Thursday, January 23, 2014

Why there is no intelligence at the heads of the intelligence committees.

The appearances of the chairs of the two congressional intelligence committees on the Sunday talk shows, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, chair of the senate intelligence committee, and Republican Mike Rogers, chair of the House intelligence committee, confirmed for most what had always been suspected --   there is no intelligence at the heads  of the congressional intelligence committees. But there is a lot of lying. And the lying has become almost laughably obvious because both of them have ignored Woody Allen's admonition that when you tell the truth all the time you never have to remember anything.

Rogers tried to push the idea that the Russians helped Snowden get his documents and said he  is "investigating" that claim.  He says he thinks it may be true because Snowden was given asylum and is now living in Russia which indicates to him the possibility that somehow Snowden turned over everything he had to the Russians and that he had Russian help from the beginning. This, despite not a shred of evidence to back it up. And Snowden saying long ago that he turned everything over to journalist Glenn Greenwald before leaving Hong Kong.

Snowden has made the very credible point that carrying copies with him would serve no useful purpose. Greenwald in turn, handed copies of everything he had to the Guardian who shared some with the Washington Post and New York Times. This is either news to Mike Rogers and Dianne Feinstein or they are intentionally ignoring it. Maybe they just forgot.

Rogers also said he believes the Russians helped Snowden because, according to Rogers,  what Snowden did was "beyond his technical capabilities". How Rogers has any knowledge as to what Snowden's "technical capabilities" are, he didn't say. Probably because he has no knowledge of Snowden's capabilities.

Rogers went on to say he didn't think it was just happenstance that Snowden ended up in " the loving arms of the Russians". What Rogers seemed to forget  is that it was he, Rogers, along with Feinstein, Obama, and the State Department who are the sole reasons Snowden is in Moscow.

It was Rogers and Feinstein labeling Snowden a traitor and egging Obama on to deal with Snowden as a traitor, that led to Obama threatening to use U.S. military jets to intercept any aircraft carrying Snowden (a threat Obama eventually backed off), and then using the State Department to  pressure U.S. allies to deny the use of their air space to any aircraft they  suspected of carrying Snowden.  Which ended up, in Marx Brothers fashion, catching not Snowden, but the president of Bolivia.

Snowden as everyone but the heads of the intelligence committees knows,(or forgot)  had wanted to go from Moscow to either Ecuador or Brazil  or another South American country offering him asylum. It  was the United States government that kept him at the Moscow Airport for 40 days until Putin granted him asylum.

But Rogers,almost comically in an attempt to turn both congressional and public opinion against Snowden,  wanted to float the idea that Snowden might be part of some nefarious scheme involving the Russians when in fact it was Rogers,Feinstein and Obama who put him there.

Rogers then said, "Some of the things we're finding , we would call clues that certainly would indicate to me that he (Snowden) had some help".  But he couldn't say what those "clues" were. Maybe because Rogers literally didn't have a clue.

Senator Dianne Feinstein was no better.This is the chair of the senate intelligence committee about whom Democratic congressman Alan Grayson said performs " more overlook than oversight". She has also been described as treating Clapper and Alexander like "rock stars".

 Asked about Rogers assertions regarding Snowden and Russia, Feinstein said,  "He may well have had some help from Russia." Then added the caveat " We don't know at this stage". She doesn't know but she'll say it anyway.

Feinstein added another unsupported allegation by claiming that Snowden got his job at the NSA "with the intent to take as much material down as he possibly could". How she knows this she doesn't say. But, violating the Woody Allen rule,  now we have chairpersons of the intelligence committees on Meet the Press with dueling assessments of Snowden.

According to Rogers, Snowden didn't have the technical capabilities to have gotten the documents he collected and must have had outside help.  According to Feinstein, had the capabilities to have planned to get documents he didn't know existed about programs he knew nothing about and successfully planned and plotted to get hired by the NSA to get the documents that according to Rogers he didnt have the technical capabilities to get.

The problem with their insistence on continuing to attack Snowden and defend the programs he exposed is that both Republican conservatives and liberal Democrats in and out of congress, a federal judge, and now a second government oversight board have all called these mass meta data collections illegal, unconstitutional and that they have proved to have absolutely no value in fighting terrorism or preventing terrorist attacks. What they do  is violate the constitutional rights of American citizens, and is a gross abuse of section 215 of the Patriot Act.

