MatrixLeaks: July 2011

Lying about war

By Diane Farsetta, Sheldon Rampton, Daniel Haack, and John Stauber of the Center for Media and Democracy

Public diplomacy is a catchall term for the various ways in which the United States promotes itself to international audiences (as opposed to “regular” diplomacy, which targets foreign governments). These include international media, such as the Voice of America; cultural and educational exchanges, such as the Fulbright Program; and a wide range of information activities, including foreign press centers, speaking events and publications. As the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy notes, the term “was developed partly to distance overseas governmental information activities from the term propaganda, which had acquired pejorative connotations.”

In the United States, public diplomacy’s legislative history also involves propaganda. The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which provided a legal framework for public diplomacy activities, forbids the government from disseminating within the United States information intended for foreign audiences. Other legislation, such as appropriation bills, theoretically reinforces the ban on using taxpayer money for “publicity or propaganda purposes.”

From 2002 to 2008, the Defense Department secretly cultivated more than seventy retired military officers who frequently serve as media commentators. Initially, the goal was to use them as “message force multipliers,” to bolster the Bush administration’s Iraq War sell job. That went so well that the covert program to shape US public opinion—an illegal effort, by any reasonable reading of the law—was expanded to spin everything from then-Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s job performance to US military operations in Afghanistan to the Guantanamo Bay detention center to warrantless wiretapping.

David Barstow of the New York Times wrote on April 20, 2009, “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand,” a stunning exposé of the Bush administration’s most powerful propaganda weapon used to sell and manage the war on Iraq. This involved the embedding of military propagandists directly into the TV networks as on-air commentators. We and others have long criticized the widespread TV network practice of hiring former military officials to serve as analysts, but even in our most cynical moments we did not anticipate how bad it was. Barstow painstakingly documented how these analysts, most of them military industry consultants and lobbyists, were directly chosen, managed, coordinated and given their talking points by the Pentagon’s ministers of propaganda.

Thanks to the two-year investigation by the New York Times, we today know that Victoria Clarke, then the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, launched the Pentagon military analyst program in early 2002. These supposedly independent military analysts were in fact a coordinated team of pro-war propagandists, personally recruited by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and acting under Clarke’s tutelage and development.

One former participant, NBC military analyst Kenneth Allard, has called the effort “psyops on steroids.” As Barstow reports, “Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as ‘message force multipliers’ or ‘surrogates’ who could be counted on to deliver administration ‘themes and messages’ to millions of Americans ‘in the form of their own opinions.’ . . . Don Meyer, an aide to Ms. Clarke, said a strategic decision was made in 2002 to make the analysts the main focus of the public relations push to construct a case for war.”

Clarke and her senior aide, Brent T. Krueger, eventually signed up more than seventy-five retired military officers who penned newspaper op/ed columns and appeared on television and radio news shows as military analysts. The Pentagon held weekly meetings with the military analysts, which continued as of April 20, 2008, when the New York Times ran Barstow’s story. The program proved so successful that it was expanded to issues besides the Iraq War. “Other branches of the administration also began to make use of the analysts. Mr. Gonzales, then the attorney general, met with them soon after news leaked that the government was wiretapping terrorism suspects in the United States without warrants, Pentagon records show. When David H. Petraeus was appointed the commanding general in Iraq in January 2007, one of his early acts was to meet with the analysts.”

The use of these analysts was a glaring violation of journalistic standards. As 
the code of ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists explains, journalists are supposed to

* Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.

* Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.

* Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel, and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office, and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.

* Disclose unavoidable conflicts.

* Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.

* Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.

* Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money.

The networks using these analysts as journalists shamelessly failed to vet their experts and ignored the obvious conflicts of hiring a person with financial relationships to companies profiting from war to be an on-air analyst of war. They acted as if war was a football game and their military commentators were former coaches and players familiar with the rules and strategies. The TV networks even paid these “analysts” for their propaganda, enabling them to present themselves as “third party experts” while parroting White House talking points to sell the war.

Since the 1920s there have been laws passed to stop the government from doing what Barstow has exposed. It is actually illegal in the United States for the government to propagandize its own citizens. As Barstow’s report demonstrates, these laws have been repeatedly violated, are not enforced and are clearly inadequate. The US Congress therefore needs to investigate this and the rest of the Bush propaganda campaign that sold the war in Iraq.

