Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Crusty Lips Obama dishonors the dead









 The so-called 'war on terror' wounds another democratic institution.   Mark Sherman (AP) reports that his news organization's phone records for April and May 2012 were seized by the US Justice Dept.  Sherman quotes a statement from Associated Press President and CEO Gary Pruitt: 

 There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of the Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP's newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP's activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.

 Revelations of the seizure emerge ten days after World Press Freedom Day. The news also emerges after AP won their 51st Pulizter Prize -- last month photo journalists Rodrigo Abd, Manu Brabo, Narciso Contreras, Khalil Hamra and Muhammed Muheisen were honored,  and it emerges after AP photo journalist David Guttenfelder was awarded the Infinity Award for Photojournalism only days ago.  167 years ago this month, the Associated Press began as "five New York City newspapers got together to fund a pony express route through Alabama in order to bring news of the Mexican War north more quickly than the U.S. Post Office could deliver it. In the decades since, AP has been first to tell the world of many of history’s most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul."  Over 30 correspondents have died in those years in the pursuit of news stories. The story of the Associated Press is the story of changing technology, "AP delivered news by pigeon, pony express, railroad, steamship, telegraph and teletype in the early years. In 1935, AP began sending photographs by wire. A radio network was formed in 1973, and an international video division was added in 1994. In 2005, a digital database was created to hold all AP content, which has allowed the agency to deliver news instantly and in every format to the ever expanding online world."

So what led to the US government's assault on the First Amendment?  The AP believes it is this report by Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo from May 2012 which opened with, "The CIA thwarted an ambitious plot by Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Associated Press has learned."

What's the problem with the story?  That the government didn't want AP to cover it for another 24 hours.  At the start of the month a year ago, AP learned of this story -- presumably from US government sources.  The report ran May 7th, a day before the administration planned to grab headlines with a news conference announcing the foiling of the plot.  (As Goldman and Apuzzo noted in their original report, the White House and the CIA knew AP would be reporting this and AP delayed the story for a week at their request.)  Though this appears to fall into what has already been established in Brave New Films' documentary War On Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State, the US Justice Dept insists in a statement that they have done nothing wrong.  They tell the Australian Business Insider:

We take seriously our obligations to follow all applicable laws, federal regulations, and Department of Justice policies when issuing subpoenas for phone records of media organizations.  Those regulations require us to make every reasonable effort to obtain information through alternative means before even considering a subpoena for the phone records of a member of the media.  We must notify the media organization in advance unless doing so would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.  Because we value the freedom of the press, we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the public interest in the free flow of information and the public interest in the fair and effective administration of our criminal laws.

The targeting of the venerable news organization comes as the White House is already reeling from another abuse scandal: the IRS went after conservative political organizations.  That scandal emerged Friday.  Lucy Madison (CBS News -- link is text and video) quotes US President Barack Obama declaring today, "If in fact IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that's outrageous and there's no place for it."  If?  Chip Reid (CBS News -- link is text and video) reported Friday on the emerging scandal and included the IRS' Lois Lerner stating of her agency's inappropriate behavior, "They used names like tea party or patriots. And they selected cases simply because the application had those names in the title. That was wrong. The IRS would like to apologize for that." Over the weekend, Gregory Korte (USA Today) reported that while Lerner maintained that the targeting took place only in 2012, she "was briefed in 2011" of the same actions taking place that year.  Though no supposedly left or liberal groups were targeted, Lerner has insisted on Friday that this wasn't partisan or political.  Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) reported yesterday afternoon, "The documents, obtained by The Washington Post  from a congressional aide with knowledge of the findings, show that on June 29, 2011, IRS staffers held a briefing with senior agency official Lois G. Lerner in which they described giving special attention to instances where 'statements in the case file criticize how the country is being run'."  That makes it partisan.  In addition, we've repeatedly noted here the violations in tax exempt status on the left.  Whether it's then-WBAI executives going on the air of WBAI (a public radio station with tax exempt status) to endorse Barack Obama in the 2008 general election or NOW repeatedly claiming an 'oopsie' each presidential year as it goes around saying "NOW has endorsed" whatever Democrat when, in fact, NOW can't endorse. NOW can't have its tax exempt status and make those endorsements.  That's why they created NOW PAC -- which is cheap and shoddy way -- but legal -- to get around that.  So NOW PAC makes the endorsements but the president of NOW always knows no one knows or gives a damn about NOW PAC so, for example, then-NOW president Kim Gandy went on NPR in 2008 to discuss  the endorsement. From the interview Renee Montagne did with Gandy for Morning Edition on September 16, 2008:

Ms. KIM GANDY (President, National Organization for Women): Good morning, Renee. 

MONTAGNE: Who will NOW be endorsing? 

Ms. GANDY: NOW is going to be endorsing the Obama-Biden ticket a little bit later on this morning. 

MONTAGNE: Just list for us briefly the main positions held by Barack Obama that you think would make him the right man to become president, and alternatively, John McCain, why he's the wrong man.

