Well your comments about Iran's history have some merit. It is great that you acknowledge that we overthrew the duly elected government of Iran back in the pre-Shah days thus putting that despot in power for years. I trained at Ft Belvoir with Iranian officers from that regime. But your apparent acceptance of the " Iranian Nuclear Weapons" reminds me of the WMD of Iraq. Both Israeli and US intelligence sources have stated that Iran IS NOT working on a nuclear weapon. Some sources within the power structure of Israel were actively pointing out that the Netanyahu speech was not at all accurate to say the least. It is also good that you see that the taking of the American hostages was not an act of random anger at the USA but, in fact, was largely based upon the anger felt by some Iranians at our messing with their established democratric government. This is a great example of "blowback". Our media rarely acknowledges this history nor looks for the reasons for the hostage taking. The drone attacks across countries like Pakistan, Yemen, and so forth can only cause terror in the population of the targeted countries as these drones hover for hours on end fairly often loosing their weapons on "suspected" terrorists" which all to often turn out to be innocents. Even if they killed only "enemy" they are counterproductive in that many people rightly feel that it just is not a fair way to kill people. Underlying these attacks is the fact that Saudi Arabia provides much of the intelligence for the attacks and unfortunately their view of the "enemy" is distorted by a fear that any group working for change is a threat to their own despotic regime. The results of our policies in the entire area is becoming exceedingly clear. People of any persuasion, do not like to be bombed, to have their homes entered in the dead of night, to have a foreign government making decisions from afar frequently with no idea of the consequences for their country.
Thank you for at least seeing this issue in some light other than that common to so many. "Bomb them all!" (as yelled at us on 72nd and Dodge during our peace vigil)
A must see. Author of the book "The New Jim Crow", Michelle on this Amy Goodman interview, makes it even more clear with the help of Amy's and Juan's questioning the condition of the "War on Drugs", racism, and really the war on poor people. This interview needs wide distribution. Available on your computer at democracynow.org. I'll have copies too, hopefully.
A long link to a long article. But well worth it.
Twenty five years ago this November, a Salvadoran military unit entered the Jesuit residence at University of Central America in San Salvador and shot six priests in cold blood and also killed the priests' housekeeper and her daughter.
It was one of the last of the massacres of a long civil war that would soon exhaust itself. Each priest was shot in the back of the head. It was as if the government was making one last effort to silence the most consistent, authentic and powerful counterforce to an oligarchy's reign of terror (see http://ncronline.org/node/90226).
They died because they refused to stop talking about the demands of justice, of the great imbalances in systems that brutally oppressed the most vulnerable, of the inherent rights and dignity of all humans. They were among those in Latin America whose understanding of the Gospel increasingly compelled them to speak up for the marginalized and disenfranchised.
On that score alone — the integrity of their lives and the circumstances of their deaths — it is worth commemorating them. We would betray a gross deficiency in understanding the meaning of their lives, however, if we were to stop there, placing them now apart from the community, reverently compartmentalized, a relic of some bygone era to be taken out on occasion and admired.
NCR's dedication of space in this issue to this event of a quarter century ago is no mere exercise in nostalgia. Far more, it is another piece of an effort that has gone on for nearly half a century to connect some very significant dots: what it means to be a U.S. Catholic; what it means to live under a government that condones dictatorships and helps train militaries that engage in such egregious violations of human rights; how to understand the consequences both of proxy wars and of silence before state-sponsored violence.
It is fascinating, in this era of episcopal fixation on religious liberty, to hear barely a whisper of objection to ongoing wars, drone campaigns and increasing militarism of U.S. culture. Instead, we have an Archdiocese for the Military Services that never raises a question about U.S. military adventures, even when they are soundly condemned by a succession of popes.
The U.S. bishops' obsession with religious liberty takes an easy route, picking contentious fights with the state over issues that ultimately are a matter of individual conscience and decision. The state mandates no one to have an abortion or use contraception, nor does it require churches to perform same-sex marriages.
On the other hand, the state does compel everyone to pay for our wars, for ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction, for the unconscionable destruction of entire cultures and civilizations. We understand only in the aftermath of our fevered resort to war that it rarely contributes to stability or justice. It only inspires ever-expanding circles of fanaticism and violence.
If the bishops really wanted to confront assaults to religious liberty, if they really wanted to engage a Fortnight for Freedom that wouldn't seem a parody scripted by "The Daily Show," they would take on the profound idolatry of our complicity with the military industrial complex. It is the American idolatry of biblical proportions, an unrelenting theft, as President Dwight Eisenhower so chillingly described it, "from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
The Jesuits who were executed in cold blood understood, from the deepest wells of our sacred texts and Ignatian spirituality, that in such pursuits we spend our very souls. So did Roy Bourgeois, Vietnam veteran and former Maryknoll priest, who connected the dots between U.S. support for brutal dictatorships in Latin America and our training of military thugs at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga. Nineteen of the soldiers who carried out the killings of the Jesuits were graduates of the School of the Americas.
The 25-year history of the campaign to close the school detailed by Linda Cooper and James Hodge (http://ncronline.org/node/90301]) is a narrative that isn't taught in our children's history classes or addressed from the pulpits of our churches. It is a history that glides beneath the cultural radar. The lessons of the SOA — cleaned up in name to sound neutral, even uplifting, as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation — are as relevant today as ever, as the military-industrial complex devises new means of expanding the country's war-making capabilities in far-off places.
In 1989, Jesuits around the world confronted the disturbing truth that standing against the powerful on behalf of those exploited and on the margins could be deadly. The Jesuits in the United States, as Timothy A. Byrnes points out on Page 6 (http://ncronline.org/node/90221), "had to face the additional fact that these executions had been carried out by a military force that enjoyed the full political and financial support of their own government."
That realization, concentrated in the moment of the massacre, would have resonated with religious communities throughout Central and South America. The pattern of dictatorial brutality propped up by the United States was repeated with distressing regularity throughout the region.
It led an otherwise measured figure, Jesuit Fr. Joseph O'Hare, then president of Fordham University in New York, to ask in a widely publicized sermon: "Can we hand weapons to butchers and remain unstained by the blood of their innocent victims?"