The full court Meet the Press against Snowden continued that Sunday with host David Gregory nodding like a bobble head doll,  with Rep, Mike McCaul, chair of the House Homeland Security committee saying, " I don't think  Mr. Snowden woke up one day and had the wherewithal to do this all by himself"  clearly not getting the memo on the talking points by Dianne Feinstein who thinks he did have the wherewithal but maybe had help.

Then the caveat  "I personally believe he was cultivated by a foreign power to do what he did"  (as if what he personally says he believes matters or is some kind of evidence) and when asked if Russia was the foreign power, his answer was, " I can't answer that". But like Feinstein and Rogers he can insinuate can't he?

Here is another from the office of Buy One Smear Get One Free:

The former Deputy Director of the CIA said:

 " I don't have any particular evidence (really? you don't?)  but the disclosures that have been coming recently are very sophisticated in their content and sophisticated in their timing -- almost too sophisticated for Mr. Snowden to be deciding this on his own".

So again we have Snowden without the capabilities of getting the documents in the first place but having the capabilities of fooling the NSA that he had the capabilities to do the job and get the analysts position, but didnt have the sophistication as to how and when to make the disclosures, adding one more head of an intelligence committee forgetting the Woody Allen rule and ignoring that all the "recent disclosures" were decided by those nefarious editors at the NY Times, Washington Post, the UK's The Guardian, and Glenn Greenwald (all working with the Russians, no doubt). Those are and have been the entities deciding what documents would be disclosed and when not Snowden.

 In spite of the fact that neither Feinstein nor Rogers had a scintilla of proof to back up anything they said, they still tried to do their best to try to turn public opinion against Snowden with the help of sycophantic journalists like David Gregory who let them use Meet the Press to get away with it without a single challenge. And unable to keep their stories straight.

According to Jane Mayer, who wrote an extensive piece on Snowden for The New Yorker,  when she called Dianne Feinstein's office for comment on what she said about Snowden on Meet the Press, her office told Mayer that Feinstein didn't stand by Rogers assertions, she was just being polite.  So smearing an American citizen acting as a whistleblower as working for and aided by a foreign government without a scintilla of proof is Senator Dianne Feinstein's idea of being polite. And this is what the country has as the head of the senate intelligence committee.

For the record, Reuters reported last week that U.S. security officials told them that "there is no evidence that Snowden had any confederates who assisted him or guided him about what NSA materials to hack or how to do so". Obviously these officials just don't know how to be polite.

But we also had Feinstein's polite defense of the meta data collection of Americans activities and  records.

 "The whole purpose of this program is to provide instantaneous information to be able to disrupt any plot that may be taking place". Did she mean like the way it zeroed in on two Chechnean brothers in the U.S. who had been radicalized,and prevented the  Boston Marathon bombing? Two hundred million text messages a day, billions of phone calls made by American citizens and meta date collection of all of America's internet activity and they missed it? 

 Unfortunately for Rogers and Feinstein a U.S. government privacy board which is part of the executive branch created in 2004 issued a report that added their voice to all the others calling the program Feinstein was defending worthless. This group went even further than Obama's White House advisory panel  and echoed the statement by senator Pat Leahy who looked at all  the documents provided to him by the NSA, and concluded that the NSA meta data program had no value whatsoever.

Their report said in part:

 " We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counter terrorism investigation. Moreover we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack".

 The italics are because in his first appearance in front of a senate intelligence sub committee, General Alexander said under oath that the meta data program had prevented or disrupted 50 potential terrorist attacks, including two in New York City which involved, according to Alexander, attacks on the New York Stock Exchange and the New York city subway system. At the time, even before the facts we have now were available, I doubted the validity of Alexander's statement since there wasn't any support by New York City Mayor Bloomberg or Police Commissioner Ray Kelly who, had Alexander's assertions been true, would have been the biggest vocal supporters of the program.  There were other statements being made attacking Snowden whose validity was also called into question.  And since then senator Leahy said after looking at documents, Alexander's assertions were fabrications.

