq, and Rob Reiner for putting together a great movie that was so consistently truthful, that for me, it looked almost like a documentary. I want to also thank the late David Hackworth, a man I never met who published my first anonymous essays from the Pentagon, and of course, Lew Rockwell, who has published so many of my essays examining and trying to understand our government and our offensive policies over the past 15 years.

There have been many American patriots and truth tellers who have received the honor you have given me tonight – and I am going to name them here because I stand in awe of all of them:

Coleen Rowley of the FBI; Katharine Gun of British Intelligence; Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; Sam Provance, former US Army Sgt; Maj. Frank Grevil of Danish Army Intelligence; Larry Wilkerson, Col., US Army (ret.), former chief of staff to Colin Powell at State; Julian Assange, of WikiLeaks: Thomas Drake, of NSA; Jesselyn Radack, formerly of Dept. of Justice and now National Security Director of Government Accountability Project; Thomas Fingar, former Deputy Director of National Intelligence and Director, National Intelligence Council, and Edward Snowden, former contractor for the National Security Agency; Chelsea Manning, US Army Private who exposed (via WikiLeaks) key information on Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as State Department activities; and to retired National Security Agency official William Binney, who challenged decisions to ignore the Fourth Amendment in the government’s massive — and wasteful — collection of electronic data.

Again, I am very humbled and almost speechless tonight.  But not entirely speechless.

My backstory is pretty well-known to most people here, and to anyone who was interested in understanding US war policy in the early 2000s. I had a small role to play, in concert with a number of other truth tellers in media and in the national security bureaucracy. For every one of us, there were probably 20 to 50 people working beside us and around us, who understood a lot about what was happening, and who probably got a funny feeling about being in an organization where we all swore to uphold the Constitution, but in fact were engaged in promulgating lies of both omission and commission, mistruths and misdirection, aimed not at our enemies abroad but against the American people.

We were lying, with the help of a compliant and war-supportive media, to patriots young and old. Millions of Americans were eager to enlist, to fight, to sacrifice their life and health – for a made-up government fairy tale.

A sense of unease, I believe, was shared by many, many people who never blew a whistle, and never said a word. To their credit, some of these people passively resisted within their organizations, and tried to set things straight where they could. Some of these people simply called their assignments guy and got orders out of the Pentagon, others were removed if they resisted too much. There is always a cost when you seriously question the directions or actions of the bureaucracy that employs you.

It is in our country’s interest — as security professionals, as intelligence professionals, as soldiers and citizens, as writers and newsmakers – to be sensitive to the lawlessness, the immorality, and the wrongdoing of the bureaucracies and the leaders of the organizations we are a part of. That is the first thing we must cultivate and encourage – a sensitivity to and an awareness of something as simple as right and wrong. This is fundamental. From knowing right and wrong, we move to the factor that motivates so many whistleblowers, something that we all share as human beings, and that is an idea of justice.

The truth tellers who have been honored with Sam Adams Award, and thousands of others we may not be aware of around the world, share a concept of justice. For those who try to correct our U.S. government, particularly in its initiation and exercise of war, state-sanctioned murder and physical devastation of whole societies, we as American have tools that many others around the world don’t have. We have a Constitution that many of us swore to uphold. Americans tend to have a good grounding in the fundamentals of right and wrong, derived from religion or tradition, or both. We live in something that calls itself a Republic, and it is a fine form of government, with a solid set of rules.

But how do we get from a certain moral discomfort, from seeing something going on around us that is wrong, to trying to do something about it? How do we decide if we want to leave the room, turn our backs, put our head down, or instead take some sort of action that will put us on a collision course with very powerful people? What if we, as truth tellers, are like blind men describing an elephant – we see only one part of a larger story? How do we decide that our faith in our leadership is misplaced, and that more is at stake then just our jobs?

When you look at the experiences of people who made the dangerous and difficult decision to act, like Daniel Ellsberg, and Sam Adams, and Sibel Edwards, Jesselyn Raddick, Colleen Rowley, Thomas Drake, Ed Snowden, Julian Assange, and many others, you realize that speaking up and doing the right thing had a primary impact. That impact wasn’t improved transparency, a more informed democracy, a more aware and alert citizenry and better government decisions by our elected leaders.

Those were all secondary impacts, and in many cases tenuous, as the improved level of national understanding seems to last for less than a single generation. No, the primary impact was the unimaginable wrath of the state aimed at the life, livelihood, reputation, family, character and credibility of the truthteller. In several cases, this included physical and psychological abuse, prison time, gag orders, and even more devious programs. The rage of the state against these truth tellers is not impulsive and short-lived – it is a forever project funded by tax dollars, and fueled by very profitable agendas.

Knowing all of this, can we really expect to see a healthy and growing flow of truth tellers, whistleblowers, and simply bold honest people speaking out about government lies?

I think we can, and I am optimistic about the possibilities of better government through honest, bold, and forthright people working in and around this government.

To start with, as I mentioned, we as government employees and uniformed service-members need to have a solid sense of right and wrong. We need to cultivate a sense of justice. In a wonderful way, our younger generations are well prepared for this, at least in terms of cultivating a sense of justice. The young people we see portrayed, often disparagingly, as young socialists may not completely understand the nature of government or the state, but they do cherish ideas of justice.

We also need people in government service who are sensitive to what is going on in their organizations, and how people are feeling and behaving around them. It is not coincidence that many of the people who have been honored by this award are women, who may be paying closer attention to the mood and morality of their organizations. There’s a country song that has a line in it about “Old men talking about the weather, and old women talking about old men.” We need both in our organizations, to be in tune with what is happening, and who is leading us.

We need people in government service who are willing to walk away from a job, and to say or even broadcast why they are leaving, without worrying about the next job, without worrying about being blacklisted, without worrying that they can’t make their next house payment or college tuition payment, or the alimony or child support payment. We need people in government who travel light, so to speak, and do their job because they love what they are doing and what it stands for.

This grounding and lack of rigid self-identification with their employing bureaucracy is extremely important. Thanks to technology and societal evolution, the younger generations of Americans are very likely to walk away from a job that they believe to be immoral, to act to correct what they see as wrong or unjust, and incidentally, are less likely to own a home, and more likely to define themselves by what they believe and stand for, not where they work, and how many promotions they had planned for themselves in that organization.

But even with our younger generations coming into government service – with a good sense of justice, a strong sense of self, and a willingness to speak openly about what they believe and know – there is risk when someone questions the collective government story.

There is risk in the act of challenging authority and one’s peer group, risk of being wrong and suffering loss of credibility. There is the rational and real risk of incurring the rage of the state, and being jailed, harmed, ruined and even killed on the whispers of an incensed or threatened agency.

There is another risk that we really don’t talk about much. I think most concerning for many people is the risk that you are actually right, that you have discovered something damning and dark in your country, in your government, in your organization. Once this happens, if it happens, your life is irreversibly changed, and nothing is ever going to be the same. Understanding how your government actually works, in particular how it works to create and provoke war and murder, how it works to extract the wealth of the nation and use this blessing to commit Constitutional crimes and untold evil, in your name – for many this understanding is not a gift, but a curse. I estimate at least 10% of our country, 20 – 30 million Americans, many of them veterans the U.S. Empire’s global adventures in the past 50 years, feel this curse, and many of them deal with it by turning away from the dark side of Washington D.C., and not talking, writing, or speaking about what they know.

If anyone has followed the case of former Marine Sergeant Brandon Raub a few years ago, you realize that the government keeps a close and paranoid eye on what veterans are doing and saying. Given how things work today, they may be wise to turn away silently from the truth they know.

I think this is why it is often hard for us to demand more truth-tellers come forward, especially in the defense and security and intelligence arena, when we should be shouting it from the rooftops.

Some years ago, I did an online radio program where I would interview interesting people, like Ray McGovern and Sam Provance and Sibel Edmonds , among many others. One person, in our conversation, expressed surprise that I was a short (formerly) brown haired woman, when he thought I would be a tall blonde. I was reminded of this when watching Shock and Awe, because Rob Reiner and the writers did not know who I was, and they portrayed me as a tall light-haired woman, a modern day Viking of sorts. Notwithstanding that this is a popular and attractive stereotype, I think there is something to be learned here. We want to believe that anyone who stands up to authority, who knows his or her own mind, who is willing to enter into a battle of wills with the state, and to take a risk is somehow taller, stronger, bolder and braver than the rest of us.

But it isn’t true. There is something remarkably childlike and simple in being honest, in observing without fear what is happening around you, and reporting this to the person who pays the bills. In the case of the national security arena, the bill payer is the American people.

