Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"the most important first amendment-free speech-case in the past 50 years"

US author mounts 'libel tourism' challenge

David Pallister
Thursday November 15, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

A ferocious attack on the "chilling effect" of the English law of libel and its use by wealthy "foreign tourists" will be mounted in a top US court today, with backing from organisations that represent a majority of the world's media.

The case is being brought in the New York state court of appeals by an American academic, Rachel Ehrenfeld, against one of the richest men in the world, the Saudi investment banker Khalid bin Mahfouz. Her lawyers describe it as the most important first amendment - free speech - case in the past 50 years.

Ehrenfeld's 2003 book, Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed - and How to Stop it, alleged that Mahfouz and his two sons financed al-Qaida through the family's ownership of the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia and through connections with Islamic charities. In 2004, Mahfouz won a default defamation judgment against her in the high court by the leading libel judge, Mr Justice Eady. He awarded damages and costs against her estimated at £110,000.

Since the September 11 2001 attacks, Mahfouz, with a fortune estimated by Forbes at $3bn (£1.45bn), has successfully used or threatened to use the English courts on 29 occasions against similar allegations. He insists that he abhors terrorism and has never knowingly provided money to al-Qaida.

Today's hearing in the state capital, Albany, is initially about whether the New York courts have jurisdiction over Mahfouz. Ehrenfeld wants declarations that under US law Mahfouz could not prevail in a claim of libel against her and that Eady's judgment is unenforceable there.

The possibility he might seek enforcement - a sword of Damocles, according to her lawyers - has stimulated a formidable array of journalistic support. In a consolidated amici curiae (friend of the court) brief - backed by every major newspaper group in the UK, including the Guardian - the court will be urged to recognise the "growing and dangerous threat of 'libel tourism' - the cynical and aggressive use of claimant-friendly libel laws in foreign jurisdictions..." which "has chilled and will continue to chill Dr Ehrenfeld's exercise of her free speech".

She claims that "Mahfouz's systematic course of aggressive litigation is really a form of intellectual terrorism, an extreme type of literary censorship". US publishers, she says, are wary of using her work.

Although the book sold only 23 copies in the UK at the time of the original trial in 2004, Mahfouz denies he is a libel tourist.

His lawyers say he has a substantial reputation in England, and that Ehrenfeld's claims about the impact of the English judgment are alarmist and untrue.

"To the contrary, she has used this case and her legal conflict with Mr bin Mahfouz to promote a new edition of her book as 'the book the Saudis don't want you to read', to present herself as a victim of repressive English law, and to further publicise her false claim that Mr bin Mahfouz is a supporter of terrorism," the lawyers said.

~ Link ~


Mysterious Jet Crash Is Rare Portal Into the "Dark Alliances" of the Drug War

Paper Trail for Cocaine-Filled Plane that Crashed in Yucatán Suggests Link to U.S. Law Enforcement Corruption in Colombia

By Bill Conroy
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

17 Nov 2007

The Gulfstream II aircraft that crashed on the Yucatan Peninsula outside of Cancun in late September while laden with some four tons of cocaine has been the subject of considerable media and blogger attention in recent weeks.

Some reports have alleged the errant plane was previously used between 2003 and 2005 by the CIA for several flights to the infamous U.S. “terrorist” prison camp in Guantamano Bay. The fact that the ownership of the aircraft apparently switched hands twice within weeks of the crash, helping to obscure its ownership, has only further fueled media and Internet speculation that the jet’s illegal payload was being transported as part of some larger U.S. government black operation.

All that might be true — or not.

But Narco News has uncovered at least one fact that is certain to deepen the mystery surrounding the crash of the jet whose tail number, N987SA, is now affixed in the lexicon of CIA folklore. That fact revolves around the name Greg Smith, who was identified in a McClatchy Washington Bureau report on the Gulfstream II’s crash as follows:

A bill of sale obtained by McClatchy Newspapers indicates that Florida pilot Clyde O’Connor bought the plane on Sept. 16 — eight days before it went down in the Yucatan jungle. Another Florida pilot, identified by his license number and signature as Greg Smith, also signed the document, but his relationship to O’Connor isn’t detailed.

But before we introduce you to the mysterious Mr. Smith, it is important in all of this to remember that a proposition is not automatically a corollary of a seemingly related fact.

Too many conspiracy theories rest on a proof built on the six-degrees-of-separation premise — that any person on the Earth can be connected to anyone else through a chain of no more than five people. That might be true, and can make for an interesting trail to follow, but it doesn’t prove the first person in the chain even knew the last person — let alone that all six individuals acted in a conspiracy.

As the late, great authentic journalism heavyweight Gary Webb, who did meticulously investigate and link CIA activities to illicit drug running, once said:

“I don’t believe in conspiracy theories. I believe in conspiracies.”

With that understanding in mind, it is important to review the timeline of the Gulfstream II’s demise in the Yucatan peninsula— as reported by other media.

The plane took off from Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport headed for Toluca, outside Mexico City, on Sept. 18. It crashed near Cancun, Mexico, on Sept. 24 after departing from Rio Negro, Colombia.

Mexican publication Por Esto!, whose work on the story has been exhaustive, with some 30 stories to date, and based on solid journalism, reported that the jet was headed to an airport in Cancun, but arrived shortly after a work-shift change at the airport. The security people on the new work shift did not authorize the Gulfstream II to land, so it flew to an airport in the Yucatán capital of Merida, which also would not authorize a landing.

The jet remained stranded in the air until it ran out of fuel and was forced to make an emergency landing in the hills by the nearby town of Tixkokob, Por Esto! reported.

Mexican authorities apprehended one of the pilots onboard the Gulfstream II a couple days later, about three miles from the crash site. Four days later, they apprehended a man alleged to be the copilot, though Por Esto! has questioned why none of the helicopters or other high-tech search equipment available were mobilized to find the two more quickly. Por Esto! also claimed that the amount of cocaine at the crash site appeared to be much more than the 3.7 metric tons authorities reported.

