This week’s edition of The Monitor will be the last until at least the summer of 2018. After more than 14 years on the air and hundreds of interviews, I am forced to take a break from the show. Listen to last week’s show for more detail.
The Monitor goes on hiatus with a feature length interview with William Binney, a former highly placed intelligence official with the United States National Security Agency(NSA) who turned whistleblower and resigned on October 31, 2001, after more than 30 years with the agency. He was a high-profile critic of his former employers during the George W. Bush administration, and later criticized the NSA’s data collection policies during the Barack Obama administration. In 2016, he said the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election was false. You can read more about Binney in many outlets online, including: CIA DIRECTOR MET ADVOCATE OF DISPUTED DNC HACK THEORY — AT TRUMP’S REQUEST; NSA whistleblower discusses ‘How the NSA tracks you’
William Binney features in a documentary called “A Good American”. This is well worth watching and available now on Netflix. Here is the trailer:
On The Monitor this week:
- James Carden on the continued U.S.-arming of terrorists in Syria amidst DC’s ongoing Political Theater
- Andrew Cockburn on reviving the art of threat inflation and aiding and abetting the Saudi slaughter in Yemen
More about this week’s guests:
James Carden is a Washington, DC–based journalist focusing on US foreign policy. He is also the executive editor of the American Committee for East-West Accord, and a contributing writer at The Nation. He has served as an Advisor to the US-Russia Presidential Commission at the US State Department. He has contributed articles on US-Russia policy to The American Conservative, The National Interest, The Moscow Times. He graduated from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. His most recent articles include:Why Does the US Continue to Arm Terrorists in Syria? and Round Up the Usual Suspects, It’s Time for a Show Hearing. You can read his articles for The Nation here.
Born in London and raised in County Cork, Andrew Cockburn moved to the U.S. in 1979. He is a journalist, an author and a filmmaker. He is also the Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine. His books include: Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship and The Threat: Inside the Soviet Military Machine. His most recent book is Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins. His latest articles include The New Red Scare Reviving the art of threat inflation; and Acceptable Losses Aiding and abetting the Saudi slaughter in Yemen. You can read his latest articles for Harper’s here.
On The Monitor this week:
- The NSA spying on Americans with the help of AT&T – an interview with Mark Klein
- Demonizing and misunderstanding China – an interview with Henry Rosemont
More about this week’s guests:
Mark Klein is the whistleblower who exposed AT&T’s participation in the National Security Agency’s illegal warrantless spying on millions of Americans. Klein grew up in New York City and in 1962 entered Cornell University’s School of Engineering. As the 1960s exploded in social upheaval he was moved with his generation to investigate society and graduated in 1966 with a B.A. in history. Later he returned to technical school, obtaining certificates in electronics and computers which led to employment in computer manufacturing in the 1970s. He was hired by AT&T in 1981 as a communications technician and worked for the company for over 22 years. In 2003 he discovered the illicit National Security Agency (NSA) installation in San Francisco and in 2006 he tried to bring it to public attention, becoming a witness for a lawsuit against AT&T brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retired since 2004, Klein now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife.
Quote: “The documents prove I was right, and if a court had been willing to allow the Electronic Frontier Foundation lawsuit against AT&T to go forward, we would have won. But Congress knowingly put a retroactive pseudo-‘legal’ stamp on the violations of law and the Constitution, and the courts accepted it. Both parties are to blame, all three branches of government are culpable. I’d gotten my story out through the New York Times in April 2006 after the Los Angeles Times had killed it. The editor who killed the story was Dean Baquet — who is now executive editor at the New York Times. Obama had campaigned against immunizing the telcos, but by the time the vote happened in 2008, he had sewn up the nomination and switched sides. It was a betrayal even before he got to the White House. The entire congressional leadership pushed this, especially the ‘gang of eight’ who were the ones who actually knew what the immunity was about. My own senator, Dianne Feinstein, who was on the intelligence committee, wouldn’t even speak with me, she was all about covering up for the NSA. Many in congress who voted for the immunity blindly voted to immunize a crime details of which they didn’t know or didn’t want to know. It wasn’t just AT&T of course, it was that the Bush administration had brazenly violated FISA and of course the Constitution. They didn’t have a legal leg to stand on, which is why they needed the immunity.”