The question applies today, perhaps in different ways, as we survey the results of our wars of choice and extended occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Strip the scene of political bravado and the deserved sympathy for the thousands of young people needlessly placed in harm's way, and the scenario is one of dismal failure. Our wars have become military, political and financial disasters.
The question still hangs in the air whether we can face this history honestly and square off today against the idol that continues to threaten our religious selves, the idol of false security in military might.
A clear-thinking, clearly written blog with an excellent commentariat.
News from 23 Sept 2014: (And if you are an optimist you better stop right now!)
The Obama administration is increasing the U.S. nuclear arsenal despite President Obama’s public championing of disarmament. When Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008, the Nobel committee cited his steps toward reducing nuclear stocks around the world. But The New York Times reports Obama is overseeing extensive rebuilding of nuclear weapons at home, including at a new plant in Kansas City, dedicated last month, which is larger than the Pentagon and employs thousands of people. According to a recent federal study, the United is poised to spend up to $1.1 trillion over the next three decades on modernizing nuclear weapons.
Obama continues to prove the Nobel Peace people dead wrong...
Meantime, back at the ranch, We have formed another coalition possibly more shaky and fake than that of GW Bush in the Iraq fiasco. All five supposed Arab countries are outright despotic regimes that should not be our buds nor part of our war machine. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain especially have a long history of suppression of their people. Saudi Arabia should be best known for funding much of the very people we like to think are our mortal enemies. They also “help” us by providing much of the intelligence on Yemen and other countries of Africa. Unfortunately, because of their extreme repression (Beheading their own people with one tally being around 138 killed that way) the intelligence they provide frequently is based upon their need to make the “Arab Spring” go away or turn into “Arab Winter” in terms of freedom from suppressive governments (Like theirs). Since self determination is so dangerous to their view of who should rule, they can provide targets that are not our enemy as much as the Royal Family's enemy. This can be exceedingly damaging to our interests.
Then we have the spectacle of a brand new enemy with claims that they are an “eminent danger to the United States”. Course the idea here is to provide some cover to the requirement that such threat be present to justify the actions taken. The new enemy is a separate militant organization known as the Khorasan group, They have managed to go from “unheard of” to the “Most Dangerous” in less time than it takes a Porsche to get to 60mph...
Now let's look at the actual attacks. These bring up in my mind the senseless pounding of Baghdad by repeated fancy pants missiles even though most of those buildings were empty and certainly did not remain military targets after the first few hits. But we love a show and Obama has learned from experts. The supposed HQ building was undoubtedly empty as one of Amy Goodman's reports claimed. It is one of our near fatal myths, developed with media expert advice, that these types of wars have HQ buildings similar to what we might have. They make great targets if you want to believe that the “enemy” mirrors our own tendency to have huge stores of weapons, fancy control mechanisms, and generally great targets for attack. Unfortunately, unconventional war is frankly, UNCONVENTIONAL. From Vietnam to today, the supposed enemy does not need the supply structure nor command facilities we think are necessary. We can “bomb Cambodia or the Ho Chi Minh trail” with tons and tons of High explosives but most of this effort is wasted.
In the immediate case, we supposedly used 47 Tomahawk missiles. Hmm. Sources put the cost at about 1.4 million each or about 64 million for just this one component of the attacks. Many other weapons were also used. The point might be made is the mantra of the Republican party dead? Is this “cost effective”?
One source said at least 20 ISIS fighters were killed. We will never know. I'd point out that this missile was designed as a nuclear weapon to be used upon big strategic targets such as cities. It's use with conventional explosives on questionable targets is certainly not cost effective. It also is not terribly accurate especially with its history of targeting based upon our lousy intelligence.
For instance, on “17 December 2009, two Tomahawk missiles were fired at targets in Yemen. One of the targets was hit by a TLAM-D missile. The target was described as an 'alleged al-Qa’ida training camp' in al-Ma’jalah in al-Mahfad a region of the Abyan governorate of Yemen. Amnesty International reported that 55 people were killed in the attack, including 41 civilians (21 children, 14 women, and six men). The US and Yemen governments refused to confirm or deny involvement, but diplomatic cables released as part of Cablegate later confirmed the missile was fired by a US Navy ship." (Wikipedia) This is just one attack which certainly did not help our winning of the “War on Terror”. (See the documentary “Dirty Wars”.)
Meantime, the Global Climate march on Washington, which most media puts at 300,000 and Amy put at 400,000, was knocked off the lead news stories across the country. Instead we see more War and actions that lead to more destruction, enemies made, and mothers motherless. I'll have to puke if I hear one more parent talking of their son/daughter who died for our “:Freedom” or hear Kerry (who sure should know better from personal experience) declare our intentions to get all of ISIL etc etc etc Hell, we cannot even agree on what to call the latest iteration.
What's wrong with the picture of these groups multiplying and spreading as we bomb and arm and screw the entire Middle East and Africa? Surely, it ought to be abundantly clear these tactics have not worked and WILL Not.
A mind-boggling article from the Washington Post on how small St. Louis suburban governments feed on poor blacks. Very long, but worth reading.
Gouttierre strikes again. How long is enough? His quote at the end of the article says it all:
"This could be the one country in the middle of all of this mess that we see in the news today where we know 90 per cent of the population wants us there to be working with them into the future."
It could be, but it's not. If any where near that figure were true we would not have had the mess we have had for all these years. Believe it or not no people want to be invaded or occupied. Afghanistan has managed quite well to make that fact exceedingly clear to most of us, even the slow learners.
Air strikes, drones attacks, night raids on people's homes, use of mass firepower, and on and on create enemies very efficiently. The chaos that results from our actions along with our propensity to back despotic regimes have allowed, even helped, spread the disease of extremist reaction to us around the Middle East, Africa, and likely other places to come. These groups have exceedingly little actual backing from the people in the country and would lose their support if we did not keep doing things no sane people appreciate, Their extremism has largely been hatched in the jails of the despotic regimes we have backed helped by torture and injustices w/o end.
I suggest you watch the "Democracy Now" from today (Sept 8th) where they have an expert who very well articulates the situation. It can be found at Democracynow.org. Amazing what sources outside of our government see that Gouttierre seems not to notice.
