Thursday, December 31, 2009

Yemen New Site of al-CIA-da?

Before I get on to the convenient attack by a Yemeni-trained (or -outfitted or -inspired at least) child with firecrackers in his underwear, it would be wise to review the facts that led us to this hallowed occasion - and to remember that certain sections of the Patriot Act (whose future was dim previously) are up for renewal today (December 31, 2009).

A map currently making the rounds of those-who-know of the "New Middle East" is included below. George Orwell had a few choice words to offer about the concept of Peace = War (and vice versa). I'm also reminded of our favorite frat boy Dubya's immediate announcement after the 9/11 false flag operation that it "was gonna take a long time" to defeat our enemies, thus the new Long War (or Peace, if you will) began. As in forever. Or at least your lifetime if not your children's and grandchildren's as well. But not to worry, if you scrimp and save you may be able to buy a really big TV screen with which to view it. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell described a superstate called Oceania, whose language of war inverted lies that “passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’, ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past’.” Barack Obama is the leader of a contemporary Oceania. In two speeches at the close of the decade, the Nobel Peace Prize winner affirmed that peace was no longer peace, but rather a permanent war that “extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan” to “disorderly regions and diffuse enemies”. He called this “global security” and invited our gratitude. To the people of Afghanistan, which America has invaded and occupied, he said wittily: “We have no interest in occupying your country.” In Oceania, truth and lies are indivisible. According to Obama, the American attack on Afghanistan in 2001 was authorised by the United Nations Security Council. There was no UN authority. He said the “the world” supported the invasion in the wake of 9/11 when, in truth, all but three of 37 countries surveyed by Gallup expressed overwhelming opposition. He said that America invaded Afghanistan “only after the Taliban refused to turn over [Osama] bin Laden”.

In 2001, the Taliban tried three times to hand over bin Laden for trial, reported Pakistan’s military regime, and were ignored. Even Obama’s mystification of 9/11 as justification for his war is false. More than two months before the Twin Towers were attacked, the Pakistani foreign minister, Niaz Naik, was told by the Bush administration that an American military assault would take place by mid-October. The Taliban regime in Kabul, which the Clinton administration had secretly supported, was no longer regarded as “stable” enough to ensure America’s control over oil and gas pipelines to the Caspian Sea. It had to go. Obama’s most audacious lie is that Afghanistan today is a “safe haven” for al-Qaeda’s attacks on the West. His own national security adviser, General James Jones, said in October that there were “fewer than 100” al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. According to US intelligence, 90 per cent of the Taliban are hardly Taliban at all, but “a tribal localised insurgency [who] see themselves as opposing the US because it is an occupying power”. The war is a fraud. Only the terminally gormless remain true to the Obama brand of “world peace”. Beneath the surface, however, there is serious purpose. Under the disturbing General Stanley McCrystal, who gained distinction for his assassination squads in Iraq, the occupation of one of the most impoverished countries is a model for those “disordrly regions” of the world still beyond Oceania’s reach. This is a known as COIN, or a counter-insurgency network, which draws together the military, aid organisations, psychologists, anthropologists, the media and public relations hirelings. Covered in jargon about winning hearts and minds, its aim is to pit one ethnic group against another and incite civil war: Tajiks and Uzbecks against Pashtuns. The Americans did this in Iraq and destroyed a multi-ethnic society. They bribed and built walls between communities who had once inter-married, ethnically cleansing the Sunni and driving millions out of the country. The embedded media reported this as “peace”, and American academics bought by Washington and “security experts” briefed by the Pentagon appeared on the BBC to spread the good news. As in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the opposite was true. Something similar is planned for Afghanistan. People are to be forced into “target areas” controlled by warlords bankrolled by the Americans and the opium trade. That these warlords are infamous for their barbarism is irrelevant. “We can live with that,” a Clinton-era diplomat said of the persecution of women in a “stable” Taliban-run Afghanistan. Favoured western relief agencies, engineers and agricultural specialists will attend to the “humanitarian crisis” and so “secure” the subjugated tribal lands. That is the theory. It worked after a fashion in Yugoslavia where the ethnic-sectarian partition wiped out a once peaceful society, but it failed in Vietnam where the CIA’s “strategic hamlet program” was designed to corral and divide the southern population and so defeat the Viet Cong - the Americans’ catch-all term for the resistance, similar to “Taliban”. Behind much of this are the Israelis, who have long advised the Americans in both the Iraq and Afghanistan adventures. Ethnic-cleansing, wall-building, checkpoints, collective punishment and constant surveillance – these are claimed as Israeli innovations that have succeeded in stealing most of Palestine from its native people. And yet for all their suffering, the Palestinians have not been divided irrevocably and they endure as a nation against all odds. The most telling forerunners of the Obama Plan, which the Nobel Peace Prize winner and his strange general and his PR men prefer we forget, are those that failed in Afghanistan itself. The British in the 19th century and the Soviets in the 20th century attempted to conquer that wild country by ethnic cleansing and were seen off, though after terrible bloodshed.

Imperial cemeteries are their memorials. People power, sometimes baffling, often heroic, remains the seed beneath the snow, and invaders fear it.

“It was curious,” wrote Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four, “to think that the sky was the same for everybody, in Eurasia or Eastasia as well as here. And the people under the sky were also very much the same, everywhere, all over the world . . . people ignorant of one another’s existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies, and yet almost exactly the same people who . . . were storing up in their hearts and bellies and muscles the power that would one day overturn the world.”

Grant Lawrence, who maintains an incisive, thoughtful blog, thinks the latest terror incident is just a little bit too convenient. No. Stop protesting. Really. He does. And he's got some pretty compelling arguments for his conclusions.

December 30. 2009 "Information Clearing House" - I am not one that sees conspiracies everywhere, but I do like a good Convenience Theory. Like the one that is coming together out of the botched terror attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up an airliner in Detroit just as it was arriving.

For the last couple of months Saudi Arabia has been bombarding Yemen with fighter jets. Just recently the US sent cruise missiles into Yemen in a reported attempt to hit Al Qaeda sites. Also, US fighter jets joined the attacks on Yemen. In return, Al Qaeda reportedly issued a warning that it would avenge US raids.

Now it appears that the Detroit bound Airline Terrorist Suspect from Nigeria has supposed links to Yemen. Or at least the suspect is supposedly saying his bomb was made in Yemen.Well just when America needs a good excuse to attack Yemen, conveniently we have one. Now never mind that we have initiated the US and Saudi attacks before this recent terror attempt. Just keep in mind that the Nigerian is a Yemeni terrorist.

Some are beginning to question how a No Fly list that bans Cat Stevens and a guy that was writing a critical book on the CIA could miss this 'Nigerian/Yemeni' terrorist.

Reports are that the terror suspect was on a Watch List and his dad reported to the US Embassy in Nigeria that his son (the future terrorist) was possibly dangerous.Also some are a bit concerned that this Watch List Detroit Terrorist Bomber was allowed to get on the plane with explosives strapped to his body.

Something smells of a needed convenient incident to help promote the attacks on Yemen and the expansion of our terrorist war there.As luck would have it, and conveniently, Congresspersons are calling for a needed expansion of the terror wars to include Yemen. One of the clearest voices for a greater expansion of the terror war is coming from the noted corporate sellout (aren't they all?) Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman warns on Fox News,"Somebody in our government said to me in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen, Iraq was yesterday's war. Afghanistan is today's war. If we don't act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow's war. That's the danger we face."It appears that, according to Lieberman, the government was already getting ready for an expansion of the War on Terror to include Yemen. But the recent bombings of Yemen by the United States proves that point.

