Former CIA Analyst: Washington Post, Newsweek, New York Times Suppressed Stories

 

The mainstream media have kept the American public ignorant of vital news in deference to top political and military-intelligence officials, according to former CIA analyst Raymond L. McGovern.

McGovern, shown below, spoke July 2 to the Sarah McClendon News Group at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

Ray McGovern"Never has it been so bad in the 50 years I've been in this town," said McGovern, 74, a peace advocate following a quarter century in the military and CIA, including five years overseas and daily briefing duties for White House staff of two presidents.

"There's one change that dwarfs all the others," he continued at the dinner lecture. "We no longer have a free media. That's big. It does not get any bigger than that."

Among his examples were self-censorship on what could have been significant stories by the Washington Post, its former subsidiary Newsweek, and the New York Times.

McGovern's appraisal matches that of other media critics. The factors he described prompted me to found the Justice Integrity Project, for example, and then assemble a narrative of unreported and under-reported major stories into my recent book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters.

On June 24, longtime DC-based investigative editor Charles Lewis described a similar journey at CBS News in his memoir 935 Lies. Lewis said that "lying" by government officials has become standard operating procedure tolerated by many timid reporters and their bosses. Lewis, a former network news producer, resigned from CBS 60 Minutes in 1989 over disappointment from watered-down coverage he saw. He founded the non-profit Center for Public Integrity and launched his book at the center's 25th anniversary last month, as we reported here two weeks ago. 

McGovern came to Washington in 1962 as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then served as a CIA analyst from the administration of John F. Kennedy until 1990, that of George H. W. Bush. His CIA duties included chairing National Intelligence Estimates and preparing the President's Daily Briefing, which he briefed one-on-one to President Ronald Reagan's most senior national security advisers from 1981 to 1985.

Among McGovern's examples of suppressed stories:

Truth PatrolFormer Bush administration NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden last October joked during a forum organized by the Washington Post that President Obama should put Snowden on President Obama's "kill list" of those to be assassinated by presidential order, McGovern said. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) concurred. McGovern noted that the Post failed to report the Mafia-style repartee at its own newsmaker forum.

More generally, McGovern said the media are keeping the public in the dark about central facts regarding recent deaths and fighting in Syria, Iraq and the Ukraine.

McGovern said that only Joints Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey's last-minute intercession with President Obama prevented the United States from launching bombing attacks on Syria based on bogus claims that Syria President Bashar Al-Assad had used chemical weapons to kill more than a thousand persons Aug. 21 in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.

John KerrySecretary of State John Kerry said 35 times, "We know" that Assad's government killed the victims, McGovern continued. "He [Kerry] didn't know. He was lying through his teeth."

"It was the rebels who did it," McGovern said of the sarin killings, whose victims included many children. "They wanted to mousetrap us into a war."

Former Navy Intelligence officer Wayne Madsen and I broke that story separately last September. Madsen published it on Sept. 1 in, Obama caved under last-minute pressure from Dempsey.

Based on similar sourcing, I published two days later Did America's Top General Save Nation From Open-Ended War in Syria? Also, my Presidential Puppetry reported Dempsey's role in persuading Obama to over-rule White House and State Department advisors urging a bombing attack without congressional approval.

Barack Obama and Martin Dempsey June 19, 2014

Based on sources, Seymour Hersh also challenged the Obama administration's official accounts and media conventional wisdom in Whose Sarin? published overseas in December in the London Review of Books. In April, the review also published Hersh's follow up, The Red Line and the Rat Line.

Hersh's longtime regular outlet, The New Yorker, declined to publish his reports disputing State Department claims, which continue to be parroted by virtually all United States mainstream media and commentators, as well as such other major Western media as the BBC. 

McGovern said his former CIA colleagues and British military intelligence deserve credit along with Dempsey for resisting the propaganda effort by the Obama administration's civilian leadership, Congress and the mainstream media to propel the United States into an escalation in Syria based on lies, much like the Iraq war in 2003.

In the White House photo at right, President Barack Obama is shown talking with Dempsey outside the Oval Office following a meeting in the Situation Room of the White House June 19.

McGovern's Background

John Edward Hurley, a Washington-area civic leader, introduced McGovern. Hurley chairs the McClendon Group, which is named for the late White House correspondent Sarah McClendon. The speaker society hosts newsmakers regarded as having important but under-reported messages.