Edward Poindexter’s and Mondo we Langa’s 44 Years of Life Imprisonment for a Crime They Did Not Commit
This is a draft copy of a three-part series on the two Black Panther political prisoners incarcerated in Nebraska for 44 years and counting for a crime they did not commit. The final version of the series appeared in the Omaha Star from August 11 to August 25, 2014. The draft copy is provided by the author.
The Deepest Injustice: Edward Poindexter’s and Mondo we Langa’s
By Walter V. Brooks
As a child of the Baby Boom generation, I grew up still saying the “Pledge of Allegiance,” with my hand over my heart, every morning from kindergarten through the 12th grade. And I never forgot the mantra about providing justice in the United States: “Better that 10 guilty men go free, than one innocent man be imprisoned for a crime he did not commit.”
Edward Poindexter and Mondo Wapashitwo Ewen we Langa (born David Rice), two native sons of Omaha, have been incarcerated in the Nebraska State Prison system for 44 years for a crime that they did not commit. I need to say this again. It has now been 44 years!
And I am going to recognize the other elephant sitting in the room that we also keep trying to ignore. Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa are going to DIE in prison if a pathway to justice is not found for them. They each already have certain chronic infirmities that are well-known to kill tens of thousands of patients, especially African Americans, each year in this country. The mind can stay strong, but time takes its toll on every human body.
Ed and Mondo are no longer in their 20’s, when first incarcerated; nor their 30’s, their 40’s, or their 50’s. They both are now nearing the age of 70. And I think all of us can recognize the personal degree of difficulty their life longevity must represent. They have had to eat prison food for 44 years, breathe prison air for 44 years, live off prison health care for 44 years, and been totally denied even the smallest amenities of human existence, the love of a woman, precious moments with family and loved ones, a walk in the park, pursuit of heartfelt passions of personal creativity and natural intelligence. AND ALL BECAUSE OF INCARCERATION FOR A CRIME THEY DID NOT COMMIT.
Why has their case, in particular, been so hard to redress? Why can’t justice somehow, someway be found to get these two men released? Please remember, these men DO NOT HAVE ALL DAY ANYMORE. They need the public’s help, your help, they need a revitalization of community interest in their crucifixion. There are documentaries available about the case, multiple news stories and numerous summations of their case, both nationally and internationally. It is not that the truth of their false conviction isn’t available. The preponderance of evidence that this was a government-inspired railroading of two black activists would be readily perceived by any jury in the United States today! THEY ARE INNOCENT OF THE CHARGES THAT CONVICTED THEM TO LIFE IMPRISONMENT in 1971.
Look at the landscape of human rights changes and government malfunctions that have happened in the last 44 years.
We have seen, since the release of Nelson Mandela after 27 years of incarceration in Robben Island in the Republic of South Africa, his former prison cell become the world’s leading “holy shrine” in memory to unjust incarceration. I’ve seen photos of rock superstars, major American politicians, at least three Presidents of the United States, including Barack Obama, posed in meditation and virtual awe inside of Mandela’s old prison cell. His victorious release and then, astonishingly, election as the first black president of South Africa made Mandela a human rights legend. But no major celebrities, or politicians or presidents have come to Lincoln, Nebraska to visit Ed or Mondo, to ponder the intestinal fortitude and spiritual strength that they must have to withstand 44 years of unjust incarceration.
The declassification of government documents and journalists’ research over the last 30 years clearly indicates that Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa were targeted for destruction by the nation’s top law enforcement agencies. Their false incarceration was a multiple-agency collaboration during a era of political unrest in America where being associated with the Black Panther Party was literally a death sentence for some — assassination of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in Chicago in 1969, for example — and a life sentence for MANY others, including Ed and Mondo. While such government collusion and mechanisms might have seemed preposterous to mainstream Americans in the 1960s and early 1970s, today the idea that our governments lies and schemes and destroys lives is well known.
Ed Poindexter is a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War. As am I, in the U.S. Marines. All of America knows now that the government excuse for declaring war on North Vietnam was a sham fabrication THAT NEVER EVEN HAPPENED. There were no “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq when America declared war in 2003, even though 15 of the 19 terrorist perpetrators on September 11, 2001 were from SAUDI ARABIA! Yet, 60,000 American men and women lost their lives in Vietnam and another 5,000 in Iraq. So the idea that our government will precipitate actions that lead to the death of American citizens, even law enforcement officers, is now commonly understood.
Barely a few years after Ed and Mondo were imprisoned, President Richard Nixon became the first sitting U.S. President to resign from his office because of the Watergate scandal, which Nixon denied and denied until too much evidence was revealed to the contrary.
In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan escaped a similar fate for the Iran-Contra scandal that resulted in America’s own Central Intelligence Agency providing tons of powder cocaine for black drug gangs to convert into crack that led to the national black community plague of drug addiction and violence, as well as the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of black youth. And the profits earned from the CIA’s drug dealing were used to purchase small arms weaponry from Iran, a country that was supposed to be America’s MORTAL ENEMY at the time, to give to insurgents challenging a popularly elected government in Nicaragua. The “Contras” used weapons and training supplied by the United States to massacre thousands of Nicaraguan citizens supporting their own elected government.
Just last year it was revealed that the U.S. Bureau Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was supplying assault rifles directly to known associates in Mexican drug cartels. The “thinking” was that they would follow the path of those weapons and it would lead them to the drug cartel leadership. This patently ridiculous and lethal “sting” operation only came to light when it was confirmed that one of those rifles was used to kill an American border patrol agent!
My point? It really will not be hard at all for a contemporary jury pool to grasp that our own government could set up Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa. The case against Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa COULD NOT PASS in this day and age. But, we have to find a pathway back into the court room for these men to finally find justice. It won’t happen by wishful thinking. AND THEY NO LONGER HAVE ALL DAY TO WAIT FOR JUSTICE. Their biological clocks are ticking!
