Government Surveillance, Press Freedom,
Revealing News Articles
July 19, 2007
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on illegal government surveillance, pending legislation affecting press freedom, photographic evidence of UFOs at Roswell, and more. Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails to function, click here. Key sentences are highlighted for those with limited time. By choosing to educate ourselves and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
In Intelligence World, A Mute Watchdog
July 15, 2007, Washington Post
An independent oversight board created to identify intelligence abuses after the CIA scandals of the 1970s did not send any reports to the attorney general of legal violations during the first 5 1/2 years of the Bush administration's counterterrorism effort, the Justice Department has told Congress. The President's Intelligence Oversight Board -- the principal civilian watchdog of the intelligence community -- is obligated under a 26-year-old executive order to tell the attorney general and the president about any intelligence activities it believes "may be unlawful." The board was vacant for the first two years of the Bush administration. The board's mandate is to provide independent oversight, so the absence of such communications has prompted critics to question whether the board was doing its job. "It's now apparent that the IOB was not actively employed in the early part of the administration. And it was a crucial period when its counsel would seem to have been needed the most," said Anthony Harrington, who served as the board's chairman for most of the Clinton administration. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) added: "It is deeply disturbing that this administration seems to spend so much of its energy and resources trying to find ways to ignore any check and balance on its authority and avoid accountability to Congress and the American public."
'Code Orange' for press freedom
July 15, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
The arguments against a federal shield law might be frightening if they were not so ludicrous. There are two ways to reassure yourself that legislation to allow journalists to protect the identity of confidential sources will not be exploited by terrorists, thugs, identity thieves, sleazy sleuths and anarchists who expose trade secrets. One is to look at the experience of 49 state laws that grant varying levels of protection for journalists using anonymous sources. The other is to read the bill. "The Free Flow of Information Act of 2007,'' sponsored by Reps. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and Rick Boucher, D-Va., does not provide an absolute right for journalists to protect their sources. Under their HR2102, a journalist could be forced by the courts to reveal his or her source if the disclosure involved: -- A threat to national security. -- A threat of imminent death or significant [bodily] harm to a person. -- A trade secret of significant value. -- Personal financial or health information. [The] Justice Department, which has wielded subpoenas and threats of jail time against journalists in pursuing government leaks, has never liked the idea of a shield law. So it was hardly a surprise when it recently testified against HR2102. What was eye-poppingly outrageous was a Justice official's straight-faced attempt to suggest that criminals or terrorists would invoke the bill's protection for journalists to thwart prosecutors. "Totally absurd," House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said of the terrorism argument. However, the dangers that overzealous prosecutors pose to a free and independent press that Pence calls "essential to an informed" electorate are very real and growing. As Pence put it, "there may never be another Deep Throat" if whistle-blowers become worried that journalists cannot keep a promise of confidentiality.
Fame from outer space
July 15, 2007, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (One of the leading newspapers of Texas)
J. Bond Johnson is one of this newspaper's most famous photographers. He has been portrayed in Hollywood films and documentaries and discussed at length in magazine articles. His photos have been a prominent exhibit for almost two decades in a museum that draws 150,000 visitors a year. And they are "the most frequently requested images from our Fort Worth Star-Telegram collection -- really from all of our photo collections," said Brenda McClurkin of the University of Texas at Arlington Library of Special Collections. That's because on a warm afternoon in July 1947, Johnson, at the age of 21, took the only known photographs of the supposed remains of the UFO crash near Roswell, N.M.. What looked like beams of balsa wood and sheets of tinfoil were laid out on the carpet in the office of the airfield commander, Maj. Gen. Roger M. Ramey. Boxes around the office were thought to hold more wreckage that had not been examined. Ramey and Maj. Jesse A. Marcel, who brought the debris from Roswell, posed for pictures holding the material. After filling both sides of three glass-plate negatives ... Johnson, on deadline, rushed back to the paper, printed his photos, handed them -- still wet -- to his editors and went home. By sunrise the next morning, his photos of the shiny material adorned newspapers around the world, accompanied by a story that the Army had explained the wreckage as a fallen weather balloon. "I asked him one time if he believed the artifacts were from alien beings," said his daughter, Janith Johnson. "Having the conservative and religious background that he did, he said, 'I don't know, but it was like nothing I have ever seen on this earth.'"
Are UFOs Real?
