I thought this was hilarious. Hope you do too.
I thought this was hilarious. Hope you do too.
As I write this only the very early reports of the political deal reached in Belfast are publicly available and what aspects have been put into circulation are sparse on detail.
However one feature of the reported agreement on dealing with the past jumped out at me: a proposed oral history archive. The Irish Times initially reported it but then dropped it for no apparent reason; but Reuters have reported it thus:
It (the deal) also sets a framework for dealing with the “corrosive legacy of the past”, as (Irish Foreign Minister) Flanagan put it. This would include an oral history archive and a dedicated unit to investigate deaths during the Northern Irish conflict.
It took me more than a moment to recover from the shock. My first thought was ‘what a staggering piece of hypocritical cheek by the powers-that-be’, stealing an idea from the Boston College archive on one hand while trying to imprison people with it on the other!
The second thought, or rather a number of questions, was, if anything, more alarming. If an oral history archive is to be created who will control it and who will run it?
I ask these questions not just because I have a suspicious mind, which I do, but because there is no way that one of the parties to this agreement, in particular, would have put their hand to this deal unless they thought that somehow they could control the archive, decide who would give testimony to it, what questions would be asked and ground covered – or not covered – and by so doing therefore determine how history will judge their and their leaders’ contribution – or lack of it – to the Troubles.
If this archive is constructed it will be an important tool for future historians and in the case of the party I refer to in the preceding paragraph it will probably be the only archive extant in the future – thanks to the efforts of the PSNI and the US Department of Justice.
As most of my readers will have guessed by now, I am talking about Sinn Fein. They are not the only control freaks in the Northern Ireland political firmament – the DUP could run them a close second – but in their determination to mould an alternative version of their leaders’ careers and life stories they are in a league of their own.
The party’s apparatchiks would be less than human if they hadn’t viewed this part of the deal with absolute rapture. Not only is the Boston College archive likely to be relegated to the sidelines but a heaven-sent opportunity has been produced to create an archive that will be Sinn Fein-friendly, blessed by the peace process and approved by all the governments.
Which is why this proposal must be judged on the detail. If an oral history archive is to be established – and let the record show not only that I favour such a project but that this idea was first proposed, at my suggestion, to the Eames-Bradley commission by Boston College some years ago – then it is absolutely vital not only that it be completely independent but that it be seen to be completely independent.
If any of the political parties at Stormont – and I mean any – have any sort of control or influence over the archive then it will be not just a useless exercise; it will, I will wager, be fraudulent, disingenuous and mendacious.
Only an honest oral history archive, free of interference, will do, one that an American judge, for example, could read and proclaim to be ‘a bona fide academic exercise of considerable intellectual merit’.
Anything less would be unacceptable.
A note to ‘sherdyme’, or Paul Larkin, or Paul Larkin Coyle or Paul Coyle Larkin or whatever you are calling yourself nowadays: no matter how many comments you send they will never, ever appear on this blog. Okay?
I notice that the ever-repulsive Niall O’Dowd, editor of the Irish Voice empire, was one of the first out of the traps to attack NY Mayor Bill de Blasio in the wake of the killing of two NYPD cops in Brooklyn at the hands of an evidently deranged gunman.
De Blasio’s crime, in O’Dowd’s eyes, was to give voice, albeit a very mild voice, to the growing concern aroused by the almost casual killing recently of Black Americans by police forces in Ferguson, Missouri; Staten Island, NY and Cleveland, Ohio.
De Blasio is married to an African-American and has a teenage son of mixed race, so when it comes to experience of police antagonism towards racial minorities Hizzonor knows a little of what he speaks!
But this counts for nought as far as Mr O’Dowd is concerned. The NYPD is, after all, an Irish-American redoubt so its members can do no wrong!
It wouldn’t be so bad if the Irish Voice supremo was consistent in his attitude towards policing and Irish policemen. But he is not. Not too long ago the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) was, in his view, so unacceptably bigoted that only its disbandment could cure the disease.
Yet the RUC was peopled by Irishmen too. So why support Irish policemen in New York but not in Belfast. Could it have been because the guys in Belfast were Protestants in the main but those Irish cops who patrol Staten Island are Catholic? Could the Irish Voice editor be just a little bigoted himself? Surely not!
Or is he saying that it’s wrong for police to come heavy with White Irish Catholics but no-one should complain when Black African-Americans are on the receiving end?
Anyway here is an excellent piece by Corey Robin, who places the De Blasio row and the reaction of the NYPD – and implicitly Mr O’Dowd as well – in proper context.
If you haven’t been following the situation in New York City since Saturday, things are getting tense.
On Saturday, a gunman shot and killed two police officers at close range in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.