Finally, we are in a unique era of human rights reconciliation in the United States. Numerous museums and institutes memorializing the Civil Rights Movement have been created. Mississippi, itself, the single most reviled name in the history of violence, brutality and degradation of the African American people, plans to build a $40 million civil rights history museum and “come clean” on its past legacy of white supremacy. The Black Panther Party holds “reunions” now where those still alive and not incarcerated share their own afterlives; Panthers went on to become college professors, teachers, entrepreneurs and all kinds of occupations and avocations. But Edward Poindexter and Mondo we Langa are still on the clock in Lincoln, Nebraska and ON SCHEDULE TO DIE THERE if justice does not prevail in their case.
In Part Two, I will provide a host of links to documentary videos, interviews and news articles that the public can access that will show Ed and Mondo’s innocence beyond a shadow of doubt. And I will offer my own summation, a shorter narrative of the case that has now cost Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa 44 years of their lives and is going to kill them dead if we cannot find a pathway to justice for both of them in time.
See you next week.
The Deepest Injustice: Edward Poindexter’s and Mondo we Langa’s
By Walter V. Brooks
In 1970, Edward Poindexter and Wapashitwe Mondo Ewen we Langa (born David Rice) were arrested, charged, prosecuted and sentenced to life in prison for a crime that they did not commit. While a lot of people today think that inmates with “life” sentences eventually get paroled, if you are kept in prison until the day you die, you actually didn’t get “life,” you got death. You were given a death sentence.
Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen We Langa is now David Rice’s name. It means “Natural Man Child of the Sun” and is a configuration of several languages spoken in Africa. After high school graduation, he was a respected member of the Nebraska State Democratic party; editor of “Black Realities” newspaper and contributing writer to several other publications; a published poet and a painter; an employee of Greater Omaha Community Action (GOCA); a member of the Nebraska chapter of the National Black Caucus. He worked to help develop an African-American Police Officer’s League as a way to reduce police abuse in North Omaha.
Edward Poindexter joined the U.S. Army after graduating high school and was stationed in Europe and Vietnam. His experiences with American racism WHILE SERVING IN VIETNAM led him dedicate his life to fighting discrimination and injustice. He was working for the U.S. Post Office at the time he became associated with the Black Panther Party. He also was a delegate to the Nebraska Democratic Party state convention, a member of the board of directors at the Butler-Gast YMCA, and an artist (painting) and musician (guitar and horn).
Mondo and Ed have endured 44 years of incarceration because American law enforcement- local, state and federal- has a deep history of networking to destroy African American resistance to oppression. That’s old news. But Ed and Mondo were trapped in a virtually unbreakable “trifecta” of criminal justice abuse:
1. They were charged with the death of a police officer in the performance of his duty. In the United States, the death of a law enforcement officer is categorically considered a “higher form of death” than the death of the rest of us. Call 911 for an emergency and they’ll determine an appropriate response. Call 911 and say “Officer down” or let a cop call in “Officer needs assistance” and AUTOMATICALLY all police officers on that side of the city stop what they are doing and race to the scene. When a cop has been killed, EVERYBODY hits the streets. There are no days off. SOMEBODY, SOMEWHERE, SOMEHOW, is going to pay for the death of a cop. Law enforcement can’t have EVEN A SINGLE INCIDENT in which they fail to identify, apprehend or kill a cop killer. It is the ultimate assault against law enforcement’s entire authority and physical dominance.
2. Ed and Mondo were highly prized “targets for prosecution” in the war against black militant activism in the United States in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The Black Panther Party and it’s affiliate, the National Committee to Combat Fascism (of which Ed and Mondo were leading Omaha officers), were PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE, as declared by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover himself. The climate of ferocious assault AGAINST Panther associates has been heavily documented in numerous books published about political repression in America during the 1960s and 1970s. The moment that bomb exploded and killed Officer Larry Minard, Sr., Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa were virtually doomed.
3. The third aspect only deepens this tragedy. Somebody built that bomb. Somebody placed that bomb. Somebody made a call that put Officer Minard in harm’s way and nobody in Omaha recognizes his voice. If Ed Poindexter, Mondo we Langa and Duane Peak DIDN’T DO IT, then it means two extraordinarily embarrassing realities: the entire criminal justice apparatus in the state of Nebraska, starting with the Omaha Police Department, got the wrong guys and let the real killer(s) get away. And secondly, there has always been strong circumstantial evidence that the bomb found at 2867 Ohio may have been a law-enforcement-conspired attempt to implicate members of the NCCF as terrorist bombers (a maneuver that was used against a number of black militants across the nation.) The actual people responsible for the death of Officer Minard may well be law enforcement agents themselves. A month before the Minard homicide, an ATF affidavit FALSELY accused five NCCF members of building a bomb out of dynamite in front of a 12-year old girl, Marialice Clark. The warrant was not served because the Department of Justice in Washington believed the information was FALSE, yet the ATF was never investigated for filing a false affidavit. No, even I don’t believe they actually meant to kill a police officer, but a mistake like that can NEVER be fixed and, therefore, must NEVER be admitted. Larry Minard was not assigned to cover that call. He was not supposed to be there that night. The only thing worse than Officer Minard’s family being told that Ed and Mondo ARE NOT the real killers after all of these years, is to tell them that Minard may have died as part of some kind of “live-bomb” sting operation gone bad. So, if Ed and Mondo can just quietly die in prison, wouldn’t this whole thing just die with them?
Ed and Mondo were tried, convicted and sentenced together, but their legal appeals process has been handled individually. Mondo’s appeal process for the last 15 years has been led by Attorney Tim Ashford on a pro bono basis. Ashford said:
“An appeal on behalf of Mondo is before the Nebraska Supreme Court at this time. The Attorney General has until September 8, 2014 to file an answer to the brief filed on behalf of Mondo, I then will have ten days to file a reply to their answer. The Court will set it for oral hearing after my reply brief has been filed. We want everyone to attend the oral argument and all the public hearings.” (The date has not been chosen yet.)
“In addition, the court recently granted Mondo's motion to take judicial notice of all the evidence in Poindexter's case. The court will take judicial notice of the voice analysis expert Thomas Owens.”