July 13, 2007, CNN
LARRY KING: A return to Roswell, New Mexico, where the UFO controversy began 60 years ago with the man who says his father showed him debris from an alien spacecraft. Dr. Jesse Marcel ... was shown UFO debris by his father, Major Jesse Marcel. Tell us about your dad. DR. JESSE MARCEL, JR.: He was the base intelligence officer for the 509th Bomb Group, which is the bomb group that dropped the atomic bomb on Japan that won the war. KING: They were based at Roswell? MARCEL: They were. As the intelligence officer, his job was to investigate unusual events. He found a large area of strange looking debris. This was not remains of a weather balloon. He picked up a certain representative portion of the debris, brought it in to Roswell. KING: Julie Shuster ... your father was ... Walter Haut. He was public information officer. JULIE SHUSTER: My father ... issued the press release [which] basically said ... we have in our possession a flying saucer. And he used the words "not of this Earth." KING: Julie, did your father go to his grave believing? SHUSTER: Yes. He was very firm in the fact that he said it was not of this Earth. FIFE SYMINGTON, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ARIZONA: I saw the Phoenix Lights along with hundreds if not thousands of people. To my astonishment this large sort of delta-shaped, wedge-shaped, craft moved silently over the valley ... dramatically large, very distinctive leading edge with some enormous lights. I was absolutely stunned. It was definitely not an airplane. And it was certainly not high-altitude flares because flares don't fly in formation. We have a lot of evidence, a lot of photographs, a lot of news media coverage of it. You can't just [say] everybody in Phoenix was hallucinating.
Note: Isn't it interesting that Roswell happened to be the military base for what at the time was the only nuclear-equiped jet squadron in the world? For Dr. Marcel's book The Roswell Legacy, click here. This interview also includes Dr. Stanton Friedman, a nuclear physicist who has spent many years studying Roswell and has little doubt that the military covered up the incident. Note that CNN fails to mention in the entire interview that Friedman is a respected nuclear physicist who worked numerous years with top corporations in this capacity. For lots more reliable, verifiable information on this intriguing topic, see our UFO Information Center.
Marine says beatings urged in Iraq
July 15, 2007, Los Angeles Times
A Marine corporal, testifying Saturday at the murder trial of a buddy, said that Marines in his unit began routinely beating Iraqis after being ordered by officers to "crank up the violence level." Cpl. Saul H. Lopezromo said Marines in his platoon, including the defendant, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas, were angry when officers criticized them as not being as tough as other Marine platoons. "We're all hard-chargers, we're not there to mess around, so we took it as an insult," Lopezromo said. Within weeks of allegedly being scolded, seven Marines and a Navy corpsman went out late one night to find and kill a suspected insurgent in the village of Hamandiya near the Abu Ghraib prison. Unable to find their target, the Marines and corpsman dragged another man from his house, fatally shot him, and then planted an AK-47 assault rifle near the body to make it look like he had been killed in a shootout, according to court testimony. "We were told to crank up the violence level," said Lopezromo, who testified for the defense. He indicated that during daily patrols the Marines became much rougher with Iraqis. Asked by a juror to explain, he said, "We beat people, sir." Lopezromo said he believed that officers knew of the beatings, and ... said he saw nothing wrong in what Thomas and the others did. "I don't see it as an execution, sir," he told the judge. "I see it as killing the enemy." He added that Marines, in effect, consider all Iraqi men as part of the insurgency. Prosecution witnesses testified that Thomas shot the 52-year-old Iraq at point-blank range after he had already been shot by other Marines and was lying on the ground. Lopezromo said a procedure called "dead-checking" was routine. Marines are taught "dead-checking" in boot camp ... he said.
The state can take your dreams, too
July 15, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
John Revelli vividly remembers the day the U.S. Supreme Court issued its infamous Kelo decision that allowed local governments to condemn private property under eminent domain, not only for public uses such as roads and schools, but also to accommodate private developers. "The Kelo decision," the former owner of Revelli Tires in Oakland [said,] "came out on June 23 of '05, and the deadline that the city put up against us to move out was July 1." The U.S. Constitution states, "Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." The big bench wrongly ruled that "public use" could be whatever states want it to be -- including private developments designed to expand the tax base. The ruling allowed the City of New London, Conn., to seize the land under Susette Kelo's "little pink cottage" and hand it over to a private developer for a development featuring high-end waterfront homes. And Oakland went ahead with its plans to seize Revelli Tires [as well as] Autohouse -- a business owned and run by first-generation American Tony Fung -- in order to accommodate a private apartment project. Revelli and Fung lost their businesses and their property. As former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who dissented on Kelo, warned, "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory." No government should be able to take your land to give it to a corporation. When states and cities, in search of a richer tax base, can take your land and give it to a private developer -- they have license to trample on everyone's rights. And no one, except the very rich, is safe.