The New York Times and ProPublica published “AT&T Helped U.S. Spy on Internet on a Vast Scale,” which states: “The National Security Agency’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T.
“While it has been long known that American telecommunications companies worked closely with the spy agency, newly disclosed N.S.A. documents show that the relationship with AT&T has been considered unique and especially productive. One document described it as ‘highly collaborative,’ while another lauded the company’s ‘extreme willingness to help.’ …
“The documents, provided by the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden, were jointly reviewed by the New York Times and ProPublica. The N.S.A., AT&T and Verizon declined to discuss the findings from the files. ‘We don’t comment on matters of national security,’ an AT&T spokesman said. …
“After the Times disclosed the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program in December 2005, plaintiffs began trying to sue AT&T and the N.S.A. In a 2006 lawsuit, a retired AT&T technician named Mark Klein claimed that three years earlier, he had seen a secret room in a company building in San Francisco where the N.S.A. had installed equipment.”
Henry Rosemont JR is distinguished professor emeritus at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and visiting scholar of religious studies at Brown University. He also spent three years in China as Fulbright Senior Lecturer at Fudan University in Shanghai.
Among his books are A Chinese Mirror, Rationality and Religious Experience, Is There A Universal Grammar of Religion? (with Huston Smith), and A Reader’s Companion to the Confucian Analects. He has edited and/or translated ten other books, including Leibniz: Writings on China (with Daniel Cook) and with Roger Ames, The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation. His latest book is the recently released Against Individualism: A Confucian Rethinking of the Foundations of Morality, Politics, Family and Religion.
Quote: “As the state visit of President Xi Jinping draws nigh, his demonization at the hands of the media, many members of Congress and most of the presidential candidates will make it difficult for the Obama administration to suggest a much more cooperative than confrontational approach to U.S.-China relations. But brinksmanship with China is even more irrational than with Iran, for (at least) four reasons. First, it almost surely will not be effective. China cannot be bullied, and the U.S. has a far greater capacity to influence the country positively than negatively. Second, cooperation rather than confrontation — or even competition — would be in the best economic, military, social and environmental interests of both nations. Third, increased tensions and mutual distrust between the U.S. and China instead of close cooperation will eliminate what may well be the best option for providing a measure of global stability that neither the U. N., E.U., World Bank, I.M.F. or other international institutions seem capable of maintaining any longer on their own. And the 4th reason is the unthinkable: World War III, nuclear weapons and all. Here are a few steps the Obama administration might easily take without compromising our security or economic conditions: de-emphasize democracy issues in favor of deepening last Fall’s climate change agreement; sponsor China’s becoming a major player in the IMF and promise to support the inclusion of the renminbi for drawing rights instead of obstructing it at the next round; acknowledge that China has the same security concerns in the South China Sea as the U.S. claims for the Caribbean; refuse to sell arms to Taiwan any longer in exchange for China’s disavowal of the use of force against the island; explore the joint creation of an international naval patrol force on the model of the ‘1000 ship navy’ first proposed by the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen. The rewards for these and similar initiatives are potentially great, but cannot be achieved either by appeasement or threat. Only negotiations can achieve them, and that requires trust, not demonization. As cooperation deepens, the conversations might deepen as well, to become a genuine dialogue between civilizations: individual rights and social rights; democracy and meritocracy; security and liberty; the right and the good; divinity and a human-centered religiousness; and more. Both sides might well learn much from the other.”
Background: Bloomberg reports: “Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wants President Barack Obama to cancel Chinese president Xi Jinping’s upcoming state visit. Stealing some of his thunder, Florida Senator Marco Rubio swooped in and countered that it should be downgraded to a regular working visit.” CNN headlined a story last week: “Donald Trump: No state dinner — only Big Mac — for China’s president.”
The Huffington Post recently published excerpts of Rosemont’s most recent book. See: “We All Think We’re Individuals. Here’s Why That’s Not True, And Why The Lie Is Told,” which states: “It is possible to challenge the libertarian on moral and political grounds, but not, I believe, if one accepts a foundational individualism as grounding ethics.”
See video of his talk at the China Studies center at Saint Vincent College.