Also of importance to this story is the ownership trail of the jet itself. McClatchy reported that a Florida-based company called Donna Blue Aircraft, which is supposedly owned by two Brazilian men, acquired the Gulfstream II from a company connected to New York real estate developer William Achenbaum.

That deal was allegedly cut on August 30. Donna Blue then flipped the jet to a new owner, for a supposed payment of about $2 million, on September16.

That’s where the enigmatic Greg Smith comes into the picture, as one of the supposed co-signers on the bill of sale drafted by Donna Blue for the Gulfstream II. Media reports to date have followed the trail of his supposed partner in the deal, Clyde O’Connor, and even delved into the background of Achenbaum, but the trail on Smith seems to be cold.

Where could he be — and who is he anyway? Smith is not exactly a unique name, even in the insular world of the private-jet industry.

Well, it turns out that Narco News has run across the trail of at least one Greg Smith who has plenty of experience flying between southern Florida and Latin America — for the U.S. government.

The Vega Connection

Baruch Vega is a colorful Colombian who has worked as an asset for the FBI, DEA and CIA, among other agencies, over the years.

Vega was very involved with a series of U.S. law enforcement operations carried out by the DEA and FBI between 1997 and 2000. Those operations, Vega claims, involved brokering deals with Colombian narco-traffickers by offering them the bait of U.S.-government sanctioned plea deals in return for their surrender or cooperation.

The following is from a lawsuit filed recently in federal court by Vega, in which he alleges the government failed to pay him for his high-risk services, to the tune of some $28.5 million:

Once Mr. Vega introduced … American lawyers to the Colombian targets [the narco-traffickers], the lawyers would then get retained and then take over as legal representatives for the Colombian targets and further deal with a group of United States law enforcement agents and prosecutors, hand-picked to work out deals for the Colombian targets. A particular United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida became the coordinator of this “recruiting effort.”

So Vega is in a position to know the lay of the land in the Colombian narco-trafficking scene — which is the source of the four tons of cocaine found on the crashed Gulfstream II jet. After all, coca plants don’t grow well in Mexico.

According to Vega, between late 1997 and 2000, he traveled between South Florida and South America via a private jet for a total of some 25 to 30 “recruiting” trips— some with FBI agents on board, some with DEA agents on board, and some transporting Colombian narco-traffickers who were being brought back to the United States to negotiate deals.

Vega claims that the main pilot for all of those flights was none other than an individual named Greg Smith.

Here’s how Vega described the situation to Narco News in a recent interview.

Well originally… I met Greg Smith… we needed a pilot, a very trustful pilot, someone we could trust to bring in the [Colombian] drug traffickers to surrender. Then the members of the FBI recommended to get in contact with this guy [Smith] because he was very close to them. Ever since we flew only with him.

Everything was with him. … I never asked anything [about Smith’s background]. But he [Smith] brought a couple of pilots because we always have two pilots in the plane. He occasionally brought pilots from the US Customs.

I tell you one thing. We flew with Greg Smith easily 25 to 30 times. All [the] operations [were] between the end of 1997 to 2000.

When Vega was asked if federal agents were on board the jet during those trips, he responded:

“Oh yes, many times. If you read the flying manifest, there were… DEA agents in the plane and of course drug traffickers who were coming to surrender with attorneys.”

Vega adds that the FBI and DEA were each running their own separate operations at the time, so the FBI also was involved in some of the confidential source recruiting trips to South America as well, and he says the Bureau “even paid for the [leased] plane a few times.”

A judge’s ruling in another legal case that is related to Vega’s pending lawsuit, in fact, backs up his claims. It describes the CIA’s involvement in one flight in 1999 that departed from Panama for Florida that involved Vega, federal agents and an indicted, fugitive Colombian narco-trafficker:

Indeed, the appellant [a DEA supervisor] used the CIA to bring Mr. Cristancho to the chartered aircraft surreptitiously, without going through Panamanian airport security or customs. The appellant simply made no attempt to conceal the use of the chartered aircraft. And, an Assistant U.S. Attorney and various DEA agents from Group 9 were at the Fort Lauderdale airport to greet the plane.

And those same legal pleadings mention the name of the company from which Vega chartered the aircraft: Aero Group Jets.

On or about November 17, 1999, the appellant [a DEA supervisor] received an invoice from Aero Group Jets in the amount of $23,200 for the rental of the aircraft used to transport Mr. Cristancho.

Vega also confirmed that Smith’s company was called Aero Group Jets.

A check of the public records available through Florida’s Department of State lists the registered agent/officer of that now inactive company as Gregory D. Smith.

So it would seem that the real question now is whether the Greg Smith who allegedly signed the paperwork in the purchase of the crashed Gulfstream II jet, as reported by McClatchy, is the same Greg Smith who was recommended by the FBI, according to Vega, to pilot more than two dozen flights to Latin America between 1997 and 2000 as part of U.S.-sanctioned law enforcement operations.

One reporter known for his spook-related journalism claims to have already interviewed the right Mr. Smith, but, by his own admission, it was through a third party — which leaves open the possibility of all sorts of shenanigans, particularly if we are dealing with real CIA spooks.

Another reporter with a Florida weekly also claims to have interviewed the real Mr. Smith. However, as it turns out, when Narco News contacted that individual, he stressed that the reporter had gotten the wrong man.

“I was falsely written up … and they named my company,” says Greg Smith, who is with a company called Global Jet Solutions of Pembroke Pines, Fla. “There’s probably three or four Greg Smiths in aviation in South Florida. But it’s not my name on the bill of sale [for the Gulfstream II jet that crashed in Mexico on September 24].”

This Smith, who says his middle initial is “J,” adds that he has hired an attorney to explore legal action against the publication that he alleges wrongly identified him and his company.

Narco News did obtain a copy of a 2007 document that contains the signature belonging to the Greg Smith of Global Jet Solutions. That signature does appear to be different than the signature of the Greg Smith contained on an annual report filed with the state of Florida in 1998 by Aero Group Jets — the firm Vega claims he leased a jet from during his many trips to South America between 1997 and 2000.

