Journalist Chris Hedges spoke with RT news host Sophia about the information difference in the news that is reported. Citing the uprising in the Ukraine as an example, he talks about how the US government uses fake facts and dubious evidence to push its propaganda on the public using an ever compliant American media.
The crisis in Ukraine and the steadily dropping temperature in relations between Moscow and Washington made many talk about a new Cold War; and many others are worried it may turn ‘hot’. But there’s another war going on right now: the information war. US Secretary of State Kerry has already attacked RT, calling it “Putin’s propaganda machine.” But Washington itself uses dubious evidence and fake facts. What is the information war? What methods is America using?
There are two sides to every story, then there is the truth.
Activist and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Chris Hedges discusses the forces driving the acceleration of global decline,the military mind and the antidote to defeatism in a two part interview with Abby Martin on RT’s “Breaking the Set.”
In the run up to President Barack Obama’s promised decision on reforms the National Security Agency and its surveillance programs, there has been an unsubstantiated press release, by House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers and his Democratic counterpart Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, that the material taken by whistleblower Edward Snowden gravely impacted America’s national security, put the lives of US military personnel at risk and aided terrorists. There are no specifics about these allegations that Snowden had downloaded 1.7 million files or had considerable information on current U.S. military operations because the Pentagon report is, of course, classified.
In a lengthy interview that aired on Friday on National Public Radio (NPR), the NSA’s top civilian official, the outgoing deputy director John C Inglis, said that the agency would cautiously welcome a public advocate to argue for privacy interests before the secret court which oversees surveillance. Such a measure is being promoted by some of the agency’s strongest legislative critics. [..]
But security officials are arguing strongly against curtailing the substance of domestic surveillance activities.
While Inglis conceded in his NPR interview that at most one terrorist attack might have been foiled by NSA’s bulk collection of all American phone data – a case in San Diego that involved a money transfer from four men to al-Shabaab in Somalia – he described it as an “insurance policy” against future acts of terrorism. [..]
Inglis was bolstered on Thursday by the new FBI director James Comey, who said he opposed curbing the bureau’s power to collect information from businesses through a non-judicial subpoena called a national security letter. The use of national security letters, which occurs in secret, came under sharp criticism from Obama’s surveillance review panel, which advocated judicial approval over them.
Comey told reporters that would make it harder for his agency to investigate national security issues than conduct bank fraud investigations.
Activist and journalist Chris Hedges, along with former NSA technical director and NSA whistle-blower William Binney, tell Real News Network‘s Paul Jay that there should be accountability, including the President himself, for the criminal practices used by the NSA against the American people.
This Friday the president will publicly announce the results of his review of National Security Agency surveillance programs at the Department of Justice, not the White House.
To the question of the American public’s responsibility for the crimes committed in its name, Hedges said:
I would say very few Americans-and the exception would be probably those in the armed forces and those who work for contractors or the diplomatic service-actually grasp the dirty work of empire. Having spent 20 years of my life on the fringes of empire and seen how empire works, Conrad was right. It’s the horror, the horror. What is it that drones and hellfire missiles do to human bodies? Those images are rigorously censored. We never see them. We don’t understand what is done in our name. Instead, we’re fed this patriotic myth of glory and service and sacrifice and honor and heroism, terms that when you’re actually there on a battlefield become hollow if not obscene.
The more we create self-sustainable systems that are local, the more we sever ourselves from these corporate forces, the less we need them. And the less we need them-I mean, let’s remember that 70 percent of the U.S. economy is driven through consumption-the less we need them, the more we impoverish them. I mean, the goal has to be to break these corporate power, this entity that has seized control of our government, our systems of communication, our judiciary.
I mean, now we’re watching them eviscerate our systems of education. Anytime hedge fund managers walk into a city like Baltimore and propose charter schools, it’s not because they want to teach people to read and write. It’s because they know the federal government spends about $600 billion a year on education, and they want it, and they’re getting it.
So I think that building local centers that are self-sustaining and that can create forms of community that are not dependent on these corporate forces is a political act, because these corporate forces need us to continue to consume their products and rely on their services. And the less we consume and the less we are hostage, the less we need these forces, the more independent we become.
