Archive | December 13th, 2016

Big Media’s Contra-Cocaine Cover-up

NOVANEWS
By Robert Parry 

Amid the mainstream U.S. media’s current self-righteous frenzy against “fake news,” it’s worth recalling how the big newspapers destroyed Gary Webb, an honest journalist who exposed some hard truths about the Reagan administration’s collaboration with Nicaraguan Contra cocaine traffickers.

Webb’s reward for reviving that important scandal in 1996 – and getting the CIA’s inspector general to issue what amounted to an institutional confession in 1998 – was to have The New York Times, The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lobby for, essentially, his banishment from journalism.

Journalist Gary Webb holding a copy of his Contra-cocaine article in the San Jose Mercury-News.

Journalist Gary Webb

The major media pile-on was so intense and so effective that Webb lost his job at the San Jose Mercury-News and could never find regular work in his profession again. Betrayed by his journalistic colleagues, his money gone, his family broken and his life seemingly hopeless, Webb committed suicide on Dec. 9, 2004.

Even then, the Los Angeles Times wrote up his obituary as if the paper were telling the life story of an organized-crime boss, not a heroic journalist. The Times obit was then republished by The Washington Post.

In other words, on one of the most significant scandals of the Reagan era, major newspapers, which now want to serve as the arbiters of truth for  the Internet, demonstrated how disdainful they actually are toward truth when it puts the U.S. government in a harsh light.

Indeed, if it had been up to the big newspapers, this important chapter of modern history would never have been known. A decade earlier, in 1985, Brian Barger and I first exposed the Contra-cocaine connection for The Associated Press – and we watched as the big papers turned their backs on the scandal then, too.

The main point that Webb added to the story was how some of the Contra cocaine fed into the production of crack-cocaine that had such a devastating effect on America’s black communities in particular. Webb’s disclosure of the crack connection infuriated many African-Americans and the big papers acted as if it was their civic duty to calm down those inner-city folks by assuring them that the U.S. government would never do such a thing.

So, instead of doing their jobs as journalists, the major newspapers acted as the last line of defense against the people learning the truth.

A Solid Record

Yet, what’s remarkable now about the Contra-cocaine scandal is that – despite the cover-up efforts of the big papers – the truth is out there, available in official government documents, including the CIA’s inspector general’s report.

Collectively, the information also represents a damning indictment of The New York Times, The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times and demonstrates why they are unfit to lecture anyone about what’s real and what’s “fake.”

For instance, in 2013, at the National Archives annex in College Park, Maryland, I discovered a declassified “secret” U.S. law enforcement report that detailed how top Contra leader Adolfo Calero was casually associating with Norwin Meneses, described in the records as “a well-reputed drug dealer.” Meneses was near the center of Webb’s 1996 articles for the San Jose Mercury-News.

The report was typical of the evidence that the Reagan administration — and the big newspapers — chose to ignore. It recounted information from Dennis Ainsworth, a blue-blood Republican from San Francisco who volunteered to help the Contra cause in 1984-85. That put him in position to witness the strange goings-on of Contra leaders hobnobbing with drug traffickers and negotiating arms deals with White House emissaries.

Ainsworth also was a source of mine in fall 1985 when I was investigating the mysterious channels of funding for the Contras after Congress shut off CIA support in 1984 amid widespread reports of Contra atrocities inflicted on Nicaraguan civilians, including rapes, executions and torture.

Ainsworth’s first-hand knowledge of the Contra dealings dovetailed with information that I already had, such as the central role of National Security Council aide Oliver North in aiding the Contras and his use of “courier” Rob Owen as an off-the-books White House intermediary to the Contras. I later developed confirmation of some other details that Ainsworth described, such as his overhearing Owen and Calero working together on an arms deal as Ainsworth drove them through the streets of San Francisco.

As for Ainsworth’s knowledge about the Contra-cocaine connection, he said he sponsored a June 1984 cocktail party at which Calero spoke to about 60 people. Meneses, a notorious drug kingpin in the Nicaraguan community, showed up uninvited and clearly had a personal relationship with Calero, who was then the political leader of the Contra’s chief fighting force, the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Democratic Force (or FDN).

“At the end of the cocktail party, Meneses and Calero went off together,” Ainsworth told U.S. Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello, according to a “secret” Jan. 6, 1987 cable submitted by Russoniello to an FBI investigation code-named “Front Door,” a probe into the Reagan administration’s corruption.

After Calero’s speech, Ainsworth said Meneses accompanied Calero and about 20 people to dinner and picked up the entire tab, according to a more detailed debriefing of Ainsworth by the FBI.

Concerned about this relationship, Ainsworth said he was told by Renato Pena, an FDN leader in the San Francisco area, that “the FDN is involved in drug smuggling with the aid of Norwin Meneses who also buys arms for Enrique Bermudez, a leader of the FDN.” Bermudez was then the top Contra military commander.

Corroborating Account

Pena, who himself was convicted on federal drug charges in 1984, gave a similar account to the Drug Enforcement Administration. According to a 1998 report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Bromwich, “When debriefed by the DEA in the early 1980s, Pena said that the CIA was allowing the Contras to fly drugs into the United States, sell them, and keep the proceeds.

“Pena stated that he was present on many occasions when Meneses telephoned Bermudez in Honduras. Meneses told Pena of Bermudez’s requests for such things as gun silencers (which Pena said Meneses obtained in Los Angeles), cross bows, and other military equipment for the Contras. Pena believed that Meneses would sometimes transport certain of these items himself to Central America, and other times would have contacts in Los Angeles and Miami send cargo to Honduras, where the authorities were cooperating with the Contras. Pena believed Meneses had contact with Bermudez from about 1981 or 1982 through the mid-1980s.”

Bromwich’s report then added, “Pena said he was one of the couriers Meneses used to deliver drug money to a Colombian known as ‘Carlos’ in Los Angeles and return to San Francisco with cocaine. Pena made six to eight trips, with anywhere from $600,000 to nearly $1 million, and brought back six to eight kilos of cocaine each time. Pena said Meneses was moving hundreds of kilos a week. ‘Carlos’ once told Pena, ‘We’re helping your cause with this drug thing we are helping your organization a lot.”

Ainsworth also said he tried to alert Oliver North in 1985 about the troubling connections between the Contra movement and cocaine traffickers but that North turned a deaf ear.

“In the spring some friends of mine and I went back to the White House staff but we were put off by Ollie North and others on the staff who really don’t want to know all what’s going on,” Ainsworth told Russoniello.

When I first spoke with Ainsworth in September 1985 at a coffee shop in San Francisco, he asked for confidentiality, which I granted. However, since the documents released by the National Archives include him describing his conversations with me, that confidentiality no longer applies. Ainsworth also spoke with Webb for his 1996 San Jose Mercury-News series under the pseudonym “David Morrison.”

Though I found Ainsworth to be generally reliable, some of his depictions of our conversations contained mild exaggerations or confusion over details, such as his claim that I called him from Costa Rica in January 1986 and told him that the Contra-cocaine story that I had been working on with my AP colleague Brian Barger “never hit the papers because it was suppressed by the Associated Press due to political pressure primarily from the CIA.”

In reality, Barger and I returned from Costa Rica in fall 1985, wrote our story about the Contras’ involvement in cocaine smuggling, and pushed it onto the AP wire in December though in a reduced form because of resistance from some senior AP news executives who were supportive of President Reagan’s foreign policies. The CIA, the White House and other agencies of the Reagan administration did seek to discredit our story, but they did not prevent its publication.

An Overriding Hostility

The Reagan administration’s neglect of Ainsworth’s insights reflected the overriding hostility toward any information even from a Republican activist like Ainsworth that put the Contras in a negative light. In early 1987, when Ainsworth spoke with U.S. Attorney Russoniello and the FBI, the Reagan administration was in full damage-control mode, trying to tamp down the Iran-Contra disclosures about Oliver North diverting profits from secret arms sales to Iran to the Contra war.

Fears that the Iran-Contra scandal could lead to Reagan’s impeachment made it even less likely that the Justice Department would pursue an investigation into drug ties implicating the Contra leadership. Ainsworth’s information was simply passed on to Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh whose inquiry was already overwhelmed by the task of sorting out the convoluted Iran transactions.

