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Edward Snowden Explains Why Apple Should Continue to Fight the Government on Encryption
Happy Birthday, Jerry!
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Blind justice? Deaf?
As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama, a professor of constitutional law, lauded whistleblowers as “part of a healthy democracy [and they] must be protected from reprisal”. In 2012, the campaign to re-elect President Barack Obama boasted on its website that he had prosecuted more whistleblowers in his first term than all other US presidents combined. Before Manning had even received a trial, Obama had pronounced the whisletblower guilty. Manning was subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison, having been tortured during his long pre-trial detention. — John Pilger
John Pilger shows that justice has simply departed the West. It cannot be found anywhere within the confines of Western “civilization.”
One reason that Washington is currently trying to overthrow the Ecuadoran government is to have the puppet Washington installs revoke Julian Assange’s political asylum. Time is running out on the corrupt Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, who works for Washington, not for justice. So Washington has decided to overthrow a government in its quest for revenge against one journalist.
Is America “a light unto the world, a shinning city upon a hill,” or is America a cesspool of injustice, injustice that has spread and now infects the entire Western world?
Ian Welsh has become one of the premiere reporters on worldwide corruption.
31 Jul 2015
One of the most hilarious things to me is Americans whacking other countries for being corrupt. Russia is a favorite target, but virtually every non-Western country is abused for corruption.
I’ve pointed out before that this is absurd. There is no more corrupt country in the world than the US. The bank bailouts were pure corruption, performed even though a supermajority of the population was against them; even though the banks had broken the law systematically; even though the banks were bankrupt due to decisions they knew were corrupt, illegal and (yes), stupid.
The US election system is flagrantly corrupt, with billions of dollars of direct and indirect donations from the rich. You buy supper with a candidate for thousands of dollars a plate. You buy White House access with much larger donations. Third party PACs spend hundreds of millions.
The bribery in the US is legal. Legal. That does not mean it is not bribery. That does not mean it is not corruption. It is used to make sure that politicians owe the monied class and do not harm them, aye that they continue to pass laws and take actions which help them.
The regulatory class is completely owned: there is a revolving door between Wall Street and the Treasury and Federal Reserve, for example, and Wall Street pays far better. When senior officials leave, they get jobs from those they regulated, or give speeches for six figures a pop. Politicians are treated the same, receiving lobbying jobs worth six to seven figures, board positions and so on.
This is all legal, but it is corruption.
Jimmy Carter recently said this, with respect to "Citizen’s United:"
an oligarchy, with unlimited political briberyBut don’t be deceived, "Citizen’s United" was just the final capstone: the US was already a completely corrupt, bought and owned regulatory state before "Citizen’s United." "Citizen’s United" just made it much easier.
I repeat, in absolute terms, there is no more corrupt country in the world than the US. In relative terms? Who knows, but the US being corrupt matters more than corruption in any other country. (Though China is coming on strong.) US financial law is essentially extra-territorial: the US is capable of crippling other countries economies almost alone with Treasury orders. The US has the world’s largest military and regularly intervenes in other countries with air strikes, assassinations and general terror.
What is unique about America is not its corruption, many countries are corrupt, it is the sheer hypocrisy of pretending that America is not corrupt, because Americans have made their corruption legal.
Corruption is the inevitable consequence of concentrated wealth. It always occurs when you have great inequality, it cannot be avoided.
You want corruption back to reasonable levels? You want it illegal again? You take the oligarchs wealth away from them and you break the great monopolistic and oligopolistic companies or bridle them with uncorrupted regulators crawling up their backside while taxing the hell out of them.
Nothing else works (and the second solution works for a while). Nothing else has ever worked. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.
You want you country back, and your children and yourselves to have a future?
It’s you or them. So far Americans keep choosing them.
July 31, 2015
by John Pilger
The siege of Knightsbridge is both an emblem of gross injustice and a gruelling farce. For three years, a police cordon around the Ecuadorean embassy in London has served no purpose other than to flaunt the power of the state. It has cost £12 million. The quarry is an Australian charged with no crime, a refugee whose only security is the room given him by a brave South American country. His “crime” is to have initiated a wave of truth-telling in an era of lies, cynicism and war.
The persecution of Julian Assange is about to flare again as it enters a dangerous stage. From August 20, three quarters of the Swedish prosecutor’s case against Assange regarding sexual misconduct in 2010 will disappear as the statute of limitations expires. At the same time Washington’s obsession with Assange and WikiLeaks has intensified. Indeed, it is vindictive American power that offers the greatest threat – as Chelsea Manning and those still held in Guantanamo can attest.
