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The Irony of Lieberman’s Devotion to Prosecuting WikiLeaks

11:08 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

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I previously wrote about Senator Joseph Lieberman’s (I-CT) appearance on Fox News on Tuesday, December 7th, where he suggested that New York Times should be subjected to an inquiry by the Justice Department on whether they committed a crime or not by publishing or reporting on the contents of the diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks. I intentionally ignored one aspect of Sen. Lieberman’s remarks on Fox News because I felt that aspect deserved its own article.

Just after addressing whether the press reporting on WikiLeaks should face a Justice Department investigation or not, Sen. Lieberman added:

“And, again, why do you prosecute crimes? Because if you don’t–Well, first you do because that’s what our system of justice requires. Second, if you don’t prosecute people who commit crimes, others are going to do it soon and again.

As someone familiar with what Bush Administration officials did when they were in power and how there are officials who should be dragged into court to face a trial for war crimes, I instantly noted the inconsistency. This remark was laughable. But, I am conscious of the fact that it also revealed those in charge of deciding who is guilty of crimes and not guilty of crimes do not think certain violations of the law are crimes.

They think waterboarding, which has traditionally been defined as torture, an act considered to be a war crime, is permissible in some situations. They think warrantless wiretapping is acceptable if there is information to be gained that could be of use (and don’t believe they should be required to prove in the aftermath that what they gained was useful). They find little problem with a CIA, which kidnaps terror suspects and uses extraordinary rendition to send them off to countries that are known to torture suspects, like Egypt. And, they are willing to have terror suspects imprisoned indefinitely in secret prisons or, in the case of detainees at Guantanamo, they are willing to prevent terror suspects from being granted due process.

On April 23, 2009, Sen. Lieberman appeared on “Fox & Friends” on Fox News. Here is a full transcript of the interview he did with host Brian Kilmeade, who expressed his gratitude for Lieberman’s lack of interest in prosecuting former Bush Administration officials:

MR. KILMEADE: Senator Joe Lieberman urging the president not to prosecute. He’s live at the Russell Rotunda. You’re a Democrat telling a Democratic president not to prosecute a Republican — that’s not a popular move. Why shouldn’t he go forward?

SEN. LIEBERMAN : I suppose that’s what it means, Brian, to be an independent Democrat. Look, in the best of all worlds, interpreting what the president said in the clip you just ran, he was deferring to Attorney General Holder to make this decision. But the three of us — Senator McCain, Senator Graham and I — think it’s a real mistake to start breaching the possibility that you criminalize a legal opinion. I mean, you could disagree with the opinions these lawyers wrote during the Bush administration about these enhanced interrogation tactics.

I disagree with some of them. I think they are reasoned opinions. It looks to me like they and the CIA people were really trying to find out exactly what would not be torture under the law of the United States. But you know, if you’re going to start — look, we had an election last year. We got a new administration. This president has prohibited these tactics from being used against suspects in the war against terrorism. So let’s move on. If we start to go back, it raises the possibility we’re going to — we’re basically going to find lawyers who wrote an opinion, that I presume they believed in, guilty of a crime –

MR. KILMEADE: Exactly.

SEN. LIEBERMAN : We’re opening a door that’s going to make it hard for any administration in the future to get the kind of legal advice that it wants, let alone deal with people who are suspects that may have information in the war on terrorism.

MR. KILMEADE: As we hear, you know, there’s going to be a time when this party is not in power and this president is not in the White House. Do you want to go back and investigate that administration? Is it ever going to end and is it going to help anyone except for people get political points? Sena what about those ranking Democrats that knew about these enhanced interrogation tactics on the Armed Services Committee and the Senate Select Committee? Should they be hauled in front of Congress and investigated?

SEN. LIEBERMAN : Well, I mean, there’s no end to this if you go on. That’s the point. Look, the American public, I think, wants us to do two things: One is to focus on the economy today and get going again — protect and create jobs; and two, defend America from the Islamist terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and are still looking for every opportunity to do it today. If we get into basically a political war here in Washington over what happened during the last eight years, it’s going to take our eyes and our attention and our effort off of what we really ought to be doing for the American people. There is simply nothing to be gained from it and it is going to have a bad effect on every administration of any party that follows in the generations ahead.

MR. KILMEADE: As chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, I’m sure he’s got to take your calls, Senator Lieberman .   Make that call to the Oval Office and spare us a long, drawn out investigation. Thanks so much for expanding on the letter your put out there with Senator Lindsey Graham, as well as John McCain. Always great to see you, Senator. [emphasis added]

Sen. Lieberman’s arguments against prosecuting Bush Administration officials for crimes could be used to argue against prosecuting WikiLeaks. Lieberman and others upset by WikiLeaks could choose to disagree but protect the actions of WikiLeaks just like leaders like Sen. Lieberman suggest we all should respect the actions and opinions of lawyers that created legal justification for torture. This could open a door that in the future makes it harder for the press to report on government and fulfill their role as a watchdog of government (it actually could mean more WikiLeaks-type organizations spring up because press do not find it safe to report on classified information anymore).

