Editor’s Note • Project Censored and The Free Press
Years ago when I broke my first major investigative piece about how Saginaw County FEMA officials were downplaying the potentially devastating impact of the Freeland Train derailment, a colleague whom I respected that worked at The Saginaw News said to me: “It’s easy to find a whistle-blower, but remarkably rare to find one that will go ‘on the record’. It takes guts to publish this story. Most big stories end up spiked and in the waste paper basket because they either lack corroboration or because of the potential financial repercussions involved.”
Today these words ring true more than ever.
The investigative research team Project Censored, which sprang out of a journalism workshop at Sonoma State University, defines censorship as “…anything that interferes with the free flow of information in a society that purports to uphold free press principles.” Sponsored by the Media Freedom Foundation every year since 1976, the Project selects the 25 “most censored stories” on the planet.
And every year since 1985 The Review has published their findings, which we are doing again this year in two installments, listed democratically in order of importance according to the Project’s judges.
These stories announced on October 1st are from the 2012-2013 news cycle. The Censored 2014 edition is co-edited by Mickey Huff and Andy Lee Roth and this year’s volume of censored stories is entitled “Fearless Speech in Fateful Times” – a sentiment to which The Review agrees in our post-constitutional era of the Surveillance State.
In February 2013, United States military intelligence analyst Bradley Manning confessed in court to providing vast archives of military and diplomatic files to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, saying he wanted the information to become public “to make the world a better place” and that he hoped to “spark a domestic debate on the role of the military in (US) foreign policy.” The 700,000 released documents revealed a multitude of previously secret crimes and acts of deceit and corruption by US military and government officials.
According to Manning’s testimony in February 2013, he tried to release the Afghanistan and Iraq War Logs through conventional sources. In winter 2010, he contacted the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Politico in hopes that they would publish the materials.
Only after being rebuffed by these three outlets did Manning begin uploading documents to WikiLeaks. Al Jazeera reported that Manning’s testimony “raises the question of whether the mainstream press was prepared to host the debate on US interventions and foreign policy that Manning had in mind.”
Indeed, US corporate media have largely shunned Manning’s case, not to mention the importance of the information he released. When corporate media have focused on Manning, this coverage has often emphasized his sexual orientation and past life, rather than his First Amendment rights or the abusive nature of his imprisonment, which includes almost three years without trial and nearly one year in “administrative segregation,” the military equivalent of solitary.
In his February 2013 court appearance, Manning pled guilty to twelve of the twenty-two charges against him, including the capital offense of “aiding and abetting the enemy.” He faces the possibility of a life sentence without parole. His severe treatment is a warning to other possible whistleblowers.
The global 1 percent holds $21 to $32 trillion dollars in offshore havens in order to evade taxes, according to James S. Henry, the former chief economist at the global management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company. Based on data from the Bank for International Settlements, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and 139 countries, Henry found that the top 1 percent hid more than the total annual economic output of the US and Japan combined.
For perspective, this hidden wealth is at least seven times the amount—$3 trillion—that many estimates suggest would be necessary to end global poverty.
If this hidden wealth earned a modest rate of 3 percent interest and that interest income were taxed at just 30 percent, these investments would have generated income tax revenues between $190 and $280 billion, according to the analysis.
Domestically, the Federal Reserve reported that the top seven US banks hold more than $10 trillion in assets, recorded in over 14,000 created “subsidiaries” to avoid taxes. Yet rather than reign them in, the federal & state governments wage war against the impoverished, the middle class, and retirees living on fixed incomes.
Henry identified this hidden wealth as “a huge black hole in the world economy that has never before been measured,” and noted that the finding is particularly significant at a time when “governments around the world are starved for resources, and we are more conscious than ever of the costs of economic inequality.”
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), branded as a trade agreement and negotiated in unprecedented secrecy, is actually an enforceable transfer of sovereignty from nations and their people to foreign corporations.
