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Protest Trump’s Escalation in Syria

This blog was written by Nikki, an Office Team Intern with the San Jose Peace & Justice Center. The opinions expressed in this post are hers. The photos were taken at the protest by Nikki.

On April 7th, I attended a nationally coordinated protest locally hosted by Rise Up for Justice (#RU4J) and the Friday Night Peace Vigil. We protested Trump’s escalation in Syria to demand an end to the U.S. war against Syria. This escalation was an immediate action after the chemical attack that killed 89 people on April 4, 2017. Syria blamed terrorist groups for the attack, and Russian President Putin, implied that the forces that have been trying to frame the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carried out the attack. The attack in Syria prompted the United States to launch its first military strike on the Syrian regime. President Trump ordered the launch of 59 missiles at the airbase that was home to the warplanes that allegedly carried out the chemical attacks.

It has been unclear who was responsible for the chemical attack in Syria. It has been difficult for me to choose where I stand with this issue. It breaks my heart every time I read or see what is happening in Syria. I cannot imagine what they are going through each day and night, never knowing where the next bomb will hit, people have been living in constant stress and fear. I think in some parts of the world, in some situations, it is justified for the U.S. to interfere if human rights laws are being broken and innocent people are being killed. If nobody takes an action and help these innocent people, then who will? However, I also understand that the U.S. shouldn’t be policing the world. I think there should be a line that the U.S. should not cross.

I am unsure whether or not I support this strike. I am happy that the government finally took an action against the Syrian regime. However, I do not support Trump’s sudden response to strike against a regime without actual proof that the chemical attack was done by the Syrian regime. Also, bombing a Syrian air based to send a message to the Assad regime is just not enough. Less than a day after the U.S. strike, new airstrikes targeted the same town. It has been unclear who was responsible for the second attack. At least one woman was killed and three others were injured.

While attending the protest, I saw many people holding signs and standing in front of the MLK library. Although I was unsure about how I felt about this strike, I also felt it was not the right action to take. I knew that the strike would cause people to either be for it, against it, or like me, be unsure. Being at the protest, it made me feel great. I loved the energy and seeing how many people were there to protest against the strike while holding signs and just peacefully protesting. Many people honked their horns as they drove passed us.

 

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Immigration Training Cements Intern’s Interest – by GM

This blog was written by GM, a spring 2017 intern at San Jose Peace and Justice Center after attending Immigration in the era of Trump training.

Before becoming a student at San Jose State University, I didn’t know what I wanted to major in. Over the course of my academic career I was a Marketing major, then I changed it to Administration of Justice, then to History and finally to a Justice Studies major.

My indecisiveness was due me desire to do something special and be effective in helping and changing lives. Choosing Justice Studies as my major was the best choice for me because I got to learn about the many aspects of how laws and policies can have a huge impact in creating injustices for many citizens, specifically minorities.

My major created the opportunity for me to find this internship that relates with what I want to accomplish. Michelle Cordova, the coordinator for the Immigration Relief Project at the Peace and Justice Center, initiated the training process for immigrants’ rights. As I attended the first day of the training as an intern, I saw many individuals willing to sacrifice their time and energy to help those in need. These volunteers were especially eager to help given current social and political crisis that plagues many immigrants. Ms. Cordova told us that don’t worry about making mistakes because we will learn from it and that she wants willing people that learn from those mistakes.

The first day of the training explained the different roles the volunteers will have. There are six roles that she listed which are: Office & Administration; Consulates; Public Relations; Event Organizers; Design & Communications; and Coordination Team. The training also consisted of the background of the current issues around immigration in the Trump era. She gave us examples like that the majority of immigrants are falsely perceived to be Mexican, however; she showed that many people come from South America. What was really troubling to hear is that the immigrants deported from South America are sent to Mexico even though Mexico isn’t their country of origin to begin with. She showed that there is clear discrimination of immigrants and people fail to realize that immigrants offer many contributions to the American Economy.

Ms. Cordova’s first training session was really informative with the issues regarding the current political climate. She also went over issues with the dangers of border crossing and Homeland Security Priority Enforcement Programs. The issues that she covered cemented the reasons why the volunteers were there in the first place. The issues she presented created a need for urgent action and the volunteers showed their humanity in answering that call to action.

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SJPD Crush Youth Protest on J20 by Sharat G. Lin

3_sjpdThree mass actions of nonviolent resistance to newly-inaugurated President Donald Trump in San José, California brought about very different police responses. The Riseup for Justice march on January 20, 2017 (nearly a thousand participants) and the Women’s March on January 21, 2017 (estimated at 30,000) proceeded completely peacefully. However, the Disrupt J20 march by youths on January 20 (fifty participants) was met without warning by brutal police force resulting in three arrests and dispersal of the crowd.

Beginning after dark at 7 pm at San José City Hall, then marching into traffic on Santa Clara Street, San José Police on motorcycles initially moved to block traffic to ensure the safety of the protesters. But after the protesters moved to San Fernando Street, San José Police turned on their motorcycle sirens and drove directly into the marchers. This came without prior warning to get out of the street and move onto the sidewalk. Only after two march participants were arrested did police announce that marchers must stay on the sidewalk or be subject to being charged for blocking traffic. By that time, all protesters were already on the sidewalk. A bicyclist who was participating in the march was also arrested without provocation while fully within a marked bicycle lane.

After the arrests, police continued in hot pursuit of the protesters until the entire march was dispersed.

See the youtube video.

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Super Bowl 50: Super Militarization and Super Inequality by Sharat G. Lin

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The most expensive single sports game on Earth kicked off under unprecedented militarization of the police and the highest levels of inequality since the Great Depression.

As the biggest sporting game in the United States, thousands of law enforcement and security personnel from nearly every conceivable agency have converged on Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California for Super Bowl 50. But the outfits, weapons, vehicles, and communications equipment are increasingly those of the military.

Santa Clara Police were seen dressed in military camouflage and army helmets as if prepared for urban warfare. They were riding around in new all-terrain vehicles purchased especially for the Super Bowl. Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputies wore new green uniforms. A dozen bomb squad units, including units from other counties, were gathered near Levi’s Stadium.