"Ray McGovern, as most of you will recall," Hurley said, "has spoken to us on a variety of subjects that have included falsified intelligence, Guantanamo imprisonments, targeted killings, and the unconstitutional surveillance of U.S. citizens, to name but a few of his topics. His appearance at this session will be particularly timely, however, since he will be reporting on his recent visit to Russia, where he interviewed Edward Snowden."

McGovern, a Roman Catholic, currently works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington, and writes often for Consortium News.

He has long been active in Veterans for Peace. After 9/11 he founded VIPS, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. He traveled with several other members and whistleblower advocates to Moscow to present the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence to Snowden, the former NSA contractor and CIA analyst who disclosed in 2013 massive global and domestic surveillance by the NSA and its allied spy agencies against their own populations.

Snowden, now under indictment by the Obama administration, is shown below during a television interview last December via satellite to London.

Edward SnowdenMcGovern's wide-ranging lecture described an increasingly grim media environment for journalists, whistleblowers and the public.

In a message similar to McGovern's, White House Chronicles editor Llewellyn King, a DC-based reporter and broadcaster since 1966, last week published a column, When Less Was More in the News Business. King described how White House correspondents face tight restrictions.

Worse, according to former Wall Street Journal associate editor Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, are what Roberts calls "presstitutes" who help enable war based on lies by neo-cons and other war-mongers controlling both political parties and the major opinion outlets. Roberts is now published only on the alternative and international media.

McGovern provided a wide-ranging overview of his observations, and then responded to questions. We treated his comments about the crisis in the Ukraine separately in the column, July 4 Festivities Contrast With Cruel Toll From Global Wars.

Regarding the media, McGovern cited a pivotal revelation by Consortium News Founder Robert Parry in Washington self-censorship. Here is the story:

Parry, hired by Newsweek in 1987 because of his pioneering stories breaking the Reagan Administration's Iran-Contra scandal for the Associated Press, was invited to a catered, black-tie private dinner at the home of Newsweek columnist Evan Thomas during a criminal trial of the scandal. Parry was shocked to hear the retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft, the only man in history to serve as National Security Advisor to two presidents, suggest that Reagan National Security Director John Poindexter lie on the witness stand to prevent release of secrets during his ongoing trial from charges arising because of his role in the scandal.

Parry questioned the suggestion and became even more shocked, McGovern said, to learn that his Newsweek boss, the late Maynard Parker, suggested that some secrets were too important to pursue -- an apparent goodwill gesture to the high-level officials and former officials Newsweek was courting. The jury later convicted Poindexter. An appellate court voided the convictions. Poindexter went on to future successes as he revolved between defense contracting and government work, including an influential and controversial initiative in the George W. Bush administration.  

Parry has told similar stories as a guest of the McClendon Group, and in his books and Consortium News columns. Parry founded the alternative news service in 1995. McGovern said his occasional contributions are held to a high standard of editing at the news service that sometimes require more sourcing even than his former CIA reports.

The conventional wisdom, of course, is that news organizations strive each day to publish the most important stories.

Ray McGovern and Jill Simpson 2014 McClendon Group, Washington, DCBut McGovern's audience at the McClendon Group included reporters, former government officials and other political operatives with experiences similar to his.

For example, Alabama attorney Dana Jill Simpson, shown with McGovern, has cited her experience in working with such Republicans as Karl Rove to denounce -- in sworn testimony, in my book, and elsewhere -- Rove/Bush-orchestrated government frame-ups of political targets, election machine fraud and media self-censorship. She appeared on CBS 60 Minutes in February 2008 to describe how Alabama Republicans successfully framed on corruption charges former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, her state's leading Democrat.

She says that CBS sat on the story for months until she went to NBC with the news, and then CBS spiked information that Siegelman's trial judge, the Republican-activist Chief Federal Judge Mark Fuller of Montgomery, had a massive, hidden conflict of interest via his 44 percent ownership of a military contracting company. I later reported those specifics ignored by CBS for the Huffington Post in Siegelman Deserves New Trial....$300 Million in Bush Military Contracts Awarded to Judge’s Private Company. The mainstream media have virtually never reported the conflict of interest of having the government secretly enrich the trial judge while the judge made vital -- and legally dubious -- pro-prosecution rulings helping ensure the success of the frame-up. Siegelman remains imprisoned for 1999 actions that 113 former state attorneys general from more than 40 states have argued did not constitute a crime.

