Thursday, June 22, 2017

CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou Slams Torture, Apathy, and the War on Dissent in the US

The Daily Sheeple | Jun 21, 2017 | Claire Bernish

Image: TruthDig
Claire Bernish - John Kiriakou never imagined he would become, much less be called, a whistleblower for speaking out publicly against his CIA employer over a shadowy torture program he’s come to believe amounts to the most nefarious of violations of international law, a heinous crime against humanity, and an affront to otherwise-touted American values of freedom and justice.

But that’s what happened.

And the ex-CIA officer languished behind bars for nearly three years for what amounts to a witch hunt targeting dissenting voices — those situated at the highest levels of government, down to military and surveillance contractors, and even extending broadly enough to begin quashing the free press.

Much of this vitriolic war on freedom taking place inside the confines of the United States arrived neatly packaged on the coattails of the 9/11 attacks — its War on Terror sufficiently ambiguous to include actual terrorists as readily as whistleblowers in its sights.

Mastered impeccably, as no other administration in U.S. history could have aspired, the War on Terror birthed an interminable web of odious and authoritarian programs, including, ultimately, the right of the State to militarily detain — sans attorney and sans all due process — an American citizen anywhere in the world, including U.S. soil, should they be even suspected of terrorism.

It also spawned the surreptitious re-initiation of the CIA’s torture program — one deemed both illegal and an egregious violation of human rights long before.

Atrocities have been committed in the (proven incorrect) name of gleaning sensitive information, including the use of waterboarding — a technique creating the conditions to suffocate a person repeatedly, ostensively forcing them to speak in lieu of enduring further torture — although the echo chamber at the CIA did not treat the violation of international law as wrong, in any way.

Kiriakou, who eagerly arrived at the CIA in 1990, ultimately landed the title of Chief of Counterterrorist Operations in Pakistan in the post-September 11th world. He headed an operation in March 2002, in Faisalabad, during which Abu Zubaydah, believed third-in-command of Al Qaeda at the time, was captured.

After resigning from the CIA in 2004, Kiriakou moved to consulting, including as a terrorism consultant for ABC News.

Shattering all illusions the War on Terror possessed no dark side, Kiriakou ripped into the CIA’s use of waterboarding — confirming its active practice during interrogations of senior Al Qaeda officers in an interview with ABC. The agency took note.

But the provocation seemed to linger in the collective spy agency mind, and, when Kiriakou exchanged information later determined to be classified, with reporter Matthew Cole, who mishandled it severely, the CIA secured the albeit baseless means to proceed with an unofficial punishment of the ex-officer for the aforementioned transgression.

Incinerating the tightly-steeled door previously hiding the malignant outgrowth that is the torture of human beings by a government agency no friend of compassion should have riled American tempers beyond respite, or until transparency of torture’s practice and oversight could be applied — save, of course, for the barbaric program’s deserved termination.

Instead — in thirst for propaganda-proclaimed security against a terrorist threat the U.S. government, itself, perpetuates — the somnambulant American public hardly blinked. An apathy astonishing in its naked inability to see the humanness in neighbors not situated next door — an apathy gifted by the Pentagon so war can continue propping up the defense-industry laden economy, regardless of the destruction wrought.

On Tuesday, I discussed whistleblowing, transparency, blowback, the path to world war, and more in an interview with Mr. Kiriakou, so diverse it must be divided into two parts.

Asked to discuss this dangerous and lasting trend of apathy from the American public on the topic of torture — and its undeniable repercussions — as carried out by the United States government, the whistleblower explained,

“You know, one of the things that’s been really distressing to me, not even just recently, but over the years, over the last decade, is that poll after poll after poll shows that a clear majority of Americans supports the torture program. And, after everything we’ve learned about torture — that it’s illegal; it’s immoral; the United Nations considers it to be a crime against humanity; that it doesn’t work — Americans are still supportive.

“In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, I was angry, too. I wanted to kill or capture as many members of Al Qaeda as I could — as a CIA officer. But we can’t lose sight of who we are as a people, as a country.”

Elaborating on why he feels trenchant apathy, rather than compassion or outrage, has been the collective response to the torture revelations, Kiriakou noted,

“I think, for most people, it’s a kneejerk reaction — they’re not fully briefed; they’re not fully aware; they don’t know that there’s a 1946 Federal Torture Act that bans torture; they don’t know about the McCain-Feinstein Amendment; or about the United Nations Convention against torture — I think that’s part of it. I think the other part of it is that American Exceptionalism is a dangerous thing — and that people genuinely don’t care about respecting international law, or about what other countries think about us.”