The fact is in all the years the NSA has been collecting this meta data, with all the billions of phone calls logged, billions of text messages collected and stored, tens of billions of Internet interactions recorded, there has not been one single terrorist plot thwarted, disrupted or uncovered. Ever. Anywhere. But recently Israel announced that their intelligence agency thwarted an Al-Qaeda plot to have suicide bombers blow up the U.S., embassy in Tel Aviv. According to the Israeli report, the bombers were from Turkey and were recruited by Al-Qaeda on --  ta- da! Face Book.

 Some how the NSA missed that one too. Maybe because they were too busy spying on Americans. Or their ex-wives or husbands as some records disclosed by Snowden proved.

To date,  the only people who have been caught not telling the truth (maybe Feinstein knows a polite term for that)   has been those defending the NSA meta data program and attacking Edward Snowden from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, to gross misrepresentations by General Keith Alexander, to Feinstein and Rogers themselves.On the other hand,  so far, Edward Snowden has proved to be telling the truth about everything.

Which is more evidence that perhaps the biggest threat to U.S. national  security has been the intelligence and honesty of the people  entrusted with running the intelligence show in and out of congress.  And their problems with the truth.  As the Woody Allen rule proves. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Had the Founders wanted to balance security and liberty America wouldn't exist.

Ever since the secret NSA domestic meta data spying on American citizens was exposed by Edward Snowden,  the defenders of the program from president Obama to the chairs of the intelligence committees, Dianne Feinstein and Mike Rogers,   Director of Intelligence James Clapper, General Keith Alexander, and even a few journalists, have all  used the same rationale, (or is it excuse?) to justify the mass  domestic surveillance on hundreds of millions of Americans:  the need to strike a balance between security and liberty.

Obama has offered that same premise repeatedly in defending the program,  most recently in responding to his own appointed White House panel who, among other things,  recommended abolishing the meta data collection.  Obama's response was that he would consider what changes he might make based on  the "need to strike a balance between security and liberty."

The problem with this premise  is that it is antithetical to the principles and values of those who are credited with the founding of the country. In fact, it's a premise the Founding Fathers would have held in contempt.  And in fact, did. The very idea that Americans should consider giving up some of their liberty and freedoms in exchange for security  flies in the face of everything the Founders believed and had they valued  a balance between liberty and personal security America wouldn't exist.

 Thomas Jefferson, George Washington,  Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, John  Adams, James Madison and others,  all enjoyed more security both personal and financial than any American living in the colonies at the time. In fact,  much more than the majority of Americans do today. They would have been considered the 1%.

 Jefferson and Washington lived on large,  lavish, even opulent estates, Monticello for Jefferson, Mount Vernon  for Washington. Their kitchens were larger than the homes of most Americans and they enjoyed lives of comfort and luxury as well as accomplishment.

 Franklin was an international celebrity as an author, scientist, philosopher and publisher and was treated almost like royalty at  the court of the King of France whom Franklin went to see for help with the Revolution and was revered by the French aristocracy.  John Hancock was a successful and wealthy businessman whose biography states "maintained a lavish lifestyle and often faced staunch criticism for his exorbitance".  John Adams was a prominent Massachusetts lawyer.  Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the legendary Paul Revere, were successful in their chosen professions and were living prosperous lives,  Rush a physician, Revere a silversmith.  These men whose ideas and principles founded the country already had all the personal security anyone could have wanted.

 What they didn't have was the kind of liberty and freedom for themselves and their countrymen that they believed was the natural entitlement of a free people,to be  free from an oppressive and intrusive government and the right of people to self-determination. And for that they risked everything, their wealth,  security and their lives for what became the American idea Which is what led to Franklin's statement  " We either all hang together or we hang separately".

 Most colonists shared that idea. If they hadn't, if they had valued a balance between liberty and security, if it was something they cared about, no one would have showed up at Bunker Hill. No soldier who endured the winter at Valley Forge and survived by eating tree bark or leather from their own shoes assuming they had any shoes, or any soldier who hit the beaches at Normandy, or suffered hardship or gave his life in any war America had to fight,  ever did so for the idea of a balance between liberty and security.

 Giving up a certain amount of freedom and liberty in return for security is not and never has been part of the American idea. It is not only a false choice, it  undermines the very principles on which the country is founded and expressed in the Declaration of Independence and preamble to the Constitution.

