Amy Goodman's Blog

August 21, 2014

By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan


Thousands have been protesting the police killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. He was due to start college just days after he was shot dead in broad daylight. Police left his bleeding corpse in the middle of the street for over four hours, behind police tape, as neighbors gathered and looked on in horror. Outraged citizens protested, and police brutally cracked down on them. Clad in paramilitary gear and using armored vehicles, they shot tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and flash-bang grenades, aiming automatic weapons at protesters. Scores of peaceful protesters, as well as journalists, have been arrested.


The protests have raged along Ferguson’s West Florissant Avenue. Four miles south of the protest’s ground zero, along the same street, in the quietude of Calvary Cemetery, lies Dred Scott, the man born a slave who famously fought for his freedom in the courts. The Dred Scott decision of 1857 is considered by many to be the worst one in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court. It ruled that African-Americans, whether slave or free, could not be citizens, ever.

Scott was born into slavery in Virginia around 1799 (the same year noted Virginia slaveholder President George Washington died). Scott’s owner moved from Virginia, taking him to Missouri, a slave state. He was sold to John Emerson, a surgeon in the U.S. Army. In 1847, Scott sued Emerson for his freedom in a St. Louis court. Scott and his family prevailed, winning their freedom, only to have the decision overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court. The case then went to the U.S. Supreme Court.


In the court’s majority opinion, Chief Justice Roger Taney, a supporter of slavery, wrote, “A free negro of the African race, whose ancestors were brought to this country and sold as slaves, is not a ‘citizen’ within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States.” Thus, the court ruled that all African-Americans, whether slave or free, were not citizens, and never would be.


The ruling also declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional. The compromise made Missouri a slave state, but dictated that northern territories in the rapidly expanding United States would be free territories, with slavery outlawed. The Dred Scott decision opened up all of these new territories to slavery, and was deemed a victory for the Southern slave states. The decision sent shockwaves through the country. Abraham Lincoln invoked the decision in his famous “House Divided” speech, saying: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.” The Dred Scott decision would help lead to the election of Lincoln as president, and push the country ever closer to civil war.


Click here to read the rest of the column posted at Truthdig.


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Published on August 21, 2014 09:15

August 14, 2014

By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan


The Obama administration’s espionage case against alleged CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling is expected to come to trial soon, six years after he was indicted. In addition to Sterling, also on trial will be a central pillar of our democratic society: press freedom.


Federal prosecutors allege that Sterling leaked classified information to New York Times reporter and author James Risen. Risen has written many exposés on national security issues. In one, published in his 2006 book “State of War,” he details a failed CIA operation to deliver faulty nuclear bomb blueprints to the government of Iran, to disrupt that country’s alleged weapons program. Federal prosecutors think Sterling leaked the details of that operation to Risen. They want Risen to divulge his source in court, which he has so far refused to do, asserting the First Amendment’s protections of the free press. James Risen has vowed to go to jail rather than “give up everything I believe in.”


The role confidential sources play in investigative journalism was perhaps best demonstrated by journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. They had a confidential source dubbed “Deep Throat,” who gave them leads, confirmed details, and instructed them to “follow the money.” With the help of that source, they uncovered wrong-doing at the highest levels of government that ultimately led to the President Richard Nixon’s resignation from office in 1974, to avoid impeachment.


At about the same time, revelations about FBI, CIA and the NSA misconduct and outright criminality led to Congressional investigations that prompted creation of new laws, like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was supposed to rein in abuses, requiring a court-issued warrant for surveillance.


Then, 9/11 happened, and, as common wisdom now holds, “everything changed.” The administration of George W. Bush initiated a wide spectrum of activities, including torture, kidnapping, warrantless wiretapping, and, of course, the invasion and occupation of Iraq based on falsified intelligence and a sprawling propaganda initiative, conducted with a largely compliant mass media.