Thomas Owens is a forensic specialist whose testimony is just one of several pieces of critical evidence supporting Ed and Mondo’s innocence that has NEVER BEEN HEARD IN COURT! The chief prosecution witness against Ed and Mondo, 16-year old Duane Peak, testified that Ed and Mondo gave him a suitcase with a bomb in it. Peak said he was ordered to place the suitcase in an abandoned house and call 911 to report a disturbance. The original 911 tape recording of that call was never heard at the trial and was PURPOSELY erased in 1978 by lt. James Perry. Yet that was the evidence that could have proved whether Duane Peak was telling the truth.
Duane Peak was charged with juvenile delinquency despite testifying that he was in possession of the suitcase bomb for six hours before placing it, that he made the 911 call and was a full participant in constructing the bomb. He was released from the Kearney youth correctional facility after approximately one month, raised by a foster family in Montana, presumably sent into witness protection and was not found for 20 years.
However, in 1980 a duplicate/back-up copy of the 911 call the day of the bombing was discovered. When Peak was finally located, he would not recant his testimony against Ed and Mondo, but he was forced to submit to a voice recording that Tom Owens compared to the original 911 call from 1970. Owens concluded that Duane Peak DID NOT MAKE THAT ORIGINAL PHONE CALL. Yet, perjury and suppressed evidence was not enough to obtain a new trial for Ed Poindexter.
Tim Ashford stated, “Scott Blake has done an excellent job of updating the web site for ‘Nebraska's Two Political Prisoners. The public can now — in one site — get all of the information regarding this case.” The web site, originally created by former Omaha NAACP president Buddy Hogan, is www.n2pp.info. A 30-page summary of the case with excerpts from the trial and depositions is found under the tab titled “The case.” Scott Blake and journalist Kietryn Zychal made a three-minute documentary questioning whether Duane Peak could have carried a suitcase bomb for six hours-- including driving with it in the trunk of a car-- without an explosion. The video is on the main page of www.n2pp.info. The entire trial transcript is found under the tab titled “Legal Docs.”
Here are some additional sources of information deconstructing the inconsistencies and gaps in the case against Mondo and Ed. Check out these links:
Former KETV-7 video journalist Ben Gray’s (now Omaha City Councilman) hour-long documentary on the case (1982). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOOC1ewyv7A
After a three-year investigation (1977-1980) Amnesty International concluded: "We, Amnesty International group 489, hold the opinion that David Rice and Ed Poindexter are political prisoners. They were sentenced for a crime they didn't commit because of their radical political beliefs. They had been active in the 60s in the black movement, specifically the Black Panther Party and its spin-off, the NCCF, and had thus become the target of the FBI Counter-intelligence Program whose purpose it was "to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or other-wise neutralize militant black nationalist groups in this country." David Rice and Ed Poindexter, were the most important leaders (second chairman and deputy minister of information, chairman) of the NCCF and the most vocal critics of the police and of the U.S. social system. The murder of patrolman Minard appeared to be a welcome pretext to incriminate the two activists and strike a blow against the NCCF from which it couldn't recover. The legal system was misused and they were unjustly convicted. David Rice and Ed Poindexter are political prisoners and must be adopted by amnesty international." Read the full report at http://www.n2pp.info/print/Amnesty_International_4-7-1980.pdf.
A complete, detailed review the legal case and appeals done by Attorney Tim Ashford can be obtained at http://n2pp.info/print/Omaha_Star_2011.pdf. It’s titled: “Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa In Prison 40 Years by Timothy L. Ashford.” His multi-part series of articles originally was published by the Omaha Star newspaper.
In Part Three, I will look at the extraordinary and increasing incidences of innocent American prison inmates being released after 20, 30, even 40 years of imprisonment. THERE IS HOPE! As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The universal arc of covenant is long, but it bends towards justice.”
See you next week.
The Deepest Injustice: Edward Poindexter’s and Mondo we Langa’s
By Walter V. Brooks
The United States of America lives and breathes “numbers.” You can find every conceivable manner of study and poll and who buys what and who goes where. Multibillion dollar ad agencies and marketing companies can give clients microscopic data on millions of consumer tastes and preferences. But try to find out how many innocent prison inmates have been exonerated and set free in the United States and you may as well be asking how many there are in China. Americans have no idea how many wrongful convictions of PEOPLE WHO ARE INNOCENT have been overturned in this country!
Until May 2012, according to Liz Webster, publications manager for the Innocence Project, NOBODY EVEN HAD A CLUE. The Innocence Project is a non-profit legal organization that is committed to exonerating wrongly convicted people through the use of DNA testing, and to reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. Since 1992, the Innocence Project has led to the freeing of 316 wrongfully convicted people, including 18 who spent time on death row.
In the June 18, 2012 issue of The Nation, Webster said:
“The Bureau of Justice Statistics doesn’t track exonerations, so for years that task has fallen to lawyers, academics and activists relying on news reports and legal filings. While the Innocence Project and the Death Penalty Information Center track exonerations, neither group’s database is complete. No single resource has amassed all of the known exoneration cases.
“Until now. On May 21, 2012 the University of Michigan Law School, in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law, released the first-ever National Registry of Exonerations. The searchable online database is the most credible and comprehensive resource on wrongful convictions in the United States. Peter Neufeld, the co-founder and co-director of the Innocence Project, has called it the ‘Wikipedia of Innocence.’ The registry, which can be viewed at www.exonerationregistry.org, currently counts 891 cases since 1989, the year of the first exoneration achieved using DNA.
“In addition to examining ‘a much broader group of exonerations,’ according to University of Virginia law professor Brandon Garrett, the registry shows ‘that there are a lot of exonerations that don’t get a lot of press attention.’ It also alters the conventional wisdom about how innocent people get convicted. For his 2011 book, Convicting the Innocent, Garrett scoured the first 250 DNA exonerations and identified eyewitness misidentification as the leading cause of those wrongful convictions (as have others). But the larger pool of cases reflected in the registry reveals other trends. According to University of Michigan law professor Samuel Gross, ‘perjury or false accusation’ is the leading cause of wrongful conviction.
“When someone testifies falsely under oath, that’s not a mistake,” Beverly Monroe says. Her case entry in the National Registry lists the following contributing factors: ‘false confessions, false or misleading forensic evidence, perjury or false accusation, and official misconduct’—an unpalatable sampling of the many flavors of wrongful conviction.”