 The ever dwindling supporters of  the NSA's mass  domestic spy program,  a program recently called  "almost Orwellian" by a federal judge, along with  being  unconstitutional,   (which, Obama's statements to the contrary,  has resulted in more than 2,000 documented  instances of illegal  NSA abuses of the rights of American citizens) still continue to support the program based on the  idea that Americans should be willing to accept a certain loss of liberty and privacy in return for security (as for security, it's still a fact that there hasn't  been a single instance where the NSA domestic data collection ever resulted in a single terrorist attack being foiled).

 It bears repeating as the debate continues,  that if the Founders and Americans who followed them had valued a balance between liberty and security there would have been no Revolution and no America.

President Obama's recent announcment regarding the NSA which both sides found tepid,  once again invoked the idea of having to find a  "a balance" between security and liberty. His proposals tried to satisfy both sides,  those who want to preserve civil liberties and those advocating the need to give up some in the name of  more security. Typically, Obama's proposals satisfied neither.

Sometime this month, members of congress will vote on The Freedom Act,a bill introduced by conservative Republican James Sensenbrenner, the author of the Patriot Act  under which the Obama Administration's expanded interpretations allowed the NSA's mass domestic spying to take place, and liberal Democratic senator Patrick Leahy. /The bill, in part, will abolish the NSA domestic meta data collection and tighten the restrictions on what the NSA can and cannot do with their spy technology.  If the bill passes, most of Obama's decisions on the NSA  will  be moot.

As members of congress contemplate that vote, they should keep in mind that a balance between security and liberty isn't really the issue and in fact undermines the founding principles of the country. And it would do them all well to consider what Benjamin Franklin had to say about it at the time :  "Those who would trade essential liberty for short term security deserve neither".

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why invoking 911 to justify NSA domestic meta data is either dishonest or ignorant.

With every other argument being made for NSA meta data collection proving to be not just empty but completely dishonest (see General Alexander's claim of "51 attacks prevented" that Senator Pat Leahy after looking at supporting documents said was a completely bogus claim),  and without a shred of proof that it has had any value at all, the defenders of the program have decided to reach out  for their last and what they hope is their most reliable resort by trying to invoke the 911 attacks as a reason to justify and continue the program.

We have heard from both James Clapper, General Alexander, some members of congress and some civilian supporters of the program that if the data collection had been in place prior to 911 it could have or would have prevented the attack.

As recently as Tuesday at a senate hearing chaired by senator Leahy, those appearing before the committee defending the NSA data collection, when asked if they thought that the program could have prevented 911 simply lied and said yes. And if it wasn't a lie it was staggering ignorance.

 For those with short term memory loss, it should be remembered that 911 was also used in 2002  by the Bush Administration to justify the first pre-emptive war in America's history in  invading Iraq to prevent, we were told,  the use of WMD that in the end didn't exist which supposedly was going to be used by a dictator who had ties to Al-Qaeda even though all the evidence was he didn't. Later ample evidence was uncovered that the Bush administration not only had no valid intelligence that Iraq had any WMD but did  have intelligence that they didn't.

 The 911 attacks have always proved to be the last bastion either of scoundrels trying to scare people into going along with their schemes, or those who might be sincere but exhibit the worst kind of ignorance of the facts surrounding the 911 attacks  and how the Bush administration including Bush himself and Condoleeza Rice, without any NSA meta data collection, had  all the intelligence anyone could have ever needed or wanted  to have stopped the 911 attacks dead in its tracks.

 The attack wasn't stopped and the intelligence not acted upon, because Bush, Rice and the entire Bush administration with the exception of Richard Clarke,  had dismissed  terrorism and Al-Qaeda as a real threat to the United States from the first day they took office and so disregarded all the intelligence given them that the United States was going to be hit with a major terrorist attack.

 These facts exposed by the 911 Commission showing the Bush administration was culpable of the worst case of gross negligence in American history went largely ignored by both the news media and Democrats, both of whom were more afraid of Republican attacks accusing them of politicizing 911 and being unpatriotic than they were of Al-Qaeda.

 By August of 2001 this is what Bush, Condoleeza Rice and others in the Bush administration were told by the intelligence agencies who gathered the information about Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda without any NSA domestic meta data collection:

They were given intelligence that Al-Qaeda was plotting to attack the United States within the United States.

 They were given intelligence that Al-Qaeda cells were already in the United States.

 They were given intelligence that Al-Qaeda cells had been spotted putting buildings in New York city under surveillance.