Old oil fears don't match 2007 reality
July 15, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Congress is debating action to address the nation's dependence on foreign oil. This would seem to be good news. Not necessarily. While tightening requirements on fuel efficiency is a good idea, many other envisioned policies aimed at "energy independence" fix a problem that no longer exists, while moving in the wrong direction with regard to today's actual energy challenges -- particularly those related to climate change. Rather than staying the course with energy priorities of the past, congressional leaders should declare independence from oil fears and craft an energy policy relevant to the 21st century. Do you believe that the United States is dangerously vulnerable to oil supply disruptions? Then, ask yourself: "When was the last time I saw clear evidence of this vulnerability?" If you're like most Americans, you'll think back to the Arab oil embargo of 1973, with its long gas lines and associated recession. There are three problems with using 1973 as a point of reference: -- First, the long gas lines in 1973 were caused by price controls imposed by President Richard Nixon in 1971, not embargoes of oil imposed by Arabs two years later. Without price controls, we would have had higher prices at the pump when supplies were reduced, not long lines. Unpleasant, but not as memorable. -- Second, many studies of the era -- including a landmark 1997 paper co-authored by current Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke -- have found that monetary policy had more to do with the recessions of the '70s than did oil price shocks. -- Third, 2007 is not 1973.
Don't Underestimate the Power of a Good Red Wine
July 13, 2007, ABC News
When a gunman crashed a garden party at [a] private Capitol Hill home ... around midnight on June 16, guests were just finishing up a summer meal ... when a man with a hood over his head entered through the back patio and put a gun to the head of a fourteen-year-old girl. "Everybody give me your money. I am being very serious," the gunman said, according to witnesses. None of the guests had any cash. Guest Michael Rabdau, 51, whose daughter was being held at gunpoint, even put his hands in his pockets and pulled them out to prove he had nothing. But another guest, Cristina Rowan, 41, had something different for the young man: a lecture. Striking a parental tone, she asked him what his mother would think if she saw him doing this. The gunman replied, "I don't have a mother." At this point, there was dramatic shift in the group dynamic. Rowan told the young man to calm down and have a glass of wine. "Damn, that's really good wine!," the gunman exclaimed. After a few sips, the man relaxed and slowly put his weapon away. "He took a piece of cheese and we filled his glass and he said, 'you know, I think I came to the wrong house,'" Rabdau recalled. Before leaving, the man asked if he could have a group hug. The group was perplexed. Just moments before, the man was threatening their lives. Nevertheless, they agreed to the unusual request. The gunman had one more sip of wine, then quietly apologized and left the same way he came in. After the police arrived, a lone crystal wine glass was found, carefully placed to the side in the alley near the home.
FBI Plans Initiative To Profile Terrorists
July 11, 2007, Washington Post
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is developing a computer-profiling system that would enable investigators to target possible terror suspects. The System to Assess Risk, or STAR, assigns risk scores to possible suspects based on a variety of information, similar to the way a credit bureau assigns a rating based on a consumer's spending behavior and debt. The program focuses on foreign suspects but also includes data about some U.S. residents. Some lawmakers said ... that the report raises new questions about the government's power to use personal information and intelligence without accountability. "The Bush administration has expanded the use of this technology, often in secret, to collect and sift through Americans' most sensitive personal information," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The use of data mining in the war on terror has sparked criticism. An airplane-passenger screening program called CAPPS II was revamped and renamed because of civil liberty concerns. An effort to collect Americans' personal and financial data called Total Information Awareness was killed. Law enforcement and national security officials have continued working on other programs to use computers to sift through information for signs of threats. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, flags travelers entering and leaving the United States who may be potential suspects through a risk-assessment program called the Automated Targeting System.
FBI Would Skirt the Law With Proposed Phone Record Program, Experts Say
July 10, 2007, abcnews.com
A proposed new FBI program would skirt federal laws by paying private companies to hold millions of phone and Internet records which the bureau is barred from keeping itself, experts say. The $5 million project would apparently pay private firms to store at least two years' worth of telephone and Internet activity by millions of Americans, few of whom would ever be considered a suspect in any terrorism, intelligence or criminal matter. The FBI is barred by law from collecting and storing such data if it has no connection to a specific investigation or intelligence matter. In recent years the bureau has tried to encourage telecommunications firms to voluntarily store such information, but corporations have balked at the cost of keeping records they don't need. "The government isn't allowed to warehouse the information, and the companies don't want to, so this creates a business incentive for the companies to warehouse it, so the government can access it later," said Mike German, a policy expert on national security and privacy issues for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). "It's a public-private partnership that puts civil liberties to the test." In March, an FBI official identified the companies as Verizon, MCI and AT&T. Even the bureau's own top lawyer said she found the [FBI's] behavior "disturbing," noting that when requesting access to phone company records, it repeatedly referenced "emergency" situations that did not exist, falsely claimed grand juries had subpoenaed information and failed to keep records on much of its own activity.