Monroe was a 54-year old mother of three in Virginia when wrongly convicted of shooting her boyfriend to death. She did 7 years of a 22-year sentence before exculpatory forensic evidence withheld by the prosecution during her trial was recovered that proved her claim that the boyfriend actually had committed suicide.
With millions of incarcerations in the United States, 891 exonerated innocent inmates might not seem like a lot. Until you factor in the combined tens of thousands of years snatched from their lives, their families, their children and life dreams crushed. And for those sitting on death row when finally proven innocent, there was the added hell of spending every single day of their incarceration in solitary confinement waiting to be executed.
In fact, in 2000, Illinois Governor George Ryan canceled court orders to execute Illinois’ 167 prisoners on death row. He reduced most of their sentences to life in prison. The day before he announced his historic ban on executions in Illinois, Governor Ryan pardoned four other prisoners who were sentenced to die. He said the four men had been tortured by police and forced to admit to crimes they did not do. Governor Ryan, a long-time supporter of the death penalty, changed after studies found that thirteen prisoners sentenced to death in Illinois should be released. The studies identified mistakes in the way those prisoners were tried and found new evidence of prisoners’ innocence, questions about the fairness of the sentencing, bad legal advice given certain prisoners and wrongdoing by police officers.
The wrongful convictions of militant black activists fighting racism and injustice in the U.S., as was the case of Edward Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa (born David Rice) were rooted in an FBI COINTELPRO-inspired law enforcement collaboration and use of mean-spirited dirty tricks that would truly shock public consciousness, had people only known!
For example, the late California Panther leader Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt did 27 years in prison (including 8 years in solitary confinement) for a robbery and murder conviction of a white woman in Los Angeles, even though FBI AGENTS KNEW HE WAS AT A MEETING OF THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY CENTRAL COMMITTEE IN OAKLAND when the killing took place! After 27 years of relentless investigation, his attorney Johnnie Cochran finally obtained justice from Judge Everett Dickey who ruled that the chief witness against Pratt, former Panther Julio Butler, was a police and FBI informant who lied under oath.
Pratt’s case is classic FBI COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program). Nothing was too dirty, no lie too rotten to tell, no truth or exculpatory evidence too unmerciful to withhold. Either make up lies or suppress the truth. Just get them Panthers! No questions asked.
In October 1970, Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale and New Haven, Connecticut Panther chapter founder Ericka Huggins were tried for murder in the death of a Panther associate who was allegedly killed for being a police informant. The three Panthers charged with the actually killing all said Seale and Huggins ordered the execution. The hysteria of the first shooter’s trial led to the first use of metal detectors to enter a Connecticut courtroom, the longest jury selection in Connecticut history (six weeks!) and the longest jury deliberation in Connecticut history (six days).
Seale and Huggins were tried together. Wikipedia reported:
“The jury was unable to reach a verdict, deadlocked 11 to 1 for Seale's acquittal and 10 to 2 for Huggins’s acquittal. On May 25, 1971 Judge Harold Mulvey stunned courtroom spectators by dismissing the charges against Huggins and Seale saying: " I find it impossible to believe that an unbiased jury could be selected without superhuman efforts- efforts which this court, the state and these defendants should not be called upon to either to make or to endure.”
At the height of the New Haven trials, the president of Yale University Kingman Brewster almost lost his job when he issued a public statement that said: "I personally want to say that I'm appalled and ashamed that things should have come to such a pass that I am skeptical of the ability of Black revolutionaries to achieve a fair trial anywhere in the U.S.”
In April 1969, 21 members of the New York City Black Panther Party were arrested under a 30-count grand jury indictment that charged them with conspiracy to kill several police officers and to destroy a number of buildings, including four police stations, five department stores, and the Bronx Botanical Gardens. (That’s right. The Bronx Botanical Gardens!). The combined charges could have resulted in sentences of up to 150 years each.
The 21 Panthers, by trial time, had been reduced to 13, each of whom was held for the next two years on $100,000 bail. ALL 13 WERE ACQUITTED OF ALL CHARGES.
The New York Panther case is particularly meaningful to the wrongful conviction of Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa because the bulk of that police case involved the conspiracy to use dynamite. The prosecution said that, on Friday, Jan. 17, 1969 at 9 a.m., the Panthers had planned to simultaneously bomb the Bronx 47th Precinct, the Manhattan 21st Precinct and the Queens Board of Education office. And an alleged “sniper rifle” was found across the street from the 47th Precinct that the Panthers were going to use to shoot the police who would run out from the burning building after the explosion.
Think about the phony dynamite charges used in convicting Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa. Now look at the evidence results of the New York Panther “conspiracy”:
Dynamite sticks at the Forty-fourth Precinct station had been switched by a police undercover agent with phonies, so that only a blasting cap exploded.
At the 21st Precinct the fuse on the phony sticks had been improperly lit.
At the Queens Board of Education office building, REAL DYNAMITE, which was from a source other than the undercover police, blew a hole in the side of the building.
Call me crazy, but is really that far-fetched to believe that barely a year later, dirty tricks law enforcement collaboration in Omaha, Nebraska would try the “ole bomb conspiracy trick” again? But that time, obviously, something went very, very wrong and Omaha Police Officer Larry Minard, Sr. was killed.
Unfortunately, unlike the New Haven, Connecticut trials and the New York Panther trial, Ed and Mondo DID NOT HAVE thousands of people rallying in downtown Omaha EVERY DAY throughout their trial and celebrities and university presidents saying “The whole world is watching!” It was in the Midwest, in funky little Omaha, and these two men NEVER GOT THE SAME NATIONAL ATTENTION AND SUPPORT that was generated for Panther political trials on the East and West coasts. When Ed and Mondo were railroaded into the Nebraska State Prison, the whole world WASN’T WATCHING!
And there they yet stand, unbroken, unbowed in their innocence for 44 years. So, when you hear about a rally for Edward Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa (born David Rice), please find the time to support them. Contact Attorney Tim Ashford or Nebraskans for Justice and make a donation for their defense efforts. Look for updates on Mondo’s latest appeal on www.n2pp.info. The keys to opening their cell doors after 44 years are so close, and yet so far away.