To tell the truth is simple, honorable, and good for the health of the Republic. The fact that it drives the security apparatus and the government crazy is just icing on the cake. Granted, we all need jobs, and our mental health, and we don’t want to be imprisoned, tortured or killed. But the more of us – specifically those working with and inside the US government today – who tell the truth, the less likely that government embarrassment will result in harm to a whistleblower, and the less likely in the long run that we will see whistleblowers as we tend to see them today.

In a world of that values honesty, they would be receiving the public commendation of a proud Congress, a grateful media and President, and a contented population.

I’m not a Pollyanna, and I’m worried about the role the US government is playing at home and abroad. The kind of devastation that the US tolerates, supports and initiates around the world – Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, of course Yemen comes to mind, the horrendous situation that Julian Assange is still facing as we speak – is not limited to “overseas.”

The industrial warfare state is as dangerous to Americans as it is to Iraqis, Syrians, and Yemenis. The arts of the warfare state are already being practiced here, against Americans. We – average Americans – are increasingly controlled, spied on, monitored, tracked, threatened, boxed in, and shut down by tools that were first used and tested on some contrived wartime enemy.

You don’t need me to tell you this, it’s in every newspaper every day, on every page. It is our modern reality. Truth and transparency are its only antidote, and truth and transparency needs all of us. To live in a society, to be a citizen, to love your country — you cannot sleepwalk through it.

People who value wisdom, people who value common sense, people who value justice and people who believe that being woke is a good thing – congratulations! You are the majority! You are alive, you are in charge of this country, and you can choose. America is worth preserving, healing, and saving – and if she is to be saved we will do it by first learning the difference between the truth and a lie, and then speaking the truth loudly, boldly, to anyone who will listen, over and over and over again.




Happy Thanksgiving from Consortium News

Consortium News will be taking a holiday break along with our readers in the U.S. for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  We will resume publication on Monday, Nov. 26. 




How the US Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countries

A new collection of essays, edited by former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, clearly shows that it is the U.S. that is largely responsible for the poverty and suffering in these very nations, says Robert Fantina.

By Robert Fantina

In two years, the world has become accustomed to being shocked by the words and actions of United States President Donald Trump. In January of this year, he again showed his lack of diplomacy, tack and common decency, when he referred to many poorer countries as “sh*ithole countries”, asking, “Why do we want all these people from sh*thole countries coming here?” Former member of the House of Representatives Cynthia McKinney, in the new book she has edited, How the US Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countries, (Clarity Press) has gathered a collection of essays, including one of her own, that clearly shows that it is the U.S. that is largely responsible for the poverty and suffering in these very nations.

The first series of essays describes U.S. foreign policy, and its true motives. In the essay, The End of Washington’s ‘Wars on the Cheap’, The Saker sums up U.S. foreign policy as follows: “Here’s the template for typical Empire action: find some weak country, subvert it, accuse it of human right violations, slap economic sanctions, trigger riots and intervene militarily in ‘defense’ of ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’ and ‘self-determination’ (or some other combo of equally pious and meaningless concepts).” The hypocrisy of such a policy is obvious. A weak and vulnerable nation is victimized by a far more powerful one. The U.S. has done this countless times in its history, and there appears to be no appetite in the government to change.

This introduction and explanation of U.S. foreign policy is followed by essays on some, but certainly not all, of the countries that have been victimized by the United States, usually following this template. As McKinney says in her essay, Somalia: Is Somalia the U.S. Template for All of Africa, “…while mouthing freedom, democracy, and liberty, the United States has denied these very aspirations to others, especially when it inconvenienced the US or its allies. In Mozambique and Angola, the US stood with Portugal until it was the Portuguese people, themselves, who threw off their government and voted in a socialist government that vowed to free Portugal of its colonies.”

In the essay, How the U.S. Perpetuates the Palestinian Tragedy’, Sami Al-Arian writes:

It might be understandable, if detestable, for Israel and its Zionist defenders to circulate false characterizations of history and myths to advance their political agenda. But it is incomprehensible, indeed reprehensible, for those who claim to advocate the rule of law, believe in the principle of self-determination, and call for freedom and justice to fall for this propaganda or to become its willing accomplices. In following much of American political leaders’ rhetoric or media coverage of the conflict, one is struck by the lack of historical context, the deliberate disregard of empirical facts, and the contempt for established legal constructs and precedents.”

The U.S. leads in these distortions, with its officials proclaiming, each time that Israel bombs Gaza, that “Israel has a right to defend itself”. There is hardly mention of the brutal, illegal occupation and blockade; never a discussion of the fact that Palestine has no army, navy or air force, and Israel’s military is one of the world’s most powerful thanks to the U.S. It is never stated that international law allows an occupied people to resist the occupation in any way possible, including armed struggle. The countless United Nations resolutions condemning Israeli actions in Palestine are ignored by U.S. officials.

Once again, U.S. hypocrisy is on very public display.

The third section of this informative book describes the United States’ mostly-successful efforts to camouflage its vile intentions and international crimes. Christopher Black, in his essay Western Imperialism and the Use of Propaganda”, clearly articulates how this is done:

The primary concern they [U.S. government officials] have, in order to preserve their control, is for the preservation of the new feudal mythology that they have created: that the world is a dangerous place, that they are the protectors, that the danger is omnipresent, eternal, and omnidirectional, comes from without, and comes from within. The mythology is constructed and presented through all media; journals, films, television, radio, music, advertising, books, the internet in all its variety. All available information systems are used to create and maintain scenarios and dramas to convince the people that they, the protectors, are the good and all others are the bad. We are bombarded with this message incessantly.”

Our memories are short, indeed, if we have forgotten both President George W. Bush and his Secretary of State, Colin Powell, telling the world from the United Nations the blatant lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, threatening civilization. We are not paying attention if we are unaware of the many innuendos given of the ‘dangers’ of all Muslims. Yes, the government fosters fear, proclaiming subtly and not so subtly that there is danger everywhere, and it is the role of the mighty United States to protect the world, whether or not such protection is wanted or needed.

Lastly, the U.S. Itself can be described as a ‘sh*thole’ country. Its many violations of international law, and crimes against humanity, are summarized by Richard Falk, in his essay The Sh*thole Phenomenon at Home and Abroad:

This kind of nationalist pride covered up and blindsided crimes of the greatest severity that were being committed from the time of the earliest settlements: genocide against native Americans, reliance on the barbarism of slavery to facilitate profitable cotton production and the supposedly genteel life style of the Southern plantations. This unflattering national picture should be enlarged to include the exploitation of the resources and good will of peoples throughout Latin America, who, once freed from Spanish colonial rule, quickly found themselves victimized by American gunboat diplomacy that paved the way for American investors or joined in crushing those bold and brave enough to engage in national resistance against the abuse of their homelands.”

The final essay is the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights on his Mission to the United States of America, authored by Philip Alston. While Trump decries “sh*thole” countries, the conditions that the U.S. put those countries in are not unknown in the U.S. A few facts from Alston’s report will suffice:

  • The U.S.’s “…immense wealth and expertise stand in shocking contrast with the conditions in which vast numbers of its citizens live. About 40 million live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty. It has the highest youth poverty rate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the highest infant mortality rates among comparable OECD States. Its citizens live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies, eradicable tropical diseases are increasingly prevalent, and it has the world’s highest incarceration rate, one of the lowest levels of voter registrations in among OECD countries and the highest obesity levels in the developed world.”
  • The United States has the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries. The $1.5 trillion in tax cuts in December 2017 overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality.”
  • For almost five decades the overall policy response has been neglectful at best, but the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.”

The information in these essays is all rigorously documented with extensive footnotes. The writing is clear and the facts are presented in a concise manner that is highly beneficial for the average reader or academic.

For anyone who questions U.S. policies, at home or abroad, and who has perhaps become more aware of such issues since Trump’s election,

How the US Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countries is an indispensable read.

Robert Fantina is a journalist and the author of Essays on Palestine.




National Exclusive: Former Sen. Barbara Boxer’s Son and California Powerbroker Found Bilking Indian Tribe

Darius Anderson and his business partner, Douglas Boxer, preyed upon Native American clients who were too intimidated by their political connections to seek recourse, writes investigative reporter Peter Byrne.

Judges Find Breach
of Contract and Trust

By Peter Byrne

Darius Anderson is one of California’s most powerful men. He promotes himself as a champion of liberal social causes, a philanthropist, a public servant, a man of integrity who cares about his community—especially racial minorities.

That image has not survived judicial scrutiny. A panel of arbitration judges has found that a company controlled by Anderson and his partner, Douglas Boxer, the son of former Senator Barbara Boxer, defrauded its Native American clients in a Bay Area casino deal. The partners convinced the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria to buy undevelopable swamp land in which they themselves held a large interest. They then made a secret deal with a Las Vegas gambling corporation in which they benefited at the Graton tribe’s expense.