And they were given intelligence  that the Al-Qaeda plot to attack within the United States involved the hijacking of commercial U.S. airliners.

They were told all this as of August 6, 2001.

At the same time  in both July and August of 2001 Bush and Rice were told that CIA intercepts of Al-Qaeda traffic overseas indicated the Al-Qaeda plot was in motion and that one Al Qaeda  communication translated into " the match has been lit".

The CIA had other intercepts of Al-Qaeda traffic without any NSA meta data collection, that  indicated that the attack was "imminent" and, in the words of the memo from one CIA translator, that the attack was going to be "spectacular". This information was turned over to Richard Clarke.

Richard Clarke, a member of the White House panel on NSA reforms,  testified under oath at the 911 Commission hearings that he and CIA Director George Tenant, armed with this intelligence,  were "running around the White House like men with their hair on fire"  in August of 2001 trying to get Rice and Bush to take action against what they saw as the imminent threat of a major terrorist attack.  They were rebuffed and ignored by both Rice and Bush and without taking any action, Bush went on vacation to Crawford and hung out the Do Not Disturb sign.  All because from the first day of the Bush administration when Bush's first official act related to terrorism was to demote Richard Clarke to a sub- cabinet level position,  they didn't believe terrorism was a genuine or important threat to the United States ( see the Time magazine article " 911: The Secret History). 

This refusal to consider terrorism a threat went so far that the Assistant Director of the FBI testified at the 911  Commission hearing that on one occasion he went to Attorney General John Ashcroft's office with terrorist related intelligence and was told by Ashcroft "don't ever come to me with anything related to terrorism again".

 Clifford May, the president of something called The Foundation For Defense of Democracies, a conservative group that did a good job ignoring everything the 911 Commission revealed about the attacks and a current defender of the NSA meta data program, was on CNN the other day also trying to claim that if only the NSA meta data collection was in place at the time we might have gotten a tip and been able to follow up by confiscating computers belonging to Al-Qaeda members and learned of the plot. And May reiterated this point in an online article.

Here is a bulletin to Clifford May:  We actually did just that without the need for any of the NSA meta data collection. FBI agent Colleen Rowley, following up on leads and suspicions including information from a Minnesota flight school, arrested Zacarias Moussoui later called the 20th hijacker months before the attacks. Moussoui who was part of the plot, never participated in the attack because he had been arrested and was in jail.

Agent Rowley and her FBI agents did in fact confiscate Moussoui's computer, and it did in fact provide a wealth of information which, when taken with everything else available at the time,  including the August 6 presidential intelligence briefing that informed Bush and Rice that hijacking commercial airliners was part of the Al-Qaeda plot, there was so much intelligence, there wasn't a cab driver in New York city who couldn't have prevented the 911 attacks with the information available.  (Moussoui had been taking flying lessons at a Minneapolis flight school to learn how to fly jumbo jets, but he only wanted to learn to fly them, not how to take off or land something that raised the suspicions of the school who called the FBI).

 In another instance,  an airline ticket seller in Maine testified that he became suspicious when, on the morning of Sept 11 2001 a middle eastern man came to his counter and bought a one way ticket to San  Francisco, connecting at Logan airport,  without a reservation, and paying the top dollar one way price of $2500.  The man also paid cash and had no luggage.  The ticket seller said he had never seen anything similar in all the years he worked at the Maine airport and intuitively it raised his suspicions. But since there were no bulletins or alerts by the FAA (which Bush or Rice could have easily directed) to be on the lookout for any suspicious behavior related to possible hijackings by Middle Eastern men, he did nothing. Had those bulletins been issued what do you think that ticket seller at the Maine airport would have done?  Keep it to himself?  The man who bought that ticket at the Maine airport was Muhammad Atta.

This scenario was repeated with each hijacker at Logan and Dulles airports on September 11, 2001. Middle Eastern men buying one way tickets to San Francisco, all paying cash and none of them carrying luggage. Does anyone believe that wouldn't have raised red flags had there been an alert to airports and airlines regarding the danger of potential hijackings issued by the White House?