Publicly, the Reagan team continued dumping on the Contra-cocaine allegations and playing the find-any-possible-reason-to-reject-a-witness game. The major news media went along, leading to much mainstream ridicule of a 1989 investigative report by Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, who uncovered more drug connections implicating the Contras and the Reagan administration.

Only occasionally, such as when the George H.W. Bush administration needed witnesses to convict Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega did the Contra-cocaine evidence pop onto Official Washington’s radar.

During Noriega’s drug-trafficking trial in 1991, U.S. prosecutors called as a witness Colombian Medellin cartel kingpin Carlos Lehder, who, along with implicating Noriega, testified that the cartel had given $10 million to the Contras, an allegation first unearthed by Sen. Kerry. “The Kerry hearings didn’t get the attention they deserved at the time,” a Washington Post editorial on Nov. 27, 1991, acknowledged. “The Noriega trial brings this sordid aspect of the Nicaraguan engagement to fresh public attention.”

But the Post offered its readers no explanation for why Kerry’s hearings had been largely ignored, with the Post itself a leading culprit in this journalistic misfeasance. Nor did the Post and the other leading newspapers use the opening created by the Noriega trial to do anything to rectify their past neglect.

Everything quickly returned to the status quo in which the desired perception of the noble Contras trumped the clear reality of their criminal activities. Instead of recognizing the skewed moral compass of the Reagan administration, Congress was soon falling over itself to attach Reagan’s name to as many public buildings and facilities as possible, including Washington’s National Airport.

Meanwhile, those of us in journalism who had exposed the national security crimes of the 1980s saw our careers mostly sink or go sideways. We were regarded as “pariahs” in our profession.

As for me, shortly after the Iran-Contra scandal broke wide open in fall 1986, I accepted a job at Newsweek, one of the many mainstream news outlets that had long ignored Contra-connected scandals and briefly thought it needed to bolster its coverage. But I soon discovered that senior editors remained hostile toward the Iran-Contra story and related spinoff scandals, including the Contra-cocaine mess.

After losing battle after battle with my Newsweek editors, I departed the magazine in June 1990 to write a book (called Fooling America) about the decline of the Washington press corps and the parallel rise of a new generation of government propagandists.

I was also hired by PBS Frontline to investigate whether there had been a prequel to the Iran-Contra scandal, whether those arms-for-hostage deals in the mid-1980s had been preceded by contacts between Reagan’s 1980 campaign staff and Iran, which was then holding 52 Americans hostage and essentially destroying Jimmy Carter’s reelection hopes. [For more on that topic, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Finding New Ways

In 1995, frustrated by the growing triviality of American journalism, and acting on the advice of and with the assistance of my oldest son Sam, I turned to a new medium and launched the Internet’s first investigative news magazine, known as Consortiumnews.com. The Web site became a way for me to put out well-reported stories that my former mainstream colleagues ignored or mocked.

So, when Gary Webb called me in 1996 to talk about his upcoming series reviving the Contra-cocaine story, I explained some of this tortured history and urged him to make sure that his editors were firmly behind him. He sounded perplexed at my advice and assured me that he had the solid support of his editors.

When Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series finally appeared in late August 1996, it initially drew little attention. The major national news outlets applied their usual studied indifference to a topic that they had already judged unworthy of serious attention.

But Webb’s story proved hard to ignore. First, unlike the work that Barger and I did for AP in the mid-1980s, Webb’s series wasn’t just a story about drug traffickers in Central America and their protectors in Washington. It was about the on-the-ground consequences, inside the United States, of that drug trafficking, how the lives of Americans were blighted and destroyed as the collateral damage of a U.S. foreign policy initiative.

In other words, there were real-life American victims, and they were concentrated in African-American communities. That meant the ever-sensitive issue of race had been injected into the controversy. Anger from black communities spread quickly to the Congressional Black Caucus, which started demanding answers.

Secondly, the San Jose Mercury-News, which was the local newspaper for Silicon Valley, had posted documents and audio on its state-of-the-art Internet site. That way, readers could examine much of the documentary support for the series.

It also meant that the traditional “gatekeeper” role of the major newspapers, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times, was under assault. If a regional paper like the Mercury-News could finance a major journalistic investigation like this one, and circumvent the judgments of the editorial boards at the Big Three, then there might be a tectonic shift in the power relations of the U.S. news media. There could be a breakdown of the established order.

This combination of factors led to the next phase of the Contra-cocaine battle: the “get-Gary-Webb” counterattack. Soon, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Los Angeles Times were lining up like some tag-team wrestlers taking turns pummeling Webb and his story.

On Oct. 4, 1996, The Washington Post published a front-page article knocking down Webb’s series, although acknowledging that some Contra operatives did help the cocaine cartels. The Post’s approach fit with the Big Media’s cognitive dissonance on the topic: first, the Post called the Contra-cocaine allegations old news, “even CIA personnel testified to Congress they knew that those covert operations involved drug traffickers,” the Post said, and second, the Post minimized the importance of the one Contra smuggling channel that Webb had highlighted in his series, saying it had not “played a major role in the emergence of crack.”

To add to the smug hoo-hah treatment that was enveloping Webb and his story, the Post published a sidebar story dismissing African-Americans as prone to “conspiracy fears.”

Next, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times weighed in with lengthy articles castigating Webb and “Dark Alliance.” The big newspapers made much of the CIA’s internal reviews in 1987 and 1988, almost a decade earlier, that supposedly had cleared the spy agency of any role in Contra-cocaine smuggling.

But the first ominous sign for the CIA’s cover-up emerged on Oct. 24, 1996, when CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz conceded before the Senate Intelligence Committee that the first CIA probe had lasted only 12 days, and the second only three days. He promised a more thorough review.

Mocking Webb

But Webb had already crossed over from being treated as a serious journalist to becoming a target of ridicule. Influential Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz mocked Webb for saying in a book proposal that he would explore the possibility that the Contra war was primarily a business to its participants. “Oliver Stone, check your voice mail,” Kurtz smirked.

Yet, Webb’s suspicion was no conspiracy theory. Indeed, Oliver North’s chief Contra emissary, Rob Owen, had made the same point in a March 17, 1986 message about the Contra leadership. “Few of the so-called leaders of the movement . . . really care about the boys in the field,” Owen wrote. “THIS WAR HAS BECOME A BUSINESS TO MANY OF THEM.” [Emphasis in original.]

Ainsworth and other pro-Contra activists were reaching the same conclusion, that the Contra leadership was skimming money from the supply lines and padding their personal wealth with proceeds from the drug trade.

According to a Jan. 21, 1987 interview report by the FBI, Ainsworth said he had “made inquiries in the local San Francisco Nicaraguan community and wondered among his acquaintances what Adolfo Calero and the other people in the FDN movement were doing and the word that he received back is that they were probably engaged in cocaine smuggling.”

In other words, Webb was right about the suspicion that the Contra movement had become less a cause than a business to many of its participants. Even Oliver North’s emissary reported on that reality. But truthfulness had ceased to be relevant in the media’s hazing of Gary Webb.

In another double standard, while Webb was held to the strictest standards of journalism, it was entirely all right for Kurtz, the supposed arbiter of journalistic integrity who was a longtime fixture on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” to make judgments based on ignorance. Kurtz would face no repercussions for mocking a fellow journalist who was factually correct.

The Big Three’s assault, combined with their disparaging tone, had a predictable effect on the executives of the Mercury-News. As it turned out, Webb’s confidence in his editors had been misplaced. By early 1997, executive editor Jerry Ceppos, who had his own corporate career to worry about, was in retreat.

On May 11, 1997, Ceppos published a front-page column saying the series “fell short of my standards.” He criticized the stories because they “strongly implied CIA knowledge” of Contra connections to U.S. drug dealers who were manufacturing crack cocaine. “We did not have enough proof that top CIA officials knew of the relationship,” Ceppos wrote.

Ceppos was wrong about the proof, of course. At AP, before we published our first Contra-cocaine article in 1985, Barger and I had known that the CIA and Reagan’s White House were aware of the Contra-cocaine problem at senior levels. One of our sources was on Reagan’s National Security Council staff.

However, Ceppos recognized that he and his newspaper were facing a credibility crisis brought on by the harsh consensus delivered by the Big Three, a judgment that had quickly solidified into conventional wisdom throughout the major news media and inside Knight-Ridder, Inc., which owned the Mercury-News. The only career-saving move — career-saving for Ceppos even if career-destroying for Webb — was to jettison Webb and the Contra-cocaine investigative project.