In 2008, he co-wrote the piece “Is China a Threat?“
On The Monitor this week
- The Mysterious Case of Prisoner 212 – an interview with Cora Currier
- The Reporting on the Re-Released DOJ IG Report Missed FBI’s Misuse of Terrorism Tools – an interview with Marcy Wheeler
More About this week’s guests:
Cora Currier is a journalist with The Intercept. She focuses on national security, foreign affairs, and human rights. As a reporting fellow at ProPublica, she covered national security and finance. Her work has been published in Stars and Stripes, The Nation, Columbia Journalism Review, Al Jazeera America, and many other outlets. Before joining ProPublica, she was on the editorial staff of The New Yorker and a lead researcher on several books of history and politics. She lives in New York.
From a Recent Article:
“Researchers and reporters had long counted the total number of prisoners who cycled through Guantanamo at 779, but the Senate intelligence committee’s report on CIA torture revealed that there was one more previously unknown detainee. Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, also known as prisoner 212, was held at a secret black site at Guantanamo Bay, according to the report, bringing the total number of detainees to 780.
That al-Libi was held by the CIA is long established. After all, al-Libi’s name is notorious as the source of bad information used by the Bush administration to tie Saddam Hussein to Al-Qaeda to support the US invasion of Iraq — information he provided while being tortured in Egyptian custody, and later recanted…According to the Intercept’s research, there are still 50 former CIA prisoners named by Senate investigators whose fates are unknown, and who have not, to our knowledge, spoken to the media or human rights groups. ”
Marcy Wheeler grew up bi-coastally, starting with every town in New York with an IBM. Then she moved to Poway, California, home of several participants in the Duke Cunningham scandal. Since then, she has lived in Western Massachusetts, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Ann Arbor, and — currently — Western Michigan.
She got a BA from Amherst College, where she spent much of her time on the rugby pitch. A PhD program in Comparative Literature brought her to Michigan; she got the PhD but decided academics was not her thing. Her research, though, was on a cool journalistic form called the “feuilleton” — a kind of conversational essay that was important to the expansion of modern newspapers in much of the rest of the world. It was pretty good preparation to become a blogger, if a PhD can ever be considered training for blogging.
After leaving academics, Marcy consulted for the auto industry, much of it in Asia. But her contract moved to Asia, along with most of Michigan’s jobs, so she did what anyone else would do. Write a book, and keep blogging. (Oh, and I hear Amazon still has the book for sale.)
Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.
Following up on last week’s show, this week The Monitor is all about whistleblowers and the need for them to be able to report violations. Both guests are connected to the newly launched ExposeFacts.org.
First up is William Binney and rounding out the hour is Matthew Hoh.
Newsweek just published “The Website That Wants the Next Snowden to Leak” about the newly launched ExposeFacts.org. The lengthy article includes discussion of the legality of exposing classified documents. At the news conference launching ExposeFacts.org, former NSA official William Binney, who is now on the advisory board of ExposeFacts.org, noted that classifying documents to cover up wrongdoing violates the Executive Order on classification. [video at 1:01:00]
More about this week’s guests:
William Binney is a former high-level National Security Agency intelligence official who, after his 2001 retirement after 30 years, blew the whistle on NSA surveillance programs. His outspoken criticism of the NSA during the George W. Bush administration made him the subject of FBI investigations that included a raid on his home in 2007. Even before Edward Snowden’s NSA whistleblowing, Binney publicly revealed that NSA had access to telecommunications companies’ domestic and international billing records, and that since 9/11 the agency has intercepted some 15 to 20 trillion communications. The Snowden disclosures confirmed many of the surveillance dangers Binney — without the benefit of documents — had been warning about under both the Bush and Obama administrations. Binney has been singled out for praise by Snowden, who told the Wall Street Journal: “I have tremendous respect for Binney, who did everything he could according to the rules. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for highlighting how the Intelligence Community punishes reporting abuses within the system.”
Quote: “Not too many people are paying too much attention to this, but under Executive Order 13526, sec 1.7 — this is the executive order that governs classification for the U.S. government — you cannot use classification to cover up a crime, illegality, abuse of any form, or fraud, corruption, waste or embarrassment and a number of other things. And a lot of these things that Snowden exposed were in fact evidence of crimes against the constitution or other laws that existed, statutes in the country. So those things [documents] cannot legitimately be classified under that executive order.