The Iraq war would likely never have been possible had the mainstream news media done its job. Instead, it has repeated the Big Lies that sold the war. This war would never have been possible without the millions of dollars spent by the Bush administration on sophisticated and deceptive public relations techniques such as the Pentagon military analyst program that David Barstow has exposed. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Victoria Clarke, who designed and oversaw this Pentagon propaganda machine, now works as a commentator for TV network news. She may have changed jobs and employers since leaving the Pentagon, but her work remains the same. 

In April 2008, shortly after the New York Times first reported on the Pentagon’s pundits—an in-depth exposé that recently won the Times’ David Barstow his second Pulitzer Prize—the Pentagon suspended the program. In January 2009, the Defense Department Inspector General’s office released a report claiming “there was an ‘insufficient basis’ to conclude that the program had violated laws.” Representative Paul Hodes, one of the program’s many Congressional critics, called the Inspector General’s report “a whitewash.”

Now, it seems as though the Pentagon agrees. On May 5, 2009, the Defense Department Inspector General’s office announced that it was withdrawing its report on the Pentagon pundit program, even removing the file from its website.

“Shortly after publishing the report . . . we became aware of inaccuracies in the data,” states the “withdrawal memo” (PDF) from the Inspector General’s office. The office’s internal review of the report—which it has “refused to release,” according to the Times—“concluded that the report did not meet accepted quality standards.” The report relied on “insufficient or inconclusive” evidence, the memo admits. In addition, “former senior [Defense Department] officials who devised and managed” the Pentagon pundit program, including Victoria Clarke and Lawrence DiRita, “refused our requests for an interview.”

While the Inspector General’s “highly unusual” about-face is welcome, it gets us no closer to accountability. “Additional investigative work will not be undertaken,” the withdrawal memo states, because the Pentagon pundit program “has been terminated and responsible senior officials”—such as Allison Barber—“are no longer employed by the Department.”

Of course, accountability for the Pentagon pundit program was never likely to come from the Defense Department itself. Now it’s up to Congress to demand—and the Government Accountability Office and the Federal Communications Commission to carry out—real investigations into the elaborate propaganda campaign. 

There is a long history of various administrations seeking to propagandize the American people. The Bush administration, and the Clinton administration before it, funded video news releases (VNRs) that television stations across the United States aired as independent “reports” during their news programming. Not surprisingly, the VNRs portrayed government actions and policies in a favorable light. One on educational assistance under No Child Left Behind concluded, “This is a program that gets an A-plus.”

Congress’ investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), repeatedly ruled that government VNRs are illegal covert propaganda unless their source is made clear to viewers. The Bush administration rejected the GAO’s rulings, substituting their own intent-based standard. They argued that government VNRs are permissible, whether disclosed or not, as long as the intent behind them is to inform, not to persuade.

The Department of Defense has also relied on intent to dismiss concerns about propaganda blowback. The Department’s 2003 Information Operations Roadmap admits, “Information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and PSYOP [psychological operations], increasingly is consumed by our domestic audience and vice-versa.” However, it argues that, “the distinction between foreign and domestic audiences becomes more a question of USG [US government] intent rather than information dissemination practices.”

The 8,000 pages of Pentagon pundit documents, which the New York Times obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request (backed up by lawsuits) and the Department of Defense later made public, reveal the daily operations of the program.

   Will continue...

 Part 2 - here

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Energy War: NATO,Sudan,China

The US is slowly shifting its military needs towards Africa and Sudan in particular. While the Barack Obama administration will force the UN to declare a no-fly zone over Darfur, the US forces in so called peacekeeping missions will establish their bases in Darfur or Kenya and other surrounding nations in order to keep Sudan under its umbrella.

The main objective of the mission in Darfur and the no-fly zone over the region will be to slowly strangulate Sudan's economy and render it impossible for the Chinese to exploit Sudan's oil.

The no-fly Zone will be enforced by NATO forces that will be under US command.

On January 14th, the U.S. Air Force has begun airlifting Rwandan peacekeeping equipment and supplies from Kigali to the Darfur Region of Sudan as part of the United Nations-Africa Union peace keeping mission.

Rwanda has four battalions of peace keepers in Darfur, totaling 2,566 personnel, with a goal of increasing the peacekeeping force to 3,200, Rutaremara said. The Rwandan peace keepers are assigned to the hybrid United Nations-African Union mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID.