The murders come on the heels of weeks of protest in New York (and elsewhere) against the rampant lawlessness and brutality of the police.
Instantly, the police and their defenders moved into high gear, blaming the murders on the protesters; NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, who had been gesturing toward the need for police reform; and US Attorney General Eric Holder. Many have called for the mayor’s resignation.
The police union and its head, Patrick Lynch, were the most forthright:
“There is blood on many hands, from those that incited violence under the guise of protest to try to tear down what police officers did every day,” Mr. Lynch…
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This is from Peter Sefton’s blog and arises from email correspondence between us today. This is an outrageous lie by the PSNI. No-one from the police in Northern Ireland has ever attempted to speak to me about the contents of my book ‘A Secret History of the IRA’. I will support Peter in whatever action he chooses to take against the PSNI over this matter.
Readers may know that on more than one occasion I asked the police to investigate McGuinness’s part in the murder of my parents and the allegations made by Ed Moloney, in his book, ” A secret History of the IRA”, page 347.
Here is what ACC Harris [now DCC Harris] wrote to me on 11 August 2104:
“The author Ed Moloney has previously been spoken to and is unwilling to disclose the identity of his sources”.
Here is what Ed Moloney told me today, when I put Harris’s version to him:
“No-one from the RUC or PSNI has ever approached me about anything I wrote in ‘secret history’ and certainly not about your parents’ terrible deaths…if they are telling you that , they are lying to you and you have my permission to say so in whatever arena you choose”
I will be writing to the Chief Constable, seeking an explanation and possibly taking the matter further, depending on his answer. So much for ACC Kerr telling the PPS that my parents’ case had been thoroughly investigated.
Other inconsistencies are emerging in information supplied by senior officers and this will be the subject of future blogs.
Where would we be without the opportunity to put these matters in the public domain , by blogging?
I say this because the Bar Council avidly reads my blogs!
Any journalist who covered U.S. policy on Northern Ireland in recent decades and failed to cross paths at some point with Kendall Myers probably wasn’t doing his or her job very well.
The State Department diplomat cum academic was to all external appearances a loyal servant of the United States who, like quite a few in that branch of government, had morphed into an Anglophile. He had developed an unusual interest in the Irish Troubles, although never betrayed a preference for any side, and was never far away from the centre of Anglo-Irish policy-making during the Clinton and Bush years when the White House had an ambassador attached to the peace process.
Myers even looked British – he could easily have been mistaken for a retired Brigadier in the British Army – so you can imagine the surprise and shock (a not unpleasant one for some) when he and his wife were outed as Cuban spies in 2009. It was like discovering that David Cameron was in the employ of Bejing or that Enda Kenny was in reality a Provo mole.
It remains to be seen whether Myers and his wife will be released as part of the rapprochement with Havana or whether the State Department will refuse to let him go since he was one of their own, in class as well as nationality and profession, making his sin in their eyes all the more unpardonable.
That would be a pity. A few years ago I wrote to him expressing the hope that he would speak to me from prison about his motives for becoming Castro’s man in Foggy Bottom; not only would it be a fascinating tale but an important one.
In the meantime here is a link to a piece on Toby Harnden’s blog which deals with the Irish connection to Kendall Myers’ diplomatic career and below an interesting backgrounder that appeared in the Miami Herald at the time of the couple’s trial:
The Miami Herald
Sun, June 14, 2009
The curious case of alleged Cuban spy Kendall Myers
BY CAROL ROSENBERG AND LESLEY CLARK
Retired State Department employee Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn, told friends they had summer plans to take their 37-foot yacht north last weekend, up the picturesque coastline to New England.
Instead, the couple waits in a federal jail for trial, charged with 30 years of spying on the United States for the country’s longtime antagonist, the communist regime of Cuba.
And friends and colleagues are left to reconcile the gregarious, well-read couple they knew with federal charges that allege a life of duplicity — of shadowy intrigue involving coded messages to Havana and clandestine contacts with Cuba’s spy agency.
”They were always very personable. Gwen told me about the yacht they were having built by this company in the Netherlands, that Kendall had retired,” said Woody Reagan, who lived upstairs from the couple for more than a decade in The Westchester, a fashionable co-op near the Washington National Cathedral.
”They were planning to sail the Caribbean,” he said. “I didn’t know they’d be saying hi to Fidel. They never discussed politics.”
Even as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered an assessment of any national security damage the couple may have caused, a week of interviews with those who knew them said they never mentioned Cuba.
Myers — who goes by Kendall — had two grand passions: Europe and sailing. Gwendolyn was an avid sailor, too.
In court Wednesday, but for matching navy blue jail uniforms, they looked like any other retirees, tan and thin. Kendall Myers had his trademark thick white walrus mustache and a bit of an academician’s air. Next to him sat Gwendolyn, petite, with blonde hair turning to gray.
