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The Case Against Re-Banning Torture Yet Again

By: David Swanson Tuesday December 16, 2014 1:09 pm

Senator Ron Wyden has a petition up at MoveOn.org that reads “Right now, torture is banned because of President Obama’s executive order. It’s time for Congress to pass a law banning torture, by all agencies, so that a future president can never revoke the ban.” It goes on to explain:

“We live in a dangerous world. But when CIA operatives and contractors torture terrorist suspects, it doesn’t make us safer — and it doesn’t work. The recent CIA torture report made that abundantly clear. Right now, the federal law that bans torture only applies to the U.S. military — not our intelligence agencies. President Obama’s executive order barring all agencies from using torture could be reversed, even in secret, by a future president. That’s why it’s critical that Congress act swiftly to pass a law barring all agencies of the U.S. government, and contractors acting on our behalf, from engaging in torture. Without legislation, the door on torture is still open. It’s time for Congress to slam that door shut once and for all.”

Why in the world would anybody object to this unless they supported torture? Well, let me explain.

Torture and complicity in torture were felonies under U.S. law before George W. Bush moved into the White House, under both the torture statute and the war crimes statute. Nothing has fundamentally changed about that, other than the blatant lack of enforcement for several years running. Nothing in those two sections of the U.S. code limits the law to members of the U.S. military or excludes employees or contractors or subcontractors of so-called intelligence agencies. I emailed a dozen legal experts about that claim in the above petition. Michael Ratner replied “I don’t see where they get that from.” Kevin Zeese said simply “They’re wrong.” If anyone replies to me with any explanation, I’ll post it as an update at the top of this article on davidswanson.org — where I can be contacted if you have an explanation.

For the past several years, the U.S. Congress, White House, Justice Department, and media have gone out of their way to ignore the existence of U.S. laws banning torture. When silence hasn’t worked, the primary technique has been proposing over and over and over again to ban torture, as if it were not already banned. In fact, Congress has followed through and banned it a number of times, and done so with new exceptions that by some interpretations have in fact weakened the war crimes statute. This is my best guess where the nonsense about applying only to “intelligence agencies” comes from: laws like the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that claimed to pick and choose which types of torture to ban for whom.

When President Obama took President Bush’s place he produced an executive order purporting to ban torture (again), even while publicly telling the Justice Department not to enforce any existing laws. But an executive order, as Wyden seems to recognize, is not a law. Neither can it ban torture, nor can it give legal weight to the pretense that torture wasn’t already banned. In fact the order itself states: “Nothing in this order shall be construed to affect the obligations of officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government to comply with all pertinent laws and treaties of the United States governing detention and interrogation, including but not limited to: the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution; the Federal torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340 2340A; the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441 . . . .”

Senator Wyden says he will introduce yet another bill to “ban torture.” Here’s how the Washington Post is spinning, and explaining, that:

Torture is already illegal, but Wyden notes that protections can be strengthened. To oversimplify, the U.S. is a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, in which participating states agreed to outlaw intentionally inflicting severe pain for specific purposes. The Bush administration obviously found a (supposedly) legal route around that.”

In other words, because it was done by a president, it was legal — the worldview of the Post’s old buddy Richard Nixon.

“After the Abu Graib revelations, John McCain helped pass a 2005 amendment that would restrict the military from using specific brutal interrogation tactics — those not in the Army Field Manual. (This didn’t preclude intel services from using these techniques, which might explain why CIA director John Brennan felt free to say the other day that future policymakers might revert to using them). In 2008, Congress passed a measure specifically applying those restrictions to intelligence services, too, but then-President Bush vetoed it. Senator Wyden would revive a version of that 2008 bill as a starting point, with the goal of codifying in law President Obama’s executive order banning the use of those specific techniques for all government employees, those in intelligence services included.”

But let’s back up a minute. When a president violates a law, that president — at least once out of office — should be prosecuted for violating the law. The law can’t be declared void because it was violated. Loopholes can’t be created for the CIA. Reliance on the Army Field Manual can’t sneak into law the loopholes built into that document. Presidents can’t order and un-order things illegal. Here’s how the United Nations Special Rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson responded to the release of the Senate’s report summary:

“The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes. The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorised at a high level within the U.S. Government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability. International law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture. This applies not only to the actual perpetrators but also to those senior officials within the U.S. Government who devised, planned and authorised these crimes. As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice. The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances require States to prosecute acts of torture and enforced disappearance where there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. States are not free to maintain or permit impunity for these grave crimes.”

Now, one could try to spin the endless re-banning of torture as part of the process of enforcing an international treaty that under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. But banning a practice going forward, even when you ban it better, or ban it more emphatically for the 8th time, does absolutely nothing to fulfill the legal obligation to prosecute those crimes already committed. And here we are dealing with crimes openly confessed to by past officials who assert that they would “do it again” — crimes that resulted in deaths, thus eliminating any attempt at an argument that statutes of limitations have run out.

Here’s a different sort of petition that we’ve set up at RootsAction.org along with Witness Against Torture and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee: ” We call on President Obama to allow the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce our laws, and to immediately appoint a special prosecutor. As torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction, we call on any willing court system in the world to enforce our laws if our own courts will not do so.”

The purpose of such a petition is not vengeance or partisanship or a fetish with history. The purpose is to end torture, which is not done by looking forward or even by pardoning the crimes, as the ACLU has proposed — to its credit recognizing that the crimes exist. That should be a first step for anyone confused by the endless drumbeat to “ban torture.”

 

Some notes on Eric Alterman’s piece

By: cassiodorus Tuesday December 16, 2014 12:04 pm

Eric Alterman, the historian, journalist, educator and so on, has a piece titled “Why Liberals Need Radicals—and Vice Versa” now up on the webpages of the journal “Democracy.” In it, Alterman “defends” radicals in a backhanded way while granting liberals more of a role in American political history than I feel they deserve.

As for my own opinion? Well, speaking as a radical, it’s nice to read that I’m “needed,” but given Alterman’s argument I think I’d rather be criticized. In this era, what liberals actually need is a philosophy which combines belief and action, a “praxis” if you will, rather than what they have, which is a philosophy borrowed from the Golden Age of Capitalism and applied to the economically conservative world of neoliberalism. As for the radicals, I’m sure we have even less impact upon politics than the liberals today. Our role in the current era, if we are granted a role at all, is to bring to the world a semblance of theory, an essential element in political thought, which the likes of Eric Alterman can then ignore. Let’s take a look at Alterman’s reasoning, to see why these two aspects of the present-day political situation are indeed so.

