Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Real Conspiracy Is Only the Tip of the Iceberg  (Cui Bono - Who Benefits from the Fake Hysteria?)   Birth of a Shadow Doctrine:  How a Small Group of Lawyers Launched a War Against International Law

Spy Drone Can See What You are Wearing From 17,500 Feet

Europe Fractures:  France Pivots To Putin, Cyprus Offers Moscow Military Base, Germany-US Splinter On Ukraine

I said to my business classes after 9/11 that something must really be up with the idea of making a universally-acknowledged nonviolent religion like Islam into a cause against which the West must respond and attack with great violence as though it were a terrorist breeding ground that was ready to take "our" oil away from us.

It seemed strangest then I'm sure to people like me, who had studied the cultures and religions of the near East for the last several millennia, and who knew that the rhetoric forthcoming must be false and seemed to be based mainly on the failure of the Russians to repel the forces allied with Osama bin Laden, a U.S./CIA-funded "freedom fighter." A big propaganda winner for the U.S. But I'm jumping ahead of the story.

I try not to highlight every essay that Paul Craig Roberts writes even though he has become my most trustworthy information source with his vast personal background in historical finance/economics added to a lot of insider information which comes from his long-lived government service plus the insight that enables him to connect all the puzzle pieces.

You may notice while reading the essay below that Russ Baker is one of Professor Roberts' prime sources of information. Russ has a serious investigative presence in these matters and has also been intently studying this puzzle.

February 7, 2015

Truth? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Truth

Paul Craig Roberts

In the previous posting, "The Grand Manipulation," I again wrote about the false reality that government manipulation of information and control over explanations creates for Americans and others who have subordinated themselves to Washington.

Consider the “war on terror.” According to a Nobel economist and a Harvard University budget expert, Washington’s 14 years of war on terror has cost Americans a minimum of $6 trillion.

That’s 6,000 billion dollars. This sum, together with the current PayRoll tax revenues is enough to keep Social Security and Medicare in the black for years to come. Without the vast sum wasted on the war on terror, Republicans would not have an excuse to be trying to cut Social Security and Medicare for budget reasons and to privatize the old age pensions and health care of people, thus turning Medicare and Social Security pensions into fee income for Wall Street.

Combatting terrorism is the excuse for squandering a minimum of $6,000 billion dollars.

What were the terrorist events that serve as a basis for this expenditure?

There are five:  9/11, the London transport system bombings, the Spanish train bombing, the Boston Marathon Bombing, and the French Charlie Hebdo rifle attack.

In other words, 5 events in 14 years.

The loss of life in all these events combined is minuscule compared to the loss of life in the war on terror. Even the deaths of our own soldiers is greater. Washington’s wars against terror have caused more deaths of Americans than the alleged terrorist events themselves.

But were they terrorist events?

There are many reasons to suspect these “terrorist attacks.” Governments have always resorted to false flag events in order to serve secret agendas. The Czar’s secret police set off bombs in order to create grounds for arresting labor agitators. We know from Operation Gladio that Western intelligence services did the same thing in order to blame European Communist parties and block their electoral gains. Washington lived in fear that a Communist party would gain executive power in some European country.

The 9/11 Truth movement, consisting of 2,300 architects and engineers, physicists, nano-chemists, military and airline pilots, first responders, and former government officials, have blown the official 9/11 story out of the water. No person with a brain believes the official story. The chairman, co-chairman, and legal counsel of the 9/11 Commission have written books stating that information was withheld from the commission, that the military lied to the commission, and that the commission “was set up to fail.”

Now we have claims from an imprisoned Al Qaeda member that Saudi Arabia financed 9/11. There is a secret government document, whose 28 pages allegedly point to Saudi involvement, that some lawmakers think should be released. At this point we have no way of knowing whether this is another layer of cover, another red herring to divert attention from the collapsing 9/11 story to the Saudis, whose country is also on the neoconservative list of Middle Eastern countries to be overthrown. When Washington lies and withholds information, the American people cannot know what the truth is.

There are peculiarities and contradictory evidence with regard to the London transport bombings and the Spanish train bombing. Moreover, these bombings arrived at the right time to serve Washington’s propaganda and purposes, while what terrorists had to gain from them is unclear and ambiguous.

The Boston Marathon Bombing and the Paris Charlie Hebdo attack have many characteristics of false flag attacks, but the media have not asked a single question. Instead, the media hypes the official explanations. When questions cannot be asked or answered, it is a reasonable suspicion that something is wrong with the story.

Myself and a large number of observant and astute persons have asked questions about the Boston and Paris events. Our reward, of course, has been ad hominem attacks. For example, a non-entity of whom no one has ever heard used "Salon," known as "A Voice For The Government," to call me a series of names for asking the obvious questions that every journalist should be asking.

The only reason to read "Salon" is to continue your brainwashing experience as a good patriotic American should. I mean, how dare you contemplate disbelieving your honest, caring, loving, humane, moral, life-preserving, truth-telling government, which takes special care to spare human life everywhere, as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Ukraine.

You can take it as a general rule that anytime you see an ad hominem attack on someone who raises questions that the questions are dangerous and that the government is using its well-paid trolls to discredit the sceptic who raised the questions.

The Charlie Hebdo and Boston bombing have in common that the police decided to kill the alleged perpetuators rather than capture them – just as a person alleged to be Osama bin Laden was gratuitously murdered in the raid on the “mastermind’s compound” in Pakistan. Dead men tell no tales. They can’t contradict the story.

The obvious question is, like the question about Osama bin Laden’s alleged murder by a Seal in Abbottabad, Pakistan, why were such valuable intelligence resources killed rather than captured? But the Western print and TV media have not made a point of this obvious question. One of the alleged suspects in the Charlie Hebdo affair, Hamyd Mourad, when he heard via social media that he was the driver of the getaway car of the Charlie Hebdo killers, had the wits to quickly turn himself into the French police before he could be murdered as a terrorist. The frame-up of this intended victim failed.

I have seen nothing in the news questioning how the official story can be so wrong about Hamyd Mourad and still be right about the alleged brothers who conducted the attack. The evidence connecting the brothers to the attack is the claim that they left their ID in the get-away car. This reminds me of the passport initially said to have been found in the ruble of the twin towers that was used to establish the identity of the alleged perpetrators of 9/11.