Army humvees were everywhere — guarding rear access to Levi’s Stadium and its parking structure and patrolling the streets. Military police were present with M-16 submachine guns. Army helicopters flew overhead with soldiers ready to jump on a moment’s notice.

Federal law enforcement agencies had set up temporary communications towers in the vicinity of Levi’s Stadium, and a command center nearby.

While a major police presence is not surprising considering the magnitude of the crowds and the intense national visibility of Super Bowl 50, one wonders against whom the police, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Pentagon are apparently preparing for urban warfare?

The 50th Super Bowl in Levi’s Stadium is the easily the single most expensive event to come to Silicon Valley. With an economic impact conservatively estimated at over a billion dollars and game tickets reselling for $4800, Super Bowl 50 stands in contrast to the record numbers of homeless people in the San Francisco Bay Area, unprecedented student debt, continuing cutbacks in public education, and rising socio-economic inequality.

“Super inequality” was the target of protests near Levi’s Stadium and in downtown San José, where demonstrators chanted that “the Super Bowl’s pockets are lined with gold.” Marching around Super Bowl festivities in Plaza de César Chávez, they called for some of the money to be used to solve the homeless crisis and to address poverty and urgent social issues.

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SJPJC Interns for 2015!

patrice head shot bio sjpjc

  Hi, I am Patrice! I am currently taking a break from Sonoma State University from majoring in Political science. I was born in San Jose, but have lived in many places including Sacramento, Maryland and South Korea. I would like to help my community and work on the Latin FilmSeries while I am working at the Peace and Justice Center. I have worked with Rotaract Club of Silicon Valley in the past. In my free time, I like to sew and watch Anime. 

Headshot for sjpjc

Hi, I’m K. Austria! I am from a small island in Washington known as Whidbey Island, and I’m a freshman at San Jose State University.  I’m majoring in journalism, with a minor in human rights studies. I have a passion for social justice, especially issues surrounding people of color and the LGBTQ community.  I am also currently involved with SJSU Q&A. I am excited to learn more about the activist community in San Jose while working at the Peace and Justice Center.  In my spare time I indulge in spoken word poetry, and art history.

 

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From the Streets to the Grave holds candle lit vigil

By K. Austria

Last Saturday, November 14th, a candle light vigil was held in front of San Jose City Hall to commemorate the lives lost in acts of violence.  The vigil did not only pay tribute to victims of violence, but also the families of these victims who were mourning the loss of their loved ones.  The event was put together by Elsa Lopez, the founder of the organization “From the Streets to the Grave”.  During the vigil, Lopez as well as many others shared the names and stories of the loved ones they had lost.  “This vigil is not just for those who have lost someone due to acts of violence.  The holidays are coming up and that’s a very difficult time for families who have lost loved ones, whether it’s from violence, illness, or any other means.”  There were also a variety of hymns sung throughout the vigil, in both Spanish and English.

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Ground the SJPD Drone!

The SJPD Drone – Return It and Get Our Money Back!

Last November the San Jose City Council authorized the purchase of an $8K drone for the Police Department.  This budget item was slipped into the consent calendar and we the people never got a chance to debate whether we want these intrusive spy cameras hovering over our neighborhoods.

San Jose wants to be the first Bay Area city to deploy one of these sneaky toys. The first because San Francisco, Alameda, and San Mateo counties had to drop the idea when the people mobilized to oppose them.

Money for the drone came from the Department of Homeland Security, which is busy militarizing local police departments by providing them with high tech surveillance equipment. SJPD says that the drone will be used by the bomb squad but the ACLU of Northern CA (which has done a great job exposing this issue) says that without any guidelines or oversight, “mission creep” is bound to happen.

We say – send back the drone!  Get our money back and use it to fix potholes!

What do you think?  Let us know your views on the drone.

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DIRT! The Movie

SJPJC Events and Programming Intern Patrice Halcrombe

Over humanity’s long history, we have lost our connection with dirt and doing so, we are destroying the very thing that gives us life. Dirt the Movie explores humanity’s connection with dirt and how to restore our connection back with dirt. The documentary is based on the book Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of Earth written by Bill Logan.  The film showcases many people who are helping to repair dirt. One of the people is Nobel peace prize winner, Professor Maathai who stated a tree planting initiative that later became the Green Belt Movement and assisted in planting more than 20 million trees in Africa.

The documentary made me stop and think about how dependent we are on the things we consider small like dirt and how removed we are from the things that are keeping us alive.  The more I watched the documentary the more I realized that I have been taking dirt for granted. It is a really weird feeling when something I consider insignificant to have played a huge role in my life. Dirt is life. It grows our forests, it is where we build our home and our cities, and most important, it grows our food. Without dirt we could not survive.

Sponsored by Economic Justice Film Series and Veterans for Peace
San Jose Peace and Justice Center| October 20,th 2015

More info…

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Restrict secrecy more than data collection

Restrict secrecy more than data collection

Spencer Graves

     Popular US rhetoric supports democracy. However, US actions have often done the opposite and manufactured enemies in the process. Although downplayed by the mainstream media, there is ample documentation that the US helped destroy democracy in several countries and supported tyranny in other. Figure 1 summarizes some of the best documented cases.

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Figure 1. US support for authoritarian regimes. Red: Countries where the US helped destroy democracy: Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Brazil (1964), Chile (1973), Argentina (1976), Turkey (1980), per Wikipedia, “Covert United States foreign regime change actions. Brown: Countries listed under “Authoritarian Regimes supported” in Wikipedia, “United States support of authoritarian regimes.1

     Are the world’s people, including the US electorate, better off because of the things done in secret? This essay provides a discussion of this issue, outlines recommended reforms, discusses the role of the media, and reviews options for further action by concerned citizens.