The Americans are pursuing Assange because WikiLeaks exposed their epic crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale killing of tens of thousands of civilians, which they covered up, and their contempt for sovereignty and international law, as demonstrated vividly in their leaked diplomatic cables. WikiLeaks continues to expose criminal activity by the US, having just published top secret US intercepts – US spies’ reports detailing private phone calls of the presidents of France and Germany, and other senior officials, relating to internal European political and economic affairs.
None of this is illegal under the US Constiution. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama, a professor of constitutional law, lauded whistleblowers as “part of a healthy democracy [and they] must be protected from reprisal”. In 2012, the campaign to re-elect President Barack Obama boasted on its website that he had prosecuted more whistleblowers in his first term than all other US presidents combined. Before Chelsea Manning had even received a trial, Obama had pronounced the whisletblower guilty. He was subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison, having been tortured during his long pre-trial detention.
Few doubt that should the US get their hands on Assange, a similar fate awaits him. Threats of the capture and assassination of Assange became the currency of the political extremes in the US following Vice-President Joe Biden’s preposterous slur that the WikiLeaks founder was a “cyber-terrorist”. Those doubting the degree of ruthlessness Assange can expect should remember the forcing down of the Bolivian president’s plane in 2013 – wrongly believed to be carrying Edward Snowden.
According to documents released by Snowden, Assange is on a “Manhunt target list”. Washington’s bid to get him, say Australian diplomatic cables, is “unprecedented in scale and nature”. In Alexandria, Virginia, a secret grand jury has spent five years attempting to contrive a crime for which Assange can be prosecuted. This is not easy. The First Amendment to the US Constitution protects publishers, journalists and whistleblowers.
Faced with this constitutional hurdle, the US Justice Department has contrived charges of “espionage”, “conspiracy to commit espionage”, “conversion” (theft of government property), “computer fraud and abuse” (computer hacking) and general “conspiracy”. The Espionage Act has life in prison and death penalty provisions. .
Assange’s ability to defend himself in this Kafkaesque world has been handicapped by the US declaring his case a state secret. In March, a federal court in Washington blocked the release of all information about the “national security” investigation against WikiLeaks, because it was “active and ongoing” and would harm the “pending prosecution” of Assange. The judge, Barbara J. Rosthstein, said it was necessary to show “appropriate deference to the executive in matters of national security”. Such is the “justice” of a kangaroo court.
The supporting act in this grim farce is Sweden, played by the Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny. Until recently, Ny refused to comply with a routine European procedure routine that required her to travel to London to question Assange and so advance the case. For four and a half years, Ny has never properly explained why she has refused to come to London, just as the Swedish authorities have never explained why they refuse to give Assange a guarantee that they will not extradite him on to the US under a secret arrangement agreed between Stockholm and Washington. In December 2010, "The Independent" revealed that the two governments had discussed his onward extradition to the US.
Contrary to its 1960s reputation as a liberal bastion, Sweden has drawn so close to Washington that it has allowed secret CIA “renditions” – including the illegal deportation of refugees. The rendition and subsequent torture of two Egyptian political refugees in 2001 was condemned by the UN Committee against Torture, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; the complicity and duplicity of the Swedish state are documented in successful civil litigation and in WikiLeaks cables. In the summer of 2010, Assange had flown to Sweden to talk about WikiLeaks revelations of the war in Afghanistan – in which Sweden had forces under US command.
“Documents released by "WikiLeaks" since Assange moved to England,” wrote Al Burke, editor of the online Nordic News Network, an authority on the multiple twists and dangers facing Assange, “clearly indicate that Sweden has consistently submitted to pressure from the United States in matters relating to civil rights. There is every reason for concern that if Assange were to be taken into custody by Swedish authorities, he could be turned over to the United States without due consideration of his legal rights.”
Why hasn’t the Swedish prosecutor resolved the Assange case? Many in the legal community in Sweden believe her behaviour inexplicable. Once implacably hostile to Assange, the Swedish press has published headlines such as: “Go to London, for God’s sake.”
Why hasn’t she? More to the point, why won’t she allow the Swedish court access to hundreds of SMS messages that the police extracted from the phone of one of the two women involved in the misconduct allegations? Why won’t she hand them over to Assange’s Swedish lawyers? She says she is not legally required to do so until a formal charge is laid and she has questioned him. Then, why doesn’t she question him? And if she did question him, the conditions she would demand of him and his lawyers – that they could not challenge her – would make injustice a near certainty.
