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 (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.


     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”, “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.


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.”


International Conference For A WMD-Free Middle East

International Conference For A WMD-Free Middle East

Betsy Wolf-Graves


Haifa was the unlikely setting for the first multinational conference on Israeli soil to plan the elimination of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. The conference was held on December 5-6, 2013. The next day, December 7, Arab group participants held a companion symposium in Ramallah, Occupied West Bank, to give Palestinians a greater voice and achieve a clearer view of group goals for a more peaceful region.

Formally entitled, “For a Nuclear Weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East” the significance of this conference cannot be overemphasized. This was the first time that these issues were publicly discussed in Israel by men and women from various countries who want a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. Coverage of the proceedings by news sources in Israel appears to have been minimal. I found the conference covered in only two English language publications: Haaretzi and Times of Israel.ii

This was not the first time Israel’s nuclear capability had been discussed in Israel. In 2000 two Knesset members, Issam Makhoul and Avraham Berg, the co-conveners of the current conference, asked for a discussion by Knesset members of Israel’s Dimona reactor. In response, an estimated two dozen members walked out. The remaining members ultimately engaged in a shouting match. This first venture to publicize Dimona lasted about one hour. Thirteen years later, the same intrepid anti-nuclear activists successfully convened a conference on Israeli soil.iii

Adding to the timeliness of such a conference were current disturbances in the region. Syria was in the process of eliminating its stockpile of chemical weapons under the supervision of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN, even as it remained entangled in a deadly civil war; In addition, Iran’s nuclear research activities were of great concern and suspicion by other nuclear powers. All the involved parties were currently engaged in intense negotiations over them. Adding to the tension was Israel’s rejection of negotiation in favor of a more aggressive response.

The remainder of this paper covers two areas: (1) How Israel’s positions impact U S politics. (2); Concerns expressed by selected delegates to the conference. (Reports of attendees like Odile Hugonot Haberiv provide a description of the overall conference.)

Political, Military and Moral Issues

The United States has long had a partnering relationship with Israel. When other states have condemned Israel’s aggressive actions, Israel has been buffered by the United States. Recent issues concerning Iran reveal a clash between the U S and Israel. The Obama administration has chosen talks as the preferred way to discuss Iran’s nuclear activities. Israel’s Prime Minister, Netanyahu, rejects negotiations in favor of force.

This schism is reflected in the US Congress. Some are willing to support Obama’s position while others loudly reject it in favor of Israel. The U S media is mainly focusing on hawks in Congress who want to increase sanctions against Iran while giving little play to the voices supporting nuclear talks between the U S and Iran.For example, On July 31, 2013 the House passed a bill, sanctioning Iran, by a count of 400 to 20.v

This was an apparent attempt to scuttle Obama’s stated goal of achieving a negotiated settlement in conjunction with allied world powers. On November 23, 2013 the news media announced that Iran had agreed to comply with certain measures regarding its nuclear activities. The continuing push by some in Congress to increase sanctions in defiance of the agreement pleased at least one head of state, Benjamin Netanyahu.vi Congressional solicitousness appears to have been unnecessary. Israel not only boasts one of the best equipped armies in the world, it also has a nuclear reactor at Dimona quite capable of starting a nuclear holocaust.

Israel is one of four countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty (Israel, India, Pakistan, South Sudan). It is one of two countries not ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention (Israel, Myanmar).vii Israel has always been protective of its nuclear reactor. Even the International Atomic Energy Agency has orders not to inspect it. Israel’s development of its nuclear capability has been a stealth operation. Throughout the 1950’s Israel had surreptitiously collected needed materials, found appropriate personnel and finally began construction in 1958. U S intelligence formally learned of Israel’s building a nuclear site in “the early sixties”.viii

Israel’s nuclear reactor is the elephant in the room. Everyone knows about it but no one will talk about it. If Israel’s Arab neighbors attempt to force the subject they risk Israel withdrawing from talks. Under the current situation any meeting between Arab states and Israel will attempt to bypass Israel’s nuclear capabilities. Recently, Israel has been obliged to show some interest in participating in anti-WMD talks. News accounts note that the Israeli and Arab groups did meet but that, other than having a pleasant meeting, little was accomplished.ix

Promoting a Nuclear Free Zone; Joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty; Banning Chemical Weapons

There is broad international support, including the peoples of the Middle East and progressive forces inside Israel, for the immediate implementation of the UN general assembly resolution from May 2010. That resolution called for holding an international conference in Helsinki under the auspices of the UN to promote the creation of a nuclear free zone in the Middle East. This plan proposed that all the countries of the region join both the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the treaty on the banning of chemical weapons. Israel has been cool to these recommendations. After substantial planning, Israel withdrew December, 2012. Israel’s action was supported by the United States and criticized by the Arab participants. If all the states in the region were not going to participate there was no option but to cancel the Helsinki meeting. This was a disappointment to the Arab states.

Another Helsinki meeting of various international NGO’s was held in its place. IThere Issm Makhoul, an Arab Palestinian and a former Knesset member, announced that he was determined to organize an anti-nuclear, anti-chemical weapons conference in Israel. If Israel won’t come to Helsinki, Helsinki will come to Israel.”

The time was ripe for coming together over weapons of mass destruction. In addition to the furor over Iran’s nuclear activities, Syria had agreed to join the 189 members of the Chemical Weapons Convention after chemical weapons, of unknown origin, were used in its ongoing civil war.

Under the joint leadership of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN, the destroyed chemical weapons would be entirely removed from Syria.x

If Israel won’t come to Helsinki, Helsinki will come to Israel

Against this backdrop long-time non-proliferation activists arranged for an international conference “For a Middle East Free of Nuclear Weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction”. The primary conveners were Avraham Berg, author and former speaker of the Knesset, and Issam Makhoul, former Arab member of Knesset and long time anti-nuclear activist, currently with the Emile Tourma Institute for Research. (These the two, thirteen years earlier, had introduced the subject of nuclear weapons in the Knesset.)

Initially they had hoped to attract international celebrities such as Archbishop Tutu, Noam Chomsky and former US President Carter. Those who did accept invitations to participate are less well known, but all have been activists in the area of non-proliferation. Jackie Cabasso, from our San Francisco Bay area was invited to be on the conference advisory board. She is a member of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Executive Director of the Western States Legal Foundation and a long-time activist for the abolition of nuclear weapons. She is a well-informed critic of our unwelcome neighbor, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Also attending was WILPF member Odile Hugonot Haber, co-chair of WILPF’s Mid-East Committee.

