During the 2008 election, we heard from our current president a message of hope and change. Something else he was very insistent on was government transparency. The mainstream media ate it up and regurgitated the rhetoric to a voting base desperate to get away from the disastrous presidential policies of Bush Jr.
Glen Greenwald reports "In 2008, candidate Obama hailed whistle-blowing as "acts of courage and patriotism", which "should be encouraged rather than stifled as they have been during the Bush administration". My how things have changed.
On the president's own campaign website he says that The Obama administration has prosecuted twice as many cases under the Espionage Act as all other administrations combined. But of course, those in power on both sides can leak all kinds of classified info like the name of an agent or details about a raid--they won't get persecuted, sleep deprived, indefinitely detained.
Since president Obama has taken office, America has been involved in more wars, a surge in Afghanistan, more drone strikes in countries that congress has not declared war on, and more prosecutions of federal whistle-blowers than any previous president.
Sure, troops have (air quotes) drawn-down in Iraq, and there's a "plan" to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 ... But you're not reading the small print. NATO says they will stay after the 2014 draw-down date for training missions. That sounds like when America sent (air quotes) advisers to Vietnam.
We've conducted (air quotes) kinetic military humanitarian mission in Libya, looking the other way as al-Qaeda stepped in ... and NATO and the US are revving up to intervene in Syria. In our name, the US has conducted an incredible number of drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan, places where our congress hasn't declared war.
Obama has even killed an America citizen and his 16 year old son, without trial, using a drone in a country where war has not been declared. We've got drones over the skies of Somalia and a suspected US drone even crashed in Iran not long ago ... BTW, a company in Iran is sending the president small pink models resembling the drone that went down in Iran ... they did it for the lolz.
How could I go without mentioning the first time a drone has been used to arrest an American citizen in America? Can we say historic US Supreme Court case?
What's can be arguably more devastating that autonomous drones flying around the world dropping bombs on wedding parties and funeral processions in foreign lands .... is persecuting, not just prosecuting, but persecuting the people who find it necessary to tell the world what they saw behind the scenes, or when there is serious impropriety going on in our government.
Let's just go back throughout history to take a look a few examples that, if there were a whistle-blower, massive devastation to human life, human thought and our understanding of history would look very different.
The Golf of Tonkin incident lead to the garnering of public support for the Vietnam War. It was reported in the papers that there was an attack on American forces in a Southeast Asian gulf ... an attack that did not happen. If there were a whistle blower in that one, tens of thousands of Americans and Vietnamese would still be alive.
Operations Mockingbird, MKUltra, Paperclip -- If there were a whistle blower in these cases, we would have learned more about how this Government, post World War II, brought over Nazi scientists to work on rockets and even behavioral modification, or that CIA has journalists embedded in all the major American newspapers, writing propaganda to brainwash the public.
If a whistle-blower had been there in the early stages of these atrocities, we would have an entirely different world. I mean, come on ... you don't think that the media would pick up that the US Government was using Nazi scientist to study behavior modifications ... that's not scandalous or sexy?
What if there was a whistle-blower involved in the Tuskegee syphilis experiments when they were going on decades ago? Could we possibly have had some accountability from people involved in shooting up minorities with syphilis? Absolutely ... instead we have to find out about it a full generation later.
I could go on to talk about other instances of whistle-blowers like Sibel Edmonds. She tried to go through internal channels to report on the illegal, unethical and, quite frankly, dangerous things that were taking place at the translation office of the FBI. There she went through her superiors who didn't act. There she was chastised and then spied on by her colleagues. There she was even put under investigation herself for reporting illegal activities. After all else fails with internal reporting and getting the inspector general involved ... She even went to congress. No help there. She wanted to testify to the 9/11 Commission, because a lot of the questionable content she had seen being altered and labeled "not important" was very pertaining to 9/11. The commission wouldn't have her. She then went to the media and they played here as this cute, helpless immigrant trying to make it big in the FBI.
Or how about I tell you about Smedley Butler, whose speech and short book “War is a Racket” details about how in the early 20th century, Butler--a marine general--was tasked to take his forces around the world in order to make things safe for corporations--how the US military was being abused to grow and maintain corporate (not US) interests abroad.
Butler was fed up and wanted no more. He then was approached by certain elites of the day, many whose dynasties still have immense power and wealth today ... he was approached by these people to be the leader of a 400,000 person military to advance a fascist coup in America.
Butler went along with the plot long enough to get names and other information to congress. He testified to congress. There were media reports back in the day about what was termed in that day a “Business Plot” ... but what's sad is how Smedly Butler, one of America's true heroes--right up there with the likes of our founding fathers--has been forgotten, or scrubbed from the history pages. Do you're kids in public school learn about Smedly Butler? They should!