On a point of law, the Swedish Supreme Court has decided Ny can continue to obstruct on the vital issue of the SMS messages. This will now go to the European Court of Human Rights. What Ny fears is that the SMS messages will destroy her case against Assange. One of the messages makes clear that one of the women did not want any charges brought against Assange, “but the police were keen on getting a hold on him”. She was “shocked” when they arrested him because she only “wanted him to take [an HIV] test”. She “did not want to accuse JA of anything” and “it was the police who made up the charges”. (In a witness statement, she is quoted as saying that she had been “railroaded by police and others around her”.)
Neither woman claimed she had been raped. Indeed, both have denied they were raped and one of them has since tweeted, “I have not been raped.” That they were manipulated by police and their wishes ignored is evident – whatever their lawyers might say now. Certainly, they are victims of a saga which blights the reputation of Sweden itself.
For Assange, his only trial has been trial by media. On August 20, 2010, the Swedish police opened a “rape investigation” and immediately – and unlawfully – told the Stockholm tabloids that there was a warrant for Assange’s arrest for the “rape of two women”. This was the news that went round the world.
In Washington, a smiling US Defence Secretary Robert Gates told reporters that the arrest “sounds like good news to me”. Twitter accounts associated with the Pentagon described Assange as a “rapist” and a “fugitive”.
Less than 24 hours later, the Stockholm Chief Prosecutor, Eva Finne, took over the investigation. She wasted no time in cancelling the arrest warrant, saying, “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape.” Four days later, she dismissed the rape investigation altogether, saying, “There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever.” The file was closed.
Enter Claes Borgstrom, a high profile politician in the Social Democratic Party then standing as a candidate in Sweden’s imminent general election. Within days of the chief prosecutor’s dismissal of the case, Borgstrom, a lawyer, announced to the media that he was representing the two women and had sought a different prosecutor in the city of Gothenberg. This was Marianne Ny, whom Borgstrom knew well, personally and politically.
On 30 August, Assange attended a police station in Stockholm voluntarily and answered all the questions put to him. He understood that was the end of the matter. Two days later, Ny announced she was re-opening the case. Borgstrom was asked by a Swedish reporter why the case was proceeding when it had already been dismissed, citing one of the women as saying she had not been raped. He replied, “Ah, but she is not a lawyer.” Assange’s Australian barrister, James Catlin, responded, “This is a laughing stock… it’s as if they make it up as they go along.”
On the day Marianne Ny reactivated the case, the head of Sweden’s military intelligence service – which has the acronym MUST — publicly denounced WikiLeaks in an article entitled “WikiLeaks [is] a threat to our soldiers.” Assange was warned that the Swedish intelligence service, SAPO, had been told by its US counterparts that US-Sweden intelligence-sharing arrangements would be “cut off” if Sweden sheltered him.
For five weeks, Assange waited in Sweden for the new investigation to take its course. The Guardian was then on the brink of publishing the Iraq “War Logs”, based on WikiLeaks’ disclosures, which Assange was to oversee. His lawyer in Stockholm asked Ny if she had any objection to his leaving the country. She said he was free to leave.
Inexplicably, as soon as he left Sweden – at the height of media and public interest in the WikiLeaks disclosures – Ny issued a European Arrest Warrant and an Interpol “red alert” normally used for terrorists and dangerous criminals. Put out in five languages around the world, it ensured a media frenzy.
Assange attended a police station in London, was arrested and spent ten days in Wandsworth Prison, in solitary confinement. Released on £340,000 bail, he was electronically tagged, required to report to police daily and placed under virtual house arrest while his case began its long journey to the Supreme Court. He still had not been charged with any offence. His lawyers repeated his offer to be questioned by Ny in London, pointing out that she had given him permission to leave Sweden. They suggested a special facility at Scotland Yard commonly used for that purpose. She refused.
Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape wrote: “The allegations against [Assange] are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction… The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will. [Assange] has made it clear he is available for questioning by the Swedish authorities, in Britain or via Skype. Why are they refusing this essential step in their investigation? What are they afraid of?”