The two-month long judicial proceeding took place behind closed doors at the San Francisco office of JAMS, a high-profile group of legal mediators formerly known as Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services. A final binding arbitration award issued in April by the judging panel was confirmed by Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer on June 1. That outcome has drawn almost no publicity. The only media to report on the findings of fraud against Anderson and Boxer is the North Bay Bohemian, a local alternative weekly newspaper.

For decades Anderson has advised and raised campaign funds for prominent state Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Jerry Brown, governor of the west coast state.

Another of his high-profile clients is Barbara Boxer, the longtime U.S. senator from California who retired in 2017. Her son Douglas partnered with Anderson in what judges found to be acts of fraud and deception against the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria that began after Sen. Boxer pushed through legislation restoring the tribe’s sovereignty and granting it the right to run a casino.

The case raises comparisons with the 2005 Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal, in which powerful consultants charged exorbitant fees to Indian clients seeking to develop casinos on their reservations. As such it adds another installment to the history of white men breaching trust with Native Americans for economic gain that began with European settlement of this continent.  This case has a happier ending than is usual.

Local Empire

Anderson, 53, oversees a restaurant and media empire in Napa and Sonoma Counties, 40 miles north of San Francisco. He owns a culinary school called Ramekins and he is the managing member and chairman of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and its affiliate publications, which includes most of the newsprint media in the two-county region. In September, the Press Democrat reported a 900-word story about the arbitration findings that portrayed the tribe and Anderson as having settled a contractual “dispute”—the “fraud” word was not mentioned and the details of the deceptions were not exposed.

Anderson is much more that a restaurateur and newspaper publisher. His California-based lobbying firm, Platinum Advisors, advertises that it generates “billions of dollars in work for our clients” by navigating their deals through mazes of local, state, and federal government bureaucracies. Another of his companies, Kenwood Investments, is developing upscale housing and yacht havens on Treasure Island, a fabulously valuable island in the San Francisco bay built in 1939 as a World’s Fair site.

The business name that is key to this story is Kenwood Investments No. 2. Three retired state judges in the arbitration process declared in April that Anderson and his partners in “Kenwood No. 2” defrauded the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria of millions of dollars between 2002–03 and committed many acts of deception. They ordered Anderson’s investment firm to pay three quarters of a million dollars to the tribe to cover its lawyer’s fees and arbitration costs.

According to the judges, Anderson breached his consulting contract with the tribe, which now owns the Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park. The judges found that Anderson and his associates “fraudulently induced” and “breached” an agreement to assist the tribe in developing a Las Vegas-style casino business.

The ruling, by retired Superior Court judges William Cahill, Read Ambler and Richard A. Kramer, concludes a long legal battle that was instigated not by the wronged party, but by Anderson, as he sought to further enrich his business at the tribe’s expense.

In a settlement arrangement, Kenwood No. 2 agreed not to appeal the judges’ findings. Anderson’s firm will pay less than the dollar amount of the award, says Joel Zeldin, the tribe’s arbitration counsel. There are no charges of criminal fraud pending against Kenwood No. 2, but the three judges, one of whom was chosen by Anderson’s firm, did their best to restore justice: “Even if the Tribe was willing to overlook Kenwood No. 2’s unethical behavior, the courts and these arbitrators will not.”

Summary of Violations

The 53-page arbitration report details how Darius Anderson and the senator’s son, Douglas Boxer, harmed the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria over the course of several years. In summing up their findings, the judges’ panel found that Anderson and Boxer had violated their duty to be loyal to the tribe in the following ways:

Anderson and Boxer represented that Kenwood No. 2 had experience and abilities that it in fact lacked.

Kenwood No. 2 breached its contract when it bought an option on wetlands without telling the tribe, and then promoted the land to the tribe for the casino site despite its unsuitability for development.

Anderson and Boxer sent out bid solicitations for a casino manager that benefited Kenwood No. 2 at the expense of the tribe and without telling the tribe of the existence of the “requests for proposals” or RFPs.

They rejected a proposal that was the most favorable to the tribe without telling the tribe or informing it of that bidder’s reservations about irregularities in the contractual terms proposed by Kenwood No. 2.

They entered into undisclosed consulting agreements “to the detriment” of the tribe, some of which involved conflicts of interest.

• “Despite causing major problems and providing virtually no effective assistance to the Tribe,” Anderson claimed that it was the tribe that had breached the consulting agreement with Kenwood No. 2. Anderson’s pursuit of his “unmerited” claim against the tribe caused it to spend significant amounts of money and to “suffer business risks and distractions.”

The judges ordered Kenwood No. 2 to pay the tribe’s attorney fees and costs of $725,657.48, and to receive nothing for itself.

Anderson did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Boxer’s Role

Boxer was involved as a lobbyist for Platinum Advisors and as Anderson’s partner in Kenwood Investments No. 2. His mother, the now-retired U.S. senator, in 2000, wrote federal legislation that restored the national sovereignty of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and authorized the tribe to establish a casino business.

In early 2002, Anderson and Boxer approached the tribe’s chairman, Greg Sarris, a novelist and professor of creative writing and Native American studies at Sonoma State University. They proposed that the newly empowered tribal nation hire Platinum Advisors to help it acquire reservation land and start a business to make it self-sufficient. Anderson and Boxer told Sarris that Platinum Advisors had “significant real estate development experience and connections with local, state and federal politicians,” according to the arbitration award. They proffered a platform of consulting services for a monthly retainer of $1,000, with payment deferred and contingent upon success.

Sarris trusted Boxer because the lobbyist’s mother had sponsored the legislation that re-established the tribe’s sovereignty. After Anderson presented a promise-filled PowerPoint to the tribal council, it voted to hire Platinum Advisors, ultimately paying it $1.2 million.

Fifteen years later, arbitrators declared that Anderson and Boxer had breached their contract to deliver adequate professional services in the tribe’s interest, damaging the casino project’s prospects. According to the arbitration document, the Graton Rancheria was afraid to expose these actions when it discovered what Anderson was doing in 2003, fearing political retaliation by the consultants.

The story only came to light because in November 2013, Anderson demanded that the Graton Rancheria pay Kenwood No. 2 a percentage of the projected revenue from its recently opened casino. Anderson insisted that the tribe pay his firm $43 million; he threatened to compel arbitration if it refused.

The tribe refused. It sued Kenwood No. 2 in state superior court, claiming that its sovereign immunity prohibited Anderson from compelling arbitration of his claim.

In November 2015, the court ruled that the tribe had waived its sovereign immunity defense in its contract with Anderson. In 2017, that judgment was affirmed by the appellate court, and the JAMS arbitration commenced.

Anderson claimed 2.5 percent of the Graton Resort & Casino’s net revenue for the first seven years of its operation, despite the fact that after 2005, the tribe had ceased doing business with his company. Insisting that the Graton Rancheria had “unjustly enriched” itself at the expense of his firm, Anderson demanded that it pay his attorney fees, too.

But it was the tribe, not Anderson, that had been wronged, the retired judges ruled. After months of sworn testimony, the panel ordered Kenwood No. 2 to pay the tribe’s attorney fees because it was Kenwood No. 2 that had breached the consulting contract, and Anderson’s claims to the contrary “lacked merit.”

The two trials generated thousands of pages of testimony, depositions and exhibits. The court record of the arbitration award was partly redacted and relabeled at Anderson’s request, according to Zeldin, the tribe’s arbitration counsel.

Anderson’s and Boxer’s names are replaced by “Person A” and “Person B,” respectively. “Platinum Advisors” is replaced with “Company 1.” “Kenwood No. 2” replaced “Kenwood.” The names of politicians and descriptions of their actions are blacked out. But who they are and what they did is clear from the narrative context and from contemporaneous news reports.

How It Began

In March 2002, the Graton Rancheria signed a contract with Platinum Advisors as its “exclusive agent” to provide it with “strategic advice and consultation” and to develop “political visibility.” The contract granted Platinum a right of first refusal to “partner with the tribe in any business opportunity it pursued.” The idea was to attract investors.

From the get-go, Boxer worked to convince the tribe how “‘much of a home run a casino would be’ rather than organic food processing, grape growing, strip mall, or senior assisted living facility,” according to the arbitration award. It did not take much convincing. Casinos are famous magnets for cash. Even as Anderson and Boxer worked with the tribe on a public relations campaign to further a casino project, they were making secret deals to benefit themselves, the arbitrators found.