Now, that has to come with a kind of political consciousness, but I think they come hand-in-hand, that both things-I think that as people take control, once again, of their own lives, that will bring a kind of consciousness, because these corporate forces, especially if they begin to feel threatened, are going to see these acts as political acts and are going to move-as we have seen corporate farming move against organic farming, they are going to move to try and destroy these forces.
I wanted to be an inner-city minister. You know, I was at the time. I was planning on being ordained. I was planning on spending my life in the inner-city.
And I had a kind of clash (and I write about it in the first chapter of my book Losing Moses on the Freeway: The 10 Commandments in America) with the institutional church and liberal institutions like Harvard Divinity School that like the poor but didn’t like the smell of the poor. They spent a lot of time talking about empowering people they never met. And that hypocrisy was something that I had great difficulty with. [..]
And I’ve always placed myself in or amongst the oppressed. Whether that was in Gaza, whether that was in El Salvador, whether that was in Sarajevo, I’ve always positioned myself as a reporter in a place where I was amplifying or giving voice to those who were being brutally oppressed. [..]
I would say actually the really seminal moment was moving into the inner city and watching what we do to our poor, the warehousing of our poor, the shattering of lives, especially the lives of children, of poor children. That maybe rattled me more than almost anything I saw. And I’ve seen horrific things. I remember going back to the chaplain at Colgate after a few months of living in the projects and just walking into his office and sitting down and saying, are we created to suffer? And his answer was: is there any love that isn’t?
And I think for a white person of relative privilege to confront the cruelty of what we do to poor people of color in this country and to begin to understand institutional forms of racism, all the mechanisms by which we ensure that the poor remain poor in, you know, what Malcolm X and Martin Luther King correctly called these internal colonies really rattled me, really shook me. It made me question all sorts of things–the myth we tell ourselves about ourselves, the nature of capitalism, the nature of racism, exploitation.
So those two and a half years I spent in Roxbury were quite profound–not that, of course, I wasn’t stunned at the evils of empire in places like El Salvador or Gaza or anywhere else. But Roxbury was quite a shock for me.
In the aftermath of 9/11 and the run up to the invasion of Iraq, the world was glued to television news, especially cable. Here in the US the news is dominated by three networks. CBS, ABC, and NBC and three major cable channels, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Most of the them spewed the Bush administration spin that Sadaam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, was building a nuclear weapon and had ties to Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda and 9/11, all lies and they knew it. This war was about the control of the oil reserves in Iraq, it always from the moment that the neocons got their hooks into the White House with Ronald Reagan’s election. It was under Reagan that the free press started to die with the end of the Fairness Doctrine and the loosening of regulation that allowed the likes of Rupert Murdoch to gobble up the airways, Fox news, and print media. It culminated in the 90’s with the corporate acquisition of NBC by General Electric and CBS by Viacom and CNN by Time Warner.
During the lead up to Iraq there was one voice on the airways that stood out against the hype, Phil Donahue, whose liberal voice focused on issues that divide liberals and conservatives in the United States, such as abortion, consumer protection, civil rights and war issues. His feud with another MSNBC host, Chris Matthews over the Iraq War led to the cancellation of Donahue’s popular show. Matthew’s involvement in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame is never mentioned.
I am not sure exactly when the death of television news took place. The descent was gradual-a slide into the tawdry, the trivial and the inane, into the charade on cable news channels such as Fox and MSNBC in which hosts hold up corporate political puppets to laud or ridicule, and treat celebrity foibles as legitimate news. But if I had to pick a date when commercial television decided amassing corporate money and providing entertainment were its central mission, when it consciously chose to become a carnival act, it would probably be Feb. 25, 2003, when MSNBC took Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq.
Donahue and Bill Moyers, the last honest men on national television, were the only two major TV news personalities who presented the viewpoints of those of us who challenged the rush to war in Iraq. General Electric and Microsoft-MSNBC’s founders and defense contractors that went on to make tremendous profits from the war-were not about to tolerate a dissenting voice. Donahue was fired, and at PBS Moyers was subjected to tremendous pressure. An internal MSNBC memo leaked to the press stated that Donahue was hurting the image of the network. He would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,” the memo read. Donahue never returned to the airwaves.