Still there is one other point I want to mention regarding my Convenience Theory of the Nigerian/Yemeni airliner bombing incident.

Parts of the Patriot Act are due to expire this New Years Eve.

Now talk about a real convenience.

Just as controversial aspects of the Patriot Act are expiring, and there is not a lot of political will to extend them, you get a real terrorist attempt with links to Yemen. How convenient!

At this point we can only say that the attempted terror attack in Detroit appears a bit too convenient. It comes at a convenient time for those in the government that want to extend the War on Terror abroad and the Technological Police State here at home.

So I am not one to see a conspiracy but I am one to see a convenience.

You can call me a Convenience Theorist nut job, but I must call attention to conveniences when I see them.

Grant Lawrence - Visit his blog.

His commenters seem to be pretty knowledgeable too.

L. E. Lenius - It looks like CIA/MI6/Mossad. As Webster Tarpley wrote in 9/11 Synthetic Terror, "[I]n an oligarchical society characterized by the preponderant role of secret intelligence agencies - such as the United States at the beginning of the twenty-first century - anyone who rules out conspiracies a priori runs the risk of not understanding very much of what is going on." Ron Paul said USA taxpayers give $75 billion a year to disinformation/covert action agencies. That buys plenty of silly stories, lies, dirty tricks and worse. Proletariatprincess - Yes indeed. It sure does seem convenient. Cheney and Liberman and other right wing warmongers were ready on the spot to criticize and call for more more . . . almost like it was on cue.

News is slow this week anyway. It couldn't have happened at a better time for propaganda purposes. I wish I was shocked at what I'm hearing from the likes of Pat Buchanan . . . but I'm past that I guess. He believes that this deranged man who is suffering the excruciating pain of burned genitals should be denied pain medication. For no apparent reason, either. He has already confessed to the crime and is clearly a disturbed individual. Go home Pat . . . get to know your family. Get a real life . . . it is past time for you. Justice has become a priviledge not a right in USA. Somehow it has been decided that justice is optional in regard to some accused suspects . . . and we know who decides that, don't we? Guest - Glad to see others are putting the ducks in a straight line, too. This farcical incident should fool nobody except those willingly fooled! Oh, and since "inspired" by al Qaida - this fool is aided by the same organization that pulled off 9/11? Laughable (but of course, al Qaida was not connected with 9/11, either!). Amilcar - "You can call me a Convenience Theorist nut job"...Count me in..! This alleged Terrorist with a fire cracker on plane smells fishy . . . . Turtle - Convenience Theorist nut job - I'll join that club too, unless, as I've stated in a different post yesterday, the time space continuum has been conquered and back to the future is now back to the present. Not only is this convenient, it's way too cute by half.

I'm forced (by logic) to agree. Suzan ___________________

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Did You Know that America's Mercenary Armies Are Actually Drug Cartels?

In today's Salem News (Oregon), December 30,2009, Gordon Duff puts almost too fine a point on the news from Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. Seems that Karzai's brother's admitted drug running has finally passed the "tipping point" and entered into the realm of MSM consciousness. Or has it? Perhaps just being mentioned by one of the minor MSM outlets serves to desensitive and therefore discombobulate the dense populace as to the significance of this admission by treating it as only another regretful fact that the US "must" put up with in order to straighten out the world according to US Empire doctrine. Whatever, it's a fait accompli (done deal) and no one (repeat, no one) is calling off the surge of new troops and taxpayer-paid 100,000+ contractors there (perhaps to protect the drug runners?) (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

CINCINNATI, Ohio - News out of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India reports massive corruption at the highest levels of government, corruption that could only be financed with drug money. In Afghanistan, the president's brother is known to be one of the biggest drug runners in the world.

In Pakistan, President Zardani is found with 60 million in a Swiss Bank and his Interior Minister is suspected of ties to American groups involved in paramilitary operations, totally illegal that could involve nothing but drugs, there is no other possibility.

Testimony in the US that our government has used "rendition" flights to transport massive amounts of narcotics to Western Europe and the United States has been taken in sworn deposition.

American mercenaries in Pakistan are hundreds of miles away from areas believed to be hiding terrorists, involved in "operations" that can't have anything whatsoever to do with any CIA contract. These mercenaries aren't in Quetta, Waziristan or FATA supporting our troops, they are in Karachi and Islamabad playing with police and government officials and living the life of the fatted calf.

The accusations made are that Americans in partnership with corrupt officials, perhaps in all 3 countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, are involved in assassinations, "unknown" criminal activities and are functioning like criminal gangs.

There is no oil. There is nothing to draw people into the area other than one product, one that nobody is talking about. Drugs.

The US got involved in massive drug operations, importation, processing and distribution during the Reagan years, supposedly to finance covert CIA operations involving death squads tasked with murdering Sandinista "infrastructure" in Nicaragua.

The deal involved Israel, Iran and the Colombian cartel. Saddam was even involved. In the end, President Reagan was put on the stand only to remember little or nothing of his tenure in office. Lt. Col. Oliver North was convicted as was Secretary of Defense Weinberger and many others. Pardons and "other methods" were used to keep the guilty out of jail.

Now we find what was supposed to be a CIA operation with one company only, Xe, operations that were meant to hunt a couple of terrorist/Taliban leaders in and around Quetta, a city of 1 million in remote Baluchistan has turned into a honeycomb of operations involving millions of dollars and personnel of all kinds, perhaps even ranking diplomats and high government officials, the highest.

The cover of hunting terrorists in remote areas with hundreds of armed men in cities on the other side of the country, cities filled with 5 star hotels, country clubs, polo, cricket and fine restaurants is not really cover, even by CIA standards.

The reports, bribes, actions that look and smell like drug gangs at work, tell a story that nobody wants to talk about.

With 50 billion dollars of opium from Afghanistan alone and crops in Pakistan and India also, managing the world's heroin supply is, by my estimation, how all of this "muscle" is staying busy.

When you see a black van full of armed men, is there a sign somewhere saying:

"We are counter terrorists working for the Central Intelligence Agency and we are only in town here, hundreds of miles from the nearest terrorist because we need a hot shower and to get a noise in the transmission checked out."

Everyone can choose to believe what they want. It's time we stopped lying. Its about drugs, always has been, always will, drugs and money. It buys men, it buys guns and it can buy governments and has, as anyone with eyes can see. (Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran and a regular contributor to Veterans Today. He specializes in political and social issues. You can see a large collection of Gordon's published articles at this link: He is an outspoken advocate for veterans and his powerful words have brought about change. Gordon is a lifelong PTSD sufferer from his war experiences and he is empathetic to the plight of today's veterans also suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We greatly appreciate the opportunity to feature Gordon's timely and critical reports on, a news organization staffed by a number of veterans, particularly former U.S. Marines.)

Our best imagineer Driftglass has a few words for us. Click his link for the rest of a truly delightful post.

"Incent(ivize)/Disincent(ivize)" - "Carrots and sticks" for people with small penises who need to overcompensate with slang they picked up at some overpriced Imagination Acceleration conference in Denver.

"Impactful" - The go-to word for illiterate executives who dare not admit that they made it all the way into a corner office with ever learning the difference between "affect" and "effect".

"Fox News" - We live in a busy age and to avoid wasting valuable conversational time on human fudge-sickles who shouldn't be let out of their double-wides without a minder, it would be very helpful if we could all agree that the word "INCURABLE DUMBASS" should be tattooed across the forehead of anyone who really believes that "Fox" has anything to do with "News".

