From “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States”

roxanne_dunbar_ortiz_photoby_barrie_karpRoxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, excerpt from the Conclusion of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States cited inAfghanistan as ‘Longest War’ Highlights Invisibility of Indigenous and Iraq Wars.” (Boston: Beacon Press, 2014)

Chickasaw scholar Jodi Byrd writes: That the continued colonization of American Indian nations, peoples, and lands provides the United States the economic and material resources needed to cast its imperialist gaze globally is a fact that is simultaneously obvious within—and yet continually obscured by—what is essentially a settler colony’s national construction of itself as an ever more perfect multicultural, multiracial democracy. . . . [T]he status of American Indians as sovereign nations colonized by the United States continues to haunt.[1]

The conventional narrative of US history routinely segregates the “Indian Wars” as a sub-specialization within the dubious category “the West.” But, the architecture of US world dominance was designed and tested by the period of continental US militarism, 1790-1890, the Indian Wars. The opening of the twenty-first century saw a new, even more brazen form of US militarism and imperialism explode on the world followed by two major military invasions and hundreds of small wars employing US Special Forces around the globe, establishing a template that continued after their political power waned.

One highly regarded military analyst stepped forward to make the connections between the “Indian Wars” and what he considered the country’s bright imperialist past and future. Robert D. Kaplan, in his 2005 book Imperial Grunts, presented several case studies that he considered highly successful operations: Yemen, Colombia, Mongolia, and the Philippines, in addition to ongoing complex projects in the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan, and Iraq.[2] While US citizens and many of their elected representatives called for ending the US military interventions they knew about—including Iraq and Afghanistan—Kaplan hailed protracted counterinsurgencies in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Pacific. He presented a guide for the US controlling those areas of the world based on its having achieved continental dominance in North America by means of counterinsurgency and employing total and unlimited war.

Kaplan, a meticulous researcher and influential writer born in 1952 in New York City, wrote for major newspapers and magazines before serving as “chief geopolitical strategist” for the private security think tank Stratfor. Among other prestigious posts, he has been a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC, and a member of the Defense Policy Board, a federal advisory committee to the US Department of Defense. In 2011, Foreign Policy magazine named Kaplan as one of the world’s “top 100 global thinkers.” Author of numerous best-selling books, including Balkan Ghosts and Surrender or Starve, Kaplan became one of the principal intellectual boosters for US power through the tried-and-true “first way of war.” This is the way of war dating to the British-colonial period that military historian John Grenier describes as a combination of “unlimited war and irregular war,” a military tradition “that accepted, legitimized, and encouraged attacks upon and the destruction of noncombatants, villages and agricultural resources . . . in shockingly violent campaigns to achieve their goals of conquest.”[3]

Kaplan sums up his thesis in the prologue to Imperial Grunts, which he subtitles “Injun Country”:

Kaplan writes:

By the turn of the twenty-first century the United States military had already appropriated the entire earth, and was ready to flood the most obscure areas of it with troops at a moment’s notice.

The Pentagon divided the planet into five area commands—similar to the way that the Indian Country of the American West had been divided in the mid-nineteenth century by the U.S. Army. . . . [A]ccording to the soldiers and marines I met on the ground in far-flung corners of the earth, the comparison with the nineteenth century was . . . apt. ‘Welcome to Injun Country’ was the refrain I heard from troops from Colombia to the Philippines, including Afghanistan and Iraq… The War on Terrorism was really about taming the frontier.[4]

Kaplan goes on to ridicule “elites in New York and Washington” who debate imperialism in “grand, historical terms,” while individuals from all the armed services interpret policy according to the particular circumstances they face and are indifferent to or unaware of the fact that they are part of an imperialist project. To them, and for many US Americans, United States military power is the heart of their patriotism, and the military is revered as no other governmental institution is.

Pointing to the intentionality of US colonialism in North America, Kaplan challenges the concept of “manifest destiny,” arguing “it was not inevitable that the United States should have an empire in the western part of the continent.” Rather, he argues, it was the work of “small groups of frontiersmen, separated from each other by great distances.”

Here Kaplan refers to what Grenier calls “rangers,” self-organized settlers who destroyed Indigenous towns and fields and food supplies, murdering the inhabitants. Kaplan equates these settler vigilantes to the modern Special Forces; he acknowledges that the regular army provided lethal backup for settler counterinsurgency in slaughtering the buffalo, the food supply of Plains peoples, as well as making continuous raids on settlements to kill or confine the families of the Indigenous resistance fighters.[5] Kaplan summarizes the genealogy of US militarism today:

Whereas the average American at the dawn of the new millennium found patriotic inspiration in the legacies of the Civil War and World War II, when the evils of slavery and fascism were confronted and vanquished, for many commissioned and noncommissioned officers the U.S. Army’s defining moment was fighting the ’Indians.’