Ed and Mondo are still alive. They can still come out of that prison and have life left. These native-born Omaha black activists have paid THEIR dues and OURS. They have had to live their dedication and commitment to truth and justice and the betterment of the African American community for 44 years without a break, a vacation or a single interruption. It’s time for the rest of us to step up and give something back to them. To lift both of them up and carry them for a while. Please.
I’m Walter Vincent Brooks. Thank you.
On the NSA, Hillary Clinton Is Either a Fool or a Liar
Clinton is using Edward Snowden as a punching bag to shore up her hawkish bona fides.
This story originally appeared at Truthdig. Robert Scheer is the author of The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street (Nation Books).
Who is the true patriot, Hillary Clinton or Edward Snowden? The question comes up because Clinton has gone all out in attacking Snowden as a means of burnishing her hawkish credentials, eliciting Glenn Greenwald’s comment that she is “like a neocon, practically.”
On Friday in England, Clinton boasted that two years ago she had favored a proposal by a top British General to train 100,000 “moderate” rebels to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria, but Obama had turned her down. The American Thatcher? In that same interview with the Guardian she also managed to get in yet another shot against Snowden for taking refuge in Russia “apparently under Putin’s protection,” unless, she taunted, “he wishes to return knowing he would be held accountable.”
Accountable for telling the truth that Clinton concealed during her tenure as secretary of state in the Obama administration? Did she approve of the systematic spying on the American people as well as of others around the world, including the leaders of Germany and Brazil, or did she first learn of all this from the Snowden revelations?
On Saturday, a carefully vetted four-month investigation by The Washington Post based on material made available by Snowden revealed that while Clinton was in the government, the NSA had collected a vast trove of often intimate Internet correspondence and photos of innocent Americans, including many users of Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other leading Internet companies. The Post reported many files “described as useless by the NSA analysts but nonetheless retained…have a voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes.”
The Post concluded after four months of reviewing the documents and checking with government agencies that the material supplied by Snowden was invaluable in evaluating the NSA program: “No government oversight body, including the Justice Department, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, intelligence committees in Congress or the President’s Privacy and Civil Oversight Board, has delved into a comparably large sample of what the NSA actually collects—not only from its targets but from people who may cross a target’s path.”
Did Secretary of State Clinton know that such massive spying on the American people was going on and, if not, why isn’t she grateful that Snowden helped to enlighten her? With her scurrilous attacks on Snowden, Hillary Clinton is either a fool or a liar.
Too harsh? Consider her continued insistence that Snowden could have addressed his concerns over the massive NSA spying on Americans and the rest of the world by going through normal channels instead of turning over the documents as he has entrusted to respected news organizations that won the Pulitzer Prize for their efforts.
In an April speech at the University of Connecticut, Clinton said of Snowden: “When he absconded with all of that material, I was puzzled, because we have all these protections for whistleblowers.” That is simply not true; Snowden as a contractor to the government is not entitled to the federal protections that cover federal employees. But even those federal employees have found scant protection under the Obama administration in their attempt to blow the whistle on national security practices.
As secretary of state in an administration that has charged three times as many Americans with violations of the draconian Espionage Act than all preceding presidents combined, Clinton must know that the Obama Justice Department has effectively moved to silence whistleblowers from stating their case in court.
They even tried to prevent Thomas Drake, an honored NSA employee charged under the Espionage Act, from even using the words “whistleblower” or “First Amendment” in his defense. Drake had taken his concerns over NSA’s violation of the law to the Defense Department Inspector General and the congressional intelligence committees of both houses of Congress, but that did not stop the Obama administration, when Clinton was in the cabinet, from prosecuting him under the Espionage Act for talking to the press. The government’s case collapsed with a federal judge calling it “unconscionable” that Drake had been put through “four years of hell.”
Hillary Clinton knows just how selective the Obama administration has been in punishing whistleblowers who expose government violations of the Constitution. Obama made a political decision not to hold accountable any of those involved in the torture program conducted during the Bush years but zealously prosecuted CIA veteran John Kiriakou under the Espionage Act for publicly revealing and condemning one of the most horrendous episodes in the nation’s history.
“The conviction of Bradley Manning under the 1917 Espionage Act and the US Justice Department’s decision to file espionage charges against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden under the same act are yet further examples of the Obama administration’s policy of using an iron fist against human rights and civil liberties activists. President Obama has been unprecedented in his use of the Espionage Act to prosecute those whose whistleblowing he wants to curtail.
“The purpose of an Espionage Act prosecution, however, is not to punish a person spying for the enemy, selling secrets for personal gain, or trying to undermine our way of life. It is to ruin the whistleblower, personally, professionally and financially. It is meant to send a message to anybody else considering speaking truth to power: challenge us and we will destroy you.”
That is the message that Hillary Clinton seeks to send to Edward Snowden. Remind her of that when she asks for your vote.
Memo: From Nick Hanauer
You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries—from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like Amazon.com, for which I was the first nonfamily investor. Then I founded aQuantive, an Internet advertising company that was sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion. In cash. My friends and I own a bank. I tell you all this to demonstrate that in many ways I’m no different from you. Like you, I have a broad perspective on business and capitalism. And also like you, I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine. Multiple homes, my own plane, etc., etc. You know what I’m talking about. In 1992, I was selling pillows made by my family’s business, Pacific Coast Feather Co., to retail stores across the country, and the Internet was a clunky novelty to which one hooked up with a loud squawk at 300 baud. But I saw pretty quickly, even back then, that many of my customers, the big department store chains, were already doomed. I knew that as soon as the Internet became fast and trustworthy enough—and that time wasn’t far off—people were going to shop online like crazy. Goodbye, Caldor. And Filene’s. And Borders. And on and on.