Hamyd Mourad is like the surviving Tsamaev brother. Neither were supposed to survive, because their stories, if we ever hear them, will not fit the official explanation.

We are only two months short of two years since the Marathon bombing and the surviving brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has still not been brought to trial. Nor has he or his attorney been heard from.

According to the official story, Dzhokhar wrote his confession on the side of a boat in which the severely wounded, unarmed 19-year old was hiding from execution. That such an unlikely story could become part of American reality demonstrates the stupidity of both the authorities and the American public.

It is entirely possible that Dzhokhar’s attorney has learned from the Lynne Steward case that any lawyer who defends his Muslim client will be himself sentenced to federal prison for not cooperating with the government’s agenda.

But these are speculations. What facts do we have? None, of course, from Washington. Washington needs no facts. Washington is the Imperial Power. Washington’s word rules, the facts be damned. The print and TV media do not dare to contradict Washington on any important point or raise any embarrassing questions.

Concerning facts, we have the non-investigated report that a high-ranked French police official, for reasons unknown, killed himself in police headquarters while writing a report on the Charlie Hebdo affair based on his investigation.

Police officials spend their lives hoping for a major, big time case, participation in which makes their career memorable. No police official benefitting from such an opportunity would deny himself of it by committing suicide.

Did the investigation not support the official story? Was the police official Helric Fredou not compliant with cover-up orders? The media has not asked these questions, and I have seen no reports about the content of Fredou’s report. What does his report, finished or unfinished, say? Why isn’t this of media interest?

Moreover, the family of Helric Fredou is unable to get the autopsy report of Helric’s “suicide” from the French government. I have seen no news reports of this fact in the US print and TV media. Here is the only report that I can find:  from Kevin Barrett on Veterans Today:

Let’s turn now to one of the last remaining investigative reporters, Russ Baker. In an interview with Lew Rockwell on January 30, 2015, investigative reporter Russ Baker points out that no evidence has ever been presented that the Tsarnave brothers killed a MIT campus cop or highjacked a motorist.

He points out that these stories helped to inflame the situation and to firmly place in the public’s mind that the brothers were dangerous and guilty of the bombing, while launching the police on a revenge killing.

There are many anomalies in the case against the Tsarnave brothers. I won’t go into them. The Internet is full of skeptical information about the official story, and you can look into it to your heart’s content. At the time, the main evidence against the brothers was a video of them walking with packs on their backs.

Yet there is an abundance of videos available showing large numbers of people with backpacks, including a number of men dressed identically as if in uniform, and there are reports that a terrorist bombing drill was being held at the site complete with crisis actors. To my knowledge, none of this was ever examined or explained by the TV and print media.

One aspect that suggests pre-planning is the quick appearance of 10,000 heavily armed militarized units from a number of police and federal agencies. How (and why) was this varied force so quickly and easily assembled? The complete lockdown of Boston and its suburbs, and the eviction of people from their homes at gunpoint in order to conduct house by house searches for the one wounded brother still alive, is a response so outside of the normal range of responses as to raise questions that the media avoided asking.

Another suspicious incident is the “spontaneous” street party giving thanks to the militarized forces for saving Boston from the 19-year old kid found bleeding to death under a boat by a local resident.

This party took place within a very short time just after the kid was found and seems inconsistent with lead times for organizing street parties, especially coming out of a locked-down situation when so much is disorganized.

Lew Rockwell has given me permission to repost his January 30, 2015, transcription of his June 4, 2013 podcast interview with Russ Baker, “Suppressing the Truth About the Boston Bombings.” I have edited the long interview for length, but here is the link to the full interview:

ROCKWELL:  Well, good morning. This is the Lew Rockwell Show. And it’s great to have as our guest this morning, Mr. Russ Baker.  Russ is an award-winning investigative reporter. I mean, an actual investigative reporter. I think that’s, unfortunately, a dying breed. He’s written for "The New Yorker," "Vanity Fair," "The Nation," "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," "The Village Voice," "Esquire," and many, many other publications.

To me, most importantly, he’s the author of a great book called Family of Secrets:  The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces that Put It in the White House and What Their Influence Means for America, and an updated paperback under the title of Family of Secrets:  The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years. Russ has his own site, of course,, also, which continues his investigative reporting outside of the mainstream media.

Russ, is anybody, but you questioning the information shutdown that’s taken place in Boston?

BAKER:  We are looking at the actual facts of the case. And in the information that has come out, we’re seeing tremendous anomalies, inconsistencies, out-right falsehoods, reversals by these agencies, and we are troubled by them. And so I and other members of our team have been working this story now for more than a month, and we’re going to stay at it for a few more months.

 We saw the clamp down on the freedom of movement. We’ve seen the increasing encroachment of military troops into our American cities. We see the public getting softened up and being made to become more and more comfortable with living in kind of a military state almost.

ROCKWELL:  Now, you’ve actually been on the ground in Boston?

BAKER:  I spent the last two weeks there. I’ll be going back again. I can’t stay there full time. I’m based in New York now, not in Boston. But I did spend two weeks there, and it was very, very instructive and I got a sense of a bunch of things. I met with and even drove around with journalists from major newspapers and radio shows; some good people, but I could see the limitations.

There really is almost nobody there digging deeply into these problematical issues. And when I say problematical issues, what I mean is it is the job of the media to just find out what happened. It is not our job to pass along what somebody else says happened. That’s not our job. And the media there, the major newspapers, the TV and the radio, by and large, just said what the authorities told them. In a few cases, places like “The Boston Globe,” they do more than that, a little bit more than that; they’ve tried to talk to people. But I can tell you from my own experience that a lot of this stuff is being controlled.

We’ve done four pieces. We have another one coming up in a few days. That’s going to be about this carjacking victim, which is a very, very important piece of this story that has not been investigated by the media. Another one we just did recently is about the shooting of an MIT police officer named Sean Collier. That story was treated — it was not examined, Lew, in the context of what that story was.

That story was actually a kind of a propagandistic moment. And those of us who study and read history remember that back in the Nazi era, there was the killing of a police officer, a Horst Wessel, and they even created a song for the Nazi movement, the “Horst Wessel” song.

