“According to White House officials, this was not ‘the first time’ under this Administration that a Presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive—rather than national security sensistive—information.”
Category Archives: Journalism
By Peter Eisner
In June 1940, after the fall of Paris, an American vice consul in Marseille, Hiram Bingham IV, received an order from the State Department to slow down and effectively block issuing visas for refugees attempting to flee the Third Reich. The refugees were mostly Jews.
A xenophobic and possibly anti-Semitic official at the State Department, Breckenridge Long, had issued a declaration to delay and stop Jews from entering the United States. He and others claimed — without evidence — that Hitler could sneak Nazi agents into the United States among the Jewish refugees. He wrote:
“We can delay and effectively stop, for a temporary period of indefinite length, the number of immigrants into the United States. We could do this by simply advising our consuls to put every obstacle in the way which would postpone and postpone and postpone the granting of the visas.”
Bingham, however, acted on conscience and out of decency in the highest traditions of the country he believed in. As I wrote, Bingham:
…challenged indifference and anti-Semitism among his State Department superiors. In speeding up visa and travel documents at the Marseille consulate, he disobeyed orders from Washington. In all, an estimated 2,500 refugees were able to flee to safety because of Bingham’s help.
Today, the United States faces a disgusting wave of xenophobia and prejudice. Think about the example of Hiram Bingham, whose promising career was destroyed — because he took a moral stance. More than half a century after his actions, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell honored Bingham posthumously for his actions.
Breckenridge Long’s order, obeyed by others, contributed to blocking tens of thousands of refugees from entry into the United States. Many who could have been saved died under the Nazi boot.
The times are changing, and yet the principles of decency remain unchanged.
Dick Cheney claims that “waterboarding” “stops short” of torture, but victims knew the reality. Torturers have been executed for submitting prisoners to simulated drowning, now tagged with that indistinct, even innocuous-sounding term.
Go no further than John McCain, who is unequivocal on the subject. He says waterboarding is not “enhanced interrogation” — it is torture.
In World War II, German and Japanese interrogators — and their commanders — were punished, imprisoned and executed for such crimes:
“The torture of the bathtub consisted in plunging the patient into a bath of icy water, his hands handcuffed behind the back, and keeping his head underwater until he was on the point of drowning. He was dragged to the surface by the hair and, if he still refused to speak, was immediately plunged underwater again.”Jacques Delarue, an anti-Nazi French intelligence officer during World War II.
The quote is from The Freedom Line, my book about the rescue of Allied pilots rescued by underground fighters in occupied Europe during World War Two. One key practitioner of simulated drowning at Gestapo headquarters in Paris was Jacques Desoubrie — aka Jean Masson. Desoubrie, a double agent who had infiltrated the underground, was captured by the United States after the war and executed in France.
El fallecimiento de mi amigo y colega, el periodista argentino José “Pepe” Eliashev, me recuerda una historia que merece ser contada. Pepe falleció de cáncer de páncreas en Buenos Aires, el 18 de noviembre de 2014. Tenía 69 años. Durante décadas fue un comentarista y locutor de radio muy popular en la Argentina.
Como jóvenes periodistas de la Associated Press en Nueva York en los años 70, Pepe y yo nos convertimos en conspiradores para frustrar el intento de los editores que supervisaban América Latina de censurar o de limitar las noticias sobre la dictadura militar derechista.
Yo trabajaba en el World Desk en la oficina de AP en Nueva York. Mi trabajo consistía en editar, transmitir y a veces cubrir las noticias del exterior, en inglés, para nuestro servicio mundial en Europa, Asia y África.
Pepe se sentaba a unos metros de mí en La Prensa Asociada –la sección de América Latina que traducía y transmitía noticias en español a México, América Central y Sudamérica. Algunos redactores de esa sección eran, como Pepe, exiliados de países cuyos regímenes represivos dificultaban el periodismo y lo volvían peligroso.