Also attending McGovern's lecture was Simpson's husband, Jim Simpson, an Alabama-based election software expert who played an important role in 2012 investigations and litigation against those seeking to rig electronic voting in the 2012 election. The mainstream media neglected the story almost entirely, with NBC News White House Correspondent and Chief Political Writer Chuck Todd sneering that such frauds could never happen.

McGovern addressed media self-censorship with his own examples.

In one, he amplified on what is now an oft-repeated story about how the New York Times sat on disclosures by its national security reporter James Risen for more than a year after the summer of 2004. Risen forced publication in December 2005, in effect, by writing a book, State of War, scheduled for release in January 2006.

McGovern said the book's disclosures regarding pervasive spying on the public by the Bush administration and other scandals could have changed the 2004 presidential election result, in which Bush defeated Kerry.

But, McGovern said, the Times upon the request of the Bush administration held off on publication based on Bush claims that national security was more important than public disclosure.

The Times has since spent a fortune in legal fees in an unsuccessful effort to save Risen from the Obama administration's threat of jailing the reporter for failure to testify against an alleged source, former CIA employee Jeffrey Sterling. As part of an Obama crackdown on government employees who speak with the media, the administration has indicted Sterling on spy charges.  

McGovern said the culture of cover-up and other deference to authority has pervaded the nation's leading news media.

He recalled that Gen. Hayden, director of the NSA and head of the Defense Department's Cyber Command, defended NSA spying during a National Press Club appearance soon after Risen's disclosures.

Eaavesdropping on U.S. persons is permitted under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution when authorities apply a "reasonableness standard" to suspicion of a crime, McGovern quoted Hayden as saying. When a questioner challenged that by indicating that the Fourth Amendment standard was "probable cause" Hayden denied the argument. Hayden's repeated, mistaken and otherwise bizarre claim is captured in a video, but otherwise the mainstream gave it meagre play.

McGovern said that former NSA Director and Deputy CIA Director Bobby Ray Inman expressed the view -- "missed by the New York Times" -- that the domestic surveillance program under Hayden was "clearly illegal," in a comment on May 8, 2006 at the New York Public Library recorded in a blog by Washington insider Steve Clemons, who is now an editor for the Atlantic. That same day, President Bush nominated Hayden to become CIA director.

Inman's top leadership posts spanned the Carter and Reagan administrations. Inman enjoys wide popularity and credibility in Washington, McGovern recalled. So, he was surprised to hear Inman on May 16, 2006 tell cable personality Lou Dobbs that Hayden, shown at right, was a superb nominee to head the CIA. "Inman was clearly dispatched by 'the brotherhood,'" McGovern said, "to clean up his open remarks at the library, lest they endanger Hayden's chances at the upcoming nomination hearing."

"And that's the way it is, folks," McGovern concluded to his Press Club audience.

John Edward HurleyHurley, at left, the McClendon group chairman, pointed out that McGovern's experience demonstrates freedom of expression in a curious way: McGovern made news even without saying a word three years ago.
 
"Since Hillary Clinton's new book, Hard Choices, has just been released," Hurley said, "you may recall that Ray silently protested the then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's appearance at George Washington University."

Hurley continued, "He quickly wore out his welcome there when he stood silently with his back turned toward the then-Secretary of State."

"He was seized," Hurley noted, "and badly beaten while Secretary Clinton spoke eloquently about the need for freedom of expression -- in Iran." 

 

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Related News

Selected Ray McGovern Columns and Coverage

Ray McGovernConsortium News via OpEdNews, NSA Insiders Reveal What Went Wrong, Ray McGovern, Jan. 7, 2014. In a memo to President Obama, former National Security Agency insiders explain how NSA leaders botched intelligence collection and analysis before 9/11, covered up the mistakes, and violated the constitutional rights of the American people, all while wasting billions of dollars and misleading the public. The four are William Binney, Thomas Drake, Edward Loomis, and Kirk Wiebe, who worked with NSA for a total of 144 years, most of them at senior levels. "Our mission required the highest technical skills to keep the country safe from foreign enemies, while protecting the privacy rights of U.S. citizens under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution." Their memo explained how NSA leaders botched intelligence collection and analysis before 9/11, covered up the mistakes, and violated the constitutional rights of the American people, all while wasting billions of dollars and misleading the public. "Official Washington – from Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein to NSA Director Keith Alexander to former Vice President Dick Cheney to former FBI Director Robert Mueller – has been speaking from the same set of NSA talking points acquired recently via a Freedom of Information request. It is an artful list, much of it designed to mislead....The sadder reality, Mr. President, is that NSA itself had enough information to prevent 9/11, but chose to sit on it rather than share it with the FBI or CIA. We know; we were there. We were witness to the many bureaucratic indignities that made NSA at least as culpable for pre-9/11 failures as are other U.S. intelligence agencies."