These abuses came to light thanks to the work of investigative journalists like Risen, and to whistleblowers who take great risks, personally and professionally, to bring abuses of power to public attention. Risen has taken his case to court, where a Federal district judge threw out the subpoena against him. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which, importantly, has jurisdiction over Virginia and Maryland, where the CIA and NSA are headquartered, respectively, reinstated the subpoena. The U.S. Supreme Court, at the Obama administration’s urging, failed to hear the case. Risen has thus exhausted his legal appeals, and will either have to testify in Sterling’s trial, or face contempt of court charges, which can include massive fines and jail time.


“As long as I’m attorney general,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder promised, “no reporter who is doing his job is going to go to jail.”


If Sterling’s federal prosecutors compel Risen to testify, it’s not clear what Holder’s promise will be worth.


One of the reasons that the district court judge threw out the subpoena against Risen is that, the judge reasoned, the prosecutors already have a strong case against Sterling, and they don’t need Risen’s confirmation that Sterling was the source. The case against Sterling includes Risen’s credit card and bank statements, telephone records, and other information allegedly linking the two. Therein lies another profound threat to journalism: the unprecedented level of surveillance happening. Ironically, it was James Risen and his colleague Eric Lichtblau who first exposed the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, in an article written in 2004 but withheld until after the 2004 presidential election by then-executive editor Bill Keller.


Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union jointly released a report in July, “With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale U.S. Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy.” In detailing the negative impacts on journalism by mass surveillance, they quote Brian Ross, chief investigative correspondent for ABC News, who said, “I feel ... like somebody in the Mafia. You’ve got to go around with a bag full of quarters and, if you can find a pay phone, use it, or, like drug dealers use, [a] throwaway burner phones. These are all the steps that we have to take to get rid of an electronic trail. To have to take those kind of steps makes journalists feel like we’re criminals and like we’re doing something wrong.”


Of course, investigative journalists are not guilty of doing something wrong. The online activist group Roots Action has petition with more than 125,000, calling on President Barack Obama and Attorney General Holder to halt legal action against James Risen. Scores of press freedom organizations have publicly supported Risen, as have 20 Pulitzer Prize winners. A crack down on the press ultimately violates the public’s right to know.


There is a reason why journalism is protected by the U.S. Constitution: A free press is an essential check and balance, necessary to hold those in power accountable. Journalism is essential to the functioning of a democratic society.


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Published on August 14, 2014 07:46 • 1 view

August 7, 2014

By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan


“I hate war,” Koji Hosokawa told me as we stood next to the A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, Japan. The skeletal remains of the four-story building stand at the edge of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The building was one of the few left standing when the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima at 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945. Three days later, the U.S. dropped the second bomb on Nagasaki. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed—many instantly, and many more slowly from severe burns and what would come to be understood as radiation sickness.


The world watches in horror this summer as military conflicts rage, leaving destruction in their wake from Libya, to Gaza, to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine. Never far from the dead and injured, nuclear-armed missiles stand by at the alert, waiting for the horrible moment when hubris, accident or inhumanity triggers the next nuclear attack. “I hate war,” Hosokawa reiterated. “War makes everyone crazy.”


Koji Hosokawa was 17 years old in 1945, and worked in the telephone exchange building, less than 2 miles from ground zero. “I miraculously survived,” he told me. His 13-year-old sister was not so fortunate: “She was ... very close to the hypocenter, and she was exposed to the bomb there. And she was with a teacher and the students. In all, 228 people were there together with her.” They all died.


We walked through the park to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. There, on display, were the images of death: the shadows of victims burned into the walls of buildings, the pictures of the fiery chaos that followed the bombing, and of the victims of radiation. Almost seven decades later, Hosokawa’s eyes tear up in the recollection. “My biggest sorrow in my life is that my younger sister died in the atomic bomb,” he said.


The day before my meeting with Koji Hosokawa, I sat down in Tokyo to interview Kenzaburo Oe, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was 10 years old in 1945. “When Japan experienced the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this was a greater catastrophe than anything we had ever known,” he told me. “The feeling of having to survive this, go beyond this and renew from this, was great.”


Now nearing 80, Kenzaburo Oe thinks deeply about the connection between the atomic bombings and the disaster at Fukushima, the nuclear power plant meltdown that began when Japan was struck by a devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. The Nobel laureate told the French newspaper Le Monde: “Hiroshima must be engraved in our memories: It’s a catastrophe even more dramatic than natural disasters, because it’s man-made. To repeat it, by showing the same disregard for human life in nuclear power stations, is the worst betrayal of the memory of the victims of Hiroshima.”


