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Looking for a Lawyer to Help with Media Shield Law

By: Jane Hamsher Tuesday June 3, 2014 10:16 am

Are you a lawyer willing to devote some volunteer time to doing some research on a media shield law? If the answer is yes, please email me at firedoglake AT gmail DOT com and let me know what your availability is.

It’s a very worthwhile project that could help some journalists who really need it. If you’ve got some time to spare, I promise it will be interesting.

 

Please Help FDL Stay Online

By: Jane Hamsher Tuesday May 27, 2014 6:51 am

As you may have noticed over the past week or so, FDL has been been under almost constant Denial of Service attack. We’ve been down as much as we’ve been up.  We stop one thing, but the attackers try another. Our tech bills are mounting and so this week we’re asking for your help to stay online.

FDL has been around for nearly 10 years now, which is quite a feat — not a lot of blogs from that era are still around, or at least still resemble their former selves. FDL has lasted because we have remained true to our principles and independence and community support.

In that time we’ve been on the front page of the New York Times for our coverage of the Scooter Libby trial, and people all over the world followed Kevin Gosztola’s lone coverage of the Chelsea Manning Trial.

We support whistleblowers who tell the truth about government criminality like Chelsea Manning, Thomas Drake, Peter Van Buren and John Kiriakou. When the mainstream media was calling them traitors, FDL forged relationships and stuck by their side when everyone else backed away.

We’re here in the morning and we’re here late at night. People always know they can show up early and chat with the Over Easy crowd, or into the wee hours with the Late Night crew.

But it isn’t a one way conversation. We also provide a place where our community can express their opinions and post themselves about things they’d be banned for in other places.

We’ve covered LGBT issues, civil liberties, domestic spying, marijuana and drug policy, Occupy, WikiLeaks, genetically modified foods, prison reform, elections, and a wide variety of subjects from fracking to Fukushima in a way that other news sources just don’t.

While the issues change and the world turns, FDL has adapted by applying our same tried and true values to those subjects, refusing to go with institutional zeitgeist on issues like Syria — and we actually win, too.

Our willingness to go against the beltway grain and cover issues in the way we do is no doubt what has opened us up to attacks, but we’re not going to back down. We need our community to band together and defend our publication’s existence and work.

We have a terrific community here at FDL that has always been extremely generous about supporting us when we’re in need. And if we cannot overcome these technical hurdles and pay these bills, the attackers could be successful in silencing us and we could be in serious jeopardy

Can you donate to help FDL stay online?

The Price of Whistleblowing: Manning, Greenwald, Assange, Kiriakou and Snowden

By: Jane Hamsher Tuesday May 20, 2014 7:25 am

My kitchen

We were eating dinner last night around my kitchen table when the news of the dustup between Wikileaks and the Intercept came through the tubes. As I read the details to the people who came here to share food and conversation, everyone’s eyebrows raised.

The eyebrows at a lot of tables probably raised as Wikileaks took the Intercept to task for its latest story, and failing to release the name of one of the countries in which the United States is spying on its citizens. The Intercept maintained they had been shown compelling evidence that led them to redact the name; Wikileaks maintained the citizens of the country have a right to know.

The eyebrows at my kitchen table were somewhat unique as it relates to the story, however. They belong to members of a group we jokingly refer to as the Friends of the Enemies of the State, a regular gathering of people who have personal experience on the business end of the state’s relentless persecution of those who choose to expose its criminality.

I’ll leave it to the people who come here as to whether they want to identify themselves or not. But everyone regards these dinners as a place where they know they are among friends who understand what they’ve been through and aren’t judging them for it. Many have lost everything — marriages, jobs, homes, relationships with friends and family, have risked jail (and in some cases gone to jail) — as a result of decisions they made to become whistleblowers.

(I will identify one person, with permission — FDL contributor and State Department whistleblower Peter Van Buren, who is in town promoting his new book The Ghosts of Tom Joad.  It’s excellent, please buy it.)

Without saying how everyone came down, I will say that there was sympathy expressed for those on both sides. More than one of the regular attendees at the FES dinners has been charged with espionage. More than one has been to visit Julian Assange in England, and Edward Snowden in Russia. And they are all keenly aware that these are extremely difficult decisions that whistleblowers and journalists are increasingly having to face in the era of big data — and that the price of a mistake can be perilously high.