Killings of police officers that are magnified like this — and if you go to and read that article, there’s a photo of all of these baseball players at a stadium standing with their hats off and their heads bent in a giant projection of this one police officer. And what is that for? Because, tragically, police officers are killed in the line of duty all the time.

Why all of the focus on this one police officer? I have never, Lew, seen a news organization ask that question. Why are we focusing on this police officer? And more importantly, what actually happened with this police officer that would make us interested in him?

ROCKWELL:  Well, of course, it’s clearly become an unexamined assumption that police are worth more than regular people. So the killing of a cop is far worse than the killing of an old lady or a young father or whatever else, which happens all the time. And in fact, there actually are not that many police killed in the line of duty. You can actually find out that figure. It’s far more dangerous to be a commercial fisherman or a logger or a farmer or many other occupations than to be a cop. So it’s not actually true that they’re always being killed.

But absolutely, it’s made into a huge political deal, as Will Grigg puts it, with a Brezhnev-style funeral any time a cop is killed, whereas, if some poor store owner or whatever is killed in the line of duty, his family cares and that’s about it.

BAKER:  I agree with you, that’s true. I guess what my point was that even in agreeing with you that there are not that many police officers killed, there still are nationally probably some.

ROCKWELL:  Oh, sure. Actually, about 40 to 50, which is terrible.

BAKER:  But what interests me here is this particular police officer.

By the way, there were two police officers shot; one died and one almost died. And they’re both very strange cases. And so, first of all, I was struck by the fact that they wanted to make it a big deal about this police officer’s death.  Biden flew in and addressed his funeral.  It’s literally said that thousands of law enforcement people came from all over the country to attend the funeral of this man they didn’t know.  Now, it is logical to ask, “Why would people attend a funeral of a person they didn’t know?”  It’s for some reason.  And what it really comes down to is it’s propagandistic.  And what this is, is this is focusing the public and it’s very strongly sending out a message that the system is taking care of you and you have to honor the system.  “This person died for you.”

And what’s very interesting was, if you go into that article and you read all the detail of what I investigated — and we’ll be doing more on this — first of all, when Officer Collier was killed, we were essentially told either explicitly or implicitly that he had been killed by these two brothers.  Now what’s very interesting is, at the time that he was killed, all we knew was that these two brothers, whose names were not even public yet, were pictures from a video, wearing backpacks, walking along with dozens, hundreds of other people wearing backpacks and walking.  And so it was the death of this police officer that set everything into motion.

And as soon as I heard about the death of this police officer, I thought, OK, when an officer is down, when that is announced, I can tell you this — and I know a lot of police officers and many of them are very, very fine people, but they act with a kind of a pack mentality — and it suddenly turbo charges.  You know, there’s a whole tradition, the Blue Wall of Silence and all this, and when anything happens to a police officer in any instance, immediately, all the other police respond in a very, very aggressive way.  And so what you saw was, the second he had been shot, boy, whatever the police officers were doing, they were all going to get whoever did this.  And so this became the justification for that shootout on the street in Watertown; later, going after the younger brother, the Tsarnaev brother, and peppering that boat with gunshots when he wasn’t even armed.

This was essentially a kind of retribution for their fellow officer.  Except for one thing, and that is that about a week later, when they were doing this whole big memorial service with Biden and everything, they rather quietly announced that, oh, you know what, actually, the original story that he had maybe tried to stop these brothers and they had killed him was not right.  It turns out, they don’t know who shot this man.  He didn’t confront anybody.  And he was assassinated.  And do you know where he was assassinated, Lew?  He was sitting in his patrol car.  Just sitting there. 

Somebody came up behind him for no apparent reason and killed him in cold blood.  We have no evidence right now that those brothers even did it.  But that was the precipitating event that then unleashed all of this fire power.

The next thing that happened is this carjacking.  And an unknown person, whose name is still not public, has said that he was carjacked by these brothers and that they told him, “We planted the bomb and we killed that cop.”  Now, those are two things that there is no hard evidence that they did either of them, but now you’ve got killed the cop and then you have a carjacking with an unnamed person saying these guys told me they did it.  And then one of them is killed; the other one, I believe, they attempted to murder him.  So what you would have had, Lew, is you would have had a situation where both of these suspects would be dead, an unknown witness would connect them to both of the things, the whole thing would be over; and that military, that huge military police response would have been accepted, and we would be used to the idea that there will be more of these things.

ROCKWELL:  Well, that’s right.  And of course, then we had the younger brother writing out his confession on the side of the boat in the dark.

BAKER:  Well, in the dark, but this guy was basically gravely injured. According to the story, which is a little bit strange, of the man who owned that boat, when he went out to check, he saw blood there.  I mean, this guy was already in a pool of blood before they called the cops.  Because we know he’s gravely injured in the hospital.  So the likelihood that he was in any shape, you know, to sort of heroically prop himself up and go to these incredible lengths to scrawl out a confession virtually with his dying breath is a little bit hard to believe.

At the end, I think the notion was that they thought this guy was going to die.  With those shots that they fired, given the fact that he hadn’t fired a single shot at them, you have to assume that at least one person in that group, whether it was local police or it was the FBI people on the scene, was shooting to kill.  That was the intent, it seems.  And so this confession, if it’s even real — and we haven’t seen that in that confession.  And other thing we’ve been reporting is that that confession was reported to us by John Miller, a senior correspondent at CBS News.  It’s very, very important to remember that John Miller’s last major job was that he was a top official of the FBI.  He was a lead spokesman for the FBI. 

He loves the FBI.  He’s very, very close with them.  And this is the man who is now back in journalism telling us this story.  He also has been a key figure throughout.  He got one of those so-called exclusive interviews with the unknown carjacking victim.  So in other words, this entire narrative is being constructed essentially by the FBI or its allies.

ROCKWELL:  I always think of the FBI as the American secret police.  And if you called them that, then when you see this sort of thing going on, it seems to me you ought to take things with maybe not a grain of salt but a cup of salt.

BAKER:  You know, I’ve reported all over the world.  I was one of the first reporters into East Germany before the wall came down; Romania when Ceausescu was overthrown.  I’ve been in so many societies where there was totalitarianism or authoritarianism.  And these kinds of organizations — you do need police, you do need investigative agencies but, unfortunately, the abuses are just rampant.

