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U.S. Officials Privately Admit They Overstated Damage Inflicted By WikiLeaks

by on Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 10:12 pm EDT in Politics, WikiLeaks

Reuters is reporting that Internal U.S. government reviews confirm what many of us had cynically assumed all along: that the US government was intentionally embellishing the damage done to US interests abroad by WikiLeaks documents:

A congressional official briefed on the reviews said the administration felt compelled to say publicly that the revelations had seriously damaged American interests in order to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers.

“I think they just want to present the toughest front they can muster,” the official said.

But State Department officials have privately told Congress they expect overall damage to U.S. foreign policy to be containable, said the official, one of two congressional aides familiar with the briefings who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

We were told (the impact of WikiLeaks revelations) was embarrassing but not damaging,” said the official, who attended a briefing given in late 2010 by State Department officials.

Ironically, it is precisely attempts like these — by government officials to mislead the American public — that has made whistleblower groups like WikiLeaks all the more essential to the viability of our democracy.

I suspect this Administration is most concerned about the leaks exposing its own, or its predecessor’s, wrongdoings.  This Administration has gone to great lengths to cover-up and to squash any investigation — any judicial proceeding — against the Bush Administration for its alleged criminal activities.

They have got to be worried that the leaked documents could end up incriminating government officials in such a way as to push the entire topic of government accountability back into the public discourse.

For instance, it has been long reported that WikiLeaks is holding potentially incriminating military documents on Guantanamo Bay, where detainees were allegedly subjected to torture.  What if these documents were to provide an iron-clad case against the highest-levels of the Bush Administration?

The US is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture — a binding agreement ratified under President Ronald Reagan.  The Obama Administration therefore has very clear legal obligations that it has long been evading.  Whenever there are indications or allegations of torture, it is incumbent on the Administration to investigate.  It is NOT merely an option to mull over for its potential political ramifications.  It is the RULE-OF-LAW.

Here are those legal obligations:

A State Party’s Undertakings

Most of the provisions of the Torture Convention deal with the obligations of the States parties. These obligations may be summarized as follows:

(i) Each State party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture. The prohibition against torture shall be absolute and shall be upheld also in a state of war and in other exceptional circumstances (article 2);

(ii) No State party may expel or extradite a person to a State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture (article 3);

(iii) Each State party shall ensure that acts of torture are serious criminal offences within its legal system (article 4);

(iv) Each State party shall, on certain conditions, take a person suspected of the offence of torture into custody and make a preliminary inquiry into the facts (article 6);

(v) Each State party shall either extradite a person suspected of the offence of torture or submit the case to its own authorities for prosecution (article 7);

(vi) Each State party shall ensure that its authorities make investigations when there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed (article 12);

(vii) Each State party shall ensure that an individual who alleges that he has been subjected to torture will have his case examined by the competent authorities (article 13);

(viii) Each State party shall ensure to victims of torture an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation (article 14).

By not only evading their required responsibility to investigate torture, but by aggressively threatening other nations to end their investigations and criminal proceedings, President Obama and his Attorney General are themselves violating international law.

After George W. Bush boasted, during his recent memoir tour, that he authorized water boarding, Amnesty International’s Senior Director Claudio Cordone issued a pointed statement saying:

“Under international law, the former President’s admission to having authorized acts that amount to torture are enough to trigger the USA’s obligations to investigate his admissions and if substantiated, to prosecute him,”

“His admissions also highlight once again the absence of accountability for the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance committed by the USA.” […]

“Under international law, anyone involved in torture must be brought to justice, and that does not exclude former President George W Bush.  In the absence of a US investigation, other states must step in and carry out such an investigation themselves.”

The Obama Administration and the DOJ would obviously prefer to aid and abet the Bush Administration in evading justice in complete secrecy — hidden away from all public scrutiny.

The last thing they want is for WikiLeaks to publish documents that so undeniably incriminate upper level administration officials — either Bush’s, or Obama’s — that they in turn feel public pressure to actually do the unthinkable: to hold the political class accountable to the rule-of-law.