There could potentially be no end to this if Sen. Lieberman’s and others’ crusade against WikiLeaks gains further traction. What starts with WikiLeaks would have to move on to publications like the New York Times. And then, on to members of other press organizations that reported on the leaks. Perhaps, it would be used to specifically criminalize independent media like Democracy Now!. And then, would there be interest in extraditing individuals who work for The Guardian, Der Spiegel, El Pais, or Le Monde to the United States since they have been cooperating and working with WikiLeaks?

What is to be gained from this? There is no evidence to suggest that any real damage has occurred. No deaths have been reported as a result of WikiLeaks’ release of leaked documents. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that reactions over the harm that WikiLeaks’ release of documents would do to America were “significantly overwrought.” The gains from going after WikiLeaks will be further repression of press freedom, increased support for censorship and security that destroys the openness and democratic nature of the Internet, and criminalization of those who dissent against America.

Of course, this comparison requires one note be made: WikiLeaks has not committed any crimes. It has not been convicted of anything. On the other hand, former Bush Administration officials committed crimes (crimes the leaked diplomatic cables show U.S. government has been trying to cover up or blackmail people into not investigating).

The persecution of WikiLeaks is entirely political. Julian Assange may be guilty of a sex crime and, if that is the case, he will be prosecuted and face a fine or time in prison. But, Assange and WikiLeaks are not being hunted and strangled because their leader may have committed a sex crime. They are “Public Enemy No. 1″ because they have challenged America.

WikiLeaks has brought out into the open the contradiction that is the United States. Its leaders do little to challenge those who might use the scientific journalism of Wikileaks to repress press freedom and, at the same time, celebrate the fact that U.S. will be the host of World Press Freedom Day in 2011. Its leaders jabber about justice and making sure people are prosecuted so others do not commit the same crimes in the future and simultaneously ignore their history of complicity toward lawlessness and misconduct by U.S. government. And, they purport to be leaders of a free nation as they engage in acts of censorship, coercion and intimidation against American citizens who might take interest and express a desire to support WikiLeaks.

I suppose citizens of the world should expect nothing less from these American leaders. People that argue WikiLeaks is endangering lives and then change their argument to the leaks reveal nothing new clearly are doomed to an existence of contradiction.

BP, Government Block Press from Reporting Their “Ballet at Sea”

9:00 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Flickr Photo by kk+

 

"As high tourist season approaches, there will be people who ‘come on down to Alabama’ regardless of the oil spill. A delicate balance between preparation for the worst and the pleasure of tourists is in the making."

 

"At first glance, the process looks chaotic, but after a minute of watching the orchestration a brilliant concert plays out. One of the young men of the Alabama National Guard is from a town not far from the work on Dauphin Island’s west end, as are many others in his outfit. He says that being on active duty in the place he calls home is something state guards hope for. Though they go wherever and whenever they are deployed, often overseas, working to protect home surf and turf is always a welcome assignment""

 

"A ballet at sea as mesmerising as any performance in a concert hall, and worthy of an audience in its own right."

 

 

Anderson Cooper, host of "Anderson Cooper: 360" on CNN, has been tracking BP’s obstruction of freedom of the press. Cooper is in his element when covering the Gulf coast. Having earned respect and credibility through coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Cooper has no problem with publicly challenging attempts by BP to keep journalists or reporters away from the damaged areas of the Gulf.

 

 

COOPER: "the Coast Guard today announced new rules keeping photographers and reporters and anyone else from coming within 65 feet of any response vessel or booms out on the water or on beaches — 65 feet.

Now, in order to get closer, you have to get direct permission from the Coast Guard captain of the Port of New Orleans. You have to call up the guy. What this means is that oil-soaked birds on islands surrounded by boom, you can’t get close enough to take that picture.

Shots of oil on beaches with booms, stay 65 feet away. Pictures of oil-soaked booms uselessly laying in the water because they haven’t been collected like they should, you can’t get close enough to see that. And, believe me, that is out there.

But you only know that if you get close to it, and now you can’t without permission. Violators could face a fine of $40,000 and Class D felony charges.

What’s even more extraordinary is that the Coast Guard tried to make the exclusion zone 300 feet, before scaling it back to 65 feet"

 

The order comes just days after the ACLU of Louisiana wrote the following letter urging an end to blocking of the press and censorship of information:

 

"We have learned from several sources that law enforcement officers have prevented members of the public from filming activities on the beaches affected by the BP oil spill. We have learned of the following incidents, among others: 

Several reporters have been told not to film at spill sites in Louisiana. Incidents include attempts to film on a beach in Grand Isle and near Venice. Reporters are told that they are not allowed to record because BP doesn’t want filming there.

Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge, off of Grand Isle, is blocked by Jefferson Parish deputies. Deputies told one reporter not to photograph them blocking the road.