Justice Integrity Project, July 4 Festivities Contrast With Cruel Toll From Global Wars, Andrew Kreig, July 4, 2014. As the United States celebrated on July 4 its 1776 independence movement, terrified residents of the world's current trouble spots struggled to survive war and misery. Adding perspective, for example, is peace advocate Ray McGovern, who published Who Violated Ukraine’s Sovereignty? on June 28 and then The Risk of a Ukraine Bloodbath July 2, each via Consortium News. McGovern had been chief of the CIA's Soviet Foreign Policy Branch in Moscow and as well as preparer/briefer of daily intelligence briefings to White House staff during the Reagan presidency. In the more recent column, McGovern argued: "Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko – by thumbing his nose at the leaders of Russia, Germany and France as they repeatedly appealed to him to renew the fragile ceasefire in eastern Ukraine – has left himself and his U.S. patrons isolated, though that’s not the version of the story that you’ll read in the mainstream U.S. press." See Gallup Poll below.

Ukraine Gallup Poll On U.S. FavoribilityConsortium News, The Risk of a Ukraine Bloodbath, Ray McGovern, July 2, 2014. Pressured by neocons and the mainstream U.S. media, the Obama administration is charting a dangerous course by seeking a military solution to Ukraine’s political crisis and possibly provoking Moscow to intervene to protect ethnic Russians, ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern warns. Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Savior in inner-city Washington. During his 27 years as a CIA analyst, he served as chief of CIA’s Soviet Foreign Policy Branch as well as preparer/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief.  He is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).  Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko – by thumbing his nose at the leaders of Russia, Germany and France as they repeatedly appealed to him to renew the fragile ceasefire in eastern Ukraine – has left himself and his U.S. patrons isolated, though that’s not the version of the story that you’ll read in the mainstream U.S. press. But the reality is that an unusual flurry of high-level conference calls last weekend from key European capitals failed to dissuade Poroshenko from launching major attacks on opposition forces in eastern Ukraine. Washington was alone in voicing support for Poroshenko’s decision, with a State Department spokeswoman saying “he has a right to defend his country.”

RT, Snowden receives Sam Adams Award in Moscow, Staff report, Oct. 11, 2013. The first videos of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have surfaced since he received asylum in Russia. The footage, provided by WikiLeaks, was taken during the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence awards ceremony. The video fragments of a meeting, attended by the former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, former NSA executive Thomas Andrews Drake and former FBI agent Coleen Rowley, Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, and Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks – all whistleblowers in their own respects – were released by WikiLeaks on Friday. In the first video appearance since he was granted asylum in Russia, Snowden spoke about US government transparency and dangers to democracy caused by the NSA mass spying programs. 

OpEdNews, Ray McGovern Discusses Brutal Arrest at Secretary Clinton's Internet Freedom Speech, Rob Kall, Feb. 17, 2011. On Tuesday, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke on issues of free speech at George Washington University, 71-year-old former CIA analyst Ray McGovern was assaulted, dragged from the room and double handcuffed causing profuse bleeding. What had he done to elicit this treatment? He stood in "silent witness." From the Kall interview: "They grabbed me and the shock wore off. There was a real struggle. I shouted, 'This is America.' Then I said, 'Who are you?' This is a mystery to me. Who were they? The guy in the suit was the one who did the damage. He was brutal." Kall asked McGovern why he chose to protest Clinton's speech. McGovern's reply in part was:

"Hillary is the driving force, together with a few others, behind the wars in Afghanistan. She's one of the big hawks in Iran. When I look at her and her husband -- that they don't know the first thing about war. I do and so do my fellow Veterans for Peace. I have to make clear that we [at] Veterans for Peace think that her policies are an abomination to the nation, that they are at cross purposes to the country and not everybody should applaud and give her the idea that she's doing the right thing."