Why that has been the case can be attributed to a lengthy, if convoluted, list of factors — perhaps the fury over 9/11 and subsequent attacks never having faded, most elemental among them — which have tacitly, surreptitiously, and brazenly cleaved the populace along such superficial lines as blind patriotism versus holding government accountable for the worst of transgressions.

Without resolute resistance from the American people to untenable acts of torture committed by the CIA, or any other government agency or contractor, blowback might as well be signed, sealed, and delivered — even, ultimately, to our front door.

To ensure morally reprehensible programs continue unabated — largely to prevent the withering of the U.S. war machine from lost profits — pro-war propaganda and an atmosphere conducive to xenophobia have veritably removed connectivity and compassion from the equation.

“We’ve transitioned into a permanent wartime economy, without even realizing that it was happening,” Kiriakou continued. “We have been literally at war, continuously, for the last sixteen years; and, there’s nary an objection on Capitol Hill, or in the media, or even just among the general population of the country.

“We’ve just accepted, without comment, the fact that we are permanently at war. And, if we weren’t at war suddenly, our economy would go into recession.

“I think that our leaders have done a great disservice to the American people by tricking us into thinking that this is normal — that it’s normal to constantly be fighting other countries around the world.”

Further, “When it’s only poor people, or People of Color, or really, really patriotic right-wingers, who are going to fight these wars — and the deaths and the injuries don’t touch the average American — it’s easy to forget that it’s happening.”

As the former CIA officer-turned champion of human rights pointed out, a typical U.S. citizen likely doesn’t comprehend how long troops have been present in Afghanistan, Iraq, or why our government insists military intervention is happening in Syria, or could happen with proxy, Russia, or even Iran — much less that an active campaign now rages in Somalia.

Expecting to enjoin dissent against militaristic and political agendas about which most aren’t even cognizant can seem an exercise in futility.

“I don’t think that people even know,” he emphasized, “or if they know, I’m not sure that they care — because it just doesn’t affect them on a day-to-day basis.”

Beyond American public apathy, however, another dangerous condition, in which the torture program thrived, unhindered, surrounds the “utter and complete lack of Congressional oversight.

“The oversight committees aren’t oversight committees: They’re cheerleading committees … When the CIA comes and asks permission to do something, they cheer them on and egg them on and increase their budgets, and there’s never any real oversight.”

When the very committees meant to act as watchdogs against abuse and corruption instead rubber stamp any ill-fated program the clandestine agency chooses to manifest, little can be done to quash potentially ruinous repercussions consequent of that bad policy. Indeed, Kiriakou emphasized entities meant to oversee such programs consist primarily of officials also seated on multiple such committees — meaning, their part-time devotion guarding against failed policies, by design, lacks teeth.

But if little consideration is reserved for debating ethics and oversight, likely the worst result of torture writ large — or, for that matter, of indiscriminate bombing campaigns against sovereign nations against which no declaration of war has officially been made — is blowback.

According to The Spy Who Knew Too Much, however, cognizance of blowback from the CIA’s secretive, heinous torture program has not brought the topic any more to the forefront, and although the practice putatively ceased under President Obama, this slipshod attitude surrounding the costliest of foreign policy and human rights missteps has not changed.

Kiriakou observed that “the primary reason to sit down and review these programs is blowback.

“Even when I was at the CIA … thirteen years ago, blowback was never given any consideration on the Hill. We certainly talked about it at headquarters, but the blowback we were concerned about was Intelligence blowback, not political or policy blowback. And, so I think, on the Hill, people just aren’t really used to focusing on this kind of thing, and so I think they don’t really … they don’t really care.”

When militants, terrorists, and individual actors repeatedly carry out malicious acts while citing iterations of U.S. foreign policy — more keenly, American militarism and imperialism around the globe — it seems past time to examine blowback as a peril inextricable from (at least, superficially) laudable goals.

To wit, as Kiriakou penned for TruthDig Monday, “James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the two contract psychologists who were the masterminds of the CIA’s torture program, are in for a heap of trouble. They are defendants in two major lawsuits accusing them of designing, implementing, overseeing and personally participating in the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. That they did exactly that is not in doubt. Indeed, Mitchell has written proudly of his work in a new book.

“But what makes these cases newsworthy is that the CIA has apparently turned its back on the two, offering no support and even cooperating with the plaintiffs by voluntarily turning over documents and refusing to supply CIA officers to serve as defense witnesses.”