"Christian Conservative" - Separately, each word means something distinct. Together, they mean the polar opposite of either.

Now that's rightwing-defining writing. And "rehctaw" at Rawrahs has let the cat out of the bag as to exactly what we are up against (emphasis marks added - Ed.). Thank you, sweetheart!

Who says our manufacturing base has been dismantled?

One segment that has prospered and flourished is the crisis creation, new-rule implementation promulgation with instant bending, and non-solution industry. Here, in Illusionois, Crook County, Proviso Township, and continuing on down the food chain of regulatory appendages, 2009 has produced a bumper crop of tweaks, kludges, finagles and activity adaptation that will further confine our rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty.

On January 1st, another slew of new laws will be added to the gauntlet that makes the prospect of getting out of bed a potential criminal activity. If it's not already impossible to do so without transgressing several chapters of the criminal code, January 1st should lock down any of the overlooked potentials.

Just say OKAY to whatever and things will be perfect. Whatever you do don't try to point out when, where or HOW things went terribly, excruciatingly, permanently wrong or explain that burying past mistakes under hundreds of new mistakes in hopes of validating the flawed; now failed thinking behind them.

The wheel is being re-invented daily.

A(wo)men! Suzan ______________

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Racism and War: The Dehumanization of the Enemy (& of Ourselves)

Our real enem(ies) are not the ones living in a distant land whose names or policies we don't understand: the real enemy is a system that wages war when it's profitable, the CEO's who lay us off our jobs when it's profitable, the Insurance Companies who deny us Health care when it's profitable, the Banks who take away our homes when it's profitable. Our enemies are not several hundred thousands away. They are right here in front of us. - Mike Prysner

Racism and War: The Dehumanization of the Enemy (Some editing was added - Ed.)

Mike Prysner describes a mission he took part in (in) which his unit forced Iraqis out of half a dozen homes, with no compensation, so the US military could use them. “One family in particular, a woman with two small girls, very elderly man, and two middle-aged men — we dragged them from their houses and threw them onto the street, and arrested the men because they refused to leave.” Since he left, he has been plagued by guilt “anytime I see a mother with her children, like the one who cried hysterically and screamed that we were worse than Saddam as we forced her from her home . . . anytime I see a young girl like the one I grabbed by the arm and dragged into the street.”

Prysner also describes the physical abuse of a wounded prisoner, with a sandbag over his head and his hands tied behind his back. “We were told we were fighting terrorists; the real terrorist was me, and the real terrorism is this occupation.”

The children we have sent to do our dirty work have returned to cut out our hearts. You won't be surprised at who has the link. Are we at the level of Rome yet? See for yourself. Suzan _______________________

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Rewarding Failure at the Fed (To Guide the US Middle Class Down the Path of Destruction - Bernanke - "He's BAAACKKK")

Economists like Dean Baker exist for a very good reason. If they didn't, we would have to invent them because without them we would have no idea how completely we were being played for fools - big fools at that - and we really do want to know that - not that we will do anything about it. By the way, we learn the facts (about this most devastatingly complex chicanery) from media in the UK - right - England! No paper in the U.S. runs this type of truth telling. Or would dare. (But will run it for flavor after it hits the intertubes.)

If Bernanke knew what he was doing, he should have been able to see as early as 2002 that there was a housing bubble and that its collapse would throw the economy into a recession. It was also entirely predictable that the collapse could lead to a financial crisis of the type we saw, since housing was always a highly leveraged asset, even before the flood of subprime, Alt-A and other nonsense loans that propelled the bubble to ever greater heights. Of course as the bubble expanded, and the financial sector became ever more highly leveraged, the risks to the economy increased enormously.

Through this all, Bernanke just looked the other way. The whole time he insisted that everything was just fine.

Professor Baker tells us everything that we don't want to know (apparently). If you don't believe me, write your Senatecritters who just voted him another term and ask them why (and then tell them to stop or you'll vote them O U T).

Rewarding Failure at the Fed

While millions of Americans have lost their jobs, Washington allows Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke to keep his.

The Senate finance committee overwhelmingly voted to approve Ben Bernanke for another four-year term as Federal Reserve board chairman. This is a remarkable event since it is hard to imagine how Bernanke could have performed any worse during his last four-year term. By Bernanke's own assessment, his policies brought the US economy to the brink of another Great Depression. This sort of performance in any other job would get you fired in a second. But for the most important economic policymaker in the country it gets you high praise and another term.

There is no room for ambiguity in this story. Bernanke was at the Fed since the fall of 2002. (He had a brief stint in 2005 as chair of President Bush's council of economic advisors.) At a point when at least some economists recognised the housing bubble and began to warn of the damage that would result from its collapse, Bernanke insisted that everything was fine and that nothing should be done to rein in the bubble.

This is worth repeating. If Bernanke knew what he was doing, he should have been able to see as early as 2002 that there was a housing bubble and that its collapse would throw the economy into a recession. It was also entirely predictable that the collapse could lead to a financial crisis of the type we saw, since housing was always a highly leveraged asset, even before the flood of subprime, Alt-A and other nonsense loans that propelled the bubble to ever greater heights. Of course as the bubble expanded, and the financial sector became ever more highly leveraged, the risks to the economy increased enormously.

Through this all, Bernanke just looked the other way. The whole time he insisted that everything was just fine.

To be clear, there was plenty that the Fed could have done to deflate the bubble before it grew to such dangerous proportions. First and foremost the Fed could have used its extensive research capabilities to carefully document the evidence for a housing bubble and the risks that its collapse would pose to the economy.

It then should have used the enormous megaphone of the Fed chairman and the platform of the institution to publicise this research widely. The Fed could have ensured that every loan officer who issued a mortgage, as well as all the banks officers who set policy, clearly heard the warnings of a bubble in the housing market, backed up by reams of irrefutable research. The same warnings would have reached the ears of every potential homebuyer in the country. It's hard to believe that such warnings would have had no impact on the bubble, but it's near criminal that the Fed never tried this route.

The second tool that the Fed could have pursued was to crack down on the fraudulent loans that were being issued in massive numbers at the peak of the bubble. It is absurd to claim that the Fed didn't know about the abuses in the mortgage market. I was getting emails from all over the country telling me about loan officers filling in phony income and asset numbers so that borrowers would qualify for mortgages. If the Bernanke and his Fed colleagues did not know about these widespread abuses, it is because they deliberately avoided knowing.

Finally, the Fed could have had a policy of interest rate hikes explicitly targeted to burst the bubble. Specifically, it could have announced that it will raise rates by half a percentage point at every meeting, until house prices begin to fall and it will keep rates high until house prices approach their pre-bubble level.

This is what a responsible Fed policy would have looked like. But Ben Bernanke did not pursue a responsible Fed policy. He insisted that everything was just fine until he had to run to Congress last September, saying that if it didn't immediately give $700bn to the banks through the Tarp programme then the economy would collapse.

How on earth can you do worse in your job as Fed chair than bring the economy to the brink of a total collapse? If this is success, what does failure look like?

But, in Washington no one is ever held accountable for their performance. The economic collapse is treated like a fluke of nature – a hurricane or an earthquake – and not the result of enormous policy failures.

So, it is the 15 million unemployed that go without work, not Ben Bernanke. Instead, many of the senators praise Bernanke to the sky and thank him for his service. The running line in the Senate is: "It could have been worse."

