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Confronting the latest attack on our privacy and freedom: Lavabit's Profile in Corporate Principles and Personal Courage
By Alfredo Lopez
The term "collateral damage" is most frequently applied to the "non-targeted" death and destruction brought by bombs and guns. But it seems that our government, the master of collateral damage, is now doing it in "non-violent" ways. Take the recent situation at Lavabit.
If the U.S. public began to raise a fuss about U.S. missile strikes that blow up large numbers of civilians at wedding parties abroad, it's not beyond the realm of the imaginable that the U.S. government would begin blaming the explosions on faulty candles in the wedding cakes. A similarly implausible excuse was used to explain the 1996 explosion of TWA flight 800 off Long Island, New York, and the U.S. public has thus far either swallowed the story whole or ignored the matter.
If you watch Kristina Borjesson's new film, TWA Flight 800, you'll see a highly persuasive case that this passenger jet full of passengers was brought down by missiles, killing all on board.
A CIA propaganda video aired by U.S. television networks fits with none of the known facts, makes the claim that there were no missiles, and offers no theory as to what then did cause the explosion(s) and crash into the sea.
A coverup by the FBI and the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) was blatant and extensive, involving intimidation of witnesses and investigators, tampering with evidence, false testimony before Congress, censoring reports, and numerous violations of normal protocols. Some of the government's own official investigators concluded that the explosion(s) occurred outside the airplane. They were not permitted to write analyses in their reports, as in every other investigation. Their reports were censored. They were forbidden to testify. Some 200 eyewitnesses -- people on the ground and in other planes, at least many of whom described seeing one or more missiles rising from the ground to the airplane -- were censored as well. Not a single witness was permitted to testify at the public hearing.
The military staged a test firing of missiles with witnesses, in an attempt to prove that the witnesses would either not see the missiles or testify inaccurately about what they saw. However, the witnesses all reported seeing the missiles well. The report on this test came to the opposite conclusion of what had been hoped for, but the government fed the original, hoped-for line to the media, which dutifully reported it.
Investigators thought and still think a missile or missiles brought down the plane. Eye-witnesses thought and still think the same. Explosives residue in the plane wreckage and other physical evidence in the wreckage suggests missile(s). Data from several different radars at the time of the disaster show pieces of the plane being blown off at speeds that could only have been generated by high explosives, not by a fuel tank exploding. Radar data also show the plane falling, not rising. (The CIA claimed, without offering any evidence, that the plane rose into the sky as it was exploding, thus accounting for witnesses' reports of seeing objects rising.) The damage to the seats and passengers in the plane was random, not greater closer to a fuel tank.
No more evidence was ever offered for a fuel tank exploding than could be offered in the theoretical fiction of a wedding cake exploding, or -- for that matter -- was ever offered for the Maine having been attacked by the Spanish in Havana harbor or for the Gulf of Tonkin incident having occurred or for the WMDs piling up in Iraq, or than has been offered thus far for the dreaded Iranian nuclear bomb program. There was no wiring near the fuel tank that could have caused it to explode and no other explanation than faulty wiring even hypothesized.
The film concludes that likely three missiles were shot from near the Long Island coast, including at least one from a ship at sea. The film does not address the question of who did this or why. But it presents the evidence that it happened, and that the coverup began immediately, with the disaster site being quickly closed off and guarded by roughly 1,000 police officers, roughly half of them FBI -- not the normal procedure for a plane crash. The likely speculation is, of course, that the U.S. military committed this crime. Was someone on the plane targeted for murder, and everyone else killed in the process? Was this a test of technology? Was it a mistake? Was it part of some larger plot that failed to develop? I don't know.
But I do know that the nation didn't go into a collective state of vicious rabid insanity, demanding vengeance against evildoers who hate us for our freedoms. No nations were destroyed in a sick parody of justice following the destruction of TWA flight 800. But neither were those responsible held publicly accountable in any way.
The New York Times seems impressed by the film and favors a new investigation but laments the supposed lack of any entity that could credibly perform an investigation. Think about that. The U.S. government comes off as so untrustworthy in the film that it can't be trusted to re-investigate itself. And a leading newspaper, whose job it ought to be to investigate the government, feels at a loss for what to do without a government that can credibly and voluntarily perform the media's own job for it and hold itself accountable.
The New York Post, too, takes the film quite seriously, and simply recounts its arguments without adding any commentary other than agreement. But the Daily News offers instead a textbook example of how self-censorship and obedience to authoritarianism work. Here's the complete Daily News review with my comments inserted:
"If you need to get a person's attention fast, just whisper, 'There's something the government isn't telling you.'
"Works every time."
Like the time the NSA claimed to be complying with the Fourth Amendment? Like the time nobody was being tortured in Iraq? Like the time the fracking studies showed no damage to ground water? Like the time drones weren't killing any civilians with their missile strikes?