First Alterman tells us:

It should be obvious—at least it feels obvious to me—that the only way to get progressive measures accomplished in America is as a liberal working within the system.

I’m sure Martin Luther King Jr. and the good folks at the SNCC would disagree. On the other hand, in the same era Lyndon Baines Johnson did indeed accomplish “progressive measures” within the system, but not as a “liberal.” Rather, Johnson was a power-hungry Texas politician, definitely not a liberal in temperament, who did whatever it took to win votes and whose motivations for pursuing civil rights are in dispute. But this isn’t the 1960s. What precisely have the “liberals working within the system” accomplished in this era? I can tell you offhand what the conservatives, both the corporate conservatives and the antipublic conservatives, have accomplished. And where is the LBJ of our time, who should be busy about now getting our equivalent of the 1957 Civil Rights Act passed?

So yeah, this isn’t the Golden Age of Capitalism. Now let’s proceed to Alterman’s reasoning as to why we radicals are needed by liberals:

America is not, and never has been, on the cusp of revolutionary change. It is, as has been frequently pointed out, a conservative-minded country in pursuit of liberal goals. However, liberals have too frequently shown a willingness to grow overly comfortable with the conservative part of that equation. They need to be shaken up occasionally, and reminded why it is they are making all these necessary compromises in pursuit of the vision that animated them in the first place. And that is why we need radicals.

It’s nice to know that we occasionally “shake up” things, at least in Alterman’s opinion. Frankly, however, I thought it was the mobilized populists who really shook things up. You know, like those radicals on the Notre Dame women’s basketball team who wore “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts and who thus joined the growing movement against police brutality. Mobilized populists don’t have to be radical. Meanwhile the Obama administration, full of all of those awesome liberals working within the system, well….

Alterman continues:

Cultural liberalism is clearly triumphing in America today, thanks in significant measure to a constructive alliance between liberals and radicals on issues related to civil rights, women’s rights, and gay rights—

It looks good on paper I guess. Cultural liberalism triumphs in America today because so many American non-liberals are in fact cultural liberals, and for the most part they’ve been this way since the cultural revolution of the Sixties and Seventies, which had “do your own thing” as its motto. Nobody here outside of reactionary fundamentalism really wants a reversal of said revolution, but I suppose admitting this might clash with the author’s assertion that America is a “conservative-minded country.” Alterman continues:

Along the same lines, albeit on a smaller scale, Zephyr Teachout’s recent campaign for governor of New York state also served to highlight the issue of Andrew Cuomo’s

etc. etc. — and whatever you do, don’t mention Howie Hawkins… Oh, right, see “Nader.” Alterman later grants us the Ralph Nader myth. “Nader and his followers helped to give us a Bush presidency,” he argues — never mind the 300,000-plus Democrats who voted for Bush in Florida at the end of 2000, or the ultimate 5-to-4 vote which decided the issue — “and nothing of significance upon which to build a better future.” The Democratic Party is a neoliberal institution today. What precisely are the liberals building upon?

Alterman then continues to praise Ta-Nehisi Coates for his advocacy of reparations for slavery/ Jim Crow/ racism. As follows:

The point of Coates’s essay—and, ultimately, the point of this conversation, despite the political impossibility of enacting reparations—is a broader understanding of black poverty as the product of public policy and private theft facilitated by racism.”

So the point of Coates’ advocacy of reparations was to persuade the likes of Alterman? I think the real point of Coates’ essay is that if you say something in a popular journal like The Atlantic, more people will notice. If you are going to create political traction for an argument, you first need publicity. Joe Feagin said something similar in the Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal, but it didn’t get much of an audience. Also, of course, I suppose there’s still something to this idea that power concedes nothing without a demand. I suppose it’s anachronistic, but are we counting Frederick Douglass as a liberal or as a radical?

One thing is clear, though. You don’t get to the mountaintop by denying the possibility of getting to the mountaintop.

Lastly, there is Alterman’s disorganized argument against BDS. What I can pick out of it is something like “the Palestinians are bad, therefore BDS is bad.” Is there more to the Zionist perspective than that bad people are bad because they claim ineffectually that they want to end a religious state? Oh yeah and Zionists have been taking their land and periodically visiting collective punishment upon all of them. Inquiring minds will investigate further, is what I’m saying.

I’m going to pass over the bizarre historical reference:

Choosing between enlisting in the Communist Party or the Socialist Party in the late 1920s and early 1930s may have looked like a more difficult choice for radicals back then than it does in retrospect; after all, the world economy was collapsing, fascism was rising, and the extent of Stalin’s crimes against humanity remained a well-kept secret.

This is true, but mainly it’s true because “in the late 1920s and early 1930s” the preponderance of Stalin’s crimes against humanity hadn’t been committed yet. The real reason not to vote Communist in that era was that the Communist Parties of that time were directed from Moscow. “Democratic centralism” was a bad idea from Lenin onward, though how would “radicals” have known that in 1929?

At any rate, I found Alterman’s essay to be the sloppy construction of a political perspective in need of some real theory. Theory is indeed the radicals’ gift to the liberals — and if you want my perspective upon it, I think this is a good place to start. Theory offers a framework by which potentially everyone might understand the world, in a way conducive to effective action. Theory has not produced a transformative movement to change the world, so far, either because the theories themselves were botched (see e.g. Lenin), because the conversation about theory had too few participants (see e.g. academic theory), or because the theories thus produced were insufficiently motivating. These are indeed theoretical questions. It would be nice if Alterman addressed them.

Pepe Escobar: Eurasian Integration vs. the Empire of Chaos

By: Tom Engelhardt Tuesday December 16, 2014 8:33 am

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

 

We were kids, but they weren’t kidding.  It wasn’t called “Risk: The Game of Global Domination” for nothing. You remember it, I’m sure. You had a territory. You had armies. You could make alliances. You could cheat, stab in the back, and generally scheme to your heart’s content as long as you achieved your goal: the conquest of the world.  And it’s never ended, not for Parker Brothers, nor for the great powers of this planet over the last many centuries.  Look at a Risk board these days and note that whoever controls Europe starts off with Ukraine, while whoever has Asia (with China at its heart) has Russia as well.  Pepe Escobar would find meaning in that line-up. TomDispatch’s peripatetic Eurasian correspondent, he’s the man who discovered Pipelinestan, which, by the way, would have made a thrilling kids’ game filled with skullduggery and historic profits in the service of devastating the planet until the price of oil recently began plunging toward the energy subbasement.  As he points out today, the world is starting to look ever more eerily like a giant game of Risk, especially across the Eurasian subcontinent.