This question remained unanswered as Ny deployed the European Arrest Warrant, a draconian and now discredited product of the “war on terror” supposedly designed to catch terrorists and organised criminals. The EAW had abolished the obligation on a petitioning state to provide any evidence of a crime. More than a thousand EAWs are issued each month; only a few have anything to do with potential “terror” charges. Most are issued for trivial offences, such as overdue bank charges and fines. Many of those extradited face months in prison without charge. There have been a number of shocking miscarriages of justice, of which British judges have been highly critical.
The Assange case finally reached the UK Supreme Court in May 2012. In a judgement that upheld the EAW – whose rigid demands had left the courts almost no room for manoeuvre – the judges found that European prosecutors could issue extradition warrants in the UK without any judicial oversight, even though Parliament intended otherwise. They made clear that Parliament had been “misled” by the Blair government. The court was split, 5-2, and consequently found against Assange.
However, the Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, made one mistake. He applied the Vienna Convention on treaty interpretation, allowing for state practice to override the letter of the law. As Assange’s barrister, Dinah Rose QC, pointed out, this did not apply to the EAW.
The Supreme Court only recognised this crucial error when it dealt with another appeal against the EAW in November 2013. The Assange decision had been wrong, but it was too late to go back. With extradition imminent, the Swedish prosecutor told Assange’s lawyers that Assange, once in Sweden, would be immediately placed in one of Sweden’s infamous remand prisons. . .
Assange’s choice was stark: extradition to a country that had refused to say whether or not it would send him on to the US, or to seek what seemed his last opportunity for refuge and safety. Supported by most of Latin America, the courageous government of Ecuador granted him refugee status on the basis of documented evidence and legal advice that he faced the prospect of cruel and unusual punishment in the US; that this threat violated his basic human rights; and that his own government in Australia had abandoned him and colluded with Washington. The Labor government of prime minister Julia Gillard had even threatened to take away his passport.
Gareth Peirce, the renowned human rights lawyer who represents Assange in London, wrote to the then Australian foreign minister, Kevin Rudd: “Given the extent of the public discussion, frequently on the basis of entirely false assumptions… it is very hard to attempt to preserve for him any presumption of innocence. Mr. Assange has now hanging over him not one but two Damocles swords, of potential extradition to two different jurisdictions in turn for two different alleged crimes, neither of which are crimes in his own country, and that his personal safety has become at risk in circumstances that are highly politically charged.
It was not until she contacted the Australian High Commission in London that Peirce received a response, which answered none of the pressing points she raised. In a meeting I attended with her, the Australian Consul-General, Ken Pascoe, made the astonishing claim that he knew “only what I read in the newspapers” about the details of the case.
Meanwhile, the prospect of a grotesque miscarriage of justice was drowned in a vituperative campaign against the WikiLeaks founder. Deeply personal, petty, vicious and inhuman attacks were aimed at a man not charged with any crime yet subjected to treatment not even meted out to a defendant facing extradition on a charge of murdering his wife. That the US threat to Assange was a threat to all journalists, to freedom of speech, was lost in the sordid and the ambitious.
Books were published, movie deals struck and media careers launched or kick-started on the back of WikiLeaks and an assumption that attacking Assange was fair game and he was too poor to sue. People have made money, often big money, while WikiLeaks has struggled to survive. The editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, called the WikiLeaks disclosures, which his newspaper published, “one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years”. It became part of his marketing plan to raise the newspaper’s cover price.
With not a penny going to Assange or to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous”. They also revealed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables. With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh”.
The injustice meted out to Assange is one of the reasons Parliament reformed the Extradition Act to prevent the misuse of the EAW. The draconian catch-all used against him could not happen now; charges would have to be brought and “questioning” would be insufficient grounds for extradition. “His case has been won lock, stock and barrel,” Gareth Peirce told me, “these changes in the law mean that the UK now recognises as correct everything that was argued in his case. Yet he does not benefit.” In other words, the change in the UK law in 2014 mean that Assange would have won his case and he would not have been forced to take refuge.
Ecuador’s decision to protect Assange in 2012 bloomed into a major international affair. Even though the granting of asylum is a humanitarian act, and the power to do so is enjoyed by all states under international law, both Sweden and the United Kingdom refused to recognize the legitimacy of Ecuador’s decision. Ignoring international law, the Cameron government refused to grant Assange safe passage to Ecuador. Instead, Ecuador’s embassy was placed under siege and its government abused with a series of ultimatums. When William Hague’s Foreign Office threatened to violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, warning that it would remove the diplomatic inviolability of the embassy and send the police in to get Assange, outrage across the world forced the government to back down. During one night, police appeared at the windows of the embassy in an obvious attempt to intimidate Assange and his protectors.