After the attacks, FBI agent Rowley wrote a scathing letter to FBI director Robert Mueller which she also sent to Time magazine to be made public, eviscerating Mueller for claiming publicly that the FBI didn't have enough information to have stopped 911 when she knew they did.  She accused Mueller of covering up for Bush to save Bush's skin politically and outlined all the information they had extracted from Moussoui and his computer and forwarded to FBI headquarters in Washington, months before the Sept 11 attacks. All of which were ignored by the Bush Administration.

 For her courage in not only writing the letter to Mueller but for sending it to Time magazine to be made public, Time named agent Rowley along with two other whistleblowers Person of the Year in 2002 (reminding us again of what seems like political and perhaps economic cowardice by Time in ignoring Edward Snowden as Person of the Year in 2013)

 It is well worth reading what Rowley had to say post 911:

 "What if you lived in a country where, after the Administration negligently failed to prevent a major terrorist attack, they deliberately exploited everyone's fears and utilized shock doctrine to do INSANELY stupid and dangerous things: things like launching costly pre-emptive wars, subverting law, and destroying the checks and balances of the Constitution and common standards of decency by re-instituting torture? Well, We DO live in that country."

 In Rowley's letter to FBI Director Mueller which Time published she wrote:

 " It is obvious, from my firsthand knowledge of the events and the detailed documentation that exists, that the agents in Minneapolis who were closest to the action and in the best position to gauge the situation locally, did fully appreciate the
terrorist risk/danger posed by Moussaoui and his possible co-conspirators even prior to September 11th.”"

The success of the attacks was repeatedly called an intelligence failure by the Bush Administration in trying to shift the blame to the intelligence agencies . It was an intelligence failure. But the failures were at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue, not at the intelligence agencies most of whom did their jobs and did it well ( an exception was Louis Freeh who was torched by the  911 Commission chairman for his failures and for disregarding a CIA request to put a tail on recent Al-Qaeda arrivals to the U.S. Arrivals who became the 911 hijackers). 

The intelligence agencies including the FBI  had gathered enough information to have prevented the 911 attacks  had it been acted on.  And without the NSA's domestic meta data collection invading the privacy of American citizens. A program that senator Leahy who has seen supporting documents, has called " a waste".  To this day, Condoleeza Rice's statement that they "couldnt connect the dots" continues to go right over the heads of journalists who saw it as some kind of clever metaphor instead of exactly what it was -- a subconcious confession. Rice, a highly educated woman with a sophisticated vocabulary could have chosen any words to describe the Bush administration's failures in stopping 911. Saying they "couldnt connect the dots" was an admission that they didn't do what a child could have done - draw a line from one dot to the other ( the specific available intelligence) in consecutive order and see the whole picture.

Claiming that having the meta data program in place prior to 911 could have prevented the attacks and that not having it at the time could have contributed to why the attacks succeeded is preposterous, intellectually dishonest and flies in the face of all the known facts. It was also refuted by the White House panel appointed to make recommendations on the NSA.

Given all the intelligence that was available at the time, and the failures by those in authority to act, the NSA domestic meta data program would have been as big a waste of time then as it's critics like senator Leahy say it is now. But it  doesn't stop its defenders from trying to exploit 911 to try and get their way.

It should be remembered, that had those courageous intrepid crusaders for truth known as journalists reported  the facts uncovered by the 911 Commission and held those in government accountable for their failures  instead of the cowardice they displayed in running away and hiding under a rock,  had they expended the same energy over the facts surrounding the 911 attacks that they did over Anthony Weiner's online sex chats, and demanded accountability to the country,  Bush, Rice and Cheney and probably most of the Bush administration  would probably have had to resign.  History would have been vastly different ( like no war in Iraq or financial crisis for that matter and a Kerry victory in 2004) and we would't now be talking about having to rein in the NSA and their domestic spying on every American.  You can blame Democrats as well for  playing See No Evil , Hear No Evil Speak No Evil, but to be fair, without the news media doing their jobs, Democrats would have been in an untenable position.

It should also be noted that while there have been long and tortured hearings and investigations by congress, especially in the Republican led House over the four deaths in the Benghazi attacks with Republicans spearheading the criticism of a Democratic administration,  when Republicans controlled congress from Sept. 2001 to January 2007, there was not a single congressional hearing by any congressional committee  into the Sept. 11, 2001 attack,  the worst attack and worst loss of life on American soil by a foreign enemy in American history. Which occured as the result of gross negligence by a Republican administration.