None of those interviewed detected the fawning affection for Fidel Castro ascribed to the couple in court documents — Myers gushing after a 1978 visit to Cuba that Castro was a ”brilliant and charismatic leader,” and decades later talking in a sting operation of a desire to sail ”home” to Havana and teach at Cuba’s intelligence school.
The FBI alleges long-standing ties to Cuba, saying in an affidavit that the pair agreed to spy after a Cuban diplomat from the country’s mission to the United Nations visited them in South Dakota in 1979 or 1980. He had earlier invited Kendall Myers to visit the island, and Myers did so in 1978, praising the Cuban revolution in a diary the FBI uncovered.
A CIRCUITOUS LIFE
A Washington, D.C., native, Kendall Myers traced his family’s roots through Gilbert Grosvenor, president of the National Geographic Society, to great-grandfather Alexander Graham Bell, credited with inventing the first practical telephone. At one time, the family had an estate in Coconut Grove near Kampong, the estate owned by renowned botanist David Fairchild.
Myers earned a doctorate in European Studies from Johns Hopkins University’s prestigious School of Advanced International Studies, or SAIS, in 1972. His dissertation: A Rationale for Appeasement, on Britain’s policy toward Nazi Germany before World War II.
Records suggest that the years preceding his involvement with Cuba were turbulent. Myers in 1975 crashed his car in Washington, killing a 16-year-old girl, The Washington Post reported. In 1977, he divorced the mother of his son and daughter.
He got a job at the State Department, his on-again, off-again employer for 30 years, working first as a contract instructor at the Foreign Service Institute, a training program that prepares diplomats for overseas assignments with history, politics and language classes.
What led him for a brief time to South Dakota, and the woman who would become his next wife and alleged partner in espionage, is not known. A South Dakota newspaper says that Gwendolyn Steingraber, a former legislative aide to then-South Dakota Sen. James Abourezk, was working at a state public-utilities authority. Kendall Myers was writing a biography about Neville Chamberlain, friends of Gwendolyn’s told The Sioux Falls Argus Leader. Chamberlain is the former British prime minister and diplomat widely blamed for Britain’s policy of appeasement toward Nazi Germany, which failed to avert World War II.
By 1980, the couple returned to Washington, where Gwendolyn found work as an analyst at Riggs National Bank. They married in 1982, and Kendall Myers began working again for the State Department — at the urging of the Cuban government, the FBI affidavit says.
Across those years, Myers was an adjunct professor at the School of Advanced International Studies, a Washington institution along Embassy Row.
AREAS OF EXPERTISE
Former students say they, too, saw no signs of a secret life. There were ”no hints whatsoever,” said 2009 graduate Aki Kachi, 27, who took Myers’ Modern British Politics course. “He never mentioned Latin America.”
”It was clear he wasn’t really a fan of Margaret Thatcher,” Kachi said. “But you don’t have to be a communist to not be a fan of Margaret Thatcher.”
At the State Department, Myers moved from the Foreign Service Institute to what would become an eight-year stint as an analyst at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research.
A fellow State Department retiree, Wayne White, said Myers’ area of expertise — Western Europe — was rarely in the spotlight, so his colleague often found himself relegated to rounding up speakers for new employee orientation classes.
White, who considered Myers ”affable, gregarious and incredibly pleasant,” said he and co-workers are bewildered at the notion that Myers would “develop a sympathy for an otherwise loathsome Communist regime.”
The FBI says it was at the Foreign Service Institute that Myers met his first Cuban government official, a U.N. envoy lecturing there during the Carter administration, which was experimenting with engagement with Havana.
Was Myers a bored bureaucrat? A disaffected, wannabe diplomat? Fading hippie? He struck people as more of an egghead academic than the fiery ideologue FBI documents suggest the sting operation exposed.
London Daily Telegraph reporter Toby Harnden met him in 2003 to discuss developments in Northern Ireland. Harnden, the paper’s Washington correspondent, had written a book on the Irish Republican Army. Myers invited him to lunch. They analyzed an upcoming election, what the Irish political party Sinn Fein would do.
”He was good company. He definitely saw himself a diplomat,” Harnden said. He said he viewed his host as “quite English, actually. Tall, academic, stooped.”
The same year, the FBI claims, the professor and his wife took vacations to Mexico and Brazil to meet clandestinely with Cuban handlers.
But Myers had his sights on becoming a full-fledged diplomat, not an office-bound paper-writing analyst. He sought out Northern Ireland expatriate Michael McDowell at social events in Washington in 2005 and plainly told him he aspired to become the next U.S. envoy to to that country.