So it appears, at least for now, a cloud of mystery still conceals the whereabouts of the right Greg Smith — whom McClatchy reporters contend was a co-signer on the bill of sale for the ill-fated Gulfstream II Jet.

Many possibilities

Now, before anyone jumps to conclusions, it is important to point out that every crashed plane has its own unique story — as does every drug deal gone bad. And most don’t all involve grand CIA conspiracies directly linked to the White House — though as Gary Webbs’ investigative reporting on the CIA/Contra/Crack connection showed, those “Dark Alliances” do surface from time to time.

But for the sake of argument, let’s explore some more mundane theories.

For example, the Gulfstream II jet’s crash landing in the Yucatan might simply be a drug-smuggling run gone bad, with no mystery beyond that reality.

Or it is possible that the jet that crashed outside of Cancun was under surveillance as part of a government operation known as a controlled delivery — in which government agents allow a load of drugs to make its way to the destination (under close scrutiny) with the goal of arresting those who take delivery of the narcotics in the United States. If that’s the case, the fact that the jet crashed after getting waived off of two airports tells us only that something went wrong, that the operation was not “greased” properly, in law enforcement lingo.

As for Vega, and several former federal law enforcement sources interviewed by Narco News, both the notion that the Gulfstream II was part of a U.S. government-sanctioned controlled delivery operation, or that it was part of some kind of CIA black op, are both viewed as being on the low side of probability.

However, at least one law enforcement source with experience working in Latin America did say: “I wouldn’t put anything past those guys [the CIA]. … They aren’t even supposed to be there [in Latin America] officially, so if anything did show up [related to their operations] they would deny it.”

Vega weighed in on the questions as follows:

… I believe more it could be a run [by narco-traffickers] because a controlled delivery is very easy. A controlled delivery would make the plane land … remember how close the Keys are to the Yucatan Peninsula or any airport in Miami. And if it’s a controlled delivery by your government, that plane could land anywhere basically. Or at least land in one place until they call the agents and come and clear the whole thing. That’s why I could say more it looks like a run for one of the traffickers.

… Again, that’s what I say [in terms of the allegation that it was a CIA black operation], that’s what doesn’t make sense because let’s assume the Agency is running that thing, they could land in Guantanamo, they could land anywhere in the Keys or in Florida and wait an hour or two until someone calls from somewhere, and then don’t worry. That’s it.

But there also are other possible explanations as to the Gulfstream’s possible connections to U.S. intelligence or law enforcement that fall more squarely into the chaos of human vice —such as greed and official corruption.

With that in mind, it might be worth reviewing some past cases where human virtue seems to have gotten twisted up a bit in pursuit of the drug war.

Money for nothing

At the top of the list is the case of the Bogota Connection, which was exposed by a Justice Department memo drafted in 2004.

Vega was very involved with some of the U.S. law enforcement operations referenced in the memo. Those particular operations played out between 1997 and 2000 and sought to snare narco-traffickers with Colombia’s infamous North Valley Cartel. Remember, Vega claims an individual named Greg Smith, during that same time period, was retained as a pilot to fly numerous missions — for both the DEA and FBI — that were, in essence, confidential-source recruiting trips.

In the course of that work, Vega alleges, corrupt U.S. agents in Colombia seriously compromised his role as a government asset and that a number of his informants within Colombia’s narco-trafficking underworld were assassinated as a result.

Justice Department attorney Thomas M. Kent wrote the memo in late 2004 in an effort to draw attention to alleged serious corruption within the U.S. Embassy in Colombia. In the memo, Kent alleges that DEA agents in Bogotá are on drug traffickers’ payrolls, complicit in the murders of informants who knew too much, and, most startlingly, directly involved in helping Colombia’s infamous rightwing paramilitary death squads to launder drug money.

The first of the major allegations in Kent’s memo centers on a DEA undercover operation launched in Colombia in 1997 called Cali-Man, which made use of Vega as an asset. The operation was overseen by David Tinsley, a DEA group supervisor in Miami.

As part of Cali-Man, Tinsley and the agents working under him uncovered evidence that DEA agents in Bogotá appeared to be assisting narco-traffickers in Colombia. In one case, Tinsley’s group, as part of a sting, obtained a classified document from the U.S. Embassy in Bogota via a narco-trafficker turned informant.

After Narco News exposed the Kent memo in a story published on Jan. 9, 2006, DEA reacted by describing the corruption allegations in that memo as “extremely serious.”

However, some nine days later, after Semana, a popular weekly magazine in Colombia, published a story about the Kent memo, DEA issued another public statement describing the corruption allegations as “unfounded.”

The U.S. mainstream media has been silent about the Kent memo, and the Bogotá Connection, since that time.

It is not to be ignored, in the case of the Gulfstream II jet crash in Mexico, that the flight allegedly left from Rio Negro, Colombia, just outside Medellín, where it managed to avoid that nation’s customs and law enforcement scrutiny while loaded up with at least 132 bags of cocaine that tipped the scales at four tons.

In any event, Vega says his work in Colombia for the DEA and FBI did produce results — despite the alleged treachery on the part of U.S. agents in Bogotá and elsewhere

“All in all, Mr. Vega convinced and successfully recruited about 114 Colombian targets to enter this plan/program, about 25 of which were fugitives at the time of negotiating the deals,” his lawsuit alleges. But, in the end, the U.S. government, he contends, failed to compensate him for his work and risks as promised.

(For more on Vega’s lawsuit, go to this link.)

But the allegations of U.S. law enforcement corruption that have surfaced in the Bogota Connection are not new in the history of the drug war, for those who care to follow that trail.

For example, in the early 1990s, according to court pleadings in a criminal case filed in New York, DEA agents transported a large quantity of heroin from Pakistan to New York City, via commercial airlines, allegedly for the purpose of setting up undercover stings.

However, the defendant in the litigation, Gaetano DiGirolamo, who is now serving a life prison sentence, claims he is not guilty of the charges brought against him in 1991; in fact, he claims that DEA agents framed him, seeking to use his case as a cover for their own illegal drug-smuggling activities.