For a bare decade or so after the Soviet Union imploded, it seemed like the game of global domination, the one for the big kids in Washington (and, until 1990, Moscow), had come to its ultimate conclusion with a single victor till the end of time.  (So the Bush administration came to believe anyway.)  Jump another decade-plus ahead and Risk once again has a more contested look to it.  As Escobar so brilliantly labels it — the title, by the way, of his newest book that includes his superb Pipelineistan work for TomDispatch — the U.S. has come to seem ever more like an “empire of chaos” rather than the dominating power on planet Earth.  Wherever its military has gone these last 13 years, what’s followed has been some version of chaos, destabilization, radicalization (often, but not always, in a fundamentalist direction), and blowback (as well as torture, drones, black sites, the death of innocents, the uprooting of populations, and the manufacture of jihadist organizations). It’s a picture that couldn’t be uglier.

In the meantime, on the Eurasian continent, something seems to be shifting, potentially in a big way, and Escobar is, as ever, on the scene.  Consider today’s essay part two (here’s part 1) of his wide-ranging look at a potentially tectonic set of commercial and power shifts, centering on China, that could change the way the world works (or, of course, simply descend into Cold War 2.0). Tom

Go West, Young Han
As Washington “Pivots” to Asia, China Does the Eurasian Pirouette
By Pepe Escobar

November 18, 2014: it’s a day that should live forever in history. On that day, in the city of Yiwu in China’s Zhejiang province, 300 kilometers south of Shanghai, the first train carrying 82 containers of export goods weighing more than 1,000 tons left a massive warehouse complex heading for Madrid. It arrived on December 9th.

Welcome to the new trans-Eurasia choo-choo train.  At over 13,000 kilometers, it will regularly traverse the longest freight train route in the world, 40% farther than the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway. Its cargo will cross China from East to West, then Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, France, and finally Spain.

You may not have the faintest idea where Yiwu is, but businessmen plying their trades across Eurasia, especially from the Arab world, are already hooked on the city “where amazing happens!” We’re talking about the largest wholesale center for small-sized consumer goods — from clothes to toys — possibly anywhere on Earth.

The Yiwu-Madrid route across Eurasia represents the beginning of a set of game-changing developments. It will be an efficient logistics channel of incredible length. It will represent geopolitics with a human touch, knitting together small traders and huge markets across a vast landmass. It’s already a graphic example of Eurasian integration on the go. And most of all, it’s the first building block on China’s “New Silk Road,” conceivably the project of the new century and undoubtedly the greatest trade story in the world for the next decade.

Go west, young Han. One day, if everything happens according to plan (and according to the dreams of China’s leaders), all this will be yours — via high-speed rail, no less.  The trip from China to Europe will be a two-day affair, not the 21 days of the present moment. In fact, as that freight train left Yiwu, the D8602 bullet train was leaving Urumqi in Xinjiang Province, heading for Hami in China’s far west. That’s the first high-speed railway built in Xinjiang, and more like it will be coming soon across China at what is likely to prove dizzying speed.

Today, 90% of the global container trade still travels by ocean, and that’s what Beijing plans to change.  Its embryonic, still relatively slow New Silk Road represents its first breakthrough in what is bound to be an overland trans-continental container trade revolution.

And with it will go a basket of future “win-win” deals, including lower transportation costs, the expansion of Chinese construction companies ever further into the Central Asian “stans,” as well as into Europe, an easier and faster way to move uranium and rare metals from Central Asia elsewhere, and the opening of myriad new markets harboring hundreds of millions of people.

So if Washington is intent on “pivoting to Asia,” China has its own plan in mind.  Think of it as a pirouette to Europe across Eurasia.

Defecting to the East?

The speed with which all of this is happening is staggering. Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the New Silk Road Economic Belt in Astana, Kazakhstan, in September 2013. One month later, while in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, he announced a twenty-first-century Maritime Silk Road. Beijing defines the overall concept behind its planning as “one road and one belt,” when what it’s actually thinking about is a boggling maze of prospective roads, rail lines, sea lanes, and belts.

We’re talking about a national strategy that aims to draw on the historical aura of the ancient Silk Road, which bridged and connected civilizations, east and west, while creating the basis for a vast set of interlocked pan-Eurasian economic cooperation zones.  Already the Chinese leadership has green-lighted a $40 billion infrastructure fund, overseen by the China Development Bank, to build roads, high-speed rail lines, and energy pipelines in assorted Chinese provinces. The fund will sooner or later expand to cover projects in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Europe. But Central Asia is the key immediate target.

Chinese companies will be investing in, and bidding for contracts in, dozens of countries along those planned silk roads. After three decades of development while sucking up foreign investment at breakneck speed, China’s strategy is now to let its own capital flow to its neighbors. It’s already clinched $30 billion in contracts with Kazakhstan and $15 billion with Uzbekistan. It has provided Turkmenistan with $8 billion in loans and a billion more has gone to Tajikistan.

In 2013, relations with Kyrgyzstan were upgraded to what the Chinese term “strategic level.” China is already the largest trading partner for all of them except Uzbekistan and, though the former Central Asian socialist republics of the Soviet Union are still tied to Russia’s network of energy pipelines, China is at work there, too, creating its own version of Pipelineistan, including a new gas pipeline to Turkmenistan, with more to come.

The competition among Chinese provinces for much of this business and the infrastructure that goes with it will be fierce. Xinjiang is already being reconfigured by Beijing as a key hub in its new Eurasian network. In early November 2014, Guangdong — the “factory of the world” — hosted the first international expo for the country’s Maritime Silk Road and representatives of no less than 42 countries attended the party.

President Xi himself is now enthusiastically selling his home province, Shaanxi, which once harbored the start of the historic Silk Road in Xian, as a twenty-first-century transportation hub. He’s made his New Silk Road pitch for it to, among others, Tajikistan, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, India, and Afghanistan.