McDowell, now a consultant at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, thought Myers’ aspirations ”slightly eccentric.” These were the Bush years, and McDowell assumed that a Republican appointee would get the job. Myers and his wife are both registered Democrats.
McDowell declared himself ”gob-smacked” by the emerging FBI narrative of the couple’s life of duplicity. He had the Myerses to dinner one night with a Lord in Britain’s House of Parliament, and he said the couple left the impression they had no children.
In court last week, though, their lawyer asked the judge to grant the couple bail so they could see their children, two each from earlier marriages. Gwendolyn Myers’ middle-aged son, Brad, was the lone one there. He declined to speak with reporters.
”He never at all mentioned Cuba,” said McDowell. “I’m a Canadian citizen, I traveled to Cuba. But if you think about it, that would make sense, wouldn’t it? It was probably the last thing he wanted to talk about.”
FBI agent Brett Kramarsic, an eight-year employee who specializes in counterespionage, suggests in the affidavit that Cuban intelligence agents targeted Myers as ripe for recruitment during his 1978 visit. His guide for the trip, Kramarsic writes, worked at Cuba’s Foreign Service Institute.
LEFT TO WONDER
In the week that followed the arrest, friends and colleagues have reached for some kind of an explanation. McDowell says — with hindsight — that the tale the FBI has spun reminded him of Kim Philby, the British intelligence double agent who betrayed his country to Josef Stalin.
The same thought occurred to White, Myers’ retired State Department colleague: “He seems to resemble this pattern of ideological upper-class obsession for a supposedly idyllic totalitarian system.”
Moreover, counterintelligence experts wonder which U.S. national security secrets the Myerses may have compromised.
Kendall Myers had a Top Secret clearance. Their alleged spy work started in the Cold War, causing people like McDowell to question whether any information they gave Havana helped the war effort in Angola or was repurposed and peddled back to the Soviets.
Clinton has ordered an internal investigation. Federal prosecutors said in court last week that they’ll assess the damage and, if there is a conviction, use that information during the penalty phase of the trial.
One of Myers’ former students, Tom Murray, said he found clues in lectures that Myers may have admired Philby and other prep-school elites who in the Cold War became Soviet double agents to “save Europe.”
”Myers favored the underdog, according to my notes,” Murray, who studied at the School of Advanced International Studies in the 1990s, wrote in a blog posting on The Daily Beast. ‘Besides his admiration for Soviet double agents, he was a Neville Chamberlain man. While he compared Winston Churchill to the liberals’ bogeyman of the early 1990s, Jesse Helms, Chamberlain was ‘savvy, knowledgeable’ and ‘faced the situation as best he could,’ despite the obviously flawed outcome.”
At a 2006 SAIS lecture, Harnden was there as Myers assailed then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair for marching in lockstep with President George W. Bush toward the war in Iraq.
Myers had argued that Britain should have aligned with Europe in questioning the necessity of the war. The remarks triggered news articles raising questions about the State Department employee criticizing Blair.
Such talk was not unusual in the apartment building where the couple lived. ”Nobody was happy with the last administration,” said neighbor Jacqui Gallagher.
Still, Myers retired 11 months later.
In April, the couple reportedly told a covert FBI operative posing as a Cuban intelligence agent that they enjoyed retirement — but missed their work with Cuba.
They had stopped traveling after returning from a professorial exchange with China in 2006, worried that work had put Kendall Myers on a “watch list.”
”You, speaking collectively, have been a really important part of our lives,” Kendall Myers was quoted as saying. “I mean, we really love your country.”
Former members of the Provisional IRA will be very familiar with the chilling soubriquet ‘Burke & Hare’, that was applied to the two figures who dominated the IRA’s spy-catching Internal Security Unit during the latter part of the Troubles.
Like the Irish-born grave-robbers of early 19th century Edinburgh in Scotland, the IRA’s Burke & Hare instilled terror wherever they roamed in their mission to catch spies (although as it turned out the British more than the IRA command were often the beneficiaries of their grisly work).
Falling into the hands of the IRA’s Burke & Hare very likely meant being tortured, both mentally and physically, and those unfortunate enough to cross their paths considered themselves lucky to survive the experience. Many didn’t. In the case of one of the pair there is compelling testimony to suggest that he was a psychopath who derived pleasure from his work.
Unsurprisingly, the Senate report on CIA torture, which was partially released yesterday, makes a similar claim about the mental background of those at the cutting edge of the US torture programme: “This group of officers (involved in interrogations) included individuals who, among other issues, had engaged in inappropriate detainee interrogations, had workplace anger management issues, and had reportedly admitted to sexual assault.”