At least one person was told by a Terrebonne Parish sheriff’s deputy working private security detail for BP that he wasn’t allowed to film the outside of the BP building in Houma from a private, non-BP-owned field across the street. The deputy admitted that the guy wasn’t breaking any laws but tried to intimidate him into stopping filming and leaving anyway.

We have reason to believe that deputies in other coastal parishes may also be working with BP to impede or prevent access to public lands and to interfere with members of the public and the media.

This letter is to notify you that members of the public have the right under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to film, record, photograph, and document anything they observe in a public place. No one — neither law enforcement nor a private corporation — has the legal right to interfere with public access to public places or the recording of activities that occur there. Nor may law enforcement officials cooperate with private companies in denying such access to the public.

 

Additionally, BP has "reporters" working for them, producing stories on the oil disaster that they contend are not being covered by media organizations.

 

The reporting consists primarily of puff-piece accounts of the damage, how awesome it is to be flying over the damage and looking down at the wetlands that the oil will likely spread into and further destroy. It consists of celebration of the tourism the Gulf coast has to offer and a profile of tourists who have not canceled their vacations. And, it glamorizes the service of the National Guard who have helped BP militarize the Gulf and turn areas into off-limit zones that members of the media are not allowed to venture into.

 

On July 2nd, Anderson Cooper covered BP’s employment of "reporters" to propagandize their clean-up effort:

"It turns out BP has dispatched two employees to the Gulf who call themselves, according to their blogs, BP reporters. But their reporting looks nothing like our reporting or the rest of the media’s reporting. It’s far more positive. (voice-over): Check out this blog by BP reporter Tom Seslar, the same guy who interviewed Vicki Chaisson. Here, he interviewed a family in the seafood business, who says — quote — "There is no reason to hate BP, and, "The oil spill was an accident," this from folks in the seafood business, which has been destroyed by the BP spill"

"…COOPER: The — I mean, for 70-some odd days now, I have been kind of, I guess, complaining or pointing out the lack of transparency that BP has, even though they had promised transparency.

It doesn’t seem like — I mean, that still seems a major issue that no one else seems to be as concerned about as we have talked about.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But they can’t be, because they have an obligation to their shareholders, just like they can’t be transparent about the flow.

We discussed this last night. When the guy says, well, we don’t — it’s irrelevant to us what the flow is, you have to pay probably, maybe $4,000 a barrel for the flow. And so they’re — you can’t — you can’t believe anything that they say, because they have an obligation to their shareholders…"

 

NOLA.com reported that Associated Press photographer Geoffrey Herbert thinks there is reason to be concerned about the restrictions:

"Often the general guise of ‘safety’ is used as a blanket excuse to limit the media’s access, and it’s been done before"It feels as though news reporting is being criminalized under thinly veiled excuses. The total effect of all these restrictions is harming the public’s right to know."

 

In the middle of June, Associated Press writer Tamara Lush wrote:

Journalists covering the Gulf of Mexico oil spill have been yelled at, kicked off public beaches and islands and threatened with arrest in the nearly three weeks since the government promised improved media access.

Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government’s point person for the response, issued a May 31 directive to BP PLC and federal officials ensuring media access to key sites along the coast. BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles followed up with a letter to news organizations, saying the company "fully supports and defends all individuals’ rights to share their personal thoughts and experiences with journalists if they so choose."

Those efforts have done little to curtail the obstacles, harassment and intimidation tactics journalists are facing by federal officials and local police, as well as BP employees and contractors, while covering the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history.

 

Lush went on to further illuminate how Adm. Allen’s directive on May 31 was likely public posturing, purely an empty gesture to stem the outrage among journalists in attempting to cover the disaster:

_ On June 5, sheriff’s deputies in Grand Isle, La., threatened an AP photographer with arrest for criminal trespassing after he spoke to BP employees and took pictures of cleanup workers on a public beach.

_ On June 6, an AP reporter was in a boat near an island in Barataria Bay, off the Louisiana coast, when a man in another boat identifying himself as a U.S. Fish and Wildlife employee ordered the reporter to leave the area. When the reporter asked to see identification, the man refused, saying "My name doesn’t matter, you need to go."

_ According to a June 10 CNN video, one of the network’s news crews was told by a bird rescue worker that he signed a contract with BP stating that he would not talk to the media. The crew was also turned away by BP contractors working at a bird triage area _ despite having permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enter the facility.

_ On June 11 and 12, private security guards patrolling in the Grand Isle area attempted repeatedly to prevent a crew from New Orleans television station WDSU from walking on a public beach and speaking with cleanup workers.

_ On June 13, a charter helicopter pilot carrying an AP photographer was contacted by the Federal Aviation Administration, which told the pilot he had violated the temporary flight restriction by flying below 3,000 feet. Both the pilot and photographer contend the helicopter never flew below 3,000 feet. However, the federal government now says helicopters in the restricted area are allowed to fly as low as 1,500 feet.