The Impact on Current National Security of Previous Secret Actions

     Consider a few more details behind Figure 1: In 1994 the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs with Respect to Export Administration issued a report documenting how Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had received chemical and biological warfare technology from the US in the 1980s, which he had used against Iran, his own Kurds, and US troops in the 1990-91 Gulf War.2 That war removed Iraq from Kuwait, which Iraq had invaded after numerous assurances by the US that it had “no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts.”3

     During the 1990-91 Gulf War, the US moved troops into Saudi Arabia. Many remained after 1991 until it became clear that the suicide mass murders of September 11, 2001, were motivated by the presence of US troops “defiling the holiest land of Islam.”4  Without US troops in Saudi Arabia, alQaeda could not have found 19 men to commit suicide mass murder on September 11, 2001.5

     The record summarized in Figure 1 includes numerous acts of war and crimes against humanity including US support for death squads in many countries. It includes several cases where whistleblowers were persecuted for unauthorized release of documents that were classified in apparent violation of US law6 and one case where public servants were prosecuted because of exposure of documents classified illegally.7 Has anyone been disciplined for using the classification system to illegally hide violations of US law? Perhaps, but any such cases are not as well known.

     We need some government secrecy. Clear examples include design details of weapon systems and details of active military operations.

     However, the US Congress cannot properly discharge its oversight function when public officials lie to Congress and the public. On March 12, 2013, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the NSA did not wittingly collect data on millions of Americans. Ed Snowden knew that was a lie. He also knew that our system of checks and balance cannot function properly when such lies are not challenged. He further believed that no one else was likely to expose this lie if he did not.8

     Currently, however, a national security whistleblower has no reasonable chance of a fair trial in US courts today, according to Daniel Ellsberg and an attorney for Ed Snowden. Ellsberg was the whistleblowers behind the 1970s Pentagon Papers. Those leaks established that US government officials, including President Johnson, made public comments they knew to be false about the situation in Vietnam and elsewhere and were therefore classified in violation of US law. Ellsberg’s judge sustained government objections to virtually everything Ellsberg tried to say, thereby refusing to allow Ellsberg to claim illegal use of the classification system in his defense. The judge nevertheless dismissed the charges against Ellsberg, because the government’s case relied excessively on warrantless searches and other illegal actions. Ellsberg was out on bail talking to anti-war groups while awaiting trial. Manning was tortured in pretrial detention. Snowden cannot expect a fair trial under current US law.9

Role of the Media

     The role of the media in all this is complicated. On the one hand, the mainstream, commercial media in the US is the primary source for virtually any piece of information that reaches a large US audience, including information questioning national security practices.

     On the other hand, the mainstream media rarely publishes much that contradicts the dominant narrative. Herman and Chomsky claim that the role of the media is Manufacturing Consent for the consensus among the elites.10

     The business model of the commercial media is selling behavior change in its audience to advertisers. This is most evident with commercial broadcasting, which receives 100 percent of its revenue from advertising. Major advertisers don’t just want to sell more, they also want the public to remain ignorant of the return they get from their investments in lobbying and political campaigns. This ROI (return on investment) has been estimated in different studies at between $6 and $220 for each $1 “investedin political campaigns and lobbying.11

     Many in the US believe that the media has a liberal bias. Others claim it has a conservative and even reactionary bias. Both are correct: Relative to advertisers and people who can buy the media and fire journalists and prominent media personalities, the media has a liberal bias. Relative to the center 90 percent of the US electorate, the mainstream media has a conservative bias. We should expect this from an industry that must serve two masters: If they lose their audience, they have nothing to sell. If their message is too liberal, they lose advertising and profitability to the point that they either go bankrupt or get bought by someone like General Electric or Westinghouse.

     Recent decades have seen a wave of mergers and acquisitions of major companies. Examples include GE buying NBC12 in 1986 and Westinghouse acquiring CBS13 in 1995.

     Major mergers and acquisitions like these are reported, but the implications are not. Such mergers and acquisitions include both legitimate and illegitimate economies of scale. Legitimate economies of scale include the ability to amortize over larger volumes fixed costs of advertising and developing new products, services, and production processes. Illegitimate economies of scale include the ability to charge higher prices and pay lower wages because of reduced competition14 and making it easier to obtain special favors from government. The latter include tax breaks and subsidies not available to their smaller competitors. As a result, small businesses must pay more taxes to support the infrastructure,15 which includes the foreign and defense policies behind US opposition to democracy summarized in Figure 1.

     Other examples include trade negotiations such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The draft language is classified. This includes sections relating to intellectual property (IP, patents and copyrights). How can more public discussion of IP law harm national security, especially when it’s available to major campaign contributors?16

     Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig insists that current US copyright law stifles creativity, throttling the evolution of culture in violation of the Constitution. He said that Mickey Mouse might not have been created under current copyright law: Mickey’s first commercial success was a 1928 movie, “Steamboat Willie”, whose name was a parody on a Buster Keaton film, “Steamboat Bill, Jr.”, that appeared earlier that year. Under current copyright law, Walt Disney (the creator of Mickey) might have been sued for copyright violation, having produced a “derivative work” of “Steamboat Bill”. Similar lawsuits are less likely today in Japan, where the local culture makes it practically impossible to enforce their copyright law, modeled after the US.17

     Media mergers in recent decades have been accompanied by the virtual elimination of investigative journalism from television, according to media scholar Robert McChesney.18

     The commercial media have a conflict of interest in providing information that might offend advertisers. In addition to the possible loss of advertising mentioned above, it would make it harder to sell public relations campaigns, e.g., asserting that global warming is not due to human activity. Serious discussions of politics have largely disappeared from election-year coverage, because it could make it easier for a candidate to win on issues, thereby potentially reducing advertising revenue.19

     The recent book Capital by leading economics researcher Thomas Piketty notes that the US led the world at the end of the first World War in “confiscatory taxation of excessive incomes”.20 In recent decades, the US has led the world in cutting the top income tax rates; he claims that these cuts in tax rates made it easier for executives to convince their boards (who are mostly selected by those executives) to increase executive compensation. The media have supported the claims that these executives create jobs, in spite of research indicating zero correlation between executive compensation and performance: “[I]t may be useful to recall that the US economy was much more innovative in 1950-1970 than in 1990-2010, … . [S]ince the United States was in both periods at the world technology frontier, this difference must be related to the pace of innovation.21

     One result of these changes is summarized in Figure 2: According to the data summarized there, if the economic growth since 1970 had been broadly shared as it was before, the median American family would take home $47,000 more per year. Thats over $100 per day.22 How much of this increase in inequality can be attributed to how the US media have covered politics? Other advanced industrialized countries have much larger public subsidies for media, controlled by the electorate not advertisers. In Germany and Japan, public subsidies were mandated by Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur, who commanded the occupation and international relief after World War II.23 This difference in how the media are funded doubtless facilitated the cuts in top tax rates just mentioned.