It turns out that the CIA also had its Burke & Hare who were identified in the Senate report as military psychologists who were hired as contractors by the CIA, at a cost of $80 million, to devise, oversee and run the torture programme. They have become symbols of all that is wrong about America’s privatised and corporatised Global War On Terror (GWOT).
Today, courtesy of Science of Us, more details have emerged about these two gentlemen which can be read below:
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s 500-page executive summary of its report on the CIA’s torture program offers some horrifying details about U.S. treatment of detainees captured in the post-9/11 years. It also highlights and adds some details about the important role two psychologists had in both developing the “enhanced interrogation” program and carrying it out.
Within the report, the duo in question are referred to with the pseudonyms “Grayson Swigert” and “Hammond Dunbar.” But both the New York Times and NBC News have identified them as Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, two psychologists who have been previously singled out for their roles in developing and legitimizing the torture program.
Both men came from an Air Force background, where they worked on the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) program in which military personnel are trained to resist enemy questioning by enduring oftentimes brutal mock interrogations. Beyond that, though, they seemed otherwise poorly suited for the task of interrogating al-Qaeda detainees. “Neither psychologist had any experience as an interrogator,” the report notes, “nor did either have specialized knowledge of al-Qa’ida, a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise.” Despite their lack of experience in these key areas, Mitchell and Jessen “carried out inherently governmental functions, such as acting as liaison between the CIA and foreign intelligence services, assessing the effectiveness of the interrogation program, and participating in the interrogation of detainees in held in foreign government custody.”
So how did these two men come to play such an outsized role in developing and enacting the CIA’s torture program? Much of the story is captured in a 2009 Times article by Scott Shane. Shane writes that Mitchell, who after retirement “had started a training company called Knowledge Works” to supplement his income, realized that the post-9/11 military would provide business opportunities for those with his kind of experience and started networking with his contacts to seek them out.
Eventually, Shane writes, Mitchell got himself an audience with the CIA, won some of its members over with his toughness-infused ideas for dealing with terrorists, brought his old friend Jessen onboard, and developed a proposed interrogation method of dealing with al-Qaeda detainees that would grow into the frequently brutal program described in the Senate report summary. Shane writes that Mitchell participated in the 2002 CIA interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, al-Qaeda’s purported third in command, in Thailand:
With the backing of agency headquarters, Dr. Mitchell ordered Mr. Zubaydah stripped, exposed to cold and blasted with rock music to prevent sleep. Not only the F.B.I. agents but also C.I.A. officers at the scene were uneasy about the harsh treatment. Among those questioning the use of physical pressure, according to one official present, were the Thailand station chief, the officer overseeing the jail, a top interrogator and a top agency psychologist.
From there, the business would only grow. “In 2005,” the Senate report states, “the psychologists formed a company specifically for the purpose of conducting their work with the CIA. Shortly thereafter, the CIA outsourced virtually all aspects of the program.” And while the company’s contract was terminated in 2009 amid a growing national outcry over government-sanctioned torture, by then Mitchell and Jessen’s years-long relationship with the CIA had already proven extremely profitable. The Senate report notes:
In 2006, the value of the CIA’s base contract with the company formed by the psychologists with all options exercised was in excess of $180 million; the contractors received $81 million prior to the contract’s termination in 2009. In 2007, the CIA provided a multi-year indemnification agreement to protect the company and its employees from legal liability arising out of the program. The CIA has since paid out more than $1 million pursuant to the agreement.
One of the strangest subplots here is the unwitting role of Martin Seligman, a psychologist viewed as one of the leading modern researchers on human happiness. As the Times reported, Mitchell attended a small gathering at Seligman’s house two months after 9/11 conceived of as a brainstorming session to fight Muslim extremism. There he “introduced himself to Dr. Seligman and said how much he admired the older man’s writing on ‘learned helplessness.’ Dr. Seligman was so struck by Dr. Mitchell’s unreserved praise, he recalled in an interview, that he mentioned it to his wife that night.”
The concept of learned helplessness, a psychological phenomenon in which people who face persistent adversity effectively give up and lose the capacity to attempt to improve their situations — Seligman’s original research on the subject, from the 1960s, involved shocking dogs — was put to use by Mitchell and Jessen in their dealings with the CIA, and it echoes in the report: “SWIGERT had reviewed research on ‘learned helplessness,’ in which individuals might become passive and depressed in response to adverse or uncontrollable events. He theorized that inducing such a state could encourage a detainee to cooperate and provide information.” Many interrogation experts vehemently disagree: This level of detainee mistreatment, they argue, increases the risk that the subject will simply say whatever the interrogator wants to hear, leading to unreliable intelligence.
Seligman, for his part, has repeatedly expressed sorrow that his research was used in this manner. Reached via email by Science of Us, he responded with a statement that he’s used previously when questioned about his research’s role in the torture program: “I am grieved and horrified that good science, which has helped so many people overcome depression, may have been used for such bad purposes.”