The last thing to keep in mind, and hopefully congress will, is that with the NSA collecting data on billions of Americans' phone calls for years, logging every phone call Americans have made and storing them in a data base, secretely monitoring everyone's internet traffic and according to the latest Snowden revelation collecting up to 200 million text messages a day,  for years,  with all of this, they couldnt prevent a couple of 20 year old Chechen brothers with outspoken Islamist beliefs living in America  from carrying out two pressure cooker bombings at the Boston Marathon in 2013, an event which,  when you listen to those defending the NSA meta data collecting, is like it never happened. Instead we hear a defense of the program from those supporting it who say, "all it takes is one attack". That attack has already happened. It happened in Boston. And the NSA domestic data collection did nothing to prevent it.

The meta data collection on American citizens hasn't kept anyone safe and  it never has.  It has not prevented or stopped even one terrorist attack contradicting the claim of General Alexander that it prevented 51, and as senator Leahy said after looking at documents given him by the NSA, the program is useless and a waste,  has prevented nothing and accomplished nothing except to violate privacy rights of American citizens.

The one current bright spot is that the Freedom Act which will soon come up for a vote (if Boehner lets it)  and is designed to abolish the NSA meta data collection and introduce other restrictions,  is authored by a conservative Republican, James Sensenbrenner, and liberal senator Pat Leahy,a Democrat. Which shows that when it comes to American's privacy and freedoms as well as their security and 911 itself, partisanship may finally have gone out the window. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Freeh Report,NCAA and news media to go on trial in Paterno law suit.

One of the most egregious  and well documented cases of news media dishonesty, libel, cowardice and greed along with official misconduct by the NCAA and others, will finally go on trial in a court of law where facts and  rules of evidence, not media dishonesty,a mob mentality, distortions or ratings, web hits and newsstand sales at the expense of a man's reputation, will be the standard on which facts will be presented and judged.

On Tuesday a judge ruled that the Paterno family's law suit against the NCAA can continue. The issue had always been,  would the judge find that the Paterno's had standing to challenge the NCAA sanctions as they pertained to Joe Paterno.  The NCAA had asked for the suit to be dismissed on the grounds that the Paterno family didn't have standing. The judge ruled they did, and decided it on the basis of an evidentiary showing that libel was involved and that  one of the issues to be decided in court will be the NCAA's" reckless disregard" for "falsities" in the Freeh Report on which they based their decisions. 

The judge wrote:

"Plaintiffs ( the Paterno family) identified disparaging statements accusing Joe Paterno of enabling and concealing child sexual abuse and knowledge or reckless disregard for their falsity" (italics mine)

In other words, the judge was satisfied that there was a showing that those accusations in the Freeh Report at the heart of the attack on Paterno were in fact false and the issue will be the NCAA's knowledge of, or reckless disregard "with respect to their falsity".

This means that Louis Freeh, his dishonest report, the NCAA and by extension a slew of purported journalists and news organizations will also be on trial for their self serving  dishonest reporting attacking Joe Paterno, falsifying facts, and distorting his relationship to the issues surrounding Jerry Sandusky and Penn State.

If the court, after trial,  finds for the Paterno family against the NCAA which is a virtual certainty given the facts and the clear falsity of the Freeh Report,  it will also by extension be a "guilty" verdict against that cartel  of self serving,self promoting journalists and news organizations who falsified, distorted, misrepresented, ignored  and in many cases fabricated circumstances, facts and issues regarding Joe Paterno  simply to suit their own purposes which had more to do with capitalizing on the Paterno name and what that meant for ratings, newsstand sales and web hits than the truth. That is what mattered most, more than truth or facts and those journalists covering the story displayed the kind of rank dishonesty and incompetence,and even stupidity that generally infects the news media on a big story (Pew Research said it was the biggest story in the country for three straight weeks)  when their goal is not objective journalism but generating income and their own place in the food chain at the expense of both journalistic standards and a man's reputation.

Those journalists and media organizations will be on trial as well.

The dismantling of the Freeh Report on which the NCAA sanctions were based, is all the Paterno family lawyers need to do to win their suit against the NCAA, and by extension, the news media and the Penn State Board of Trustees. If the Paternos win their suit which is all but inevitable, those who attacked Paterno and accepted the Freeh Report will have a lot of explaining to do. Especially the current president of Penn State and the Board of Trustees who readily accepted the NCAA sanctions based on the Freeh Report which they themselves paid for and embraced.