Chelsea Manning and the Quantico Saga

My own experience with whistleblowers and whistleblowing began four years ago when I picked up a gangly college student with blonde hair and a backpack at Union Station one night. His name was David House, and at the time he was pretty much Chelsea Manning’s only regular visitor at Quantico.

David had initially reached out to Glenn Greenwald when his computer had been seized at an airport for no apparent crime other than being Manning’s friend. When David told Glenn he routinely came down from Boston and stayed in hostels in Washington DC so he could visit Chelsea, Glenn thoughtfully offered up my house as a place for him to stay.

Almost immediately David told me he was very worried about Chelsea, who was being kept in solitary confinement under conditions the UN rapporteur on torture would later say were cruel and inhuman. Chelsea’s lawyer wanted to exhaust all military procedural options for protesting her treatment before going to the press, but David was deeply concerned that his friend’s condition was deteriorating.

“I think Glenn should know this,” I said, and I dialed Glenn’s number. After getting a lecture about how I shouldn’t be driving and talking on the phone at the same time, I told him what David had told me about Chelsea’s conditions. I also told him that Chelsea’s attorney was concerned about broadcasting this in the media yet.

What happened next all came down to a snap judgement I had to make about whether or not David had evaluated the situation accurately and was telling the truth. Did I believe him? “Yes,” I said.

Glenn tweeted out the news and all hell broke loose. The Quantico spokesman denied it everywhere, and Glenn was on the defensive against a full-frontal Pentagon PR campaign. Fortunately David Coombs, Chelsea’s lawyer, decided it was time to make a statement, and he confirmed everything David had said about Chelsea’s conditions.

Soon the guards at Quantico began harassing David at the gate and making it hard for him to get to the brig to see Chelsea, so I began driving him down. On the third or fourth time, we were detained and threatened with arrest. I began live tweeting what was happening to us with no awareness that people were following it all over the world. What we did know that a collection of military brass had assembled in the guard house, and we weren’t released until just before visiting hours were over at the brig and it would be impossible for David to get in to see Chelsea.

In response to the media attention around our detention the Pentagon gave its first press conference in months, and spokesperson Geoff Morrell was peppered with questions as to whether the military was preventing Chelsea’s visitors from seeing her. A few days later the Quantico brig commander was replaced and we all had hopes that Chelsea’s situation would get better.

It got far, far worse. They began stripping Chelsea naked and forcing her to stand at attention in front of the guards each morning, according to the outraged David Coombs who went public immediately.

I can’t speak for anyone else in the situation but I know for myself I was sick with worry that we had only made things worse for Chelsea. Nobody can know that but Chelsea herself, and she hasn’t spoken about it. All I can say is that in retrospect I believe we made the best decisions we could based on what we knew at the time. And I can say with absolute certainty that everyone was trying to do what they thought was best for her.

Win a Copy of Thomas Piketty’s Book Capital in the 21st Century and Join Us for His Book Salon on Sunday at 5pm ET

By: Jane Hamsher Tuesday May 6, 2014 8:25 am

Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital in the 21st Century has been causing quite the stir lately, and we’re proud to be welcoming him on the FDL Book Salon this Sunday at 5pm ET, hosted by George “Knut” Grantham.

Please join us for what promises to be a lively discussion, and you can enter for a chance to win a copy of the book below.  The winner will be announced at the book salon.

See you there!

Win a free copy of Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century in Book Salon on LockerDome

Win a Copy of Nomi Prins Book “All the President’s Bankers” and Join Us for Her Book Salon on Saturday at 5pm ET

By: Jane Hamsher Friday April 25, 2014 6:24 am

Update: Nomi’s book is SOLD OUT at Amazon, so this is a great opportunity to get a copy!

Nomi Prins is getting well-deserved rave reviews for her book All the President’s Bankers:  The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power. She’ll be here discussing it at the Firedoglake Book Salon tomorrow, April 26, at 5pm ET with guest host the ever wonderful Bill Black.

We’re giving away a copy of the book to one lucky reader.  In order to enter, just leave a comment in the comment section of this post. Voting will close at 4pm ET tomorrow, right before the book salon, and the winner will be announced at the salon.

Good luck, and see you at the salon!