As of December 2012, eleven countries were involved—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States—with the possibility of more joining in the future due to inclusion of an unusual “docking agreement.”
While the public, US Congress and the press are locked out, 600 corporate advisors are meeting with officials of signatory governments behind closed doors to complete text for the world’s biggest multinational trade agreement, which aims to penalize countries that protect their workers, consumers, or environment.
Leaked text from the thirty-chapter agreement has revealed that negotiators have already agreed to many radical terms, granting expansive new rights and privileges for foreign investors and their enforcement through extrajudicial “investor-state” tribunals. Through these, corporations would be given special authority to dispute laws, regulations and court decisions. Foreign firms could extract unlimited amounts of taxpayer money as compensation for “financial damages” to “expected future profits” caused by efforts to protect domestic finance, health, labor, environment, land use and other laws they claim undermine their new TPP privileges.
There is almost no progressive movement or campaign whose goals are not threatened, as vast swaths of public-interest policy achieved through decades of struggle are targeted. Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, reported that once this top-secret TPP is agreed to, its rules will be set in stone. No rule can be changed without all countries’ consent to amend the agreement. People of the world will be locked into corporate domination.
Obama signed both the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, expanding whistleblower protections, in November 2012, and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) furthering these protections in January 2013. His NDAA signing statement, however, undermines these protections, stating that those expanded protections “could be interpreted in a manner that would interfere with my authority to manage and direct executive branch officials.”
Thus, in his signing statement, Obama promised to ignore expanded whistleblower protections if they conflicted with his power to “supervise, control, and correct employees’ communications with the Congress in cases where such communications would be unlawful or would reveal information that is properly privileged or otherwise confidential.”
Despite rhetoric to the contrary, the Obama administration is targeting government whistleblowers, having invoked the otherwise dormant Espionage Act of 1917 seven times. The Obama justice department has also used the Intelligence Identities Protection Act to obtain a conviction against Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whistleblower John Kiriakou for exposing the waterboarding of prisoners, ironically making Kiriakou the first CIA official to be sentenced to prison in connection with the torture program. The justice department charged former National Security Agency senior executive Thomas Drake with espionage for exposing hundreds of millions of dollars of waste.
The highly visible prosecution of Bradley Manning has become what some may argue to be the most effective deterrent for government whistleblowers. Manning admitted to leaking troves of classified documents to WikiLeaks, but pleaded not guilty on counts of espionage.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors hate groups and antigovernment groups, released a report showing that 1,360 radical, anti-government “patriot” groups and 321 militias actively operate within the United States. Released in March 2013, these statistics show an 813 percent rise in the number of such groups since 2008, with increasing numbers each year. Hate groups are most prevalent in California, with eighty-four total; Texas was second among states with sixty-two.
The SPLC counted over 1,000 hate groups in the US in 2012. By the SPLC’s standards, hate groups “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics,” and their activities can include “criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.”
With the numbers of Patriot groups now much higher than they were during the peak of the militia movement in the 1990s, the threat of domestic terror attacks is very real. After the SPLC’s report was released, the Center’s president, Richard Cohen, sent a letter to the US attorney general as well as the Homeland Security secretary requesting them to “create a new task force to ensure the government is devoting the resources needed to address domestic terrorism.”
Hate groups are now transitioning from racist hatred to hatred focused on the government and its representatives. The patriot and militia groups are some of the fastest growing groups, and their goals and rhetoric must be understood in order to implement successful strategies to counter their behavior if it should become violent, according to the SPLC. The SPLC also identified “sovereign citizens,” who often operate as “lone wolves,” breaking away from the group to perform the violent acts. Unfortunately, with the use of social media and the Internet, hate groups are able to recruit and spread their beliefs more readily than in the past.
Corporate media have paid scattered attention to the SPLC report and its findings. Both the New York Times and MSNBC covered the report on the day the SPLC issued it, but otherwise, establishment media have done little to shed light on this subject.
(This is the first installment of a two-part series).