Just like the historic Silk Road, the new one has to be thought of in the plural.  Imagine it as a future branching maze of roads, rail lines, and pipelines. A key stretch is going to run through Central Asia, Iran, and Turkey, with Istanbul as a crossroads site. Iran and Central Asia are already actively promoting their own connections to it. Another key stretch will follow the Trans-Siberian Railway with Moscow as a key node. Once that trans-Siberian high-speed rail remix is completed, travel time between Beijing and Moscow will plunge from the current six and a half days to only 33 hours. In the end, Rotterdam, Duisburg, and Berlin could all be nodes on this future “highway” and German business execs are enthusiastic about the prospect.

The Maritime Silk Road will start in Guangdong province en route to the Malacca Strait, the Indian Ocean, the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, ending essentially in Venice, which would be poetic justice indeed.  Think of it as Marco Polo in reverse.

All of this is slated to be completed by 2025, providing China with the kind of future “soft power” that it now sorely lacks. When President Xi hails the push to “break the connectivity bottleneck” across Asia, he’s also promising Chinese credit to a wide range of countries.

Now, mix the Silk Road strategy with heightened cooperation among the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), with accelerated cooperation among the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), with a more influential Chinese role over the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) — no wonder there’s the perception across the Global South that, while the U.S. remains embroiled in its endless wars, the world is defecting to the East.

New Banks and New Dreams

The recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing was certainly a Chinese success story, but the bigger APEC story went virtually unreported in the United States.  Twenty-two Asian countries approved the creation of an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) only one year after Xi initially proposed it. This is to be yet another bank, like the BRICS Development Bank, that will help finance projects in energy, telecommunications, and transportation.  Its initial capital will be $50 billion and China and India will be its main shareholders.

Consider its establishment a Sino-Indian response to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), founded in 1966 under the aegis of the World Bank and considered by most of the world as a stalking horse for the Washington consensus. When China and India insist that the new bank’s loans will be made on the basis of “justice, equity, and transparency,” they mean that to be in stark contrast to the ADB (which remains a U.S.-Japan affair with those two countries contributing 31% of its capital and holding 25% of its voting power) — and a sign of a coming new order in Asia.  In addition, at a purely practical level, the ADB won’t finance the real needs of the Asian infrastructure push that the Chinese leadership is dreaming about, which is why the AIIB is going to come in so handy.

Keep in mind that China is already the top trading partner for India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.  It’s in second place when it comes to Sri Lanka and Nepal.  It’s number one again when it comes to virtually all the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), despite China’s recent well-publicized conflicts over who controls waters rich in energy deposits in the region. We’re talking here about the compelling dream of a convergence of 600 million people in Southeast Asia, 1.3 billion in China, and 1.5 billion on the Indian subcontinent.

Only three APEC members — apart from the U.S. — did not vote to approve the new bank: Japan, South Korea, and Australia, all under immense pressure from the Obama administration. (Indonesia signed on a few days late.) And Australia is finding it increasingly difficult to resist the lure of what, these days, is being called “yuan diplomacy.”

In fact, whatever the overwhelming majority of Asian nations may think about China’s self-described “peaceful rise,” most are already shying away from or turning their backs on a Washington-and-NATO-dominated trade and commercial world and the set of pacts — from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) for Europe to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for Asia — that would go with it.

When Dragon Embraces Bear

Russian President Vladimir Putin had a fabulous APEC. After his country and China clinched a massive $400 billion natural gas deal in May — around the Power of Siberia pipeline, whose construction began this year — they added a second agreement worth $325 billion around the Altai pipeline originating in western Siberia.

These two mega-energy deals don’t mean that Beijing will become Moscow-dependent when it comes to energy, though it’s estimated that they will provide 17% of China’s natural gas needs by 2020. (Gas, however, makes up only 10% per cent of China’s energy mix at present.)  But these deals signal where the wind is blowing in the heart of Eurasia. Though Chinese banks can’t replace those affected by Washington and EU sanctions against Russia, they are offering a Moscow battered by recent plummeting oil prices some relief in the form of access to Chinese credit.  

On the military front, Russia and China are now committed to large-scale joint military exercises, while Russia’s advanced S-400 air defense missile system will soon enough be heading for Beijing.  In addition, for the first time in the post-Cold War era, Putin recently raised the old Soviet-era doctrine of “collective security” in Asia as a possible pillar for a new Sino-Russian strategic partnership.

Chinese President Xi has taken to calling all this the “evergreen tree of Chinese-Russian friendship” — or you could think of it as Putin’s strategic “pivot” to China.  In either case, Washington is not exactly thrilled to see Russia and China beginning to mesh their strengths: Russian excellence in aerospace, defense technology, and heavy equipment manufacturing matching Chinese excellence in agriculture, light industry, and information technology.

It’s also been clear for years that, across Eurasia, Russian, not Western, pipelines are likely to prevail. The latest spectacular Pipelineistan opera — Gazprom’s cancellation of the prospective South Stream pipeline that was to bring yet more Russian natural gas to Europe — will, in the end, only guarantee an even greater energy integration of both Turkey and Russia into the new Eurasia. 

So Long to the Unipolar Moment 

All these interlocked developments suggest a geopolitical tectonic shift in Eurasia that the American media simply hasn’t begun to grasp. Which doesn’t mean that no one notices anything.  You can smell the incipient panic in the air in the Washington establishment.  The Council on Foreign Relations is already publishing laments about the possibility that the former sole superpower’s exceptionalist moment is “unraveling.” The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission can only blame the Chinese leadership for being “disloyal,” adverse to “reform,” and an enemy of the “liberalization” of their own economy.

The usual suspects carp that upstart China is upsetting the “international order,” will doom “peace and prosperity” in Asia for all eternity, and may be creating a “new kind of Cold War” in the region. From Washington’s perspective, a rising China, of course, remains the major “threat” in Asia, if not the world, even as the Pentagon spends gigantic sums to keep its sprawling global empire of bases intact. Those Washington-based stories about the new China threat in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, however, never mention that China remains encircled by U.S. bases, while lacking a base of its own outside its territory. 

Of course, China does face titanic problems, including the pressures being applied by the globe’s “sole superpower.” Among other things, Beijing fears threats to the security of its sea-borne energy supply from abroad, which helps explain its massive investment in helping create a welcoming Eurasian Pipelineistan from Central Asia to Siberia. Fears for its energy future also explain its urge to “escape from Malacca” by reaching for energy supplies in Africa and South America, and its much-discussed offensive to claim energy-rich areas of the East and South China seas, which Beijing is betting could become a “second Persian Gulf,” ultimately yielding 130 billion barrels of oil.

