THOLOS OF ATHENA

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

TEAM OBAMA MENACES NYT REPORTER, JAMES RISEN, WITH SUBPOENA

Persons who would otherwise be willing to speak to me would surely refuse to do so if they perceived me to be not a journalist who keeps his word when he promises confidentiality but one who would break it in the interest of government prosecutors.
--James Risen
Besides the news about James Risen, there are a couple of other items that point to what governments, especially repressive ones, will do to maintain or restore their precious narratives. For instance, it was reported that on her arrival, actress Michelle Yeoh was met by officials in Myanmar (Burma) and was informed that she was blacklisted and was being immediately deported. This was simply because she had played the part in a movie, of the country's number one dissident, Aung San Suu Kyi, the tireless and ever-arrested champion of a return to democracy. The Junta must keep up appearances.

Another example is Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani attorney whose once warm relationship with US officials went cold after he agreed to represent claimants whose relatives were killed by US drone bombers. They are filing suit against the CIA. Suddenly his application for a visa to attend a Columbia University human rights conference in New York has run into a problem; although after several inquiries, the State Department won't disclose what the problem is.
"...[M]y relationship with the US government changed dramatically in 2010, when I decided to take on the case of Karim Khan. Karim Khan was away from home on New Year's Eve 2009 when two missiles fired from what we believe was a CIA-operated drone struck his family home in North Waziristan and killed his son, aged 18, and his brother, aged 35. Informed over the phone of their deaths, he rushed back to find his home destroyed and his brother's family--now a widow and two-year-old son--devastated.
Khan believes his son and brother were innocent victims. His brother, who had taken the surname Iqbal in honour of the famous Pakistani poet, was a schoolteacher who had returned to their ancestral village, shortly after finishing his master's degree in English literature, because he believed education was vital for his countrymen's improvement. Khan's teenage son helped out at another government school in the area. [...]
So, why would the US government want to prevent me from discussing these cases at Columbia law school? Perhaps, it is because our legal challenge disrupts the narrative of "precision strikes" against "high value targets" as an unqualified success against terrorism, at minimal cost to civilian life.
There are some narratives in the Washington establishment that bang around the corridors after office hours like Marley's Ghost-- oblivious to the shuffling and re-shuffling of cabinet officers-- as well as the peculiar personalities of presidents, who are only transient beings. These narratives have become institutional. And if you are able to effectively contradict or damage the state narrative; then you are bound to be in trouble, serious trouble, with this government.

James Risen, who broke stories about Bush's illegal warrantless wiretapping, and wrote about the SWIFT program of data mining of financial records, is presently trying to fight off a subpoena that would bring him before a grand jury. Team Obama wants Risen to help them convict Jeffery Sterling, a former CIA person, who they accuse of leaking intelligence about a bungled Agency operation against Iran, that happened 11 years ago during the Clinton Administration. Risen wrote a book, State of War, released in 2006, that contained a description of "Operation Merlin". In the minds of the CIA, this was a plot to deliver blueprints clandestinely into the hands of Iranian scientists; the idea was to hand them a design, which if it was pursued to construction, would result in a flawed, unusable weapon. The CIA pushed ahead with Merlin, even after a cooperating scientist told them that the flaws in the blueprint were too obvious, and it would be quickly spotted as worthless by the Iranians who would be receiving it.

Glenn Greenwald, who writes with precision about the Risen case and the climate of fear that the DOJ wishes to instill among us, also notes the odd history of the subpoena, which, for a long while, has had Risen's name on it:
The subpoena to Risen was originally issued but then abandoned by the Bush administration, and then revitalized by Obama lawyers.
The objective once pursued by the Bush team is now in the hands of Obama's prosecutors:
The DOJ wants Risen to testify under oath about whether Sterling was his source.
The orthodoxy of information is expressed in the way this government controls the narrative about Iran, and other issues, and the way it seeks to punish those who challenge its tightly-wrapped propaganda.

It didn't matter to the Bush administration that there was no precedent for prosecuting a member of the press under any statute that covered leaking classified information. But that didn't stop the threats that were made against James Risen. In 2006, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales reacted to the publication of Risen's new book, State of War, making it clear that the Justice Department was raising the issue of prosecution of reporters.

In his affidavit to US District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, Risen wants the court to quash the Obama administration subpoena that seeks to force his testimony. In Risen's own words:
On January 13, 2006, the week after my book hit the shelves, then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales held a press conference at which he publicly announced that the department of Justice was actively considering the prosecution of journalists under the Espionage Act for publishing truthful, classified information.
In mid-March, after Attorney General Gonzales raised publicly the possibility of prosecuting journalists, the director of the CIA, Porter Goss, suggested that it was his "hope" and "aim" that the leak investigations would lead to subpoenas requiring me to reveal my confidential source[s]. Only two months into the investigation, Goss explained:"It is my aim and it is my hope that we will witness a grand jury investigation with reporters present being asked to reveal who is leaking this information.
Does the ghost of J. Edgar Hoover still rattle around the FBI's office in Washington? Maybe like Old Marley in Dickens' story, "A Christmas Carol", he rattles his chains late at night? It was Old J. Edgar who said "Justice is incidental to law and order". This seems to have become the unspoken motto of the Obama administration. The new Attorney General has finally put the high officials of the Bush years off limits for prosecution. The crimes done in the White House stay in the White House; that's another way of looking at it.

Obama gave a speech honoring whistleblowers and the service they do for the country; but when Thomas Drake blew the whistle, reporting fiscal irregularities in his government department, the Administration started prosecuting him under the Espionage Act.

Does the Junta need to keep up appearances?
|