The crux of the court case will be the Freeh Report itself, blindly embraced and trumpeted  by the news media to justify their attacks on Paterno even though simply a cursory reading of the report revealed it to be a complete fabrication, filled with false assertions,  fabrications, manipulation of evidence (something Freeh has a long and well documented history of doing at the FBI -- see Richard Jewel)  and intentionally false conclusions about Paterno unsupported by any proof or evidence.

Freeh also  intentionally excluded any evidence or proof that didn't support his predetermined intention which was to smear Paterno, (the motives for which have been documented here previously) which he also correctly calculated the news the media would use to justify their own self serving attacks.

The investigation was so dishonest, slanted and clearly designed to produce a predetermined outcome, that Freeh actually refused to interview Paterno when he was alive,  as part of the "investigation" when Paterno requested to be interviewed,and refused to interview Mike McQueary who also requested to be interviewed lest any of them put facts on the record that would interfere with his intended outcome. Freeh also made no attempt to interview Tim Curley or Gary Schultz to attempt to verify the facts behind  two vague emails Freeh used to make  unsupported  conclusions about Paterno even though proof existed that contradicted Freeh's assertions.

The Freeh Report had also been analyzed by former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh for those unable to add 2+2, and who concluded Freeh's  report was essentially worthless, an a dishonest peice of investigation filled with fabrications,  distortions and misrepresentations (again something Freeh had a well documented history of doing at the FBI) with no investigative or  factual value at all. The news media largely ignored Thornburgh's findings. It will be hard for them to ignore the outcome of the Paterno law suit which will force the Freeh Report and the NCAA into a court of law where rules of evidence and fact finding will be all that matters, not manipulation, fabrication and media misconduct.

The outcome of the law suit with a finding against the NCAA and in favor of the Paterno family  is a virtual certainty given the obvious falsity and investigative misconduct of the Freeh Report. And so the truth will be on the record.

It's not likely the Paterno family will agree to any out of court settlement since the motivation for the law suit is not money but the restoration of Joe Paterno's reputation.
And that will easily be done by dragging Louis Freeh and his report into a courtroom, examining it in the light of day where the rules of evidence apply, and proving it was a total fraud.  Along with the people who paid for it and those who blindly  accepted it.

Note: This peice has been edited for length from the original with additional material added.

Friday, January 3, 2014

CNN report on findings of White House panel proves an embarrassment.

The year 2013 ended badly for mainstream journalism. First,  Time magazine was given last rites as credible journalism by most people when they named Pope Francis, who had been Pope for only a few months,  as Person of the Year over Edward Snowden whose NSA revelations clearly impacted the entire world  in what was clearly the editors of Time pandering for newsstand sales and also taking the journalistically easy way out, wanting to avoid controversy over Snowden. Then Esquire Magazine, jumping on the bandwagon and no doubt also looking for Catholic newsstand sales,  inexplicably named the Pope as Best Dressed Man of the Year.  Sports Illustrated parted company by not naming Pope Francis Sportsman of the Year, and instead gave it to Peyton Manning.

But on news of real substance, CNN topped them all at the end of the year with a report by their National Security correspondent, Jim Sciutto on the findings of the White House panel on the NSA secret meta data collection on American citizens.

In giving his report, Sciutto  seemed to have a very bad case of reading comprehension and managed to get all the conclusions of the report  completely wrong including its most important finding. According to Sciutto, the panel found that "the bulk data collection of American citizens phone records and internet traffic should remain intact".  The findings of the panel said exactly the opposite.

Luckily for CNN viewers, Ryan Lizza who as a correspondent for The New Yorker has written some of the best articles this side of Glenn Greenwald on the NSA was there sitting next to Scuitto and immediately refuted everything Sciutto had reported,  saying that the headline from the panel's report was that the NSA bulk data collections of American citizens should end, not , as Sciutto reported, that they should stay in place.

As Lizza went on with his commentary on the panel's report in which he continued to contradict just about everything Scuitto just reported, Sciutto sat there nodding like a bobble head doll while Wolf Blitzer sat there looking at both of them,  confused.

Sciutto has not been seen on CNN since.