According to a declaration filed by Anderson in 2015, he, Boxer, Jay Wallace of Platinum Advisors and Stuart Sunshine, a San Francisco city official, created Kenwood Investments No. 2 LLC in January 2003.

The arbitration judges ruled that Anderson’s new company shadowed Platinum Advisors’ tribal consulting activities, while serving a hidden agenda to make money for its principals—at the tribe’s expense.

Without informing Sarris or the tribe, Anderson and Boxer struck a deal to buy 1,736 acres of tidal wetlands near Highway 37, a major road connecting San Francisco to the nearby city of Oakland.

Kenwood No. 2 paid $100,000 for an option to purchase the swampy property, eventually billing the tribe $750,000 for it.

As Kenwood No. 2 was secretly securing the option, Platinum Advisors was advising the tribe to select the Highway 37 site for its casino, even though it was a politically impossible place to pour acres of concrete.

The site was part of 50,000 acres of tidal wetlands that conservationists had been trying to protect and restore since the 1970s,” noted the arbitration judges, who were incredulous that Anderson had suggested it. The attempt to locate the casino on the wetlands site proved to be a public relations and monetary disaster for the tribe.

As Anderson and Boxer were negotiating to buy the swampy land in late 2002, they were also negotiating casino-management deals with several Las Vegas–based casino operators, including Station Casinos, Harrah’s, Maloof and MGM, without telling the tribe.

In February 2003, Anderson sent a request for proposals to potential casino operators. The proposal represented Kenwood No. 2 as the “exclusive development partner” and “financial advisor” for the tribe. The RFP stated that Kenwood No. 2 would evaluate the bid proposals and select the casino manager for the tribe.

Kenwood No. 2 had no contractual relationship with the Graton Rancheria when it issued the RFP. The tribe’s contract was with Platinum Advisors.

According to the arbitration award, “the evidence established that the Tribe was unaware that Kenwood No. 2 had sent an RFP to operators and had not approved the contents of the RFP drafted by Kenwood No. 2.”

Strange Bidding Terms

The trial revealed that Anderson’s RFP instructed potential casino operators to bid their services on the basis of several unusual assumptions:

The operator would commit to buying Kenwood No. 2’s option to purchase the Highway 37 land and then buy the land from the seller on behalf of Kenwood No. 2, which would be the “titleholder.” The RFP assumed that the casino would be built on the Highway 37 site controlled by Kenwood No. 2 and that there were no other possibilities.

The operators could charge the tribe 20 percent of the casino’s net revenues and were to “assume a management fee to Kenwood No. 2 of 10 percent of net gaming revenues.”

The operators would pay Kenwood No. 2 “development fees” of $2.5 million up front to purchase the option on the Highway 37 site, and another $2.5 million when the tribe took over the site—$5 million total.

• “Lastly, operators were required to pay Kenwood No. 2 ‘pre-development fees’ of $8.4 million ($200,000 per month) for advisory and consulting services.”

The operators were not required by the RFP to make upfront cash payments to the tribe, or to provide any specific amounts of money for the tribe’s maintenance costs (i.e., its ability to maintain its existence until the casino began generating revenue).

Anderson received and evaluated four responses to the RFP, which he did not share with the tribe. Notably, Harrah’s proposed to take up to 24 percent of the net gaming revenue as its management fee. Improving on the terms of the RFP itself, Harrah’s offered to pay $100,000 a month to the tribe for its operating expenses, along with a $4 million pre-development fee. Harrah’s also offered to donate $100,000 per year to set up an educational scholarship fund for tribal members. And it offered to make a one-time $25 million “quality of life” loan to address tribal citizen’s needs for housing and medical care.

Harrah’s declined to pay a percentage of net revenues to Kenwood No. 2, although it offered to pay Anderson $50,000 a month in consulting fees, if the tribe approved of the arrangement. Harrah’s pointed out that such an arrangement with a consultant was not a normal business practice; it would have to be approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Harrah’s expressed concern about the legitimacy of Anderson’s claim to be representing the tribe’s interests. It asked to be put directly in touch with the tribal council before proceeding further. Anderson rejected Harrah’s proposal without consulting with Sarris and the tribal council or informing them of the proposal’s existence.

Watch Peter B. Collins interview Peter Byrne on Boxer, Anderson fraud (Article continues below):

A Better Deal—For Anderson

Station Casinos’ response to the RFP was far more favorable toward Anderson. It suggested that Kenwood No. 2 and Station Casinos partner to manage the casino. It proposed divvying up 30 percent of the casino revenues—20 percent to Anderson’s firm, 80 percent to Station.

The Las Vegas–based corporation offered to pay Anderson $10 million cash up front and $15,000 a month for consulting services. It offered $100,000 a month for tribal operations, but it did not offer the tribe any pre-development fees, scholarships or loans.

On March 7, 2003 Anderson and Boxer asked the Graton Rancheria to assign the Platinum Advisors contract to Kenwood No. 2, and claimed it would not change the terms of the agreement.

But the assignation did change the terms of the agreement. The new arrangement gave Kenwood No. 2 new authority to act as the tribe’s exclusive agent. Kenwood No. 2 was allowed to negotiate a cut of the casino operator’s management fee for itself. And, importantly, the tribe agreed to waive its sovereign-immunity defense in the case of a contract dispute—a concession it later regretted.

Anderson and Boxer had been negotiating with gaming corporations since the fall of 2002. They first told Sarris and the tribe that they had issued RFPs on March 11, 2003.

Brian Campbell, a tribal member doing legal work for the tribe, got wind of the RFP and asked Boxer for a copy. Boxer gave Campbell a copy but did not tell him about the responses that had been received.

Boxer later testified under oath that he had given drafts of the RFP to the tribe before it was sent out in 2002. The tribe’s witnesses testified that Boxer did not do that. Campbell testified that he was surprised that Anderson had asked for 10 percent of the gaming revenues and $5 million in upfront fees in the RFP.

On March 14, 2003, Anderson told the tribal council about the existence of RFP responses. He did not disclose Harrah’s offer to the tribe of tens of millions of dollars in cash.

Anderson told the tribe that Station Casinos had made the best proposal for “superior overall economics.”

Even as members expressed outrage at Anderson’s self-dealing behavior, the tribal council accepted his recommendation that Station Casinos be selected as its casino operator.

Time to Hire Lawyers

Suspecting that Anderson was more motivated to benefit himself than the tribe, the Graton Rancheria hired attorneys from California Indian Legal Services to watch over its interests. These lawyers noted that it was a conflict of interest for Anderson to negotiate with Station on behalf of the tribe while he was also negotiating with Station on his own behalf for a cut of the management fees. Anderson agreed that he would not negotiate a separate deal.

On April 22, 2003, the tribe signed the revised agreement with Kenwood No. 2. It provided that Anderson’s company would receive 4 percent of the net gaming revenues for seven years (later reduced to 2.5 percent). Anderson agreed to donate $25,000 annually to the UCLA College of Indian Law Program. (UCLA declined to confirm if the donations were made.)

The next day, according to trial exhibits, Anderson secretly made a separate consulting agreement with Station Casinos, despite his promise that he wouldn’t. 

Kenwood No. 2 contracted to assist Station Casinos “maintain its relationship” with the tribe. Station Casinos agreed to pay Anderson $20,000 per month and it bought the option on the Highway 37 site for $750,000, netting Kenwood No. 2 a $650,000 profit. (The tribe later reimbursed Station for the option payment).

Station Casinos agreed to pay Anderson a total of $9.5 million for achieving various “milestones” as it helped the tribe to navigate the bureaucracy of getting its casino up and running.

Anderson did not tell the tribe about his side deal with Station Casinos. “The evidence indicates that Kenwood No. 2 intentionally kept information regarding the Station/Kenwood No. 2 agreement secret from the Tribe,” the arbitrators found. “[Exhibit] 490 [Douglas Boxer] notation: ‘don’t tell Sarris: negotiation.’”

Boxer did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In fact, the tribe did not learn of the secret side agreement’s existence until June 2003, when Station Casinos included a copy of the side agreement in the paperwork accompanying its negotiations with the tribe, the arbitrators found. Station Casinos declined to comment.

Picking on the Wrong Wetland

On the same day they signed the side agreement, Station Casinos and Anderson announced that the Graton Rancheria planned to develop the Highway 37 site for a casino. A coalition of environmental groups that supported the Bay Delta Restoration Plan to restore local wetland habitats enlisted local, state and federally elected officials to vehemently oppose erecting the casino.

The tribe’s attempt to “appease these groups by offering to restore hundreds of acres of wetlands on the property” was a non-starter. After Diane Feinstein, a U.S. senator from California, “threatened to redraft the Tribe’s restoration language to obstruct the Tribe’s ability to open a casino anywhere,” the Graton Rancheria backed down and nixed the wetlands as a possibility.