 

The federal government has sided with BP and helped BP obstruct press freedom. Even if the coverage would not condemn BP as criminal, even when press is willing to go along and play by the rules BP has outlined for media, the federal government has refused to give credence to the concerns of members of the press.

 

Now, with Adm. Allen’s order, it appears the government will continue to protect BP. If it is protecting BP now, what will it do for BP later? Does such behavior warrant concerns about whether BP will actually pay one hundred percent for what it should as a result of the company’s negligence and risky deepwater drilling operation?

 

In Obama Administration-speak, how long before the mantra becomes , "We need to move forward instead of looking backward," and Americans find it impossible to hold BP accountable because attention is no longer being directed at BP and the Gulf? Certainly, it seems the Administration and BP would like Americans especially journalists to concede that there’s nothing to see here (or there) and, yes, they should move along.

 

People in areas nearby the damaged areas of the Gulf are depending on reports. In the same way that those impacted by Hurricane Katrina depended on reporters and journalists to cover what was really going on in the aftermath, fishermen, BP workers, residents who live on the coast, etc. are all depending on those who understand the value of reporting to society to stay firm, hold strong and not bow to the orders of BP or government officials to shy away from telling real stories of the people and areas most impacted in the Gulf.

When Warriors Commandeer Freedom Flotillas

9:04 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Flickr Photo by plasmastik

  

I wasn’t one of the Americans who watched a parade of military and civilian officers on Memorial Day one week ago just hours after Israeli commandoes attacked the Freedom Flotilla. I did not go to a march and celebrate the past histories of American wars and the soldiers who had fought in them, but let’s suppose for one moment that I had.

  

A good amount of Americans probably had this experience as they celebrated the men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces and paid tribute to those who have fought for America. They probably celebrated the right they believe America has to use military force to protect itself (and maybe even the right to use force without having to be questioned by international bodies or coalitions like the United Nations, etc). And, so, let’s suppose that I was part of a celebration of American warriors who had served in past wars one week ago, and that I had been presented with this story of Israeli warriors commandeering a ship, which was supposed to be a part of a peaceful humanitarian convoy delivering aid to Gaza.

 

Like American warriors of past wars, I might presumably think that this act may have been poor judgment but ultimately Israeli warriors did what they had to do. And like past American quagmires like Vietnam or past atrocious invasions like Grenada or past secret military operations like Operation Ajax in Iran, which involved a democratically elected government being overthrown in 1953, I might have found this to be a part of doing what must be done so Israel can maintain its place in the world.

 

I probably would not have had much frame of reference for the activists that were on board. Knowing that they came from the Free Gaza Movement would only have confused me because I would not have known what Gaza needed to be freed from. I would probably have thought, "If Israel is protecting Gaza from terrorism, wouldn’t Gaza be safe?" So, this news of a blockade would be new to me because usually I had heard about Israel defending itself from Hamas or Hezbollah or other Islamists. (And that to me had always been justifiable.)

 

On a larger level, I might have applied my rationale for supporting the troops to the Israeli soldiers. I suppose it would depend on the struggles and threats that I believed Israel had faced and may continue to face. Since several countries that want to blow it off the face of the Earth surround it, supposedly, I would probably have thought Israel has a right to defend and protect its self like America does. I would have thought it even more important that they have the right because they are regularly being shot at with rockets that Hamas fires off because it does not want to recognize Israel’s right to exist (supposedly). Plus, Israel is an American ally.

 

I would probably not have understood exactly why a group of people so often operates in a manner supportive of rocket attacks. The atrocities against Israel would have taken place in a vacuum in much the same way that atrocities against America tend to take place in a vacuum. (And, how great is it that our media help us consume information on atrocities in a nutshell that excludes certain contexts that would blur lines between good and evil, right and wrong and reinforce this vacuum?)

Unless I knew where to go for an alternative viewpoint, I would have seen over and over again footage showing commandoes clearly facing premeditated assault as they dropped on to the ship. White circles that could have been drawn by John Madden singling out Israeli soldiers being brutalized and thrown off the ship would have jumped out in the one sole video that Israel was able to get media organizations all over the world to play. I would not have known there was a Turkish video of the incident showing a different side. And, why would I need that side if all I wanted to do is just know more information on how connected the activists had been to terrorism and how this never was really a peaceful humanitarian convoy seeking to deliver aid?

 

The activists trying to deliver the thousands of tons of goods to the Gaza Strip might have seemed respectable to me until they were found to possibly be connected to terrorists, which news channels I consumed consistently suggested or inferred. Of course, I would have wound up thinking Israel offered to let them go to port, take the aid and deliver the aid to the starving and hungry Palestinians who needed the aid. So, why, did the flotilla have to go through a blockade that was keeping Israel secure and deliver the aid them selves? Did they want credit? Maybe, Israel could have said this is from the Freedom Flotilla that wanted to break the blockade of Gaza.

 

It’s here that logic breaks down. Reason becomes lacking. Thought requires one to doubt the actions of Israel at least a little bit. Role playing and imagining the thought processes of others becomes difficult to continue onward.