Dismissal of its perpetually-protective stance of agents accused of misbehavior, Kiriakou posits, evinces a telling shift in the CIA’s position on torture — as the shame of an agency’s failed policy begins blowing back in attempts to hold specific people accountable for grievous wrongdoing.

While that would appear true to some degree, I asked how that indicator could be taken as a positive development, without also considering Washington’s veritable war on whistleblowers — a definitive method for ensuring lack of transparency in government, a censored press, and a somnambulant, security-over-freedom-loving populace.

“I’m gonna give you a personal example,” the ex-CIA officer proffered, after some consideration. “After my arrest, we received discovery from the Justice Department. And, in the thousands and thousands of pages of discovery, we found several memos between the CIA and the Justice Department. And one of the memos from the CIA to the Justice Department said, ‘Charge him with espionage.’

“And the Justice Department wrote back and said, ‘But he hasn’t committed espionage.’

“And then the CIA wrote back and said, ‘Charge him anyway, and make him defend himself.’ And that’s exactly what they did. And that’s what they’ve done to Reality Winner; that’s what they’ve done to [Edward] Snowden; that’s what they did to Jeffrey Sterling.”

Silencing dissent inarguably also involves the muzzling of whistleblowers in conjunction with erasure of transparency in governmental policy, both to camouflage and perpetuate unsavory and illegal acts — such as the Bush-era CIA torture program, one proven fruitless and, worse, contrary to virtually every agenda the American empire claims in the complex Middle East theater.

In fact, this domestic and international sprint into unnecessary self-destruction typically characterizes a moribund, decaying empire — desperate to effect control as it slides into the annals of history.

In the second portion of my conversation with John Kiriakou, he elucidates the belligerence playing out in the Middle East and elsewhere, and the perilous course it likely signifies, as well as more on what the term “whistleblower” truly means, and why freedom of the press — including Wikileaks — is central to maintaining a base of rights and liberties during these tumultuous times.

‘When I say cut taxes, I don’t mean fiddle with the code. I mean abolish the income tax and the IRS, and replace them with nothing’

The quote in the headline comes from Ron Paul, and it should be the goal of every conservative lawmaker in the entire country.  When professional politicians tell you that they are in favor of reforming the tax code or reducing taxes a little bit, essentially what they are telling you is that they are perfectly fine with the status quo.  They may want to tweak things slightly, but in general they are content with big taxes, big spending and big government.  I spent an entire year getting a Master of Laws in Taxation at the University of Florida Law School, and in my opinion the best thing that Congress could do to the tax code would be to run it through a shredder and put it in a dumpster.  As I noted the other day, the tax code is now more than four million words long and it takes Americans about six billion dollars a year to comply with it.  Those that believe that they are offering the American people a “solution” by proposing to tinker with this abominable mess are just fooling themselves.

The only long-term solution that is going to work is to get rid of the entire steaming pile of garbage.  Ron Paul understood this, and we would be very wise to take his advice.  The following is the full version of the quote from the headline above…
“By the way, when I say cut taxes, I don’t mean fiddle with the code. I mean abolish the income tax and the IRS, and replace them with nothing.”
If I run for Congress, and I am very strongly leaning in that direction, this is what my position on taxes is going to be.

Of course we are going to have to dramatically change the composition of the House and the Senate in order to get this done, so in the short-term we may have to focus on reducing tax rates and the size of the tax code by as much as possible.

But ultimately, the goal will be to abolish the tax code and the IRS altogether.

We have become so accustomed to an income tax that many of us couldn’t possibly imagine a society without one.  But today there are seven states that do not have one, and that includes very big states such as Texas and Florida.  And from 1872 to 1913, there was no federal income tax.  When a federal income tax was finally reinstituted in 1913, the rates were extremely low.  The following comes from Politifact
The 1913 law imposed a tax of 1 percent on income up to $20,000, for both individual and joint filers. However, exemptions from the tax — the first $3,000 of income for individuals and the first $4,000 for joint filers — meant “virtually all middle-class Americans” were excused from paying, according to W. Elliot Brownlee’s book, Federal Taxation in America. The law also put in place a graduated surtax on incomes above $20,000; the highest rate paid, 7 percent, applied to Americans making more than $500,000 (about $11.4 million in 2011 dollars).
So how did things go for our country during the four decades when there was no federal income tax?

Well, if you regularly follow my work you already know the answer to that question.

That period of time just happened to be the best period of economic growth in U.S. history.