That is the way Washington works these days. And, everyone should be very very disgusted.

(Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, is the author of "The United States Since 1980" (Cambridge University Press); "Social Security: The Phony Crisis" (with Mark Weisbrot); "The Benefits of Full Employment" (with Jared Bernstein); "Getting Prices Right: The Battle Over the Consumer Price Index;" and "The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer."

He appears frequently on TV and radio programs, including CNN, CBS News, PBS NewsHour, and National Public Radio. His blog, Beat the Press, features commentary on economic reporting. He received his B.A. from Swarthmore College and his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan.)

His article in the Guardian has some wise commenters:

nottaclue1 - The economic crisis was intentionally generated by the financial aristocracy in order to fill their coffers on the backs of the working class while serving as an excuse to layoff millions and cut benefits in order to boost profits. This is all part and parcel of their plan to permanently reduce living standards for he majority of the population. The same pattern can be seen in many countries across the world. Bernanke has done exactly what they wanted him to do, why would they get rid of him?

grumpy766 - Great story. Where is the U.S. news media? Why do I have to find out what is happening in the U.S. from the U.K. news? Guardian, keep up the good work.

Mr. Shigemitsu - To all of those who still persist in thinking this was all some kind of terrible "mistake" or "failure", and those responsible are all somehow floundering helplessly in the aftermath, you are wrong.

These people knew exactly what they were doing, and in bailing them out at taxpayers' expense, the circle has been completed, and they have got away with robbing us blind.

We are now slaves to the banks, as our living standards decline in order to service the gigantic debts that our nations owe them, as our taxes increase at the same time as our pubic services decline, and as they laugh at us from their yachts.

He seems to have said it all.

Hell, they probably would make a deal to be gods (and goddesses) after their deaths as their every other gambit has worked so well.



Saturday, December 26, 2009

The "Family" Jewels (Secret Political Reach Of 'The Family')

The Family's historic roll call is even more striking: the late senator Strom Thurmond (R., South Carolina), who produced "confidential" reports on legislation for the Family's leadership, presided for a time over the Family's weekly Senate meeting, and the Dixie-crat Senators Herman Talmadge of Georgia and Absalom Willis Robertson of Virginia — Pat Robertson's father — served on the behind-the-scenes board of the organization. In 1974, a Family prayer group of Republican congressmen and former secretary of defense Melvin Laird helped convince President Gerald Ford that Richard Nixon deserved not just Christian forgiveness but also a legal pardon. That same year, Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist led the Family's first weekly Bible study for federal judges.

"I wish I could say more about it," Ronald Reagan publicly demurred back in 1985, "but it's working precisely because it is private."

"We desire to see a leadership led by God," reads a confidential mission statement. "Leaders of all levels of society who direct projects as they are led by the spirit." Another principle expanded upon is stealthiness; members are instructed to pursue political jujitsu by making use of secular leaders "in the work of advancing His kingdom," and to avoid whenever posusible the label Christian itself, lest they alert enemies to that advance. Regular prayer grops, or "cells" as they're often called, have met in the Pentagon and at the Department of Defense, and the Family has traditionally fostered strong ties with businessmen in the oil and aerospace industries.

The Family's use of the term "cell" long predates the word's current association with terrorism. Its roots are in the Cold War, when leaders of the Family deliberately emulated the organizing techniques of communism. In 1948, a group of Senate staffers met to discuss ways that the Family's "cell and leadership groups" could recruit elites unwilling to participate in the "mass meeting approach" of populist fundamentalism. Two years later, the Family declared that with democracy inadequate to the fight against godlessness, such cells should function to produce political "atomic energy"; that is, deals and alliances that could not be achieved through the clumsy machinations of legislative debate would instead radiate quietly out of political cells. More recently, Senator Sam Brownback told me that the privacy of Family cells makes them safe spaces for men of power — an appropriation of another term borrowed from an enemy, feminism. "In this closer relationship," a document for members reads, "God will give you more insight into your own geographical area and your sphere of influence." One's cell should become "an invisible 'believing group'" out of which "agreements reached in faith and in prayer around the person of Jesus Christ" lead to action that will appear to the world to be unrelated to any centralized organization.

In 1979, the former Nixon aide and Watergate felon Charles W. Colson — born again through the guidance of the Family and the ministry of a CEO of arms manufacturer Raytheon — estimated the Family's strength at 20,000, although the number of dedicated "associates" around the globe is much smaller (around 350 as of 2006). The Family maintains a closely guarded database of associates, members, and "key men," but it issues no cards, collects no official dues. Members are asked not to speak about the group or its activities.

"The Movement," a member of the Family's inner circle once wrote to the group's chief South African operative, "is simply inexplicable to people who are not intimately acquainted with it." The Family's "political" initiatives, he continues, "have always been misunderstood by 'outsiders.' As a result of very bitter experiences, therefore, we have learned never to commit to paper any discussions or negotiations that are taking place. There is no such thing as a 'confidential' memorandum, and leakage always seems to occur. Thus, I would urge you not to put on paper anything relating to any of the work that you are doing ... [unless] you know the recipient well enough to put at the top of the page 'PLEASE DESTROY AFTER READING.'"

"If I told you who has participated and who participates until this day, you would not believe it," the Family's longtime leader, Doug Coe, said in a rare interview in 2001. "You'd say,'You mean that scoundrel? That despot?'"

For that very reason, the Family has operated under many guises, some active, some defunct: National Committee for Christian Leadership, International Christian Leadership, National Leadership Council, the Fellowship Foundation, the International Foundation. The Fellowship Foundation alone has an annual budget of nearly $14 million. The bulk of it, $12 million, goes to "mentoring, counseling, and partnering with friends around the world," but that represents only a fraction of the network's finances. The Family does not pay big salaries; one man receives $121,000, while Doug Coe seems to live on almost nothing (his income fluctuates wildly according to the off-the-books support of "friends"), and none of the fourteen men on the board of directors (among them an oil executive, a defense contractor, and government officials past and present) receives a penny. But within the organization money moves in peculiar ways, "man-to-man" financial support that's off the books, a constant proliferation of new nonprofits big and small that submit to the Family's spiritual authority, money flowing up and down the quiet hierarchy. "I give or loan money to hundreds of people, or have my friends do so," says Coe.

The Family's only publicized gathering is the National Prayer Breakfast, which it established in 1953 and which, with congressional sponsorship, it continues to organize every February at the Washington, D.C., Hilton. Some 3,000 dignitaries, representing scores of nations and corporate interests, pay $425 each to attend. For most, the breakfast is just that, muffins and prayer, but some stay on for days of seminars organized around Christ's messages for particular industries. In years past, the Family organized such events for executives in oil, defense, insurance, and banking. The 2007 event drew, among others, a contingent of aid-hungry defense ministers from Eastern Europe, Pakistan's famously corrupt Benazir Bhutto, and a Sudanese general linked to genocide in Darfur.

. . . "I'm sure a lot of people use the Fellowship as a way to network, a way to gain entree to all sorts of people," says Michael Cromartie, an evangelical Washington think tanker who's critical of the Family's lack of transparency. “And entree they do get."

"Anything can happen," according to an internal planning document, "the Koran could even be read, but JESUS is there! He is infiltrating the world." Too bland most years to merit much press, the breakfast is regarded by the Family as merely a tool in a larger purpose: to recruit the powerful attendees into smaller, more frequent prayer meetings, where they can "meet Jesus man to man."