Approximately 100 persons from fourteen countries attended the Conference. Delegates came from Israel, Palestine, Belgium, France, Senegal, the Congo, Germany, Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Japan and the United States. This included 4 current members and 4 former members of the Israeli Knesset. They were joined by elected officials from progressive political parties in Europe.xi

Introductory remarks by Andrew Marder, Honorary President of International Association of Peace Messenger Cities, set the tone of concerns about the relationship of the Middle East to the most powerful nations, particularly the United States. Mr Marder observed that the American public has forced the administration to choose negotiation with Iran, moving away from military attacks.xii

Prof. Tadatoshi Akiba, a former mayor of Hiroshima and a founding member of Mayors for Peace Now, urged a 2020 deadline for world nuclear disarmament. He added that no one needed to suffer as his countrymen had suffered. He added that governments had not met expectations and that civil-society groups must help governments achieve the goal.

From the tiny island of Cyprus, Georgios Koukoumas, The Progressive Party of the Working People, expressed distrust of the current nuclear powers: the European Union, the United States, and Israel. He noted that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes also presents a great threat, as in Fukushima, Japan. He expressed concern that a Middle East free of WMD could be threatened by the current nuclear powers.

His main focus was the EU and NATO. He observed that 37% of his country, is occupied by Turkey where there are two British military bases and a spy/surveillance system. He expressed concern that the EU is increasing militarism at the cost of decreased human services. xiii

On December 7, the conference moved to Ramallah in order to include Palestinians.

Although the conference attendance was modest, it was a radical event. It brought discussion of weapons of mass destruction to Israel, where such discussions have actively been discouraged. Mordechai Vanunu has been the most famous victim of Israel’s obsessive efforts to keep its nuclear capabilities secret. He is the former nuclear technician who, because of his opposition to nuclear weapons, in 1986 revealed to the British press details of Israel’s nuclear weapons program. As a result, he has spent years in prison. He has been called by Daniel Ellsberg, “the preeminent hero of the nuclear era”.xiv

About the Author

Betsy Wolf-Graves lives in San Josè, California, and has been a long-time licensed clinical social worker as well as a WILPF member. She has also been a serious student of events in Israel and Palestine, developing presentations on subjects such as the issue of water under Israeli occupation. She is committed to writing on events impacting Palestinians. Her other passion is working on improving local criminal-justice system through connecting with local action groups. She is always inspired by the great wisdom coming from WILPF members. Of particular note is the Middle-East Committee.

i Eli Ashkenazi (2013-12-06) “Israeli conference urges a Middle East without nuclear weapons”, Haaretz (www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.562051).

ii Hillel Schenker, (2013-12-06) “Seriously considering a weapons of mass destruction free zone”, Times of Israel, 2013-12-08 (http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/seriously-considering-a-weapons-of-mass-destruction-free-zone-in-the-middle-east/).

iii Jerusalem (2000-2-4) “Knesset Openly Debates Nuclear Program for the First Time” J Weekly (http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/12511/knesset-openly-debates-nuclear-program-for-first-time)

iv Odile Hugonat Haber (2013-12-7) “Haifa International Conference Recap” Women’s international League for Peace and Freedom (http://wilpfus.org/news/updates/haifa-international-conference-recap)

v Lesley Wroughton and Fredrik Dahl. (2013-11-8), “Ïran Nuclear Deal Not Sealed Yet” Reuters, Huffington Post, (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/08/john-kerry-iran-nuclear-deal_n_4239958.html)

vi Ann Gearan and Joby Warrick (2013-11-23)”Iran, World Powers Reach Historic Nuclear Deal”, Washington Post, (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/kerry-in-geneva-raising-hopes-for-historic-nuclear-deal-with-iran/2013/11/) Greg Sargant, (2013-12-10) “Senate Dems Close in on Sanctions”, Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2013/12/10/senate-dems-close-in-on-iran-sanctions-bill/)

vii 2014 Report “Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons” (http://www.opcw.org/about-opcw/non-member-states)

viii Wikipedia, “Nuclear Weapons and Israel” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_and_Israel). Wikipedia, “List of Parties to the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_parties_to_the_Treaty_on_the_Non-Proliferation_of_Nuclear_Weapons, accessed 2014-1-10).

ix Lazer Berrman (2013-10-31) “Ïsrael Reported to Discuss a Nuke Free Mideast” The Times of Israel (http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-reported-to-discuss-joining-nuke-free-mideast-conference)

x Rick Gladstone (2013-12-4) “Ü. N. Official Details Plans for Removing Syria’s Chemical Arms” The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/05/world/middleeast/un-official-details-plans-for-syrian-chemical-arsenal.html?_r=1&)

xi Madelyn Hoffman (2013-12-10) “Ïf Israel Won’t Come to Helsinki, Helsinki Will Come to Israel” Peace Blog (http://peaceblog.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/if-israel-wont-come-to-helsinki-helsinki-will-come-to-israel/)

xii Alfred L. Marder (2013-12-5) “Remarks for Haifa International Conference for a Middle East Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction.” Conference Proceedings (http://www.iapmc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/IAPMC-Haifa-Conference-2013-Remarks-Page-2.pdf )

xiii Georgios Koukoumas (2013-12-5) “The role of Europe in the face of Nuclearization of the Middle East and the Need for its DemilitarizationConference Proceedings.” (http://www.akel.org.cy/nqcontent.cfm?a_id=9377&tt=graphic&lang=l3#.UsjH1tKtguv)

xiv Wikipedia (accessed 1-19-2014) “Mordechai Vanunu”, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordechai_Vanunu)

copyright 2014 Betsy Wolf-Graves under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License


We Did It!