Repeating, NOW does not endorse.  From their own FAQ sheet, "NOW's Political Action Committee, or NOW/PAC, supports candidates in federal elections (for Congress and the Presidency).  You must be a member of NOW to contribut to NOW/PAC.  NOW/PAC is the only part of the national organization that can endorse federal political candidates."

Do you get that?  Because NPR didn't.  And when the then-president of NOW Kim Gandy announces on the airwaves that NOW has endorsed, NOW has violated its tax exempt status.

That's where you pull the tax exempt status.  These PACs never should have been created to begin with, they're dishonest and spit on the spirit of the law and make a mockery of our elections and they are as damaging as so-called 'soft money.'  But once they were allowed, the deal was, the PAC endorses, not the organization.  NOW's tax exempt status should have been pulled over that.  And that's before you get into the use of NOW -- the organization's -- data base being used to promote NOW PAC's actions and those letters and e-mails also failing to note the it's "NOW PAC" and not NOW doing the endorsing.

So, yes, this was partisan.  If you abused your tax status to help Barack's election, the IRS didn't investigate you.   But if you used it to speak out against the government, then they harassed you.  For audio reporting of this scandal, click here for The Takeaway with John Hockenberry's discussion with correspondent Todd Zwillich.

As the scandal over the IRS targeting the White House's political opponents continues to make waves, the White House now takes aim at the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, four years and two days after a man took aim and launched a killing spree that left five dead, there is a conviction.  Kim Murphy (Los Angeles Times) reports US Sgt John Russell has been declared guilty today for the murders of 5 US service members in Iraq.  Dropping back to the May 11, 2009 snapshot:

Today the US military announced a Camp Liberty shooting at 2:00 p.m. Iraq time in which five US service members were shot dead.  In a second announcement, they added, "A U.S. Soldier suspected of being involved with the shootings is currently in custody."  Luis Martinez and Martha Raddatz (ABC News) encourage people to watch ABC World News Tonight with Charles Gibson this evening for a report on the shooting.  Tom Leonard (Telegraph of London) states three more US soldiers were wounded in the shooting as does CNN; however, Jenny Booth (Times of London) goes with "at least two others were wounded" and she quotes Lt Tom Garnett (military spokesperson) stating, "The shooter is a US soldier and he is in custody."  CNN states the shooting took place at a clinic for US service members seeking assistance with stress.  Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) cites a US military official: "The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the incident shook up soldiers, many of whom are in their third and even fourth tours.  Some broke down in tears, he said."  Yochi J. Drezen (Wall St. Journal) draws the conclusion that many are drawing (and they may be right or they may be wrong) which is that it was likely fratricide, "Such crimes were more common during the Vietnam War, but have occurred only sporadically in Iraq. In 2003, Sgt. Hasan Akbar killed two soldiers and wounded 14 others in a grenade attack in Kuwait; he was convicted and sentenced to death. In 2006, Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez was charged with murdering two officers in a suspicious explosion in Tikrit, though he was later acquitted. And last year, an American soldier was arrested in the shooting deaths of a pair of other soldiers at a base near the Iraqi city of Iskandariya."

AFP explains, "Russell, who has previously denied responsibility, admitted the killings last month, in a plea deal worked out by his lawyers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), in the northwestern US state of Washington."  BBC News adds, "Russell, a 14-year-veteran, will now begin the sentencing phase of his court martial, where a judge will determine whether he will spend the rest of his life in prison or have the possibility of release one day."

The five killed were identified in two separate news releases by DoD in May 2009.  First, the Navy member killed:

Commander Charles K. Springle, 52, of Wilmington, N.C., died May 11 from injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident at Camp Liberty, Iraq. 

A day later, DoD identifed the four members of the Army who were killed:

                Maj. Matthew P. Houseal, 54, of Amarillo, Texas. He was assigned to the 55th Medical Company, Indianapolis, Ind.;

                Staff Sgt. Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, 25, of Paterson, N.J. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade, Grafenwoehr, Germany;

                Spc. Jacob D. Barton, 20, of Lenox, Mo. He was assigned to the 277th Engineer Company, 420th Engineer Brigade, Waco, Texas; and

                Pfc. Michael E. Yates Jr., 19, of Federalsburg, Md. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade, Grafenwoehr, Germany.

In May of 2009, CBS Evening News featured a report by Bob Orr in which Orr spoke with people who knew Sgt John Russell -- including his son John Michael Russell.  Excerpt.

22-year-old John Michael Russell: For him to do something like that, he couldn't have been in his right state of mind. They had to -- they had to put him to a breaking point and just -- he just had to have lost it. Just lost all train of thought to do anything like that.

Bob Orr: [Sgt] Russell's father said he may have snapped fearing his military career could be ended by a stress diagnosis

Kim Murphy notes that at Sgt Russell's "mother and sisters" were present in court today as the verdict was announced.


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