The tribe ended up paying for and donating the Highway 37 wetlands to the Sonoma County Land Trust, which has restored it. The wetlands debacle ended up costing the tribe about $5 million, which included paying for the unusable land and for Kenwood No. 2’s profit on the land-purchase option.

Without Anderson’s assistance, Sarris and the tribe went looking for an alternative site to build their casino, and eventually bought 270 acres in Rohnert Park for $100 million, which it borrowed from Station Casinos. The tribe had little or no contact with Anderson and Boxer after 2005, when it stopped using their services.

Boxer testified that Kenwood No. 2 did significant work for the tribe prior to 2006. The trial record reports that in 2004 Boxer “‘killed’ a bill” in the state assembly that would “require gaming tribes to negotiate with local governments to mitigate the impact of casinos.”

Boxer said at trial that he had designed publicity and lobbying campaigns for the tribe; helped it to create a financial budget and to find office space; and “assisted tribal members in securing personal loans.”

The arbitrators determined that lobbying on the tribe’s behalf violated California law because Kenwood No. 2 was not a registered lobbying firm. Regardless, the judges found that Anderson and Boxer did not materially assist the tribe in jumping through the complicated governmental, environmental and financing procedures necessary to obtain a gaming compact and open the casino.

Sarris testified that the tribe felt that “Kenwood No. 2 was providing little or no value . . . and the Tribe wanted to sever its relationship with [Anderson and Boxer] but was afraid that if it did so, [they] might retaliate and use [their] political connections against the Tribe.”

The tribe estimated that it ended up paying Kenwood No. 2 $10,000 an hour for the services it did receive before the contract ended.

Nonetheless, the tribe invited Anderson and Boxer to attend the opening party for the Graton Resort and Casino on Nov. 5, 2014. That same day, Anderson demanded that the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria wire a payment of $43 million to his bank account.

A version of this story was first published on Bohemian.com as “Graton Expectations.”

Northern California-based journalist Peter Byrne combines investigative reporting with science writing. In 2017, Peter’s 11-part series in the Point Reyes Light “Busted: Breast Cancer Money and the Media” won the top science writing award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has received national, regional, and local recognition for investigative work, writing style, and in-depth profiles of politicians and scientists. Peter reports on terrorism and its twin, counter terrorism, from epicenters of violence such as Mosul, Iraq and Orange County, California. He has written highly regarded books on quantum physics and writes for many publications, including Scientific American, New Scientist, Quanta, American Consequences, Mother Jones, and the North Bay Bohemian. He can be found at www.peterbyrne.info.




Newly Elected Progressives Face Palestine Taboo

After they won their primaries, some young progressives curbed their pro-Palestine rhetoric.  Now they are in Washington getting oriented. Next up: early test votes in the new year sponsored by the pro-Israel lobby, writes As`ad AbuKhalil.

Newly-Elected Progressives
Confront 
AIPAC Test

By As`ad AbuKhalil
Special to Consortium News

People in the pro-Palestinian community worldwide will be watching to see if any of the new left-wing progressives elected in the midterms will dare speak out—and vote against—the wishes of the Israel lobby.

The answer will likely come early next year, in test votes sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, after the 116thCongress convenes. If the past is any guide, Democratic leaders will insist on strict subservience from newcomers to the party’s foreign policy priorities, which include U.S. sponsorship and defense of the Israeli occupation and war crimes.

Some members-elect voiced remarkable criticism of Israel in the primaries. Rashida Tlaib, from Michigan, may have gone the furthest, by calling for one state in Palestine. Ilhan Omar, from Minnesota, referred to Israel’s “evil doings” and condemned apartheid in Israel.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, from New York, spoke against the occupation of Palestine.

After the primaries, however, Tlaib, Omar and Ocasio-Cortez softened their rhetoric. In a post-victory interview, Tlaib said that both sides (occupiers and occupied?) have “so much more in common.” Ocasio-Cortez was quoted as favoring a two-state solution and believing “absolutely in Israel’s right to exist” (as an apartheid occupation state?). She has expressed faith in U.S. legitimacy as “a force of good” in the world and shrugged off any serious understanding of the Middle East.

Antonio Delgado, who upset a GOP incumbent in upstate New York, caught heat during the general campaign for his positions on Israel. When he rejected the “democratic” label for Israel, his comment was widely described by news media as a regrettable gaffe.   

The one Palestinian-American male candidate, Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Democrat who campaigned in San Diego, was the least critical of Israel and the only one who lost. He went to lengths to ingratiate himself with the Israel lobby, having changed his religion and name in the past. He even condemned his grandfather, Abu Yusuf An-Najjar, a PLO diplomat killed by Israeli terrorists in Beirut in 1973, as a “murderer.”

The nature of U.S. public attitude towards Israel is changing. A few decades ago, isolationist conservative Republicans were the most likely to be detractors. That role has shifted to liberals in big cities. These days, southern Baptists  and conservative Republicans in rural America are providing Israel some of the staunchest support.

Automatic Support for Israel

But this change doesn’t mean much in Congress. On Middle East issues, Democrats and Republicans remain ardent and automatic supporters of Israel.

Despite the War Powers Act of 1973, designed to check the president’s power to commit the country to an armed conflict, the president retains quasi-imperial powers of foreign policy making. Given voters’ worship of the military, representatives are often afraid to reject wars and interventions that presidents seek. To be accused of “failing to support the troops” is fatal to candidates from both parties. California Rep. Barbara Lee famously cast the lone vote against the authorization of military force following Sept. 11, 2001.

The two ruling parties, meanwhile, muzzle democratic discussion of their foreign policy agenda. Through the nominating process, the big wigs of the Democratic Party are able to sideline dissent. The Republican primaries, meanwhile, can seem like contests for the greatest show of fanaticism in supporting Israel. Even in local elections–for mayors and city council—defiance of AIPAC can kill off contenders’ chances. Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus, dominated by Democrats, break with AIPAC influence on votes, but the caucus leadership is closely aligned with the pro-Israel lobby.

The internal Democratic split (between its leadership and the liberal base) on Israel is comparable with that of liberal European political parties. The Socialist Party of France, for instance, pursues a traditional pro-Israeli agenda despite pro-Palestine sympathy within its ranks. The same had been true of the Labour Party in the U.K., until the rise of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. The United States has come to insist on a pro-Israeli plank from its European allies. In the 1970s, European nations often held positions on the PLO and on Palestinian self-determination that broke with U.S. doctrine. Since then, however, European disagreement with the U.S. on the Arab-Israeli question has diminished.

AIPAC, and its unofficial research arm, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, have managed to establish themselves as the moral and authoritative sources of legislation and information on all matters related to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Middle East.  The lobby has succeeded through intimidation, as detailed in “They Dare to Speak Out,” a book by former Illinois Rep. Paul Findley, a Republican. One successful method has been conflating any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. This tactic has been most effective in discouraging U.S. politicians from opposing Israel.

Not a ‘Jewish Lobby’

It must be stressed that AIPAC is not a “Jewish lobby,” but a pro-Israel lobby. Its champions are not exclusively Jewish.  Anti-Semites wish to portray the lobby in classically bigoted terms, as a Jewish conspiracy. But some of its most ardent adherents have been non-Jewish U.S. presidents, members of Congress and administration officials. 

On Palestine, Congress has changed substantially over the years.  In the early 1980s, a few lawmakers, from both parties, still dared to challenge AIPAC, which was founded in 1963. In his 1985 book, former Congressman Paul Findley, now 97, describes some of them. Back then, a wing of the Republican Party even stood for “even-handedness” in the Middle East.

By the end of the 1980s, few of these moderating voices on Israel were left. They’d either retired or lost their seats. 

Since the 1990s, dissent on Israel is virtually absent in the upper house of Congress. The late Robert Byrd, from West Virginia, who died in 2010, was the last senator who dared to vote against legislation favored by AIPAC.

Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Diane Feinstein of California, both in their 80s, are mildly critical of Israel, but still vote with AIPAC most of the time. (Feinstein only recently started criticizing Israel perhaps because support in her state is secure). “Social Democrat” Sen. Bernie Sanders gets heralded for challenging Israel. But that only shows the depth of the general silence. In fact, Sanders usually criticizes Israel in the most restricted terms: (“I am not a fan of Netanyahu.”)

In the House, in recent years the number of members who–on rare occasions–vote to defy the Israeli agenda, has risen. But unlike in previous years, little is ever said about the rights of Palestinians or directly against AIPAC.