A ‘Vindication’

The big newspapers and the Contras’ defenders celebrated Ceppos’s retreat as vindication of their own dismissal of the Contra-cocaine stories. In particular, Kurtz seemed proud that his demeaning of Webb now had the endorsement of Webb’s editor.

Ceppos next pulled the plug on the Mercury-News’ continuing Contra-cocaine investigation and reassigned Webb to a small office in Cupertino, California, far from his family. Webb resigned from the paper in disgrace. [See Consortiumnews.com’s Hung Out to Dry.”]

For undercutting Webb and other Mercury-News reporters working on the Contra-cocaine project — some of whom were facing personal danger in Central America — Ceppos was lauded by the American Journalism Review and received the 1997 national Ethics in Journalism Award by the Society of Professional Journalists.

While Ceppos won raves, Webb watched his career collapse and his marriage break up. Still, Gary Webb had set in motion internal government investigations that would bring to the surface long-hidden facts about how the Reagan administration had conducted the Contra war.

The CIA published the first part of Inspector General Hitz’s findings on Jan. 29, 1998. Though the CIA’s press release for the report criticized Webb and defended the CIA, Hitz’s Volume One admitted that not only were many of Webb’s allegations true but that he actually understated the seriousness of the Contra-drug crimes and the CIA’s knowledge of them.

Hitz conceded that cocaine smugglers played a significant early role in the Contra movement and that the CIA intervened to block an image-threatening 1984 federal investigation into a San Francisco-based drug ring with suspected ties to the Contras, the so-called “Frogman Case.”

After Volume One was released, I called Webb (whom I had spent some time with since his series was published). I chided him for indeed getting the story “wrong.” He had understated how serious the problem of Contra-cocaine trafficking had been, I said.

It was a form of gallows humor for the two of us, since nothing had changed in the way the major newspapers treated the Contra-cocaine issue. They focused only on the press release that continued to attack Webb, while ignoring the incriminating information that could be found in the full report. All I could do was highlight those admissions at Consortiumnews.com, which sadly had a much, much smaller readership than the Big Three.

The major U.S. news media also looked the other way on other startling disclosures.

On May 7, 1998, for instance, Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, introduced into the Congressional Record a Feb. 11, 1982 letter of understanding between the CIA and the Justice Department. The letter, which had been requested by CIA Director William Casey, freed the CIA from legal requirements that it must report drug smuggling by CIA assets, a provision that covered the Nicaraguan Contras and the Afghan mujahedeen.

In other words, early in those two covert wars, the CIA leadership wanted to make sure that its geopolitical objectives would not be complicated by a legal requirement to turn in its client forces for drug trafficking.

Justice Denied

The next break in the long-running Contra-cocaine cover-up was a report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Bromwich. Given the hostile climate surrounding Webb’s series, Bromwich’s report also opened with criticism of Webb. But, like the CIA’s Volume One, the contents revealed new details about serious government wrongdoing.

According to evidence cited by Bromwich, the Reagan administration knew almost from the outset of the Contra war that cocaine traffickers permeated the paramilitary operation. The administration also did next to nothing to expose or stop the crimes.

Bromwich’s report revealed example after example of leads not followed, corroborated witnesses disparaged, official law-enforcement investigations sabotaged, and even the CIA facilitating the work of drug traffickers.

The report showed that the Contras and their supporters ran several parallel drug-smuggling operations, not just the one at the center of Webb’s series. The report also found that the CIA shared little of its information about Contra drugs with law-enforcement agencies and on three occasions disrupted cocaine-trafficking investigations that threatened the Contras.

As well as depicting a more widespread Contra-drug operation than Webb (or Barger and I) had understood, the Justice Department report provided some important corroboration about Nicaraguan drug smuggler Norwin Meneses, a key figure in Gary Webb’s series and Adolfo Calero’s friend as described by Dennis Ainsworth.

Bromwich cited U.S. government informants who supplied detailed information about Meneses’s drug operation and his financial assistance to the Contras. For instance, Renato Pena, the money-and-drug courier for Meneses, said that in the early 1980s the CIA allowed the Contras to fly drugs into the United States, sell them, and keep the proceeds. Pena, the FDN’s northern California representative, said the drug trafficking was forced on the Contras by the inadequate levels of U.S. government assistance.

The Justice Department report also disclosed repeated examples of the CIA and U.S. embassies in Central America discouraging DEA investigations, including one into Contra-cocaine shipments moving through the international airport in El Salvador. Bromwich said secrecy trumped all.

“We have no doubt that the CIA and the U.S. Embassy were not anxious for the DEA to pursue its investigation at the airport,” he wrote.

Bromwich also described the curious case of how a DEA pilot helped a CIA asset escape from Costa Rican authorities in 1989 after the man, American farmer John Hull, had been charged in connection with Contra-cocaine trafficking. [See Consortiumnews.com’sJohn Hull’s Great Escape.”]

Hull’s ranch in northern Costa Rica had been the site of Contra camps for attacking Nicaragua from the south. For years, Contra-connected witnesses also said Hull’s property was used for the transshipment of cocaine en route to the United States, but those accounts were brushed aside by the Reagan administration and disparaged in major U.S. newspapers.

Yet, according to Bromwich’s report, the DEA took the accounts seriously enough to prepare a research report on the evidence in November 1986. One informant described Colombian cocaine off-loaded at an airstrip on Hull’s ranch.

The drugs were then concealed in a shipment of frozen shrimp and transported to the United States. The alleged Costa Rican shipper was Frigorificos de Puntarenas, a firm controlled by Cuban-American Luis Rodriguez. Like Hull, however, Frigorificos had friends in high places. In 1985-86, the State Department had selected the shrimp company to handle $261,937 in non-lethal assistance earmarked for the Contras.

Hull also remained a man with powerful protectors. Even after Costa Rican authorities brought drug charges against him, influential Americans, including Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Indiana, demanded that Hull be let out of jail pending trial. Then, in July 1989 with the help of a DEA pilot — and possibly a DEA agent as well — Hull managed to fly out of Costa Rica to Haiti and then to the United States.

Despite these startling new disclosures, the big newspapers still showed no inclination to read beyond the criticism of Webb in the press release.

Major Disclosures

By fall 1998, Washington was obsessed with President Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, which made it easier to ignore even more stunning Contra-cocaine disclosures in the CIA’s Volume Two, published on Oct. 8, 1998.

In the report, CIA Inspector General Hitz identified more than 50 Contras and Contra-related entities implicated in the drug trade. He also detailed how the Reagan administration had protected these drug operations and frustrated federal investigations throughout the 1980s.

According to Volume Two, the CIA knew the criminal nature of its Contra clients from the start of the war against Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. The earliest Contra force, called the Nicaraguan Revolutionary Democratic Alliance (ADREN) or the 15th of September Legion, had chosen “to stoop to criminal activities in order to feed and clothe their cadre,” according to a June 1981 draft of a CIA field report.

According to a September 1981 cable to CIA headquarters, two ADREN members made the first delivery of drugs to Miami in July 1981. ADREN’s leaders included Enrique Bermudez and other early Contras who would later direct the major Contra army, the CIA-organized FDN which was based in Honduras, along Nicaragua’s northern border.

Throughout the war, Bermudez remained the top Contra military commander. The CIA later corroborated the allegations about ADREN’s cocaine trafficking, but insisted that Bermudez had opposed the drug shipments to the United States that went ahead nonetheless.

The truth about Bermudez’s supposed objections to drug trafficking, however, was less clear. According to Hitz’s Volume One, Bermudez enlisted Norwin Meneses the Nicaraguan cocaine smuggler, the friend of Adolfo Calero, and a key figure in Webb’s series to raise money and buy supplies for the Contras.

Volume One had quoted another Nicaraguan trafficker, Danilo Blandon, a Meneses associate (and another lead character in Webb’s series), as telling Hitz’s investigators that he (Blandon) and Meneses flew to Honduras to meet with Bermudez in 1982. At the time, Meneses’s criminal activities were well-known in the Nicaraguan exile community, but Bermudez told the cocaine smugglers that “the ends justify the means” in raising money for the Contras.

After the Bermudez meeting, Meneses and Blandon were briefly arrested by Honduran police who confiscated $100,000 that the police suspected was to be a payment for a drug transaction. The Contras intervened, gained freedom for the two traffickers and got them their money back by saying the cash, which indeed was for a cocaine purchase in Bolivia, belonged to the Contras.