Oh, but we wouldn’t want to change from the way things work today, would we?  After all, the U.S. economy has grown at a blistering average yearly rate of just 1.33 percent over the past decade, and we are actually behind that pace so far in 2017.

If you want a no growth economy and a steadily shrinking middle class, then our current system is perfect for you.

But I believe that we can do so much better.

So how are we going to fund the federal government if we eliminate the income tax?

Well, the truth is that taxing individual incomes accounts for only 46.2 percent of all federal revenue.  The federal government has lots of other ways that it raises money, but of course we wouldn’t be able to keep the massively bloated federal bureaucracy that we have today.  We would need to reduce the size and scope of the federal government to an appropriate constitutional level, and of course most politicians on the left would resist this greatly.

There are some federal agencies and programs that we could completely eliminate altogether.  If it was up to me, the EPA, the Department of Education and the BATFE would be good places to start.  Any essential functions that they are currently performing could easily be absorbed by other agencies.

There are very few politicians in our entire country that will still talk like this, because our leaders have taken us so far down the road toward “a social state” that most Americans don’t even know what “limited government” looks like anymore.

I would like to share with you an old newspaper clipping that was posted to Facebook by Get Involved, You Live Here

Over the past several decades, the left has made a tremendous amount of progress toward achieving the goals that Saul Alinsky originally outlined in Rules for Radicals.  Obamacare was a giant step toward federal control over our healthcare system, poverty is exploding as the middle class shrinks, we are nearly 20 trillion dollars in debt, our public schools have become left-wing indoctrination centers, and God has been pushed out of almost every corner of public life.

We should be very thankful that we got Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton, but many radical leftists consider Trump to simply be a bump in the road on the way to completely eradicating our way of life.

They want to criminalize what we believe by making it “hate speech”, they want to steal the minds of the next generation by dominating our system of education, and they want to use government institutions and the legal system as tools to completely reshape society in their image.

The only way that we are going to defeat this tyranny is if we stand up and fight for our country, and that is precisely what we are going to do.

The Deep State is Scapegoating Russia to Justify Their Psychopathy

RT America | Jun 22, 2017

Tensions between US and Russia continue to escalate, from NATO encroachment on Russia’s borders to US belligerence in Syria. Daniel Kovalik, professor of international human rights, joins RT America’s Natasha Sweatte to discuss the flimsiness of “Russiagate” claims and how they originated in Clinton’s search for a scapegoat to explain her defeat. He also unpacks how the Russia probe is connected to US posturing in Syria and the likely future of US-Russia relations.

Forgetting actually makes you smarter – study

RT | Jun 22, 2017

© Global Look Press
The inability to remember has long been considered a failure of the brain, but a new study has found that our brains are actively working to forget memories in order to retain the truly important information.

In fact, the study’s researchers believe the brain is not designed to keep memories intact, but its actual purpose is to only hold onto valuable information to optimize intelligent decision making overtime.

"It's important that the brain forgets irrelevant details and instead focuses on the stuff that's going to help make decisions in the real world," says Blake Richards, author of the study and associate fellow in the Learning in Machines and Brains program.

The new University of Toronto paper was published Wednesday in the Neuron journal. Paul Frankland, a senior fellow at CIFAR's Child & Brain Development program, who was also involved in the study, says,"We find plenty of evidence from recent research that there are mechanisms that promote memory loss, and that these are distinct from those involved in storing information."

One of those mechanisms is the weakening of synaptic connections between neurons, in which memories are encoded, reports Medical Xpress. Another is the creation of new neurons, which overwrite stored memories and could explain why children (who produce a significant amount of new neurons) forget more than adults.

The pair’s research into the brain’s persistence (remembering) and transience (forgetting) found forgetting is just as important as remembering for two reasons:

One, forgetting allows the brain to let go of outdated or incorrect information making it easier to adapt to and decipher new problems.
"If you're trying to navigate the world and your brain is constantly bringing up multiple conflicting memories, that makes it harder for you to make an informed decision," says Richards.

And two, it simplifies your memories, basically creating a streamlined computer of information in your brain so you can take the crucial information from a certain event, rather than specific details, and frees up more room for important information.

"One of the things that distinguishes an environment where you're going to want to remember stuff versus an environment where you want to forget stuff is this question of how consistent the environment is and how likely things are to come back into your life," says Richards.

For example, someone who meets new people every day is likely to forget the details of each exchange, whilst someone who talks to the same people on a day-to-day basis is likely to hold on to information longer.