 

Of course, Israel would not allow humanitarian aid in; that would admit there was a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, a situation where 80% are now depending on external aid to survive. Yet, you can see that the story and justification of warriors commandeering a ship from the perspective of a citizen of American empire is easy to support and go along with.

 

This mentality to understand other people’s countries from a military perspective and not a humanitarian perspective is part of what allows the stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians to continue. This country has trained its citizens to sympathize with warriors for the nation, warriors trained by military and political interests to go in and take action that may or may not be lawful or unlawful, humane or inhumane. Politicians and foreign policymakers promote support for these questionable actions with commitments to public relations or propaganda campaigns after the actions have taken place. Do first and ask questions later. (And, why not? This country is number one, so I’m told.)

 

The country has trained Americans to believe in the justifications political leaders and foreign policymakers supply to us. Weaved into the narrative and mythology of this country, the impact of military action on civilians and soldiers abroad is of no significance, the legality of no significance, and the effect–the way in which actions radicalize a people to commit what this country regards now as "terrorism"–entirely disregarded.

 

Israel’s warriors will tell this war story, the ambush of the Freedom Flotilla, to their children, who they will be proud of when they serve in the Israeli military, just like America’s warriors have told stories of war to their children, who have now gone on to join the military for pure economic reasons. It will become part of Israel’s military history channel and their history books and placed within the context of a history rife with Israeli hubris just like wars have become glorified, recounted, and immortalized through American history television specials and history books and place within the context of a history rife with American hubris.

 

Many would like to impress upon others the fact that a population is experiencing what they call collective punishment as a result of Israel’s blockade and as a result of military actions that have intermittently taken place and killed Palestinians throughout the past few years. They are shocked when others do not grasp the reality that Israel is punishing a population and so they should be held accountable in addition to any terrorists from Hamas.

 

Those that don’t understand why a number of people do not place the starving Palestinians ahead of the military or political security of a country, however, can be excused for being confused. When one is taught to celebrate the military so often, taught to treat it like the well from which freedom springs forth, the humanitarian becomes hard to understand; in fact, it becomes assumed that the military could have simply done the humanitarian and people ask, "Why did the concerned activists not choose to just ask the military to deliver the aid instead of going and getting killed and wounded like they did?"

 

Israel’s Campaign to Discredit Attacked Humanitarian Convoy

8:20 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Israeli censorship of activists and journalists coupled with what Israeli authorities consider the official story has successfully pushed media organizations in the U.S. and other countries to frame the story in a way exclusively beneficial to Israel. The official story usually includes the story of the Free Gaza Movement at the bottom and frames the attack as a public relations nightmare for Israel instead of a disproportionate attack on a righteous humanitarian aid initiative.

 

Numerous articles have given Israel the benefit of the doubt and published Israel’s description of the Free Gaza Movement especially the IHH, a Turkish humanitarian relief organization Israel claims has ties to al Qaeda, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups at odds with the country of Israel.

 

FOX News (and other news organizations) published reports on the raid leading with the perspective of the Israeli prime minister who said he gave "full backing to military in deadly raid against aid flotilla sailing to Gaza" and Israel’s Deputy UN Ambassador Daniel Carmon who said, "What kind of peace activists use knives, clubs and fire from weapons stolen from soldiers to attack soldiers who board a ship in accordance with international law?"

 

Carmon’s suggestion that Israel’s attack followed international law is very disputable, and the idea that peace activists caught ambushing Israeli commandos severely off guard seems patently absurd. Yet, Fox News provides little additional context to this notion expecting people to believe Israeli forces that landed on board the ship were somewhat impotent and incapable of taking on peace activists despite the fact that they may have received military combat training none of the activists have had.

 

Fox News specifically repeated Carmon’s claim that the activists were with a group with a "radical anti-Western’ orientation that supports terrorist organizations like Hamas and al Qaeda" (in fact, al Qaeda was in the Fox News headline).

 

CNN reported this as well and named the IHH Humanitarian Relief Association claiming the IHH has ties to terrorism and is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. But, there was zero context to this assertion; no explanation of how this piece of information is known except for the fact that Israel is claiming this link exists.

 

The Washington Postpublished a story on June 1st, a day after news of the incident, titled, "Israel says Free Gaza Movement poses threat to Jewish state; Aid flotilla was run by member charity with alleged ties to Islamists." Of IHH, the article reported, "Israel has been concerned about the participation of IHH, or Humanitarian Relief Fund, a large Turkish charity that raises some of its money from Islamic religious groups." But, despite the fact that the focus is the threat the Free Gaza Movement poses to Israel, there is little hard evidence published in this article to prove that the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, or al Qaeda has been using this charity that had members on board the flotilla to effectively carry out terrorism against Israel.