Former Justice Dept. Chief: Obama Gave Bush Officials ‘A Get Out of Jail Free Card’

by on Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 6:45 am EDT in DOJ, Politics

US Attorney General Eric HolderIn an exclusive interview with Brad Jacobson for The Raw Story, a former acting Justice Department chief J. Gerald Hebert (who served the DOJ in various positions between 1973 and 1994), had this to say about the Obama Administration’s failure to hold public officials to account:

“It’s one thing to want to appear like you’re above the political fray and your cases aren’t motivated by politics,” Hebert pointed out. “But it’s another to not hold people accountable and to not bring justice.”

He also said that running the Justice Department in such a manner sets a “dangerous precedent.”

“Bush and Cheney are not above the law,” Hebert concluded. “Whether it’s the president, the vice president or any federal office holder who violates the Constitution or federal law, or there are serious allegations suggesting that such violations may have existed, then the Department of Justice has a duty and an obligation to fully investigate that.

“And if there are no consequences to any of the actions that violated the federal law in the last administration, then why would anybody think that they would ever be prosecuted for doing it in the future?”

The entire article can be read HERE.

Gov’t Accountability: The Only Antidote To Conspiracy Theories

by on Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 7:30 pm EDT in Politics

Lately there’s been a deluge of conspiracy theories seeping into the American political discourse.   Outside the JFK Assassination, the 9-11 conspiracy theory is perhaps the most popular of them all.  There are varying themes, depending on who’s doing the advocating.  Some suggest the government actually organized 9-11; others believe the government knew something of an impending attack, but ceased to do anything about it.  Both of these theories are built upon the idea that the attacks were a necessary spark for implementing an ideological shock doctrine (i.e. a precursor to launch a war) .

Disclaimer: for the record, I do not advocate for 9-11 conspiracy theories.  Additionally, I am not a structural engineer, and thus have little knowledge about the validity of their ‘evidence’, other than what I’ve stumbled upon online and seen on television.

However, in an attempt to demonstrate there is some plausibility, at least in part, to their assertions, consider the third building to collapse that day: World Trade Center Building #7:

Building #7 was not hit by any of the planes, but somehow managed to collapse in a perfect free-fall acceleration that afternoon.  The collapse itself has some historic significance:  it is the first known instance of a tall building brought down primarily by uncontrolled fires — something previously deemed impossible.   That’s the official record — it was brought down by fires — the first of its kind.  The National Institute of Standards & Technology fact sheet highlights this point, as well as some other findings on the collapse of WTC7.

And now the plot thickens, as far as conspiracy is concerned:  The owner of WTC7, Larry Silverstein, stated in a PBS documentary that he and the FDNY jointly decided to pull the building:

“I remember getting a call from the, er, fire department commander, telling me that they were not sure they were gonna be able to contain the fire, and I said, ‘We’ve had such terrible loss of life, maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it.’ And they made that decision to pull and we watched the building collapse.”

WATCH the clip of the documentary:

YouTube Preview Image

I’ve read that for a building to collapse into its own footprint, as WTC7 did, ALL of the load bearing members must fail at the exact same moment — something achieved in controlled demolitions.  Assuming this is true — again, I’m not a structural engineer — there wouldn’t be enough time (in the hours between the plane attacks and building 7’s collapse) to rig such a massive building for controlled demolition.  It would have had to have been rigged with explosives well before the attacks, etc. etc.

See how these conspiracy theories are born?  But Again — just for the record — my knowledge in structural engineering is non-existent, so I can’t guarantee the validity of the statements I’ve made towards that end.  This is merely an attempt to provide a bird’s eye view into a common 9-11 conspiracy theory.

We’ll probably never fully understand all that transpired on 9-11, outside the official record, but as you can see, there are often compelling questions that underline these conspiracy theories; enough to make a reasonable person sit up, scratch his head, and wonder, WTF?  Which, of course, isn’t to say there aren’t legitimate answers out there that could, once and for all, put each and every one of these questions to rest.