Great piece of television documentary making by Bill Moyers. A must-watch.
A central thesis of James Risen’s new book on America’s eternal war against terrorism – Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War – is that it is fueled by money and greed and facilitated by the fact that early on in the Bush administration, much of the business of combating the Islamic threat was contracted out to private corporations. Obama has continued the trend.
The consequences of injecting a profit motive into any human activity, especially where it should not belong, are completely predictable: in order to maintain a growing cash flow and a steady stream of profits when success would ordinarily be measured by their decline, the supplier has to provide the demand for the product. The last thing such an entrepreneur will do is to work himself or herself out of business.
The American prison business is a perfect example. Since 1970, America’s prison population has risen by 700 per cent and now stands at well over two million. If America was working properly the numbers in jail should be shrinking not growing.
It is no coincidence that the four decades during which this massive expansion happened also were the years of prison privatisation, encouraged by neo-liberal economic policies promulgated by Reagan and Thatcher amongst others. As prisons became more profit-based, policing policies evolved to facilitate the growth of imprisonment (especially of Black men): these included draconian drug laws, three strike laws and ‘Broken Windows Policing’.
Fear of Black men greased the wheels of the prison industrial complex and fear, as Risen writes, of Brown men with beards and turbans who pray towards Mecca thrice daily has fueled the terrorism industrial complex:
Reading the Senate report on CIA torture is not a pleasant experience. It is a story of the most cruel torture carried out in the most disgusting ways, sometimes by people who clearly had serious psychopathic problems. But it is moreover a story of failure and lies; the failure of torture to obtain real, actionable intelligence and lies to cover this up, lies to the White House, to Congress, to other intelligence agencies, to the media, to the American people and the world and ultimately to the CIA itself.
So why did the CIA continue torturing people when it was evidently not producing results? Why not admit early on that torture was a failure and that more conventional methods were more effective, as they clearly were?
Well, one reason was that by 2005 the CIA had, to use the Senate report’s words, “overwhelmingly outsourced” torture to private contractors, in this case a couple of on-the-make psychologists who were woefully unqualified for the task and so, to borrow Risen’s words, “(Torture had become) central to the financial well-being of countless federal bureaucrats, contractors, subcontractors, consultants, analysts and pundits.”
Neither of those two psychologists were going to admit that their business was a complete failure, and risk losing all that money, and none of the CIA bureaucrats who hired them and set them up in business were going to admit they had screwed up. Welcome to America!
Here are the relevant paragraphs from the Senate report:
This piece by Matt Taibbi in the current edition of Rolling Stone is the best take yet, in my view, on the policing crisis that is simmering and churning throughout this country, especially in Black and poor America.
Taibbi draws parallels between the killings of African-Americans by policemen who never get punished for their crimes with the financial misdeeds of Wall Street committed by rich White bankers who also never get punished. While the perpetrators walk free in both instances, the victims never do.
Or, as Taibbi puts it, if Eric Garner had been selling financial derivatives (value countless billions) instead of loose cigarettes on a street corner in Staten Island (value 75¢ each) he would never have been choked by a White policeman and would still be alive today.
Taibbi does not make this point but it is worth remembering that the policy of not prosecuting individual Wall Street criminals for their egregious financial crimes was pioneered by the two most powerful Black men in this country.
One was Attorney-General Eric Holder, the other was President Barack Obama who endorsed Holder’s proposal not to seek retribution for the worst financial crisis since 1929 by putting those responsible, like the CEO’s of Goldman Sachs (Lloyd Blankfein, net worth $500 million, annual salary in excess of $50 million) and JP Morgan Chase (Jamie Dimon – net worth $400 million, annual salary $27.5 million) behind bars even though they oversaw and endorsed fraud on an industrial scale.
Now at the end of the day people like Dimon and Blankfein are able to earn their massive salaries and bonuses because organisations like the NYPD make sure that they can sleep safely in their beds each night and can rest easy that no-one will make them amenable for their crimes, least of all the Black President of America and his Black Attorney-General.
So, if in order to do that policeman occasionally have to dispatch poor Black people like Eric Garner to their maker one can hardly fault them if they expect there will be no consequences. Especially if other Black men have let much worse criminals off the hook entirely.
07 December 14
The crooked math that’s going to crash American law enforcement if policies aren’t changed
obody’s willing to say it yet. But after Ferguson, and especially after the Eric Garner case that exploded in New York yesterday after yet another non-indictment following a minority death-in-custody, the police suddenly have a legitimacy problem in this country.