 

Another story published by the Telegraph in the UK titled, "Gaza Flotilla: The Free Gaza Movement and the IHH," repeats the Israeli official story and also cites an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment, who claims the organization has had ties to Hamas for a long time. Unfortunately, Hamas was democratically elected in 2005 and has controlled Palestine since. They have made several attempts to sustain truces with Israel. They are guilty of acts of state-sponsored terrorism but so is Israel.

 

The Jerusalem Post published a story, "What is the IHH?" explaining that the charity "may be linked to jihadist groups." It The story listed the Israeli NGO, the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, as a source for its claim that the IHH is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Union for the Good. The Jerusalem Post, however, does not explain that the center is "dedicated to the memory of members of Israel’s intelligence community who fell in the line of duty" and puts out weekly disinformation reports on Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, Hizbullah, and Iran and has close ties to Israel’s military leadership and maintains an office at the Defense Ministry.

 

A published article by Reuters on IHH, "Factbox: Turkish charity group behind Gaza-bound convoy," lists no details suggesting the humanitarian relief organization has terror ties.

  

Finally, BBC News‘ article,"Q&A: Israeli raid on aid flotilla," describes the Free Gaza Movement as:

A group called Free Gaza, an umbrella organisation of activist groups from numerous countries, and a Turkish group called the IHH (Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief). The Israeli government says the IHH is closely linked to Hamas, and is a member of another organisation, the Union of the Good, which supports suicide bombings. However, the Turkish government regards the IHH as a legitimate charity, and urged Israel to let the flotilla through.

 

The link to Hamas and the suicide bombing-supporting organization Union of the Good are only listed because the Israeli government has said so. This has to be just another tidbit from Israel’s propagandistic storyline being spread to make people around the world believe the humanitarian convoy aimed to attack or delegitimize Israel.

 

If one conducts a LexisNexis searches for articles published before May 31, 2010 that contain the words "Free Gaza," zero results appear in connection to the Freedom Flotilla. Even though the Free Gaza Movement publicized its intentions and what countries/organizations were participating, there were no alerts put out by any news organizations that this humanitarian aid initiative had terror ties to Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood or al Qaeda, which one can reasonably presume means no one following this movement considered them to be a threat.

 

Prior to the raid, the Jerusalem Post reported that the Navy was preparing to block the fleet of 9 ships and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were awaiting orders from the prime minister. Also, according to YNet, Israel also was preparing a media blitz similar to what the world is witnessing now:

Israel is also preparing for the media blitz certain to follow the flotilla, which many believe will harm the state’s already floundering reputation. Foreign Ministry, IDF, and PR spokespersons are preparing interviews for global news agencies in order to explain Israel’s position, mainly that the flotilla serves the terror organization ruling Gaza and not its residents.

 

Public relations officials said Israel is also attempting to expose the true face of the organization behind the flotilla, and the fact that there is no humanitarian crisis in the Strip.

 

"This is a media-related provocation, and we have made it clear to the organizers that Israel is prepared to convey the supplies to Gaza itself following a security check," a Jerusalem official said.

James Marc Leas dissects Israel’s disinformation campaign against the Freedom Flotilla.

The Intelligence & Terrorism Information Center, with close ties to the Israeli military and an office in the Defense Ministry, is the source of much of the talking points on the Free Gaza Movement’s so-called ties to terrorism. Here is the Center’s complete list.

These talking points are what is being repeated. Their aim is to make the people of the world forget that Israel took this action against the Freedom Flotilla with the intention of deterring future attempts to deliver humanitarian aid to the starving civilians suffering under an Israeli blockade in Gaza.

Israeli Raid Censored: Journalist Ban Gives Israel’s Official Story “Head Start”

3:29 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

 

Immediately following a deadly attack by Israeli commandos on the Freedom Flotilla, a humanitarian aid convoy seeking to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, Israeli authorities put in place, according to Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), a ban on media preventing any information about the dead and wounded taken to hospitals in Israel from being reported by journalists. Such censorship has made it possible for Israel to promote a claim that the Free Gaza Movement behind the Freedom Flotilla has participants allied with al Qaeda.

The international organization for press freedom released this statement on the attack on the flotilla that was carrying aid, 750 pro-Palestinian activists and several journalists to the Gaza Strip:

"We deplore this assault, which left a heavy toll of dead and wounded. The journalists who were on the flotilla to cover the humanitarian operation were put in harm’s way by this disproportionate reaction. We urge the Israeli authorities to release the detained journalists and allow them unrestricted access to the Gaza Strip. The international community needs accurate information about this Palestinian Territory."

 

Robert Booth with The Guardian, a newspaper based in the United Kingdom, wrote, "Shortly after the assault, all communications with the flotilla were blocked. Mobile phones, satellite phones and Internet access all went down, making it all but impossible to glean any account from the passengers about what happened beyond the few minutes that were captured on film. Israel’s version of events became the only one available in any detail." [Booth's editorial went on to explain what The Guardian thinks has happened based on information they have been able to piece together.]