The relationship between Washington and Wall Street isn’t really a revolving door. Its a merry-go-round. And, as Prins shows, the merriest of all are the bankers and financiers that get rich off the relationship, using their public offices and access to build private wealth and power. Disturbing and important. —Robert B. Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley

Nomi Prins follows the money. She used to work on Wall Street. And now she has written a seminal history of America’s bankers and their symbiotic relationship with all the presidents from Teddy Roosevelt through Barack Obama. It is an astonishing tale. All the Presidents’ Bankers relies on the presidential archives to reveal how power works in this American democracy. Prins writes in the tradition of C. Wright Mills, Richard Rovere and William Greider. Her book is a stunning contribution to the history of the American Establishment. —Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and author of The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames

Nomi Prins takes us on a brisk, panoramic, and eye-opening tour of more than a century’s interplay between America’s government and its major banks – exposing the remarkable dominance of six major banks, and for most of the period, the same families, over U.S. financial policy. —Charles R. Morris, author of The Trillion Dollar Meltdown

Nomi Prins has written a big book you just wish was bigger: page after page of killer stories of bank robbers who’ve owned the banks—and owned the White House. Prins is a born story-teller. She turns the history of the moneyed class into a breathless, page-turning romance—the tawdry affairs of bankers and the presidents who love them. It’s brilliant inside stuff on unforgettable, and unforgivable, scoundrels. —Greg Palast, Investigative reporter for BBC Television and author of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits

War With Syria: Where Do Your Congressional Representatives Stand?

By: Jane Hamsher Saturday August 31, 2013 11:41 am

President Obama has said he will ask for Congressional authorization to attack Syria.

We know that Alan Grayson is firmly against going to war with Syria. Grijalva is also opposed. Justin Amash will lead the opposition from the Republican side.

Eliot Engel has a war boner on, and as ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee he can do a lot of damage. And the firmly anti-war Nancy Pelosi will undoubtedly whip her caucus in support of the President and his desire to wage an extremely unpopular war.

So where does your member of Congress stand? Let us know in the comments so we can start vote counting.

John “Scarecrow” Chandley, RIP

By: Jane Hamsher Tuesday January 22, 2013 2:10 pm

John Scarecrow ChandleyJohn Chandley’s son Christopher just called to say that John passed away last night.

As many in the community know, Scarecrow had been battling lung cancer for several months.

His children were with him when he passed. Christopher said “he loved you and he loved his work at Firedoglake.”

He was a brilliant writer and editor, a loyal friend and a deeply moral and committed soul. He will be terribly, terribly missed.

Update:  Perris had a great suggestion.  Please feel free to leave a commemorative link to your favorite posts from Scarecrow in the comments.

Here’s mine — when Scarecrow figured out what caused the Deep Horizon oil rig to blow a week before BP did.

Aaron Swartz and Jean Seberg

By: Jane Hamsher Monday January 14, 2013 7:41 am

Jean Seberg in Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless

Many people will recall Jean Seberg as the young blonde gamine who played opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo in Godard’s classic 1960′s film Breathless.

Few remember that she was hounded by the FBI for supporting liberal causes, and committed suicide in 1979 at the age of 40.  J. Edgar Hoover personally tried to destroy her career by planting the story that the married Seberg was pregnant by a member of the Black Panthers.  As the LA Times wrote in 2009:

Hoover oversaw the Seberg smear, ordering agents in Los Angeles to wait until Seberg’s pregnancy grew more visible. He didn’t want the wiretap–which agents apparently misinterpreted–to be suspected. Ronald Ostrow, a former Los Angeles Times reporter who worked in the Washington bureau, obtained documents in 1980 showing that FBI officials in Washington and agents in Los Angeles targeted Seberg for giving $10,500 to the Panthers.

The psychological toll of being targeted by the government for political beliefs is massive, the stuff that filled Soviet-era gulags. People like John Kiriakou and Thomas Drake have had their careers destroyed and their lives torn apart simply for telling uncomfortable truths that expose corruption and lawlessness at the highest levels. The only surprise is that there aren’t more people who simply can’t handle the intense pressure.

Seberg’s family blamed the FBI for her death, just as activist Aaron Swartz’s family rightly blames his overly zealous prosecutors. Public intolerance for this kind of government harassment and abuse of power should be vigorous and swift, but sadly there’s no better way for careerists to make their bones at the DoJ or any other agency right now than to engage in the personal destruction of activists advocating for the freedom of information.

Aaron Swartz isn’t the first victim of this war nor, sadly, will he be the last. His death is collateral damage in a war being waged by a ruthless government intent on protecting a secretive and unaccountable kleptocracy at all costs.

It’s tragic that this lesson must be learned anew by every generation, it seems.