After the Fukushima disaster, Oe said, “all Japanese people were feeling a great regret ... the atmosphere in Japan here was almost the same as following the bombing of Hiroshima at the end of the war. Because of this atmosphere, the government [in 2011], with the agreement of the Japanese people, pledged to totally get rid of or decommission the more than 50 nuclear power plants here in Japan.”


Click here to read the full column posted at Truthdig.

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Published on August 07, 2014 05:42 • 5 views

July 31, 2014

By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan


The Israeli assault on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip has entered its fourth week. This military attack, waged by land, sea and air, has been going on longer than the devastating assault in 2008/2009, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians. The death toll in this current attack is at least 1,300, overwhelmingly civilians. As this column was being written, the United Nations confirmed that a U.N. school in Gaza, where thousands of civilians were seeking shelter, was bombed by the Israeli Defense Forces, killing at least 20 people. The United Nations said it reported the exact coordinates of the shelter to the Israeli military 17 times.


Henry Siegman, a venerable dean of American Jewish thought and president of the U.S./Middle East Project, sat down for an interview with the Democracy Now! news hour. An ordained rabbi, Siegman is the former executive director of the American Jewish Congress and former executive head of the Synagogue Council of America, two of the major, mainstream Jewish organizations in the United States. He says the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories must end.


“There is a Talmudic saying in the ‘Ethics of the Fathers,’” Siegman started, “‘Don’t judge your neighbor until you can imagine yourself in his place.’ So, my first question when I deal with any issue related to the Israeli-Palestinian issue: What if we were in their place?”


He elaborated, “No country and no people would live the way Gazans have been made to live ... our media rarely ever points out that these are people who have a right to live a decent, normal life, too. And they, too, must think, ‘What can we do to put an end to this?’”


Click here to read the rest of the column posted at Truthdig.


Watch the 60-minute interview with Henry Siegman on Democracy Now!, which was aired in two parts.

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Published on July 31, 2014 05:48 • 2 views

July 24, 2014

According to the United Nations, one child has been killed in Gaza every hour for the past two days. Overall, the Israeli military has killed more than 700 Palestinians, the vast majority civilians, since the assault on Gaza began more than two weeks ago. Details of the slaughter make their way into the world’s media, with horrific accounts of children killed on the beach, of hospital intensive-care units bombed, of first responders, searching for wounded amid the rubble, killed by Israeli sniper fire. Armed resistance groups in Gaza, most notably that of the area’s elected government, Hamas, have fired thousands of crude rockets that have killed two in Israel. Since Israel began its land invasion of Gaza, more than 30 Israeli soldiers have been killed. One of the greatest challenges in understanding the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories is getting reliable information. This latest assault on Gaza reaffirms the key role played by the U.S. media in maintaining the information blockade. It also highlights the increasing importance of pressure applied by social networks.


One headline said it all: “Missile at Beachside Gaza Cafe Finds Patrons Poised for World Cup.” That was The New York Times, referring to a missile strike in Gaza that killed at least eight people on the beach in the town of Khan Younis. Ali Abunimah, a prominent Palestinian-American journalist who co-founded the website The Electronic Intifada, mockingly tweeted: “Israeli missile stops by Gaza cafe for a drink and dialogue with its Palestinian friends.” The odd, passive phrasing of the original headline became the subject of a global social-media firestorm. The New York Times replaced the headline with “In Rubble of Gaza Seaside Cafe, Hunt for Victims Who Had Come for Soccer.”


This wasn’t the first time in this latest attack on Gaza that a major news organization got a black eye.


This is an excerpt from the column posted at Truthdig. Click here to read the full column.

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Published on July 24, 2014 06:54 • 3 views

July 17, 2014

By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan


Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas put a prominent, public face on the immigration crisis this week when he was detained by the U.S. Border Patrol in McAllen, Texas. After a number of hours and a national outcry, he was released. He first revealed his status as an undocumented immigrant three years ago in a New York Times Magazine article, and has since made changing U.S. immigration policy his primary work. Vargas was in Texas to support the thousands of undocumented immigrant children currently detained there by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.