There were other indications of Bermudez’s drug-smuggling complicity. In February 1988, another Nicaraguan exile linked to the drug trade accused Bermudez of participation in narcotics trafficking, according to Hitz’s report. After the Contra war ended, Bermudez returned to Managua, Nicaragua, where he was shot to death on Feb. 16, 1991. The murder has never been solved.

The Southern Front

Along the Southern Front, the Contras’ military operations in Costa Rica on Nicaragua’s southern border, the CIA’s drug evidence centered on the forces of Eden Pastora, another top Contra commander. But Hitz discovered that the U.S. government may have made the drug situation worse, not better.

Hitz revealed that the CIA put an admitted drug operative, known by his CIA pseudonym “Ivan Gomez,” in a supervisory position over Pastora. Hitz reported that the CIA discovered Gomez’s drug history in 1987 when Gomez failed a security review on drug-trafficking questions.

In internal CIA interviews, Gomez admitted that in March or April 1982, he helped family members who were engaged in drug trafficking and money laundering. In one case, Gomez said he assisted his brother and brother-in-law transporting cash from New York City to Miami. He admitted he “knew this act was illegal.”

Later, Gomez expanded on his admission, describing how his family members had fallen $2 million into debt and had gone to Miami to run a money-laundering center for drug traffickers.

Gomez said “his brother had many visitors whom [Gomez] assumed to be in the drug trafficking business.” Gomez’s brother was arrested on drug charges in June 1982. Three months later, in September 1982, Gomez started his CIA assignment in Costa Rica.

Years later, convicted drug trafficker Carlos Cabezas alleged that in the early 1980s, Ivan Gomez was the CIA agent in Costa Rica who was overseeing drug-money donations to the Contras. Gomez “was to make sure the money was given to the right people [the Contras] and nobody was taking  . . .  profit they weren’t supposed to,” Cabezas stated publicly.

But the CIA sought to discredit Cabezas at the time because he had trouble identifying Gomez’s picture and put Gomez at one meeting in early 1982 before Gomez started his CIA assignment. While the CIA was able to fend off Cabezas’s allegations by pointing to these minor discrepancies, Hitz’s report revealed that the CIA was nevertheless aware of Gomez’s direct role in drug-money laundering, a fact the agency hid from Sen. Kerry in his investigation during the late 1980s.

There was also more to know about Gomez. In November 1985, the FBI learned from an informant that Gomez’s two brothers had been large-scale cocaine importers, with one brother arranging shipments from Bolivia’s infamous drug kingpin Roberto Suarez.

Suarez already was known as a financier of right-wing causes. In 1980, with the support of Argentina’s hard-line anticommunist military regime, Suarez bankrolled a coup in Bolivia that ousted the elected left-of-center government. The violent putsch became known as the Cocaine Coup because it made Bolivia the region’s first narco-state.

By protecting cocaine shipments headed north, Bolivia’s government helped transform Colombia’s Medellin cartel from a struggling local operation into a giant corporate-style business for delivering vast quantities of cocaine to the U.S. market.

Flush with cash in the early 1980s, Suarez invested more than $30 million in various right-wing paramilitary operations, including the Contra forces in Central America, according to U.S. Senate testimony by an Argentine intelligence officer, Leonardo Sanchez-Reisse.

In 1987, Sanchez-Reisse said the Suarez drug money was laundered through front companies in Miami before going to Central America. There, other Argentine intelligence officers, veterans of the Bolivian coup, trained the Contras in the early 1980s, even before the CIA arrived to first assist with the training and later take over the Contra operation from the Argentines.

Inspector General Hitz added another piece to the mystery of the Bolivian-Contra connection. One Contra fund-raiser, Jose Orlando Bolanos, boasted that the Argentine government was supporting his Contra activities, according to a May 1982 cable to CIA headquarters. Bolanos made the statement during a meeting with undercover DEA agents in Florida. He even offered to introduce them to his Bolivian cocaine supplier.

Despite all this suspicious drug activity centered around Ivan Gomez and the Contras, the CIA insisted that it did not unmask Gomez until 1987, when he failed a security check and confessed his role in his family’s drug business.

The CIA official who interviewed Gomez concluded that “Gomez directly participated in illegal drug transactions, concealed participation in illegal drug transactions, and concealed information about involvement in illegal drug activity,” Hitz wrote.

But senior CIA officials still protected Gomez. They refused to refer the Gomez case to the Justice Department, citing the 1982 agreement that spared the CIA from a legal obligation to report narcotics crimes by people collaborating with the CIA who were not formal agency employees. Gomez was an independent contractor who worked for the CIA but was not officially on staff. The CIA eased Gomez out of the agency in February 1988, without alerting law enforcement or the congressional oversight committees.

When questioned about the case nearly a decade later, one senior CIA official who had supported the gentle treatment of Gomez had second thoughts. “It is a striking commentary on me and everyone that this guy’s involvement in narcotics didn’t weigh more heavily on me or the system,” the official told Hitz’s investigators.

Drug Path to the White House

A Medellin drug connection arose in another section of Hitz’s report, when he revealed evidence suggesting that some Contra trafficking may have been sanctioned by Reagan’s National Security Council. The protagonist for this part of the Contra-cocaine mystery was Moises Nunez, a Cuban-American who worked for Oliver North’s NSC Contra-support operation and for two drug-connected seafood importers, Ocean Hunter in Miami and Frigorificos De Puntarenas in Costa Rica.

Frigorificos De Puntarenas was created in the early 1980s as a cover for drug-money laundering, according to sworn testimony by two of the firm’s principals, Carlos Soto and Medellin cartel accountant Ramon Milian Rodriguez. (It was also the company implicated by a DEA informant in moving cocaine from John Hull’s ranch to the United States.)

Drug allegations were swirling around Moises Nunez by the mid-1980s. Indeed, his operation was one of the targets of my and Barger’s AP investigation in 1985. Finally reacting to the suspicions, the CIA questioned Nunez about his alleged cocaine trafficking on March 25, 1987. He responded by pointing the finger at his NSC superiors.

“Nunez revealed that since 1985, he had engaged in a clandestine relationship with the National Security Council,” Hitz reported, adding: “Nunez refused to elaborate on the nature of these actions, but indicated it was difficult to answer questions relating to his involvement in narcotics trafficking because of the specific tasks he had performed at the direction of the NSC. Nunez refused to identify the NSC officials with whom he had been involved.”

After this first round of questioning, CIA headquarters authorized an additional session, but then senior CIA officials reversed the decision. There would be no further efforts at “debriefing Nunez.”

Hitz noted that “the cable [from headquarters] offered no explanation for the decision” to stop the Nunez interrogation. But the CIA’s Central American Task Force chief Alan Fiers Jr. said the Nunez-NSC drug lead was not pursued “because of the NSC connection and the possibility that this could be somehow connected to the Private Benefactor program [the Contra money handled by the NSC’s Oliver North] a decision was made not to pursue this matter.”

Joseph Fernandez, who had been the CIA’s station chief in Costa Rica, confirmed to congressional Iran-Contra investigators that Nunez “was involved in a very sensitive operation” for North’s “Enterprise.” The exact nature of that NSC-authorized activity has never been divulged.

At the time of the Nunez-NSC drug admissions and his truncated interrogation, the CIA’s acting director was Robert Gates, who nearly two decades later became President George W. Bush’s second secretary of defense, a position he retained under President Barack Obama.

Drug Record

The CIA also worked directly with other drug-connected Cuban-Americans on the Contra project, Hitz found. One of Nunez’s Cuban-American associates, Felipe Vidal, had a criminal record as a narcotics trafficker in the 1970s. But the CIA still hired him to serve as a logistics coordinator for the Contras, Hitz reported.

The CIA also learned that Vidal’s drug connections were not only in the past. A December 1984 cable to CIA headquarters revealed Vidal’s ties to Rene Corvo, another Cuban-American suspected of drug trafficking. Corvo was working with Cuban anticommunist Frank Castro, who was viewed as a Medellin cartel representative within the Contra movement.

There were other narcotics links to Vidal. In January 1986, the DEA in Miami seized 414 pounds of cocaine concealed in a shipment of yucca that was going from a Contra operative in Costa Rica to Ocean Hunter, the company where Vidal (and Moises Nunez) worked. Despite the evidence, Vidal remained a CIA employee as he collaborated with Frank Castro’s assistant, Rene Corvo, in raising money for the Contras, according to a CIA memo in June 1986.