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Figure 2. Evolution of Income Inequality 1947-2012. Between 1947 and 1970, economic growth was broadly shared. Since 1980 the top 0.01% has captured the largest share of the growth, while the incomes of the top 0.5% have not quite grown as fast as average annual income (GDP per capita). The median family income, adjusting for inflation barely increased at all since 1970, losing $45,000 per year relative to what it would have been had it grown at the rate of the average. Thats more than $100 per day.24

     But the effects of media bias are not limited to the increase in income inequality displayed in Figure 2. Major media executives were also complicit in creating the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003: Leading journalists and television personalities in the US and Britain were fired for raising too many questions about whether Iraq had the weapons of mass destruction the US government claimed.25 Iraq had obtained that technology from the US in the 1980s, as noted above, though that fact was omitted from mainstream coverage in 2002 and 2003.

Suggested Reforms

     Steven Aftergood, Director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, published a careful review of actions dating back to 1956 to try to understand and improve the management of government secrets.  This included several high level commissions, each of which recommended reforms that were never implemented.26

     Under the current system, some bureaucrats and military officers can use the classification system to hide waste, criminality, and even clandestine acts of war and opposition to democracy in foreign countries.  A well-known example of this was the Iran-Contra affair. This involved the secret sale of US arms to Iran to obtain funds for the Contra fighting the government of Nicaragua in direct violation of US law regarding both Iran and Nicaragua.27

The role of the media in Iran-Contra is complex, consistent with the previous comments about the media. Without current standards for freedom of the press, few people in the US would likely have heard of this. However, the media was also complicit in creating the environment that encouraged administration officials to violate the law as they did. They routinely disseminated comments by administration officials describing the Nicaraguan government as a Communist dictatorship while largely suppressing information about the 1984 Nicaraguan elections, described as free and fair by international observers.28

     Aftergood quoted former FBI Director and former Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) William Webster as saying, the “classification system is broken and is a barrier … for not sharing pertinent information with homeland security partners”.

     However, the Iran-Contra affair combined with the history summarized in Figure 1 and similar sources suggests that many violations of US law and even acts of war against foreign powers are often hidden in official secrets and largely suppressed by the mainstream media unless there is a substantial division among ruling elites. Secret violations of US law are rarely exposed unless a public servant (like Ellsberg, Manning, or Snowden29) put his or her career and sometimes life on the line to provide that information to the public.

     “On the other hand, Aftergood continued, “… a small number of secrecy reform initiatives have yielded measurable differences … . Nothing should ever be classified in the absence of an identifiable threat to national security. Declassification authority must be extended beyond the originating agency so as to mitigate the tendency toward bureaucratic secrecy. Other checks and balances on classification could be added to provide opportunities to identify and correct classification errors. … The benefits of renewed sunlight for the health of our democracy are likely to be abundant.”30

      Combining Aftergood’s comments with the analysis of the media above suggests a need for legislation containing reforms like the following:

  1. Every classified document should be accompanied by an unclassified explanation of how national security would be threatened by release of that information.31
  2. Congressional oversight committees should have the authority to declassify documents they feel are inappropriately classified. Congress, not the administration, should be the ultimate authority on potential damages to national security.32
  3. The government should be required to convince a jury of a plausible connection to national security before any journalist can be compelled to reveal sources and before any alleged whistleblower can be prosecuted. No defendant in a national security case can get a fair trial as long as judges suppress any challenge to whether the information in question was legally classified.

     The mainstream media was a primary driver of the events summarized in Figures 1 and 2. Few politicians can get elected challenging the orthodoxy presented in the media. The future of humanity could be impacted greatly by any reforms of the system for managing classified information in the US.

 

What Can Concerned Citizens Do?

     Concerned citizens can do the following:

1. Inform yourselves: Seek sources of information not tainted by the profit motive of the commercial media conglomerates in the US (especially ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, Fox). This includes citizen-funded source like Democracy Now,33 Pacifica Radio,34 the Investigative News Network,35 and Wikimedia projects like Wikipedia, Wikinews, and Wikiversity, plus sources with alternative funding like Omidyar’s First Look Media36 and Al Jazeera.37 Every source has biases. Seek out sources that sometimes contradict your preconceptions.

2. Support organizations that are fighting excessive secrecy. These include the following:

  • Federation of American Scientists (www.fas.org/sgp), whose Project on Government Secrecy and “Secrecy News” blog provides one of the most carefully researched perspectives available on this issue.38

  • National Security Archive (www.nsarchive.org), which holds “the largest repository of declassified U.S. documents outside of the federal government.”39

  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU,www.aclu.org), whose stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”40

  • Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF, www.eff.org), an international non-profit digital rights group involved in litigation, research and advocacy to promote personal freedoms against government encroachment and strategic lawsuits against public participation.41

  • Freedom of the Press Foundation (https://pressfreedomfoundation.org), whose mission is to “promote and fund aggressive, public-interest journalism focused on exposing mismanagement, corruption, and law-breaking in government”.42

  • Americans for Less Secrecy, More Democracy (openthegovernment.org), which “seeks to advance the public’s right to know and to reduce unnecessary secrecy in government.”43

  • Electronic Privacy Information Center (http://epic.org and privacy.org), which “works to protect privacy, freedom of expression, democratic values, and to promote the Public Voice in decisions concerning the future of the Internet.”44

3. Contribute research and commentary to Wikimedia projects including the debate in the “Freedom and abundance” project on Wikiversity.45

A note on notes

     I routinely cite my sources. This helps me avoid silly errors while also allowing readers to dig more deeply into any point that seems to conflict with their preconceptions and other sources. I often cite Wikipedia. It’s far from perfect. However, it has a well-earned reputation built on an effective system for inviting contributions from anyone and moderating disputes by asking people to write from a neutral point of view, cite sources, and assume good faith in others.

Conclusions

     Public officials insist that they must do these things in secret, because the world is so dangerous. The evidence summarized here suggests that the world may be so dangerous more because of rather than in spite of things the US government has done in secret.

     A serious debate about these issues is long overdue. The future of humanity may depend on the outcome.