And anybody who is listening to this who thinks that that is unfair, I invite you to read any of dozens, maybe scores of books about J. Edgar Hoover, who ran the FBI for half a century, and to see that he ran it like a personal fiefdom, basically, like a mobster, and everybody in the agency was terrified of him.  There were constant cover-ups in there. You understood you could lose your job in a second if you asked any questions at all.  Some of these books are by scholars.  Others are by people who worked in the FBI itself.

And so I have to agree with you.  I mean, in some respect, of course, one wants an agency like the FBI to be there, but that doesn’t mean we have to apologize for the grave structural, philosophical and other problems with it.  The FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service, local police, all of these institutions are absolutely riddled with problems.  And, you know, my attitude as a journalist is many institutions are riddled with problems, many aspects of the federal government, but also private industry, big corporations, riddled with problems, abuses and so forth.  And it is not our job as journalists, and I don’t think it’s our jobs as citizens, to just accept what anybody tells us and to just blindly trust when they say, whether it’s the FBI or it’s your bank.

ROCKWELL:  Tell us what happened in the alleged fire or bomb or whatever the heck it was at the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.

BAKER:  You know, that’s a strange one, because we were told that that happened almost at the same time of the marathon bombing, within a short time of that, on the same day. We still haven’t gotten a straight answer on what happened. I’ve been doing a little bit in the way of inquiries and, I have to say, I have questions about that.  I don’t think that the authorities are being forthcoming.

And even more disturbing than the bombing itself, the potential damage there or attempted damage to priceless research materials that people like I need to continue to investigate what happened to John F. Kennedy, what happened to American 50 years ago, and how it’s impacting us today, which I believe it is.

The past certainly is prologue. But not only am I concerned about that but, you know, there was no coverage — the media dropped it. Go and Google this thing, you’ll see zero, almost. I mean, nothing from the local Boston media or the national media. I mean, WhoWhatWhy is a little, tiny non-profit and we’re looking into it. And these giant news organizations have nobody asking these questions.

I find the Boston bombing story absolutely rife with weird messaging. And it could all be coincidental; it may be coincidental; probably a lot of it is.  I’ll give you an example. The shooting of Officer Collier was almost a dead ringer for the shooting of Officer Tippet in the Lee Harvey Oswald/John F. Kennedy saga.

Lee Harvey Oswald wouldn’t even have been a real suspect in the Kennedy assassination had not a police officer been shot shortly after Kennedy was killed, because Oswald was just one of many people who worked in that building. Nobody said that they saw him with a rifle. He only became really a suspect when this police officer was shot and then the description of the man who shot him matched Oswald. So here you see a very, very similar thing where it’s a police officer goes down right after this other event and plays a role essentially in tying them, making these non-suspects suspects, and making them very, very guilty. So that was one thing.

The second thing is this thing at the library on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. There are many, many disturbing parallels. You’ve got, in both of those stories, the suspects had recently been in Russia. Remember that? They both had been in Russia.

Strange families. Both the Tsarnaevs and Lee Harvey Oswald had been being monitored by the FBI. Both of them had relatives, or other people they were associated, with ties to the CIA. I mean, is this all coincidental? Does somebody have a particularly sophisticated and sick sense of humor? I mean, what are we looking at here? Of course, you’re not even allowed to ask these questions.

Another story going up probably today is how "The New York Times," instead of investigating any of these things, they quickly have somebody roll out a story talking about conspiracy theorists and how anybody who has questions about things basically is sort of mentally ill, which is a very, very important contradiction. If you ask any questions and you don’t accept the conventional narrative that everything is just fine, there is something really, really wrong with you.

But, you know, my continuing efforts to look into these giant traumas, what happened to Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and Walter Reuther, you know, union leaders who died in a strange plane crashes and so on, there’s so much of this, and it is disproportionately reformers who get taken out. Very, very few corporate-cozy conservative politicians, who also, by the way, fly in private planes all the time, never seem to have an accident. But this stuff we need to look at.

Now, you were talking about the KGB and putting people into mental hospitals but, you know, that happens in the United States all the time. And just one example is there was an Army sergeant by the name of Dinkin, who was intercepting cables and big top-secret stuff at a military base in 1963, and he divined from his own monitoring of cable traffic that there was an assassination plot against JFK. And he divined that that assassination plot was going to involve right wingers and members of the military and some foreign assassins, and that it was going to take place in Dallas in November of 1963.

And when he tried to say what he knew, they put him into a mental hospital and they began injections and they began essentially doing mind-control things with him. And eventually, he was forced to say, oh, no, the reason I said those things — and he gave some other explanation that was totally benign. And that was the only way that this man could get out of basically the gulag. So if you think that these things only go on in the Soviet Union, you’re wrong.

ROCKWELL:  Russ, before we go, I want you, to the extent you can, tell us about the book you’re working on now.

BAKER:  Well, you know, I generally don’t talk too much about what I’m working on.  But I will say this.  In terms of subjects and major interests to me, I continue to be very interested in the John F. Kennedy assassination.  Would have loved to have something out on the 50th anniversary of his assassination, but that story is so layered and so complicated, some people believe we could never get to the bottom of it.

I think we can. I think we can put enough pieces of the things together to figure out what happened. And I think that solving that is absolutely essential for us to understand what kind of society we really live in, to kind of wake up. And you know, people say, though, “This is so depressing, I don’t want to hear about it,” but that is not a way to empower yourself. You empower yourself by educating yourself, by having your eyes open, by understanding how things work.

And that is really the beginning to go about and correct these things, because this country has always — and Franklin Roosevelt said this and Woodrow Wilson said it - they always warned us that they didn’t really run the country.

Franklin Roosevelt very famously said in a letter to somebody, he said, as you and I both know, the real power in this country resides in the financial circles on Wall Street. And that’s true. And I’m continuing to look at Obama and how people like that get to the top and people like Hillary Clinton, and who are behind them, and why it is that, whether we have a Democrat or a Republican, even though there are real substantive differences, primarily on social issues, when it comes to the big global issues and the big financial issues, essentially, we see very, very similar policies and appointments made.