By fall 1986, Sen. Kerry had heard enough rumors about Vidal to demand information about him as part of his congressional inquiry into Contra drugs. But the CIA withheld the derogatory information in its files. On Oct. 15, 1986, Kerry received a briefing from the CIA’s Alan Fiers, who didn’t mention Vidal’s drug arrests and conviction in the 1970s.

But Vidal was not yet in the clear. In 1987, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami began investigating Vidal, Ocean Hunter, and other Contra-connected entities. This prosecutorial attention worried the CIA. The CIA’s Latin American division felt it was time for a security review of Vidal. But on Aug. 5, 1987, the CIA’s security office blocked the review for fear that the Vidal drug information “could be exposed during any future litigation.”

As expected, the U.S. Attorney’s Office did request documents about “Contra-related activities” by Vidal, Ocean Hunter, and 16 other entities. The CIA advised the prosecutor that “no information had been found regarding Ocean Hunter,” a statement that was clearly false. The CIA continued Vidal’s employment as an adviser to the Contra movement until 1990, virtually the end of the Contra war.

Hitz also revealed that drugs tainted the highest levels of the Honduran-based FDN, the largest Contra army. Hitz found that Juan Rivas, a Contra commander who rose to be chief of staff, admitted that he had been a cocaine trafficker in Colombia before the war.

The CIA asked Rivas, known as El Quiche, about his background after the DEA began suspecting that Rivas might be an escaped convict from a Colombian prison. In interviews with CIA officers, Rivas acknowledged that he had been arrested and convicted of packaging and transporting cocaine for the drug trade in Barranquilla, Colombia. After several months in prison, Rivas said, he escaped and moved to Central America, where he joined the Contras.

Defending Rivas, CIA officials insisted that there was no evidence that Rivas engaged in trafficking while with the Contras. But one CIA cable noted that he lived an expensive lifestyle, even keeping a $100,000 Thoroughbred horse at the Contra camp. Contra military commander Bermudez later attributed Rivas’s wealth to his ex-girlfriend’s rich family. But a CIA cable in March 1989 added that “some in the FDN may have suspected at the time that the father-in-law was engaged in drug trafficking.”

Still, the CIA moved quickly to protect Rivas from exposure and possible extradition to Colombia. In February 1989, CIA headquarters asked that the DEA take no action “in view of the serious political damage to the U.S. Government that could occur should the information about Rivas become public.”

Rivas was eased out of the Contra leadership with an explanation of poor health. With U.S. government help, he was allowed to resettle in Miami. Colombia was not informed about his fugitive status.

Another senior FDN official implicated in the drug trade was its chief spokesman in Honduras, Arnoldo Jose “Frank” Arana. The drug allegations against Arana dated back to 1983 when a federal narcotics task force put him under criminal investigation because of plans “to smuggle 100 kilograms of cocaine into the United States from South America.” On Jan. 23, 1986, the FBI reported that Arana and his brothers were involved in a drug-smuggling enterprise, although Arana was not charged.

Arana sought to clear up another set of drug suspicions in 1989 by visiting the DEA in Honduras with a business associate, Jose Perez. Arana’s association with Perez, however, only raised new alarms. If “Arana is mixed up with the Perez brothers, he is probably dirty,” the DEA said.

Drug Airlines

Through their ownership of an air services company called SETCO, the Perez brothers were associated with Juan Matta-Ballesteros, a major cocaine kingpin connected to the 1985 torture-murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, according to reports by the DEA and U.S. Customs. Hitz reported that someone at the CIA scribbled a note on a DEA cable about Arana stating: “Arnold Arana . . . still active and working, we [CIA] may have a problem.”

Despite its drug ties to Matta-Ballesteros, SETCO emerged as the principal company for ferrying supplies to the Contras in Honduras. During congressional Iran-Contra hearings, FDN political leader Adolfo Calero testified that SETCO was paid from bank accounts controlled by Oliver North. SETCO also received $185,924 from the State Department for delivering supplies to the Contras in 1986. Furthermore, Hitz found that other air transport companies used by the Contras were implicated in the cocaine trade as well.

Even FDN leaders suspected that they were shipping supplies to Central America aboard planes that might be returning with drugs. Mario Calero, Adolfo Calero’s brother and the chief of Contra logistics, grew so uneasy about one air freight company that he notified U.S. law enforcement that the FDN only chartered the planes for the flights south, not the return flights north.

Hitz found that some drug pilots simply rotated from one sector of the Contra operation to another. Donaldo Frixone, who had a drug record in the Dominican Republic, was hired by the CIA to fly Contra missions from 1983 to 1985. In September 1986, however, Frixone was implicated in smuggling 19,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States. In late 1986 or early 1987, he went to work for Vortex, another U.S.-paid Contra supply company linked to the drug trade.

By the time that Hitz’s Volume Two was published in fall 1998, the CIA’s defense against Webb’s series had shrunk to a fig leaf: that the CIA did not conspire with the Contras to raise money through cocaine trafficking. But Hitz made clear that the Contra war took precedence over law enforcement and that the CIA withheld evidence of Contra crimes from the Justice Department, Congress, and even the CIA’s own analytical division.

Besides tracing the evidence of Contra-drug trafficking through the decade-long Contra war, the inspector general interviewed senior CIA officers who acknowledged that they were aware of the Contra-drug problem but didn’t want its exposure to undermine the struggle to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.

According to Hitz, the CIA had “one overriding priority: to oust the Sandinista government. . . . [CIA officers] were determined that the various difficulties they encountered not be allowed to prevent effective implementation of the Contra program.” One CIA field officer explained, “The focus was to get the job done, get the support and win the war.”

Hitz also recounted complaints from CIA analysts that CIA operations officers handling the Contras hid evidence of Contra-drug trafficking even from the CIA’s analysts.

Because of the withheld evidence, the CIA analysts incorrectly concluded in the mid-1980s that “only a handful of Contras might have been involved in drug trafficking.” That false assessment was passed on to Congress and to major news organizations, serving as an important basis for denouncing Gary Webb and his “Dark Alliance” series in 1996.

CIA Admission

Although Hitz’s report was an extraordinary admission of institutional guilt by the CIA, it went almost unnoticed by the big American newspapers.

On Oct. 10, 1998, two days after Hitz’s Volume Two was posted on the CIA’s Web site, the New York Times published a brief article that continued to deride Webb but acknowledged the Contra-drug problem may have been worse than earlier understood. Several weeks later, the Washington Post weighed in with a story that simply missed the point of the CIA’s confession. Though having assigned 17 journalists to tear down Webb’s reporting, the Los Angeles Times chose not to publish a story on the release of Hitz’s Volume Two.

In 2000, the House Intelligence Committee grudgingly acknowledged that the stories about Reagan’s CIA protecting Contra drug traffickers were true. The committee released a report citing classified testimony from CIA Inspector General Britt Snider (Hitz’s successor) admitting that the spy agency had turned a blind eye to evidence of Contra-drug smuggling and generally treated drug smuggling through Central America as a low priority.

“In the end the objective of unseating the Sandinistas appears to have taken precedence over dealing properly with potentially serious allegations against those with whom the agency was working,” Snider said, adding that the CIA did not treat the drug allegations in “a consistent, reasoned or justifiable manner.”

The House committee, then controlled by Republicans, still downplayed the significance of the Contra-cocaine scandal, but the panel acknowledged, deep inside its report, that in some cases, “CIA employees did nothing to verify or disprove drug trafficking information, even when they had the opportunity to do so. In some of these, receipt of a drug allegation appeared to provoke no specific response, and business went on as usual.”

Like the release of Hitz’s report in 1998, the admissions by Snider and the House committee drew virtually no media attention in 2000, except for a few articles on the Internet, including one at Consortiumnews.com.

Because of this journalistic misconduct by the Big Three newspapers, choosing to conceal their own neglect of the Contra-cocaine scandal and to protect the Reagan administration’s image, Webb’s reputation was never rehabilitated.

After his original “Dark Alliance” series was published in 1996, I joined Webb in a few speaking appearances on the West Coast, including one packed book talk at the Midnight Special bookstore in Santa Monica, California. For a time, Webb was treated as a celebrity on the American Left, but that gradually faded.