Let’s be proud of it (even though there is a lot more to be done).
By Sharat G. Lin
    Yes, for the first time in U.S. history, we stopped a war before it could happen!  Of course, we had a little help from the Russians and the British and the Australians.  But with the overwhelming opposition from the American people, and the consequent almost certain congressional rejection of an authorization for war on Syria , President Barack Obama was forced to back down.  He did not do this voluntarily.  He was forced to rescind his threat of military attack on Syria .  Thank you, All!
    Yes, for the first time in 2010, Santa Clara County took the most socially progressive stand in the nation by refusing to honor civil detainers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) because the detainers would have sent fears throughout immigrant communities and obliterated the trust between those communities and the local police.  We did it again on November 5, 2013 when District Attorney Jeff Rosen and Sheriff Laurie Smith pressed the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to reconsider the policy.  Some 60 members of the community spoke out against changing the policy, and we won!  Ten per cent of them were SJPJC board members.  The Board of Supervisors rejected any change to the landmark policy.  Thank you, All!
    Yes, for the first time in recent memory, the San José Police Department stopped its policy of operating checkpoints to intensively stop motorists and screen passengers during Cinco de Mayo celebrations in 2011.  The feared practice was completely stopped in 2012.  Thanks to SJPJC members, working together with Cop Watch, two reports on police targeting of Cinco de Mayo in 2009 and 2010 were published and then presented in person to then Police Chief Chris Moore.   Recognizing how damaging the policy was to police-community relations, Moore ordered the targeting stopped.  Thank you, All!
    Yes, of the three Republican members of the House of Representatives who recently decided to support comprehensive immigration reform, two were from California whose staff met with immigration rights activists from the South Bay – Jeff Denham (Modesto) and David Valadao (Hanford, Bakersfield).  The many caravans to the Central Valley for comprehensive immigration reform worked.  Thank you, All!
    Yes, the Santa Clara County Department of Corrections was forced to abandon its new plan to limit mail to prisoners from family members to postcards under pressure from a coalition of grassroots organizations, including SJPJC.  Thank you, All!
    Yes, we did it!  Not alone.  We did it together in coalitions.  We built coalitions and worked inclusively.  Yes, we did it and it is time that we recognized it!
    For those who say that peace and social justice work is good for the soul, but not for bringing about real change, this proves the contrary.  The collective presence, work, and impact of social justice organizations in the South Bay are growing.  With perseverance we can and will bring about bigger changes.  There is a lot more to be done, so don’t stop now.
    Pat your colleagues on the back, and then pat yourself on the back.  And then ask what you can do personally to bring about the next uprising, the next change, the next milestone for social justice and peace locally and globally.

A Half Century of Doubts . . . The JFK Assassination As Cautionary Tale By Paul W. Rea, PhD


 It’s important for any country to make sense of its past, but it’s especially important for us Americans, if we’re to safeguard what remains of our freedoms, to understand how “our” government works. Or doesn’t. If we hope to learn from tragic experience, we need an accurate understanding of our past.


On so many issues, most of us sense that government officials and corporate media aren’t telling us the truth, but sometimes the tales they tell get way too tall. It’s small wonder that two thirds of Americans doubt the standard story that a “loner” killed JFK and then, two days later, another guy shot the killer—and neither had a good reason. That won’t pass the sniff test.


Highly Improbable Official Narratives

The “lone gunman theory” advanced by the Warren Commission provides that Lee Harvey Oswald alone assassinated President Kennedy, firingthree shots. As the story goes, the second shot struck and the third shot killed the president. His motivations? The Commission’s Report stated that Oswald was a disturbed loner whose Marxist political views and depression had led him to commit the crime alone(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_F._Kennedy).

Once the Warren Commission had decided on a single shooter, it had to go with a “single-bullet theory.” That is, the first bullet caused all of Kennedy’s and Connally’s non–fatal wounds by entering Kennedy’s back, exiting through his throat, entering Connally’s back, exiting his chest, passing through his right wrist, severing a tendon in his thumb, and lodging itself in his left thigh. That one bullet sure did get around.


As if all this weren’t enough of a stretch, this story asked us to believe that the same bullet which struck Kennedy in the shoulder blade also caused his throat wound; this, too, is problematic, since the back wound was at least six inches below the throat level, and the angle of the shot was downward.


Surely government storytellers must have realized this story would be tough for thinking citizens to accept, but what choice did they have? If they didn’t stick with the single-bullet, then someone other than Oswald must have fired at least one shot. In that case, either Oswald had at least one accomplice or he wasn’t a shooter at all (http://22november1963.org.uk/single-bullet-theory-jfk-assassination). That would never do.


The Number and Direction of the Shots Fired

The Warren Commission Report claimed only three shots were fired, with the two that stuck Kennedy coming only 1.8 seconds apart. Ballistics tests with the rifle have suggested that getting off three accurate shots in such a short time while hitting a moving target at 40 yards would have required an expert marksman. Yet Sgt. Nelson Delgado, who knew Oswald in the military, recalled that Oswald wasn’t a very good shot. The FBI pressured him to change this appraisal (http://www.wf.net/~biles/jfk/delgado.htm).


Beyond the many testimonials of observers in the Plaza, forensic evidence also contradicts the official claim of only three shots. When a bullet hole was discovered in the windshield of the limousine, the FBI claimed that what looked like a bullet hole had “occurred prior to Dallas.” Following the shooting, a Ford Motor Co. employee who helped replace the glass reported that he’d been instructed to destroy the old windshield, which revealed a hole from a bullet fired from the front of the limo(Robert Groden, Killing of a President, pp. 142-44).


The Warren Commission not only ignored the many observers in Dealey Plaza who heard four or five shots, but also those eyewitnesses who testified about the direction of the shots. Hoping to correct the record, the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigation concluded that at leastfour shots were fired (House Select Committee Final Report, pp. 65-75).


Several films show how, immediately after shots rang out, Dallas police converged on the famous “grassy knoll.” One officer ran his motorcycle up the slope; another rushed toward the fence at the top of the grassy knoll. At least 50 witnesses have confirmed that shots came from the nearby knoll—which, tellingly, was not even mentioned in the Warren Commission Report.


Smoking Guns Observed

Richard C. Dodd, who worked for the Union Terminal Railroad, observed from the overpass above Dealey Plaza, also saw the puffs of smoke on the grassy knoll (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiGtgWSl5Gw).


James Leon Simmons, another railroad worker observing from the overpass, not only saw the puff of smoke near the picket fence but also observed fresh footprints (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5No9Jiu0GI). Neither Dodd nor Simons was ever interviewed by the Warren Commission.


