On the killing of two NYPD police officers

“Blue Lives Matter” was the caption displayed in large letters on MSNBC, yesterday, when discussing the assassination of two NYPD cops by a Black man, the day before. CNN and all the rest of Empire’s networks have been holding a vigil ever since those killings. They have interviewed just about every member of those officers’ families, as well as their friends, colleagues, relatives and current and former police commanders, commanding officers and police “unions”. They have read letters written by their children, saying goodbye to the killed officers. They have shown their spouses crying. They have displayed the vigil by the police, standing in military formation, saluting their fallen comrades, as if an enemy combatant in Afghanistan has killed two of the occupying army, which we, as Americans, are obliged to mourn and feel angry at the enemy who dared to kill two of our own “brave men”. To humanize an otherwise inhuman police force whose main job is the repression of the occupied poor, who beat and kill unarmed and innocent members of the working class, every single day, with total impunity, which at times seems to even surpass the impunity of US occupying armies overseas, the media of the occupiers and corporate thieves have been showing, nonstop, the supporters of the police mourning and lighting candles and saying how good and brave those cops were. The commentaries and the message they convey are unmistakable: blame the protesters who are demanding change and justice for victims of the racist police.

The networks and the politicians they interview have been referring to the killed officers as “brave men who put their lives on the front lines everyday, to protect and serve their community”. This is what the media that’s owned, controlled and in the service of the 1%, want people to believe: that the police are there to “protect and serve the people”, not protect the class of the super wealthy from the wrath of the oppressed, beating and brutalizing and killing them, everyday, on the streets, to keep them in line and in leashes, out of fear that they may rise up and demand justice.

Compare the incredible display of sympathy by the corporate media for those two cops with their treatment of innocent young Black men who are regularly killed by the police. Not only do they not show any such sympathy for them, they actually try to dehumanize them, by digging up and mentioning past “troubles with the law”, putting THEM on trial, instead of the viscous and racist police who killed them. Where was their reading of letters of the children of Eric Garner? Where was their interviews of his widowed wife and his aunt and friends and relatives and neighbors and people who do similar work to his, etc, as they did with the children and relatives and friends and colleagues of the dead cops?

These shameless double standards and hypocrisy are not accidental. What the Empire’s media and politicians are trying to do is to use the killings as an opportunity to push back against the protests and their legitimate demands for change that are taking place nationally. The goal is to blame, discredit and put in the defensive the protests for heightening “tensions”. They view this incident as an opportunity to gain the upper hand in the minds of the people, to increase the support for the cops, which is understandably at record low, to justify their brutality and to end the anti-police protests.

–Sako Sefiani, “On the Killing of Two NYPD Police Officers

NBC News Pulls Veteran Reporter from Gaza After His Reporting About Israeli Attack That Killed Four Children Playing on the Beach

Ayman Mohyeldin, the NBC News correspondent who personally witnessed yesterday’s killing by Israel of four Palestinian boys on a Gazan beach and who has received widespread praise for his brave and innovative coverage of the conflict, has been told by NBC executives to leave Gaza immediately. According to an NBC source upset at his treatment, the executives claimed the decision was motivated by “security concerns” as Israel prepares a ground invasion, a claim repeated to me by an NBC executive. But late yesterday, NBC sent another correspondent, Richard Engel, along with an American producer who has never been to Gaza and speaks no Arabic, into Gaza to cover the ongoing Israeli assault (both Mohyeldin and Engel speak Arabic).

Reporter wearing flak jacket following a wounded boy on a stretcher in a hospital
Ayman Mohyeldin reports from Gaza City on killing of four Palestinian boys by Israel (Photo: NBC News)

Mohyeldin is an Egyptian-American with extensive experience reporting on that region. He has covered dozens of major Middle East events in the last decade for CNN, NBC and Al Jazeera English, where his reporting on the 2008 Israeli assault on Gaza made him a star of the network. NBC aggressively pursued him to leave Al Jazeera, paying him far more than the standard salary for its on-air correspondents.