Among the claims raised in a post-conviction petition filed by DiGirolamo was that he was convicted “based upon perjury of three DEA agents.”

“(The DEA agents) testified that they were involved in importing drugs for use in ‘stings’ against me and others when in truth and in fact they were doing so for their own personal, criminal enrichment,” DiGirolamo states the post-conviction petition.

The petition goes on to raise major doubts about the veracity of the DEA agents’ purported sting against DiGirolamo — such as the fact that the alleged heroin brought in from Pakistan was never tested to assure it was the same heroin used in the sting, nor was the heroin ever produced at trial.

In addition, despite claims by the DEA agents involved in transporting the heroin that their operation had been sanctioned by DEA headquarters in Washington, D.C., as well as the French and Pakistani governments, DiGirolamo’s attorney, law professor Steven B. Duke, says those approvals were never produced.

“Where are they?” Duke asks in a court filing. “Where are the applications for such approvals? Where is the evidence that any of these approvals were sought, much less obtained?”

The DEA agents, of course, contend Duke’s allegations are baseless.

Still, it is clear that federal agents did transport 20 kilos of heroin from Pakistan to New York via commercial airlines — a fact to keep in mind the next time you are flying the friendly skies.

The U.S. Customs Service sent Duke a letter on May 2, 2000, in reply to his queries about the incident. The response was prepared by Bonnie Tischler, then assistant commissioner for Customs’ Office of Investigations. (Customs is now part of the Department of Homeland Security.)

From Tischler’s letter to Duke:

Dear Mr. Duke,

Thank you for your March 3, 2000, letter regarding the importation of narcotics into the United States by law enforcement officers.

… The specific incident you cite involved the international controlled delivery of 20 kilograms of heroin at the John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport on Dec. 4, 1990. Our records indicate that while our agency provided assistance in facilitating that delivery through JFK, the entire operation was initiated and coordinated solely by the DEA. Therefore, I would refer any further questions you my have regarding this matter to DEA Headquarters, 600 Army Navy Drive, Arlington, Virginia 22202.

I appreciate your interest in the Customs Service. If we may be of any further assistance, please contact me …

In yet another case in the late 1990s involving the U.S. Customs Service, federal agents in South Texas were accused of letting an informant — a drug-running pilot — bring tons of cocaine into the country unchecked as part of an effort to snare an alleged drug kingpin.

“Well, it was like a 007 license. I didn’t know the government did that. It was hard to resist,” the smuggler, Rodney Matthews, told ABC News – Primetime in a 1998 interview.

Customs officials denied that Matthews was allowed to smuggle drugs into the country. However, Mark Conrad, who at the time headed U.S. Customs Internal Affairs in Houston, told Primetime a different story:

We got in bed with Rodney Matthews and the importation of a humongous amount of narcotics coming into the United States. … The reason is there’s a great deal of pressure on agents in the field to make cases, to make the big one. And the bigger, the better. … We hide things. We cover them up. We don’t — we’re not honest at times within our own organization, and we’re clearly not honest at times with the media. … It would never be officially condoned. You’ll never find any policy that approves of it, but it happens routinely in virtually every situation where you’re dealing with informants.

Welcome to the drug war. Will the real Mr. Smith please stand up?

Stay tuned…

~ Link ~


The Wayback Machine

The Time Machine
19 Nov 2007

In 1996, I opened Libtech, the UK's main exhibition for librarians. I had an urgent message to deliver. I'd noticed that web sites were not just appearing in growing numbers, they were disappearing, too. People were updating pages all the time and nobody was keeping any sort of record - not even the people running the sites.

Libraries had preserved much of our past on paper, but our digital history was almost blank, and could never be retrieved. Who would save it, if not librarians?

Fortunately someone else had not only thought about it, he had decided to do it. In 1996, Brewster Kahle of Alexa Internet in San Francisco started keeping snapshots of the web to create the Internet Archive. In 2001, he launched the Wayback Machine, making about 10 billion archived pages publicly available.

Even at this early stage, Kahle's data took up about 100 terabytes, making it about five times as large as a digital US Library of Congress. Today, it has 85 billion pages and takes up 1.5 petabytes.

Anytime and forever

Kahle's ultimate aim is even more ambitious. In a CNet interview in Second Life, he said: "We're out to help build the Library of Alexandria version 2, starting with humankind's published works, books, music, video, web pages, software, and make it available to everyone anywhere at anytime, and forever."

Kahle is also working to make this a global system, starting with another copy of the archive at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt.

As a result, anyone can now go to the Wayback Machine, paste in a web address, click the button that says Take Me Back, and see what it looked like in the otherwise dim but not so distant past.

What you get is a list of the dates when a snapshot was taken, arranged by year. Clicking a link brings up a cached copy of the page. The record is necessarily incomplete, but it's enough to track things like changes in design.

In the Guardian's case, the first page is dated a month after my talk. There are only three snapshots for 1997, and four for 1998. There are 202 for this year, so far.

History in the making

In some cases, the archive's curators have put together packages that cover historical events. These Web Collections include US elections, hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the December 2004 Asian Tsunami.

The Wayback Machine can be useful. The web is a boulevard of broken links, and so it is the only way you can see what a site looked like before the creator lost interest, the company went bust, or a once-popular address was taken over by spammers. But even when it doesn't have what you want, it's a wonderful place to browse.

It may be frustrating when pages or vital pictures are missing, or the Wayback Machine seems to be taking an hour off. But this is a not-for-profit organisation heroically tackling an impossible task. If Kahle had left it to publishers, librarians, corporations or even governments, it wouldn't exist at all.

~ Link ~

~ The Wayback Machine ~



The Lives of Others (Part2) - 'The Reunion'

East German Spook Reunion

It was supposed to be an opportunity for academics to discuss the espionage activities of the former East Germany. But an event in Denmark this weekend quickly devolved into a bunch of old men justifying their life's work of spying.

At first glance, it looked like a group of retirees on holiday: two buses filled with gray-haired men, and a few women, heading north on the German Autobahn. But rather than heading for Legoland or Tivoli Gardens, the group was on its way to the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. And they weren't tourists either. Rather, all of them -- at least 60 in total -- were former East German spies.