In the process of introducing powerful men to Jesus, the Family has managed to effect a number of behind-the-scenes acts of diplomacy. In 1978 it helped the Carter administration organize a worldwide call to prayer with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat. At the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast, Family leaders persuaded their South African client, the Zulu chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, to stand down from the possibility of civil war with Nelson Mandela. But such benign acts appear to be the exception to the rule. During the 1960s, the Family forged relationships between the U.S. government and some of the most oppressive regimes in the world, arranging prayer networks in the U.S. Congress for the likes of General Costa e Silva, dictator of Brazil; General Suharto, dictator of Indonesia; and General Park Chung Hee, dictator of South Korea. "The Fellowship's reach into governments around the world," observes David Kuo, a former special assistant to the president in Bush's first term, "is almost impossible to overstate or even grasp."

From The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power by Jeff Sharlet.

Here is a portion of what was run on Fresh Air (NPR) from WHYY on November 24, 2009, with Terry Gross as host (emphasis marks added - Ed.):

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

The fundamentalist group The Family has operated secretively with the help of influential congressmen and senators who are members of the group to promote their anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-free-market ideas in America and other parts of the world, but two sex scandals involving people connected with The Family -Nevada Senator John Ensign and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford - have brought public attention to the group.

There's other Family news. Bart Stupak and Joe Pitts are connected to The Family. They introduced the amendment to the House health care reform bill that would prevent funds appropriated from the act to cover abortion and go to any insurance company that covers abortion. Pitts is a member of The Family; Stupak lives at their residence on C Street.

The Family is also connected to proposed anti-gay legislation in Uganda that could sentence, quote, repeat offenders to the death penalty. That family connection is revealed in new reporting by my guest, Jeff Sharlet. Sharlet is the author of the bestseller "The Family" and is a contributing editor for Harper's. He's been investigating The Family for years.

Jeff Sharlet, welcome back to FRESH AIR. Let's start with a recap of what The Family is and what it stands for. You've described it as elite fundamentalism, as opposed to the kind of televangelist, populist fundamentalism. What do you mean by elite?

Mr. JEFF SHARLET (Author, "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power"; Associate Research Scholar, Center for Religion and Media, New York University): Well, the founder of the group, Abraham Vereide, said that God came to him one night in April 1935 and said Christianity has been focusing on the wrong people, the poor, the suffering, the down and out. I want you to be a missionary to and for the powerful, those who he calls the up and out. They can dispense blessings to everybody else through a sort of kind of trickle-down religion.

GROSS: So The Family is into the cultivation of powerful people. They call them key men. What is key men?

Mr. SHARLET: A key man is someone that they identify as chosen for his position of power or affluence by God. And they like to emphasize that the leaders that they work with are not so much elected to their positions or work their way up the corporate ladder, as they are selected by God, used as tools.

The kind of the comparison that they like to use is King David, who they note is a sort of guy who, as a leader, actually does all sorts of terrible things -seduces another man's wife, has the man killed and so on - and yet he's still in power. It's because God has chosen to use this imperfect tool. And so they see the politicians that they work with as tools of God.

GROSS: And what are the leading issues that The Family advocates?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, they began with the issue of economics. I mean, they began as a union-busting organization. That was their first and strongest mission, and for a long time they saw their two goals as economic and in foreign affairs. Something - economically what they, the core members, came to call biblical capitalism, the idea that capitalism is ordained by the Bible in a very sort of deregulated, laissez-faire, privatized market; and foreign affairs, a kind of expansionist view of what might be called a soft empire for America.

GROSS: What about culturally and socially? What are some of the leading issues on The Family's agenda?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, this is really interesting. I mean, this is one of the things that distinguishes them, historically, from what I call the populist front of fundamentalism, who were always concerned with domestic social issues. The Family historically wasn't. They took - generally took the same conservative line on those issues, but that wasn't their focus. In recent decades, they've sort of expanded to address some of those issues.

And in particular, Joe Pitts has been in the news because of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, was one of the guys who really helped to bring abortion to the forefront to the group, starting in the late '70s, and that's become a concern of a lot of members. And, as you expand outwards over the last couple decades, and you look at the concerns of politicians like Senator Sam Brownback, Senator Jim Inhofe, Senator Tom Coburn, all these guys who are very involved members - you see homosexuality, you see all the culture-war issues taking a place alongside biblical capitalism and this foreign affairs expansionism, and, in fact, merging in The Family's view into one sort of united world view.

GROSS: Before we get to the Stupak-Pitts Amendment and its connection to The Family, can you just do a roll call of some of the prominent senators and congressmen who are affiliated with The Family?

Mr. SHARLET: Yeah. Well, when I first lived with the group, one of the first guys I met was Senator John Ensign, who was then living in a house The Family maintains on Capitol Hill. Senator Sam Brownback spoke with me extensively about his involvement. Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma boasts of traveling around the world, doing The Family's political business. Senator Tom Coburn has done the same thing. Senator Chuck Grassley has been very involved in African affairs on behalf of The Family. Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming is a part of it.

You have, over in the House, you have guys like Representative Zach Wamp of Tennessee, a very conservative Republican. You have Representative Frank Wolf of Virginia. You have Democrats, as well, and I think that's what - part of what distinguishes them from a lot of other Christian-right groups.

They survived for 70 years by not locking themselves in with any one faction. So you see Democrats like Representative Mike McIntyre, a very conservative Democrat from North Carolina; Representative Heath Shuler, also from North Carolina; Representative Bart Stupak; Senator Mark Pryor, who is pro-war, anti-labor, anti-gay and a creationist, but he is a Democrat. And he's a guy who explained to me a couple years ago that through The Family, he had learned that the meaning of bipartisanship was that, quote, Jesus didn't come to take sides; he came to take over.

GROSS: So let's look at the Stupak-Pitts Amendment and its connection to The Family. This is the amendment to the House health care reform plan, and it prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion.

So describe to us how Bart Stupak and Joe Pitts are connected to The Family.

Mr. SHARLET: Well, Bart Stupak is an interesting Democrat from Northern Michigan, and he - conservative in some ways, not as conservative in other ways, but on these family issues, he is. He's been living at what The Family calls their C Street House on Capitol Hill at least since 2002, when he told the Los Angeles Times - the Los Angeles Times was investigating The Family - he told them that he would not talk to the press about the house. That it was sort of secret.

When I was living with The Family, which is sort of how I came to this whole story is by sort of reporting from within the group, Stupak was spoken of quite often as an ally of Joe Pitts; these are two guys who work well together, and as a guy who was a mentor to a lot of younger members of The Family.

Stupak continues to live at the C Street House, although more recently, coming under scrutiny for that, he is trying to claim that he just rents a room in this house and doesn't know anything about the activities, despite the fact that the house is registered as a church.

GROSS: Although that status was just changed, wasn't it?

Mr. SHARLET: It was, it was. I think maybe as a result of some of the scrutiny this summer, a citizen of Washington, D.C., called the local tax office and said: Why is this $1.8 million townhouse being used to provide below-market housing for congressmen, basically to give them gifts and to, in an unofficial way, lobby them. Why is that tax-exempt and protected under a church? The tax office looked at it and agreed that 66 percent of the building was not properly tax-exempt. And so that portion, which includes Bart Stupak's room, was removed from that tax exemption.

GROSS: So what about Congressman Joe Pitts? What is his connection to The Family?