Let's talk a bit about media coverage of whistle-blowers.
You mean if somebody actually leaked to the media something, they'd report it, right? Not necessarily.
Here's the amazing thing about Wikileaks--the documents released are so expansive and thorough--hundreds of thousands of documents with millions of pages of data. Putting a number on it is silly, really, unless you plan on going through it yourself.
Here's the deal: if the press doesn't report on it, are you going to hear about it? If MSNBC's primetime anchor (which I don't even know who that is anymore because I shut my cable off years ago because it's nothing but propaganda to control our frame of reference in reality ... I suggest you do the same) but if MSNBC's primetime anchor or the stooges on FOX news don't report in excruciating detail what’s in the millions of pages of information contained in Wikileaks, will you hear about it?
What came first ... the chicken or the egg?
Surely there is some citizen journalist or an investigative blogger online that will have stories about the Afghan war diaries or the idiosyncracies of world leaders as found in the leaked diplomatic cables, but you will have to seek those channels out.
What the New York Times or other elite press, like the Wall Street Journal or Washington Post, don't report on, an incredible amount of Americans won't believe! It's up to us to become informed. It’s up to us to be the media.
The first amendment gives us all the right to freedom from religion, free assembly, free speech and freedom of the press. Freedom of the press doesn't mean that the New York Times can get away with printing propaganda or that Fox News can claim to be fair and balanced and not be held accountable. Free Press means YOU ARE THE PRESS! YOU ARE THE REPORTER, YOU ARE THE JOURNALIST, YOU ARE THE FORTH ESTATE!!!
I was asked this past week to be a guest speaker for a media ethics class at Benedictine University here in Springfield. I talked about citizen journalism.
Ahh …. Citizen journalists--the people who have the access to a smart phone with a an on-board video camera, a blog with the ability to write and an inquisitive mind to piece things together and get the word out ... oh, wait ... that you!
Now, we've gotta acknowledge that there is criticism of citizen journalists by the dinosaur media, or the “presstitutes” that one Wall Street critic calls 'em. That criticism usually targets the accuracy of citizen journalists ... or the lack of unfettered access to the power brokers. But that criticism is out of fear.
Because it's citizen journalists who are keeping the so-called mainstream media accountable. Citizen journalists also have the ability to put out information instantaneously without the blocking arm of well placed editors or gatekeepers.
The Internet is a powerful tool for citizen journalists. The internet is also under attack by our lawmakers. This cannot go unchecked. The assault on our information freedoms must be front and center in our fight for transparency.
Something else that citizen journalists must also fight for, especially here in Illinois, is accountability of public officials and law enforcement and reform the Illinois Eavesdropping Act!
While they're conducting their duties in public, do they have an expectation of privacy? I say no!
But Illinois's Eavesdropping Act says they do! Police can record you in public, but if you want to record their activities in public, you have to get their permission. Good luck getting that permission from an officer who is doing something unethical while serving the public, in public.
If you're caught recording a police officer in public without their permission, you can be charged with a felony and could face 15 years in prison. Just ask Michael Allison or Tiawanda Moore--both were charged with violating the eavesdropping act here in Illinois. Allison was recording his conversations with local police in an effort to prove intimidation. Moore used her phone to record an internal affairs police officer telling her to drop her sexual assault charges against another police officer.
Judges threw out both cases as unconstitutional, but the law is still on the books! Let's change that law and have a truly free press in Illinois!
Another quick note, be sure to get our there and research the candidates this election. I'm not talking about the presidential race. Honesty and integrity have already been knocked out of that race as is evident with the fraud of the Commission on Presidential Debates.
You want a real and honest, a free and equal debate for president, you've gotta visit Free and Equal dot org This Tuesday evening. Free and Equal dot org! They'll have the Green, Libertarian, Constitution and Justice Parties represented to debate the real issues. Obama and Romney, who are funded by the same banks, are squabbling over social issues the Federal Government has no jurisdiction in dealing with. So, instead of debating whether or not to torture suspects or even detain them indefinitely--both of these things Bradley Manning is said to have endured—Obama and Romney are muddying the waters talking about which one is going to bring the biggest government.
But when it comes to the local elections--seriously, do your homework.
Get to know the candidates for every office on that ballot! Know the issues in your community. Get our there and get involved. And vote!
Oh wait who am I kidding --- There is a contingent of people worried about voter fraud and urging states to pass laws for voters to show photo ID in order to vote.
But what's even more troubling than the potential of someone not showing ID at their polling place is that fact that electronic voting machines are so prevalent.
Here in Sangamon County we have optical scan machines ... but votes are still counted electronically.
The minute you feed your vote into a machine, your vote is compromised ... demand your vote be legitimately counted.
Settle for nothing now or settle for nothing later.