The decision to airlift the equipment was announced January 5 by President George W. Bush as part of the U.S. government's ongoing support international peacekeeping efforts in Darfur.

With the massive movement of NATO forces across the globe from Afghanistan to Sudan and Israel the world seems to be heading for a massive conflict between the Americans and its allies and the rest of the world which comprises of Russia, China and most of the Muslim state. Included in the rest of the world are the 'socialist' states in Southern America indeed. Venezuela and Bolivia are also the target of a possible 'energy' squeeze in the Southern American region in which NATO forces may altogether be involved soon.

Following the Ukraine declared war on Russian gas, which signalized the beginning of the 'energy' war against non-US friendly states, the NATO is shaping up its 'future' war strategies with clear goals. The control of all the canals and straights that are not under US/allied occupation.

The Straits of Malacca will once again become the prime target of the US administration and will be used as a bargaining tool by the Obama administration to woo into the NATO helm countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, which are opposed to US or foreign troops and naval patrol in their waters.

The US – thanks to Defense Secretary Gates visit to Indonesia in 2007 – has already set a foot along the Straits of Malacca with the installation of at least 7 military radars (given free of charge to the Indonesians apparently). The radars has the capacity to scan the entire Malaysian, Singaporean and Brunei nations not withstanding large areas of Indonesia altogether. This has been seen as a risk to the integrity of the nations mentioned by experts in the matter.

To enhance its presence in Sudan and the surrounding regions, the US and the NATO command will wage the old and overplayed card of the conflict in Darfur. The US media is already claiming that the Obama administration will have to deal with the problem in Sudan where they say an estimated 2.5 million people have been displaced and 300,000 died, citing UN figures.

Since 2004, the United States has spent more than $15 million to airlift 11,400 peace keepers and their equipment to and from Darfur and has provided more than $100 million to train and equip those forces, according to a White House fact sheet. Much of this support is coordinated through the U.S. Department of State.

From now on, the US will also count on the AFRICOM or the African Military Command set up at the Pentagon to deliver blows to the nations that are giving leeway to the Chinese and Russian nations. China has a long term deal with Sudan for the exploitation of its oil reserves. The China Oil Corporation was partners with Malaysia's National oil corporation Petronas in some of the operations over Sudan.

Sudan represents the most viable cheap oil alternative for the Chinese regime while the Russians are now in military partnership – short of an alliance so far – with Tripoli where the Russians will be building an extended and sophisticated Naval base for its warships. Sources indicate that the military agreement between Libya and Russia will eventually lead to an 'oil' and 'gas' deal between Tripoli and Moscow, a deal that may cause ire of Washington, Italy and the UK.

Strangulating Sudan over Darfur will not be of good news to Libya which is bordering Chad. Chad and Sudan were battling each other until last years peace deal 'brokered' by the Senegal during the OIC summit that took place in Dakar in March. The French are to play a major role in the future US blockade of Darfur, which will help strangulate the Sudanese regime and cutoff China's access to the cheap and easy oil finds (for the Chinese) in Sudan.

The domino effect of this strangulation strategy will lead to Libya being under pressure with a military build up in its backyard and one of its long time adversary Chad ending up being occupied by both French and US/NATO forces. Chad and Libya had a long conflict experience over a stretch of the desert land bordering the two nations. The area is rich in oil and was coveted by the French in the 1980 and surely the Americans of the Ronald Reagan era.

The heavy NATO presence in Chad will definitely re-ignite the conflict between Chad and Sudan while light armed Somali Islamic fighters may want to hit the NATO on its vulnerable flanks in the vast African desert land in order to disrupt its operations to strangulate Sudan. There is little wonder which states would end up supporting the brave Somali fighters into enlarging the conflict in the region. The aim of such an escalation will be to achieve two goals: An arms race in the region that will allow Libya and Sudan to acquire additional weapons. This will also allow the Islamic Courts and the militias in Somalia to be re-equipped. And to destabilize Kenya and the southern Sudan region further in order to give the NATO a real military headache that will probably force it to miss its target of 'killing off' the Sudanese regime.

While it is obvious that the recent US 'surge' in peacekeeping efforts (see attempts at conquest of African states instead), the US want to consolidate its US. Africa Command that was formally activated on Oct. 1, 2008. This will remove the US European Command, which had responsibility for Africa prior to the activation of U.S. Africa Command, from duty since the EU command will have to concentrate on Ukraine and on how to push further the idea of strangulating and suffocating Russia's energy business.