Mr. SHARLET: Joe Pitts has a much deeper and longer connection, going back to the 1970s, the early 1980s, when he was a state legislator in Pennsylvania, and he was a leader of the national state legislators anti-abortion organization. He has been a guy in the trenches of the abortion wars for 30 years. He is one of the strategists. He's one of the guys who helped sort of recruit Mother Teresa to the cause of American abortion politics, and he did that through The Family, actually, reaching out through the leader of The Family, a man named Doug Coe.

Pitts is what The Family calls a core member. They have a very unusual theology in the sense that they think that Christ had one message for an inner circle and then a kind of different message for a sort of slightly more outer circle. And then the rest of us, Christ told us little stories because, frankly, we couldn't handle the truth. And the core members are those they think are getting the real deal. Pitts is part of that core of The Family that has been steering it and setting its agenda, if you want to put it like that, for many years.

GROSS: What did Joe Pitts do to put abortion on The Family's agenda?

Mr. SHARLET: I think he came in with a passion for it and was a terrific organizer. Joe Pitts, you know, not a well-known congressmen. He's a sort of avuncular character from Amish country in Pennsylvania, and I think - he's a former gym teacher. People sort of don't really see in him the canny legislator that he is. He was an organizer for abortion causes, was willing to bring with him into The Family connections to a lot of state legislators. And that's a little bit how The Family works. They want to have those relationships in case those guys step up to the next level of Congress, and then they have those relationships there, as well. Pitts simply lobbied hard for it within the group. And as The Family puts it, they have a very organic model for decision-making. Sam Brownback, explaining the process to me - he says one man grows desirous of taking an action, and the others pull in behind. He was actually explaining that in relationship to a piece of legislation he had worked on with Joe Pitts in foreign affairs, but that applies as much to, I think, the Stupak-Pitts amendment on abortion.

Another Stupak-Pitts collaboration goes back a few years, when they tried to take President Bush's PEPFAR anti-AIDS - $15 billion anti-AIDS plan for around the world, and Stupak and Pitts thought that Bush's plan was not conservative enough. So they tried to turn it into a kind of an abstinence crusade overseas, and especially in Africa. And I think they actually went too far even for the Bush administration.

GROSS: Now, Bart Stupak is Catholic. Joe Pitts is Evangelical Christian, and you say that together, they represent the Evangelical/conservative-Catholic alliance known as co-belligerency. That's a new term to me. What does it mean?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, it's an idea that goes back into the '70s with one of the gurus of modern Christian-right thinking, a guy named Francis Schaeffer, but it really picked up steam with the work of a man named Charles Colson. Chuck Colson some listeners may remember as the Watergate felon, Nixon's sort of henchman who went to prison - was born again, as he writes in his book, through The Family, through their intervention and bringing him to Christ. They actually helped get him out of prison by writing letters to the parole board and everything else. And he had this idea. He's an Evangelical. He had this idea that Catholics and Evangelicals, who historically in American life have been at each other's throats, could work together on culture war issues, that they could be co-belligerents in the culture war. And I think The Family has been one of the vehicles at which that's happened at the elite level, despite the fact - and I think this is important when we look at someone like Bart Stupak - The Family began as a virulently anti-Catholic organization.

And even to this day, Doug Coe, the leader of the group, says, you know, now he's got a much more open mind. You can be a Catholic and love Jesus just the way you can be a Jew and love Jesus or be a Muslim and love Jesus. In other words, being a Catholic in his mind doesn't qualify you as a Christian. And actually when I visited the C Street House, when Bart Stupak was living there, there was a woman who was sort of functioning as an administrator, and she was a Catholic. And she told me that she still goes to Mass, but she keeps it secret because she knows Doug would disapprove.

GROSS: Now, you mentioned that The Family thinks it's important to have their people and their concerns represented in both the Republican and the Democratic Party. Is there an active strategy to actually have Family-affiliated politicians in the Democratic Party?

Mr. SHARLET: Yeah, I think it's always been very important to The Family, going back to the beginning of the group's roots in the 1930s, when they actually formed with the idea that democracy wasn't going to work. Remember, this was in the 1930s, and they're looking around the world, and they see communism as this incredibly powerful world force, and fascism is, of course, too. Well, they certainly don't want to be communism. Fascism they are a little more sympathetic to, and there were a lot of sort of early-American fascists in the group, but it's still a problem because it's a cult of personality. They put Hitler and Mussolini where Jesus is.

So they come up with this idea of a third way, that they later start calling totalitarianism for Christ. And they predict that the United States will pretty quickly embrace this and will get rid of political parties because democracy doesn't work. People arguing and debating doesn't work. They don't want a Republican Party, a Democratic Party. They want one big party - theirs.

And of course that doesn't happen. So by the 1940s, they begin really actively recruiting and seeking out Democrats. They've been sort of mostly Republican, but they seek out Democrats. For most of their history, those Democrats were Dixiecrats. Strom Thurmond used to file confidential reports, leaking, essentially, protected Senate information to The Family's leader. Herman Talmadge, all these guys - Pat Robertson's father, Absalom Willis Robertson, a Dixiecrat senator from Virginia.

In recent years, the Democrats that they've identified, guys like Bart Stupak, Heath Shuler, Mike McIntyre, Mark Pryor, even Senator Bill Nelson down in Florida, another conservative Democrat, they are a faction within the Democratic Party that has become an obstacle to many of the core values of the party. That's what The Family means when they speak of bipartisanship as this idea that Jesus doesn't come to take sides, he comes to take over. The Democrats do tend to be folks who get into Congress, and I think a lot of them - I think this needs to be emphasized - Democrats and Republicans get involved with this with the best of intentions.

Someone comes to them and says hey, let's talk about prayer. Let's reach across the aisle. Let's get together. This is the group that sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast, which a lot of congressmen mistakenly think is an ecumenical event going back to the early days of the republic. In fact, it's a private, sectarian event organized by The Family as a sort of a lobbying fest. But they get involved with the best of intentions and, I think, are slowly brought into a relationship where they start moving rightward.


GROSS: Let's talk about new information in the scandal involving Senator John Ensign. Last night on "Nightline," Doug Hampton did an interview with Cynthia McFadden. Now, Hampton had been one of Ensign's top aides. He was co-chief of staff after Ensign became a senator. He also worked with Ensign before Ensign became a senator. Hampton's wife, Cindy Hampton, had worked as Ensign's campaign treasurer. Ensign revealed not long ago that he admitted having an affair with Cindy Hampton. And news about this affair has been trickling out over time, and more news emerged last night. What did you think were the key things last night from that interview between Doug Hampton and Cynthia McFadden?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, there are a lot of just plain old sad details: Doug Hampton telling us that John Ensign, even when confronted this, told Hampton he's going to continue to pursue Hampton's wife and that, you know, essentially nothing can stop him. Hampton's description of his attempts to work through this C Street and The Family, which he really respected, to hold Ensign accountable. Hampton's, really, attempt to do the right thing, and especially according to the ideas that The Family promotes: this idea of personal accountability and the reality that The Family interpreted that accountability as - they interpret it in financial terms, Senator Tom Coburn saying one thing and then another about the transfer of funds from Ensign to Hampton's family. Hampton really just, I think, I have sort of a newfound respect for him after last night because it does seem like he's sort of seeking transparency on this whole thing.

GROSS: So let's first talk about The Family's role in how this scandal has played out. First, again until a couple of weeks ago, John Ensign lived at the Family-owned C Street residence, and also he went to C Street - to see C Street people for advice. Coburn, who - Senator Coburn, who lives at C Street, was the chief advisor, it seems, judging from what Doug Hampton said last night. So what was the advice that Hampton says Ensign got from C Street?