Quedó pronto claro que algunos redactores eran también escandalosamente de derecha e incluso hacían comentarios despectivos sobre los periodistas que trabajan a su lado. En particular, algunos de los editores latinos apoyaban la dictadura argentina, la que en aquel momento estaba sumida profundamente en la Guerra Sucia, que acabaría matando o “desapareciendo” a más de 20.000 personas. Esos editores no sabían que yo hablaba español y que podía oír lo que estaban diciendo.
Pepe me dijo que algunos de los jefes estaban interceptando –“desapareciendo”– historias que podían “avergonzar a la Argentina”. Los editores latinos podían desechar las historias que llegaban habitualmente y además impedir que Pepe, y otros de la sección, cubrieran historias que eran relevantes para la Argentina y una vergüenza para la dictadura.
Sabíamos, sin embargo, que no podían bloquear esos artículos –las inquietudes del gobierno de Carter con respecto a los derechos humanos o el papel de la Iglesia Católica, por ejemplo– si éstos se originaban o seleccionaban en la sección en inglés. Así es como Pepe me informaba cuando alguien trataba de eliminar una historia que pintara negativamente a la dictadura argentina. Todo lo que yo tenía que hacer era guardarla y publicarla en la línea internacional en inglés. Los forzábamos, de esa manera, a traducirla y trasmitirla vía las líneas noticiosas sudamericanas.
La maniobra tenía su importancia, porque muchos diarios de América Latina censuraban sus propios reportajes internos por razones de seguridad, pero las historias que venían de la AP en Estados Unidos podían publicarse con mayor facilidad.
En 1978, en plena Guerra Sucia, hubo una historia que recuerdo en particular. Pepe me dijo que una de las Madres de Plaza de Mayo estaba en Nueva York lista para ser entrevistada. Hice la entrevista y redacté una historia nacional e internacional sobre los esfuerzos del grupo para encontrar a los niños robados de sus padres prisioneros y asesinados.
Pepe y yo tratamos de no llamar la atención –esa historia y otras aparecieron en el cable latino como era nuestro propósito. Nuestro único objetivo era asegurar que se pudiera acceder a todas las noticias. Fue una gran satisfacción.
The death of my friend and colleague, the Argentine journalist Jose “Pepe” Eliaschev, brings to mind a story that deserves to be told. Pepe died of pancreatic cancer in Buenos Aires on November 18, 2014. He was 69. He had for decades been a popular commentator and host on Argentine radio.
As young newsmen at The Associated Press in New York in the 1970s, Pepe and I were proud conspirators when some supervisors on the Latin America desk tried to censor or limit news about the right-wing Argentine military dictatorship.
I was on the World Desk at AP headquarters in New York. My job was to edit, transmit and sometimes report world news in English for our worldwide service in Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Pepe sat several yards away at La Prensa Asociada — the Latin America desk, translating and transmitting news into Spanish for Mexico, Central and South America. As in the case of Pepe, some were from countries whose repressive regimes made journalism difficult and dangerous.
Others were right-wingers and even made sneering remarks in Spanish, assuming no one could understand. They didn’t know I spoke Spanish. In particular, some of the Latin editors supported the Argentine dictatorship, which at the time was deep into on a Dirty War and would end up killing or “disappearing” more than 20,000 people.
Pepe told me that some of the bosses were intercepting—“disappearing”—news stories that might be “embarrassing to Argentina.”
We knew, though, they couldn’t block stories if the English-speaking side of the desk originated or selected stories to publish – for example, the Carter administration’s human rights concerns, or questions about the role of the Catholic Church.
So Pepe would let me know when someone tried to weed out a story that might reflect badly on the Argentine dictatorship. All I had to do was resurrect the story on the international line in English. They were then forced to translate and transmit the report to the South American news lines.
This was significant, because many newspapers in Latin America self-censored their own reporting at home for reasons of safety; stories originating from AP in the United States could more easily be published.
One story in particular came in 1978 – the height of the Dirty War. Pepe told me that one of the members of the organization Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo was in New York and ready to be interviewed. I was able to write a national and international story about the group’s efforts to find children stolen from their imprisoned and murdered parents.
Pepe and I kept our heads down – that story and others appeared on the Latin wire as was only fair and fitting to our role as journalists. The goal was to make sure that all the news was available regardless of politics. It’s a proud memory of my old friend.