Acknowledgments

     This article and the companion 60-second video46 benefited from suggestions by Betsy Wolf-Graves, Bruce Preville, Steven Aftergood, Henrietta Burroughs, and Pablo Ghenis. They would not necessarily endorse the contents, but the author benefited from discussions with them.

1 Accessed 2014-06-29. There are doubtless other countries not on the lists used for Figure 1 where the documentation is not (yet) incontrovertible or where that case has not (yet) been entered into those lists. Anyone can edit almost any Wikipedia article — and anyone can revert almost any edit. Edits that remain are primarily written from a neutral point of view citing credible sources. Wikipedia has a well-earned reputation for credibility, primarily because most of Wikipedia’s volunteer editors follow these simple rules, assuming good faith on the part of others, discussing disagreements based on available evidence and established rules.

2 Wikipedia, “Reigle Report”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riegle_Report”, accessed 2014-07-09.

3 Wikipedia, “April Glaspie”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Glaspie”, accessed 2014-07-09.

4 Zbigniew Brzezinski, The choice : global domination or global leadership (Book Book, 2004, p. 45).

5 The strongest evidence for this comes from research by Robert Pape, who led a project that created a database of all the incidents of suicide terrorism anywhere in the world since World War II. They found over 2,100 suicide attacks, 98.5 percent of which involved a foreign occupation. Wikipedia, “Robert Pape”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Pape#Cutting_the_Fuse“, accessed 2014-07-09.

6 In the US, “a wide variety of federal and state laws protect employees who call attention to violations, help with enforcement proceedings, or refuse to obey unlawful directions.” Wikipedia, “Whistleblower”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whistleblower#United_States”. This includes the “Department of Defense Whistleblower Program”, which investigates reports of fraud, waste and abuse in government operations plus complaints of retaliation for filing a complaint. Wikipedia, “Department of Defense Whistleblower Program”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Department_of_Defense_Whistleblower_Program”. However, Ed Snowden stated that before he leaked classified documents, “he had reported policy or legal issues related to spying programs to more than 10 officials,” and had no further legal options. Then after “seeing the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress”, Snowden concluded that Congress could not properly discharge its oversight function with the fraudulent information they were getting, and only he had a chance of remedying the situation. Wikipedia, “Edward Snowden”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Snowden”. In August 2013 Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning was sentenced to 35 years for releasing to Wikileaks documents she believed were illegally classified. Wikipedia, “Chelsea Manning”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelsea_Manning”. Wikileaks editor-in-chief, Jullian Assange, has been granted political asylum by Ecuador and has lived since 2012 in their embassy in London. Wikipedia, “Jullian Assange”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Assange”. “[O]n December 10, CIA officer Kiriakou disclosed that the agency waterboarded detainees and that this constituted torture. He was convicted of releasing classified information and sentenced, on January 25, 2013, to 30 months”, Wikipedia, “List of whistleblowers”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_whistleblowers“. Torture is illegal and punishable within the US. Wikipedia, “Torture in the United States”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torture_in_the_United_States”, accessed 2014-07-18. Thus, the reality in the US is that those guilty of crimes, including using the classification system to cover up crimes, are promoted while those who report those crimes are punished.

7 Wikipedia, “Iran–Contra affair”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran%E2%80%93Contra_affair”, accessed 2014-07-09. Those prosecuted were NOT prosecuted for inappropriate use of the classification system to conceal crimes, only for the crimes they sought to conceal.

8 Wikipedia, “Edward Snowden”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Snowden”, accessed 2014-07-09.

9 Daniel Ellsberg, “Daniel Ellsberg: Snowden would not get a fair trial – and Kerry is wrong”, The Guardian, 30 May 2014, “http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/30/danielellsbergsnowdenfairtrialkerryespionageact”. The situation is worse today due to changes in law that include the “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978”, and the “Patriot Act”, among others. See, e.g., the Wikipedia articles by those titles, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_Intelligence_Surveillance_Act”, and “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriot_Act”, accessed 2014-07-10. Should US law be changed to allow whistleblowers like Ellsberg, Kiriakou, Manning and Snowden a reasonable chance to claim illegal classification as defense against illegally releasing classified information?

10 Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: the political economy of the mass media (Pantheon, 1988). Wikipedia, “Manufacturing Consent”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manufacturing_Consent”, accessed 2014-07-18.

11 Wikiversity, “Documenting crony capitalism”, “https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Documenting_crony_capitalism”, accessed 2014-07-11.

12 Wikipedia, “NBC”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBC”, accessed 2014-07-12.

13 “The Westinghouse Electric Corporation acquired the network in 1995 and eventually adopted the name of the company it had bought”, Wikipedia, “CBS”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CBS”, accessed 2014-07-12. .

14 Wikipedia, “Oligopoly”: “An oligopoly is a market form in which a market or industry is dominated by a small number of sellers (oligopolists). Oligopolies can result from various forms of collusion which reduce competition and lead to higher prices for consumers.” “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oligopoly”, accessed 2014-07-12.

15 Wikipedia, “Infrastructure”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrastructure”, accessed 2014-07-12.

16 Timothy B. Lee, “Obama administration sued over its secretive trade negotiations”, Washington Post, “www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/theswitch/wp/2013/12/18/obamaadministrationsuedoveritssecretivetradenegotiations”, accessed 2014-07-12. The commercial media do report occasionally on issues like this, However,

17 Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture (2004); see also Wikipedia, “Free Culture (book)”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Culture_%28book%29”, accessed 2014-07-12.

18 Robert McChesney, The Problem of the Media (Monthly Review Press, 2004, p. 81); see also Wikiversity, “Documenting Crony Capitalism”, “https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Documenting_crony_capitalism”, accessed 2014-07-12.

19 John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney, Dollarocracy (Nation Books, 2013).

20 Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Belknap, pp. 505-508).

21 op. cit., pp. 508-514.

22 Wikiversity, “Documenting Crony Capitalism”, “https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Documenting_crony_capitalism”, accessed 2014-07-12.  The self-proclaimed “job creators” like Mitt Romney might insist that we would not have had as much economic growth without this increase in income inequality. However, the data seem to contradict this claim, as noted by Piketty, quoted above.