Sure, there are bound to be times when the government is honest with us. I can't think of any off the top of my head, but it stands to reason that there are. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And it's certainly possible to invent all sorts of fantasies to allege the government to be lying about. I'm not convinced Obama was born in Africa, aliens visited New Mexico, the World Trade Center was blown up from within, or every person who emails me to complain about it is really being zapped with invisible mind-control weapons (for all I know they just watch television and come away feeling like that). But shouldn't we take claims of government deception as possibly right and possibly wrong and follow the evidence where it leads? I'm not willing to swear any of the things I list here isn't true unless evidence establishes that.
"In this case, filmmakers Kristina Borjesson and Tom Stalcup are convinced that ill-fated TWA Flight 800, which exploded over Great South Bay on July 17, 1996, was shot down by a missile."
And does the evidence suggest that they are right or wrong? Should we just pretend to know that they're wrong because the government says so? Yep:
"The original government investigation and later a second probe by the National Transportation Safety Board disagreed. Both concluded the explosion was caused by a spark in the center fuel tank."
Yet they offered no explanation for where such a spark might have come from, or why so many airplanes have been permitted to fly since, in danger of falling victim to such a spark.
"So someone is wrong. But 'TWA Flight 800' says it's more insidious than that. The government also knows it was a missile, the film strongly suggests, and simply chooses to lie. Charges of conspiratorial coverups are as common as jaywalking, of course, but 'TWA Flight 800' has more evidence than most. The advocates here include several original investigators as well as aircraft engineers, transportation and safety experts. There also are a half dozen people, civilians with no agendas, who all say they saw something streaking across the sky toward the plane before it exploded."
Why is that insidious? You don't know whether all these people are right, but the suggestion that they might be is insidious? The film in fact doesn't say the government "simply" chooses to lie. In fact, many in the government choose to speak out, forming much of the basis for the film. Others choose to cover up what happened. Most of them are clearly just following orders. Others must have motivations, but whether those motivations are simple or complex is not touched on in the film -- as this review goes on to acknowledge:
"The film doesn't really address two of the biggest questions raised by most conspiracy charges. First, why would someone cover up the truth, and second, given the number of people involved in this investigation, could they all keep a secret this big for 17 years?"
In fact, they aren't all keeping it secret. Many have been shouting the truth, as they see it, from the rooftops. Others recount why they've kept quiet. One woman explains that she was applying for U.S. citizenship and was threatened that her application would be rejected if she spoke out. The film does not address motivations for the coverup, but let me take a wild stab at doing so: If the U.S. military blew up a passenger jet full of passengers, including U.S. citizens, for no damn good reason, wouldn't we need an explanation for its wanting to go public with that? Doesn't the military's wanting to keep that quiet require no explanation at all? When the Joint Special Operations Command murders Afghan women in a night raid and then digs bullets out of their bodies with knives and claims that they were killed by their families, and then later admits the truth, are we shocked by the routine lies or by the vicious crime? Wouldn't we be more seriously shocked if the U.S. military gratuitously blurted out something true? Wouldn't taking responsibility for TWA 800 be a remarkable act of civic virtue worthy of the record books?
"But the film isn't after 'why.' It just wants to say that a lot of physical and circumstantial evidence points to a missile.
"Toward that goal, it's on target."
It is indeed, though one wouldn't have guessed that from the beginning of this newspaper's review, from media coverage in general, from history books, or from how most people have been conditioned to react to the next suspicious disaster yet to come.
By John Grant
Every generation occupies itself with interpreting Trickster anew.
By Dave Lindorff
The New York Times, in an editorial published the day after a military judge found Pvt. Bradley Manning “not guilty” of “aiding the enemy” -- a charge that would have locked him up for life without possibility of parole and could have carried the death penalty -- but also found him guilty on multiple counts of “espionage,” called the verdict “Mixed.” Not guilty of aiding the enemy, guilty of espionage.
By Alfredo Lopez
The Bradley Manning verdict may seem a victory of sorts for the defense -- it's certainly being treated that way in the mainstream media -- but the decision handed down Tuesday by Court Marshal Judge Colonel Denise Lind is actually a devastating blow not only to Manning, who was convicted of unjustifiably serious charges brought by an aggressive administration seeking to make an example of him, but also to Internet activity in general and information-sharing in particular.
By John Grant
By John Grant
The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.
-- D.H. Lawrence
By Jonathan Jones, The Guardian
A new series of exhibitions at the Imperial War Museum highlights the place of contemporary art in interpreting conflict
The most powerful piece of contemporary art about war is not about a real conflict. It is a vision of atrocities performed by toy soldiers on other toy soldiers.