Jesse Price, still another railroad worker, believed the shots came from “behind the picket fence.” He later claimed to have seen a man wearing a white shirt running away from the fence, “towards the passenger cars on the railroad siding after the volley of shots”(Jim Marrs, Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy, p. 39).


Lee Bowers, Jr., observing from the railroad tower overlooking the parking lot serving the Plaza, recalled seeing a “flash of light or smoke” coming from the trees near the picket fence, where two men were standing (Mark Lane, Rush to Judgment, p. 31). After receiving death threats, Bowers died in 1966 when, according to an eyewitness “he was driven off the road by a black car” (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKbowers.htm).


Along with his wife, Gail, Bill Newman was standing near the curb; he recalled the president “jumped up in his seat” just before a final shot “came from the mound” (the grassy knoll)(http://jfkfacts.org/assassination/fact-check/credible-witness-bill-newmans-story).


In this interview it’s revealing to note how the interviewer first tried to make the shots come from the viaduct, not the grassy hill; then he tried to make the hill a “couple or three hundred yards” away, much farther distant than it actually was—and therefore a much less appealing spot for a sniper. This represents a tendency, following suspicious political events, for the news media to dismiss evidence that does not conform to the emerging official narrative.


• And Charles Brehn was standing on the street only 20-25 feet away from motorcade; he recalled that pieces of bone and tissue were blown from the right toward the left and rear of the car (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YcPzPt8XcM). The Book Depository Building was behind the limousine, but the grassy knoll and fence were directly to its right. Brehn, too, was never allowed to testify before the Warren Commission.


A study summarized in Science & Justice, a quarterly publication of Britain’s Forensic Science Society, found a 96% certainty, based on analysis of audio recordings made during the assassination, that one or more shots were fired from the grassy knoll in front and to the right of the presidential limousine(Washington Post 3/25/01).


The Commission’s denial is hardly difficult to understand, for to admit that shots came from somewhere other than the Book Depository implied two or more shooters, exploding the single gunman theory.


A Significant Change in the Official Story

In the late 1970s, the feds told a different, more realistic story. The House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that JFK “was probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy. . . and at least two gunmen fired at the president” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_Select_Committee_on_Assassinations).


But in America “we don’t do conspiracies,” so this important revision didn’t receive much air time in the corporate media. From 1979 to the present, the mass media, including NPR and PBS, have largely served to reinforce the myth of the lone gunman: witness the recent specials by CNN and NOVA or “Cold Case” on PBS. Over the years, even the few exceptions have rarely examined possible involvement by government agencies (http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/2013/11/07/jfk-assassination-anniversary-tv-programs/3426879).


Despite all the media reinforcement, however, the public still isn’t buying the official story. In 2002, an ABC News poll found that 70% of respondents suspected that the assassination involved more than one person. These days, with greater skepticism about government, this percentage has run even higher. On the 50th anniversary, surely Americans deserve an honest account. It’s high time to find and face the truth.


How JFK Made Powerful Enemies

Although most Americans have long revered the charismatic John Kennedy, at the time of his presidency powerful players detested the Kennedys. Southern segregationists feared a rising Civil Rights Movement, which both John and Bobby were starting to support; the Mafia hated Bobby’s vehement attacks on their bosses; and anti-Castro Cuban exiles felt the administration had squandered opportunities to overthrow the Cuban leader. Even more importantly, within the federal establishment “the best and the brightest” were incurring the wrath of both the Pentagon and the CIA.


CIA Grabs Power from Eisenhower; Kennedy Tries to Take It Back

By the late 1950s, emboldened by coups it had promoted, the CIA had become arrogant. Director Allen Dulles spoke of the CIA as “the State Department for unfriendly countries” (http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Assassinations_page/Farewell_To_Justice.html).


By 1960, “the Company” had even become a shadow government of the US; it was able, for instance, to sabotage a Summit involving President Eisenhower, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, and other world leaders. This the CIA accomplished by sending an unauthorized U-2 spy plane piloted by an Agency operative over Moscow on May 1, just when the Kremlin was parading its military prowess (http://www.history.com/topics/u2-spy-incident).


As the CIA expected, the Soviets shot down its spy plane. Incensed at the violation of their air space, Khrushchev backed out of a Summit intended to reduce Cold War tensions. Eisenhower, too, was angered by the CIA’s subversion of his initiative toward détente. But increased tensions with the Soviets suited the Agency, which had fomented more of the fear it required to justify its funding (http://www.twf.org/News/Y2001/0215-CIAfunds.html).


The CIA’s abuse of the U-2 spy plane was a State Crime Against Democracy (SCAD), an incident involving “concerted actions or inactions by government insiders intended to manipulate democratic processes and undermine popular sovereignty”(http://dehaven-smith.com/faq/default.html).


It didn’t take long for the CIA to provide another example.

Just weeks after the inauguration, the rogue Agency also defied Kennedy, meeting without his knowledge with assassins planning to murder President Raphael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic (Joan Mellen, Farewell to Justice, p. 165). If the CIA could defy a legendary war hero like Eisenhower, its leaders apparently surmised, why should they take orders from an inexperienced young president like Kennedy?

But JFK, a leader keenly interested in foreign policy, proved tougher than his adversaries expected. Four months into his presidency, Kennedy would became “the last President to believe he could take power” from the CIA according to one-time Agency asset Gerald Patrick (http://altnewschannel.com/kennedy). However, the triumph would be temporary—and the cost would be very high.

The Bay of Pigs: A Debacle Casting a Long Shadow

More than most Americans realize, the failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs marked an early turning point—and one that probably helped seal the president’s fate. Since Ike had approved the CIA’s plan to train and arm Cuban exiles for an invasion of their former homeland, JFK reluctantly approved the secret operation for April, 1961. Kennedy was led to believe that once the invasion began, the most Cubans would rise up against Fidel Castro. What he was not told was that the CIA task force planning the invasion had deemed the invasion’s goals unachievable without US military involvement(http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/history/bay-pigs-invasion.html).


When the invasion began to falter, Kennedy realized he’d been conned into a situation requiring significant fighter and bomber support; he refused to submit to CIA blackmail and provide air support at the Bay of Pigs. With Castro himself leading the defense, the Cubans easily defeated the invaders. Admiral Lyman Lemnitzer at the Pentagon called Kennedy’s refusal “absolutely reprehensible, almost criminal”; Kennedy retorted “we’re not going to plunge into an irresponsible action just because a fanatical fringe . . . puts so-called national pride above national reason”

(Peter Kuznick and Oliver Stone, Untold History of the US, p. 292).