This is why it is deplorable when the establishment sets out to destroy the reputation and marginalize anyone who doesn’t mechanically parrot whatever the establishment has deemed the ‘acceptable’ explanation for this Goliath of American disasters. Take Van Jones, who was pushed out of the Administration for having reservations, at one time or another, about 9-11:

Jones, who joined the administration in March as special adviser for green jobs at the CEQ, had issued two public apologies in recent days, one for signing a petition in 2004 from the group 911Truth.org that questioned whether Bush administration officials “may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war” and the other for using a crude term to describe Republicans in a speech he gave before joining the administration.

And of course, as these conspiracy theories have spread like wildfire, the Administration has resorted to appointing people, like Cass Sunstein, to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which oversees policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs.  Sunstein advocates for the “cognitive infiltration” of groups who advocate for “conspiracy theories” like the ones surrounding 9/11:

[Sunstein] argued that the government should stealthily infiltrate groups that pose alternative theories on historical events via “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine” those groups.

But doesn’t Sunstein and others miss the point by not addressing the underlying cause of all this paranoia?  The point is that our government consistently acts in ways that erode public confidence in the accountability of government officials. This results in an environment that actually fosters paranoia and suspicion — an environment primed for incubating conspiracy theories.

There would be very few conspiracy theories if the government routinely launched independent investigations in a timely and transparent manner; thereby exemplifying its commitment to the rule of law.  This is about bridging the trust gap between the people and their government.  Attempting to infiltrate American conversations with government shills will only exacerbate public distrust — not quell it.

U.S. FAILURES IN INVESTIGATION AND ACCOUNTABILITY

Despite the fact the WTC Building #7 conspiracy theory has floated around since 9-11-2001, the government actually delayed its investigation of the building for half a decade.  The reason?:  It decided NOT to hire new staff to support such an investigation.  This meant much of the evidence on the ground had been hauled off and disposed of years before the investigation was actually completed, thereby ensuring other independent sources couldn’t verify the government findings:

14. Why is the NIST investigation of the collapse of WTC 7 (the 47-story office building that collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, hours after the towers) taking so long to complete? Is a controlled demolition hypothesis being considered to explain the collapse?

When NIST initiated the WTC investigation, it made a decision not to hire new staff to support the investigation. After the June 2004 progress report on the WTC investigation was issued, the NIST investigation team stopped working on WTC 7 and was assigned full-time through the fall of 2005 to complete the investigation of the WTC towers. […]

It is anticipated that a draft report will be released for public comment by July 2008 and that the final report will be released shortly thereafter.  […]

This hypothesis may be supported or modified, or new hypotheses may be developed, through the course of the continuing investigation. NIST also is considering whether hypothetical blast events could have played a role in initiating the collapse. While NIST has found no evidence of a blast or controlled demolition event, NIST would like to determine the magnitude of hypothetical blast scenarios that could have led to the structural failure of one or more critical elements.

Considering the US government throws money to the wind daily, it would come as a shock to most Americans to learn their government scoffed at hiring new staff members to conduct a thorough and timely investigation into one of the most catastrophic crimes ever committed against the United States of America: 9-11.  Do you see how this plays right into the hands of the conspiracy theorists?  You couldn’t make this stuff up.

And now we have a new President whom we hoped would bridge that trust gap between government and people.  And how has Obama responded?  Whenever he is asked whether he will appoint a special investigator to investigate the most egregious crimes of the Bush administration, including misleading us into an illegal war, torturing detainees, warrantless wiretapping, and the controversial firing of eight U.S. federal prosecutors, he routinely answers:

I prefer to look forward, not backward.

Talk about obliterating the trust between government and people!  But Obama took it yet a step further.  He actually threatened the British government not to allow its High Courts to reveal Bush Administration crimes, and has also intervened to shut down similar lawsuits in US courts.  Did you get that?  President Barack Obama is conspiring with administration and DOJ officials to blatantly cover up Bush Administration crimes.

And yet, isn’t that essentially the cornerstone of 9-11 conspiracy theories? — that the government has allegedly engaged in a conspiratorial cover-up of a heinous crime which members of the political establishment either orchestrated, or knowingly allowed to be carried out?  You don’t need to appoint Cass Sunstein, Mr. President.  You need to appoint special investigators to vigorously enforce the laws of this land.

Conspiracy theories will continue to thrive and flourish as long as accountability remains non-existent in our nation’s Capitol.