Tagcia

Instead of prosecuting torturers, Obama prosecuted the guy who revealed the program

Timothy B. Lee writes:

But the Obama administration has had a different attitude when it comes to those who revealed the existence of the CIA torture program. In 2012, the Obama administration charged former CIA official John Kiriakou for leaking classified information related to the torture program to reporters. Threatened with decades in prison, Kiriakou was forced to plead guilty and accept a 30-month prison sentence. He’s in prison right now.

Full Story: Vox: Instead of prosecuting torturers, Obama prosecuted the guy who revealed the program

LA Times Writer Apologizes, Sort Of, For Attacks On Journalist Who Exposed CIA/Crack Connection

Nick Schou writes about Jesse Katz’s “apology” for ruining Gary Webb’s life:

The New York Times, Washington Post and L.A. Times each obscured basic truths of Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series. But no newspaper tried harder than the L.A. Times, where editors were said to have been appalled that a distant San Jose daily had published a blockbuster about America’s most powerful spy agency and its possible role in allowing drug dealers to flood South L.A. with crack.

Much of the Times’ attack was clever misdirection, but it ruined Webb’s reputation: In particular, the L.A. Times attacked a claim that Webb never made: that the CIA had intentionally addicted African-Americans to crack.

Webb, who eventually could find only part-time work at a small weekly paper, committed suicide.

No journalist played a more central role in the effort to obscure the facts Webb reported than former L.A. Times reporter Katz. […]

“As an L.A. Times reporter, we saw this series in the San Jose Mercury News and kind of wonder[ed] how legit it was and kind of put it under a microscope,” Katz explained. “And we did it in a way that most of us who were involved in it, I think, would look back on that and say it was overkill. We had this huge team of people at the L.A. Times and kind of piled on to one lone muckraker up in Northern California.” […]

As Katz admitted to Mantle, “We really didn’t do anything to advance his work or illuminate much to the story, and it was a really kind of tawdry exercise. … And it ruined that reporter’s career.”

Full Story: LA Weekly: Ex-L.A. Times Writer Apologizes for “Tawdry” Attacks

See also:

Webb’s original “Dark Alliance” stories from the San Jose Mercury News.

The Crack Up, Webb’s 1998 follow-up for Orange County Weekly.

The CIA Using Sentiment Analysis to Gauge Regional Stability

human geopolitical chess

From The Atlantic:

How stable is China? What are people discussing and thinking in Pakistan? To answer these sorts of question, the U.S. government has turned to a rich source: social media.

The Associated Press reports that the CIA maintains a social-media tracking center operated out of an nondescript building in a Virginia industrial park. The intelligence analysts at the agency’s Open Source Center, who other agents refer to as “vengeful librarians,” are tasked with sifting through millions of tweets, Facebook messages, online chat logs, and other public data on the World Wide Web to glean insights into the collective moods of regions or groups abroad. According to the Associated Press, these librarians are tracking up to five million tweets a day from places like China, Pakistan and Egypt.

The Atlantic: How The CIA Uses Social Media to Track How People Feel

See also: Predicting the future with Twitter.

Art is the Weapon: CIA Funded Abstract Expressionism in the Cold War

Jackson Pollock painting

The Independent reports:

The existence of this policy, rumoured and disputed for many years, has now been confirmed for the first time by former CIA officials. Unknown to the artists, the new American art was secretly promoted under a policy known as the “long leash” – arrangements similar in some ways to the indirect CIA backing of the journal Encounter, edited by Stephen Spender. […]

The connection is not quite as odd as it might appear. At this time the new agency, staffed mainly by Yale and Harvard graduates, many of whom collected art and wrote novels in their spare time, was a haven of liberalism when compared with a political world dominated by McCarthy or with J Edgar Hoover’s FBI. If any official institution was in a position to celebrate the collection of Leninists, Trotskyites and heavy drinkers that made up the New York School, it was the CIA.

