Sunday, April 09, 2006

Ruth's Public Radio Report Pt. II

KPFA's Living Room airs on Thursdays and Fridays each week. I will note something that was not mentioned on the Friday broadcast. A guest brought up special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's press conference on the indictment of Scooter Libby. This press coverage was carried live by many outlets including Pacifica. Kris Welch and her guests followed up the press conference with an examination of the information Mr. Fitzgerald had announced. That was not true of all outlets and those lucky enough to be listening to KPFA were provided with perspective and analysis.

The latest on the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame is that court papers indicate that the Bully Boy authorized Scooter Libby to leak classified information to the press. On what exactly was authorized, the White House is not saying. Ms. Welch and her guests addressed this topic Friday.'s Jason Leopold suspects that this is "an explosive revelation because for the first time it places the President . . . at the center of this campaign to discredit Joe Wilson. If in fact, he did authorize Libby to leak the National Intelligence Estimate to a reporter it was simply done to undercut Joe Wilson." Mr. Leopold felt that the court papers indicate that there are multiple White House participants who were involved in attempts to discredit Mr. Wilson whose "What I Didn't Find In Africa" ran in the New York Times and countered claims by the administration regarding "yellow cake." Mr. Leopold noted that Scooter Libby met with Bob Woodward on June 27, 2003 and discussed the National Intelligence Estimate, "three weeks before the National Intelligence Estimate was declassified." I will mention that Mr. Leopold has a forthcoming book entitled News Junkie.

Another guest, Larry Johnson, former CIA intelligence analyst and member of Veteran Professionals for Sanity, feels that we have a "rogue president." The blaming the misinformation the administration put out in the lead up to the war on the intelligence community is "a lie," Mr. Johnson explained. There was no consensus of opinion among the intelligence community and, in fact, there were segments that were quite vocal about the fact that the assertions about Iraq's weapons systems were inflated. "What is clear out of that," Mr. Johnson stated, "is that there was no consensus among the intelligence community."

Robert Parry was the third guest. Ms. Welch and Mr. Parry addressed how the latest revelations effected the Bully Boy at a time when he is already polling poorly. Ms. Welch wondered how much or how little the issue of Valerie Plame might be effecting perceptions of the Bully Boy? Mr. Parry felt that effect from this and the other scandals was forcing illusions to be shed. He noted that past press coverage of the Bully Boy had quite frequently included the description of the Bully Boy as "a straight shooter" but that this was not currently the case.

Two areas or wrinkles interested Mr. Parry. The first was the interview Mr. Fitzgerald had with the Bully Boy on June 24, 2004. At that seventy minute interview, Bully Boy was accompanied by a criminal attorney. What did the Bully Boy testify to? He was not under oath but "what was discussed" and it is a crime to lie during a federal investigation. The second wrinkle was something noted in the New York Times. On the day that Mr. Fitzgerald announced the indictment of Scooter Libby, prior to that announcement, Mr. Fitzgerald met with the Bully Boy's criminal attorney James Sharp. What was the purpose of that meeting and what was discussed."
The fourth guest was Tom Devine, of the Government Accountability Project. Mr. Devine addressed developments in the Congress. He is advocating the passage of legislation to provide intelligence agency whistleblowers with more protections including the right to jury trials when they feel that they have been retaliated against for whistleblowing and to challenge the removal of a security clearance which can result in a failure to find other employment. The bills, there are two that are supposed to be merged, should go to a floor vote but there are efforts to prevent that from taking place. Calling (202) 224-3121, asking to be connected to the Speaker of the House's office and demanding a vote on the whistle blowing legislation could force a floor vote. The two bills, not yet merged, are HR 5112 and HR 1317. The first addresses the rights of the national security employees and the second addresses whistleblowers in other departments of the government.

As part of an update on the case of Salim Ahmed Hamden, WBAI's Law and Disorder played a sample of the Supreme Court's hearing on March 28th. Mr. Hamden's right to habeas corpus is in question, as is true of all the Guantanamo prisoners, thanks to the Detainee Trainee Detention Act. The government is arguing that the Congress intentionally stripped the prisoners of habeas corpus and removed judicial oversight. This led to an interesting exchange between the government attorney and the Justices. Justice David Souter questioned the lines of argument that Congress intended to strip the prisoners of the writ of habeas corpus and that, even if they did not mean to, they had done so inadvertently so, the government maintains, it is gone now. From his questioning, he did not appear to buy that line of argument and at one point stated, "You are leaving us with the position of the United States that the Congress may validly suspend it inadvertently. The writ is the writ. Now wait a minute, the writ is the writ."

Another segment dealt with the break in at the Brecht Forum on March 16, 2006. The executive director of the Brecht Forum, Liz Mestres, discussed the break in noting that "[t]hey came in through one of the office windows and stole two computers, a boom box and a shopping cart." Other valuable items and equipment was left untouched. Who broke in? Quite often, these type of break ins have been done by the government or its proxies. Michael Smith and Michael Ratner were quite clear, as was Ms. Mestres and Margaret Ratner Kunstler, that this may not have been governmental or governmental sponsored but that with the past history, it was worth considering the possibility that it was. The break in means that whomever did it now has access to the Brecht Forum's mailing list.

Ms. Ratner Kunstler discussed breaks in during the eighties when she was assisting with the solidarity movement for victims in Central America and found her offices broken into "over a hundred times."

"We suspected though that it was Salvadorans, contras ....," Ms. Ratner Kunstler stated. "The reason that we thought that was that given the history . . ."

She further noted that "after Felt & Miller, the FBI utilized surrogates except for cases when they lose a piece of equipment. There's something macho about losing your gun. . . . Michael and I had that experience where a client had a bumper beeper on his car."

Ms. Mestres stated that, "We have to not be intimated by these things. The Patriot Act itself is a forum of intimidation." Ms. Ratner Kunstler noted that when these were occurring previously, publicity was an important tool.

"Publicity made people more aware of what happened and made them more prepared when they did happen," Ms. Ratner Kunstler stated. "We felt that if we kept publicizing, we could maybe stop it. If we couldn't stop it, we could at least make people more comfortable about working" in an environment which was the repeated target of government sponsored break ins.

Michael Smith noted that at his office in Detroit, during the sixties, they had a burglar alarm that went off constantly and they could not figure out why. They thought possibly it was a mouse. Years later, due to another case, it was revealed that the police were entering the office illegally to rifle through the files.

I was speaking with C.I. about this segment and the one thing C.I. asked me to stress was that the databases were of interest, that this is what the snooping on libraries has to do with and to note Matthew Rothschild's McCarthyism Watch article entitled "Spying On Peace Activists at Drake University." This, along with the spying on peace activists by the Pentagon, are being noted because, if it was a governmental sponsored break in, some people may wonder, "Who needs a copy of a database?"

The government's actions in other instances indicate that someone in or some arm of the government feels they do need databases. For people who have followed events of the last few years, lived through the earlier episode of governmental spying or both will hear about the break in at the Brecht Forum and nod but for those who may not have followed events as closely, this may need to be tied together. That was the purpose of the segment on Law and Disorder. If you heard the show or are able to listen, you grasped that but if you are following merely by these reports, you may wonder about a "list of names." Tricky Dick Nixon had a list of names, it was called an "Enemies List." Prior to that, a blacklist existed under McCarthyism. Names and addresses may appear in the white pages if someone has a listed phone number. They might be considered public information. The reasons for the government obtaining a database would be to compile a watchlist.


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