The trip was the brain child of Danish Professor Thomas Webener Friis, who wanted to give the ex-spies an opportunity to tell their stories "before it's too late." Many of them, after all, are getting older and have, thus far, kept mum about their time spent working for the communist dictatorship. But the event ended up having little to do with historical research. Indeed, it quickly devolved into unreformed East German minions doing what they could to justify their Cold War activities.

"I am proud of our work and of our outstanding results," said, for example, Ralf-Peter Devaux, 67. It was the first time Devaux, who was the long-time head of the department that placed East German spies in the West German capital Bonn, had spoken publicly about his spook past. "I wouldn't do anything differently today."

One of the results chalked up to Devaux's department was the 1974 resignation of Chancellor Willy Brandt after it was revealed that a close aide of his, Günter Guillaume, was actually an East German spy.

Werner Grossman, the now 78-year-old former head of East Germany's foreign espionage department, was too ill to speak for himself. But a statement of his was read: "We didn't carry out coup d'états, murders or kidnappings as other secret services did. We didn't work with terrorists." The East German agents, he claimed, were "peace scouts." The statement was greeted with applause from the assembled spooks.

Indeed, for much of the day, the event had little to do with historical research and much more to do with historical justification. The some 250 conference-goers present were treated to all manner of claims as to the professional, harmless nature of East Germany's spying activities. And little of what they said was contradicted. Indeed, nobody bothered to point out, after Grossman's claims, that East Germany had indeed provided safe harbor to terrorists from the Red Army Faction, operating in West Germany in the 1970s and 80s. The Stasi -- East Germany's notorious secret police -- likewise helped Carlos the Jackal get his hands on explosives that ultimately killed a young man in an attack in West Berlin.

The event had originally been planned to take place in Berlin during the summer. It was cancelled, however, after a public outcry. Many were concerned that the conference would merely provide the former spies with a platform from which to justify their pasts. Germany's Birthler Commission, the group commissioned with investigating the activities of the Stasi, likewise elected to boycott the event, though one observer was sent.

"Our fear that this forum would not be the appropriate one for such a discussion seems to have been validated," the observer, Jens Gieseke, told the German news agency DPA.

Professor Friis, however, was satisfied. He did, at one point, urge his aging guests to "turn off the autopilot. Afford yourselves the luxury of self-critique." But in the end, his judgement was a positive one. "I thought it went quite well," he said.

~ Link ~


Dillon Read (19): Through the Via Dolorosa

MichaelCollins: The Money Party (Part 3)

The Money Party (Part 3)

Big Lies that You Must Believe

Because if you don't, the whole scam may fall apart.

Previously in The Money Party series, we discussed the fact that there is only one political party in the United States, The Money Party. It has two wings, Republican and Democratic. That party represents excessive concentrations of wealth in the hands of corporations, other organizations, and individuals. They put up the money and get what they pay for every time.

They make sure that the election system is rigged to rely on money like a junkie relies on heroin. The system takes care of them. They don't have to obey the same rules that we do. Why? Because they're above the law.

The Money Party owns the mainstream media entirely. NBC is really General Electric, ABC is Disney, CBS was Viacom but now it's just the name for a mega-corporation, and Fox is News Corp., the Rupert Murdoch financial empire. That's why it's called the corporate media. They're publicity shops, "corporate communications divisions," owned and controlled by Money Party members.

Their job is to emulate George Orwell's "1984" by generating meaningless concepts that bind us to false choices.

It's a series of interconnected lies. Let's look at some of the key lies that we must believe to keep them in power.

Big lie 1: "We're the world's leading democracy." Not since Bush-Cheney took over. We're dropping fast. Maybe it has something to do with the Patriot Act and all that illegal wire tapping of U.S. citizens? Maybe it has something to do with a Congress that does nothing to stop an out of control president. Ratings on democracy show us behind 14 nations.

Big lie 2: "Just let the markets handle it. The free enterprise system will work it out." This is supposed to appeal to our love of capitalism. Well, we don't have capitalism in the United States.

We have socialism for the rich and survival of the fittest for the rest of us.

When you hear about the wisdom of "the markets," you know that The Money Party is attacking some new law or regulation that might give us an equal footing and create real competition. The party can't stand free enterprise because it won't play any game that it might lose. Count on it. NAFTA - just let the markets handle it. Health care – it's the market at your service. Pollution – you guessed correctly, it's a "market thing. "We wouldn't understand." Dumping mercury in the Great Lakes, it all makes sense to the party.

Big lie 3: "There are two sides to every issue." Does that have anything to do with two parties? Where in the world did this come from? Who knows? But the corporate media rides this one into the ground.

Take climate change for example. Two sides, really? Well just about every respectable scientist in the world, at least those who get published in real science journals, says climate change is real, it's man made, and it's dangerous. The explanations are varied (many sided) but there's only one side of the larger issue if you want your children to survive. Climate change is a very real, scary deal. We're all threatened. But a correction might hurt their short term profits. As a result, the dangerous lies persist brought to you by The Money Party "communications divisions."

Big lie 4: "The federal government just screws everything up." Oh, like going to the moon, developing the internet, and providing health insurance (Medicare) for many times less overhead than private health insurance companies. The Money Party hates the government with a passion when it serves the general public. But when the federal government fixes competition so that only big money wins, when it ignores problems that might require some sacrifice, and when it prolongs a war for profits, the federal government is their best friend.

It's not a conspiracy. It's just what they do, what they've always done…further their own interests at our expense. There used to be some restraint to maintain appearances but the Money Party is now on steroids.

When you see some corporate news reader cock his or her head to deliver a "gem of wisdom," count on it to be a big fat lie, one that's essential to justify the theft of our well being for the interests of a very few, their bosses. They don't care because they don't have to. We're the ultimate donors to The Money Party through our hard work, time, and taxes.

The Money Party thinks that they own the country, they know that they own most of the politicians, and they're 100% sure that they know what we need to believe. These are just a few of the big lies that we hear all the time from the usual suspects. It's time to wake up, call their bluff, and take the country back.