While some have argued that JFK was getting even with the CIA for subverting Eisenhower’s Summit initiative, it seems more likely that he was asserting his constitutional powers and showing the spy agency who was boss. “‘I’ve got to do something about those CIA bastards,’ Kennedy fumed” (Russ Baker, Family of Secrets, p. 86).

The defeat at the Bay of Pigs, though humiliating to both the new president and Washington, provided Kennedy with a pretext for firing top CIA leaders, including longtime director Allen Dulles. The dismissals wrecked careers among the elite and made powerful enemies, far beyond the CIA(R. Baker, Family of Secrets, p. 86).

Nor was this all. In May of 1961, only a month after the Bay of Pigs debacle, Kennedy formed his own Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board to control intelligence agencies, in part by cutting their funding. In one angry moment, he even threatened to “splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the wind” (Tom Wicker et al., “CIA: Maker of Policy or Tool?” New York Times 4/25/1966). As the administration attempted to curtail their power, many CIA officials developed an enduring hate for Kennedy.

Kennedy Brothers Promote Both War and Peace

Soon after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Attorney General Robert Kennedy began to work with the CIA on Operation Mongoose, a plot to assassinate Fidel Castro. With his brother’s approval, Bobby enlisted the CIA’s “executive action” capability that was eventually turned against the president (J. Mellen, Farewell to Justice, p. 169). Moreover, the president himself tasked the CIA to fight secret but very deadly wars in both Laos and Vietnam (Ralph Weber, Spymasters: Ten CIA Officers in Their Own Words, p. 22). Since disclosure of these schemes would hardly enhance the chances for reelection, the Kennedys left themselves open to blackmail by the very spy agencies they were trying to control.

Yet in September of 1961, during an especially dark period of the Cold War, President Kennedy made a courageous, even astounding speech before the United Nations. Despite ongoing tensions with the Soviet Union, Kennedy went far beyond Eisenhower’s famous warning about “the military-industrial complex”; he called for both a “new United Nations Peace[keeping] Force” and “complete world disarmament(http://www.state.gov/p/io/potusunga/207241.htm).This little-known speech must have not only stunned UN delegates but also shocked and dismayed those in Washington deeply invested in the Cold War: the CIA bosses and the Pentagon brass.


Gutsy Stands on Northwoods and Cuban Missiles

Soon JFK would refuse to approve another secret plan, again galling the war hawks.In March of 1962, he nixed Operation Northwoods, a covert-action provocation, this one from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Northwoods was to be a false-flag gambit against Cuba, a plot that cavalierly called for blowing up fake airliners (suggesting that the Cubans had shot them down) as well as for having Cuban exiles commit acts of terrorism against American citizens (James Bamford, Body of Secrets, pp. 85–86). As if the president’s refusal of the Pentagon’s scheme weren’t enough to further antagonize the top brass, a few months later Kennedy relieved the main proponent of the plot, Adm. Lyman Lemzinger, from his post as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (http://abcnews.go.com/US/Story?id=92662&page=2).


During the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962, JFK again resisted intense pressures from military hawks urging him to bomb and invade Cuba, even at the risk of nuclear war.Instead, the Kennedy administration struck a deal with the Soviets, further antagonizing much of the Pentagon brass (P. Kuznick and O. Stone, Untold History of the US, pp. 305-13). It’s sobering to contemplate that in a room of belligerent voices, the president was often the only one to seek peaceful resolution to a crisis threatening to annihilate much of humanity (PBS American Experience “JFK” Part II).


Two years later, the warmongers were brilliantly ridiculed. Gen. Curtis “Bomb’s Away” Lemay was one model for Gen. Buck Turgidson, the super-hawk played so memorably by George C. Scott in Stanley Kubrick’s classic, Dr. Strangelove.


That Ominous Last Summer

With JFK as a lead actor, the heady summer of 1963 marked turning points in American history. In his “World Peace Speech” delivered at American University in June, Kennedy hinted that he intended to phase out of Vietnam—even asking, in effect, “is the Cold War still necessary?” (Jeffrey Sachs, To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace, p. xv).


In the wake of a very close call with nuclear oblivion during the Missile Crisis, Kennedy began pursuing détente with the USSR: the 1963 Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty became a strong first step toward halting the nuclear arms race, much to the displeasure of war hawks in the military and intelligence apparatus. To many conservatives, even this very moderate step intensified fears that Kennedy was once again “too soft on Communism” (P. Kuznick and O. Stone, Untold History of the US, pp. 322–23).


By 1963, too, the Civil Rights Movement was “blowin’ in the wind,” culminating in the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Dr. King spoke so eloquently. After that, the president felt compelled to act on what he’d earlier called “a moral issue.”The day after the March, Kennedy welcomed the civil rights leaders to the White House, though without much press coverage (http://www.whitehousehistory.org/whha_classroom/classroom_9-12-pressure-march.html).


Once again Kennedy was making powerful enemies, and not just in the South. Since wars bring prestige and promotions to the military and deliver big profits to its contractors, the president’s initiatives for peace exacerbated fears within the military-industrial complex. In addition, the commitment to civil rights, though long overdue, risked a segregationist backlash in the South that could have cost the president his reelection. Kennedy’s final trip to Dallas was part of a Southern strategy to carry Texas, possibly without Lyndon Johnson.


Was JFK Betrayed by the Secret Service?

Much as few questions were asked about the air-defense failures on 9/11, even fewer were raised about the security failures on 11/22. Only over time have questions arisen about security on the Dallas trip. For starters, if the Secret Service was able to deal so effectively with other plots against the president, why was it so ineffective in Dallas?


The Secret Service told the Dallas police they had the visit covered—not to make any special effort to protect the president. In response, Dallas Police pulled back much of its protective cordon, though twelve Police Department motorcycles did lead the motorcade. More important, though, is that in contrast to the other motorcades in Texas, in Dallas the number of motorcyles protecting the president’s flank was reduced. And, contrary to standard procedures, for much of the time no Secret Service agents were positioned on the back bumper of the president’s car (http://www.jfklink.com/articles/EmoryRoberts.html).