Children are still fleeing violence in their native Central American home countries, seeking safety, at great risk, in distant lands. The issue is widely described here in the United States as a “border crisis,” but it isn’t that. We are experiencing a profound failure of economic globalization and U.S. foreign policy, amplified by failed, stagnant immigration policies here at home. The latest victims are the children seeking safety, who are instead being cruelly warehoused, shipped past threatening mobs of anti-immigrant extremists and deported back to life-threatening situations.


Tens of thousands of children are now crossing the border from Mexico into the United States, unaccompanied by adults, after making perilous journeys of thousands of miles, often riding atop freight trains that are controlled by gangs. The series of trains is referred to as “La Bestia,” or “The Beast.” Children riding the rails must pay hefty fees, and many are beaten, robbed, raped and killed when making the journey north. Some hope to be reunited with parents in the U.S. Others are sent away by their parents in a last-ditch bid to help their children avoid the epidemic violence of their hometowns, places like San Pedro Sula, the economic center of Honduras, which also now bears the distinction of being the murder capital of the world.


The influx of children has overwhelmed the government’s ability to house and feed these kids, let alone provide the level of care that is appropriate for refugee children. In response, the government has been shipping the children around sites across the Southwest.


This transfer has been a bonanza for xenophobes and racists, who have gained media attention for confronting the buses of distressed children.


Click here to read the full column posted at Truthdig.

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Published on July 17, 2014 09:01 • 5 views

July 10, 2014

By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan


The freedom to communicate and to share has entered a new era. The power promised by this freedom, by the Internet, is immense, so much so that it frightens entrenched institutions. Governments, militaries, corporations, banks: They all stand to lose the control they exert over society when information they suppress runs free. Yet some of the most ardent advocates for the free Internet have become targets of these very institutions, forced to live on the run, in exile or, in some cases, in prison.


Julian Assange is perhaps one of the most recognized figures in the fight for transparency and open communication. He founded the website WikiLeaks in 2007 to provide a safe, secure means to leak electronic documents. In 2010, WikiLeaks released a shocking video taken from a U.S. military attack helicopter, in which at least 12 civilians are methodically machine-gunned to death in New Baghdad, a neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq. Two of those killed were Reuters journalists. Throughout the massacre, the Army radio transmissions are heard, a combination of grimly sterile orders to “engage” the victims and a string of mocking exchanges among the soldiers, belittling the victims and celebrating the slaughter.


On the heels of the video’s publication, WikiLeaks provided three more major document releases, with hundreds of thousands of classified documents, from official U.S. military communications about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which allowed direct research into, for example, the scale of civilian casualties in those wars. WikiLeaks also revealed hundreds of thousands of U.S. State Department cables, exposing dark, cynical realities of U.S. diplomacy. The secret cables are credited with fueling the Arab Spring, especially the overthrow of the corrupt, U.S.-supported regime in Tunisia.


While the WikiLeaks website managed to protect the identity of the source of these remarkable leaks, an FBI informant pointed the finger at a U.S. soldier, Pvt. Bradley Manning. Serving in U.S. military intelligence in Iraq, Manning was frustrated with U.S. military abuses. He allegedly copied the trove of files and delivered them to WikiLeaks. Manning was arrested and thrown into solitary confinement, in conditions the United Nations labeled “torture.” Manning was court-martialed. After conviction and sentencing to 35 years in an Army prison, Manning announced his intention to transition to a woman, and formally changed her name to Chelsea Manning. One month ago, Manning wrote in an opinion piece in The New York Times, “I believe that the current limits on press freedom and excessive government secrecy make it impossible for Americans to grasp fully what is happening in the wars we finance.”


Read the rest of this column at Truthdig.org.