On the internal front, President Xi has outlined in detail his vision of a “results-oriented” path for his country over the next decade. As road maps go, China’s “must-do” list of reforms is nothing short of impressive. And worrying about keeping China’s economy, already the world’s number one by size, rolling along at a feverish pitch, Xi is also turbo-charging the fight against corruption, graft, and waste, especially within the Communist Party itself.

Economic efficiency is another crucial problem. Chinese state-owned enterprises are now investing a staggering $2.3 trillion a year — 43% of the country’s total investment — in infrastructure. Yet studies at Tsinghua University’s School of Management have shown that an array of investments in facilities ranging from steel mills to cement factories have only added to overcapacity and so actually undercut China’s productivity.

Xiaolu Wang and Yixiao Zhou, authors of the academic paper “Deepening Reform for China’s Long-term Growth and Development,” contend that it will be difficult for China to jump from middle-income to high-income status — a key requirement for a truly global power. For this, an avalanche of extra government funds would have to go into areas like social security/unemployment benefits and healthcare, which take up at present 9.8% and 15.1% of the 2014 budget — high for some Western countries but not high enough for China’s needs.

Still, anyone who has closely followed what China has accomplished over these past three decades knows that, whatever its problems, whatever the threats, it won’t fall apart. As a measure of the country’s ambitions for economically reconfiguring the commercial and power maps of the world, China’s leaders are also thinking about how, in the near future, relations with Europe, too, could be reshaped in ways that would be historic. 

What About That “Harmonious Community”?

At the same moment that China is proposing a new Eurasian integration, Washington has opted for an “empire of chaos,” a dysfunctional global system now breeding mayhem and blowback across the Greater Middle East into Africa and even to the peripheries of Europe.

In this context, a “new Cold War” paranoia is on the rise in the U.S., Europe, and Russia.  Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who knows a thing or two about Cold Wars (having ended one), couldn’t be more alarmed. Washington’s agenda of “isolating” and arguably crippling Russia is ultimately dangerous, even if in the long run it may also be doomed to failure. 

At the moment, whatever its weaknesses, Moscow remains the only power capable of negotiating a global strategic balance with Washington and putting some limits on its empire of chaos.  NATO nations still follow meekly in Washington’s wake and China as yet lacks the strategic clout.

Russia, like China, is betting on Eurasian integration.  No one, of course, knows how all this will end.  Only four years ago, Vladimir Putin was proposing “a harmonious economic community stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok,” involving a trans-Eurasian free trade agreement. Yet today, with the U.S., NATO, and Russia locked in a Cold War-like battle in the shadows over Ukraine, and with the European Union incapable of disentangling itself from NATO, the most immediate new paradigm seems to be less total integration than war hysteria and fear of future chaos spreading to other parts of Eurasia.

Don’t rule out a change in the dynamics of the situation, however.  In the long run, it seems to be in the cards.  One day, Germany may lead parts of Europe away from NATO’s “logic,” since German business leaders and industrialists have an eye on their potentially lucrative commercial future in a new Eurasia. Strange as it might seem amid today’s war of words over Ukraine, the endgame could still prove to involve a Berlin-Moscow-Beijing alliance.

At present, the choice between the two available models on the planet seems stark indeed: Eurasian integration or a spreading empire of chaos. China and Russia know what they want, and so, it seems, does Washington.  The question is: What will the other moving parts of Eurasia choose to do?

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT, and a TomDispatch regular. His latest book is Empire of Chaos (Nimble Books). Follow him on Facebook.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2014 Pepe Escobar

Torture, Police Brutality and the Arrogance of Power

By: Nat Parry Tuesday December 16, 2014 7:08 am

The international fallout from last week’s long-delayed release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 500-page executive summary of its still-classified 6,000 report on CIA torture could hardly be more intense, with calls coming from the United Nations, foreign governments and the human rights community for prosecutions of those who carried out or authorized the torture techniques described in the report, including senior officials from the Bush administration.

But judging from the self-assured comments of CIA and former administration officials, there is no real concern over the possibility of any criminal liability, a lack of accountability which has led to a palpable arrogance among those who would be behind bars if laws were actually enforced on an equal basis in the United States.

The above-the-law sense of entitlement was perhaps most clearly on display in former Vice President Dick Cheney’s appearance this Sunday on Meet the Press, stating that when it comes to using torture, “I’d do it again in a minute.”

When presented with gruesome details from the Senate report on torture – for example the newly revealed “enhanced interrogation technique” of “rectal feeding,” i.e., anal rape – and asked for his definition of what might constitute “torture” in a legal sense, Cheney retorted that torture is “an American citizen on his cellphone making a last call to his four young daughters shortly before he burns to death in the upper levels of the Trade Center in New York on 9/11.”

Short of this rather high bar, nothing, by definition, that the United States does to its detainees could conceivably be considered torture.

Similarly, when asked about the large number of innocent people (26 out of 119 CIA detainees, according to the report) who had tragically been detained and tortured in error, for example Gul Rahman – a victim of mistaken identity who was chained to the wall of his cell, doused with water and froze to death in CIA custody – Cheney stated indifferently that these individuals essentially don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. The only problem that Cheney had was “with the folks that we did release that end up back on the battlefield.”

“I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent,” he said. Taken to its logical conclusion, Cheney’s reasoning would seem to hold that it is preferable to indefinitely detain and torture a million innocent people than to allow one “bad guy” to slip through the cracks. The implications of this logic are, needless to say, chilling (not to mention completely at odds with the legal principle of presumed innocence).

At times, watching Cheney make these cold rationalizations on Meet the Press, it may have occurred to viewers that the more appropriate venue for this interview would have been on the witness stand of a courtroom. After all, what Cheney was defending was not just controversial policy choices, but clearly defined crimes of torture and murder. Although he was sure to emphasize that “All of the techniques that were authorized by the president were, in effect, blessed by the Justice Department,” the fact remains that providing the cover of law to a crime makes it no less of a crime.

This is a point that UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism Ben Emmerson specifically made last week following the release of the report. In a statement, Emmerson said, “The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorized at a high level within the U.S. government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability.”

Emphasizing that all individuals responsible for “the criminal conspiracy” described in the Senate report “must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes,” Emmerson noted that “international law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture.”

Judging from Cheney’s arrogant display on Meet the Press, however, there appears to be very little appreciation for the niceties of international law such as its expressed prohibition on official immunity when it comes to the crime of torture. He seems to be quite confident, indeed, that official immunity is unnecessary when there is an implied unofficial immunity that is granted to public officials in the United States, this being the case whether it pertains to CIA torture or police brutality.