What is really going on in this country? Why is it that we actually seem to live under a kind of a one-party state? And that is what my continuing efforts, my books, and, most importantly, my work at, which really is the main focus of my efforts in my life today. It’s to build a meaningful journalistic institution that can train a whole new generation of journalists, funded entirely by the public, with no corporate influence or government influence, asking questions with neither fear, nor favor, and doing what we’re supposed to be doing, really, as journalists.
- - - - - - -

Dear Readers: If we expect to regain the liberty bestowed upon us by the Bill of Rights, we must turn a deaf ear to Washington’s lies. Washington’s agenda is divorced from the agendas of the American people. Washington’s agenda is war and more debt for taxpayers to service even though a majority cannot pay their bills except with mounting credit card debt, and a police state in place to control the population as jobs offshoring eliminates the middle class buffer that suppresses class war between the poor and the rich.

Any American who has read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States knows that government in America has not served the interests of the people but the agendas of the rich and powerful.

War and “security” make large claims on the US budget and on civil liberties. Having established the precedent of locking down a major city in order to search for one suspect, this power was used recently to lock down New York because of a snow storm. People in northeastern US certainly know how to deal with snow, but suddenly they are told they cannot leave their homes or be on the streets because of snow.

What has changed that suddenly a snow storm produces a political response comparable to a declaration of martial law?

What will the next excuse be?

Are Americans being trained to accept arbitrary curtailments on their freedom of movement?

Pay attention. The likelihood is that you are being conditioned for narrowing the dimensions of your freedom.

And who's behind this group of real terrorists?

Always follow the money.

Although it incites like the movie "Copland."

Feb 7, 2015

Birth of a Shadow Doctrine: How a Small Group of Lawyers Launched a War Against International Law

From torture to drone strikes, international law is under attack in the U.S. Here's how it all began

Jens David Ohlin

Birth of a shadow doctrine: How a small group of lawyers launched a war against international lawDick Cheney, George W. Bush
(Credit: AP/Kevin Lamarque) (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Excerpted from “The Assault on International Law.”

When the hijacked airplanes hit the World Trade Towers on 9/11, John Yoo was working in his Justice Department office in Washington, D.C. At the time, he was assigned to one of the most crucial legal departments in the federal government, the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). Although he was an important lawyer in the administration of President Bush, Yoo himself was not well known outside of a close circle of Washington bureaucrats and policy wonks. He wasn’t famous. But all of that would change very quickly.

Yoo had taken a leave of absence from Berkeley Law School to work for the Bush administration. His academic work had focused on constitutional law and foreign affairs, and he had earned a reputation for being a strong supporter of presidential war powers. According to Yoo, the president of the United States has virtually unlimited power as the constitutionally appointed commander in chief of the armed forces. Although Congress can play some role in times of war, Yoo had insisted in a series of law review articles that this role was secondary at best. In times of crisis, presidential power always trumps congressional deliberation.

Before 9/11, Yoo’s views were mostly of academic interest. His writings had attracted some skepticism among his law school colleagues, but prior to 9/11, his views were hardly part of the wider political discourse. All of that changed dramatically after the planes hit.

1. The Office of Legal Counsel

Within days, the White House was asking the OLC to answer a whole set of crucial legal questions: Could the president order the bombing of al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan? What type of congressional authorization was required before the president could use military force? Could the president use preemptive force to stop future terrorist attacks? Could the United States attack not just terrorist organizations but also the foreign states that harbored them? After the OLC answered yes to each of these questions, and President Bush ordered military attacks against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, a second round of no-less important questions were raised about the conduct of the war. Could terrorists be detained by the military, and did the Geneva Conventions apply to them? Could interrogators torture detainees to extract life-saving information about future terrorist attacks?

It was this last question that made Yoo famous. Yoo quickly researched the issue and concluded that it was both legally and morally permissible for interrogators to use coercive interrogation measures — and even outright torture — to induce a detainee to spill information that might save American lives. He drafted a memo that was sent to his superior who was then running the OLC, Jay Bybee, who signed the memo and delivered it to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez. The memo was long and extensive and filled with scholarly looking footnotes, but the analysis was troubling and controversial. First, Yoo concluded that although the federal anti-torture statute did not define “severe pain,” a definition might be gleaned from a Medicare provision that allowed emergency medical services for cases of severe pain “capable of producing organ failure or death.” So, according to Yoo, interrogators could inflict as much pain as they wanted on a detainee, so long as it did not cause organ failure or death, and it would not be classified as torture under federal law.

Yoo also argued in another memo that the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit torture during wartime, did not apply to al-Qaeda or Taliban fighters, so long as the president determined that neither group respected the laws of war. This determination was plausible for al-Qaeda but was much more suspect with regard to the Taliban, and in any event, it was unclear why the president could unilaterally make this decision by fiat. Yoo also argued that the United States was not required to follow the Geneva Conventions because Afghanistan was a “failed state” — a legal nonentity under international law. According to Yoo’s argument, the Geneva Conventions embody reciprocal promises between nation-states. Since Afghanistan did not exist anymore, the Conventions were no longer in force between the United States and Afghanistan. With it went the legal protections afford by the Conventions. Or so claimed John Yoo.

After the infamous “torture memo,” more legal research followed. The OLC concluded that al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters could be held indefinitely as enemy combatants and did not deserve POW status. The OLC concluded that the president alone could order captured fighters prosecuted before military commissions and that they could be denied access to federal courts to contest the lawfulness of their detention. Targeted killings, or what critics call assassinations, were approved. The National Security Agency was given the green light to eavesdrop on wiretapped conversations between American citizens and foreigners — even without a warrant — despite the fact that Congress had explicitly passed a law limiting this wiretapping to foreigners.

Much of this legal strategy was hammered out by an informal group of lawyers, nicknamed the “War Council,” who met in the White House. In addition to Yoo, the group included White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez, who reported directly to Bush, as well as David Addington, the top lawyer for Vice President Dick Cheney, and Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes.

The group had no formal status, and its membership was not appointed by President Bush. Its authority stemmed only from the fact that Bush relied heavily on the advice of Gonzalez and Cheney, who were trusted confidants, especially on war matters. Cheney relied on Addington for legal analysis, and Addington listened to Yoo. By most accounts, the legal foundation for the War on Terror was developed by the War Council. Attorney General Ashcroft was noticeably absent from this group, and he apparently resented Yoo’s influence in the War Council. After all, Yoo worked at the Justice Department and was supposed to report to him, not to Gonzalez or Addington.