Syrian Gas Attack and Bombing Controversy

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Obama caved under last-minute pressure from Dempsey, Sept. 1, 2013 (Subscription required). Wayne Madsen was a Navy intelligence officer for 14 years, including a year on detail to the National Security Agency. On the evening of Friday, August 29, President Obama was on track to launch a sustained 72-hour cruise missile and drone attack on pre-selected air defense and other strategic military targets in Syria. Obama had been convinced by his national security adviser Susan Rice, UN ambassador Samantha Power, and deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, all "Responsibility to Protect" advocates, that he could trump congressional approval for his attack by claiming that humanitarian operations do not require approval under the War Powers Resolution or Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Many of Washington's insiders went to bed Friday night firmly convinced that Obama would give the final order to attack Syria sometime during the early Saturday morning hours of August 30. However, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, made a hurried trip to the White House during the early morning hours of Saturday to make one last final plea to hold off on any attack. WMR has learned from White House sources that Dempsey told Obama that the president's plan would not work: If you do this, the plan will fail and you'll get in deeper. And without congressional approval, you'll be screwed, Dempsey told Obama.

Justice Integrity Project, Did America's Top General Save Nation From Open-Ended War in Syria? Andrew Kreig, Sept. 3, 2013. President Obama was ready to launch the United States into a new Mideast war in Syria over the Labor Day weekend until the nation's top general persuaded him that he would be blamed for serious unintended consequences that could arise, according to usually well-informed sources speaking in confidence.  The general was Martin E. Dempsey, a career Army officer who became chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2011. He persuaded the president that military implications could escalate beyond the limited boundaries White House civilian advisors had claimed in convincing the president as of late Friday night to move forward with bombing campaign.

Justice Integrity Project, Obama's Puppet Strings Get Tangled On Syria: Analysis, Andrew Kreig, Aug. 29, 2013. President Obama's apparent decision by midweek to bomb Syria is showing, yet again, the pitfalls of his high-blown rhetoric to mask crass political deal-making. The president is supposedly "The Most Powerful Man on Earth." Yet Obama knows better than anyone that he ascended to office only because of the hidden help of the nation's private sector dynastic powers.

Justice Integrity Project, Show Proof To the Public on Syria, Andrew Kreig, Aug. 28, 2013. The public deserves from the White House far more hard evidence before the country takes military action to punish the Syrian government for last week's civilian deaths in Damascus from chemical weapons. We are seeing a rush to judgment that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad committed the atrocity.

Seymour HershLondon Review of Books, The Red Line and the Rat Line, Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels, April 4, 2014. In 2010, Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons.​ Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.

London Review of Books, Whose Sarin? Seymour M. Hersh, Dec. 8, 2013. Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack.

 

Media Self-Censorship Allegations

Update: Washington Post, For White House interviews, it’s never one-on-one, Paul Farhi, July 23, 2014. A press staffer almost always attends when reporters sit down with administration officials.

Paul Craig RobertsInstitute for Political Economy, Washington Murders Countries, the US Constitution, and the Presstitute Media Makes Americans Complicit, Paul Craig Roberts, July 3, 2014. Thanks to Op-Ed News contributor Eric Zuesse, I can bring to your attention these photographs of what the government in Washington is doing to Ukrainians who protest the theft of their country. Before you wrap yourself in the flag this July 4th, realize that “your” government under Clinton, Bush, and Obama has destroyed in your name, in whole or part, eight countries, murdering, maiming, and displacing millions of civilians, and now is at work on Ukraine.

White House Chronicles, When Less Was More in the News Business, Llewellyn King, June 30, 2014. When I first worked at the newspaper trade in Washington, back in 1966, it was a different journalism. Covering the White House was a simple matter: once through the gate, you could stroll through the West Wing and talk to people. Today, even if you have a regular or so-called hard pass, you are restricted to walking down the driveway to the press briefing room. If you have an appointment, or want to smell the flowers, you have to have an escort – usually a young person from the press office. Why this is, and what the purpose of this minder is, nobody has been able to tell me. It is so dispiriting to see the equanimity with which reporters accept their "prisoner status.”  It did not happen overnight, but gradually under president after president. In my time in Washington, reporter freedom has been curtailed at the White House to the point that unless you want to go to the briefing, there is no point in going through the gate. No news is available because you, the reporter, are not at liberty to collect it. But the real change is the proliferation of political media. This means there are more reporters chasing snippets of news. The big issues get lost as often as not while the news hounds are baying after trivia, little non-events, misstatements, or failure to apologize for imagined sleights. Also, White House staffers and people who work on Capitol Hill have less and less confidence in reporters and are less frank with them. I find very little point in interviewing Congress people these days because they worry that whatever they say will, if you like, go into their record to be dredged up way in the future.