In 2003, the legendary television host Phil Donahue was fired from his prime-time MSNBC talk show during the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The problem was not Donahue’s ratings, but rather his views: An internal MSNBC memo warned Donahue was a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,” providing “a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.” Donahue joins us to look back on his firing 10 years later. “They were terrified of the antiwar voice,” Donahue says.
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and Truthdig columnist, Chis Hedges, along with six other journalists and activists filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) alleging that it violated free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Last Wednesday they were back in Federal Court in Manhattan for a hearing before three judges:
Attorney Bruce Afran, addressing press and gathered activists in an icy downtown Manhattan plaza Wednesday, said the three-judge panel today challenged the government to prove that the NDAA provision is nothing more than an “affirmation” of the laws regarding indefinite detention already established by Authorization for Use of Military Force. According to the DoJ, the NDAA provision is nothing new, but simply a codification of AUMF. The plaintiffs and their supporters vehemently disagree, as did Judge Forrest last year. Afran stressed again Sunday that 1021(b)(2) “broadens the power of the military” when it comes to the capture and indefinite detention of U.S. citizens and as such “breaches the constitutional barrier between civilians and the military” and constitutes a significant extension of the military state beyond the powers given by AUMF.
If we lose in Hedges v. Obama – and it seems certain that no matter the outcome of the appeal this case will reach the Supreme Court – electoral politics and our rights as citizens will be as empty as those of Nero’s Rome. If we lose, the power of the military to detain citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military prisons will become a terrifying reality. Democrat or Republican. Occupy activist or libertarian. Socialist or tea party stalwart. It does not matter. This is not a partisan fight. Once the state seizes this unchecked power, it will inevitably create a secret, lawless world of indiscriminate violence, terror and gulags. I lived under several military dictatorships during the two decades I was a foreign correspondent. I know the beast. [..]
Five thousand years of human civilization has left behind innumerable ruins to remind us that the grand structures and complex societies we build, and foolishly venerate as immortal, crumble into dust. It is the descent that matters now. If the corporate state is handed the tools, as under Section 1021(b)(2) of the NDAA, to use deadly force and military power to criminalize dissent, then our decline will be one of repression, blood and suffering. No one, not least our corporate overlords, believes that our material conditions will improve with the impending collapse of globalization, the steady deterioration of the global economy, the decline of natural resources and the looming catastrophes of climate change.
But the global corporatists-who have created a new species of totalitarianism-demand, during our decay, total power to extract the last vestiges of profit from a degraded ecosystem and disempowered citizenry. The looming dystopia is visible in the skies of blighted postindustrial cities such as Flint, Mich., where drones circle like mechanical vultures. And in an era where the executive branch can draw up secret kill lists that include U.S. citizens, it would be naive to believe these domestic drones will remain unarmed. [..]
After the hearing, Mr Hedges, along with three of his co-plaintiffs, Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg; Revolution Truth Executive Director Tangerine Bolen; journalist and U.S Day of Rage founder Alexa O’Brien; and Demand Progress Executive Director David Segal, and their attorneys, Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran, sat down to discuss the state of the lawsuit. The discussion was moderated by Natasha Lennard of Salon and Matt Sledge of The Huffington Post.
In a second panel to “discuss the broader context of the case,” Mr. Hedges, Mr. Ellsberg and Ms. Bolen were joined by film maker and activist Michael Moore, NSA whistle-blower Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack, an attorney for CIA whistle-blower John Kiriakou and a director of the Government Accountability Project.
In May of 2011, Pulitzer prize winning author, Chris Hedges and several other prominent activists and politicians filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) alleging that it violated free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Hedges asserted that section 1021 (pdf) of the bill, which authorized indefinite military detention for “a person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces,” left him, as a working journalist, vulnerable to indefinite detention because neither Congress nor the president defined the terms “substantial support,” “associated forces” or “directly supported.” [Emphasis added.]