Matthew Hoh is the Former director of the Afghanistan Study Group, Hoh is a former Marine and State Department official. In 2009 he resigned from his post with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of U.S. strategic policy and goals in Afghanistan (Washington Post, front page, “U.S. Official Resigns Over Afghan War,” October 27, 2009). Hoh discussed the launch of ExposeFacts.org when he appeared on Huffington Post Live yesterday, interviewed on “Free Speech Zone with @AlyonaMink.”
Quote: “I am very much honored and more than a bit humbled to be included in the launch of such a worthy and necessary effort, particularly one bearing the name of Daniel Ellsberg. After over eleven continuous years of service with the U.S. military and U.S. government, nearly six of those years overseas, including service in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as positions within the Secretary of the Navy’s Office as a White House Liaison, and as a consultant for the State Department’s Iraq Desk, I resigned from my position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the escalation of war in 2009. It took years of involvement with a mendacious war policy, evidence of which was apparent to me as early as 2003, before I found the courage to follow my conscience. It is not an easy or light decision for anyone to make, but we need members of our military, development, diplomatic, and intelligence community to speak out if we are ever to have a just and sound foreign policy. I trust ExposeFacts and its efforts will encourage others to follow their conscience and do what is right.”
The ExposeFacts organization is part of the nonprofit Institute for Public Accuracy, founded in 1997. See text of Executive Order 13526, sec 1.7:
(a) In no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified in order to:
(1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;
(2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;
(3) restrain competition; or
(4) prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security.
The Monitor this week is divided into the usual two segments of interviews. In the first interview with have a National Security and Civil Liberties discussion with Marcy Wheeler and in the second we discuss What the Sino-Russian Gas Deal Says about American Foreign Policy’s Self-Damaging Trajectory with Flynt Leverett.
More about this week’s guests:
Marcy Wheeler is an American independent journalist specializing in national security and civil liberties. Wheeler publishes on her own site, Emptywheel. She makes occasional contributions to the commentary and analysis section of The Guardian, progressive news site Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Michigan Liberal. Between early December 2007 and July 2011 Wheeler published primarily on Jane Hamsher’s FireDogLake (FDL) and prior to that on The Next Hurrah.
During United States v. Libby, the trial of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, along with other regular press-accredited contributors to FireDogLake, Wheeler reported on the testimony live from the courtroom. In her accounts of the Libby trial, she describes her entries as “not a transcript”. Nevertheless, such bloggers’ eye-witness accounts served as sources of reliable information about the trial for their readers. During the trial, she appeared on camera in video reports posted online on PoliticsTV.com, along with other accredited Libby trial blogger-correspondents such as TalkLeft creator Jeralyn Merritt and FDL creator Jane Hamsher and FDL principal blogger Christy Hardin Smith.
In October 2013, Newsweek published an article about Wheeler titled “The Woman Who Knows The NSA’s Secrets.”
Flynt Leverett is professor of international affairs at Penn State and co-author of Going to Tehran: Why America Must Accept the Islamic Republic of Iran. He is part of the founding faculty for Penn State’s School of International Affairs, faculty affiliate at the Dickinson School of Law, and a visiting scholar at Peking University’s School of International Studies. With his wife and frequent co-author, Hillary Mann Leverett, he writes www.GoingToTehran.com, a prominent forum for realist analysis on Iran and the Middle East.
Prof. Leverett has written extensively on the international relations, politics, and political economy of the Middle East and on U.S. Middle East policy. His latest book, Going to Tehran: Why America Must Accept the Islamic Republic of Iran (2013), is now in paperback, with a new Afterword. Before publication, Going to Tehran was excerpted in Harper’s and highlighted by Foreign Policy as a “Book to Read in 2013.” It was also the launch point for a Penn State Journal of Law and International Affairs symposium on “The U.S.-Iranian Relationship and the Future of International Order.” While controversial for many U.S. policy elites, Going to Tehran has been lauded by leading public intellectuals like Andrew Bacevich, Noam Chomsky, and Glenn Greenwald.
On the Monitor this week:
- Freedom of the Press under serious assault by Obama and Holder. An interview with Matt Rothschild.
- Is Boko Haram in Nigeria stronger because U.S.-led War in Libya Boost? An interview with Ajamu Baraka.