Daily Howler, A portrait of nimble, self-seeking connivers on the greasy pole of advancement! Bob Somerby, July 2, 2104. The press corps does not discuss the press corps. If you hold a sinecure inside the guild, you do not discuss, explain or question the conduct of colleagues and friends. That very powerful code of silence is the reliable norm. But on the very rare occasion, someone with an inside view describes the people around him. You might call these people “anthropologists within.” As it turns out, the late Michael Hastings seems to have been one such scholar. Hastings, a young and iconoclastic reporter, died in a car accident last year. As it turns out, he was writing a novel, a lightly fictionalized account of his time at Newsweek. Hastings was working for Newsweek at the start of the war in Iraq. At that time, Newsweek was still an important, influential weekly publication. On June 23, in the New York Times, David Carr discussed Hastings’ newly published novel.

 

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Hillary Clinton official photoNew York Times, The Next Act of the Neocons, Jacob Heilbrunn, July 5, 2014. The neoconservative movement is back, using the turmoil in Iraq and Ukraine to claim that it is President Obama, not the movement’s interventionist foreign policy that dominated early George W. Bush-era Washington, that bears responsibility for the current round of global crises. Even as they castigate Mr. Obama, the neocons may be preparing a more brazen feat: aligning themselves with Hillary Rodham Clinton and her nascent presidential campaign, in a bid to return to the driver’s seat of American foreign policy. To be sure, the careers and reputations of the older generation of neocons — Paul D. Wolfowitz, L. Paul Bremer III, Douglas J. Feith, Richard N. Perle — are permanently buried in the sands of Iraq. And not all of them are eager to switch parties: In April, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, said that as president Mrs. Clinton would “be a dutiful chaperone of further American decline.” But others appear to envisage a different direction — one that might allow them to restore the neocon brand, at a time when their erstwhile home in the Republican Party is turning away from its traditional interventionist foreign policy. It’s not as outlandish as it may sound. Consider the historian Robert Kagan, the author of a recent, roundly praised article in the New Republic that amounted to a neo-neocon manifesto. He has not only avoided the vitriolic tone that has afflicted some of his intellectual brethren but also co-founded an influential bipartisan advisory group during Mrs. Clinton’s time at the State Department.

Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Letter urges President Obama to be more transparent, SPJ President David Cullier, July 8, 2014. The Society of Professional Journalists and 37 other journalism and open government groups today called on President Obama to stop practices in federal agencies that prevent important information from getting to the public. The letter is excerpted below:

Dear President Obama: You recently expressed concern that frustration in the country is breeding cynicism about democratic government. You need look no further than your own administration for a major source of that frustration – politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies. We call on you to take a stand to stop the spin and let the sunshine in. Over the past two decades, public agencies have increasingly prohibited staff from communicating with journalists unless they go through public affairs offices or through political appointees. This trend has been especially pronounced in the federal government. We consider these restrictions a form of censorship -- an attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear.

The stifling of free expression is happening despite your pledge on your first day in office to bring “a new era of openness” to federal government – and the subsequent executive orders and directives which were supposed to bring such openness about. Recent research has indicated the problem is getting worse throughout the nation, particularly at the federal level. Journalists are reporting that most federal agencies prohibit their employees from communicating with the press unless the bosses have public relations staffers sitting in on the conversations. Contact is often blocked completely. When public affairs officers speak, even about routine public matters, they often do so confidentially in spite of having the title “spokesperson.” Reporters seeking interviews are expected to seek permission, often providing questions in advance. Delays can stretch for days, longer than most deadlines allow. Public affairs officers might send their own written responses of slick non-answers. Agencies hold on-background press conferences with unnamed officials, on a not-for-attribution basis.