Posted on September 4, 2013 by Laurie Garrett
So it is inevitable that nine years later, amid chatter of U.S. cruise missile launches to take out Syrian government military stockpiles I should revisit the sorry history of Bush’s drumbeats of war.
The Guardian, home paper of Edward Snowden’s leaks on data mining, publishes an editorial defending him as a whistleblower who should be tried in that context:
Edward Snowden: a whistleblower, not a spy
He has published US government information. And it is for this – not espionage – that he will have to answer to the law
In the knee-jerk fraud that masquerades as a Republican alternative, the latest pseudo-drama inside the Beltway will be the sanctimonious months of Congressional hearings about a non-existent conspiracy at the Internal Revenue Service. Faced with real issues — immigration, health care, gun reform, electoral reform, among them — the wing-nuts that control the House of Representatives have a new excuse to do worse than nothing.
The real agenda is to attack their Democratic opponents, especially the president, and increasingly the leading presidential candidate for 2016, Hillary Clinton.
Succinctly stated, all of this, in a New York Times editorial:
Inevitably, the stumble by the I.R.S. will now be used by the Republicans as a point of attack. They are gleefully promising months of hearings, and the National Republican Congressional Committee is already trying to tarnish Democratic lawmakers with what it calls “the Obama administration’s use of the I.R.S. as a political tool.”
This will serve as the perfect distraction from issues, like the budget, gun control or immigration reform. And it will probably prevent any real progress on campaign finance reform, which, in turn, will make it vastly more difficult for the I.R.S. to prevent abuse of the tax code.
The I.R.S. stumble, if it is one, comes as a result of a highly partisan flawed and democracy-damaging decision by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case. The I.R.S. began to investigate whether right-wing nonprofits claiming tax exemption were really political fronts for the Republicans who placed the Supreme Court majority on the bench so it could make the damaging decision. “Oh no,” meanwhile, cries the Tea Party, “we’re nonpartisan.”
All of this works very well as long as straight-thinking citizens pay little heed, not even the 22 minutes needed to watch The Daily Show, to check out the sad humor of it all.
I don’t know about you — but it becomes increasingly difficult to even read or watch the news from Washington — so predictable as it is. A moderate majority of citizens appears to have given up. We are left with a Senate tilted to low-population states, a House built by a Republican minority that stacked the deck state by state.
Two of the prime deck-stackers, the Koch Brothers, by the way, are now trying to purchase the Los Angeles Times and the rest of the Chicago Tribune’s assets. Then, they’ll even be able to control the message better than they already have.
Failing broader outrage from a gerrymandered public, laughter and mockery is probably the best way to go.
The rehabilitation of G.W. Bush this past week requires participation of very, very gullible people with bad memories. Worst-best ratings, and polls aside, G.W. Bush took the United States to war on fraudulent grounds.
To this hour, too many Americans accept the incessantly repeated phrase about Iraq — “he was acting on the best available intelligence at the time.”
That is not true, mightily disproved, for instance, in my book, The Italian Letter, which I wrote with my colleague Knut Royce. We show, quoting officials by name, that Bush’s 16 words uttered in his 2003 State of the Union message were a lie: “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa .” I later summarized the case in the Washington Post.
Bush and his former aides have been on the hustings once more during the period leading up to inauguration of the George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. They had the same talking points, praising Bush because he “made decisions…presidential decisions.” The tautology must be a joke. Of course he made decisions, indeed, presidential decisions, because he was president.
But the decisions were wrong. Hundreds of thousands of lives lost or changed, one trillion dollars gone, those were the results of presidential decisions. The stupidity of it all and the presidential civility of the week were well-covered by Chris Hayes on MSNBC.
Harsh but apt words for “the decider,” including an assessment in the MSNBC story from Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for then-secretary of state Colin Powell. The retired colonel is one of the sources for The Italian Letter. Wilkerson, along the way, casts as much blame on the American people, for succumbing to apathy. He finds that nothing has changed.
We may be doomed, thinking of George Santayana, not only failing to learn from history, but disinterested and badly informed as others produce a fake rewrite.