Since then, Julian Assange has been confined to a small room under Ecuador’s protection, without sunlight or space to exercise, surrounded by police under orders to arrest him on sight. For three years, Ecuador has made clear to the Swedish prosecutor that Assange is available to be questioned in the London embassy, and for three years she has remained intransigent. In the same period Sweden has questioned forty-four people in the UK in connection with police investigations. Her role, and that of the Swedish state, is demonstrably political; and for Ny, facing retirement in two years, she must “win”.
In despair, Assange has challenged the arrest warrant in the Swedish courts. His lawyers have cited rulings by the European Court of Human Rights that he has been under arbitrary, indefinite detention and that he had been a virtual prisoner for longer than any actual prison sentence he might face. The Court of Appeal judge agreed with Assange’s lawyers: the prosecutor had indeed breached her duty by keeping the case suspended for years. Another judge issued a rebuke to the prosecutor. And yet she defied the court.
Last December, Assange took his case to the Swedish Supreme Court, which ordered Marianne Ny’s boss – the Prosecutor General of Sweden Anders Perklev – to explain. The next day, Ny announced, without explanation, that she had changed her mind and would now question Assange in London.
In his submission to the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General made some important concessions: he argued that the coercion of Assange had been “intrusive” and that that the period in the embassy has been a “great strain” on him. He even conceded that if the matter had ever come to prosecution, trial, conviction and serving a sentence in Sweden, Julian Assange would have left Sweden long ago.
In a split decision, one Supreme Court judge argued that the arrest warrant should have been revoked. The majority of the judges ruled that, since the prosecutor had now said she would go to London, Assange’s arguments had become “moot”. But the Court ruled that it would have found against the prosecutor if she had not suddenly changed her mind. Justice by caprice. Writing in the Swedish press, a former Swedish prosecutor, Rolf Hillegren, accused Ny of losing all impartiality. He described her personal investment in the case as“abnormal” and demanded that she be replaced.
Having said she would go to London in June, Ny did not go, but sent a deputy, knowing that the questioning would not be legal under these circumstances, especially as Sweden had not bothered to get Ecuador’s approval for the meeting. At the same time, her office tipped off the Swedish tabloid newspaper "Expressen," which sent its London correspondent to wait outside Ecuador’s embassy for “news”. The news was that Ny was cancelling the appointment and blaming Ecuador for the confusion and by implication an “unco-operative” Assange – when the opposite was true.
As the statute of limitations date approaches – August 20 – another chapter in this hideous story will doubtless unfold, with Marianne Ny pulling yet another rabbit out of her hat and the commissars and prosecutors in Washington the beneficiaries. Perhaps none of this is surprising. In 2008, a war on WikiLeaks and on Julian Assange was foretold in a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch”. It described a detailed plan to destroy the feeling of “trust” which is WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”. This would be achieved with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”. Silencing and criminalising such a rare source of truth-telling was the aim, smear the method. While this scandal continues the very notion of justice is diminished, along with the reputation of Sweden, and the shadow of America’s menace touches us all.
(Listen to Eric Draitser’s interview with John Pilger on Episode 12 of the CounterPunch Radio podcast.)
This is an updated version of John Pilger’s 2014 investigation which tells the unreported story of an unrelenting campaign, in Sweden and the US, to deny Julian Assange justice and silence "WikiLeaks."
For important additional information, click on the following links:
John Pilger can be reached through his website: www.johnpilger.com
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I had no plans to read Go Set a Watchman. I love To Kill a Mockingbird in the way you love a thing that has been a part of you for years upon years. My only concerns were vague worries about whether it made sense to publish a manuscript, even from a great author, without editing it; whether Lee wanted it published; whether it would be worth reading at all. But my curiosity was piqued when I saw people reading it, enjoying it, and then suddenly and vehemently getting angry. It was curiosity that sent me to the book, not deference for Lee or TKAM – just an honest wonderment.
This is probably best, because at its heart, Watchman is all about taking down those gods we hold up without question. Mockingbird has been one of those gods for American literature, as surely as Atticus Finch has been one for both the young and the grown Jean Louise. We have held up this book for decades and said, “Let’s read and talk about race in America.”We love Mockingbird the way Scout loves Maycomb. It is a part of us, who we are as a country is bound up in this book. It is also not what we think it is, just as Maycomb is not the quaint, kind place Scout keeps in her heart.Mockingbird is where we can have a talk about race that is sheltered and simple. It takes us only to the fact that racism exists and that one person has the power to fight against it.