In Dallas, then, standard procedures weren’t followed. Secret Service agents indicated that requests such as removing the bubble top from the limousine, reducing the police motorcycle outriders, and not having agents positioned on the limousine’s rear bumper were not, as commonly believed, made by Kennedy himself (http://www.jfklink.com/articles/EmoryRoberts.html).

The breaches of protocol also became more blatant as the motorcade approached the Plaza. During the final minutes, key personnel were actually ordered to stand down. The two agents who normally rode on the back bumper of the presidential limousine were first filmed running alongside the rear of the limo; then Emory Roberts, their commander in the followup car, ordered them to fall back. As one agent, Henry Rybka, stopped and stepped away, he shrugged his shoulders three separate times, making gestures of exasperation as if to say “what’s goin’ on, boss?” As the two agents dropped farther back, both sides of the limousine were left completely exposed (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6OWcujJSCU). One might contrast this exposure with that of the car just behind it, LBJ’s limo, which did have Secret Service guys riding on both sides.

The speed of the motorcade was also compromised at a key moment.A change in route added two 90-degree turns, predictably decreasing the speed. After making the turn from Houston St. onto Elm, the limousine slowed to about 5 mph in front of the Book Depository Building as the first shot rang out. One analysis of the famous Zapruder home movie showed the president’s limousine nearly coming to a stop seconds before the fatal shot, suggesting the driver had slowed even more(Paul Chambers, Head Shot: The Science Behind the JFK Assassination, p. 240).

In addition, Secret Service agents (or imposters pretending they were agents) contributed to the confusion immediately after the assassination. Although only one Secret Service agent was reportedly stationed in Dealey Plaza, several witnesses stated that moments after the shooting, they had seen or 
encountered agents near the fence 
on the grassy knoll, on the parking lot, or at the School Book Depository 
(House Sel. Comm. on Assassinations Report. p. 184). Both police and bystanders reported that men had stopped them, claiming they were Secret Service—showing them badges or even brandishing revolvers to turn them away (http://www.jfklancer.com/knollagent/index.html).

It’s hard not to interpret all this as strong evidence that the Secret Service had foreknowledge of where the shots would be fired—and, by standing down in Dallas, helped to make the assassination possible.

Why might elements in the Secret Service have cooperated in a plot to kill the president? This is one among a great many questions the corporate media have never dared to raise. Clearly the Kennedys had alienated conservative Southerners, and some Southern agents had groused that if shots were fired at the president, they’d take no action to protect him. Other agents vowed they’d quit rather than give up their lives for Jack Kennedy(Abraham Bolden, Echo from Dealey Plaza, p. 19).


This is telling, but it hardly tells the whole story. Disgruntled individuals at low levels can’t effect systemic stand-downs. If a Secret Service stand-down order was given, or if agents (or imposters posing as agents) were assigned to the Plaza, then who ordered all this?


Overly Speedy Police Bulletin Raises More Questions

Less than fifteen minutes after the assassination, after only one person had identified Oswald as the shooter, somehow the Dallas Police blared out a radio bulletin describing the suspected killer: “About 30, 5’10,” 165 pounds.” Although this height and weight did not prove accurate, they did exactly match the measurements attributed to Oswald in both his FBI file and also in CIA documents (John Newman, Oswald and the CIA, p. 512). 


Several reputable researchers, among them Professor Emeritus Peter Dale Scott, have wondered whether “someone with access to those files may have already designated Oswald as the culprit, before there was any evidence to connect him to the crime” (http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-jfk-assassination-and-9-11-the-designated-suspects-in-both-cases/9511).


As decades have elapsed, more and more evidence has confirmed that CIA officers had watched Oswald closely for four years— especially during the months before November 22—and then manipulated him for propaganda purposes after the assassination (Jefferson Morely, KPFA Radio “Morning Mix,” 11/15/13: jfkfacts.org).

Oswald and the Cuban-Exile/CIA ConnectionIn 1979, during the hearings held by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, J. Lee Rankin, former chief counsel for the Warren Commission and lead author of its Report, stunned the panel: he advised investigators to examine the government connections to Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby, the underworld figure who killed him, and more broadly investigate the role of anti-Castro Cubans within the US. With this startling recommendation, Rankin not only challenged the official narrative he’d helped to script; he also urged investigators to look at long-impounded files.


When the Warren Commission completed its work in 1964, it had sealed thousands of such files for 75 years. If finally released, these still-classified documents would no doubt shine light into the shadows, finally illuminating the mysteries that haunt the national psyche. These include the key issue of what information US intelligence agencies had collected on Oswald: what did they know, and when did they know it?


Hundreds of the suppressed files concern George Joannides, former chief of CIA covert operations in Florida. Based in Miami but with another residence in New Orleans, Joannides obstructed two official JFK investigations, refusing to disclose what he knew about contacts between anti-Castro Cubans and Oswald (http://jfkfacts.org/tag/george-joannides).


In New Orleans, apparently at the behest of Joannides, Oswald tried to infiltrate an anti-Castro group of Cuban exiles. As a leftist and a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, however, his real sympathies remained with Castro. So when the exiles found Oswald handing out “Hands Off Cuba” leaflets, they confronted him. After a fight broke out, Oswald was arrested for disturbing the peace.


At the police station, the alleged assassin asked to speak with FBI Agent John Quigley, who spent over an hour with him. When someone at FBI headquarters in Washington observed that Oswald was engaged in pro-Castro activities and instructed the field office to interview him, the field office didn’t indicate it had already interviewed him. Why, one has to wonder, wouldn’t the New Orleans field office have mentioned the earlier interview?(http://www.npr.org/2013/11/10/243981006/inconsistencies-haunt-official-record-of-kennedys-death).

In a supreme irony, when the FBI put Oswald under surveillance, it reported back to Attorney General Kennedy. Though Bobby sensed a threat to his brother, he figured “if the FBI’s controlling him, he’s no problem”(http://www.joanmellen.net/NYC_2006article.html). All this meant that both the CIA and the FBI must have known a lot about Oswald; how, then, could they have been taken by surprise when he allegedly murdered the president in Dallas?


Who Dunnit? Analyses Have Repeatedly Cited the CIA The list of responsible analysts who’ve implicated the CIA continues to grow. It began even before the crime.