In a landmark ruling last September, Judge Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York struck down the indefinite detention provision, saying it likely violates the First and Fifth Amendments of U.S. citizens. The Obama administration appealed. The arguments for that appeal will be heard today, Wednesday, February 6.
One of the seven plaintiffs, Pentagon Papers whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg joined Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! to discuss the case.
Shortly after President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act on December 21, 2011 a group of journalists and activist joined Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Chris Hedges in a lawsuit against the Obama administration asserting that the law violated free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In September U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest had blocked the disputed statute from the National Defense Authorization Act, essentially declaring it unconstitutional. That ruling was overturned in October by a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It is worth noting that all of those judges were appointed by Barack Obama.
But who would have thought that Hedges and company would have an ally in Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) who along with several other senators from both sides of the aisle, filed an amendment to the current military spending bill that would bar detentions of citizens and green card-holders:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who helped write that amendment, declared Wednesday that it is not good enough, and recalled seeing Japanese Americans jailed in horse stalls at a racetrack when she was a girl.
“I believe that the time has come now to end this legal ambiguity, and state clearly, once and for all, that the AUMF or other authorities do not authorize such indefinite detention of Americans apprehended in the U.S.,” Feinstein said.
“The federal government experimented with indefinite detention of U.S. citizens during World War II, a mistake we now recognize as a betrayal of our core values,” she said. “Let’s not repeat it.” [..]
Paul, who adheres to many libertarian positions, noted that the federal government’s “fusion centers” — which are supposed to facilitate the flow of anti-terrorism information — already make recommendations that many people would find objectionable, and if carried to their logical conclusions, could provide basis for jailing just about anyone.
Paul pointed to a report from a center in Missouri: “From this fusion center comes a document that says beware of people who have bumper stickers supporting third party candidates,” Paul said. “Beware of people who believe in stricter immigration laws. Beware of people who support the right to life. They might be terrorists.
“This is an official document,” paul added. “Do we want to give up the right to trial by jury when we’re being told that somebody who keeps food in their basement might be a terrorist?”
The problem that many opponents of the indefinite detention provisions see with it is that it is especially vague, saying only that the military can grab anyone who provides “substantial support” to Al Qaeda or “associated forces.” Those terms are not defined by the law, which is being challenged in the federal courts.
Although President Obama signed the bill he had promised that he would never use it who is to say that he won’t change his mind or another president will use it to silence dissent. Considering the number of promises this president has already broken and his close friendship with Cass Sunstein, who would love nothing more that to criminalize decent, the senate needs to approve this amendment to protect the our constitutional rights.
I learned at the age of 10, when I was shipped off to a New England boarding school where the hazing of younger boys was the principal form of recreation, that those who hunger for power are psychopathic bastards. The bullies in the forms above me, the sadistic masters on our dormitory floors, the deans and the headmaster would morph in later life into bishops, newspaper editors, college presidents, politicians, heads of state, business titans and generals. Those who revel in the ability to manipulate and destroy are demented and deformed individuals. These severely diminished and stunted human beings-think Bill and Hillary Clinton-shower themselves, courtesy of elaborate public relations campaigns and an obsequious press, with encomiums of piety, patriotism, devoted public service, honor, courage and vision, not to mention a lot of money. They are at best mediocrities and usually venal. I have met enough of them to know.
So it is with some morbid fascination that I watch Barack Obama, who has become the prime “dominatrix” of the liberal class, force us in this election to plead for more humiliation and abuse. Obama has carried out a far more egregious assault on our civil liberties, including signing into law Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), than George W. Bush. Section 1021(b)(2), which I challenged in federal court, permits the U.S. military to detain U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military facilities. U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest struck down the law in September. The Obama administration immediately appealed the decision. The NDAA has been accompanied by use of the Espionage Act, which Obama has turned to six times in silencing whistle-blowers. Obama supported the FISA Amendment Act so government could spy on tens of millions of us without warrants. He has drawn up kill lists to exterminate those, even U.S. citizens, deemed by the ruling elite to be terrorists. [..]