In our interactions during these joint appearances, I found Webb to be a regular guy who seemed to be holding up fairly well under the terrible pressure. He had landed an investigative job with a California state legislative committee. He also felt some measure of vindication when CIA Inspector General Hitz’s reports came out.

But Webb never could overcome the pain caused by his betrayal at the hands of his journalistic colleagues, his peers. In the years that followed, Webb was unable to find decent-paying work in his profession, the conventional wisdom remained that he had somehow been exposed as a journalistic fraud. His state job ended; his marriage fell apart; he struggled to pay bills; and he was faced with a forced move out of a house near Sacramento, California, and in with his mother.

On Dec. 9, 2004, the 49-year-old Webb typed out suicide notes to his ex-wife and his three children; laid out a certificate for his cremation; and taped a note on the door telling movers, who were coming the next morning, to instead call 911. Webb then took out his father’s pistol and shot himself in the head. The first shot was not lethal, so he fired once more.

Even with Webb’s death, the big newspapers that had played key roles in his destruction couldn’t bring themselves to show Webb any mercy. After Webb’s body was found, I received a call from a reporter for the Los Angeles Times who knew that I was one of Webb’s few journalistic colleagues who had defended him and his work.

I told the reporter that American history owed a great debt to Gary Webb because he had forced out important facts about Reagan-era crimes. But I added that the Los Angeles Times would be hard-pressed to write an honest obituary because the newspaper had ignored Hitz’s final report, which had largely vindicated Webb.

To my disappointment but not my surprise, I was correct. The Los Angeles Times ran a mean-spirited obituary that made no mention of either my defense of Webb, nor the CIA’s admissions in 1998. The obituary was republished in other newspapers, including the Washington Post.

In effect, Webb’s suicide enabled senior editors at the Big Three newspapers to breathe a little easier, one of the few people who understood the ugly story of the Reagan administration’s cover-up of the Contra-cocaine scandal and the U.S. media’s complicity was now silenced.

To this day, none of the journalists or media critics who participated in the destruction of Gary Webb has paid a price. None has faced the sort of humiliation that Webb had to endure. None had to experience that special pain of standing up for what is best in the profession of journalism, taking on a difficult story that seeks to hold powerful people accountable for serious crimes, and then being vilified by your own colleagues, the people that you expected to understand and appreciate what you had done.

On the contrary, many were rewarded with professional advancement and lucrative careers. For instance, for years, Howard Kurtz got to host the CNN program, “Reliable Sources,” which lectured journalists on professional standards. He was described in the program’s bio as “the nation’s premier media critic.” (His show later moved to Fox News, renamed “MediaBuzz.”)

But the Webb tragedy and the Contra-cocaine case remain relevant today because they underscore how the mainstream press cannot be trusted with decisions about what news is true and what is false. If such a Ministry of Truth had existed in the late 1990s, the dark chapter of the Reagan administration’s dealings with Nicaraguan drug traffickers would still be just a vague and easily dismissed rumor.

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Disgraced ex-NBC ‘fake news’ journalist Brian Williams on crusade against false reporting

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RT

Journalist Brian Williams has become the latest person to slam ‘fake news,’ claiming it influenced the US election. But there’s some irony in his apparent defense of quality journalism, as he was let go from his NBC gig last year for… reporting fake news.

“Fake news played a role in this election and continues to find a wide audience,” Williams said on MSNBC on Wednesday night.

He went on to mention retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn – President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for national security adviser – for promoting links to fake news stories on his Twitter account.

Those “gems,” as Williams called them, included claims that Hillary Clinton was involved in a child sex ring and that US President Barack Obama laundered money from Muslim terrorists.

But they say those in glass houses should not throw stones – and when it comes to spreading fake news, there is no denying that Williams has done the same.

The former anchor of NBC Nightly News was suspended without pay in 2015, eventually losing his job, after admitting that he had lied about a story in which three Chinook helicopters came under fire in Iraq in 2003.

Although Williams claimed that he was in one of the helicopters, it later emerged that he was actually traveling in a different helicopter, located about an hour behind the other three.

He was caught out after crew members from the helicopters that were actually hit came forward.

“I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another,” Williams told Stars and Stripesnewspaper in 2015.

Following Williams’ apology on his Nightly News program, NBC launched an internal investigation to look into other statements made by the journalist.

Although the results of the investigation were never made public, The Washington Post reported at the time that the Iraq claim was one of 11 “suspect statements” made by Williams.

Despite his problems at NBC, another station later gave Williams another chance, awarding him the position of chief breaking news anchor a few months later.

“I am fully aware of the second chance I have been given,” Williams told NBC’s ‘Today Show’ after being hired by MSNBC.

Meanwhile, the notion of ‘fake news’ continues to dominate headlines, with Hillary Clinton – the target of several false stories – calling the situation a “danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly” on Thursday.

“This is not about politics or partisanship,” Clinton said during a tribute to departing Senate minority leader Harry Reid. “Lives are at risk. Lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days to do their jobs, contribute to their communities.”

Clinton’s statements come after a fake news story alleging that she was running a child sex ring from the backrooms of a Washington DC pizzeria led to a dangerous incident inside the restaurant, after a man who believed the story began shooting a rifle in an effort to “self-investigate” the claim. The story, dubbed ‘Pizzagate,’ has led to the pizzeria’s staff and other nearby business owners receiving death threats.

Donald Trump fired the son of his national security adviser choice, Michael T. Flynn, on Tuesday, allegedly for his role in spreading the ‘Pizzagate’ scandal online.

Read more:

Washington Post admits article on ‘Russian propaganda’ & ‘fake news’ based on sham research

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Senior Israeli politician doesn’t like question about occupation, spits dummy

NOVANEWS

By: Antony loewenstein

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Yesterday I attended a press conference in Jerusalem with one of Israel’s leading politicians, Yesh Atid leader, Yair Lapid. He’s a serious contender to be the country’s next Prime Minister. Like most politicians in Israel, he hates Palestinians, wants them to disappear and largely refuses to condemn settlers or settlements. Welcome to Israel in 2016.

I asked the following question:

“You talked before about the idea that since Oslo, Israel has done little or nothing wrong but the truth is that 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the occupation, there are now 600,00 to 800,000 settlers, all of whom are regarded by international law as illegal. Is there not a deluded idea here that many Israeli politicians, including yourself, continue to believe that one can talk to the world about democracy, freedom and human rights while denying those things to millions of Palestinians and will there not come a time soon where you and other politicians will be treated like South African politicians during Apartheid?”

This was Lapid’s response (already on his party’s Facebook page, the only response they thought was important enough from the conference to quote in full, and the comments below the video are racist and nutty):

It was a depressing and dishonest answer. Furthermore, with a few notable exceptions, the vast majority of journalists in attendance were deferential to Lapid and asked him bland questions. Lapid is a man who proudly talks about building a wall around all Palestinians. Like in so many countries, most reporters rarely challenge establishment power; they’re afraid of losing access.

I was planning on releasing the video of Lapid’s response soon (I hadn’t posted anything online yet about my question and his response) when the Jerusalem Post called me last night and said they were going to run a story about it and would I like to comment? I’m not convinced it’s really a story but many Israelis and its politicians are deeply sensitive to any criticism.

I’ve been writing about Israel and Palestine since 2003, and visiting since 2005 (I now live in Jerusalem), and all that’s worsened is the extremism and vitriol of Israel supporters.

The Post story by Gil Hoffman is below. Note the predictably racist and crazy comments below the article. Soon after this story appeared, I started receiving racist messages from rabid Zionists. It’s a familiar pattern; criticise Israel and its occupation and upset the trolls:

International media outlets like The Guardian are responsible for discouraging the PA leadership from making concessions necessary to end their conflict with Israel, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said Monday in a meeting with the Foreign Press Association at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel.

Lapid responded to a question that he regarded as hostile from Antony Loewenstein, a Jerusalem-based freelance reporter who writes for the Guardian and other publications.

“You talked before about the idea that since Oslo, Israel has done little or nothing wrong, but the truth is that 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the occupation. There are now 600,000-800,000 settlers, all of whom are regarded by international law as illegal, including your good friends in Amona apparently,” Loewenstein’s question began.

“Is there not a deluded idea here that many Israeli politicians, including yourself, continue to believe that one can talk to the world about democracy, freedom and human rights while denying that to millions of Palestinians, and will there not come a time soon, in a year, five years, ten years, where you and other politicians will be treated like South African politicians during Apartheid?” he asked.