Mockingbird fights against a man unjustly accused, but it cares little about the many ways racism permeates life: segregation, prejudice, poverty, systemic discrimination. Those things all existed in Maycomb in the ’30s, but matter little in Mockingbird.
Watchman looks at those issues in more depth. All the prejudices Jean Louise has been able to overlook and ignore most of her life start to stand out in starker contrast after Brown v. Board, the NAACP, and the beginnings of the civil rights movement start to take shape and lead white men to “defend” themselves.Jean Louise can look back on what happened in her childhood and see that it was not enough, not nearly enough. Just as we can look back now at the civil rights movement and see that it was not enough then, either. This is the book to read if you want to know what people think when they weep over the Confederate flag being taken down.Watchman gives just about every excuse imaginable and it is not at all an easy thing.I listened to the audiobook, read by Reese Witherspoon. I was lulled so quickly into the first half of the book. Witherspoon’s gentle drawl fit the material beautifully. I wondered what could possibly happen to make me hate this book. I found out, of course. And then spent the second half of the book having to sit through every single word said by racist character after racist character defending their beliefs and their actions.Insisting they are not racist, insisting they are doing the right thing, even Jean Louise herself says a few things that will make you want to slap her across the face. It left me more than once feeling physically ill, just like it did for Jean Louise.
But this is the truth. This is where Mockingbird leaves us, not with a city where everyone is really equal and justice is served, but with a city where occasionally a black man is able to escape certain doom but only when a white man decides to take it upon himself to help. Jean Louise is certain that her town is different and the people she loves are different. She is, of course, wrong.Mockingbird is racism for children. It sees only what a child sees.Watchman is the crashing down of ideals that comes with adulthood, the understanding that everyone is fallible, that many of the people you care about are more racist than you could imagine when you loved them with the innocent trust of a child.But Watchman is not the end of the story. This Scout, who despite her conscience still sees Blacks as backwards and interracial marriage as something that won’t really happen, is not far enough. This Scout is a person who could defend the Confederate flag. This Scout has not yet escaped Maycomb, has not fully separated herself from it, has not yet become a fully-formed person without Atticus as a foundation.What we need now is one more Finch, not Atticus or Scout but a new Finch all together: one who will celebrate Bree Newsome and weep for Sandra Bland, one who knows that the 14th amendment is more important than the 10th, one who would not have endless conversations about race with other white people. Harper Lee will never write that book, but others have and others will continue to do it. Will we stay in the safety of Mockingbird? Or will we decide that it is just the first step of so many more to come?
Jessica Woodbury is a lapsed lawyer who now works in digital media. She chronically overshares at dontmindthemess.com. Follow her on Twitter: @jessicaesquire.Robert Parry, Consortium News
31 July 15
Powerful institutions – whether the U.S. government, the mainstream media or the NFL – can run roughshod over individuals, twisting facts in whatever direction is desired. The current railroading of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is a cautionary case in point, writes Robert Parry.hat I have learned in 35 years as an investigative reporter at the national level is that high-profile investigations are almost always driven less by fact, reason or truth than by power. The Hollywood scenario of some entity-on-high intervening in the name of justice for a happy ending rarely happens in real life.More typically the relative balance of power between the two sides dictates the outcome with clever lawyers or compliant bureaucrats twisting every word or action in whatever direction serves the interests of the more powerful master. Innocence can be turned into guilt and vice versa, usually with the mainstream news media falling into line and average people soon absorbing the conventional wisdom with smirks at the loser.
I have witnessed this pattern in matters of war or peace, the integrity of elections, and the treatment of individual citizens. Once power is applied to an investigation anyone who stands in the way can expect to get run over. Decent people are demonized and ostracized. Foreign leaders can become the target of “regime change.” Essentially anything goes, and Goliath usually wins.
That is why I am always highly suspicious when this process gets rolling, whether the goal is to pin some nefarious act on a despised foreign leader (Saddam Hussein is hiding WMD); to fix the outcome of an election (Al Gore is a sore loser); or to disparage an honest journalist (Gary Webb deserved what he got for accusing the CIA of dabbling with Nicaraguan Contra drug traffickers).
Often in such cases the conventional wisdom, which reflects the consensus view of the powerful, is dead wrong. Hussein didn’t have those caches of WMD; Gore was the rightful winner of the presidential election in 2000; and Webb was correct when he shed new light on the CIA’s Contra-cocaine connection.