Until now there has been no first-hand evidence to prove that this connection was made, but for the first time a former case officer, Donald Jameson, has broken the silence. Yes, he says, the agency saw Abstract Expressionism as an opportunity, and yes, it ran with it.

Full Story: Independent: Modern art was CIA ‘weapon’

See also: coverage of the old rumors from Disinfo and The New Yorker

Image: Jackson Pollock, Lavender Mist, 1950. Photo by Detlef Schobert

Rejected Psy Ops plots revealed: Saddam gay sex tape, Osama booze tape

Portrait-of-Saddam-Hussein

The Guardian lists some of the CIA’s Psy Ops plots:

According to the Washington Post’s security blog, some of America’s spooks believed that shooting a fake video of Saddam cavorting with a teenage boy might destabilise his regime in the runup to the US-led invasion in 2003. “It would look like it was taken by a hidden camera. Very grainy, like it was a secret videotaping of a sex session,” the Washington Post quoted one former CIA official as saying. […]

But that did not stop a CIA video being shot of a fake Osama bin Laden sitting around a camp fire, drinking booze and boasting of his own gay conquests.

The video apparently used some of the CIA’s “darker skinned” employees as extras playing the terror chief’s henchmen. It does not seem to have been released.

Guardian: CIA’s secret Iraq weapon revealed: a Saddam gay sex tape

(Thanks to Bill and Bryce!)

Must read Glenn Greenwald on CIA propaganda efforts overseas and Wikileaks

Apathy Might Not Be Enough

The Report also cites the “fall of the Dutch Government over its troop commitment to Afghanistan” and worries that — particularly if the “bloody summer in Afghanistan” that many predict takes place — what happened to the Dutch will spread as a result of the “fragility of European support” for the war. As the truly creepy Report title puts it, the CIA’s concern is: “Why Counting on Apathy May Not Be Enough” […]

The Report seeks to provide a back-up plan for “counting on apathy,” and provides ways that the U.S. Government can manipulate public opinion in these foreign countries. It explains that French sympathy for Afghan refugees means that exploiting Afghan women as pro-war messengers would be effective, while Germans would be more vulnerable to a fear-mongering campaign (failure in Afghanistan means the Terrorists will get you). The Report highlights the unique ability of Barack Obama to sell war to European populations. […]

It’s both interesting and revealing that the CIA sees Obama as a valuable asset in putting a pretty face on our wars in the eyes of foreign populations. It is odious — though, of course, completely unsurprising — that the CIA plots ways to manipulate public opinion in foreign countries in order to sustain support for our wars. […]

All of this has made WikiLeaks an increasingly hated target of numerous government and economic elites around the world, including the U.S. Government. As The New York Times put it last week: “To the list of the enemies threatening the security of the United States, the Pentagon has added WikiLeaks.org, a tiny online source of information and documents that governments and corporations around the world would prefer to keep secret.” In 2008, the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center prepared a secret report — obtained and posted by WikiLeaks — devoted to this website and detailing, in a section entitled “Is it Free Speech or Illegal Speech?”, ways it would seek to destroy the organization. It discusses the possibility that, for some governments, not merely contributing to WikiLeaks, but “even accessing the website itself is a crime,” and outlines its proposal for WikiLeaks’ destruction as follows:

Pentagon

Glenn Greenwald: The war on WikiLeaks and why it matters

One idea someone on Slashdot came up with is using Freenet to submit stories to Wikileaks, which could be then be mirrored on the regular web, helping insure the security and anonymity of contributors and assuring the availability of the information.

See also:

Freenet, darknets, and the “deep web”

Little Brother

U.S. Spies Buy Stake in Firm That Monitors Blogs, Tweets

America’s spy agencies want to read your blog posts, keep track of your Twitter updates — even check out your book reviews on Amazon.

In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It’s part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using ”open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day.