Lawsuit Against Wiretaps Rejected
July 7, 2007, Washington Post
A federal appeals court removed a serious legal challenge to the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program yesterday, overruling the only judge who held that a controversial surveillance effort by the National Security Agency was unconstitutional. Two members of a three-judge panel ... ordered the dismissal of a major lawsuit that challenged the wiretapping, which President Bush authorized secretly to eavesdrop on communications ... shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The court did not rule on the spying program's legality. Instead, it declared that the American Civil Liberties Union and the others who brought the case -- including academics, lawyers and journalists -- did not have the standing to sue because they could not demonstrate that they had been direct targets of the clandestine surveillance. The decision vacates a ruling in the case made last August by a U.S. District Court judge in Detroit, who ruled that the administration's program to monitor private communications violated the Bill of Rights and a 1970s federal law. Steven R. Shapiro, the ACLU's legal director, said: "As a result of today's decision, the Bush administration has been left free to violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which Congress adopted almost 30 years ago to prevent the executive branch from engaging in precisely this kind of unchecked surveillance."
Organic fruit and vegetables really are better for your heart
July 5, 2007, The Times (London)
Organic fruit and vegetables may be better for the heart and general health than eating conventionally grown crops, new research has found. A ten-year study comparing organic tomatoes with standard produce found that they had almost double the quantity of antioxidants called flavonoids which help to prevent high blood pressure and thus reduce the likelihood of heart disease and strokes. Alyson Mitchell, a food chemist, who led the research at the University of California, believes that flavonoids can also help to stave off some forms of cancer and dementia. Her findings are due to be published in full in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The team believes that the different levels of flavonoids in tomatoes are due to the absence of fertilisers in organic farming. Plants produce flavonoids as a defence mechanism; they are triggered by nutrient deficiency. Feeding a plant with too many nutrients, such as inorganic nitrogen commonly found in conventional fertiliser, curbs the development of flavonoids. The lower levels of flavonoids in conventional tomatoes were caused by "over-fertilisation", the research team concluded.
America's Secret Obsession
June 10, 2007, Washington Post
In April 1971, CIA officer John Seabury Thomson paddled his aluminum canoe across the Potomac on his daily commute from his home in Maryland to CIA headquarters in Langley. When he reached the Virginia shore, he noticed a milky substance clouding the waters around Pulp Run. A fierce environmentalist, Thomson traced the pollution to its source: his employer. The murky white discharge was a chemical mash, the residue of thousands of liquefied secrets that the agency had been quietly disposing of in his beloved river. He single-handedly brought the practice to a halt. Nearly four decades later, though, that trickle of secrets would be a tsunami that would capsize Thomson's small craft. Today the nation's obsession with secrecy is redefining public and private institutions and taking a toll on the lives of ordinary citizens. Excessive secrecy is at the root of multiple scandals -- the phantom weapons of mass destruction, the collapse of Enron, the tragedies traced to Firestone tires and the arthritis drug Vioxx, and more. In this self-proclaimed "Information Age," our country is on the brink of becoming a secretocracy, a place where the right to know is being replaced by the need to know. [There] is a confluence of causes behind it, among them the chill wrought by 9/11, industry deregulation, the long dominance of a single political party, fear of litigation and liability and the threat of the Internet. But perhaps most alarming [is] the public's increasing tolerance of secrecy. Without timely information, citizens are reduced to mere residents, and representative government atrophies into a representational image of democracy as illusory as a hologram.
Note: The author of this superb article is Ted Gup. He is a journalism professor at Case Western Reserve University and author of Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life.
Find your inner Paul Potts
July 5, 2007, MSNBC
"But my secret is hidden within me, my name no one shall know." Those are the words, roughly translated, from the famous Puccini aria "Nessun Dorma." You've probably heard Luciano Pavarotti sing it once or twice, and the song has made its way into many films. But it has never had so much meaning as it did on a stage in Great Britain, being sung by a mobile phone salesman named Paul Potts. Potts is an average-looking bloke whose teeth aren't straight, and he admits to having battled self-confidence issues his whole life. Still, he decided to audition for a television show called "Britain's Got Talent." Beat box artists, break dancers and jugglers combined with a few people trying to be pop stars. On his first night, Potts took to the stage and sang that famous aria from "Turandot," after telling judge Simon Cowell that he felt he needed to pursue his first love, opera. You could hear the snickers from the crowd, see Simon's telltale eye roll, and practically feel the ... sweat rolling down Potts' brow. But then he sang. From the first note floating from his snaggle-toothed beak, it was clear there was no competition for him in that room. The crowd gave him a standing ovation in what is now one of the Internet's most popular viral videos. It has been viewed on YouTube alone more than 2.4 million times. What's the reason for this Pottsmania? It's something my high school English teacher called "the triumph of the human spirit." Watch the video, seriously.
Note: To watch the incredibly moving four-minute video of Paul's audition, click here.
Special Note: For an inspiring website run by both Jews and Palestinians building a powerful movement together for peace, click here.
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Government Surveillance, Press Freedom, UFO Evidence