The same arrogance that Cheney is so casually displaying can also be seen in the closely paralleled story of the recent spate of police shootings of innocent African Americans, and the remarkable wave of demonstrations that has taken hold across the country in response. With large-scale protests happening in most major American cities over the past month – particularly since grand juries decided not to indict the police officers who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City – one might think that cops would be extra careful these days not to come across overly arrogant or obdurate.

This, however, would not be the case.

In response to the NFL’s Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver Andrew Hawkins taking the field on Sunday wearing a T-shirt protesting recent police shootings in Ohio – reading “Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford” on the front and “The Real Battle for Ohio” on the back – Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland police union, claimed the shirt was disrespectful and disparaged the very idea of athletes holding opinions about anything other than sports.

“It’s pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law,” Follmer said in a statement. “They should stick to what they know best on the field.” In other words, keep your opinions to yourself, boy, and just play football. Follmer also demanded an apology from the Clevelend Browns organization, which to their credit, the Browns did not extend.

Instead, the Browns fired back with a statement saying the organization endorses the rights of players “to project their support and bring awareness to issues that are important to them if done so in a responsible manner.”

Hawkins also weighed in with comments to the media that revealed, in fact, a deep knowledge and understanding of what law and justice mean (or should mean), contrary to Follmer’s condescending remarks. “Justice,” he said, “is a right that every American should have. Justice means that the innocent should be found innocent. It means that those who do wrong should get their due punishment.”

His six-minute locker-room monologue to reporters ended with him choking up while drawing a parallel between his own young son and the tragic death of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy shot by police in Cleveland on Nov. 22 while holding a toy gun.

“My number one reason for wearing the T-shirt was the thought of what happened to Tamir Rice happening to my little Austin. And that scares the living hell out of me,” he said.

This genuine, personal fear of police violence is one that has been widely expressed over the last several weeks of protests taking hold across the country. As Democracy Now’s Aaron Maté reported from New York’s “Millions March” on Saturday, one of the dominant themes being expressed on the streets was “a sense of not feeling safe, not feeling safe themselves and not feeling safe for their loved ones, people of color in heavily policed communities.”

Interviewing protester Darrell Greene, Maté asked him to explain his sign, which read “Me, my father, my son. Who’s next?”

Greene responded, “At this point, I know I’m a productive citizen, and I don’t feel safe in my own community. I’ve never been in trouble with law enforcement. And from what I’m seeing on the news and what’s been going on, I really wonder: Am I next? I’m wondering if the people in my community are next. We’re all productive citizens, and we’re in fear for our life. We feel like it’s open season on all minorities, and we want to know if we’re really safe.”

Protester Nilan Johnson echoed these sentiments. “I’m here because Americans, period, are being preyed on, right now,” he said. “African Americans are once again fighting for the right to be human, and I think that’s horrible.”

Asked whether he feels, as a person of color, whether he is unsafe in his community, Johnson replied, “That’s – I feel that daily, so I feel that’s a preconditioned nature now. I feel threatened and marked and cornered. And everybody here feels the same way. And we’re trying to keep our humanity.”

If not a direct byproduct of the war on terror’s excesses and the impunity that law-breakers at the highest levels of government enjoy, this feeling of powerlessness, insecurity and injustice is certainly closely related. Indeed, as far back as 2007, civil rights leaders were drawing these connections, in particular in a report prepared for the United Nations entitled “In The Shadows Of The War On Terror: Persistent Police Brutality and Abuse of People of Color in the United States.”

Since 9/11, the report explained, “there have been dramatic increases in law enforcement powers in the name of waging the ‘war on terror,’” while simultaneously, counter-terrorism policies have “created a generalized climate of impunity for law enforcement officers, and contributed to the erosion of what few accountability mechanisms exist for civilian control over law enforcement agencies.”

This has led to an erosion of public discussion and accountability with respect to the use of excessive force against people of color, while at the same time, “systemic abuse of people of color by law enforcement officers has not only continued since 2001 but has worsened in both practice and severity,” according to the report. As a representative of the NAACP put it, “the degree to which police brutality occurs … is the worst I’ve seen in 50 years.”

Even establishment publications such as the Wall Street Journal have noticed the troubling trend of rising police violence and its connections with the war on terror. As a feature article in WSJ put it in August 2013, “the war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop – armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.”

This threat to liberties is compounded when the justice system fails to hold accountable those who break the law and violate people’s rights. Whether it is Eric Garner in New York or Gul Rahman in Afghanistan, the victims of injustice must have redress, and “those who do wrong should get their due punishment,” in the words of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins.

As human rights advocates and civil libertarians have warned since the early days of the war on terror, human rights violations of terror suspects will eventually set the United States on a slippery slope in which authorities deem it optional whether to respect the human rights of anyone, including U.S. citizens. At that point, anyone is fair game, and all of us, including law-abiding Americans, may find ourselves at the mercy of an unsympathetic authoritarian state.

This article originally appeared at Essential Opinion.

Greenwald Exposes Judge Richard Posner- Privacy is for Dirty, Shameful Acts

By: jbade Tuesday December 16, 2014 6:05 am

This excellent article by Mr. Greenwald exposing Judge Posner as unfit for the bench by notifying us of his bizarre assertions that privacy is for deviates. The implication here that there should be no privacy concerns for citizens if the state has any security concerns is there would be no communications between any two human beings that would be beyond the reach of the government, bizarre. Then forwards that the state should have unlimited privacy from the prying eyes of those privacy seeking deviates.

Wow! That this person resides on an appellate court is terrifying, and no one is asking for his removal! Then again they did appoint the Judge who approved the Torture memos to the 9th circuit(Bibi the Impaler).

That this Judge actually vilifies those seeking privacy as immoral, bad people with bad motives – thank you to Glenn for informing us of this festering sore on the soul of the American judiciary commonly known as Judge Richard ” I-have-hidden-dirty-sexually-confusing-issues-that-I-project-on-others” Posner

By Glenn Greenwald(The Intercept, First Media)

Richard Posner has been a federal appellate judge for 34 years, having been nominated by President Reagan in 1981. At a conference last week in Washington, Posner said the NSA should have the unlimited ability to collect whatever communications and other information it wants: “If the NSA wants to vacuum all the trillions of bits of information that are crawling through the electronic worldwide networks, I think that’s fine.” The NSA should have “carte blanche” to collect what it wants because “privacy interests should really have very little weight when you’re talking about national security.”