• Six weeks before it, New York Times columnist Arthur Krock warned of CIA malfeasance. The CIA, Krock charged, was a “malignancy” on the American body politic. If the country ever experienced a coup, Krock warned, “It would come from the CIA, not the Pentagon” (New York Times 10/3/1963).


With uncanny prescience, Krock anticipated the demise of the Kennedy administration. After all, the CIA had long been in the business of “black operations” involving heads of state, and had long been targeting Castro. These allegations were validated during the Church Committee hearings on US spy agencies held during the 1970s (http://www.intelligence.senate.gov/churchcommittee.html). Long before the assassination, the White House and the CIA had been waging “an intra-administration war,” with the CIA serving “the military and its contractors that stood to gain most from war” (J. Mellen, Farewell to Justice, p. 161ff)


If this seems extreme, consider that L. Fletcher Prouty, Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Kennedy, concluded the president’s assassination was actually a coup d’état: both for better and for worse, the new Johnson administration pursued significantly different policies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_F._Kennedy_assassination_conspiracy_theories).


• Just a month after Kennedy’s death, former president Harry Truman expressed his dismay that the CIA he’d created had become a shadow government and “operational”—i.e., doing “special operations” involving assassinations. Without mentioning the JFK assassination explicitly, Truman declared that the CIA was “in urgent need of correction” (http://jfkfacts.org/assassination/on-this-date/dec-22-1963-truman-calls-for-abolition-of-cia/).


• Other truth tellers weren’t so lucky. J. Garrett Underhill, Jr., a former military affairs editor and CIA informant at LIFE, pointed to “a small clique in the CIA” as most responsible for the assassination. “Oswald is a patsy. They set him up. . . .” On May 8, 1964, as he was getting ready “to blow the whistle,” Underhill was found with a bullet wound behind his left ear (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Garrett_Underhill,_Jr.).

• By 1966, New Orleans federal prosecutor Jim Garrison had concluded that Kennedy was murdered as a result of a struggle with the CIA and, behind it, the Pentagon’s “war machine”—which he determined to finally have its ground war, if not in Cuba then big time in Vietnam. Could JFK have been trusted to deliver that war? In his final few months Kennedy seemed to signal, as he did at American University, that after he was reelected he wanted out of Southeast Asia (J. Mellen, Farewell to Justice, p. 161ff).

A number of observers, including Oliver Stone, director of JFK, have concluded that Kennedy was assassinated because he was turning away from the Cold War and seeking a negotiated peace with the Soviet Union. In a similar vein, analyst and activist James Douglass argued that this “was not the kind of leadership the CIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the military-industrial complex wanted in the White House” (Tikkun Magazine Nov./Dec. 2010).

Jim and Elsie Wilcott, former CIA employees, revealed “it was common knowledge in the Tokyo CIA station that Oswald worked for the agency. . . . Right after the president was killed, people in the Tokyo station were talking openly about Oswald having gone to Russia for the CIA. Everyone was wondering how the agency was going to be able to keep the lid on. But I guess they did” (SF Chroncile 9/12/1978).

• Forty years after the assassination, establishment historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a key Kennedy adviser, would affirm that the administration had been at war with “the National Security people.” More recently, distinguished scholar Joan Mellen remarked “that the CIA at its highest levels exacted its revenge on President Kennedy has been an open secret since 1963”



Today we Americans find ourselves half a century overdue in coming to grips with a pivotal event in our history. With things not going so well for this country, we can seize the opportunity for national self-reflection. Why have elements within our government, which imagines itself the leader of the Free World, committed so many State Crimes Against Democracy (SCADs)?


And if federal agencies were disrupting democracy back then, how much more out of control might they have become today? What might we have swept under the rug long ago, only to find ourselves stumbling on it today? Unless we raise such questions and pay attention to credible answers, we’ll probably experience nagging doubts not just about our history, but also about ourselves.


Paul W. Rea, PhD, is the author, most recently, of Mounting Evidence: Why We Need a New Investigation into 9/11 (2011).


Recommended Readings on the JFK Assassination


Corsi, James. Who Really Killed Kennedy?: 50 Years Later: Stunning New Revelations About the JFK Assassination. Washington, D. C.: WND Books, 2013.


Douglass, James. JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters New York: Touchstone, 2008.


Groden, Robert J. The Killing of a President: the Complete Photographic Record of the JFK Assassination, the Conspiracy and the Cover-up.New York: Viking Studio, 1993.


Lane, Mark. Last Word: My Indictment of the CIA in the Murder of JFK. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2011.


Mellen, Joan. AFarewell to Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK’s Assassination, and the Case that Should Have Changed History. Dulles, Va.: Potomac Books, 2007.


Newman, John. Oswald and the CIA. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1995.

Scott, Peter Dale. The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013.


_____________. “The JFK Assassination and 9/11: the Designated Suspects in Both Cases.” Global Research, July 05, 2008


Shenon, Phillip. A Cruel and Shocking Act. New York: Henry Holt, 2013.


Talbot, David. Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007.


Ventura, Jesse, with Dick Russell and David Wayne. They Killed the President: 63 Reasons to Believe There Was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013.










Are US National Security Policies Counterproductive?

Reports in the US media about either verbal or violent attacks upon the US rarely include background to help a reader to understand what might motivate such attacks. There are hundred, probably thousands, of cases where US government officials have secretly opposed democracy at home and abroad, though you wouldn’t know this from the primary media.

For example, Dilma Rousseff, current President of Brazil, was tortured  by a dictatorship1 that overthrew democracy in 1964 with secret encouragement from US President Johnson.2 Might that experience have influenced her remarks at the United Nations on September 24, 2013?3


Similarly, are we better off today because the Reagan administration secretly gave weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war?4 Might this have influenced some of our problems with Iran, Iraq, and other countries?