Dennis Kucinich, former member of Congress from Cleveland, and a former presidential candidate, may have been the last member to publicly champion the Palestinians. (He once told me that he made it a point to speak about Palestine weekly.) He lost his seat after redistricting in 2012. 

The question now is whether some of those new faces in Congress, who carried the progressive torch in the campaigns, have the courage of a Kucinich on Israeli matters. Will any of them break the taboo against speaking for Palestine or against AIPAC? Their silence regarding the on-going Israeli assault on Gaza so far is deafening.  

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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Trump and Big Media: Clash or Collusion?

Now that the media is protesting the suspension of Jim Acosta’s credentials Sam Husseini asks why he and the other journalists didn’t intervene on his behalf when he was expelled from a news conference.

By Sam Husseini
Special to Consortium News

CNN’s Jim Acosta has had his White House press credentials suspended following a tense exchange with Trump on Wednesday. CNN, the White House Correspondents’ Association and others have denounced the move.

CNN says it’s “Facts First.” That’s about as believable as Trump’s claim of “America First.” Some see aggressive journalism here. I see media logrolling, and “frenemies” at play.

On a superficial level, I empathize with Acosta. At press conferences I try to ask tough questions. At State Department briefings, spokeswoman Heather Nauert has carefully avoided calling on me, especially after this exchange when she refused to say what State’s position was on torture and evaded criticizing Saudi Arabia and Israel.

I was suspended from the National Press Club for a time (the ethics committee eventually overturned it) after confronting a Saudi autocrat at the start of the Arab uprisings. And this summer I was forcibly ejected from the Trump-Putin news conference in Helsinki for nothing more than carrying a sign with the subject of my question — a tactic I hoped would increase my chances of getting called on.

Acosta seems eager for solidarity just now. 

This is interesting in part because of how he and his network failed to extend that same solidarity to me that day in Helsinki. Among other things, after I was forced out of the room, while clutching my sign, “Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty,” Anderson Cooper asked Acosta what was going on. Acosta said I was being forced out and described me as “a man who identified himself with The Nation, a progressive publication. I’m not sure if that’s accurate, that’s how he represented himself.” He added, “He said the reason I’m being removed — talking about himself obviously — is that he had a sign.”

Acosta then speculated on live TV that, “It appears he was being removed from the room because he was carrying some kind of protest sign and he planned on causing a commotion.” Acosta suggested that I was a “journalist or posing as a journalist” who was “not willing to go on his own volition,” effectively implying I was to blame for the “scuffle” and that Finnish police were justified in removing me.

I’ve explained exactly what happened before. (Judge for yourself by watching a video of me explaining to reporters and officials why I had the sign.) Contrary to what Acosta reported, I didn’t expect to be taken out when I held it up. As I did, journalists were screaming at me to turn around so the TV cameras behind me would pick it up. (But I didn’t do that—as any self respecting protester would have—proving it wasn’t a protest, but a sign to get called on.)

At least CNN’s Christiane Amanpour correctly noted: “For all we know, that could have been a question — it sounds pretty innocuous.”

‘Deeply Troubled’

Acosta then tweeted: “Man describing himself as a reporter for The Nation forcibly removed from news conference.” The editor and publisher of The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel tweeted back at Acosta: “Sam Husseini, communications director of Institute for Public Accuracy, received press accreditation from @thenation to cover the summit. As Trump administration consistently denigrates media, we’re deeply troubled by reports that he was forcibly removed from press conference.”

Neither Acosta nor CNN responded.

A lie – that I was a protester, not an accredited journalist – went around the world as I was detained for hours in Helsinki.

Producers from CNN and other big networks called to have me on the air to explain what happened. But then all of them suddenly cancelled.

Now that Acosta and the media are protesting the White House’s suspension of his credentials I must ask why he and the other journalists that day didn’t intervene on my behalf or object to my expulsion?

No Urgency

CNN says they are “Facts First” not because they care so much about facts. It’s a brand to say Trump is a liar. They don’t have to engage in actual journalism — examining the ills of society, such as how big funders systematically pay off politicians for legislation they want, like Trump’s huge tax giveaway to the rich. There’s no urgency in corporate media to examine structural inequality, corporate corruption and the revelations of whistleblowers. They have little need for that if they can get an audience in an advertiser-friendly environment by focusing on the latest Trump outrage.

And Trump doesn’t need to deliver good paying jobs, restore communities ravaged by the opioid crisis, or scale back wars. He can just talk about how unfair CNN is.

They end up locking in each other’s audience. People gravitate to CNN because they hate Trump and people root for Trump because they hate CNN. (When he’s bombing someone though, CNN calls him “presidential.”)

The media-Trump shouting match dominates, drowning out other voices and underreported stories.

The mid-term elections briefly revived reporting on issues people care about: health care, the economy, immigration, the courts, even U.S. government support for Saudi-led atrocities in Yemen. But, unfortunately and predictably, it’s back to Trump-CNN squabbling, largely about Russia-gate.

While corporate media obsesses about Trump’s attacks on the press, it says nothing about the administration’s possible prosecution of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, or RT and Al-Jazeera being forced to register as foreign agents. State Department spokesperson Nauert—who has reportedly been offered the ambassadorship to the UN—has outright refused to take questions from Russian outlets.

While I was locked up in Helsinki, I couldn’t help but chuckle over the fact that throughout the city there were hundreds of billboards proclaiming Finland the “land of free press.”

I learned firsthand about CNN’s idea of “Facts First” when I confronted Jake Tapper over a falsehood a few years ago. It was never corrected on air. But more telling was his reaction: “Good point, we should we have couched that.” He implied that finessing the language could have deceived the viewer without being oafishly false—like Trump.

Sam Husseini is an independent journalist, senior analyst at the Institute for Public Accuracy, and founder of VotePact.org, which encourages disenchanted Democrats and Republicans to pair up. Follow him on Twitter @samhusseini.

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Brennan and Clapper Should Not Escape Prosecution

Recently declassified documents show that the former CIA director and former director of national intelligence approved illegal spying on Congress and then classified their crime. They need to face punishment, writes John Kiriakou.

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the longtime chairman of the Judiciary Committee, made a dramatic announcement Nov. 1 that should lead to jail time for both former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

As reported, but widely overlooked amid the media focus on the midterm elections, Brennan ordered CIA hackers to intercept the emails of all potential or possible intelligence community whistleblowers who may have been trying to contact the congressional oversight committees, specifically to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Hacking the Senate’s computer system constitutes illegal use of a government computer, illegal espionage and wire fraud.

Brennan and Clapper, in 2014, ostensibly notified congressional overseers about this, but in a way that either tied senators’ hands or kept them in the dark. They classified the notifications.

As a result, Grassley knew of the hacking but couldn’t say anything while senators on neither the Intelligence or Judiciary Committees didn’t know.

It’s a felony to classify a crime. It’s also a felony to classify something solely for the purpose of preventing embarrassment to the CIA.

For all of this—for the hacking in the first place, and then the classification of that criminal deed—both men belong in prison.

This kind of over-classification is illegal, but few Americans know that because this law is not enforced. The Justice Department has never brought over-classification charges against a U.S. spying authority.

But this would be a good place to start.

Brennan has flouted U.S. national security laws with impunity for years. It was Brennan who, as CIA director, ordered CIA computer hackers to break into the computer system of the Senate Intelligence Committee while its investigators were preparing a declassified version of the Senate Torture Report Executive Summary. It was also Brennan who maintained President Obama’s “kill list” of people designated for assassination, including American citizens, without the benefit of due process.

Clapper infamously denied to Senator Ron Wyden in an open hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee that NSA was spying on American citizens. When he was finally challenged on his lie, he said that saying no was “the least dishonest response” he could think of.

There is a strong public interest in [the] content [of the two notifications], Grassley said, adding their content should be released in their entirety. “What sources or methods would be jeopardized by the declassification of these notifications? After four-and-a-half years of bureaucratic foot-dragging, led by Brennan and Clapper, we finally have the answer: None.”

Grassley began trying to get these two notifications declassified four years ago. The Iowa senator said that during the last two years of the Obama administration the Intelligence Community Inspector General—a monitoring entity established in 2010—repeatedly ignored his requests to release the information.

This time, after the exit of the Obama people, the request was approved.

There is hyper-partisan sensitivity around Brennan, who has publicly denounced Trump and is widely understood to be a leading source in the spy community pressing the idea that the Trump colluded with the Russians’ interference in 2016 the elections.

Partisan passions, however, should have no place in all this.

What should matter is the law and the efforts by these two men to place themselves above it.