23 Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, The Death and Life of American Journalism (Nation Books, 2010, Appendix II. Ike, MacArthur and the Forging of Free and Independent Press, pp. 241-254). In the summer of 1945, Eisenhower “called in German reporters and told them he wanted a free press. If he made decisions that they disagreed with, he wanted them to say so in print. The reporters having been under the Nazi regime since 1933, were astonished”. McChesney and Nichols compared the attitude and results with the occupation of Iraq following the US-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein, which accepted no criticism.

24 “incomeInequality” data in the “Ecdat” package available from the Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN, r-project.org). This combines data from three sources: [1] United States Census Bureau, Table F-1. [2] Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez (2003) “Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998”, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118(1) 1-39. [3] Louis Johnston and Samuel H. Williamson (2011) “What Was the U.S. GDP Then?” MeasuringWorth. See also Wikiversity, “https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Documenting_crony_capitalism”, accessed 2014-07-12.

25 Prominent television personality Phil Donahue was fired by MSNBC a month before the invasion, because “he opposed the imminent [invasion and] would be a ‘difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.’” BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan and BBC chairman Gavyn Davies and director-general Greg Dyke were resigned under fire for claiming that the British government had “sexed up” a report claiming Saddam Hussein had WMDs. Wikipedia, “Phil Donahue”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Donahue” and “Hutton Inquiry”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hutton_Inquiry”, accessed 2014-07-12.

26 Steven Aftergood (2009), “Reducing Government Secrecy: Finding What Works”, Yale Law & Policy Review, 27:399-416, “http://fas.org/sgp/eprint/aftergood.pdf”, accessed 2009-02-01.

27 US law at the time embargoed the sale of arms to Iran and prohibited the use of US funds to support the Contra, who were fighting the established government in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan government at the time was brought into power by a popular rebellion against the Somoza dictatorship, which had been brought to power by the US to support international business interests there. Criminal charges were brought against five individuals for their support of the Contras. Those charges, however, were later dropped because the administration refused to declassify certain documents. Wikipedia, “Iran-Contra affair”, “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran%E2%80%93Contra_affair“, accessed 2014-07-25.

28 Wikipedia, “Nicaragua”, “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicaragua“, accessed 2014-07-25.

29 Another example is Watergate, which might never have come to light without a high level administration official risking his career and perhaps his life to provide information to journalists. See Wikipedia, “Deep Throat (Watergate)”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Throat_%28Watergate%29”, accessed 2014-07-09.

30 Steven Aftergood (2009) “Reducing Government Secrecy: Finding What Works”, Yale Law & Policy Review, 27:399-416, “http://fas.org/sgp/eprint/aftergood.pdf”, accessed 2009-02-01. Aftergood doesn’t say this, but we could ask whether US congressional committees should be officially allowed to declassify documents on their own initiative. Such a change would respond to concerns that the US system of checks and balances currently gives too much power to the executive branch. JonathanTurley, “Authorization to Initiate Litigation for Actions by the President Inconsistent with His Duties Under the Constitution of The United States”, testimony July 16, 2014, Committee on Rules, United States House of Representatives, “https://jonathanturley.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/testimonyturleyhouserulescommittee.pdf”, accessed 2014-07-18.

31 This could make it harder for the government to keep information from the public that is provided to campaign contributors, as discussed with “free trade” above.

32 One member of the US Congress complained that anyone who listens to a classified briefing is required not to discuss it in public. In this way the administration effectively stifles dissent by many elected officials.

33 Wikipedia, “Democracy Now!”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Now!”, accessed 2014-07-16.

34 Wikipedia, “Pacifica Radio”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacifica_Radio”, accessed 2014-07-16.

35 Wikipedia, “Investigative News Network”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Investigative_News_Network”, accessed 2014-07-16.

36 Wikipedia, “First Look Media”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Look_Media”, accessed 2014-07-16.

37 Wikipedia, “Al Jazeera”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_jazeera”, accessed 2014-07-16.

38 Wikipedia, “Federation of American Scientists”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federation_of_American_Scientists”, accessed 2014-07-17.

39 Wikipedia, “National Security Archive”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Security_Archive”, accessed 2014-07-16.

40 Wikipedia, “American Civil Liberties Union”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aclu”, accessed 2014-07-16.

41 Wikipedia, “Electronic Frontier Foundation”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_Frontier_Foundation”, accessed 2014-07-16.

42 Wikipedia, “Freedom of the Press Foundation”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_the_Press_Foundation”, accessed 2014-07-17.

43 Americans for Less Secrecy, More Democracy, “http://openthegovernment.org/we_believe”, accessed 2014-07-17.

44 Wikipedia, “Electronic Privacy Information Center”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_Privacy_Information_Center”, accessed 2014-07-17.

45 Wikiversity, “Freedom and abundance”, “https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Freedom_and_abundance”, accessed 2014-07-15.

46 YouTube, “Restrict secrecy more than data collection”, “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cV8mHfu3mDw”, accessed 2014-07-17.

Uncategorized

Restrict government secrecy not data collection

I don’t care what data anyone collects on me: I care what they do. I care about the use of secrecy rules to conceal stupid blunders, criminality, and attacks on democracy.

 

The public needs the government to keep certain information secret. Examples include designs of weapon systems and details of active, legal operations by security forces.

 

However, other government secrets threaten democracy and US national security.

 

For example, are we better off today because Homeland Security was too busy monitoring the Occupy movement to properly investigate leads involving Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the primary figure in the Boston Marathon bombing?1 Is the world safer, because the US invaded Iraq in 2003 on erroneous allegations that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)? The 1994 Riegle Report of the US Senate documented how the Reagan administration had provided WMDs to Saddam Hussein, who had used them against US troops in 1990-91 Persian Gulf War.2 However, in the run up to the 2003 invasion, the source of Saddam’s WMDs was rarely if ever mentioned in the mainstream US media, and the US invaders were unable to find evidence that Hussein still had WMDs.

 

Similarly, the US secretly supported the destruction of democracy in Iran in 1953,3 Guatemala in 1954,4 Brazil in 1964,5 and Chile in 1973,6 and approved the cancellations of elections in Cuba7 in 1952 and Vietnam8 in 1956 because the candidate favored by the US was expected to lose.