His rationale? “I think privacy is actually overvalued,” the distinguished jurist pronounced. Privacy, he explained, is something people crave in order to prevent others from learning about the shameful and filthy things they do:

Much of what passes for the name of privacy is really just trying to conceal the disreputable parts of your conduct. Privacy is mainly about trying to improve your social and business opportunities by concealing the sorts of bad activities that would cause other people not to want to deal with you.

Unlike you and your need to hide your bad and dirty acts, Judge Posner has no need for privacy – or so he claims: “If someone drained my cell phone, they would find a picture of my cat, some phone numbers, some email addresses, some email text,” he said. “What’s the big deal?” He added: “Other people must have really exciting stuff. Do they narrate their adulteries, or something like that?”

I would like to propose a campaign inspired by Judge Posner’s claims (just by the way, one of his duties as a federal judge is to uphold the Fourth Amendment). In doing so, I’ll make the following observations:

First, note the bargain Judge Posner offers, the one that is implicitly at the heart of all surveillance advocacy: as long as you make yourself extremely boring and unthreatening – don’t exercise your political liberties, but instead, just take pictures of your cat, arrange Little League games, and exchange recipes - then you have nothing to worry about from surveillance. In other words, as long as you remain what Judge Posner is – an obedient servant of political and corporate power – then you have nothing to worry about from surveillance.

The converse, of course, is equally true: if you do anything unorthodox or challenging to those in power – if, for instance, you become a civil rights leader or an antiwar activist – then you are justifiably provoking surveillance aimed at you. That is the bargain at the heart of the anti-privacy case, which is why a surveillance state, by design, breeds conformity and passivity - which in turn is why all power centers crave it. Every time surveillance is discussed, someone says something to the effect of: “I’m not worried about being surveilled because I’ve chosen to do nothing that’d be interesting to the government or anyone else.” That self-imprisoning mindset, by itself, is as harmful as any abuse of surveillance power (in September, I gave a 15-minute TED talk specifically designed to address and refute the inane “nothing to hide” anti-privacy rationale Judge Posner offers here).

Second, Judge Posner’s is the voice of unadulterated wealth, power and privilege talking. The distinguished judge - like all those of similar position and class – has all sorts of ways that his personal privacy is safeguarded: government-provided security, electronic gates that protect his home and office, a staff of people who work for him. It’s almost never the Judge Richard Posners of the world who are subjected to abusive surveillance, but rather actual dissidents, activists and members of marginalized and minority groups. That’s true even in the most tyrannical states: in Mubarak’s Egypt, it was the pro-democracy protesters in Tahrir Square targeted with violence, torture, and other forms of repression, not the loyal and corrupt judges who served Mubarak’s agenda. Servants of power are usually immune, or at least unmolested. So it’s always very easy for the Richard Posners of the world to dismiss concerns over privacy violations because they are typically not the ones targeted.

To see how power-based rather than principled Posner’s views are, consider what he said and did in a 2011 case - brought by the ACLU - where hemocked the idea that citizens have a First Amendment right to film the police. During Oral Argument, he immediately interrupted the ACLU lawyer arguing that citizens have this right, and the following exchange occurred:

JUDGE POSNER: Once all this stuff can be recorded, there’s going to be a lot more of this snooping around by reporters and bloggers.

ACLU attorney Richard O’Brien: Is that a bad thing, your honor?

JUDGE POSNER: Yes, it is a bad thing. There is such a thing as privacy.

Like so many federal judges, Judge Posner recognizes rights only when they belong to agents of the state or the economic elite. When it’s ordinary citizens at issue, he snidely rejects any such protections. Of course, this is exactly backwards: those exercising public power (police officers) have a lower entitlement to privacy than private individuals. But power-servants like Judge Posner view only actors of the state and those who serve it (such as himself) as entitled to these prerogatives. That’s become the corrupt essence of the U.S. justice system, and it’s perfectly expressed by Judge Posner’s radically divergent views based on whose privacy is at stake.

Third, if Judge Posner really believes what he’s saying about privacy, and if it’s really true that he personally has nothing to hide – he just has some cat videos and some pictures of his grandkids – then he should prove that with his actions. Every day, he should publicly post online all of the emails he sends and receives, along with transcripts of his telephone and in-person conversations. Or just put a recording device in his office and on his person, and upload the full audio every day. He should also put video cameras in all the rooms in his home and office, and stream it live on the internet 24 hours a day. If there’s a specific reason for excluding a particular conversation – say, something relating to attorney/client privilege – he can post a log identifying the metadata of the withheld communications. If he agrees to this framework, I’d work hard on a campaign to raise the funds to do this, and have no doubt the money could be raised very quickly.

What possible objections could he have to any of this? After all, the Hon. Richard Posner has nothing to hide. He’s a good person. He does nothing shameful, corrupt, adulterous, or otherwise embarrassing – nothing constituting “the sorts of bad activities that would cause other people not to want to deal with [him].” Perish the thought. So why isn’t he doing this, or why wouldn’t he? A campaign to encourage him to agree to this system of transparency – to show he has the courage of his convictions – would, I think, be constructive. Anyone wishing to do so can submit that encouragement to him, and to argue for its virtue, by email or telephone, here or here.

Article continued at FirstMedia, please email or phone it’s good therapy

Boston Bombing News: Practice For The Trial?

By: pbszebra Monday December 15, 2014 9:23 pm

The final pretrial status conference in the case of USA v. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is later this week.  This will be unlike the other nine status conferences in this case, simply because the defendant will be present after seventeen months of solitary confinement away from the public eye.  Some have waited for this day, others have dreaded it.

I certainly hope that Dzhokhar is able to sit quietly with no reaction whatsoever, no facial expressions.  Although he is young and slightly prone to spontaneous reactions.  I would think his attorneys have gone over and over this with him, hoping not to fuel unwarranted and prejudicial public speculation.  We can all recall the brouhaha over the “smirk” during his July, 2013, appearance and his “detrimental” remark in February of this year to his sister that the FBI agent overheard.  The prosecution, law enforcement and media will take anything they can get and twist it to their advantage.

But who else will show up to this last conference?  Dzhokhar’s sisters, Ailina and Bella, should be there to show their support.  Ms Ortiz will most certainly be there, front row of course.  And behind her an obvious show of law enforcement, FBI or whoever all those suits were at a previous conference.  In addition, there must be much more security this time, for both the public and Dzhokhar himself.