The CIA is required by law to inform congressional oversight committees whenever one of its officers, agents, or administrators breaks the law, when an operation requires congressional approval because it is a “covert action” program, or whenever something happens at the CIA that’s potentially controversial and the agency wants to save itself the embarrassment of explaining itself to Congress later.

I could see no reason to withhold declassification of these documents.” Grassley said. “They contained no information that could be construed as [betraying] sources and methods.”

Brennan was the leading force behind the prosecutions of eight national security whistleblowers during the Obama administration, almost three times the number of whistleblowers charged under the Espionage Act by all previous presidents combined.

Indeed, I was one of the “Obama Eight.” I was charged with five felonies, including three counts of espionage, after I blew the whistle on the CIA’s torture program. Of course, I hadn’t committed espionage and those charges were eventually dropped, but not until I had agreed to take a plea to a lesser charge. I served 23 months in a federal prison.

Brennan and Clapper think the law doesn’t apply to them. But it does. Without the rule of law, we have chaos. The law has to apply equally to all Americans. Brennan and Clapper need to learn that lesson the hard way. They broke the law. They ought to be prosecuted for it.

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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WATCH: Peace Congress, Veterans for Peace Seek to End U.S. Wars at Home and Abroad

The No Trump Military Parade coalition of 250 organizations held a Peace Congress in Washington, D.C., on Saturday in place of the Trump military parade, which they helped to stop. On Sunday, veterans and military families marched to commemorate Armistice Day. Consortium News live streamed both events.

In a historic show of opposition to the glorification of war and waste of millions of public dollars, the coalition has gone beyond a traditional peace group to include anti-poverty, housing, the environment and more.

The Peace Congress is bringing together organizations and activists working to build a stronger peace movement that seeks to end the wars both at home and abroad.

The Peace Congress recognizes the following:

  • Budgeting federal dollars for the Pentagon translates to less funds for necessities such as education, health care, transit, housing and more.
  • The foundations of United States foreign policy are racism, violence and colonialism, which play out in our schools and communities.
  • U.S. imperialism fuels suffering and death around the world that rebounds as hatred towards the U.S. and greater insecurity.

Saturday’s Peace Congress event opened with a panel featuring Ajamu Baraka of Black Alliance for Peace, Angela Bibens of the Standing Rock Legal Collective, Bernadette Ellorin of BAYAN USA, Cheri Honkala of the Poor People’s Economic and Human Rights Campaign, Eli Painted Crow, a veteran and mother of veteran sons, Joe Lombardo of the United National Antiwar Coalition, and Netfa Freeman of the Institute for Policy Studies, who works on issues of African solidarity and police violence.

After the panel, which focused on the current environment and building the peace movement, the Congress ran as a general assembly for the rest of the day. Movement leaders and activists identified obstacles to building a stronger and more effective peace movement, opportunities, goals and next steps.

The event seeks to build a movement to end U.S. wars at home and abroad. In the recent midterm election, despite record federal spending on wars and militarism as well as never-ending wars, the issue of ending war was absent from the political debate. That is because both the parties in power are beholden to the weapons industry, military contractors, and security state, and the industries that benefit from their existence.

Along with the Peace Congress, there was a solemn march on the Washington, D.C., mall on Sunday, led by veterans and military families to commemorate Armistice Day.

The veteran occupation, concert and protests will be held at McPherson Square on Saturday and Sunday. See here for details.

Saturday, Nov. 10

Peace Congress

The Peace Congress was held at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church, 201 4th St., SE, Washington, D.C., Fellowship Hall.

9 a.m.: Registration and breakfast

9:30 a.m.: Opening Panel challenges and opportunities for building a movement to end U.S. wars at home and abroad.

11 a.m.: General Assembly on challenge and opportunities.

12:30 p.m.: Lunch box lunches provided

1:30 pm: General Assembly on areas for collaboration and next steps

5:00 p.m.: Peace Congress adjourns

Sunday, Nov. 11

March to Reclaim Armistice Day

This is a solemn march led by veterans and military family members. All are welcome to march to honor all victims of wars, soldiers, civilians and resisters. White poppy wreaths will be left at each site. Taps will be blown.

9 a.m.: Gather in the grassy area near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Look for the Veterans for Peace white flags.

9:30 a.m.: March begins. March route will include the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Women’s Memorial, World War II Memorial.

11 a.m.: World War I Memorial




WikiLeaks’ Legacy of Exposing US-UK Complicity

WikiLeaks is vilified by governments (and increasingly by journalists) for its exposures, including of the U.S.-UK “special relationship” in running a joint foreign policy of deception and violence that serves London and Washington’s elite interests, says Mark Curtis.

By Mark Curtis
Middle East Eye

Twelve years ago this month, WikiLeaks began publishing government secrets that the world public might otherwise never have known. What it has revealed about state duplicity, human rights abuses and corruption goes beyond anything published in the world’s “mainstream” media. 

After over six months of being cut off from the outside world, on Oct. 14 Ecuador has partly restored Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s communications with the outside world from its London embassy where the founder has been living for over six years. (Assange, however, later rejected Ecuador’s restrictions imposed on him.)

The treatment – real and threatened – meted out to Assange by the U.S. and UK governments contrasts sharply with the service Wikileaks has done their publics in revealing the nature of elite power, as shown in the following snapshot of Wikileaks’ revelations about British foreign policy in the Middle East. 

Conniving with the Saudis

Whitehall’s special relationship with Riyadh is exposed in an extraordinary cable from 2013 highlighting how Britain conducted secret vote-trading deals with Saudi Arabia to ensure both states were elected to the UN human rights council. Britain initiated the secret negotiations by asking Saudi Arabia for its support.

The Wikileaks releases also shed details on Whitehall’s fawning relationship with Washington. A 2008 cable, for example, shows then shadow foreign secretary William Hague telling the U.S. embassy that the British “want a pro-American regime. We need it. The world needs it.”

A cable the following year shows the lengths to which Whitehall goes to defend the special relationship from public scrutiny. Just as the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War was beginning in 2009, Whitehall promised Washington that it had “put measures in place to protect your interests”.

American Influence

It is not known what this protection amounted to, but no U.S. officials were called to give evidence to Chilcot in public. The inquiry was also refused permission to publish letters between former U.S. President George W. Bush and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair written in the run-up to the war. 

Also in 2009, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown raised the prospect of reducing the number of British nuclear-armed Trident submarines from four to three, a policy opposed in Washington. However, Julian Miller, an official in the UK’s Cabinet Office, privately assured U.S. officials that his government “would consult with the U.S. regarding future developments concerning the Trident deterrent to assure there would be ‘no daylight’ between the U.S. and UK.” The idea that British decision-making on Trident is truly independent of the U.S. is undermined by this cable.

The Wikileaks cables are rife with examples of British government duplicity of the kind I’ve extensively come across in my own research on UK declassified files. In advance of the British-NATO bombing campaign in Libya in March 2011, for example, the British government pretended that its aim was to prevent Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s attacks on civilians and not to overthrow him. 

However, Wikileaks files released in 2016 as part of its Hillary Clinton archive show William Burns, then the U.S. deputy secretary of state, having talked with now Foreign Secretary Hague about a “post-Qaddafi” Libya. This was more than three weeks before military operations began. The intention was clearly to overthrow Gaddafi, and the UN resolution about protecting civilians was simply window dressing.

Another case of British duplicity concerns Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Chagos archipelago in the Indian Ocean, which is now a major U.S. base for intervention in the Middle East. The UK has long fought to prevent Chagos islanders from returning to their homeland after forcibly removing them in the 1960s. 

A secret 2009 cable shows that a particular ruse concocted by Whitehall to promote this was the establishment of a “marine reserve” around the islands. A senior Foreign Office official told the US that the “former inhabitants would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve.” 

A week before the “marine reserve” proposal was made to the U.S. in May 2009, then UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband was also conniving with the U.S., apparently to deceive the public. A cable reveals Miliband helping the U.S. to sidestep a ban on cluster bombs and keep the weapons at U.S. bases on UK soil, despite Britain signing the international treaty banning the weapons the previous year. 

Miliband approved a loophole created by diplomats to allow U.S. cluster bombs to remain on UK soil and was part of discussions on how the loophole would help avert a debate in Parliament that could have “complicated or muddied” the issue. Critically, the same cable also revealed that the U.S. was storing cluster munitions on ships based at Diego Garcia.    

Spying on the UK

Cables show the US spying on the Foreign Office and collecting information on British ministers. Soon after the appointment of Ivan Lewis as a junior foreign minister in 2009, U.S. officials were briefing the office of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about rumors that he was depressed and had a reputation as a bully, and on “the state of his marriage.

Washington was also shown to have been spying on the UK mission to the UN, along with other members of the Security Council and the UN Secretary General.  