Israel’s censorship of information has made it possible for authorities and officials to get out in front on this story. Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah appeared on Democracy Now! hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez and urged those reading stories of the raid to put it into context.

AMY GOODMAN: "Ali Abunimah, can you talk about the videotape? And again, we have to stress, in the brief coverage that we see in US media right now, because we do not even know the names of the dead or the injured, not to mention hundreds of people who are now in jail in Israel, we’re only getting one side here. But the videotape that the Israeli government is showing of what happened on the lead ship, on the Turkish ship, Ali?

ALI ABUNIMAH: Yes. I mean, what we have to do is put all this in the context of Israel’s propaganda strategy. What they’ve done is imposed a total news block-outblackout. Hundreds of people are detained. They’ve had no access to lawyers, certainly no access to media. It was reported there was one Al Jazeera cameraman, of the six Al Jazeera staff who were kidnapped with the ships, who was released. And what he said is that all the passengers were allowed to leave the ships only with their passports, with no other personal belongings. He was personally attacked by Israeli soldiers while he was filming, and his camera smashed. In any case, no journalists were allowed to leave the ships with any film or any recordings whatsoever. We don’t know the names of the dead. The families of all those passengers are anxiously awaiting news of their loved ones. Why is this? So that the Israeli narrative can get a long head start. This is all about the Israeli propaganda strategy to give the Israeli propagandists, like Mark Regev, a free run. They’ve had more than twenty-four hours. And, Amy, it’s working in the mainstream media, because they’re only reporting, you know, the atrocious reporting on National Public Radio and on the BBC, which is taking mostly the Israeli version. [emphasis added]

Reinforcing Abunimah’s comments is a list from RSF recently published which indicates, of the foreign journalists on board the flotilla, at least fourteen are still unable to be reached.

The treatment of foreign press is another reminder that Israel does not adhere to core principles of press freedom. Israel frequently bans foreign journalists from entering Gaza. This is because Danny Seaman, head of Israel’s government press office, believes, "When you have hundreds of journalists coming in, most haven’t the faintest idea about the war or the situation…Take the UN school [where 42 people were killed by an Israeli shell] for example. There’s a lot of questions as to what actually happened. If the foreign media had been there it would have had much more of an impact on the conflict than it has at the moment. For the first time, when Israel raised questions, journalists had to address these issues and not get caught in feeding frenzy of reporting the story."

 

 

“Embedded Media” Only Allowed to Cover BP Oil Disaster?

11:16 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

CBS journalists were filming a beach in South Pass, Louisiana, when, according to CBS, a "boat of BP contractors and two Coast Guard officers told them to turn around or be arrested." The incident is thought by bloggers tracking the oil leak in the Gulf to not be the only time that BP has challenged the right of journalists to film.

If in fact BP has instructed crews to specifically regulate and turn away groups with video cameras or even still cameras, this raises many questions about what Americans are able to access and not access, what they are able to document and not document.

Should a person have to be embedded with authorities, corporations or organizations at the center of a disaster in order to document a disaster? Must a person be with a recognized news organization that regularly gets into press conferences in order to film critical events like the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico right now?

RAW STORY noted the effect of BP’s restrictions on reporting on the disaster and leak so far and mentioned how anecdotes from bloggers have become "a primary source of additional information." Keep in mind the videos released by BP so far have only been released as a result of pressure from Congress and other organizations. That is why BP is finally releasing a live feed of the leak.

Journalists were told by "someone aboard the boat" this is BP’s rules, not ours. That alone would be enough to seriously question the situation and ask why citizens should have to follow rules and only document what authorities, corporations, or organizations involved grant citizens permission to document. But, the Coast Guard was present and they released a statement on the matter that was published by the Mother Nature Network.

"CBS Evening News reported they were denied access to oiled shoreline by a civilian vessel that had clean-up workers contracted by BP, as well as Coast Guard personnel on board. CBS News video taped the exchange during which time one of the contractors told them (on tape) that " … this is BP’s rules not ours."

Neither BP nor the U.S. Coast Guard, who are responding to the spill, have any rules in place that would prohibit media access to impacted areas and we were disappointed to hear of this incident. In fact, media has been actively embedded and allowed to cover response efforts since this response began, with more than 400 embeds aboard boats and aircraft to date. Just today 16 members of the press observed clean-up operations on a vessel out of Venice, La.

The only time anyone would be asked to move from an area would be if there were safety concerns, or they were interfering with response operations. This did occur off South Pass Monday which may have caused the confusion reported by CBS today.

The entities involved in the Deepwater Horizon/BP Response have already reiterated these media access guidelines to personnel involved in the response and hope it prevents any future confusion." [emphasis added]

That the Coast Guard, a national military organization, is going along with whatever happened between BP and the CBS journalists should lead those involved in the creation and production of media to be even more concerned. The Coast Guard is, with this statement, legitimizing BP’s right to limit the privileges of those wishing to document the destruction.

