A Day Without a Woman

This was written by Kevin, a spring 2017 intern at San Jose Peace and Justice Center after attending the Day without a Woman’s Rally at San Jose City Hall on March 8, 2017. The opinions in this post are his.

On March 8, 2017, A Day Without a Women Rally was held in front of San Jose City Hall. A large amount of men and women were in attendance in support of the cause. Many of supporters wore red and held signs to symbolize the “revolutionary love and sacrifice” in regards to the history of the labor movement. Thus, men and women wore red to show their solidarity to the event. The coordinators of the event encouraged the message of “Keeping the Momentum Going!” Therefore, the emphasis of voicing out one’s opinion was emboldened in order for politicians to know our stand on specific policies and actions.

Before attending this event, I never took part in any activist work. However, once I arrived at San Jose City Hall, I felt a sense of unity and support for one another. I never knew what activist work was and how it worked, but after attending this event I realized that being heard and standing up for what you strongly believe in is what really matters. This event was very important because it focused on many areas that are very concerning in today’s society. In fact, our newly elected President, Donald Trump, has voiced his negative opinions about women, immigrants and other controversial matters. Many of his remarks were degrading, outrageous, and unnecessary. Thus, this rally encourages us to stand together and use our voices to be heard.

I learned that reforms and changes in society do not happen quickly. Also, there are many issues that are not addressed and are often set aside by politicians and other higher authorities. However, everyone has a voice and should (and can) express their concerns and opinions because “We the People” have that as a right. Moreover, I’ve also learned that it’s those little changes that motivate us to move forward and keep pushing for what we believe is right.


Introductions – 2017 Office Team Interns

By Michele Mashburn, Coordinator

I am honored to have my first set of interns this semester (Spring 2017). After a bumpy start, they are all working hard on different projects for the Center. They are all hard workers and talented in many ways. This semester is going by too fast but I know they all have a bright future ahead of them.

From social media research to a movie night to an upcoming Open House, they are helping the Center with many projects and tasks. The movie night is on April 13th from 7 to 9 pm: Rosewater. Look soon for information about the Open House on May 4th.

So let’s meet the interns:

A is for Andy…


Hello there, my name is Andy and I am one of the Spring 2017 “Office Team” Interns at the San Jose Peace and Justice Center! I am currently a senior in my final semester at San Jose State University, majoring in Justice Studies with a minor in Human Rights. Additionally, I am the Vice President of Alpha Phi Sigma Iota Chapter, the National Criminal Justice Honor Society and a member of Forensic Science Students Club. Outside of school, I have coached high school wrestling for 7 years, and have 11 years of experience in the sport as well. My hobbies include hanging out with friends, adventuring new places and cuisine, and watching movies & TV shows on both Netflix and Hulu. Some of my academic interests include the Media, Management within the Criminal Justice System, and Juvenile Delinquency.

G is for GM…


Hello, my name is GM. I am a student at San Jose State University majoring in Justice  Studies. This Spring semester, I am an intern at San Jose Peace and Justice Center (in BOTH the “Office Team” and the “Immigration Relief Project”). I am a member of the Alpha Phi Sigma National Criminal Justice Honor Society. I will be graduating this year. My interests include anything outdoor related including: Football, Basketball, and the occasional hike. I also love to spend time at the gym and reading. Although I haven’t read a book in a while, I want to start reading again because books are a great way to gain knowledge while being entertained.

My free time is usually spent outside or watching movies and TV shows. I also love spending time with my family in our backyard having barbecues on the weekends. Oh, and let’s not forget that I enjoy watching professional sports: My favorite teams are the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Chargers.