In 2003, the top position at the OLC opened up after Bybee was nominated for a federal judgeship, and the War Council wanted Yoo promoted to lead the office. But Ashcroft objected and torpedoed the idea, fearing that the OLC, which was ostensibly located in the Justice Department, would effectively now report to Gonzalez and Addington. Ashcroft claimed that Yoo was incompetent, and without Ashcroft’s support, Yoo’s candidacy went nowhere.

So who would lead the OLC? Yoo suggested that his old friend Jack Goldsmith would be perfect for the job. Goldsmith, a young law school professor at the University of Chicago, had been working as a top legal adviser to Haynes at the Pentagon. Goldsmith and Yoo were friends and traveled in similar circles. In the relatively liberal crowd of law school professors, conservative lawyers provide mutual support for their endeavors. They join the Federalist Society in law school, clerk for the same Supreme Court justices (Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas), and read drafts of each other’s articles. Goldsmith and Yoo were no exception.

Yoo left the Justice Department to return to academia just as Goldsmith was taking over the helm at the OLC in 2003. The controversy surrounding Yoo’s work there was only just beginning, because most of the memos written by Yoo were still confidential or classified.

Goldsmith enjoys an encyclopedic knowledge of constitutional law and its relationship with international law; while plenty of liberals disagree with his scholarship, everyone agrees that he has an impressive command of the law. But when Goldsmith got to the OLC, he was horrified by what he saw. Now that he was on the inside, he suddenly had access to all of the OLC memos written by Yoo and his colleagues since 9/11, only some of which he had seen during his time at the Pentagon. Goldsmith read the entire stack of memos and found them riddled with errors, unsupported conclusions of law, exaggerations, and fallacious arguments. He called the arguments cursory, one-sided, and legally flawed.

What he would do next would ruin his friendship with John Yoo. Goldsmith went to his boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and told him that the Yoo torture memo needed to be withdrawn. Although it sounds like a minor bureaucratic change, in fact, it represented a massive rejection of John Yoo and his tenure in government service.

And it was also unprecedented. Not only had the OLC never withdrawn such a significant memo during the same administration, but they had never even done it after a change in administrations, when a new political party inevitably brings a new cohort of lawyers with a different ideological perspective on crucial questions of international law. Even then, the culture at the OLC was to respect precedent and the prior work of the department on matters of great significance.

Goldsmith’s withdrawal of the Yoo memo was also something that could not be done quietly. Ashcroft had to inform the White House and every department in the executive branch that they could no longer rely on the legal advice in the torture memo. That meant informing everyone in the Pentagon and the CIA and deployed forces overseas. It meant Ashcroft admitting that the Justice Department had gotten it wrong, something that does not happen often in government. All of this made John Yoo look politically inept at best, legally incompetent at worst. Yoo would later write in his memoirs that Goldsmith and the new OLC lawyers were “too worried about the public perceptions of its work” and that they had caved to political pressure. Addington was furious that Goldsmith was undoing countless hours of legal strategy decided by the War Council.

The next task was to actually rewrite the flawed memos. The new “torture memo” refused to define “severe pain and suffering” and declined to make the ridiculous analogy to the Medicare provision dealing with emergency medical services. Goldsmith also made sure to withdraw John Yoo’s unsupported statements that the president could violate both international law and congressional mandates because the Constitution designates him commander in chief of the armed forces. All of it was gone. What was left was a far more cautious, and subtle, work of legal analysis.

Goldsmith had ruffled so many powerful feathers in his quest to reverse the Yoo mess that he decided to quit and return to teaching law school. He had lasted only nine months as head of OLC and didn’t even have time to finish the new memos. But he set the revision process in motion and, in so doing, stood up to the worst excesses of the Bush administration and its shadowy War Council. He set the law back on track.

This is the standard story of what happened from 2001 to 2004, a crucial time in our nation’s history when the government was formulating its response to terrorism and its posture toward international law. The United States had been attacked and had fought back, but in so doing, the nation’s commitment to the rule of law was severely compromised. However, principled men and women like Goldsmith pulled us back from our darkest impulses; they saved the law itself.

This story, like all good stories, has a hero and a villain and a narrative arc that ties them together. Jack Goldsmith, still reliably conservative, comes across as careful, smart, and courageous for reversing the excesses of the first years of the Bush administration. And his actions were heroic because he sacrificed his relationship with John Yoo and annoyed many in the Justice Department and the White House to do it.

Addington practically shook his fists in rage when he learned that Goldsmith was unwilling to issue a ruling that would back up a key anti-terrorism initiative. “The blood of the hundred thousand people who die in the next attack will be on your hands,” Addington reportedly yelled at Goldsmith.

After less than a year, with the important work of righting the ship accomplished, Goldsmith left government service for the ivory towers of academia. Instead of returning to the University of Chicago Law School, he was offered a chair at Harvard Law School, a far more liberal academic environment than Chicago. Although his hiring was controversial and garnered some opposition by Harvard faculty, his supporters defended him on the grounds that Goldsmith was one of the “good guys.” He had gone in to a seriously dysfunctional OLC and cleaned up a legal and ethical mess. He was on the right side.

While Goldsmith was settling into his new office in Cambridge, things were not going so well for Yoo, who was back at Berkeley and readjusting to academic life. But his work in Washington was still haunting him. Ashcroft had agreed to launch an ethics investigation into the torture memos, which was led by a separate division of the Justice Department responsible for investigating the conduct of government lawyers.

Liberal critics of the administration were clamoring for Yoo and Bybee to be disbarred, and protestors were lining up outside of Yoo’s lectures at Berkeley calling him a war criminal for being complicit in torture. Yoo was furious that Ashcroft was now pretending that he hadn’t been involved in every step of the process, and Yoo was also bitter that Goldsmith had sold him out. “By refusing to defend its own logic, and pretending to distance himself from it,” according to Yoo, “the administration only succeeded in eroding public support for the war against al Qaeda.”