Mr. SHARLET: To make Hampton whole through financial restitution, a transfer of a very large sum of money. The number most often cited seems to be 1.2 million. There's no reason, I think, to doubt Doug Hampton on this. He's been very forthcoming what is obviously a very painful episode in his life. But Senator Tom Coburn, who until now had a real reputation for candor and integrity, regardless of what you thought of his political views, has been saying one thing and then another. In fact, this past Sunday, on George Stephanopoulos's morning show, he seemed to contradict himself in the space of a few minutes, saying that no, he had not been a negotiator, but yes, he had attempted to sort of negotiate a deal between Ensign and the family of Doug Hampton and Cindy Hampton.

GROSS: So what else do you think we should know about what this story says about C Street and The Family?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, I think the bombshell comes from Doug Hampton himself, who in describing this whole process, went to The Family thinking that he could trust the - what they say about accountability, what they say they exist for, for holding congressmen accountable. What his relationship with John Ensign through The Family was supposed to be about. And he attempted to work through them. They told him to, as he put it, be cool, in other words to keep the whole thing quiet. And he took their word for it. And last night he finally sort of came out and said look, this isn't - C Street, The Family, it's not what they say it is. And if I can just quote him, he puts it very succinctly: He says they - the C Street group, The Family - they think the consequences don't apply. Those need to be dealt with differently, because of the responsibility, because of the pressure. Meaning that congressmen have sort of special rules for them, because of the work that needs to be done. This is about preserving John, preserving the Republican Party. This is about preserving C Street. These men care about themselves and their own political careers, period.

And that's a devastating critique from a man who has given his loyalty to this group, who has turned to them in the most painful moment in his life, expected them to stand up for what they say they believe in, and instead was forced to confront the fact that when The Family talks about power being the bottom line of the New Testament, they really mean it. Power trumps love.

GROSS: Let's talk about The Family's connection to Uganda, where there's a, really a draconian anti-gay bill that has been introduced into parliament. Uganda already punishes the practice of homosexuality with life in prison. What would the new legislation do?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, the new legislation adds to this something called aggravated homosexuality. And this can include, for instance, if a gay man has sex with another man who is disabled, that's aggravated homosexuality, and that man can be - I suppose both, actually, could be put to death for this. The use of any drugs or any intoxicants in seeking gay sex - in other words, you go to a bar and you buy a guy a drink, you're subject to the death penalty if you go home and sleep together after that. What it also does is it extends this outward, so that if you know a gay person and you don't report it, that could mean - you don't report your son or daughter, you can go to prison.

And it goes further, to say that any kind of promotion of these ideas of homosexuality, including by foreigners, can result in prison terms. Talking about same sex-marriage positively can lead you to imprisonment for life. And it's really kind of a perfect case study in the export of a lot of American, largely evangelical ideas about homosexuality exported to Uganda, which then takes them to their logical end.

GROSS: This legislation has just been proposed. It hasn't been signed into law. So it's not in effect yet and it might never be in effect. But it's on the table. It's before parliament. So is there a direct connection between The Family and this proposed anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, the legislator that introduced the bill, a guy named David Bahati, is a member of The Family. He appears to be a core member of The Family. He works, he organizes their Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast and oversees a African sort of student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which The Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda.

GROSS: So you're reporting the story for the first time today, and you found this story - this direct connection between The Family and the proposed legislation by following the money?

Mr. SHARLET: Yes, it's - I always say that The Family is secretive, but not secret. You can go and look at 990s, tax forms and follow the money through these organizations that The Family describe as invisible. But you go and you look. You follow that money. You look at their archives. You do interviews where you can. It's not so invisible anymore. So that's how working with some research colleagues we discovered that David Bahati, the man behind this legislation, is really deeply, deeply involved in The Family's work in Uganda, that the ethics minister of Uganda, Museveni's kind of right-hand man, a guy named Nsaba Buturo, is also helping to organize The Family's National Prayer Breakfast. And here's a guy who has been the main force for this Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda's executive office and has been very vocal about what he's doing, in a rather extreme and hateful way. But these guys are not so much under the influence of The Family. They are, in Uganda, The Family.

GROSS: So how did you find out that Bahati is directly connected to The Family? You've described him as a core member of The Family. And this is the person who introduced the anti-gay legislation in Uganda that calls for the death penalty for some gay people.

Mr. SHARLET: Looking at the, The Family's 990s, where they're moving their money to - into this African leadership academy called Cornerstone, which runs two programs: Youth Corps, which has described its goals in the past as an international, quote, invisible family binding together world leaders, and also an alumni organization designed to place Cornerstone grads - graduates of this sort of very elite educational program and politics and NGO's through something called the African Youth Leadership Forum, which is run by -according to Ugandan media - which is run by David Bahati, this same legislator who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

GROSS: Now what about the president of Uganda, President Museveni? Does he have any connections to The Family?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, first, I want to say it's important that you said it, yeah, it hasn't gone into law. It hasn't gone into effect yet. So there is time to push back on this. But it's very likely to go into law. It has support of some of the most powerful men in Uganda, including the dictator of Uganda, a guy named Museveni, whom The Family identified back in 1986 as a key man for Africa.

They wanted to steer him away from neutrality or leftist sympathies and bring him into conservative American alliances, and they were able to do so. They've since promoted Uganda as this bright spot - as I say, as this bright spot for African democracy, despite the fact that under their tutelage, Museveni has slowly shifted away from any even veneer of democracy: imprisoning journalists, tampering with elections, supporting - strongly supporting this Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009.

He's come out just this - just last week and said that this bill is necessary because Europeans are recruiting homosexuals in Uganda, that Europeans are coming in and trying to make Ugandans gay. And he's been rewarded for this because this is sort of where these sort of social issues and foreign affairs issues and free market fundamentalist issues all come together.

GROSS: How did The Family create its relationship with Museveni?

Mr. SHARLET: In 1986, a former Ford official name Bob Hunter went over on trips at the behest of the U.S. government, but also on behalf of The Family, to which - for which both of which he filed reports that are now in The Family's archives. And his goal was to reach out to Museveni and make sure that he came into the American sphere of influence, that Uganda, in effect, becomes our proxy in the region and that relationship only deepened.

In fact, in late 1990s, Hunter - again, working for The Family - went over and teamed up with Museveni to create the Uganda National Prayer Breakfast as a parallel to the United States National Prayer Breakfast and to which The Family every year sends representatives, usually congressmen.

GROSS: What's the relationship of Museveni and The Family now?

Mr. SHARLET: It's a very close relationship. He is the key man. Now...

GROSS: So what does that mean? What influence does The Family have on him?

Mr. SHARLET: It means that they have a deep relationship of what they'll call spiritual counsel, but you're going to talk about moral issues. You're going to talk about political issues. Your relationships are going to be organized through these associates. So Museveni can go to Senator Brownback and seek military aid. Inhofe, as he describes, Inhofe says that he cares about Africa more than any other senator.

And that may be true. He's certainly traveled there extensively. He says he likes to accuse the State Department of ignoring Africa so he becomes our point man with guys like Museveni and Uganda, this nation he says he's adopted. As we give foreign aid to Uganda, these are the people who are in a position to steer that money. And as Museveni comes over, and as he does and spends time at The Family's headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, a place called The Cedars, and sits down for counsel with Doug Coe, that's where those relationships occur.