When one breaks down the "400 embeds aboard boats and aircraft to date" the Coast Guard claims BP has allowed, it comes out to approximately 13 embeds per day in the month since the oil rig explosion occurred. And, if each embed is one journalist, this means 13 journalists per day have been allowed (on average) to document the disaster and response efforts/failures.

Is this satisfactory? Have all those interested in documenting been allowed to embed and see the devastation? Who has been turned away because BP didn’t agree with the intentions or motivations of a videographer or how a journalist wanted to frame the story?

Read between the lines. In the U.S. war in Iraq journalists have been embedded and they have followed instructions on what to cover and not cover. Such embedding has become standard procedure. Embedding socializes those engaging in media coverage. It leads them to see what is happening from the official point-of-view that those at the center may want media coverage to come from.

The Coast Guard statement also says, "The only time anyone would be asked to move from an area would be if there were safety concerns, or they were interfering with response operations." What constitutes a safety concern or interference with response operations? If that is up to BP’s discretion, it seems like anyone deemed to be a "threat" to BP could be deemed a "safety concern" and directed to leave.

It’s unlikely that CBS will push back against BP if they have in fact been restricted from filming areas of destruction on the Gulf coast. The news organization risks access privileges if they challenge authorities. The news organization also risks advertising dollars if it mounts a campaign against BP for restricting journalist access to the Gulf.

That does not mean there should not be an increased effort to track BP’s restriction of access to the Gulf. In a time when any person should be able to be a blogger, photographer, or filmmaker and can be a blogger, photographer, or filmmaker, pushing back against a corporation’s attempts to hide what is really happening in the Gulf is unacceptable.

Unfortunately, there is no record of incidents of this nature. Despite the fact that countless journalists or videographers might share anecdotes about trying to film or document corporations like Monsanto before being threatened with arrest for filming, this is not a trend that can be discussed quantitatively yet (and certainly an organization should consider tracking this comprehensively). But, when put into a world context, it makes one wonder just how much freedom people really have in this country.

Reporters Sans Frontieres, an organization that tracks the state of press freedom around the world, consistently reports on incidents like what happened between CBS, BP and the Coast Guard.

In February 2007, journalism student Mehrnoushe Solouki, who has dual French and Iranian nationality, was arrested and held in Evin prison for a month for filming "the families of the victims of violence in the 1980s and her notes and film were confiscated." She was in Tehran with the intention of producing a documentary on the 1988 ceasefire between Iran and Iraq.

In April 2005, CBS cameraman Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein was filming a ceremony at Mosul University and was shot by U.S. troops "during an exchange with rebels." He was arrested and held by the U.S. military for a year before being released. Charges were eventually dropped making it even more likely that the fact that he was there filming with a camera was why he was ultimately arrested.

In December 2005, three television crews were prevented from covering the third round of voting in Egypt’s parliamentary elections.

In March 2004, Pakistan engaged in efforts "to stop foreign and local journalists from freely covering an offensive against Taliban and al-Qaeda supporters in the Wana region of South Waziristan."

In November 2002, prior to the U.S. invasion, French TV reporters in Iraq were preventedfrom filming. The reporters attempted to report on the "Oil Road" but were bullied and censored. Reporters Sans Frontieres reported, "Police even banned them from filming rubbish on the grounds saying "this is not good for the government’s image."

In February 2002, Palestinian police prevented journalists from covering the trial of three Palestinians charged with murder. The journalists managed to film a part of the trial but the "cassettes of the television teams were forfeited by police." This happened less than a year after a photographer and an editor for Reuters, a cameraman for APTV, the satellite television correspondent of Abou Dhabi and a photographer for the AFP had been arrested and forced to forefit their footage of a demonstration in a refugee camp in Nusseirat.

It may seem over-the-top to place the incident between BP and CBS in the context of incidents between governments and press in other countries. But, with the consent of a military organization like the Coast Guard, threats of arrest made against journalists or individuals seeking to conduct coverage of a situation especially in public areas like beaches must be compared because, if it is not challenged, the repression could rise to the level of actual arrest and detention of individuals on a regular basis.

Either journalists and individuals who believe in their right to document and gather information allow authorities, corporations or organizations to place restrictions on access or they challenge it. If challenged, invariably one must expect incidents like the ones covered byReporters Sans Frontieres to occur. If BP is serious about controlling the images and words seen in relation to the oil leak, they will have to repress people.

At a time when surveillance is entirely acceptable and normal, when cameras at traffic intersections photograph those running red lights, when cameras watch your every move in city, state, federal or private buildings, when street cameras track movements of people in areas thought to have high levels of crime, the public must decide whether it will or should assert its right to survey and cover anything in the same way that authorities, corporations or organizations would assert their right to survey and cover anything.

The democratization of media makes it possible for all of us to be, at least, amateur journalists. Coverage of events no longer has to be left up to officially recognized news organizations (see OpEdNews.com and countless other Internet news sites for further examples).

This is more than an issue of press freedom. This is an issue that concerns the public’s right to share and disseminate information.