More about this week’s guests:
Matthew Rothschild is the senior editor of The Progressive magazine (from 1994), which is one of the leading voices for peace and social justice in this country. Rothschild has appeared on Nightline, C-SPAN, The O’Reilly Factor, and NPR, and his newspaper commentaries have run in the Chicago Tribune, the L.A. Times, the Miami Herald, and a host of other newspapers. Rothschild is the host of “Progressive Radio,” a syndicated half-hour weekly interview program. And he does a two-minute daily radio commentary, entitled “Progressive Point of View,” which is also syndicated around the country. Rothschild is the author of You Have No Rights: Stories of America in an Age of Repression (New Press, 2007). He also is the editor of Democracy in Print: The Best of The Progressive, 1909-2009 (University of Wisconsin Press, 2009)
Nearly 50,000 people have signed a petition in recent days urging President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to end legal moves against New York Times reporter James Risen.
Charging that the administration has launched “an assault on freedom of the press,” the petition tells Obama and Holder: “We urge you in the strongest terms to halt all legal action against Mr. Risen and to safeguard the freedom of journalists to maintain the confidentiality of their sources.”
Federal prosecutors are threatening Risen with jail unless he reveals a confidential source. Risen has said he will not capitulate.
Freedom of the Press Foundation: Court Guts Reporter’s Privilege
Truthout: Conversation With James Risen: Can Journalists Protect Their Sources?
Politico: Justice Department Urges SCOTUS to Pass Up Reporter’s Privilege Case
Justice Department Brief: James Risen v. United States of America
Titled “We Support James Risen Because We Support a Free Press,” the petition says: “Without confidentiality, journalism would be reduced to official stories — a situation antithetical to the First Amendment.”
The petition was initiated by five organizations: Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR); the Freedom of the Press Foundation; The Nation; The Progressive / Center for Media and Democracy; and RootsAction.org.
Ajamu Baraka is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies who is based in Colombia. He has written extensively on Africa and just wrote the piece “From Benghazi to Boko Haram: Why I support the Benghazi Inquiry,” which states: “Seemingly out of nowhere, Boko Haram burst into the awareness of people around the world as a shadowy group of Islamists with the ability to carry out audacious attacks that paralyzed the army of the most populous country in Africa. People now want to know the group’s origins, where they came from, why they are kidnapping girls and how they became such a powerful threat. All important questions — but questions that cannot be answered by just looking at the internal politics of Nigeria, as important as those are, because Boko Haram is incomprehensible when decontextualized from the destabilization, death and destruction unleashed across Africa from the Sahel into West Africa as a result of one historic event — the vicious NATO obliteration of the state of Libya.
“African Union Commission chief Jean Ping warned NATO, during its bombing campaign and arming of so-called rebel forces in Libya, that the weapons they provided the ‘rebels’ would end up in the hands of al Qaeda throughout Africa. He said, ‘Africa’s concern is that weapons that are delivered to one side or another … are already in the desert and will arm terrorists and fuel trafficking.’
“Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo expressed what many in Africa feared from the NATO attack on Libya: ‘We knew that at the end of the Libya operations, there would be fallout. And the fallout would be where would all the weapons go? Where would be some of those who have been trained how to use weapons [and] how would they be accounted for? … Part of what is happening in Mali is part of the fallout from Libya, and we should not expect that Mali will be the last.’
“Reports from the United Nations [Reuters headline in 2012: “Arms from Libya Could Reach Boko Haram, al Qaeda: UN“], the Guardian newspaper and many other sources reveal how Boko Haram benefited from the destabilization of various countries across the Sahel following the Libya conflict, receiving arms and training from an emboldened al Qaeda and its Saudi backers. …
“We understand that there will be an attempt to keep the focus narrow. Members of both parties and everyone in the higher echelons of the military/intelligence community knew that the U.S. had aligned with groups in Eastern Libya that were known to be jihadists. The fact that both parties supported the NATO intervention knowing that jihadists affiliated with al Qaeda played a major part in the overthrow of Gaddafi and that the largest CIA station in North Africa was established in Benghazi where it provided arms and was used as a staging ground for inserting jihadist forces into Syria, means that both parties share an interest in avoiding the serious legal and moral implications of U.S. actions in Libya. …
“And I am outraged knowing that U.S. policy-makers don’t give a damn about the school girls in Nigeria, because their real objective is to use the threat of Boko Haram in the Northern part of the country to justify the real goal of occupying the oil fields in the South and to block the Chinese in Nigeria.”