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.
- George Orwell


The Money Party – The Essence of Our Political Troubles
The Money Party (2) – Why We Get Such Lousy Leaders and How to Get Rid of Them

~ Source ~

Afghani hashish for sale in Kuwaiti co-op

What next?
~ Link ~

What passes for "research" at the MRC

Not-So-Special Reports
The Media Research Center's "special reports" purporting to demonstrate liberal media bias have holes big enough to drive misleading claims through.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 11/20/2007

With a name like the Media Research Center, you'd think the place would be doing a lot of, you know, research.

What passes for "research" at the MRC, however, is all too often slanted analyses designed to support its mission of demonstrating that the media has a liberal bias. It appears that MRC researchers begin with the conclusion and then find evidence to support it.

ConWebWatch has detailed previous faulty MRC reports:

  • A 2003 report purported to grade the TV networks' performance during the first month of the Iraq war, but the criteria used identify "bad" coverage was subjectively chosen to comport with a conservative, pro-Bush agenda: "too little skepticism of enemy propaganda, too much mindless negativism about America’s military prospects, and a reluctance on the part of most networks to challenge the premises of the anti-war movement or expose its radical agenda." Another report issued before the war blasted ABC's war coverage for, among other things, "question(ing) the purity of the Bush administration’s ideological and economic motives for war" and "present(ing) a 'peace' movement that would resonate with Middle America" when "many protesters are not in the political 'mainstream.'" Of course, during the military action against Kosovo in 1999 under President Clinton, the MRC fretted that news coverage wasn't negative enough.
  • An April 2006 report by MRC TimesWatch director Clay Waters claimed that The New York Times "has used its seat more as a cheering section" for Hillary Clinton "than as a dispassionate perch for objective observation." But Waters' study is full of unsupported claims, opinions stated as facts and examples that provide dubious support at best to his central claim.

Several recent MRC "special reports" keep up this dubious level of research by using questionable and even doctored evidence to support their claims of bias.

"Meet the Real Katie Couric"

As ConWebWatch first detailed in October, in advance of Katie Couric's ascension to the anchor desk at the "CBS Evening News," an Aug. 29, 2006, report by Rich Noyes purported to document how Couric "pushed a liberal political agenda during her 15 years as co-host of NBC’s Today." One of report's signature claims, as promoted in a press release announcing the report was: "Deploring Ronald Reagan with insults such as 'The Gipper was an airhead!' " In the introduction to the report, Noyes expands this somewhat:

In 1999, Couric decided to begin the Today show by insulting Ronald Reagan: "Good morning. The Gipper was an airhead!" Two days later, the author of the Reagan biography she was supposedly summarizing told Couric she’d gotten it exactly backwards: "Oh, good God, no!" author Edmund Morris upbraided Couric. "He was a very bright man."

In the section of the report substantiating the claim, Noyes includes the original "airhead" quote, a snippet of an interview Couric did with Morris two days later in which Morris denied saying that, and a transcript from a 2002 Couric interview with Ann Coulter, headlined "Couric Re-Writes History," in which Couric takes offense to Coulter's description of the incident in her book "Slander." Noyes failed to note the context in which Couric made the "airhead" comment. As The Daily Howler's Bob Somerby reported:

Why did Couric say what she did? Because everyone thought it was true. Indeed, despite the picture painted in Slander, many conservatives were slamming Morris for what he had said about Ron.

Noyes' reporting of Morris's denial further obfuscated the fact that, as Somerby reported, many conservatives thought that about the book as well. From an Oct. 13, 1999 (a couple weeks after Couric's statement), Heritage Foundation online chat with Dinesh D'Souza, author of the hagiography "Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader":

Morris' book has been subject to an incredible public whipping. He has virtually no defenders. Even Morris's own reasons for using multiple fictitious characters and for calling Reagan an ignoramus and an apparent airhead sound hollow and ill-considered. When the dust has settled, Reagan will be seen as a great president.

Couric was hardly alone in interpreting that Morris' book called Reagan an "airhead." Yet Noyes left the false impression that a maliciously biased Couric came up with that on her own.

Noyes and Brent Baker followed up a year later with an Aug. 30 "Media Reality Check" by purporting to document Katie Couric's "liberal approach" to her first year of hosting the "CBS Evening News." But the evidence they provide is a bit thin -- only 12 examples over a year containing 200-plus half-hour programs. If the MRC could only find one a month, that's not a bad record. The MRC later appended a link to a Sept. 4 CyberAlert that tried to inflate that number by listing "about 30 of her most left-wing moments from the past year." One of those was an item describing how Couric praised Susan B. Anthony's fight for women to vote and noting that "now there are a record 90 women in this new Congress, including for the first time ever, the Speaker of the House." How is noting a historical fact "left-wing"?

Meanwhile, over the same period of time, the MRC's liberal counterpart, Media Matters, found 17 examples of "conservative misinformation" on the part of Couric and the CBS Evening News over the past year. That would seem to trump MRC's bias assertion.

"Rise and Shine on Democrats"

On Aug. 29, the MRC released a report by Noyes claiming that network morning shows have devoted more time to covering Democratic presidential candidates than to Republican candidates. But there are a couple of holes in MRC's methodology that misleadingly pump up Democratic numbers.

The study asserted that "the networks also aired more stories about the never-declared candidacy of former Democratic Vice President Al Gore than the actual candidacies of Republicans [Mitt] Romney and [Rudy] Giuliani," noting that Gore "was a network guest eight times, getting more than 48 minutes of airtime," later citing its methodology behind it: "MRC analysts only counted interviews in which a potential Gore presidential campaign was discussed." But nowhere does the study note what we can likely surmise -- that much of the Gore coverage was centered around his global warming activism, specifically his promotion of the Live Earth concerts and his winning of an Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth."

The study suggests as much, claiming that "Gore’s coverage consisted of praise for his work on behalf of a liberal global warming agenda" and alleged "open pitches for a Gore candidacy." Nowhere did the study note that Gore has repeatedly disavowed serious interest in running for president in 2008.