K is for Kevin…

Hello, My name is Kevin and I am currently a student at San Jose State IMG_2791University with a major in Justice Studies. This Spring semester, I am one of the “Office Team” interns at San Jose Peace and Justice Center. Also, I am an active member of the Alpha Phi Sigma National Criminal Justice Honor Society. When I am not in school, I spend most of my time with family, friends, and playing sports. Therefore, I am a basketball enthusiast who is a huge fan of the Los Angeles Lakers. I also love being in the outdoors and trying new things. I am originally from America’s Finest City, San Diego, which means that I love Mexican food, beaches, and sunny weather. One thing that not a lot of people know about me is that I’m a very shy person at first, but once you get to know me, I am actually very outgoing and love to make people laugh.

N is for Nikki…

image2Hello. My name is Nikki and I am an “Office Team” Intern with San Jose Peace & Justice Center this Spring 2017. I am a senior at San Jose State University and will be getting my Bachelors of Science in Justice Studies this year. I am an Iranian-American and as an immigrant I am very interested in human rights and immigration issues.

In my free time, I like to spend time with my loved ones (family, friends, and my dog), read books, hike, go to the beach, watch movies, listen to music, watch soccer, and explore the area.


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.


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.


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


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.



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.



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.


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…


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.


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.


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 (, 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 (, which holds “the largest repository of declassified U.S. documents outside of the federal government.”39

  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU,, 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,, 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 (, 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 (, which “seeks to advance the public’s right to know and to reduce unnecessary secrecy in government.”43

  • Electronic Privacy Information Center ( and, 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.


     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.


     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”, “”, accessed 2014-07-09.

3 Wikipedia, “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”, ““, 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”, “”. 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”, “”. 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”, “”. 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”, “”. 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”, “”. “[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”, ““. Torture is illegal and punishable within the US. Wikipedia, “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”, “”, 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”, “”, 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, “”. 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, “”, and “”, 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”, “”, accessed 2014-07-18.

11 Wikiversity, “Documenting crony capitalism”, “”, accessed 2014-07-11.

12 Wikipedia, “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”, “”, 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.” “”, accessed 2014-07-12.

15 Wikipedia, “Infrastructure”, “”, accessed 2014-07-12.

16 Timothy B. Lee, “Obama administration sued over its secretive trade negotiations”, Washington Post, “”, 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)”, “”, accessed 2014-07-12.

18 Robert McChesney, The Problem of the Media (Monthly Review Press, 2004, p. 81); see also Wikiversity, “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”, “”, 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, 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, “”, 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”, “” and “Hutton Inquiry”, “”, accessed 2014-07-12.

26 Steven Aftergood (2009), “Reducing Government Secrecy: Finding What Works”, Yale Law & Policy Review, 27:399-416, “”, 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”, ““, accessed 2014-07-25.

28 Wikipedia, “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)”, “”, accessed 2014-07-09.

30 Steven Aftergood (2009) “Reducing Government Secrecy: Finding What Works”, Yale Law & Policy Review, 27:399-416, “”, 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, “”, 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!”, “!”, accessed 2014-07-16.

34 Wikipedia, “Pacifica Radio”, “”, accessed 2014-07-16.

35 Wikipedia, “Investigative News Network”, “”, accessed 2014-07-16.

36 Wikipedia, “First Look Media”, “”, accessed 2014-07-16.

37 Wikipedia, “Al Jazeera”, “”, accessed 2014-07-16.

38 Wikipedia, “Federation of American Scientists”, “”, accessed 2014-07-17.

39 Wikipedia, “National Security Archive”, “”, accessed 2014-07-16.

40 Wikipedia, “American Civil Liberties Union”, “”, accessed 2014-07-16.

41 Wikipedia, “Electronic Frontier Foundation”, “”, accessed 2014-07-16.

42 Wikipedia, “Freedom of the Press Foundation”, “”, accessed 2014-07-17.

43 Americans for Less Secrecy, More Democracy, “”, accessed 2014-07-17.

44 Wikipedia, “Electronic Privacy Information Center”, “”, accessed 2014-07-17.

45 Wikiversity, “Freedom and abundance”, “”, accessed 2014-07-15.

46 YouTube, “Restrict secrecy more than data collection”, “”, accessed 2014-07-17.