Law-enforcement resources are now distributed so unevenly, and justice is being administered with such brazen inconsistency, that people everywhere are going to start questioning the basic political authority of law enforcement. And they’re mostly going to be right to do it, and when they do, it’s going to create problems that will make the post-Ferguson unrest seem minor.
The Garner case was a perfect symbol of everything that’s wrong with the proactive police tactics that are now baseline policy in most inner cities. Police surrounded the 43-year-old Garner after he broke up a fight. The officers who responded to that call then decided to get in Garner’s face for the preposterous crime of selling “loosies,” i.e. single cigarettes from a pack.
When the police announced that they were taking him in to run him for the illegal tobacco sale, Garner balked and demanded to be left alone. A few minutes later he was in a choke hold, gasping “I can’t breathe,” and en route to fatal cardiac arrest.
On the tape you can actually hear the echo of Garner’s years of experience with Broken Windows-style policing, a strategy based on a never-ending stream of small intrusive confrontations between police and residents in target neighborhoods.
The ostensible goal of Broken Windows is to quickly and efficiently weed out people with guns or outstanding warrants. You flood neighborhoods with police, you stop people for anything and everything and demand to see IDs, and before long you’ve both amassed mountains of intelligence about who hangs with whom, and made it genuinely difficult for fugitives and gunwielders to walk around unmolested.
You can make the argument that the policies work, as multiple studies have cited “hot spot” policing as a cause of urban crime-rate declines (other studies disagree, but let’s stipulate).
But the psychic impact of these policies on the massive pool of everyone else in the target neighborhoods is a rising sense of being seriously pissed off. They’re tired of being manhandled and searched once a week or more for riding bikes the wrong way down the sidewalk (about 25,000 summonses a year here in New York), smoking in the wrong spot, selling loosies, or just “obstructing pedestrian traffic,” a.k.a. walking while black.
This is exactly what you hear Eric Garner complaining about in the last moments of his life. “Every time you see me, you want to mess with me,” he says. “It stops today!”
This is the part white Middle American news audiences aren’t hearing about these stories. News commentators like the New York Post’s Bob McManus (“Blame Only the Man Who Tragically Decided to Resist“), predictably in full-on blame-the-victim mode, are telling readers that the mistake made by Eric Garner was resisting the police in a single moment of obstinacy over what admittedly was not a major offense, but a crime nonetheless. McManus writes:
He was on the street July 17, selling untaxed cigarettes one at a time — which, as inconsequential as it seems, happens to be a crime.
The press and the people who don’t live in these places want you to focus only on the incidents in question. It was technically a crime! Annoying, but he should have complied! His fault for dying – and he was a fat guy with asthma besides!
But the real issue is almost always the hundreds of police interactions that take place before that single spotlight moment, the countless aggravations large and small that pump up the rage gland over time.
Over the last three years, while working on a book about the criminal justice gap that ended up being called The Divide, I spent a lot of time with people like Eric Garner. There’s a shabby little courthouse at 346 Broadway in lower Manhattan that’s set up as the place you go to be sentenced and fined for the kind of ticket Staten Island cops were probably planning on giving Garner.
I sat in that courtroom over and over again for weeks and listened to the stories. I met one guy, named Andre Finley, who kept showing up to court in an attempt to talk his way into jail as a way out of the $100 fine he’d got for riding a bike on a sidewalk in Bedford-Stuyvesant. He couldn’t afford the hundred bucks. It took a year and multiple all-day court visits to clear up.
I met a woman who had to hire a sitter so she could spend all day in court waiting to be fined for drinking wine on her own front porch. And in the case of a Bed-Stuy bus driver named Andrew Brown, it was that old “obstructing traffic” saw: the same “offense” that first flagged Ferguson police to stop Michael Brown.
In Andrew’s case, police thought the sight of two black men standing in front of a project tower at 1 a.m. was suspicious and stopped them. In reality, Andrew was listening to music on headphones with a friend on his way home after a long shift driving a casino shuttle. When he balked at being stopped, just like Garner balked, cops wrote him up for “obstructing” a street completely empty of pedestrians, and the court demanded 50 bucks for his crime.
This policy of constantly badgering people for trifles generates bloodcurdling anger in “hot spot” neighborhoods with industrial efficiency. And then something like the Garner case happens and it all comes into relief. Six armed police officers tackling and killing a man for selling a 75-cent cigarette.
That was economic regulation turned lethal, a situation made all the more ridiculous by the fact that we no longer prosecute the countless serious economic crimes committed in this same city. A ferry ride away from Staten Island, on Wall Street, the pure unmolested freedom to fleece whoever you want is considered the sacred birthright of every rake with a briefcase.
If Lloyd Blankfein or Jamie Dimon had come up with the concept of selling loosies, they’d go to their graves defending it as free economic expression that “creates liquidity” and should never be regulated.