With this conflating of discussion of Gore's activism with with speculation about a presidential bid, it appears that if interviewers asked just a single question about, or even mentioned, the idea of Gore entering the race -- again, despite his repeatedly expressed lack of interest in doing so -- the MRC apparently counted the entire interview as coverage of a "Democratic presidential candidate." That's a stretch.

Tim Graham appears to concede a similar flaw in an Aug. 30 NewsBusters post, responding to criticism of the study by the morning shows themselves (reported by the Associated Press) that coverage of Elizabeth Edwards' cancer relapse was included in the total of coverage of John Edwards' campaign. Graham wrote:

It's a decent argument to suggest that Elizabeth Edwards interviews about her cancer shouldn't count as campaign coverage. But her interviews are often partially (or even barely) about her illness, and mostly about her husband's campaign, or her husband's squabbles with Ann Coulter. Elizabeth's cancer is a constant undercurrent in their campaign, as in suggesting they know how important universal health care would be -- because of her illness. But it doesn't dominate her interviews when she's been on.

Graham offered no evidence to support these claims, however. And it appears that any interview with Elizabeth Edwards, even if it focused on her cancer and had but a single question about the presidential race, was tallied toward John Edwards' total.

A Nov. 7 "Media Reality Check" by Noyes and Scott Whitlock similarly claimed that the morning shows "spent more time covering the Democratic race and spent far more time interviewing the Democratic candidates than the Republicans" appears to repeat the same doctored evidence. It didn't describe the criteria by which it decided what constituted "election coverage," suggesting that it once again counted entire stories about Gore's global warming activism or Elizabeth Edwards' cancer -- or other primarily tangental issues -- as campaign stories simply because a single question was asked about the election.

"Huffington's House of Horrors"

A report by Tim Graham posted Sept. 12 claimed that "official bloggers" at the Huffington Post, "many of them Hollywood celebrities," wrote posts that "often loaded with profanity and crude sexual and excretory metaphors."

But out of the tens of thousands of posts made on HuffPo over the past two years, Graham specifically cites just 19. Graham then claims: "These blogs may not be typical, but they are common." Since the report shows no evidence that Graham did any comprehensive statistical analysis of objectionable content in HuffPo blogs -- that is, comparing the number of posts with objectionable content to the total number of posts made on the site -- he has no factual basis upon which to that statement; he's merely expressing an opinion.

Graham makes his bias clear in his "study" by his disparaging smears of HuffPo's bloggers as an "all-star far-left cast of celebrity dilettantes," "celebrit[ies] toasted by the leftist elites" and "Arianna’s cast of hate-speech specialists." The unspoken suggestion is that conservtive blogs such as the MRC's own NewsBusters are somehow above such attacks and are written only by morally upstanding people.

Er, not quite. ConWebWatch has previously noted that NewsBusters has used writers such as Cinnamon Stillwell (who has expressed support for a terrorist who attempted to blow up a California mosque and the office of a congressman) and Dan Riehl (who used NewsBusters to make false allegations of racism); NewsBusters has also posted items written by Jeff Goldstein, a blogger with an unhealthy obsession with his own penis. In addition, NewsBusters writers have called Daily Kos posters "crypto-nazis," likened Hillary Clinton to North Korea's Kim Jong Il, and endorsed an attack on liberal-leaning MSNBC host Keith Olbermann in which he was called a "moron" and "hung like a thumbtack."

Further, NewsBusters -- as well as WorldNetDaily and NewsMax -- has accepted money to run ads by a company, Those Shirts, selling conservative-oriented T-shirts. One of the shirts being sold reads, "Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required." Does Graham find that more or less offensive than what he plucked out of HuffPo?

Unreal "Media Reality Checks"

The MRC also periodically issues so-called "Media Reality Checks" on various issues. But sometimes they demonstrate that what is in need of a reality check is the MRC.

-- A March 2, 2006, MRC "Media Reality Check" by Graham attacked a CBS News poll showing record low job-approval ratings to President Bush by claiming:

As the blogosphere quickly discovered from CBS's online report, CBS "weighted" its sample to reflect an ideal cross-section of American adults. They adjusted the number of self-described Republicans up to 28 percent and Democrats down to 37 percent, and independents with the rest. That's hardly the exit-poll breakdown the networks found on Election Day 2004 (37 percent GOP, 37 percent Democrat, 26 percent independent).

In fact, the Democrat-Republican ratio of the CBS poll closely mirrored the general population of registered voters, as Republican strategist Rich Galen pointed out in a column the day before at MRC sister site CNSNews.com. Galen stated: "In the general population, those who claim to be Democrats outweigh those who claim to be Republicans by 7 to 9 percentage points." Graham also does not explain why a poll methodology based on registered voters is less valid or accurate than one based on likely voters or one based on the voter ratio of the last major election.

-- A Nov. 15, 2006, "Media Reality Check" by Noyes was little more than regurgitated Republican talking points -- not necessarily the equivalent of reality -- that described Rep. John Murtha's proposal for withdrawal from Iraq as a "cut-and-run prescription" and "defeatism." Nowhere did Noyes actually state what exactly Murtha's proposal was -- to withdraw troops at the "earliest practicable date" -- or explain how withdrawal at the "earliest practicable date" equals "cut and run." Noyes also noted that "Karl Rove criticized Murtha and John Kerry’s defeatism" treating defeatism as an uncontested fact (as did another reference to "Murtha's defeatist rhetoric") rather than as merely Rove's opinion.

-- In an attempt to tamp down the then-burgeoning scandal involving Republican Rep. Mark Foley and congressional pages, an Oct. 11, 2006, "Media Reality Check" by Tim Graham compared news coverage of the Foley scandal with Democratic congressman Mel Reynolds' sex scandal more than a decade earlier, claiming that "Foley’s scandal is based on sex talk, while Reynolds not only had an active sex life with one teen, he was trying to add more teen sex partners." But Graham offered no evidence that 1) the teens Reynolds was involved with were under the supervision of Congress, as the congressional pages are, and 2) Reynolds' Democratic superiors in the House were aware of his behavior before the scandal broke and did nothing about it, as was apparently the case with Foley's Republican superiors.