Lapid responded by saying that the question was full of errors and calling it the perfect example of how this is an era that is “post-truth and post-facts.”

“It’s a declared policy of Israel that we need to go to a two-state solution and the ones who refused it were the Palestinians,” Lapid said. “The ones who call Jews pigs and monkeys in their school books are the Palestinians. The problem is that the Palestinians are encouraged by the Guardian and others saying we don’t need to do anything in order to work for our future because the international community will call Israel an apartheid country.”

Lapid said that Israel is not an apartheid country but rather a law-abiding democracy, and that unlike the Palestinian leadership, Israel was making sure the Palestinians’ human rights are protected.

“Why don’t you go to the Palestinian Authority or to Gaza and ask them about women’s rights, gay rights, Christian rights,” Lapid told the reporter.

Loewenstein told The Jerusalem Post that he found Lapid’s answer “deeply disappointing and dishonest.” He said Lapid “showed little difference between himself and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and was unwilling to say anything of substance about the current Israeli leadership.”

Responding to another question about his defense of the people of Amona, Lapid said there was a difference between supporting them and showing them empathy.

“Their life’s dream is falling apart, and they’re not the enemy,” he said.

But Lapid told the crowd that he was still planning on voting against the settlements regulation bill, which he said would hurt Israel in the international community and harm the stature of the Supreme Court.

“We can’t allow this in a democratic country,” he said. “It would have a hard time passing, and if it did pass, it would be disqualified by the Supreme Court and rightly so.”

According to one source present at the event, reporters shouted at Lapid for repeatedly refusing to criticize the prime minister, as is his policy when speaking to English-language media. But Reuters bureau chief Luke Baker denied that anyone shouted at him. When asked how he was different from Netanyahu, he said that when it comes to separating from the Palestinians, he “means business.”

“Separating from the Palestinians is essential for Israel’s future, and if I am in a position to do it, I will, because I am a patriot,” he said.

Later, at a meeting of the Yesh Atid faction, Lapid strongly criticized Netanyahu in Hebrew for his initiative to make political appointments easier. He said Netanyahu was not making an effort to help the poor but was instead trying to help his political cronies.

“What should a young person in Kiryat Shmona or Kiryat Gat who studied for a degree think when they find out that what matters to get work is political connections?” Lapid asked. “[Netanyahu] forgot the citizens of the state, because all that matters to our politicians is politics and political patronage positions.”

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog also criticized Netanyahu in his Zionist Union faction meeting. Referring to an interview the prime minister gave on the American show 60 Minutes, he said he was glad Netanyahu still supports a two-state solution when he is speaking in English.

Herzog’s Zionist Union rival, MK Erel Margalit, slammed him in an Army Radio interview Monday, calling him “not relevant at all” and saying that he is “not the opposition to Netanyahu but his coalition in-waiting.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Senior Israeli politician doesn’t like question about occupation, spits dummy

NYT, WaPo Fake News Still Bringing Real Guns to Iraq, Killing Thousands

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By Robert Barsocchini 

Fake news propagated by the US government and collaborating organizations such as the New York Times and Washington Posthelped create an environment in which the US was able to illegally invade Iraq in 2003, killing at least one million and possibly upwards of two million people, including the deaths of some 4,500 US soldiers, according to a meta-study by Nobel-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Just this November, nearly 6,000 people were killed in Iraq thanks to the conflicts that are still raging due to the invasion (which is ongoing), and it was not an atypical month – even more were killed in October.

Regarding the fake news that laid the groundwork for the US war of aggression, award-winning journalist Robert Parry notes that, for example, Judith Miller of NYT and Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt “repeatedly stated the ‘fact’ of Iraq’s hidden WMD as flat fact and mocked anyone who doubted the ‘group think.’”

Parry also traces the use of fake news by these outlets and the government to the present, raising interesting legal questions about whether and how the individuals who perpetrate fake news should be punished, and to what extent they are protected by the US first amendment.

Trevor Timm of The Atlantic cites a Supreme Court decision which ruled that speech is protected unless it “is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action”.

According to the highest UN officials and many others (including most of the world), the invasion of Iraq was a lawless action, which would make statements directed to precipitating it ineligible for protection under US law.

The next question that arises would be how to punish the offenders of the illegal speech.  Sticking to US legal precedent, we may note that the US, at Nuremberg, executed Germans who it determined had issued fake news in service of creating the conditions for Germany to invade other nations.  And though the death penalty has since been eradicated in most of the world, it has not been in the US.

Parry notes that none of the fake-news peddlers have yet faced any legal recourse for their apparent crimes.  Hiatt, for example, “remains the Post’s editorial-page editor continuing to enforce ‘conventional wisdoms’ and to disparage those who deviate.”  Miller and others maintain similar positions.

People at these outlets have recently begun to express that there should be limits on fake news.  However, they have only made such statements in reference to others, not themselves, perhaps illustrating the level of regard they have for the thousands of US soldiers and million-plus Iraqis that have died and are dying thanks in part to the fake news they disseminate.

Posted in USA, IraqComments Off on NYT, WaPo Fake News Still Bringing Real Guns to Iraq, Killing Thousands

The Agenda of Corporate Media Is Regime Change in Syria ‘VIDEO’

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Independent journalist Eva Bartlett (who has done incredible work in Gaza as well) sets a smug Norwegian reporter straight during a UN Syria Mission press conference.

Russia Insider was started in September 2014 by a group of expats living in Russia who felt that coverage of Russia is biased and inaccurate. The mission of Russia Insider is media criticism and reform.

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2017 NDAA ups aid to Ukraine, gives arms to Syrian rebels & lets Trump sanction the world

NOVANEWS
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RT 

Congress has authorized $618.7 billion for the 2017 military budget. The bill ups aid to Ukraine by $50 million and allows the transfer of missiles to Syrian rebels. However, it omits controversial provisions about drafting women or religious exemptions for contractors.

The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed in the Senate on Thursday with 92 votes in favor and seven opposing. It already cleared the House last Friday in a 375-34 vote. With the annexes, appendices and the conference report harmonizing the two chambers’ versions, the final document is 3,076 pages long.

Absent from the NDAA is the proposal to allow female Americans to register for the Selective Service system, which replaced the Vietnam War-era draft but currently only applies to men aged 18-25. That proposal was sent to the Government Accountability Office for further study.

Lawmakers also abandoned the so-called Russell Amendment, which would have created a religious freedom exemption from the Obama administration executive order mandating nondiscrimination from federal contractors. Obama threatened to veto the bill with this amendment.

Buried in the bill, in Section 1224, was the provision to allow Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) to Syrian rebels appropriately vetted by US intelligence. The law requires the Pentagon and the State Department to file extensive documentation with Congress, including details of the weaponry provided, the recipient’s location and the intelligence assessment, including “a description of the alignment of such element within the broader conflict in Syria.” The report would need to include a justification for supplying the MANPADs, “including an explanation of the purpose and expected employment of such systems.”

“We appreciate the bicameral and bipartisan support in the US Congress for Ukraine in our fight against the ongoing Russian aggression,” Ukraine’s embassy in Washington said on Thursday, commenting on the fact that the NDAA increased military aid to the government in Kiev to $350 million, $50 million more than in 2016.

What could potentially have the biggest long-term impact is the provision allowing the application of the 2012 “Magnitsky Act” to anyone in the world, rather than just the Russian Federation and Moldova.

Sections 1261-65 authorize the US president to sanction anyone responsible for “extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals in any foreign country” who seek to expose illegal activity carried out by government officials” or to “obtain, exercise, defend, or promote internationally recognized human rights and freedoms.”

Authorized sanctions include denying entry to the US or revoking an existing US visa; seizure of any property and interests that are located in the US “or come within the possession or control of a United States person.” The provision would sunset six years after the NDAA’s enactment.

Of further interest are the provisions allowing the establishment of the US Cyber Command as a fully separate combat command (Section 923), capping the size of the National Security Council staff at 200 – down from 400 or so it currently employs (Section 1085).

The NDAA maintained the prohibition of using any funds to close the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or transfer any of the remaining 59 detainees onto US soil.

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The CIA report used as pretext for Iraq invasion

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RT 

The document summarizing the CIA’s purported knowledge of Iraqi chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs, produced in October 2002 and hidden from the public ever since, has finally been made public.