Does this final conference justify the attendance of all attorneys?  Will Miriam Conrad be present?  I imagine she will be there only if the agenda requires her to do so.  How about survivors?  I would hope all survivors would stay away from this conference, especially if they are to be witnesses during the trial.  However there may be a few who are not prospective witnesses, but who have their own motive for attending this conference.

There will surely be a lot media at this conference too.  I wonder how many media personnel this courthouse will hold?

Will O’Toole preside like he normally does or will he help make this conference into a circus?  I’m willing to bet it will be the latter, considering the embarrassing Mr. O’Toole’s performance in this case thus far.  I’m not sure they will have much to discuss at this conference, as O’Toole has denied almost every motion filed by the defense.  Looks to me like the prosecution is sitting right about where they want to be, and are ready for trial.  Yes, my thought is this Thursday’s event may not be like the previous status conferences, but feels more like they’re dangling a carrot in front of a horse (dangling Dzhokhar in front of the world).

Is Obama an American Fascist?

By: Synoia Monday December 15, 2014 8:53 pm

Is the United States fascist? Is it becoming a Fascist state?

Such accusation are freely offered, and thrown around, often without the discussion of the full meaning a Fascism. We need to start with a definition, because the term ‘fascist’ is often misused, leading to confusion. Here’s what George Orwell said, in 1944:

…the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else … Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathizers, almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.

Congress Renewed Pentagon Program To Cheat Small Businesses Into 28th Year

By: Lloyd Chapman Monday December 15, 2014 10:59 am

President Obama will sign the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) any day now and renew a Pentagon program that has cheated American small businesses out of hundreds of billons if not trillions of dollars in subcontracts for more than a quarter of a century.

The 25-year-old Pentagon Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program (Test Program) will be renewed into its 28th year of testing into 2017. This program is one of the best examples in history of how blatantly corrupt the federal government actually is.

You have to admire the dedication of those guys at the Pentagon. They have been testing a theory since 1990 that removing all transparency on federal small business subcontracting programs might “increase subcontracting opportunities for small businesses. To really try and help small businesses land more federal subcontracts the Pentagon added one more feature to the “Test Program”, all participants are exempt from any penalties for non-compliance.

Any Pentagon prime contractor that participates in the “Test Program” is exempt from any penalties they had previously faced for failing to comply with their federally mandated small business subcontracting goals such as “liquidated damages.

So under the pretense of “increasing subcontracting opportunities for small businesses” the Pentagon has eliminated all penalties for non-compliance and all publicly available documents that could be used to track a prime contractor’s compliance with their small business subcontracting goals.

They have now been testing this theory at the Pentagon for over 25 years and apparently the results are inconclusive because Congress has decided to renew it for three more years. (They should try that theory out at the IRS. Eliminate tax returns and penalties for not paying your taxes and test it for 25 years to see if it increases tax revenue.)

Here is one of the more astounding aspects of this blatant anti-small business scam; no member of Congress has ever seen any reports or data on the “Test Program” since it began in 1990. For more than 25 years the Pentagon has refused to release any data on the program.

Obviously the “Test Program” was not designed to help small businesses. It was developed to create a loophole for Pentagon prime contractros to circumvent federal law mandating small businesses receive a minimum of 23% of all federal contracts. I knew if I could get the reports the prime contractors were submitting it would prove that point. The reports would also prove the Pentagon had violated federal law and lied to Congress about the true volume of subcontracts that had been awarded to small businesses.

I believe the Pentagon has defrauded American small businesses out of well over one trillion dollars in subcontracts and possibly as much as two trillion over the last 25 years.

I decided to challenge the Pentagon’s refusal to release any data on the program. As a test case I requested the most recent report submitted by Sikorsky Aviation Corporation under the Freedom of Information Act. Not surprisingly the Pentagon refused to provide the data.

My goal was to use the data to prove the Pentagon has committed fraud and try and halt the renewal of the “Test Program” by Congress

I filed suite in Federal District Court in San Francisco. On November 23, Federal District Court Judge William Alsup ruled in my favor. He ordered the Pentagon to release the data by December 3rd. I knew they wouldn’t release the data because Congress would be voting to renew the “Test Program” the following week.

I predicted that in a press release that went out on December 3rd.

I was right, my lawyer called me on the morning of December 3rd and told me the Office of Solicitor General had intervened on behalf of the Pentagon and requested a 60-day stay. Judge Alsup had to grant it.

The following week Congress voted to renew the Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program into its 28th year of testing.

Sikorsky has now contacted my attorney and told him they will also be intervening in the case.

The Pentagon knows that once I get the Sikorsky data, I can the get all the data submitted by all of the participants of the “Test Program”. Current participants include: Boeing, BAE Systems, GE Aviation, General Dynamics, Hamilton Sundstrand Corporation, Harris Corporation, L3 Communications, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, Raytheon and Sikorsky.

Here is what all the fuss is about; one number, the percentage of subcontracts Sikorsky awarded to small businesses. So why are the Pentagon, the Solicitor General and Sikorsky so jacked up over this?

Is it because I am a conspiracy nut like the Pentagon would have everyone believe?

Probably not, it looks like my theories are correct and the release of this data will prove the Pentagon has violated multiple federal laws and cheated small businesses out of trillions.

I have found stories on the Internet about other whistleblowers and journalists that obtained information under the Freedom of Information Act that was much less damaging to the federal government than the data I am seeking. They had their homes raided by armed FBI and Homeland Security agents.

Just in case, I went out and had a t-shirt made that I sleep in. It says WHISTLBLOWER, DONT SHOOT ME on the front and back. I thought that would look great in my mug shot.

If it’s not the FBI, something involving the Justice Department or the IRS is probably in my future. Possibly before January 22nd when the Pentagon has to release the data.

On the other hand, I met President Obama, I endorsed him in the primaries and he released a nice statement about the American Small Business League. I worked on his first campaign and he said repeatedly he would have the most transparent Administration in history. Maybe I’ll be getting some type of award for my efforts to expose fraud and corruption at the Pentagon. :)

If you have any difficulty commenting on any of my blogs please let me know. If you’re from the NSA and you want to try and hijack the topic of this blog to some totally unrelated topic, it’s very obvious. You guys have such impressive vocabularies.

707-789-9575 or Comments@ASBL.com