 

We live in a dangerous world. Have these actions made us more safe or less?

 

These actions were facilitated by a combination of (a) government secrecy rules (b) timidity of the mainstream media in the US in questioning these events, and (c) the failure of the US public to actively seek information about these kinds of actions by their government.

 

Obama’s new secrecy policy9 merely changes the shade of lipstick on the pig without impacting the willingness or ability of government bureaucrats to disrupt nonviolent political activity and deprive people of life, liberty and property without due process of law at home and abroad.

 

I believe US national security could be enhanced by changes like the following:

 

  1. Common citizens should stop following commercial broadcasting (especially ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox), because their business model is selling behavior change in their audience to advertisers.10 The US public thinks they don’t pay for the content in television. They are mistaken. They pay for it in the excessive cost of national defense including making the world more dangerous not less,11 in the growing complexity of the US tax code12 and in thousands of hidden subsidies that major advertisers get from government policies that are under reported. That includes approving mergers and acquisitions that reduce competition, thereby driving up prices for goods and services.13 It includes the complexity of so-called “free trade” agreements, which are typically kept secret from the electorate but available to major campaign contributors.14 Only the ultra-wealthy can afford the high cost of playing in this arena. Those who control major advertising budgets get returns estimated at between $6 and $220 for each $1 invested in lobbying and political campaigns.15 These returns far exceed those available from any other investment. These massive returns are paid by small businesses and individuals. They have contributed to the substantial increase in income inequality in the US over the past 40 years – an increase of $39,000 per year or $100 per day for the typical (median) American family.16

 

  1. Change the law to limit government secrets to the designs of weapons systems and current operations by military and other security forces. We need a strong, effective national defense. We don’t need a military that cannot pass audits17 nor one with substantial portions of its budget being secret,18 nor one that manufactures enemies faster than they can be neutralized.19

 

  1. Strengthen the law protecting whistleblowers so people like Ed Snowden and Pfc Manning don’t need to risk incarceration to expose criminal behavior in government. This includes providing substantive criminal penalties for government managers who try to punish employees who question the use of the classification system to keep from the public information that may embarrass specific individuals but runs no major risk of substantive damage to the national security.20 (And redefine “national security” to exclude favors to campaign contributors.)

 

  1. Reduce the ability of government to coerce journalists to reveal their sources.21 The public has a need to know about violations of law and ethics by public officials. That need to know exceeds the public interest in any particular judicial proceeding. Journalist should not be used an extension of the prosecution or defense. This is especially true in issues of national security. For example, Al Qaeda and all other non-state terrorist organizations are not major international powers and cannot threaten the internal security of the United States.22 During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and China were major powers, though their strength was a fraction of that claimed by the US government and the media. We need a much more vigorous debate about public issues than we have now.

 

The most important of these changes, I believe, is the first: giving commercial broadcasting the disrespect it has earned. If a critical mass of the electorate starts searching and paying for honest information about politics, they will more likely vote in ways that open doors to improving many currently intractable problems and reversing the trend to increasing income inequality.23

 

Spencer Graves; spencer.graves@effectivedefense.org

Copyright 2014 under the Creative Commons Attribution, Share-Alike license (CC-by-sa)

 

1Dexter Mullins, “Little oversight at nation’s terrorism watch centers”, Al Jazeera, 2013-12-10 (http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/12/10/little-oversightconsistencyatnationsterrorismwatchcenters.html). This article is based on Michael Price (2013) National security and local police (Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law (www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/publications/NationalSecurity_LocalPolice_web.pdf) and on other comments by Price. Price said, “We know the FBI conducted an investigation of Tamerlan, … and three months later he was implicated in a pretty gruesome triple homicide. And it doesn’t appear that the local fusion center was aware of this, or at least we don’t know if they or the FBI was aware of this … . [A]t the time this was going on, the fusion center was fixated on monitoring Occupy Boston protesters”. A cynic might argue that this is a proper allocation of resources for people in power, because Occupy represented small but real possibilities to limit increasing government support for the wealthy, while a real bombing could help justify increasing the budget for Homeland Security.

2Wikipedia, “Riegle Report” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riegle_Report, accessed 2014-01-21).

3Wikipedia, “1953 Iranian coup d’état” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1953_Iranian_coup_d’%C3%A9tat)

4Wikipedia, “1954 Guatemalan coup d’état” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1954_Guatemalan_coup_d’%C3%A9tat). The leading Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara was in Guatemala City at the time of this coup. He became convinced that the United States would “oppose and attempt to destroy any government that sought to redress the socioeconomic inequality endemic to Latin America and other developing countries.” Wikipedia, “Che Guevara” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Che_Guevara).

5Wikipedia, “1964 Brazilian coup d’état” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1964_Brazilian_coup_d’%C3%A9tat) The current Brazilian head of state, Dilma Rousseff, was torturned by the government installed on orders from US President Lyndon Johnson. Wikipedia, “Dilma Rousseff” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dilma_Rousseff)

6Wikipedia, “1973 Chilean coup d’état” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_Chilean_coup_d’%C3%A9tat)

7Wikipedia, “Fulgencio Batista” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fulgencio_Batista) and “Partido Ortodoxo” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partido_Ortodoxo) Fidel Castro was running for a minor political office in the 1952 elections. When those elections were canceled, he became a revolutionary, apparently convinced that the US would pervert any democratic system installed in Cuba to prevent it from benefitting the Cuban poor.

8Wikipedia, “Geneva Conference (1954)” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geneva_Conference_(1954)).

9Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, “Obama calls for significant changes in collection of phone records of U.S. citizens”, Washington Post, 2013-01-17 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-speech-obama-to-call-for-restructuring-of-nsas-surveillance-program/2014/01/17/e9d5a8ba-7f6e-11e3-95c6-0a7aa80874bc_story.html) These are changes in executive orders and could as easily be reversed in the future without a public announcement. In particular, they do not have the force of law.

10Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky (1988) Manufacturing consent: the political economy of the mass media (Pantheon Books).