Realizing that, seeing over the horizon a little faster than the next guy, was the strategic part of my success. The lucky part was that I had two friends, both immensely talented, who also saw a lot of potential in the web. One was a guy you’ve probably never heard of named Jeff Tauber, and the other was a fellow named Jeff Bezos. I was so excited by the potential of the web that I told both Jeffs that I wanted to invest in whatever they launched, big time. It just happened that the second Jeff—Bezos—called me back first to take up my investment offer. So I helped underwrite his tiny start-up bookseller. The other Jeff started a web department store called Cybershop, but at a time when trust in Internet sales was still low, it was too early for his high-end online idea; people just weren’t yet ready to buy expensive goods without personally checking them out (unlike a basic commodity like books, which don’t vary in quality—Bezos’ great insight). Cybershop didn’t make it, just another dot-com bust. Amazon did somewhat better. Now I own a very large yacht.
But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?
I see pitchforks.
At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.
But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.
And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.
If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.
Many of us think we’re special because “this is America.” We think we’re immune to the same forces that started the Arab Spring—or the French and Russian revolutions, for that matter. I know you fellow .01%ers tend to dismiss this kind of argument; I’ve had many of you tell me to my face I’m completely bonkers. And yes, I know there are many of you who are convinced that because you saw a poor kid with an iPhone that one time, inequality is a fiction.
Here’s what I say to you: You’re living in a dream world. What everyone wants to believe is that when things reach a tipping point and go from being merely crappy for the masses to dangerous and socially destabilizing, that we’re somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time. Any student of history knows that’s not the way it happens. Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly. One day, somebody sets himself on fire, then thousands of people are in the streets, and before you know it, the country is burning. And then there’s no time for us to get to the airport and jump on our Gulfstream Vs and fly to New Zealand. That’s the way it always happens. If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible—for everybody. But especially for us.
The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too. It’s not just that we’ll escape with our lives; it’s that we’ll most certainly get even richer.
Nick Hanauer is a Seattle-based entrepreneur.
Some of you may have seen the greatly chopped articles about this in the Omaha World Herald and other MSM sources. Here is an original worth careful reading not only to help see the truth, but also to show the quality of Chelsea Manning's contributions to the understanding of the whole picture. Steve Horn
"The Fog Machine of War" Chelsea Manning on the U.S. Military and Media Freedom
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — WHEN I chose to disclose classified information in 2010, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others. I’m now serving a sentence of 35 years in prison for these unauthorized disclosures. I understand that my actions violated the law.
However, the concerns that motivated me have not been resolved. As Iraq erupts in civil war and America again contemplates intervention, that unfinished business should give new urgency to the question of
If you were following the news during the March 2010 elections in Iraq, you might remember that the American press was flooded with stories declaring the elections a success, complete with upbeat
Those of us stationed there were acutely aware of a more complicated reality.
Military and diplomatic reports coming across my desk detailed a brutal crackdown against political dissidents by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and federal police, on behalf of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal
Early that year, I received orders to investigate 15 individuals whom the federal police had arrested on suspicion of printing “anti-Iraqi literature.” I learned that these individuals had absolutely no ties
I was shocked by our military’s complicity in the corruption of that election. Yet these deeply troubling details flew under the American media’s radar.
It was not the first (or the last) time I felt compelled to question the way we conducted our mission in Iraq. We intelligence analysts, and the officers to whom we reported, had access to a comprehensive overview of the war that few others had. How could top-level decision makers say that the American public, or even Congress, supported the conflict when they didn’t have half the story?
Among the many daily reports I received via email while working in
The more I made these daily comparisons between the news back in the States and the military and diplomatic reports available to me as an analyst, the more aware I became of the disparity. In contrast to the
One clue to this disjunction lay in the public affairs reports. Near the top of each briefing was the number of embedded journalists attached to American military units in a combat zone. Throughout my
The process of limiting press access to a conflict begins when a reporter applies for embed status. All reporters are carefully vetted by military public affairs officials. This system is far from unbiased. Unsurprisingly, reporters who have established relationships with the military are more likely to be granted access.
Less well known is that journalists whom military contractors rate as likely to produce “favorable” coverage, based on their past reporting, also get preference. This outsourced “favorability” rating assigned to each applicant is used to screen out those judged likely to produce critical coverage.
Reporters who succeeded in obtaining embed status in Iraq were then required to sign a media “ground rules” agreement. Army public affairs officials said this was to protect operational security, but it also allowed them to terminate a reporter’s embed without appeal.
There have been numerous cases of reporters’ having their access terminated following controversial reporting. In 2010, the late Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings had his access pulled after reporting criticism of the Obama administration by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and his staff in Afghanistan. A Pentagon spokesman said, “Embeds are a privilege, not a right.”
If a reporter’s embed status is terminated, typically she or he is blacklisted. This program of limiting press access was challenged in court in 2013 by a freelance reporter, Wayne Anderson, who claimed to have followed his agreement but to have been terminated after publishing adverse reports about the conflict in Afghanistan. The ruling on his case upheld the military’s position that there was no constitutionally protected right to be an embedded journalist.
The embedded reporter program, which continues in Afghanistan and wherever the United States sends troops, is deeply informed by the military’s experience of how media coverage shifted public opinion during the Vietnam War. The gatekeepers in public affairs have too much power: Reporters naturally fear having their access terminated, so they tend to avoid controversial reporting that could raise red flags.
The existing program forces journalists to compete against one another for “special access” to vital matters of foreign and domestic policy. Too often, this creates reporting that flatters senior decision makers. A result is that the American public’s access to the facts is gutted, which leaves them with no way to evaluate the conduct of American officials.
Journalists have an important role to play in calling for reforms to the embedding system. The favorability of a journalist’s previous reporting should not be a factor. Transparency, guaranteed by a body not under the control of public affairs officials, should govern the credentialing process. An independent board made up of military staff members, veterans, Pentagon civilians and journalists could balance the public’s need for information with the military’s need for operational security.
Reporters should have timely access to information. The military could do far more to enable the rapid declassification of information that does not jeopardize military missions. The military’s Significant
Opinion polls indicate that Americans’ confidence in their elected representatives is at a record low. Improving media access to this crucial aspect of our national life — where America has committed the men and women of its armed services — would be a powerful step toward re-establishing trust between voters and officials.
Chelsea Manning is a former United States Army intelligence analyst.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on June 15, 2014, on page SR4 of the New York edition with the headline: The Fog Machine of War.