Visible crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. (It doesn’t touch closed social networks, like Facebook, at the moment.) Customers get customized, real-time feeds of what’s being said on these sites, based on a series of keywords.

Danger Room: Exclusive: U.S. Spies Buy Stake in Firm That Monitors Blogs, Tweets

Real life DHARMA Initiative # 4: Project MKULTRA and other government experiments

Most of the real life DHARMA initiatives we cover here are, like the DHARMA Initiative, private organizations. But the high weirdness that the CIA’s Project MKULTRA got into is too important to ignore. From Wikipedia’s entry on MKULTRA:

Project MK-ULTRA, or MKULTRA, was the code name for a covert CIA mind-control and chemical interrogation research program, run by the Office of Scientific Intelligence. The program began in the early 1950s, continuing at least through the late 1960s, and it used United States citizens as its test subjects. The published evidence indicates that Project MK-ULTRA involved the surreptitious use of many types of drugs, as well as other methodology, to manipulate individual mental states and to alter brain function.

Considering John’s experience with hallucinogenic drugs on the Island, and persistent hallucinations on the part of many of the characters, there’s a strong possibility that DHARMA conducted psychedelic experiments on the Island.

It’s also worth noting that the Hostiles/Others are engaged in some form of mind control themselves, as witnessed in Room 23.

Project MKULTRA was not the US Government’s first foray into mad science. Another infamous example is the Tuskegee Study:

The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male (also known as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, Public Health Service Syphilis Study, or the Tuskegee Experiment) was a clinical study, conducted between 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama by the U.S. Public Health Service. 399 poor, and mostly illiterate, African American sharecroppers were studied to observe the natural progression of the disease if left untreated.

The study became controversial, and eventually led to major changes in how patients are protected in clinical studies. Individuals enrolled in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study were not required to give informed consent and were not informed of their diagnosis; instead they were told they had “bad blood” and could receive free medical treatment, rides to the clinic, meals and burial insurance in case of death in return for participating.

Not to mention government backed Human Radiation Experiments:

During and after the end of World War II, scientists working on the Manhattan Project and other nuclear weapons research projects conducted studies of the effects of plutonium on laboratory animals and human subjects. In the case of human subjects, this involved injecting solutions containing (typically) five micrograms of plutonium into hospital patients who were thought either to be terminally ill or to have a life expectancy of less than ten years due either to age or chronic disease condition. The injections were made without the informed consent of those patients.

In her book, The Plutonium Files: America’s Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War, Eileen Welsome, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The Albuquerque Tribune, revealed the extent of the experiments conducted on unwitting participants. At the Fernald school in Massachusetts, an institution for “feeble-minded” boys, 73 disabled children were fed oatmeal containing radioactive calcium and other radioisotopes. The only purpose of the experiment was to give Quaker Oats, the company behind the testing, a commercial advantage over Cream of Wheat in an advertising campaign. Immediately after World War II, 829 pregnant mothers in Tennessee received what they were told were “vitamin drinks” that would improve the health of their babies, but were, in fact, mixtures containing radioactive iron, to determine how fast the radioisotope crossed into the placenta. Other incidents included an eighteen-year-old woman at an upstate New York hospital, expecting to be treated for a pituitary gland disorder, who was injected with plutonium. Such experiments are now considered to be a serious breach of medical ethics.

Do these remind you of the weirdness surrounding “the sickness” on the Island?

It would be comforting to think that these sorts of things don’t happen anymore, or at least not at the order of the US government at tax payer expense. But the events at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo make it hard to believe that this particular American nightmare is over.

Barack Obama signed an executive order to close down Gitmo and end extraordinary rendition. But there’s always potential for abusive tactics by government organizations either in secret or through “satellite” organizations – private organizations comprised of former government agents engaged in various law enforcement and espionage.

LOST acknowledges government sponsored torture, and the role of private organizations through the role Kelvin takes in encouraging Sayid to torture prisoners, and the fact that Kelvin and Mikhail are former military personnel now employed by private groups.