Yesterday, Mohyeldin witnessed and then reported on the brutal killing by Israeli gunboats of four young boys as they played soccer on a beach in Gaza City. He was instrumental, both in social media and on the air, in conveying to the world the visceral horror of the attack. […]

Despite this powerful first-hand reporting – or perhaps because of it – Mohyeldin was nowhere to be seen on last night’s NBC Nightly News broadcast with Brian Williams. Instead, as Media Bistro’s Jordan Chariton noted, NBC curiously had Richard Engel – who was in Tel Aviv, and had just arrived there an hour or so earlier – “report” on the attack. Charlton wrote that “the decision to have Engel report the story for ‘Nightly’ instead of Mohyeldin angered some NBC News staffers.”

Indeed, numerous NBC employees, including some of the network’s highest-profile stars, were at first confused and then indignant over the use of Engel rather than Mohyeldin to report the story. But what they did not know, and what has not been reported until now, is that Mohyeldin was removed completely from reporting on Gaza by a top NBC executive, David Verdi, who ordered Mohyeldin to leave Gaza immediately.

Over the last two weeks, Mohyeldin’s reporting has been far more balanced and even-handed than the standard pro-Israel coverage that dominates establishment American press coverage; his reports have provided context to the conflict that is missing from most American reports and he avoids adopting Israeli government talking points as truth. As a result, neocon and “pro-Israel” websites have repeatedly attacked him as a “Hamas spokesman” and spouting “pro-Hamas rants.”

Last week, as he passed over the border from Israel, he said while reporting that “you can understand why some human rights organizations call Gaza ‘the world’s largest outdoor prison,’”; he added: “One of the major complaints and frustrations among many people is that this is a form of collective punishment. You have 1.7 million people in this territory, now being bombarded, with really no way out.”

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Read full article at: https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/07/17/nbc-removes-ayman-mohyeldin-gaza-coverage-witnesses-israeli-beach-killing-four-boys/

“Independent” news site ‘The Intercept’ is primarily funded by billionaire Pierre Omidyan

Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Laura Poitras have teamed up to create an online news site called “The Intercept”. This project was funded primarily with money from Ebay billionaire Pierre Omidyan. …

While I think that these authors frequently publish useful information (such as the Snowden documents), one thing I’ve noticed is that their analysis rarely puts this information in a historical context. For example, Scahill’s documentary “Dirty Wars” doesn’t even mention the US-backed death squads in Latin America, Vietnam, etc. — it just talks like the “War on Terror” counterinsurgency/assassination programs came out of nowhere … In addition to being ahistorical, their work is also ideologically neutral (“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. “) … You’ll rarely, if ever, hear any of them say words like “capitalism”, “imperialism”, “nationalism”, or “revolution”. They talk about these surveillance/counterinsurgency programs without analyzing in-depth how the wealthy benefit from these social control technologies. They act as if this can all be fixed by reforming the law and “respecting the Constitution“.

Would this Ebay billionaire have funded their journalism outfit if Scahill and Greenwald were openly anti-capitalist and anti-nationalist? I highly doubt it …

As Jerome Roos has put it:

So, while The Intercept has the power to deal a major blow to the ideological apparatus of the security state, it should be clear that a model relying solely on the good intentions of a multi-billionaire philanthropist can never be truly democratic — nor is it likely to ever seriously challenge the system of class privilege that sustains its funder’s wealth. What we need today is a much deeper political-economic critique that explicitly connects the rise of the security state to the panicked attempts by the 1% to defend their wealth and privilege in the face of mounting social discontent in an increasingly globalized world. Would Pierre Omidyar — or even Glenn Greenwald himself, for that matter — really be comfortable with such a line of analysis?

Whistleblower in Murdoch Phone-Hacking Scandal Found Dead

On Monday, Sean Hoare, a former reporter who helped blow the whistle on the Murdoch-owned News of the World, was found dead in his home. Hoare had been the source for a New York Times story tying phone hacking to former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who would later become director of communications for British Prime Minister David Cameron. Coulson was arrested as the scandal broke open earlier this month. Police say Hoare appears to have died of natural causes, but the determination had not lessened suspicion of foul play. Hoare not only talked about phone hacking, but phone tracking as well, or as he said they called in the newsroom “pinging,” where he said News of the World would pay police, he believed, to track individuals’ locations.

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Read full transcript at: http://www.democracynow.org/2011/7/19/whistleblower_in_murdoch_phone_hacking_scandal

From the Pentagon to the Private Sector: Boston Globe Analysis Finds Large Numbers of Retiring Generals Entering Defense Industry

(via Democracy Now!)