The only recognizable basis for moral and political authority, in the eyes of the elite, is the attainment of material success and power. It does not matter how it is gotten. The role of education, the elites believe, is to train us vocationally for our allotted positions and assure proper deference to the wealthy. Disciplines that prod us to think are-and the sneering elites are not wrong about this-“political,” “leftist,” “liberal” or “subversive.” And schools and universities across the country are effectively stomping out these disciplines. The elites know, as Canetti wrote, that once we stop thinking we become a herd. We react to every new stimulus as if we were rats crammed into a cage. When the elites push the button we jump. It is collective sadomasochism. And we will get a good look at it on Election Day.
Where do the abuses of the last decade from Bush and Obama rank when compared to prior assaults in the name of war?
The following interesting question arose yesterday from what at first appeared to be some petty Twitter bickering: who was the worst president for civil liberties in US history? That question is a difficult one to answer because it is so reliant upon which of many valid standards of measurement one chooses; it depends at least as much on the specific rights which one understands the phrase “civil liberties” to encompass. That makes the question irresolvable in any definitive way, but its examination is nonetheless valuable for the light it sheds on current political disputes.
It’s worthwhile first to set forth the context in which the question arose. At their Lawfare blog, Ritika Singh and Benjamin Wittes posted an excerpt of an essay they wrote for a new book on the War of 1812; their essay pertains to the impact of that war on civil liberties and executive power. The two Brookings writers note that despite intense domestic opposition to the war, President Madison “eschewed the authority to detain American citizens in military custody or try them in military tribunals, and more generally, declined to undertake the sorts of executive overreaches we have come to expect – and even encourage – from our presidents in war.” [..]
But in terms of the role played by war in enabling civil liberties assaults, at least the exploited wars are usually real. In the case of the “War on Terror”, it is far more illusory and frivolous than real. That – along with their permanence – is a major factor in determining where the civil liberties erosions of the last decade, and the presidents responsible for them, rank in history.
The November election is not a battle between Republicans and Democrats. It is not a battle between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It is a battle between the corporate state and us. And if we do not immediately engage in this battle we are finished, as climate scientists have made clear. I will defy corporate power in small and large ways. I will invest my energy now solely in acts of resistance, in civil disobedience and in defiance. Those who rebel are our only hope. And for this reason I will vote next month for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, although I could as easily vote for Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party. I will step outside the system. Voting for the “lesser evil”-or failing to vote at all-is part of the corporate agenda to crush what is left of our anemic democracy. And those who continue to participate in the vaudeville of a two-party process, who refuse to confront in every way possible the structures of corporate power, assure our mutual destruction.
All the major correctives to American democracy have come through movements and third parties that have operated outside the mainstream. Few achieved formal positions of power. These movements built enough momentum and popular support, always in the face of fierce opposition, to force the power elite to respond to their concerns. Such developments, along with the courage to defy the political charade in the voting booth, offer the only hope of saving us from Wall Street predators, the assault on the ecosystem by the fossil fuel industry, the rise of the security and surveillance state and the dramatic erosion of our civil liberties. [..]
The flimsy excuses used by liberals and progressives to support Obama, including the argument that we can’t let Romney appoint the next Supreme Court justices, ignore the imperative of building a movement as fast and as radical as possible as a counterweight to corporate power. The Supreme Court, no matter what its composition, will not save us from financial implosion and climate collapse. And Obama, whatever his proclivity on social issues, has provided ample evidence that he will not alter his servitude to the corporate state. For example, he has refused to provide assurance that he will not make cuts in basic social infrastructures. He has proposed raising the eligibility age for Medicare, a move that would leave millions without adequate health care in retirement. He has said he will reduce the cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security, thrusting vast numbers of seniors into poverty. Progressives’ call to vote for independents in “safe” states where it is certain the Democrats will win will do nothing to mitigate fossil fuel’s ravaging of the ecosystem, regulate and prosecute Wall Street or return to us our civil liberties.
“There is no state out there where either Obama or Romney offers a way out of here alive,” Stein said. “It’s up to us to create truly safe states, a safe nation, and a safe planet. Neither Obama nor Romney has a single exit strategy from the deadly crises we face.”