We’ll take a look at government satellite organizations in a future installment.

“Eye At The Top of The World” Coming To the Big Screen?

“Pete Takeda’s book An Eye At The Top of The World has reportedly be optioned for a movie, and will be coming to the big screen soon, according to this story over at RockandIce.com. Producers Steve Schwartz, Paula Mae Schwartz and Nick Wechsler have purchased the rights to the true story and intend to make it into a fictional film.

The book, which I reviewed back in May of 2007, deals with a CIA plot back in the 60’s to install a nuclear powered listening device on Nanda Devi in a remote region of India. The device was suppose to watch the burgeoning Chinese nuclear program and watch for test of their atom bombs. After months of extensive training, a climbing team went up the mountain carrying the device, but near the top, bad weather set in, so rather than carrying the heavy device back down the mountain, they elected to lash it to a rock, and return in the spring to complete the mission.

When the team returned several months later, they discovered that an avalanche had swept the device off the mountain, and it was never seen again. Presumably it was deposited thousands of feet below in a glacier. Over time, the area was closed off, and rumors arose that the mountain was radioactive. The nuclear power plant had more than four pounds of plutonium in it, enough to poison everyone on the planet, and the theory is that it was broken open on the glacier, and may be moving towards Ganges River, home to millions of people.”

(via The Adventure Blog)

(Related: “Spies on The Roof of The World” via Damn Interesting. “Brown: Author Talks About ‘Eye on Top of The World’ via Daily Camera. Excerpts from “An Eye at the Top of The World” via Google Books)

The US as Police State, part 2

Read Part 1 of The US as Police State.

In part 1, I took a very brief look at the history of the United States from 1787 to around 1980 and found a history of government repression of citizens at varying levels of government: restrictions on voting, vote fraud, and slavery. Not to mention the genocide of the Native Americans at the hands of the US military.

So now I turn my attention to Ronald Reagan and the point where the “War on Drugs” actually became a war, and not mere prohibition. The drug war is meant to stamp out the “drug problem” in America. A problem that the government helped engineer in t he first place. As detailed in Gary Webb’s series of “Dark Alliance” articles for the San Jose Mercury News, and later a book by the same name, the C.I.A, with the explicit knowledge of the Reagan administration, supported Nicaraguan contras in their sale of cocaine to drug dealers in Los Angles starting around 1981. For more information, see Webb’s 1998 article for the Orange County Weekly, The Crack-Up.”

In his article “The CIA, Contras, Gangs, and Crack” William Blum quotes Webb saying the CIA’s drug network “opened the first pipeline between Colombia’s cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the ‘crack’ capital of the world” and notes that “the huge influx of cocaine happened to come at just the time that street-level drug dealers were figuring out how to make cocaine affordable by changing it into crack.” Blum goes on to write “The foregoing discussion should not be regarded as any kind of historical aberration inasmuch as the CIA has had a long and virtually continuous involvement with drug trafficking since the end of World War II.” Blum then outlines this history. The article provides a quick overview, and I presume he goes into more detail in his book Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II.

“In my 30?year history in the Drug Enforcement Administration and related agencies, the major targets of my investigations almost invariably turned out to be working for the CIA.”

So the government, having spurred the “crack epidemic” and having trafficked drugs since at least WWII, instead of scaling back its own drug running operations expands it military empire to a new front: the homes of US citizens.

Radley Balko chronicles the increase in the use of paramilitary force for servicing drag warrants in his paper Overkill: the Rise of Paramilitary Raids in America. Balko writes:

The use of paramilitary police units began in Los Angeles in the 1960s. Through the 1970s, the idea slowly spilled out across the country. But at least until the 1980s, SWAT teams and other paramilitary units were used sparingly, only in volatile, high-risk situations such as bank robberies or hostage situations. Likewise, ‘no-knock’ raids were generally used only in situations where innocent lives were determined to be at imminent risk. America’s War on Drugs has spurred a significant rise in the number of such raids, to the point where in some jurisdictions drug warrants are only
served by SWAT teams or similar paramilitary units, and the overwhelming number of SWAT deployments are to execute drug warrants.