A new investigation by the Boston Globe finds that retiring generals are leaving the military in large numbers to take lucrative jobs in the defense industry with little concern for any conflicts of interest. We speak with Bryan Bender, national security reporter for the Globe.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: We’re turning now, though, from the Pentagon to the private sector. That’s the title of a new investigation by the Boston Globe that exposes how retiring generals are leaving the military in large numbers to take lucrative jobs in the defense industry with little concern for any conflicts of interest.

The Globe analyzed the career paths of 750 of the highest-ranking generals and admirals who retired during the last two decades. The results are staggering. From 2004 through 2008, 80 percent of retiring three- and four-star officers went to work as consultants or defense executives. That compares with less than half who followed that path a decade earlier.

The Globe analysis found that in many cases the generals are recruited for private-sector roles well before they retire, raising questions about their independence and judgment while still in uniform. What’s more, the Pentagon is aware and even supports this practice.

Bryan Bender is the national security reporter for the Boston Globe. He’s joining us from Washington, D.C.

Bryan, thanks so much for joining us on this very snowy day. The East Coast is blanketed. Talk about this research you have done, which is really a stunning exposé.

BRYAN BENDER: Well, what we did is, as you mentioned, went back and looked at the most senior military officers who have retired in the last 20 years to see where they went and what they did in their post-military careers. And the growth in the share of the three- and four-star generals and admirals who have gone into private defense work has increased quite substantially.

But what we found was not just the numbers. I think some would suggest that the nation has been at war for nearly a decade, so that explains, at least partially, why the rise. But more interesting was the sort of blurred lines between the role of these senior officers in the defense industry and their continuing role as official or unofficial advisers to the military.

AMY GOODMAN: Go through —- well -—

BRYAN BENDER: In other words —

AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead.

BRYAN BENDER: I was going to say, in other words, they’re leaving the military and very quickly taking jobs at defense companies or, increasingly, as private consultants either in business for themselves or in these consulting firms that specialize in what people call the “rent a general” phenomenon. But while they’re doing this private defense work, they’re still shaping, in a very real way, what the Pentagon’s priorities are, where they’re investing money. And so, in any other world, that would seem a pretty clear conflict of interest.

In one example, we found a retired four-star general from the Air Force who had been in charge of weapons programs, including the B-2 bomber, retires and then, within — literally within hours, is hired by Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer of the B-2, as a consultant, and then, very soon after, is called back by the Air Force to help oversee a study of what’s going to replace the B-2 bomber. So, that’s just one example of, again, these blurred lines between a private defense company official or consultant and an adviser to the Pentagon.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about the man you started your piece “From the Pentagon to the Private Sector” with. “An hour after the official ceremony marking the end of his 35-year career in the Air Force, General Gregory ‘Speedy’ Martin returned to his quarters…” And you went from there saying, “almost as soon as he closed the door that day in 2005 his phone rang. It was an executive at Northrop Grumman.”

So, explain then — as you make your bullet points, you say, “When a general-turned-businessman arrives at the Pentagon, he is often treated with extraordinary deference — as if still in uniform — which can greatly increase his effectiveness as a rainmaker for industry. The military even has name for it — the ‘bobblehead effect.'” Explain that.

BRYAN BENDER: Well, that’s one of the things that’s most concerning to observers of this, including some retired generals and admirals themselves, who we interviewed. And that is that it’s quite well known that there’s a revolving door in Washington. If you leave Congress, if you leave an executive department, you go be a lobbyist or a consultant to the very industry that you had a responsibility to oversee while you were in the government.

Where the military is different, people suggest, is this very rigid, ingrained system of hierarchy and deference to seniority. And the old adage, I think, applies: once a general, always a general. When you talk to some of the people who sit in some of these meetings of advisory panels and the sort of mind-numbing number of these commissions and other bodies that advise the military, if there’s a retired four-star general in the room, he’s going to get a level of respect. People are going to hear him out in a very real way, as if he’s still a general and he didn’t leave the military.