Taking it one step further, if Eric Garner had been selling naked credit default swaps instead of cigarettes – if in other words he’d set up a bookmaking operation in which passersby could bet on whether people made their home mortgage payments or companies paid off their bonds – the police by virtue of a federal law called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act would have been barred from even approaching him.
There were more cops surrounding Eric Garner on a Staten Island street this past July 17th then there were surrounding all of AIG during the period when the company was making the toxic bets that nearly destroyed the world economy years ago. Back then AIG’s regulator, the OTS, had just one insurance expert on staff, policing a company with over 180,000 employees.
This is the crooked math that’s going to crash American law enforcement if policies aren’t changed. We flood poor minority neighborhoods with police and tell unwitting officers to aggressively pursue an interventionist strategy that sounds like good solid policing in a vacuum.
But the policy looks worse when a white yuppie like me can live in the same city as Garner for 15 years and never even be asked the time by someone in uniform. And at the very highest levels of society, where corruption has demonstrably been soaring in recent years, the police have almost been legislated out of existence.
The counter-argument to all this is that the police are sent where there’s the most crime. But that argument doesn’t hold up for long in a city that not only has recently become the unpunished economic corruption capital of the Western world – it’s also a place where white professionals on the Upper East and West Sides can have their coke and weed safely home-delivered with their Chinese food, while minorities in Bed-Stuy and Harlem are catching real charges and jail time for the same thing.
City police have tough, brutal, dangerous jobs. Even in the “hot spots,” residents know this and will cut officers a little slack for being paranoid and quick to escalate.
Still, being quick to draw in a dark alley in a gang chase is one thing. But if some overzealous patrolman chokes a guy all the way to death, on video, in a six-on-one broad daylight situation, for selling a cigarette, forget about a conviction – someone at least has to go to trial.
Because you can’t send hundreds of thousands of people to court every year on broken-taillight-type misdemeanors and expect people to sit still while yet another coroner-declared homicide goes unindicted. It just won’t hold. If the law isn’t the same everywhere, it’s not legitimate. And in these neighborhoods, what we have doesn’t come close to looking like one single set of laws anymore.
When that perception sinks in, it’s not just going to be one Eric Garner deciding that listening to police orders “ends today.” It’s going to be everyone. And man, what a mess that’s going to be.
The post below is reposted from Cathy Fox’s blog and deals with correspondence she conducted with the Secretary to the D Notice Committee in London in an effort to discover whether British spy agencies covered up pedophilia either by their own agents or targets they were interested in and justified this on the ground of national security.
The D Notice committee issues warning to the British media not to publish or broadcast news stories when the items might endanger ‘national security’. Unfortunately far too many media outlets in that country obey D Notices, accepting that a largely anonymous and unaccountable committee has the authority and moral right to decide what is in the interest of ‘national security’.
Clearly this line of inquiry has implications for MI5’s involvement in the Kincora pedophile scandal of the 1970’s and 1980’s , either because of suspicions that they recruited ‘visitors’ to the East Belfast Boys Home as agents to spy on Loyalist and Unionist groups or employees there and/or were themselves, as individuals, participants in the years of abuse of vulnerable young boys.
Recently these suspicions were strengthened when well-sourced allegations surfaced confirming suspicions that MI5 turned a Nelson’s eye to abuse at Kincora in the 1970’s.
The senior figure at the home, in fact its housefather, William McGrath, was a natural target for MI5. He was involved in the world of Loyalist paramilitarism, extreme political Loyalism and evangelical Protestantism. His group, Tara, a doomsday organisation with links to the post-Gusty Spence UVF, subscribed to the view that the Protestants of Northern Ireland were one of the lost tribes of Israel. All these associations made his activities at Kincora a potentially rich honey trap for MI5.
Cathy Fox’s correspondence shows that the official British attitude is that MI5 or MI6 involvment in, covering up of, or knowledge about pedophilia could not have happened because….well, because it could not have happened. So there you are!
Enjoy her post below:
I had wrongly assumed that Andrew Vallance would not reply to my last email. However to his credit he has. First I include part of my last email to him which is relevant to his reply. If you want to check out the whole correspondence the link is  and the full FOI Request 
Cathy Fox to Andrew Vallance, (Secretary D Notice Committee)
“I shall acquiesce to your request to desist from further
correspondence, after this email. However I refute that 3 emails on
pertinent and legitimate points could be taken by any
reasonable person to be “repeated questioning that has become
burdensome and vexatious”.
My last question,
Reading the DA notice below, if an agent or officer of a secret
service mentioned in a) was a paedophile and abused children, is it
not entirely possible that there arises a conflict of interest in
that if the…
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