It's never going to be the hard sell, where they're going to, you know, twist Museveni's arm behind his back and say do this. As The Family themselves describes it, you create a prayer cell, or what they call - and this again, this is their language from their documents - an invisible believing group of God-led politicians who get together and talk with one another about what God wants them to do in their leadership capacity. And that's the nature of their relationship with Museveni.


GROSS: In researching The Family's foreign policy, so to speak, and what it's trying to do abroad, you've been researching who's funding what. And you've raised various questions about The Family's funding for foreign trips in which it is kind of combining American foreign policy and its own social policy. Can you talk a little bit about your concerns about that?

Mr. SHARLET: I worked with an organization called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to examine the travel records of these politicians who are connected to the C Street House, and we discovered that Senator Ensign, for instance, who had claimed that his residence at C Street House was just a purely a personal affair, that there's no political aspect of it, was actually traveling overseas on what he describes on his forms as policy trips on the dime of The Family - as is his housemate, Senator Tom Coburn, also traveling overseas.

Senator Coburn a little more candid about what he's doing, he described going to Lebanon - this country torn by religious war for years - and attempting to set up Christian prayer cells in the Lebanese government. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma was the most blunt about this. Speaking in an interview with a religious right organization, he said he has taken about 20 missionary trips around the world: Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe. He doesn't actually travel on The Family's dime. He travels on your dime. He uses money from the Senate Armed Forces Committee - travels over to these countries, and especially Uganda, which he says he's adopted. Uganda has a very special role for him. And he says what he's there to do is to, quote, promote the political philosophy of Jesus as taught to him by Doug Coe. It's about as candid as can be.

In other interviews with Christian right publications, he said, I use my role as a U.S. senator to open the doors to power. In other words, he presents himself as representing the United States. He also, frankly, is flying into these countries on military transport, and he is this powerful U.S. senator.

GROSS: What's your concern here? If members of Congress or senators are traveling, funded by The Family, to go abroad and promote issues of concern to The Family, is there anything wrong with that?

Mr. SHARLET: Yeah. There's something wrong with it. A lot of that kind of travel is illegal under the 2007 Open Government Act, which was passed in response to the Abramoff scandal, especially when you look at some of these trips that would be sponsored by one nonprofit entity under The Family's umbrella, but taken at the behest of another organization like Christian Embassy, another sort of Christian right ministry in Washington for elites.

It makes it very hard for foreign officials to know where these politicians are coming from, for American taxpayers to hold these guys accountable. And what it amounts to in its worst-case scenario is a kind of freelance diplomacy. So that's what's wrong with it.

It's - I mean when you take your personal religious convictions or political convictions, even, and claim to represent the United States, but, in fact, are representing an organization like The Family as Senator Coburn was in Lebanon, as Senator Ensign has in Jordan and Israel, as Senator Inhofe has in Uganda, you are steering foreign policy away from democratic accountability.

GROSS: So is - when a congressman took a trip sponsored, paid for by The Family, is it any different than a congressman taking a trip sponsored by a corporation or any other private group?

Mr. SHARLET: Yeah, it really is, because a corporation or most private groups, whether they be left or right, they don't deny that they exist. The Family claims that there's no organization at all. The leader of the group, Doug Coe, says in a sermon that's now been posted online, fortunately, so you can hear it, says the more invisible you can make your organization, the more influence it will have.

In fact, that's what led the group to reject the idea of formally registering as a lobby. The founder of the group said we can have more influence working behind the scenes if we don't register as a lobby, which is true, which is exactly why we have those laws that were strengthened by the 2007 Open Government Act. But beyond the secrecy of the organization, which is essentially strategic on their part - they're tactical on their part in thinking about how they can further the agenda, there's the question of the agenda itself.

And some of the, really the core rhetoric of The Family is this idea that most of us misread the New Testament, that Christ's message - the bottom line of Christ's message wasn't really about love or mercy or justice or forgiveness. It was about power. So Doug Coe, the leader of the group, tries to illustrate this, for instance, by saying, sort of posing a puzzle: name three men in the 20th century who best understood that message of The New Testament. And most people are going to say someone like Martin Luther King, or Bonhoeffer; or maybe they're more conservative, they're going to say Billy Graham. And Coe likes to give in answer: Hitler, Stalin and Mao, which just makes your jaw drop. And he will say - he's quick to say these are evil men, but they understood power. And that message recurs again, and again, and again in The Family.

When I was at the C Street house, I sat in on a session between Doug Coe and Congressman Tiahrt of Kansas. And Coe was encouraging Tiahrt to understand the message of Jesus by thinking about the model of power exemplified by Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot. There are so many examples of this, and I give several because I don't want people to think that I'm cherrypicking one bad choice of words. This is a core idea of The Family. There is actually video that �NBC News� found of Coe talking about the fellowship that he wants to model the things on is like that of the great friendship enjoyed by Hitler, Goebbels, and Himmler.

Now, he is not a neo-Nazi. What he is doing there is he's fetishizing strength. He is not looking to democracy, but this model of absolute strength, and that leads The Family into relationships with men like Museveni in Uganda. Before him, their key man for Africa was a guy named Siad Barre of Somalia, for whom Chuck Grassley became a kind of defacto lobbyist as the United States pumped up his military, which he then used to absolutely destroy his country to such an effect that Somalia has never recovered and today is a haven for al-Qaida, for terrorism, for piracy. It's a lawless nation. The Family says that's part of God's plan.

GROSS: Jeff, more than anybody, you have been researching The Family - which is hard to do because it's such a secretive group - but you got access to its archives, which has all kinds of secrets in it that you have been writing about in your book, and you're still reporting on The Family. Because of all the sex scandals that recently came to light involving several people connected to The Family, Americans have gotten introduced to the group in way that they hadn't before. I'm wondering what you think the impact of your reporting has been so far.

Mr. SHARLET: Well, people are certainly talking about The Family in a way that they hadn't, and what's been really great is that local press around the country has been asking their representatives tough questions. So you have terrific reporters down in Oklahoma, and North Carolina, and Michigan, and Kansas, and Mississippi, and Tennessee going to their congressmen and saying, look, what's your affiliation with this group? We're not challenging your freedom of religion. You tell us that religion's very important to how you legislate and here's a religious group you're involved with, that does these things. Why is secrecy necessary? How does it shape your views? Does it help you? Does it - is it something we want to know about?

Those are the question that need to be asked. And those questions, I think, have even started occurring, or occurring even more strongly, within the Christian right itself. And I thought one of the most promising developments of this to come out of the scandal was a Christian right magazine called World Magazine - hard Christian right. This is probably the leading Christian right magazine in America. And they looked at what was being said about The Family - said we've got to check into this. And they did one of the best investigative reports. They confirmed the overseas travel. They confirmed the strange theology of seeking out dictators. They went further than I had in looking at some of the financial connections that don't seem to quite add up, the policy of secrecy and so on. And this is coming from a Christian right source. And I think what that does is it moves this whole conversation out of the old left-right debate and moves it where it should be, into the public square where we're talking about transparency, we're talking about accountability, we're talking about politicians taking responsibility for the ideas that shape them and that they put into effect. And those are matters that I think pretty much everybody, left and right, agrees on. And I think the result of all this, the pressure that happens from these local reporters, and from the Christian right corners, and maybe from my book is to force the family to start answering questions about itself.

GROSS: Jeff Sharlet, thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. SHARLET: Thank you, Terry.

GROSS: Jeff Sharlet is the author of �The Family.�

And a very brave man.