And the bobblehead effect is a term that a few people used, which refers to those bobblehead toys where the head goes up and down. You get a retired general or admiral in many of these settings, and everybody sitting around the table, particularly military officers who may have worked for that general when he was in uniform — he or she was in uniform — or, you know, certainly knew of him, knew the command that he or she had had, they will sit around the table and nod their head as the general speaks. So, the bobblehead effect really is something that is sort of specific to the military. You have this deference to seniority, in a way that you don’t elsewhere, that doesn’t go away when a general or an admiral takes off their uniform.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the meeting that took place on the National Defense University’s campus on the banks of the Potomac River in June of 2009, Bryan Bender.

BRYAN BENDER: This was a meeting that the Army convened, the vice chief of staff of the Army convened. And the purpose was to lay out a strategy for the Army’s future combat vehicle, something — a program called the ground combat vehicle, or GCV, which is a new program that is potentially worth billions of dollars for the defense contractors that will build it. And at this meeting, the Army invited about a hundred mostly government officials, military officers, congressional staffers. There were a few scholars there from think tanks or academia. Defense companies were not invited, because this was a very initial meeting laying out what some of the specifications might be for this new vehicle. They had not awarded a request for companies to respond to yet. But at the meeting were a bunch of retired Army generals. And it turns out that many of them are private industry consultants, including for the companies that later bid on the ground combat vehicle contract when it came out. And it was just one example that we came across of, again, this blurring of the lines. Here, you know, are a bunch of retired Army generals who are brought in because clearly they have a lot of expertise in military affairs — many of them were responsible for overseeing some very similar programs when they were in uniform — the Army seeking their advice, seeking their input, as they craft this new major weapons program.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s talk about, Bryan —

BRYAN BENDER: At the same time —

AMY GOODMAN: Bryan? Let’s talk about who was there.

BRYAN BENDER: Go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: Retired Army Lieutenant General William H. Campbell, who oversaw all the Army’s information systems before leaving the service in 2000. Since 2002, he’s been employed as a senior vice president at BAE Systems, one of the Army’s primary weapons suppliers and a major bidder for the new ground combat vehicle. You emailed him. He wrote back it’s not a conflict of interest because he’s in the electronics division of BAE, not the ground combat division. Campbell, you say, and BAE declined to say how much, if any, of the electronics system in the new tank might be produced by Campbell’s division at BAE. But Campbell suggested other generals at the meeting may have been skating closer to the edge. Like who, Bryan Bender?

BRYAN BENDER: Well, there’s a retired Army three-star general, Joseph Yakovac, who specialized in developing weapon systems just like this one when he was in the Army. And he’s a consultant for the same company, BAE Systems, but specifically on this ground combat vehicle program.

And this gets to the issue of disclosure. A lot of these generals will say, “Well, you know, when I was invited to this meeting, I had to fill out an ethics questionnaire.” And many of them, if not all of them, did so, as far as I can tell, but that’s where some people will come in and say, “Well, you know what? Yes, they filled out an ethics questionnaire, and presumably they told the truth, that they have a variety of defense industry clients or they plan to consult in the future on this very program that they’re advising the Army on, but I cannot find an example where anyone in a situation like that has been precluded from participating in a panel like that.” And that’s where some of the critics will say the process is broken. There’s a lot of paperwork these generals have to fill out. They file to the Army ethics questionnaires and nondisclosure agreements. But from what I can tell, in most cases, those documents get stuck in a drawer somewhere or on a computer hard drive and basically disappear. No one ever reviews them. No one ever says, “You know what? General Jack Smith, or whatever his name is, has these industry consulting clients and he’s advising us on some very similar technologies. Maybe we shouldn’t include him in this example.” So, that’s where public disclosure comes in.

And I think most people will say the problem with these disclosure forms is that there’s no way for the public to know who’s working for whom, particularly if they’re a consultant, and that, in the minds of some, there should be more disclosure, because at least there would be some sunlight on this process from the outside that might lead the Army and the other military services to do a better job of policing who is advising the military while they’re also being paid by the very companies who could benefit from that advice.

AMY GOODMAN: You mention retired General William S. Wallace, who ran the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command before retiring in 2008, who said he wasn’t representing one of the prospective bidders at the time of the meeting. Like the other participants, however, one of the ethics questions he was asked to answer, according to a blank copy, was whether he intended to consult in the future for a client that may have a direct interest in bidding on the new tank. Wallace didn’t say how he answered that question. But explain what his job is now, Bryan Bender.