The CIA had previously released a heavily redacted version of the controversial National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) in 2004. Last year, transparency advocate John Greenwald made another FOIA request and received a declassified version of the document, which Vice News published this Thursday.

RAND Corporation, a government-connected think tank, also had access to the NIE. In a report published in December 2014, RAND analysts noted that the original CIA assessment contained many qualifiers about virtually everything, but as the document went up the chain of command, “the conclusions were treated increasingly definitely.”

Thus, even though the CIA offered guesses based on rumors from Iraqi exiles and unverifiable sources, Bush administration officials claimed with absolute certainty that Iraq was producing chemical and biological agents, and acquiring components for nuclear weapons.

Likewise, the Bush administration asserted a connection between Al-Qaeda and the government in Baghdad even though the CIA report noted that its information was based on “sources of varying reliability,” and that even if the relationship had existed, there was no indication Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein knew about it.

“As with much of the information on the overall relationship, details on training and support are second-hand,” the document, quoted by Vice News, said. “The presence of [Al-Qaeda]… militants in Iraq poses many questions. We do not know to what extent Baghdad may be actively complicit in this use of its territory for safehaven and transit.”

The NIE reveals much of the intelligence concerning allegations that Iraq gave Al-Qaeda instructions on using chemical and biological weapons came from interrogations of alleged terrorists, often under torture.

Last year’s Senate investigation into the CIA torture program revealed that the dubious charges all came from a single source, which the NIE names as Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (“The Libyan”). Al-Libi commanded the Khaldan training camp in Afghanistan, shut down by the Taliban before 9/11 because he refused to subordinate to Osama bin Laden. Who exactly tortured the information out of him remains redacted, but the Senate report noted that Al-Libi recanted his testimony after being turned over to the CIA in February 2003, saying he only told his torturers what they wanted to hear.

Paul Pillar, the former CIA analyst in charge of coordinating the assessment on Iraq and now a visiting professor at Georgetown University, told Vice News that the claims of alleged Iraqi biological weapons – such as the anthrax-laced envelopes sent to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy a week after 9/11 – were based on such sources as Ahmad Chalabi, of the US-backed Iraqi National Congress.

“There was an insufficient critical skepticism about some of the source material,” Pillar said. “I think there should have been agnosticism expressed in the main judgments. It would have been a better paper if it were more carefully drafted in that sort of direction.”

Posted in USA, IraqComments Off on The CIA report used as pretext for Iraq invasion

Conflict instigators must foot humanitarian crises bills – Russian Emergencies Minister to UN

NOVANEWS
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RT 

The head of Russia’s Emergencies Ministry has proposed a new economic model of humanitarian assistance and reparation payments to victims of war zones, recommending that initiators of conflict pay for the destruction and suffering caused by their policies.

“The Russian Federation proposes to build a new economic model of international humanitarian aid,” Vladimir Puchkov told the UN General Assembly in New York. The model is quite simple, according to Puchkov, who said that nations which initiate, incite and sponsor conflicts in other states should be “obliged to bear primary responsibility, including financial” for providing aid to refugees and persons internally displaced as a result.

The need to create a new mechanism arises from the lack of funding for international humanitarian relief budgets. Currently only around 5 percent of the funds required to remedy the widespread destruction and suffering are available, the Russian minister said.

To reduce the financial burden on the international humanitarian aid system, associated with the rise of terrorism and waves of refugees, Puchkov also stressed the need to focus on conflict prevention.

“We believe that settlement and conflict prevention is the best approach to reducing the burden on the international humanitarian system,” the minister said in a report at the 71st session of the UN General Assembly.

In order to improve the quality of international aid the minister also offered to take additional measures and help develop local crises response capabilities in conflict-torn countries.

“Instead of trying to provide for the millions of refugees in Europe, it is necessary to create opportunities for them to stay at home, or at least in the same region,” Puchkov noted.

Among other things, Puchkov urged that the international community intensify efforts to improve the international legal and contractual framework which would allow aid to quickly reach affected areas. Meanwhile developing countries, the minister said, should also recognize their responsibility and not remain “passive recipients.”

Speaking about the Russian contribution to global humanitarian aid missions, Puchkov highlighted that this year Russia participated in over 40 missions across the globe, offering aid to over 10 countries. Besides Syria and Ukraine, some of the recent recipients of Russian aid include countries such as Yemen and Afghanistan, in addition to western states such as Italy and Portugal. Overall, Russia engaged in over 450 missions across the globe over the last quarter of a century.

In addition, over the last three years, Moscow has sent more than $250 million to battle humanitarian crisis in a number of countries, by sending emergency food and medical assistance to populations affected by conflict and natural disasters.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which coordinates international humanitarian relief efforts said that last year more than 76 million people from 31 countries needed assistance. The UN office also noted in 2015 some 51 million people were displaced worldwide, which is the highest number since WWII.

Posted in Russia, Syria, UNComments Off on Conflict instigators must foot humanitarian crises bills – Russian Emergencies Minister to UN

US trying to hinder Syria advances in Aleppo

NOVANEWS

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By: Kevin Barrett
Press TV 

Russia says Moscow and Washington are close to reaching an understanding over the crisis in Aleppo. The Western side is pushing for a ceasefire in eastern Aleppo just as Syrian troops are coming close to liberating the city.

Kevin Barrett, author and Middle East expert from Madison, told Press TV on Thursday night that the US-led front and media are waging a propaganda campaign to force Syria to stop retaking eastern Aleppo.

Barrett said since the United States needs to continue its proxy war in Syria, Washington resorts to any kind of tactics to impede the annihilation of the foreign-backed terrorists who are besieged in eastern Aleppo.

“These folks (the US and allies) who are dedicated to keeping this war going as long as possible and destroying Syria as long as possible find that very convenient to call for a ceasefire right at the moment that the [Syrian] government is taking the city,” he said.

Barrett said Syria’s “legitimate government has been targeted for overthrowing and regime change by a group of countries that created this horrific extremist ISIS-style mercenaries.”

“The US empire with its Zionist controllers are destroying Syria in an act of aggression,” he said, adding “the biggest winner of all of this destabilization of course is the expansionist [regime] in Tel Aviv.”

“This is an intentional destruction and destabilization of Syria along a kind of US imperial and Zionist doctrine that calls for the actual destruction and Balkanization of the Middle Eastern countries to make them more penetrable by the empire and to make them less of a potential long- and immediate-term threat to Israel,” Barrett added.

The analyst said the Syrian government is justified in its war on terrorists despite the “horrific destruction in Aleppo and all over Syria,” while it has also offered an amnesty for all Syrians.

“Any country in the world is going to use counter-insurgency warfare to preserve its territorial integrity if there is this kind of foreign-sponsored rebellion going on.”

According to Barrett, “a lot of people in the region and a few people outside the region like Russian President Vladimir Putin” have got in the way of the US-led coalition which tried to turn Syria into a failed state.

Brent Budowsky, a columnist with US newspaper The Hill from Washington, called on Syria and Russia to halt military operations in the eastern Aleppo.

“We need a ceasefire today. We should have had it a year ago or two years ago,” he said.

The Syrian army troops and their allied forces are now in control of about 85 percent of militant-held eastern part of Aleppo as they press ahead with an all-out offensive to fully dislodge foreign-backed terrorists from the northwestern city.

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on US trying to hinder Syria advances in Aleppo

Nazi Gestapo Shin Bet torture hundreds Palestinian children

NOVANEWS

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Hundreds of torture complaints against Nazi Gestapo Shin Bet, no investigations

Hundreds of complaints of torture against Nazi Gestapo Shin Bet agents have produced not a single criminal investigation, according to a report in Haaretz.

Of the 598 complaints filed between 2001 and 2008, every single case was closed by the Nazi authorities without a criminal investigation.

A department within the Ministry of Justice, Mivtan, is responsible for handling such complaints, yet employs just one investigator.

According to Zionist Haaretz, “the unit does not interfere with the Shin Bet’s work, even though complainants have reported harsh and prohibited forms of torture – including severe beatings and extensive sleep deprivation.”

The paper adds that while “Mivtan does not reveal how many complaints it receives, only how many inquiries it conducts; however, attorney Efrat Bergman-Sapir of the Public Committee Against Torture said her organisation had submitted more than 1,000 complaints since 2001.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Nazi Gestapo Shin Bet torture hundreds Palestinian children


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