In addition, Wikileaks cables reveal that journalists and the public are considered legitimate targets of UK intelligence operations. In October 2009, Joint Services Publication 440, a 2,400-page restricted document written in 2001 by the Ministry of Defence, was leaked. Somewhat ironically, it contained instructions for the security services on to avid leaks of information by hackers, journalists and foreign spies.

The document refers to investigative journalists as “threats” alongside subversive and terrorist organizations, noting that “the ‘enemy’ is unwelcome publicity of any kind, and through any medium.”

Britain’s GCHQ is also revealed to have spied on Wikileaks itself – and its readers. One classified GCHQ document from 2012 shows that GCHQ used its surveillance system to secretly collect the IP addresses of visitors to the Wikileaks site in real time, as well as the search terms that visitors used to reach the site from search engines such as Google. 

Championing Free Nedua

The British government is punishing Assange for the service that Wikileaks has performed. It is ignoring a UN ruling that he is being held in “arbitrary detention” at the Ecuadorian embassy, while failing, illegally, to ensure his health needs are met. Whitehall is also refusing to offer diplomatic assurances that Assange will not be extradited to the US – the only reason he remains in the embassy. 

Smear campaigns have portrayed Assange as a sexual predator or a Russian agent, often in the same media that have benefitted from covering Wikileaks’ releases.

Many journalists and activists who are perfectly aware of the fake news in some Western media outlets, and of the smear campaign against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, are ignoring or even colluding in the more vicious smearing of Assange.  

More journalists need to champion the service Wikileaks performs and argue for what is at stake for a free media in the right to expose state secrets.

This article originally appeared on Middle East Eye.

Mark Curtis is an historian and analyst of UK foreign policy and international development and the author of six books, the latest being an updated edition of Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam.




Five Reasons Why the GOP Rushed to Confirm Kavanaugh

After Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, Trump and the GOP leadership mounted a full-court press to ram through his confirmation before October 1, the first day of the Court’s new term, for five good reasons, says Marjorie Cohn.

By Marjorie Cohn
Truthout

Why the rush?

The Republican Party and Donald Trump wanted Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Supreme Court before the November 6 midterm elections because if the Democrats had achieved a majority in the Senate, there may not have been sufficient votes to confirm him.

But the real hurry to get Kavanaugh confirmed had more to do with the several cases on the Supreme Court’s docket: Republicans are hoping to ensure the outcome of several hot-button cases, including those involving double jeopardy, immigration, age discrimination and the Endangered Species Act. Moreover, there is the possibility that the Supreme Court could also decide to take up additional cases affecting gerrymandering, gay and transgender rights, and the separation of church and state.

Below is an in-depth explanation of the top five reasons why the GOP rushed to confirm Kavanaugh in time for him to affect these cases currently on the Supreme Court docket.

1) Double Jeopardy

Potentially most consequential for Trump is the case of Gamble v. US, which could affect his ability to pardon his associates, and even himself. On June 4, 2018, Trump tweeted, “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself.”

The pardon power, located in Article II, section 2 of the Constitution, says, “The president … shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” It limits the president’s pardon power to federal offenses.

In Gamble v. US, the justices will decide whether prosecuting a person in both state and federal courts for the same crime violates the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which states, “No person shall … be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb …”

For 150 years, the Supreme Court has held that state and federal courts are separate sovereigns, so a person can be prosecuted in both jurisdictions. After the police officers who beat Rodney King were acquitted in state court, they were tried and convicted in federal court.

If the Court follows its long-standing precedent, Trump could exercise his pardon power in federal proceedings but not in subsequent state proceedings for the same offense. Even if Trump were to pardon Paul Manafort, who was convicted of fraud in federal court, New York and Virginia state prosecutors could still bring charges against him.

It is not settled whether a sitting president can be indicted for a criminal offense. A presidential self-pardon is unprecedented. But if Trump were charged in a federal prosecution and he endeavored to pardon himself, the state of New York could then file criminal charges against him regarding the same matter. Under current law, Trump would be powerless to pardon himself in the state case.

If the justices narrow the scope of the Double Jeopardy Clause, however, state authorities would not likely be able to file criminal charges after Trump had exercised his pardon power in a federal case regarding the same matter.

Kavanaugh has said a sitting president should not be “distracted” by having to answer to a civil or criminal case, notwithstanding the Court’s ruling in Clinton v. JonesHe has demonstrated extreme deference to presidential power and would likely vote to limit the criminal exposure of Trump and his associates.

2) Immigrants’ Rights

The justices will decide in Nielson v. Preap whether the government can detain immigrants for the duration of their deportation proceedings, without a hearing, because they have past criminal records.

Kavanaugh’s record demonstrates contempt for immigrants’ rights.

In Garza v. Hargan, Kavanaugh wrote in dissent that the majority was creating “a new right for unlawful immigrant minors in US government detention to obtain immediate abortion on demand.” He would have imposed an even longer waiting period on a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant who had fulfilled all state requirements to secure an abortion.

Kavanaugh voted in Agri Processor v. NLRB to annul the results of a union election, charging it was “tainted” by immigrants’ votes.

And in Fogo de Chao v. Department of Homeland Security, Kavanaugh ruled against granting special visas to Brazilian workers in cases where US workers could perform the same jobs.

Kavanaugh would likely vote to uphold mandatory detention of immigrants in the pending case.

3) Age Discrimination

In Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies to state and local employers who have less than 20 employees.

After the Mount Lemmon Fire District in Arizona laid off John Guido and Dennis Rankin, the district’s two oldest employees, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) concluded that the district had engaged in employment discrimination. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the EEOC, but since there is a split of authority among the courts of appeals on the parameters of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

Kavanaugh’s employment decisions favor employers over employees. He would likely rule against Guido and Rankin in the case pending before the Supreme Court.

4) Endangered Species Act

The first case argued before the Supreme Court on October 1 was Weyerhaeuser Co. v. US Fish and Wildlife Service. It pits the fate of the dusky gopher frog — an endangered species — against private property rights. The case also raises the issue of when courts should defer to rulings of government agencies.

Under the Endangered Species Act, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with identifying species that are endangered and designating “critical habitats” that are “essential for their conservation.”

In this case, the Service designated private property in Louisiana as a “critical habitat” for the endangered frogs. The land is owned by a group of companies, including Weyerhaeuser, which holds a long-term timber lease for the entire area. The designated land contains ephemeral ponds the frogs require in order to breed, even though they don’t live there now. The designation could limit the development of the land and result in a substantial loss of profits, as the companies would be required to replace existing trees with different species, cease timber management activities, and permit the land to be managed and populated with frogs.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Service’s designation, relying on the long-standing “Chevron deference” — a doctrine requiring that when a law is ambiguous, courts must defer to an agency’s reasonable construction of the statute. The question is whether the courts should defer to the Service’s designation of “critical habitat” for the frogs.

Courts that have given deference to agency interpretations ensured essential protections, including deferring to:

– The National Labor Relations Board’s reasonable determination that live-haul workers, who catch and transport live chickens, are employees entitled to protections of the National Labor Relations Act;

– The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) rule requiring states to reduce emissions from power plants that travel across state lines and harm downwind states;

– The Department of Labor’s interpretation of portions of the Black Lung Benefits Act that make it easier for coal miners afflicted with black lung disease to receive compensation; and

– The EPA’s revision of regulations under the Toxic Substances Control Act that provide more protection from exposure to lead paint.

Kavanaugh favors narrowing Chevron deference. He would likely rule against the frogs and in favor of the property owners.

5) Additional Cases on Gerrymandering and More

The Supreme Court may also decide to hear cases involving gerrymandering, church-state separation, and employment discrimination against gay and transgender people.

Kavanaugh’s record on voting rights does not augur well for his willingness to limit gerrymandering that restricts voting rights.

And Kavanaugh consistently scorns the separation between church and state.

Anthony Kennedy, whom Kavanaugh would replace, wrote the Court’s landmark opinionsupholding consensual homosexual conduct and same-sex marriage. During his confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh refused to say that Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Court upheld the right of LGBTQ folks to marry, was correctly decided.

Republicans knew Kavanaugh would provide a reliable vote against immigrants, workers, voters, and gay and transgender people. He would deliver a dependable vote for employers, private property and church-state bonding. The GOP can also rest assured that Kavanaugh will do his best to immunize Trump from criminal liability and enable him to continue their mean-spirited, right-wing agenda.

For these reasons, Trump and the Republicans wanted Kavanaugh to join the Supreme Court immediately.

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. The editor and contributor to The United States and Torture: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues, Cohn testified before Congress about the Bush interrogation policy.