As the Imperial War Museum opens a contemporary art programme, it is worth asking what are the best responses to war in today's art. For my money the modern masterpiece of war is Jake and Dinos Chapman's Hell. Small plastic Nazis brutalise each another in a model landscape that combines the nerdy verisimilitude of a Hornby railway with the fantastic horrors of Bruegel.
ColdType Issue 76 Now On Line
CONTENTS - 72 pages
A TALE OF TWO CAMDENS – This month we contrast life in Camden, New Jersey, and Camden Town, England.
Gen. Hayden’s Glass House
By Ray McGovern
July 21, 2013
Editor Note: Official Washington’s national security/mainstream media incest was on scandalous display when ex-NSA chief Michael Hayden posed as a CNN analyst to denounce Edward Snowden for exposing surveillance excesses that Hayden had a hand in creating.
Former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden should not throw any more stones, lest his own glass house be shattered. His barrage Friday against truth-teller Edward Snowden and London Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald invited a return rain of boulders for Hayden committing the same violations of constitutional protections that he is now excusing.
Helen Thomas: Dead at 92
by Stephen Lendman
On July 20, headlines reported the news. The doyen of the White House House press corps was gone.
After a long illness, the Gridiron Club and Foundation announced her passing. She ended decades covering presidential press conferences saying, "Thank you, Mr. President."
Two different stories linked by one scary trend: Track and Truth: Manning and the "Other" Surveillance System
By Alfredo Lopez
The tumble of revelations and developments involving the Internet has produced a pastiche of truths that, when examined closely, show links between what might usually be considered separate news stories.
His 'Crime' is Patriotism, not Betrayal Like Hale's Philip Nolan, Snowden has Become a 'Man Without a Country'
By Dave Lindorff
In Edward Everett Hale's short story "The Man Without a Country," US Army Lt. Philip Nolan, following a court-martial, is exiled from his country, his citizenship snatched away, leaving him doomed to sail the seven seas confined to a Navy vessel, unable to make any country his home. His crime: being seduced by a treacherous leader to betray the US of A, the country of his birth.
By John Grant
When people think of Florida, they think of oranges and pink flamingos, palm trees and beaches, the blue-green ocean. They think of Disney and margaritas. ... But it has a feral heart, a teeming center that would rage out of control if not for the concrete and rebar that keeps it caged.
-Lisa Unger, from Black Out
Criticizing Venezuela's Maduro Irresponsibly
by Stephen Lendman
A previous article explained. President Nicolas Maduro granted Snowden asylum. He did so responsibly. He did it courageously. He wants him protected from unjustifiable US persecution.
By Dave Lindorff
It’s little wonder that despite his disclosure of an unprecedented KBG-like or Stasi-like spying program targeting all Americans, fully half of all Americans polled are saying that National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden is a “spy” or “traitor” who should be brought to justice.
Why would this be, when a solid majority also say they oppose the spying program?
By John Grant
We're all aware of the reputed Chinese curse about living in interesting times. Upheaval seems to be in the air. According to Wikipedia, the interesting times curse was linked with a second, more worrisome curse: "May you come to the attention of those in authority."
Public Support Grows for Snowden in Europe: Germany and France Should offer NSA Whistleblower Asylum
By Dave Lindorff
Europeans are pissed off at the US, in the wake of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden’s latest revelation that the US was aggressively spying on its European allies, both at their and the European Union’s embassies in Washington, and in Europe itself, gleaning not information about terrorism, but inside-track knowledge about trade negotiation positions and other areas of disagreement or negotiation.
By Alfredo Lopez
In one of the most innovative uses of the bizarre rules of international travel, whistle-blower Edward Snowden sits in an airport transit lounge outside the customs barrier that is Russian enough to not invade but not Russian enough to claim the Russians are hiding him. He has now reportedly applied for asylum in Russia.
By Dan DeWalt
“If people can't trust not only the executive branch but also don't trust Congress, and don't trust federal judges, to make sure that we're abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we're going to have some problems here.”
By Jeff Cohen
The Edward Snowden leaks have revealed a U.S. corporate media system at war with independent journalism. Many of the same outlets – especially TV news – that missed the Wall Street meltdown and cheer-led the Iraq invasion have come to resemble state-controlled media outlets in their near-total identification with the government as it pursues the now 30-year-old whistleblower.
While an independent journalism system would be dissecting the impacts of NSA surveillance on privacy rights, and separating fact from fiction, U.S. news networks have obsessed on questions like: How much damage has Snowden caused? How can he be brought to justice?
By Dave Lindorff
Now that Edward Snowden is safely away out of the clutches of the US police state, at least for now, let’s take a moment to contemplate how this one brave man’s principled confrontation with the Orwellian US government has damaged our national security state.
By Dave Lindorff
Just for the sake of argument, let's suspend our disbelief for a moment and pretend (I know it's a stretch) that the Obama administration and the apologists for the nation's spy apparatus in Congress, Democratic and Republican, are telling us the gods' honest truth.