Yet all of them lost to the power of systemic distortion.
Similarly, there are troubling aspects to the NFL’s “Deflategate” witch hunt targeting New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. And there’s a cautionary warning here for all of us. It turns out that even celebrity doesn’t protect you from a process in which a more powerful entity, in this case the NFL and opposing teams envious of Brady’s success, can concoct a case almost literally out of thin air to destroy a person’s reputation and make it harder for the Patriots to prevail on the field in the future.
In this curious investigation, one of the most scandalous aspects has been the role of rival teams in pressuring NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to sustain his harsh penalties against Brady (a four-game suspension without pay) and against the Patriots (a $1 million fine and loss of first- and fourth-round draft picks).
Beyond the peculiar process of Goodell serving as judge, jury and appeals court, there has been the intrusion by the NFL’s Management Council in trying to influence the outcome, a factor cited by ESPN and acknowledged in Goodell’s own 20-page report. It would seem that at minimum Brady deserved a disciplinary process without the owners of rival teams weighing in.
Though this interference by team owners who have lost to the Patriots would seem to be an obvious conflict of interest and a threat to the integrity of the game, this behavior has passed virtually unnoticed, mentioned only briefly by some ESPN commentators. Yet, this tilting of the playing field might be the biggest scandal in the entire overblown affair, especially since the Management Council holds the strings to Goodell’s $35 million salary.
The Goodell Report
Like the previous Wells’ investigative report – written under Goodell’s direction – Goodell’s findings on Brady’s appeal brush aside the core fact that the science behind the assumption that the Patriots’ footballs were intentionally deflated was dubious at best. Even according to the opinion of the NFL-hired experts, all or virtually all the drop in air pressure could be explained by the cold weather alone during the AFC Championship game on Jan. 18, 2015.
And the NFL’s experts did not account for other relevant factors, such as the rainy weather and the different pre-game treatments of the Patriots footballs when compared with those of the Indianapolis Colts. A variety of outside scientists reviewed the Wells’ report and concluded that its assessment of the air-pressure readings was unreliable at best because of inadequate protocols in both pre-game measurements and the hasty checks made during halftime. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NFL’s Deflategate Findings ‘Unreliable.’”]
(Ironically, if you relied on the air-pressure gauge that was judged more precise, the Colts played both the first half and second half of the AFC Championship game with underinflated footballs, while the Patriots did for only the first half. Yet, the Patriots were the ones punished.)
There remain other anomalies in Goodell’s report. For instance, Goodell writes that “there are several points that are not in dispute and important to this decision,” including that Brady “told the equipment staff that he wanted the footballs inflated at the lowest permissible level” and “instructed the equipment staff to present a copy of the rule to the game officials.”
Goodell continues: “On the day of the AFC Championship Game, Mr. [Jim] McNally [the team employee who carried the footballs to the referees] told referee Walt Anderson that Mr. Brady wanted the balls inflated to a pressure of 12.5 psi. He [McNally] told the investigators that ‘Tom … always has me pass a message to the Official’s [sic] that he likes the balls at the minimum permissible PSI of 12.5.’”
In other words, it’s not in dispute that Brady went to considerable trouble to have the pressure per square inch set at the low end of the legal parameters and that it was McNally’s job to ensure that the referees complied with Brady’s preference to deflate the footballs to that level. This undisputed evidence in Goodell’s own report would suggest that Brady was acting within the rules. And why would someone go to all that trouble if the plan was to have the balls deflated surreptitiously afterwards?
Goodell also states as an unchallenged fact that the AFC Championship game was the only time when McNally took the footballs on his own to the field, writing: “Other referees … said … he [McNally] had not engaged in similar conduct in the games that they had worked at Gillette Stadium.” So, what kind of a scheme was this to secretly deflate footballs when it allegedly could only have been done once?
McNally also explained to investigators that the reason for the confusion about when he should carry the balls to the field resulted from the fact that the earlier NFC Championship game had gone into overtime delaying the start of the AFC game.
The NFC game ended abruptly causing confusion in the crowded referees’ suite of rooms about the need to get the balls down to the field, McNally explained. He said he used the bathroom on the way because there was a crowd in the referees’ room. He also couldn’t leave the field for the entire first half.