-- In a June 11 "Media Reality Check," Noyes complained that network coverage of an immigration reform bill refused to parrot conservative talking points (not in so many words, of course). The offenses:

  • CBS "profiled an illegal immigrant working as a housekeeper." Apparently, treating immigrants as if they were human is not permitted in the MRC's conservative orthodoxy.
  • Reporters "matter-of-factly used the positive adjective 'reform' to describe the Senate bill, but only twice did reporters refer to it as 'amnesty.' " Noyes didn't mention that "amnesty" is a preferred right-wing term for the bill, or even explain why "amnesty" should be used "matter-of-factly" over "reform."
  • Noyes complained that 'Most reports (75%) uncritically described the bill as one that 'would toughen border security' " without explaining why it purportedly doesn't.
  • Noyes also complained that "The costs of illegal immigration were mentioned just twice," but in citing one accounting of those costs, a Heritage Foundation report estimating that the costs "could be more than $2.5 trillion over the next two decades," Noyes neglected to note that the Heritage Foundation is a conservative group that opposed the bill.

Noyes concluded: "The networks’ paltry coverage makes one wonder if they are still equipped to adequately cover big debates like immigration, or if that job has already been yielded to energetic talk radio." So, "energetic" is now a euphemism for "conservative bias"? 

~ Link ~

ArtofMentalWarfare.com: The Warning

Confessions of a PsyOps Agent:

“I want people to know how the game is played.” — David Vincent

Promo blurb:

"This book is my version of OJ’s, If I Did It. If I was, let’s say, a covert psychological operations expert working within the US intelligence community, this would be the book I would write. Now, I’m not saying that I’m actually a covert PsyOps agent with first hand experience in manipulating public opinion, if I was I couldn’t admit that. So, I’m not… I mean who the hell would believe me anyway. People would think I’m crazy if I said that I worked for Henry Kissinger in a black program designed to create and manipulate public opinion. Who would believe me if I said that I spent time learning from Edward Bernays? Most people probably don’t even know who he is. How many people would actually believe that I ran a covert program that worked with the NSC, CIA, 4th POG and Army Intel to conducted psychological ops within the US. I mean, it isn’t even legal to conduct PsyOps within in the US, on your own people. Then again, in the covert world nothing is illegal. The black world is above the law, above the Constitution as well. Shit, it’s national security, anything goes!

The Art of Mental Warfare is going to do to you: What Dylan did to folk music, What Hendrix did to electricity, What Pollock did to the canvas, What Ali did to the ring, What a juiced up Bonds did to the Home Run, What Paine did to revolution, What Jefferson did to democracy, What Bush did to stolen elections, What Einstein did to the atom, What Darwin did to evolution, It's Happening Here Mr & Ms Jones. Jump Start Your Mind. Our time has come. We're going to do what your mama did to you. It's time to be born. Awake! Shake your chains to earth like dew, Which in sleep had fallen on you.
Ye are Many - They are Few."


Frank Zappa on the illusion of freedom

"The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way, and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theatre." (1977)

"This is America, get used to it"

Give peace a chance

Group says wearing their shirts on campus has caused quite a stir


It all started when sophomore Skylar Stains decided to have Peace Shirt Thursdays. Skylar and her friend, Lauren Lorraine, started wearing peace shirts and soon recruited more friends to wear them. Now, the "Peace Shirt Coalition" as they call themselves, has close to 30 students from all grades.

"We've worn handmade peace shirts every Thursday since the first week of school, without fail," Skylar said.

But what started out as a light-hearted gesture soon started to be taken out of context. Students started approaching the group members, yelling obscene things at them, said Lauren.

"People just turned on us like that," she said. "At least 10 boys stood up and yelled things at me at once, and we couldn't even walk through the halls without a harsh comment being made."

The heckling began early in the school year, according to group members. They say they were putting small posters promoting peace on friends' lockers with their permission. They thought it was OK, because the cheerleaders and football players had signs on theirs. Eventually, though, group members say they were told by the school's administration they could no longer hang up the posters.

"People tore them down and drew swastikas and 'white power' stuff on them," Lauren said.

Skylar had similar things written on her posters.

"Someone taped an 'I Love Bush' sign over my 'Wage Peace' sign," she said. "So I tore it down, threw it away, and the whole commons starting booing. I walk by later and find that someone has completely tore my sign down and placed an 'I Love America, Because America Loves War' sign up.' "
Skylar and Lauren said that despite the backlash, the T-shirts and posters originally had nothing to do with politics, but the outburst from opposing groups have turned it into a political issue.

"People just kept putting words into our mouths, like we said this or that about current politics," Lauren said. "But we didn't say anything."

Soon, a second group started to wear Confederate flag shirts to oppose the peace group, Skylar said. She saw shirts with sayings such as "This is America, get used to it," and "If peace is the answer; it must be a stupid question."

"Now there are even 'support our troops' kids who don't like us because I guess they think you can't say peace and support the troops at the same time," Lauren said.

Skylar later passed out yellow ribbons for her group to wear to show they support the troops as well as peace.

However, Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High sophomores Lydia Pace and Joseph Marianetti say the Confederate shirts they wear express support for the troops in Iraq, and nothing more. Joseph said the shirts have nothing to do with racism.

"Someone took something that stood for peace and twisted it" in regards to the swastikas (drawn by a third group) and the Confederate flag, he said.

The harassment at school seems to have died down a bit, but the war still rages on MySpace. According to Skylar, Lauren and Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High sophomore Cheyenne Riley, threats and harsh comments have been posted on their pages.

On John Lennon's birthday, the group held an honorary Peace Shirt day and was confronted even more than usual, eventually causing some group members, including Cheyenne, to break down in tears.

The peace group members say their shirts continue to draw negative comments from some students, but point out that other school groups don't receive similar treatment.

"Since peace is causing other problems, the peace kids are being punished," Skylar said.

~ Link ~



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