A statement by a US military spokesman on the US Africa Command says the following: "The U.S. military has been working with African nations for years," said Vince Crawley, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command. "The command wants to add value to what the U.S. military has been doing; that is helping African partners develop their security capabilities in order to promote security and stability throughout the continent."

Clearly, the NATO will be brought in to support the US in its 'conquest' mission and its global strategy of controlling the 'energy' reserves across the African continent.
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An Actionable Plan for 9/11 Truth

  By Senator Mike Gravel

As each anniversary of 9/11 rolls by, the import of this tragedy looms ever larger in our history. Especially looming like storm clouds on the horizon of American politics are the unanswered questions about these events. And as new evidence and new whistleblowers come forward seemingly every week, the import of the 9/11 truth movement multiplies in historic significance. All of this points to the urgent need for a new, independent investigation with subpoena and other grand jury powers—a citizen’s commission that is truly free of partisan political interference.

As we approach 9/11’s tenth anniversary, we are reminded—each time we pick up a newspaper—that the government’s “official 9/11 story” resulted in three interminable wars: Afghanistan, Iraq, and the War on Terror. The official line also conveniently set the stage for the Patriot Act that abridged so many of our liberties and civil rights, plus a long list of other abuses such as egregious torture of “terror suspects” in the name of national security. Our dilemma ten years later reminds me of a prescient statement made by James Madison: “If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

The U.S. government’s investigations that culminated in the 911 Commission Report purported to set the record straight about the perpetrators of terrorism on our soil and the mistakes made by those whose sacred task is to defend our shores. But this 2004 report has since been called into question by a very long list of credible voices, not only within the United States, but throughout the world. Even the co-chair of the Commission, Governor Thomas Kean, admitted failure: “We think the Commission, in many ways, was set up to fail. Because we had not enough money, we didn’t have enough time, and we [were] appointed by the most partisan people in Washington.”

Thousands of civic volunteers calling themselves the 9/11 truth movement have gone on to parse the events of that fateful day, offering scientific and rational arguments for why the government’s official account is inaccurate, incomplete, implausible, and in fact constitutes a flimsy conspiracy theory. This body of new evidence and argumentation, combined with the refusal of our political leaders to even countenance a new investigation—along with the systematic marginalization of 9/11 truthers by mainstream media—adds to our suspicions that something profound is amiss.

   Direct Democracy: The Way Forward

Presently, our heroic 9/11 truth activists can continue to educate Americans and the world’s people with the hope of pressing the government to act; however, it is evident to me that the federal government simply won’t act to change the 9/11 equation—and the American people simply can’t act, other than to continue to educate and agitate. That’s because of one obvious reality: the way to meaningful change is blocked by the elites now in control of the mainstream media and of Washington (regardless of party), and by the fact that citizens lack any other recourse. We lack access to the legislative procedures needed to implement the central power of government––lawmaking––at the federal level. Indeed, this is true as well in most governmental jurisdictions of the United States. But fortunately there are 24 states that have some form of initiative lawmaking process.

A new activist organization I founded, the citizen’s 9/11 Commission Campaign, has been exploring the feasibility of utilizing the state initiative process by filing state ballot propositions that would create an independent 9/11 commission funded by the citizens themselves. This effort launches on July 4 because of its extreme patriotic import.
As my team and I begin this work, we are heartened by one unassailable fact: the 9/11 truth movement has grown and prospered for nearly a decade, gaining millions of supporters through outreach and education in one of the most remarkable grassroots movements in American history. Our effort builds upon the movement’s innumerable breakthroughs and hard-won lessons. We believe these lessons point to a new approach to our common goals based on citizen power.

Of this I am certain: the 9/11 truth movement is grassroots; that sovereign power lies with the people; and that our fellow citizens are now awakened to 9/11 truth in vast numbers. It is time for a winning approach to change: the method of direct democracy—the state ballot initiative.