Though McNally had submitted to several interviews with NFL investigators – and consistently denied any wrongdoing – Goodell makes a big point in his report over the fact that the NFL’s Players Association didn’t bring McNally and locker room assistant John Jastremski down to New York City for Brady’s appeal hearing. Goodell noted that “The Management Council [consisting of rival owners] has argued that an adverse inference should be drawn from the NFLPA’s decision not to seek testimony from Mr. Jastremski and Mr. McNally.”
To this day, there remains no explicit evidence that the balls were deflated after they left the referees’ room. Indeed, the often-cited text messages between McNally and Jastremski referred not to the AFC Championship game but to a problem from a game against the New York Jets in October when the referees illegally over-inflated the footballs, prompting a complaint from Brady that Jastremski conveyed to McNally, whose job it was to make sure the referees deflated the balls to the level that Brady preferred.
All the banter in the texts between the two locker room guys, including McNally’s disparaging remarks about Brady, can be understood in the context of McNally reacting defensively to criticism that he had not gotten the referees to deflate the balls in the Jets game to the low end of the permissible levels or even below the high end of the permissible levels at 13.5 psi. Jastremski tested the balls after the game and found them over the legal limit with one at nearly 16 psi.
Goodell’s report makes no reference to the NFL’s sloppy protocols for ensuring that footballs are inflated properly, nor to the chaotic testing of the footballs during the halftime of the AFC Championship game when there was even disagreement over the sequencing of the measurements, a key issue given how fast balls naturally re-inflate when brought into a warm setting.
Much like the original Wells’ report, Goodell’s report slanted every conceivable fact in the direction of the prosecutors’ case against Brady.
The Destroyed Phone
The center of Goodell’s rejection of Brady’s appeal was the relatively new information that Brady had an assistant destroy an old cell phone that Brady replaced shortly before his interview with the Wells’ investigators. Though Brady’s side had already informed the NFL that he would not give them access to his phone and the NFL already had Brady’s text messages to Jastremski whose phone had been turned over, Goodell deployed this new fact as proof that Brady was intentionally hiding incriminating information.
Brady responded to Goodell’s ruling on Wednesday saying “I did nothing wrong, and no one in the Patriots organization did either. … The fact is that neither I, nor any equipment person, did anything of which we have been accused. He dismissed my hours of testimony and it is disappointing that he found it unreliable.
“I also disagree with yesterday’s narrative surrounding my cellphone. I replaced my broken Samsung phone with a new iPhone 6 AFTER my attorneys made it clear to the NFL that my actual phone device would not be subjected to investigation under ANY circumstances. As a member of a union, I was under no obligation to set a new precedent going forward, nor was I made aware at any time during Mr. [Ted] Wells investigation, that failing to subject my cell phone to investigation would result in ANY discipline.
“Most importantly, I have never written, texted, emailed to anybody at anytime, anything related to football air pressure before this issue was raised at the AFC Championship game in January. To suggest that I destroyed a phone to avoid giving the NFL information it requested is completely wrong.
“To try and reconcile the record and fully cooperate with the investigation after I was disciplined in May, we turned over detailed pages of cell phone records and all of the emails that Mr. Wells requested. We even contacted the phone company to see if there was any possible way we could retrieve any/all of the actual text messages from my old phone.
“In short, we exhausted every possibility to give the NFL everything we could and offered to go thru the identity for every text and phone call during the relevant time. Regardless, the NFL knows that Mr. Wells already had ALL relevant communications with Patriots personnel that either Mr. Wells saw or that I was questioned about in my appeal hearing. There is no ‘smoking gun’ and this controversy is manufactured to distract from the fact they have zero evidence of wrongdoing. …
“I respect the Commissioners authority, but he also has to respect the CBA [the collective bargaining agreement with the players] and my rights as a private citizen. I will not allow my unfair discipline to become a precedent for other NFL players without a fight.”
I have no way of knowing whether Brady is telling the truth or not. But my experience with powerful institutions is that they can massage information any way they want to make the innocent look guilty and the guilty innocent.
[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Tom Brady and Theoretical Crime.”]
(Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.)
July 30, 2015
In nationwide rallies and creative actions, proponents of universal healthcare mobilize to defend — and expand — public program
"The best way to protect Medicare is to upgrade it and expand it to cover everyone," said National Nurses United co-president Jean Ross. (Photo: Joey Gannon/Wikimedia/cc)
From California to Florida to Maine, communities in 25 cities across the United States are staging rallies, picnics, and flash mobs this week to celebrate Thursday's 50th anniversary of Medicare—and call for its expansion into a system that provides publicly-funded healthcare for all.