‘Jaw-dropping’: Rare total solar eclipse will ‘bring people to tears’

RT | Jun 22, 2017

The US is set to experience its first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in almost a century on August 21 – giving millions of Americans the chance to observe the rare celestial event.

NASA revealed details and viewing advice for the upcoming eclipse, which will see the moon pass between the sun and Earth, casting a dark shadow and making visible the solar corona – the sun’s normally obscured atmosphere, as well as bright stars and planets.

A total of 14 states from Oregon in the west to South Carolina in the east will experience more than two minutes of darkness in the middle of the day over a span of almost two hours.

This will be the first total eclipse in the US since 1979 and the first coast-to-coast eclipse since 1918.

The US will be the only country to experience the total eclipse. International visitors, however, are expected to descend on the country for the rare chance to see the sun disappear behind the moon, transforming daylight into twilight.

“It brings people to tears,” Rick Fienberg, a spokesperson for the American Astronomical Society (AAS), told “It makes people’s jaw drop.”

At least three NASA aircraft, 11 other spacecraft, and more than 50 high-altitude balloons, as well as the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, will capture images.

“Never before will a celestial event be viewed by so many and explored from so many vantage points – from space, from the air, and from the ground,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington said.

NASA is warning potential viewers to put safety first and use specialized solar viewing glasses to observe the non-eclipsed or partially-eclipsed sun.

The space agency says it’s safe to look at the total eclipse with the naked eye only during the brief period of totality, which will last about two minutes, depending on location.

NASA will broadcast live video of the celestial event, along with coverage of activities held across the country in its honor.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Big Pharma Nightmare: Missouri sues opioid manufacturers for fraud, hiding risks

RT | Jun 21, 2017

© George Frey / Reuters
Missouri became the third US state to accuse major drug manufacturers of misrepresenting the risks posed by opioids. About 500 Missourians have died in 2015 from non-heroin opioid overdoses, and thousands of others were hospitalized.

On Wednesday, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley filed the civil lawsuit in state court in St. Louis against Purdue Pharma LP, Endo Health Solutions, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

The three companies carried out a complex, multi-year campaign in which they deliberately misrepresented the addictive risks of opioids, and “engaged in a deliberate campaign of fraud to convince Missouri doctors and consumers otherwise,” according to the complaint.
"They used bogus front organizations and fake research; they used fraudulent advertising and deceptive trade practices," Hawley said in remarks prepared for a news conference. “And they repeatedly lied about the true risks of the drugs they sold."

Those action, the suit claims, caused thousands of Missourians patients to be given unnecessary opioids prescriptions, often to treat chronic pain. The complaint argues the companies violated Missouri’s consumer protection laws and its Medicaid statutes, and seeks hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and civil penalties.

Opioids are a class of drugs that range from prescription pain medications like oxycodone, codeine and morphine, to illegal drugs like heroin. Opioid overdoses have killed more than 33,000 people in the US in 2015, more than any year on record, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hawley said the suit seeks to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable so that families that have suffered from the opioid epidemic can start to heal.

I lost my daughter to the opioid epidemic three years ago,” Jammie Fabick told reporters. “For the sake of my daughter and all the other lives lost, we have to put a stop to this epidemic.”

Hawley said any money awarded in the Missouri suit should go toward drug rehabilitation services and efforts to help families affected by drug addiction, according to WTOP.

This makes Missouri the third US state to sue drug manufacturers over opioid marketing and sales practices. Purdue, J&J and Endo were previously sued in Ohio and Mississippi. Those lawsuits also targeted Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd and Allergan Plc.

Last month, Senator Claire McCaskill (D- Missouri), began an investigation of the pharmaceutical industry that included Purdue Pharma and Janssen, two of the companies named in Hawley’s lawsuit.

Similar lawsuits have been filed by local governments, including two California counties; the cities of Chicago and Dayton, Ohio; three Tennessee district attorneys; and nine New York counties.

Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a division of Johnson & Johnson, said in a statement that it acted appropriately and responsibly, adding that its pain medications were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and carry mandated warnings about their known risks, according to Reuters.

Purdue, which manufactures OxyContin, said it denied the allegations but shared Hawley's concerns about the opioid crisis and was "committed to working collaboratively to find solutions."

Endo declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said its "top priorities include patient safety and ensuring that patients with chronic pain have access to safe and effective therapeutic options."

Earlier this month, the FDA asked Endo to withdraw its long-lasting opioid painkiller Opana ER from the market.
Missouri remains the only US state that has failed to create a prescription drug monitoring system, a database that allows doctors and pharmacists to keep track of patients’ prescriptions.