So the story has all of the essential characters. One villain, one hero, and a critical moment that defines each of them. Yoo learns about the planes crashing into the Towers and instantly resolves to provide the president with the legal superstructure to fight the War on Terror. An idealistic Mr. Goldsmith goes to Washington and confronts the cynical reality that law is polluted by politics. But in the end, idealism wins.

The rule of law had been threatened by a Justice Department that was all-too-willing to sacrifice our most cherished values in order to vanquish our enemy; at the last moment, principled individuals stood up for the Law. And, in the end, Goldsmith and others like him saved us from our heart of darkness.

It is a great story, one that has been told in Goldsmith’s memoirs and repeated in hallways across the country from D.C. to California. The only problem is that the story is fundamentally wrong. Not wrong in the sense of being a lie, but wrong in the sense that it paints a completely distorted picture of how the United States drifted so far from international law, and its institutions, since 9/11.

The ballad of Goldsmith and Yoo — hero and villain — focuses our attention on an intramural dispute between two central characters and, in so doing, diverts our attention from the bigger picture. The real story here is not the dispute and the fallout between Goldsmith and Yoo that almost cost Yoo his career, certainly cost the two men their friendship, but allowed Goldsmith to escape DC with his honor and reputation intact.

The Goldsmith-Yoo story avoids the larger backdrop that unites both Goldsmith and Yoo and their fellow travelers in a common cause — the devaluing of international law. The debate about torture floats on the surface, but beneath the water lies a much deeper and far more consequential movement to which both Goldsmith and Yoo contributed.

2. The Emergence of the New Realists

International law is under attack in the United States. Although most lawyers — and certainly most law school professors — consider international law to be a central and profoundly important element of our legal system, many conservative lawyers are deeply suspicious of international law and the infringement of American sovereignty that it represents. They want U.S. affairs to be dictated by the American political system and the laws that it produces, not the international legal norms that flow from faraway European cities like Brussels, Geneva, and The Hague.

This book tells the story of how a small group of legal scholars — and by small, I mean fewer than six — have earned a completely outsized influence on the legal discourse in this country. Like the Federalist Society, the conservative group that has wielded outsized influence on American constitutional law, a handful of skeptics about international law have completely upended academic research on international law.

Although many academic arguments have little to no impact on our daily lives, the new skepticism about international law has directly changed American foreign relations since 9/11. That is because these arguments do not stay in the abstract confines of the Ivory Tower. They influence how the State Department conducts diplomacy, how the Defense Department conducts the War on Terror, how the CIA and the NSA spy on foreigners and citizens alike, and how judges craft their opinions. And all of this from just a handful of individuals armed with skeptical arguments about the very IDEA of international law.

What unites this group is a shared hostility toward international law, a preference for presidential power in the face of global crisis, and a recommendation that the United States withdraw and remain isolated from international legal institutions. Both Yoo and Goldsmith are part of this very small club. To tell the story with them as antagonists against each other is to completely distort the picture. The fact of the matter is that Goldsmith and Yoo are fellow travelers in a crusade against the growing impact of international law on our lives.

To understand this new skepticism about international law, a new character must be introduced into the story:  Eric Posner, a prolific professor at the University of Chicago Law School who wrote or cowrote no fewer than five books between 2007 and 2013, in addition to the numerous law review articles and book chapters that make up the rest of his publication list. He also has a reputation for being exceedingly generous with his time, reading drafts for colleagues and offering helpful suggestions and criticisms, a personal characteristic that unfortunately is becoming all too rare among today’s busy professoriate. By all accounts, it is difficult to get the better of Posner when he lectures or debates in public. He speaks in carefully rendered paragraphs that communicate well-worked-out positions with great precision; he is never vague or indecisive. No one has ever accused him of being a lightweight.

Posner’s books all share a common refrain:  an underlying skepticism about the scope and legitimacy of international law. Because these theories attack the very foundation of international law, they are far more important — and consequential — than the superficial arguments Yoo made at the OLC and Berkeley.

So Posner is, in many respects, the modern father of the new skepticism about international law. The media attention given to Yoo has completely obscured the fact that Posner’s arguments provide the theoretical foundation for the entire movement.

Although he had published books on other subjects, Posner burst onto the international law scene in 2005 when he published “The Limits of International Law” with Jack Goldsmith. The book articulated a restatement of Posner and Goldsmith’s view of international law (which they had published in law review articles prior to 9/11), and it created a ruckus. The insight of “Limits” was pretty succinct:  the world community is full of states that act in their own self-interest and essentially ignore international law.

When states appear to be following international law, in most instances, their actions are really motivated by self-interest, not by the idea that international law needs to be followed. Much of international law is therefore illusory — it is just self-interested state behavior. And when self-interest conflicts with international law, states have no moral obligation to follow it. They should do what is best for them — the international rules be damned. In many ways, “Limits” was an intellectual manifesto expressing much of the sentiment — and policy — of the Bush administration.

“Limits” was only the beginning. What followed was a new wave of scholarship expressing skepticism about international legal institutions such as the United Nations, a position that was articulated quite forcefully in Eric Posner’s 2009 book, “The Perils of Global Legalism.”

Posner also teamed up with Adrian Vermeule in “Terror in the Balance” to defend the administration’s aggressive response to the specter of terrorism, including torture. At the same time, other books argued that the president should have virtually unfettered authority to fight the War on Terror and should ignore Congress — and international law — if necessary.

John Yoo published the “Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs” after 9/11, while Posner and Vermeule published “The Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic,” which both argued, among other things, that only the executive branch has the flexibility to meet the changes of modern security threats like terrorism and Islamic extremism. Posner and Vermeule argued that we now live in a permanent state of exigency.
If it seems as though the same names keep popping up, that is because a very small list of dramatis personae is driving this scholarship. But the characters are having a tremendous influence among Washington elites.

One can immediately see why “Limits” was important, not just for academics but for politicians and policy wonks too. “Limits” articulated a broader theory that expressed the Bush administration’s hostility toward international law that was being exposed by Addington, Yoo, Goldsmith, and Gonzalez. When Yoo argues that the president can ignore Congress, he cites his own articles; when Yoo argues that international law cannot constrain the president, he cites articles written by Goldsmith, Posner, or Vermeule.