The Posse Comitatus Act, according to Wikipedia, “was intended to prohibit Federal troops from supervising elections in former Confederate states. It generally prohibits Federal military personnel and units of the United States National Guard under Federal authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the United States, except where expressly authorized by the Constitution or Congress. The Posse Comitatus Act and the Insurrection Act substantially limit the powers of the Federal government to use the military for law enforcement.”

In her 1999 paper “Warrior Cops: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments” Diane Cecilia Weber notes a massive blow to the Posse Comitatus Act:

In 1981 Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Officials Act. That law amended the Posse Comitatus Act insofar as it authorized the military to “assist” civilian police in the enforcement of drug laws. The act encouraged the military to (a) make available equipment, military bases, and research facilities to federal, state, and local police; (b) train and advise civilian police on the use of the equipment; and (c) assist law enforcement personnel in keeping drugs from entering the country. The act also authorized the military to share information acquired during military operations with civilian law enforcement agencies.

She goes on to list further erosion or violations of the act:

In 1986, President Reagan issued a National Security Decision Directive, which declared drugs a threat to U.S.
‘national security.’ The directive allowed for yet more cooperation between local, state, and federal law enforcement and
the military. ”

In 1988, Congress ordered the National Guard to assist state drug enforcement efforts. Because of this order, National
Guard troops today patrol for marijuana plants and assist in large-scale anti-drug operations in every state in the country.

In 1989, President Bush created a series of regional task forces within the Department of Defense, charged with facilitating
cooperation between the military and domestic police forces.

In 1994, the Department of Defense issued a memorandum authorizing the transfer of equipment and technology to
state and local police. The same year, Congress created a “reutilization program” to facilitate handing military gear
over to civilian police agencies.

She also notes: “In 1996 President Bill Clinton appointed a military commander, Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, to oversee enforcement of the federal drug laws as the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.”

By the time George W. Bush nullified the Posse Comitatus Act 2006 (see Wikipedia), it was as good as dead.

Balko goes on to detail how the movement of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies and federal funding incentives for drug enforcement encouraged expansion and deployment of SWAT team units.

In 1972, there were just a few hundred paramilitary drug raids per year in the United States. According to Kraska, by the early 1980s there were 3,000 annual SWAT deployments, by 1996 there were 30,000, and by 2001 there were 40,000.70 The average city police department deployed its paramilitary police unit about once a month in the early 1980s. By 1995, that number had risen to seven.

Balko explores the problems that the militarization of the police force has created at length in the rest of the paper. Overkill is excellent and illustrates just how far the War on Drugs has really gone.

According to Wikipedia: “Martial law is the system of rules that takes effect when the military takes control of the normal administration of justice. Usually martial law reduces some of the personal rights ordinarily granted to the citizen, limits the length of the trial processes, and prescribes more severe penalties than ordinary law.” The current system stops just short of trying drug offenders in military tribunals, but the mandatory sentencing laws (first signed into law by Reagan in 1986) implemented under the The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 constituted a significant change in the severity of sentencing and seized the power to sentence criminals from the judicial branch.

In conclusion: the US government helped create a social problem, and gradually implemented martial law to solve it. The need to formally declare martial law wasn’t necessary – in fact it would have been a hindrance.

Perhaps worst of all the utter failure the War on Drugs has actually been on solving the problem. Detailing why it’s been a failure and all the different ways it’s been a catastrophe for civil liberties is far beyond the scope of this article, but here are some further resources:

Drug Policy Alliance.

Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

The Cato Institute’s Drug War section.

This Foreign Policy magazine’s article on the drug war.

Radley Balko’s blog.

End part 2.

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