Are we better off because at least four prominent TV personalities in the US and the UK were fired in 2003 for questioning too aggressively the official rationale for invading Iraq,5 and journalists continue to be harassed by the US and British governments?6 Noam Chomsky, the most frequently cited living author,7 has complained about our “lapdog press“.8

Related cases appear in the apparent use of the “No Fly” list and entry visas for domestic political purposes and to censor the press. Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy was repeatedly delayed at airports by Bush administration officials.9 An art dealer was reportedly told he couldn’t fly, because he had helped organize Ralph Nader‘s 2000 presidential campaign.10 Afghani women activist Malai Joya, who had criticized the US-Nato war in Afghanistan, was denied a visa.11

The above are not isolated cases.  Many of us suspect there are more secret stories to be unearthed.  Will more exposure provide more opportunities for our opponents to attack us? Or will it allow us to act more responsibly as a nation? These questions are so important they deserve more substantive research and debate than what we see in our press.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to get the information needed to do what we should and to be effective.

Anyone who has felt powerless, who has felt her interests were not being addressed, can do something. Each of us can ask, “What is important to me?” We can then engage our friends, families and the media for a full and open public debate on these issues. We can engage others face-to-face individually and in groups. We can use technology from e-mail to social media like Twitter and Facebook. We can create videos, dramatizing our messages using our computer screens.12

When people are caught off balance they often believe they have to rush to rebalance. Rushing may not get us balanced. Problems usually have a long history before they become visible to the general public. The same with proposed solutions. Solution alternatives should be studied and given context. For example, researching the history of a particular issue is sure to bring increased understanding, a better perspective and a clearer picture of what actions are most likely to be effective. This research should be managed to allow knowledgeable people all over the world to contribute.13

If you agree, I encourage you to share your concerns with people you know and take other appropriate action. US citizens are encouraged to contact their representatives in the US House and Senate.14

Spencer Graves

member of the Board, San José Peace & Justice Center

Copyright 2013 Creative Commons attributions share-alike license except for the photo of Gen. Kruel obtained from Gaspari, Elio (2002). A Ditadura Envergonhada. São Paulo: Cia. das Letras, pp. 106., for which fair use is claimed for noncommercial purposes.

1 Ms. Rousseff’s claims to having been tortured have been disputed by people connected with the alleged torturers. See Wikipedia, “Dilma Rousseff” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dilma_Rousseff), accessed Sept. 29, 2013.

2 Johnson stationed a US Navy battle group off Brazil’s coast ready to intervene in case the Brazilian military encountered unexpected resistance. See Wikipedia, “1964 Brazilian coup d’état” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1964_Brazilian_coup_d’%C3%A9tat), accessed Sept. 29, 2013.

3 Statement by H. E. Dilma Rousseff, President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, at the opening of the General Debate of the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, 24 September 2013 (http://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/68/BR_en.pdf), accessed Oct. 4, 2013.

4 This is documented in the 1994 “Riegle Report” of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs with Respect to Export Administration co-chaired by Senators Riegle and Al D’Amato, formally entitled “U.S. Chemical and Biological Warfare-Related Dual Use Exports to Iraq and their Possible Impact on the Health Consequences of the Gulf War”. This report summarizes evidence that biological and chemical weapons were provided by the U.S. to Saddam Hussein to help him during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) and were subsequently used against American and Czechoslovakian troops during the Gulf War (1990-1991). See Wikipedia, “Riegle Report” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riegle_Report), accessed Sept. 29, 2013.

5 Prominent TV personalities fired in 2003 included popular talk-show host Phil Donahue in the US, BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan, plus BBC’s chairman Gavyn Davies and director-general Greg Dyke in the UK. See Wikipedia, “Phil Donahue”, “Hutton Inquiry” and “David Kelly (weapons expert)”, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Donahue“, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hutton_Inquiry“, and “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Kelly_(weapons_expert)”, accessed Aug. 30, 2013.

6 Free Press is asking people to complain to US Attorney General Holder. See “Demand That Attorney General Holder Stop the Harassment of Journalists” and “Unconstitutional Searches and an Unaccountable Government” by Josh Stearns, Sept. 27, 2013, and Wikipedia, “2013 Department of Justice investigations of reporters” (http://act.freepress.net/sign/press_freedom_holder/?akid=4446.9251132.fKBqxs&rd=1&t=2; http://www.freepress.net/blog/2013/09/27/unconstitutional-searches-and-unaccountable-government; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Department_of_Justice_investigations_of_reporters).

7 Wikipedia, “Noam Chomsky” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noam_Chomsky ), accessed Oct. 4, 2013.

8 Matthew Haraminac (2006) “The relationshiop between the role of the press and corporate ownership” (http://www.haraminac.com/mjh/ownership%20of%20the%20press.pdf), accessed Oct. 4, 2013.

9 Wikipedia, “No Fly List” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Fly_List), accessed Oct. 5, 2013.

10 The Mojo Wire, Aug. 9, 2003 (http://mojowire.blogspot.com/2003_08_01_mojowire_archive.html), accessed Oct. 5, 2013. If certain people are so dangerous they should not be allowed to fly, they should be notified before they purchase their tickets. Instead, many are pulled aside for questioning shortly before boarding their flight, then released after the flight leaves. A friend in a rural county told me that Stuber and all Greens were terrorists. My friend further explained that the Greens wanted to put all the beef producers out of business, because the cattle generated too much methane gas. When congress approved the legislation used to manage this “No Fly” list, did they intend for it to be used to limit nonviolent political speech?

11 Derrick O’ Keef, “U.S. denies Afghani women activist Malai Joya entry visa”, Project Censored (http://www.projectcensored.org/us-denies-afghani-women-activist-malai-joya-entry-visa), accessed oct. 5, 2013.

12 The world today offers many outlets for social entrepreneurs. For example, the Huffington Post was founded in 2005. The Investigative News Network was founded in 2009. Indybay accepts anything from anyone. Wikinews, a sister project with Wikipedia of the Wikimedia Foundation, accepts stories written by anyone who will work with their editors to write to their standards. There are great needs and opportunities for citizen journalists to work with paid professionals or to freelance in helping bring more sunlight to issues great and small.

13 Proposals for crowdsourced research in this area are available on Wikiversity, “Category:Evolution of Conflict” (https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Category:Evolution_of_conflict), accessed Sept. 29, 2013.

14 To find your senators, go to “www.senate.gov” and “Find your senators” (in the upper right). To find your representative in the US House, go to “www.house.gov“, enter your zip code in the upper right, and click “Go”. This should ultimately connect you to your representatives’ web sites. In many cases if not all, you can get phone numbers, addresses, position statements on many issues, and a “contact” button, which you can use to enter a question or concern, essentially equivalent to email.