When Addington and Gonzalez argued that the president needs all available tools to interrogate terrorists, including torture, they did so comforted by the knowledge that scholars like Posner and Vermeule were laying the intellectual foundation for these policies. And when the Bush administration derided international law as a quaint relic of a previous era, they did so out of a belief that states did not have a moral obligation to follow international law when it conflicted with their state interest, a position that was artfully defended by Posner and Goldsmith in their book.

When it comes to law, ideas really matter. Of course, some law school professors write esoteric articles for an expert audience. But academic arguments questioning the validity and scope of international law affect how the U.S. government conducts its business. This is so because these professors do more than just write articles; they also serve as lawyers working for the State Department, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, the White House Counsel’s Office, the Defense Department, and the CIA.

And even when their arguments are not having this direct effect, their arguments are indirectly influencing policymakers, lawyers, and federal judges who deal with international law. The assault on international law is far broader than John Yoo and a few memos on torture. This multipronged attack influences how the president fights the War on Terror, whether federal judges can “interfere” with the detention or killing of suspected terrorists, and whether victims of human rights abuses can file lawsuits in federal courts.

It determines whether international treaties can be enforced in U.S. courts and whether foreigners on death row should have access to consular assistance, just as an international treaty promises. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. When President Bush ordered the creation of CIA black sites in Eastern Europe, he did it because government attorneys said he could. When President Obama ordered the targeted killing of an American citizen in Yemen, he did so only after the Justice Department said it was legal. In short, arguments about international law implicate every corner of our foreign relations, and it is hard to imagine an area of the law with more practical consequences.

The impact of Goldsmith and Posner’s academic arguments in “Limits” explains why the Yoo-as-villain and Goldsmith-as-hero story is a distraction. True, Goldsmith came into the OLC and withdrew the poorly reasoned memos. But when you zoom out and look at the entire spectrum, you see that Yoo and Goldsmith are on the same side, both committed to an intellectual project whose central foundation is executive branch aggrandizement and international law deflation. The movement was incredibly successful between 2000 and 2008, and it permanently transformed the political rhetoric regarding international law in this country. In the United States, compliance with international law needs to be politically defended and explained to the electorate, whereas in Europe, compliance with international law is assumed, and politicians must justify their departure from international law.

Zooming out in this way also demonstrates that the media and the public have been wrong to focus their attention and ire on John Yoo. His return to Berkeley after serving with the OLC was met with unrelenting hysteria. But in reality, Yoo is a bit player whose ideas are having a secondary impact on this debate. It is Posner and Goldsmith — and, to a lesser extent, Vermeule — whose ideas are the driving force behind this movement. They are the ones crafting the ideas that devalue international law and suggest that states can reject it.

That is the intellectual foundation upon which Yoo’s more specific policy and legal arguments rest. Unfortunately, the mainstream media (and hence the broader public) has focused its attention on Yoo and has missed the real story. The complex truth is often obscured when sensationalism and slogans get in the way. This book is meant as a corrective, to explain the real story of why international law is under attack in the United States. And while Yoo is a character in this story, the real protagonists are Posner and Goldsmith. Their ideas matter.

Taken together, these lawyers are best described as the New Realists. They are realists about international law because they have infused their understanding of international law with a dose of realpolitik. They are more concerned with how states behave and less concerned with how states ought to behave, and they are skeptical that international law ever forces a state to change its behavior. The first wave of realism came in the 1950s when political scientists who studied international relations expressed a similar skepticism and focused almost exclusively on self-interest and bald power. Some of these realists even used rational choice — the building block of economics — to develop quasi-mathematical models of how states interact with each other. A second wave called neo-realism emerged in 1979 and explained state behavior by appealing to the structural constraints of the mostly anarchic world order. Law was not a big part of either story because it was assumed that there was no world government that could force states to follow international law.

Yoo, Goldsmith, Posner, and Vermeule, as well their kindred spirits in government like Addington, follow in this realist tradition. They believe the study of international law, just like the study of international relations a generation ago, needs to be sprinkled with a heavy dose of realism about the capacity of law to change state behavior. To them, international law has little impact once you divorce it from what states have already decided to do based on their own self-interests. For the New Realists, then, international law isn’t really a distinct field of inquiry at all — it is just a special branch of diplomacy as political scientists understand it. There isn’t anything especially normative about international law.

The New Realism has influenced not only our theoretical understanding of international law but more importantly the actual practice of the U.S. government. That is why I think we ignore this movement at our own peril. The same scholars who invented the New Realism have also applied it and made it come true through their work in the Justice Department, the Pentagon, and the White House. They have influenced policy and policymakers. They changed the way the War on Terror was fought and how the United States interacts with international institutions on a wide number of issues ranging from climate change to the International Criminal Court.

It bears mentioning that I am not arguing that the New Realists have caused the United States to be skeptical toward international law or invented the movement out of whole cloth. The origin of the movement is a much broader and more complex question — one that implicates a deep current of isolationism and exceptionalism at various moments in our nation’s history. There are many reasons for this isolationism and preoccupation with “sovereignty” — all of which are independent of (or at the very least pre-date) the arrival of the New Realists.

So what am I claiming? The New Realists have provided the intellectual foundation for a new skepticism about international law, and they have also succeeded in turning that intellectual vision into a strategic reality, by access to key positions in the U.S. government. They have dressed up the old realisms about international relations (both classical realism and neo-realism) with new clothing — this time, the economic language of rational choice, self-interest, and game theory, and applied it specifically to international law. They have resurrected a distinctively American attitude about international institutions that had their heyday in the 1950s after Hans Morgenthau published “Politics Among Nations,” a manifesto that gave birth to the doctrine of political realism and its emphasis on power politics. By becoming the heirs to that tradition, the New Realists have accomplished two things. First, they have imported Morgenthau’s vision — originally about international relations — into the domain of law, which was always supposed to be normative, that is, a field about the way we ought to behave. Second, they took Morgenthau into the political mainstream and audaciously installed his worldview right in the building that ought to be most hostile to it:  the Justice Department’s Robert F. Kennedy Building in Washington, D.C.

Excerpted from “The Assault on International Law” by Jens David Ohlin. Copyright © 2015 by Jens David Ohlin. Reprinted by arrangement with Oxford University Press, a division of Oxford University. All rights reserved.

The Grand Manipulation

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