   Direct Democracy for 9/11 Truth

he cause of direct democracy has been my principal passion since my two terms in the Senate (1969–1981). I founded and served as president of the Democracy Foundation, Philadelphia II, and Direct Democracy, nonprofit corporations dedicated to the establishment of direct democracy in the United States through the enactment of the National Initiative for Democracy, that would, in essence, empower the American people themselves to be lawmakers. We have not achieved this goal yet, but the process of direct democracy still thrives at the state level. And that’s why, at a gathering of 9/11 truth advocates in New York City in September 2010, I suggested a new path to 9/11 truth and justice: that of using the initiative process in several states as a vehicle to enact a law creating a new 9/11 citizen’s commission that would investigate the intelligence failures prior to 9/11, the events of that day, and the aftermath that resulted in wars and the disfigurement of America’s cultural values. My suggestion was well received at the meeting in New York and subsequently in talks with 9/11 truth activists across California, the state most known for its initiatives. My idea was not original in that it followed upon a campaign for an initiative under New York City law propounded by truth advocates, one that had garnered more than 80,000 petition signatures, only to be thrown out by the New York State Supreme Court.

Building on the New York experience, I approached the California Legislative Counsel in October 2010 for assistance in drafting a prospective law that would create a new investigative commission––independent of federal and state governments––but with the necessary powers to get to the facts (i.e., subpoena and oath taking). The vision of the commission would be to pursue an investigation wherever the evidence leads. No person would be immune from criminal implication, regardless of political station in or out of government (domestic or foreign).

I am convinced that the independence of the new commission can only be guaranteed if the appointment of its members is controlled by a 9/11 truth vision, rather than the customary commission-appointment process typically conducted by governors and legislators. The California initiative text includes the use of a Joint Powers Agreement whereby other government jurisdictions can endorse and participate by adding their powers to the powers of the California commission—when and if it is approved by voters on November 2, 2012. 

   Key Considerations Point to Oregon, Massachusetts, and Alaska  

California is, of course, a very large and complicated state. Additional legal investigations we are now pursuing have led us to consider other states with simpler initiative laws that may present fewer challenges than California. With respect to these states, we are especially interested in their statutes and constitutional provisions that govern the following key issues:

• their commission-appointment process
• rules concerning a “Joint Powers Agreement”
• the number of signatures needed to get on their ballots
• rules governing timing for submission of signatures

We have since concluded that the initiative process in California is overly expensive and otherwise not ideal for a number of reasons, and that we should prioritize our work in three states: Oregon, Massachusetts, and Alaska. You will learn more about these considerations at our website,

A primary objective is to build a nationwide grassroots movement in support of a new commission, especially once a new 9/11 commission has been authorized in the first state to pass one of our initiatives. We are especially focused on how to harmonize the powers granted to the new commission with the governmental powers of other political jurisdictions across the U.S. Through this harmonization process, other states and local governments would be able to geographically enlarge the jurisdiction of the new commission by passing Participation Initiatives or Resolutions of Support. Such votes would extend the commission’s authorized legal and financial powers to their jurisdiction—including subpoena power.

   The Challenge Ahead: Building an Effective Citizen’s Campaign

The issues surrounding 9/11 are national and global in character. We can capitalize on that awareness by injecting the creation of a new commission as a wedge issue in the presidential contest in 2012 and all the key political races. This opportunity will not present itself again until 2016. Success or failure will be determined by the resources that can be brought to bear on our organizational efforts, the additional research, and the petition campaigns to qualify the initiatives, all culminating in the political drive to secure their enactment––but, of course, it takes money to fund this huge effort.

If we are able to raise the necessary funds for this undertaking, I believe there is no possibility of failure even if no initiative is enacted into law. A much bigger national debate on 9/11 advances our present goal––alerting more Americans to the problem, and more importantly, pointing to a solution. Again, our plan will encompass an exploratory effort in several initiative states, examining the legal possibilities of interrelating state (and local) jurisdictions to establish and fund the new commission for a citizens’ 9/11 investigation.

Fundraising will not be confined to the U.S. alone. This task will be pursued globally. Awareness of the need for a new investigation of 9/11 is guaranteed regardless of whether any initiative is enacted into law or not. We are adding an actionable goal to the existing mission of the 9/11 truth movement that may actually bring about the best tool for truth and justice: a new citizens’ investigation commission independent of federal and state governments.

Mike Gravel was a two-term Senator from Alaska (1969–1981), during which time he was best known for his lengthy filibuster that ended the draft, and for reading the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record, the legality of which was confirmed in an historic Supreme Court case. Gravel later founded and served as president of the Democracy Foundation, Philadelphia II, and Direct Democracy, nonprofit corporations dedicated to the establishment of direct democracy in the United States through the enactment of the National Initiative for Democracy. Gravel founded the citizens’ 9/11 Commission Campaign in 2010. 

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