BRYAN BENDER: Well, General Wallace, who, as you mention, ran the Training and Doctrine Command, which is basically the senior Army headquarters for determining what weapons and equipment the military — the Army should buy, he’s now a private consultant. And one of his clients now is General Dynamics Land Systems Division, which is directly bidding on the ground combat vehicle program that he was brought to the National Defense University to advise on. And it gets to my earlier point. I have no reason to believe that General Wallace was, you know, untruthful in his ethics questionnaire. So when the question came up — “Do you have any plans or intention to consult for a company in the future that might have a stake in this program?” — it really doesn’t matter what he said, whether he said yes or no, because obviously, in the end, it really didn’t matter, because he soon thereafter went to work for General Dynamics Land Systems.

And, you know, General Wallace and others I talked to will say, “Well, we signed a nondisclosure agreement before we went to this meeting, so, you know, we promised that whatever we learn here, whatever we find out, whatever this meeting is about, we will not share that with anyone else.” But that gets to this other issue, which some others raised, which is, the policing mechanism basically is inside the brain of the general or admiral. As one put it, you have to have a firewall in your head. So you know some inside information, perhaps, that you got from a meeting like this or a variety of others in the Pentagon, but when you go to the boardroom or when you go meet with your client, you basically have to make sure that you don’t download from one side of your brain to the other the information that you learned that you’re not supposed to share with your client. And I think many will say that that’s a minefield that is very difficult to walk. And that’s why many people think that the generals shouldn’t be in that position to begin with.

And maybe one point I’ll make, which is sort of a broader point: even the most concerned critics of this phenomenon and how it’s grown, no one will say that, “Oh, the generals should just retire and go off to the golf course or sit in their rocking chair and smoke a corncob pipe.” You know, many of them retire at 55, they’re in great health, they’ve spent an enormous amount of years in the military, they certainly have an expertise that is valued. Everyone agrees that they’re going to go do something, like in any other industry, which is their expertise. Where the real concern is is, again, the blurring of the lines. No one’s saying they shouldn’t go work for defense companies. But they probably shouldn’t be also, in so many cases, advising the Pentagon on some of the very same issues that they’re working on in the private sector.

AMY GOODMAN: Brian, I want to —

BRYAN BENDER: And that particularly goes for the consulting arena. Go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a related issue: David Barstow, the twice Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter, who exposed how dozens of retired generals working as radio and television analysts had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to military contractors that benefited from policies they defended. This is David Barstow on Democracy Now! in May of 2009 explaining how Pentagon officials developed this program during the lead-up to the Iraq war.

DAVID BARSTOW: The way to really influence the American public was to try and find people who were viewed as independent of both government and the media, people who were considered authoritative and expert, and people who would have an ability to cut through the spin.

And the group that they began zeroing in on were all the military analysts who were being hired in droves after 9/11 by all the major TV networks. In the view of Torie Clarke and her staff, these guys were sort of the ultimate key influencers. They were seen as, most of them, retired decorated war heroes. They were, many of them, retired generals, some three- and four-star generals. They came from an institution that traditionally is extremely trusted by the American public. And they were seen by the public not really as of the media, but not of the government either.

And so, in the fall of 2002, Torie Clarke and her aides, with the strong support from the White House and from her bosses, set out to target this group and to make them, really, one of the main vehicles for reaching the American public and building support for the war on terror. So that’s how it sort of began, was with this idea that they could take this thing, this thing called the military analyst, which is a creature that’s been around for a long time — going back to the first Gulf War, we remember some of the retired generals first coming on air — and they could take this and the fact of 9/11 and the fact of how prevalent they were on air, sometimes appearing segment after segment after segment, getting more air time than many correspondents were getting, holding forth, not just on the issues of where the airplanes are flying and where the tanks are moving, but weighing more heavily on even the strategic issues of what should we do next and how should the war on terror unfold, what should be the next targets.

And they looked at them as effectively what they were doing was writing the op-ed on air for the networks and for the cables. And they noticed the way the relationships between the anchors and their sort of in-house generals, there was a sort of bond between anchor and general. And you didn’t see the kind of challenging questioning that would go on if you had sent, for example, a representative of the Pentagon to the TV station. It was a much more — almost fawning, in some cases, kind of relationship between anchor and general. So they saw this group, and they saw in this group a way of taking the media filter, which politicians are always so fond of complaining about, and turning the media filter into more of a media megaphone.

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