11Wikipedia, “Chalmers Johnson”, esp. “The Blowback series” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chalmers_Johnson). Johnson predicted an event like the suicide mass murders of September 11, 2001, but thought it would come from Asia, not the Middle East; Johnson was an expert on Asia. ‘Johnson believed that the enforcement of American hegemony over the world constitutes a new form of global empire. … “I was a cold warrior. … I believed the Soviet Union was a genuine menace. I still think so.” At the same time, however, he experienced a political awakening after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, noting that instead of demobilizing its armed forces, the US accelerated its reliance on military solutions to problems both economic and political. The result of this militarism … is more terrorism against the U.S. and its allies, the loss of core democratic values at home, and an eventual disaster for the American economy.’

12Between 1955 and 2005, the total number of words in US federal tax code and regulations increased from 1.4 to over 9 million. The impact of those changes on the distribution of income in the US is unknown. Between 1955 and 1970, the benefits of productivity growth were broadly shared. Since 1970, most of the benefits have gone to the ultra wealthy. Some suspect that these tax code changes contributed to the increases in income inequality since 1970, but they are clearly not the whole story. Tax Foundation, “Number of Words in Internal Revenue Code and Federal Tax Regulations, 1955-2005” (http://taxfoundation.org/article/number-words-internal-revenue-code-and-federal-tax-regulations-1955-2005); Wikiversity, “Documenting crony capitalism” (https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Documenting_crony_capitalism).

13In free markets an economic transaction can occur whenever the value to a consumer exceeds the cost to a producer. An economic transaction (purchase by a consumer, sale by a producer) can occur at any price between the value to the consumer and the cost to the producer. “In perfectly competitive markets, market participants have no market power.” (Wikipedia, “Market power”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_power) However, with a few producers and many consumers, the producers set the price to maximize their profits, often denying many potential consumers the opportunity to purchase at a price acceptable to them, even though a competitive market could deliver an option at a price they could afford. (Wikipedia, “Oligopoly”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oligopoly) Similar economic problems occur in markets with many producers and few buyers, as with labor markets (Wikipedia, “Oligopsony”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oligopsony). United States antitrust law requires US government approval for mergers and acquisitions that could potentially harm consumers. (Wikipedia, “United States antitrust law”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_antitrust_law)

14On 23 May 2012, United States Senator Ron Wyden complained that, “The majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the [Trans-Pacific Partnership] negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations—like Halliburton, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America—are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement.” Wikipedia, “Trans-Pacific Partnership” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-Pacific_Partnership)

15Lawrence Lessig (2011) Republic, Lost (Twelve, esp. p. 117). Lessig cites several different studies of the returns obtained by different industries with numbers ranging from $6 to $220 for each $1 invested in lobbying and political campaigns.

16Wikiversity, “Documenting crony capitalism” (https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Documenting_crony_capitalism)

17The Government Accountability Office was unable to provide audit judgments of US military expenditures for at least the fiscal years between 1998 and 2011. Wikipedia, “Military budget of the United States” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States)

18Wikipedia, “Black budget” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_budget)

19See for example the 2013 book and movie Dirty Wars by Jeromy Scahill. Wikipedia, “Dirty Wars” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_Wars)

20United States law allows the government to classify as confidential, secret or top secret information that would “damage” national security if publicly disclosed without the proper authorization. This has been interpreted to support classifying information whose disclosure “might have adverse effect on public opinion or result in legal suits.” That suggests the US public is an enemy. Wikipedia, “Classified information in the United States” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classified_information_in_the_United_States)

21The public has a right and a need to know what its government is doing, especially regarding actions that work to suppress democracy and limit dissent at home and abroad, as indicated in the examples previously cited. Some stated have statutes to protect journalists, but the US federal government does not. Wikipedia, “Shield laws in the United States” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shield_laws_in_the_United_States) and “Category:Journalists imprisoned for refusing to reveal sources” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Journalists_imprisoned_for_refusing_to_reveal_sources)

22Immediately after September 11, 2001, people all over the world gathered, expressing solidarity with the US. Al Qaeda was essentially dead at that moment. If the US had reacted with a criminal investigation, people all over the world would have reported suspicious activities. Instead, the US used that as an excuse to go to war. The resulting death and destruction in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere manufactured new recruits for Al Qaeda and reduced the willingness of people to report possible terrorist activities, as noted by Jeremy Scahill, cited above.

23Commercial broadcasting makes money by selling behavior change in their audience to advertisers. They keep their audiences with content that rarely questions actions benefiting major advertising, broadcasting just enough negative information about those with wealth and power to retain an aura of objectivity. However, many major problems remain intractable primarily because the public receives very little information about hidden subsidies. In addition to the national security concerns previously mentioned, the prison population in the US is five times what it was forty years ago. The only change I know during that period that can explain such a change is the increased concentration of ownership of the media combined with the virtual elimination of investigative journalism (except for a few programs like “60 Minutes”) and filling the gap with the crime stories. Meanwhile, the changes in actual crime have been tiny by comparison. The latter have been best measured by The National Victimization Survey, which asks about personal victimization; it is thereby largely unaffected by people’s willingness to report crime to police. Changes in criminal law are driven by people’s perceptions of crime, which is primarily a function of the media they consume. See, e.g., Vincent F. Sacco (2005) When Crime Waves (Sage). Problems with our public education and health systems are perpetuated, in large part because the commercial media would lose advertising revenue if they provided too much honest information about the issues – and they don’t lose enough audience from their low quality coverage to counter the substantial losses they could anticipate from disseminating more honest information. Progress against global warming has been stalled for a quarter century, because large corporations and trade groups from the oil, coal and auto industries invested heavily in pseudo-scientific research and “to cast doubt on the science, characterizing it as junk science, and therefore to turn public opinion against any calls for government intervention”. This in turn means that commercial broadcasting could lose money if they provided too much publicity for the real science, as these large corporations and trade groups would likely spend less with them on “public relations” and advertising. Wikipedia, “Climate change denial” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_denial) More generally, “Research demonstrates that in those democratic nations with well-funded and prominent nonprofit and noncommercial broadcasting systems, political knowledge tends to be relatively higher than in nations without substantial public broadcasting”, according to Nichols and McChesney (2013) Dollarocracy (Nation Books, p. 139). Nichols and McChesney also stated (p. 155), “commercial broadcasters have little incentive to give away for free what has become a major source of profit for them.”