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Published on July 10, 2014 06:01 • 2 views

July 3, 2014

By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan


VISBY, Sweden—Sixty miles off the coast of Sweden, in the Baltic Sea, sits the island of Gotland. Every summer, for one week, tens of thousands flock here to participate in a unique public event known as Almedalen (pronounced ALL-meh-DAH-len). The name comes from a park in Gotland’s main town of Visby, where, in 1968, Sweden’s education minister at the time, Olof Palme, stood on the back of a flatbed truck and gave one of the rousing political speeches for which he was renowned. Palme went on to become one of Sweden’s most transformative prime ministers, up until his assassination on the streets of Stockholm in 1986. The speech that Palme gave in Visby planted the seed for what has grown into Almedalen, a vibrant, open, festive and freewheeling week of debate and dialogue, demonstration and dissent. A dose of this would no doubt benefit the ailing, gridlocked body politic in the United States.


As a parliamentary democracy, the Swedish government is formed by coalition. Smaller parties have a role here, thanks to the proportional representation voting system, which ensures that any party that gains at least 4 percent of the vote nationally will be represented in parliament. The parties that can create a coalition with more than 50 percent of the members of parliament will then run the government, deciding amongst themselves who gets chosen as prime minister, foreign minister and so on. It is a system of governance that rewards participants for finding common ground. Contrast this with the U.S. government, chosen in “winner take all” elections that marginalize small parties and shore up our dysfunctional, polarized two-party system.


Here in Almedalen, all the major political parties in Sweden come and showcase their ideas, with each party featured on one day of the week. On the morning we arrived on Gotland, the Green Party was featured, with environmental issues at the fore. A crowd gathered around a fair-trade coffee stall, where Per Bolund, Green Party member of parliament, was questioning corporate CEOs about environmental regulations they would like to see. And they were actually responding! Sound pie in the sky?


While Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt of the center-right Alliance coalition led a parade nearby, followed by 50 chanting college-age supporters in matching orange T-shirts, current polling suggests that come September’s elections, they will lose to the Red-Green coalition, which includes the Social Democrats, the Greens, the Left Party and the new Feminist Initiative party. The Feminist Initiative has enjoyed recent success at the polls and is expected to send the first radical feminist to a national parliament.


Read the rest of this column at Truthdig.org.

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Published on July 03, 2014 04:44 • 3 views

June 26, 2014

By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan


Egypt sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists this week to severe prison terms, in court proceedings that observers described as “farcical.” Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were charged with fabricating news footage, and thus supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which was ousted from power in a military coup a year ago and labeled a terrorist organization.


Along with the three jailed journalists, three other foreign journalists were tried and convicted in absentia. Greste, who is Australian, and Fahmy, who is Canadian-Egyptian, received seven-year prison sentences. Baher Mohamed, who is Egyptian, was dealt a 10-year sentence, ostensibly because he had an empty shell casing in his possession, which is an item that many journalists covering conflicts pick up off the street as evidence. The prosecutors called that possession of ammunition.


The harsh, six-month pretrial imprisonment, the absurd trial itself and now these sentences have generated global outrage. A movement is growing to demand clemency or release for these three journalists. But while the words of the Obama administration support their freedom, the U.S. government’s actions, primarily in pledging to resume military aid to Egypt, send the opposite message.


Click here to read the full column published at Truthdig.

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Published on June 26, 2014 05:19 • 6 views

June 19, 2014

By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan


It didn’t take long this week for the architects of the disastrous U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq to apply their makeup and jump before the cable news television cameras. The militia group known as ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has swept across Iraq, conquering city after city and stopping short of Baghdad in what has been described as a “lightning advance,” summarily executing people in its wake. ISIS emerged from the festering civil war in Syria, and has exploited the instability in that country, along with the weak and famously corrupt central Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. With just several thousand armed troops, ISIS has managed to rout the Iraqi army with its hundreds of thousands of soldiers trained and equipped by the U.S. occupying forces at U.S. taxpayer expense.


Cronies of George W. Bush, like Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol and Paul Bremer, have been given airtime on the networks and space in the opinion pages to lambast President Barack Obama for the current crisis in Iraq. These pundits and politicians are no less wrong today than they were when selling the Iraq War back in 2003.


Click here to read the full column at Truthdig.

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Published on June 19, 2014 05:35 • 4 views

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