If you own a computer and know where to look you've probably heard that there isn't actually any evidence for that claim.
Below are 10 reasons why this latest excuse for war is no good EVEN IF TRUE.
1. War is not made legal by such an excuse. It can't be found in the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the United Nations Charter, or the U.S. Constitution. It can, however, be found in U.S. war propaganda of the 2002 vintage. (Who says our government doesn't promote recycling?)
2. The United States itself possesses and uses internationally condemned weapons, including white phosphorus, napalm, cluster bombs, and depleted uranium. Whether you praise these actions, avoid thinking about them, or join me in condemning them, they are not a legal or moral justification for any foreign nation to bomb us, or to bomb some other nation where the U.S. military is operating. Killing people to prevent their being killed with the wrong kind of weapons is a policy that must come out of some sort of sickness. Call it Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
3. An expanded war in Syria could become regional or global with uncontrollable consequences. Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Russia, China, the United States, the Gulf states, the NATO states . . . does this sound like the sort of conflict we want? Does it sound like a conflict anyone will survive? Why in the world risk such a thing?
4. Just creating a "no fly zone" would involve bombing urban areas and unavoidably killing large numbers of people. This happened in Libya and we looked away. But it would happen on a much larger scale in Syria, given the locations of the sites to be bombed. Creating a "no fly zone" is not a matter of making an announcement, but of dropping bombs.
5. Both sides in Syria have used horrible weapons and committed horrible atrocities. Surely even those who imagine people should be killed to prevent their being killed with different weapons can see the insanity of arming both sides to protect each other side. Why is it not, then, just as insane to arm one side in a conflict that involves similar abuses by both?
6. With the United States on the side of the opposition in Syria, the United States will be blamed for the opposition's crimes. Most people in Western Asia hate al Qaeda and other terrorists. They are also coming to hate the United States and its drones, missiles, bases, night raids, lies, and hypocrisy. Imagine the levels of hatred that will be reached when al Qaeda and the United States team up to overthrow the government of Syria and create an Iraq-like hell in its place.
7. An unpopular rebellion put into power by outside force does not usually result in a stable government. In fact there is not yet on record a case of U.S. humanitarian war benefitting humanity or of nation-building actually building a nation. Why would Syria, which looks even less auspicious than most potential targets, be the exception to the rule?
8. This opposition is not interested in creating a democracy, or -- for that matter -- in taking instructions from the U.S. government. On the contrary, blowback from these allies is likely. Just as we should have learned the lesson of lies about weapons by now, our government should have learned the lesson of arming the enemy of the enemy long before this moment.
9. The precedent of another lawless act by the United States, whether arming proxies or engaging directly, sets a dangerous example to the world and to those in Washington for whom Iran is next on the list.
10. A strong majority of Americans, despite all the media's efforts thus far, opposes arming the rebels or engaging directly. Instead, a plurality supports providing humanitarian aid.
We might better spread democracy by example than by bomb.
There are nonviolent pro-democracy movements in Bahrain and Turkey and elsewhere, and our government doesn't lift a finger in support.
But if you remember all those years of protesting wars and wishing millions of foolish partisan Republicans would join us in protesting blatant mass-murder even though the president was a Republican, I have good news for you. The Republicans are leading the way in pretending to oppose war this time. So, if you Democrats, who I'm sure were 100% sincere in opposing wars some years back are still ready to act, maybe -- just maybe -- we can build right now the sort of broad movement we've wanted.
If you're not too busy.
What the Government Doesn't Want You to Realize Lessons of the Snowden Revelations: You are the Target!
By Alfredo Lopez
If Edward Snowden's goal in blowing his whistle was to spark a public debate about privacy and surveillance, he has marvelously succeeded.
By Dave Lindorff
So New York Times columnist Tom Friedman and former Times executive editor Bill Keller are both saying that the massive NSA spying program on all Americans’ communications is a needed thing because if they don’t do it, then maybe there could be another major terrorist strike on the US, and democracy would be erased in the US.
A Cure for War – With Limitations.
by Erin Niemela
Earlier this week I wrote an editorial proposing a 28th constitutional amendment to abolish war. The NSA scandal, I argue, is tied to the more pervasive problem of violent foreign (and domestic) policy, and we’ll continue to see government abuses so long as war and inter-state military violence are the acceptable choices for conflict management. David Swanson, author of the brilliant history, “When the World Outlawed War,” thoughtfully responded to my plea by urging us to recall and reignite the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, an existing international pact renouncing war signed and ratified by the US president and Senate.
I agree with Mr. Swanson that any efforts to end war should point to existing law, and we agree that abolishing war is possible and necessary. However, the Kellogg-Briand Pact is not without its limitations, and a fresh, people-driven constitutional amendment could both address those limitations and offer current, culturally relevant and legally dispositive reinforcement.