The legacy of the Indian wars is palpable in the numerous military bases spread across the South, the Middle West, and particularly the Great Plains: that vast desert and steppe comprising the Army’s historical “heartland,” punctuated by such storied outposts as Forts Hays, Kearney, Leavenworth, Riley, and Sill. Leavenworth, where the Oregon and Santa Fe trails separated, was now the home of the Army’s Command and General Staff College; Riley, the base of George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry, now that of the 1st Infantry Division; and Sill, where Geronimo lived out the lasts years of his life, the headquarters of the U.S. Artillery. . . .While microscopic in size, it was the fast and irregular military actions against the Indians, memorialized in bronze and oil by Remington, that shaped the nature of American nationalism.[6]

Although Kaplan relies principally on the post-Civil War source of US counterinsurgency, it actually dates from the colonies even before US independence. Kaplan acknowledges this in a footnote in which he reports what he learned at the Airborne Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, North Carolina: quote, “It is a small but interesting fact that members of the 101st Airborne Division, in preparation for their parachute drop on D-Day, shaved themselves in Mohawk style and applied war paint on their faces.”[7] This takes us back to pre-independence colonial war and then through US independence and the myth popularized by The Last of the Mohicans. Except for that instance, Kaplan seems unaware of the deeper historical roots of the continuing US military’s fetish for Indian warfare.

On March 19, 2003, near the Iraqi desert in Kuwait, Associated Press reporter Ellen Knickmeyer illustrates the symbolic power of Indian wars as a source of US military memory and practice. Once again we find troops retracing historical bloody footprints back to the 19th century Seminole wars:

She wrote:

Tank crews from the Alpha Company 4th Battalion 64th Armor Regiment perform a “Seminole Indian war dance” before convoying to a position near the Iraqi border Wednesday, March 19, 2003. Capt. Phillip Wolford’s men leaped into the air and waved empty rifles in an impromptu desert war dance. . . .

With thousands of M1A1 Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, Humvees and trucks, the mechanized infantry unit known as the “Iron Fist” would be the only U.S. armored division in the fight, and would likely meet any Iraqi defenses head on.

“We will be entering Iraq as an army of liberation, not domination,” said Wolford, of Marysville, Ohio, directing the men of his 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment to take down the U.S. flags fluttering from their sand-colored tanks.

After a brief prayer, Wolford leaped into an impromptu desert war dance. Camouflaged soldiers joined him, jumping up and down in the sand, chanting and brandishing rifles carefully emptied of their rounds.

This “Seminole War Dance” is serious business. The 3 declared wars against the Seminole Nation in the Florida Everglades spanned a 42 year period, from 1816 to 1858. The wars took place under five presidents: 1816-23, under James Monroe, with General Andrew Jackson the army commander; 1835-42, under Jackson as president and Martin van Buren; 1855-58, under Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. The Seminole wars remain deeply embedded in the US military tradition and practice. These three wars, along with the dozens of others against the Indigenous agriculturalists east of the Mississippi, followed by the 1860-90 thirty-years of unrelenting war on the Plains and the former Mexican territory (US Southwest) formed the US Army. There was not a day without US aggressive warfare somewhere from the founding of the US to the present. But, the Seminole wars forged the initial imprint of prolonged counterinsurgent warfare and are remembered in the military.

In early 2011, during President Obama’s first term, a Yemeni citizen, Ali Hamza al Bahlul, was serving a life sentence at Guantánamo as an “enemy combatant,” a military tribunal having convicted him of crimes associated with his service to al-Qaeda as Osama bin Laden’s media secretary. In arguing on appeal that Bahlul’s conviction be upheld, a Pentagon lawyer, navy captain Edward S. White, relied on a precedent from an 1818 tribunal. In his thirty-seven-page military commissions brief, Captain White wrote: “Not only was the Seminole belligerency unlawful, but, much like modern-day al Qaeda, the very way in which the Seminoles waged war against U.S. targets itself violate the customs and usages of war.” The Center for Constitutional Rights objected to this passage in the government’s brief. “The court should . . . reject the government’s notable reliance on the ‘Seminole Wars’ of the 1800s, a genocide that led to the Trail of Tears…The government’s characterization of Native American resistance to the United States as ‘much like modern-day al Qaeda’ is not only factually wrong but overtly racist, and cannot present any legitimate legal basis to uphold Mr. Bahlul’s conviction.”[8] In response, the Pentagon’s general counsel issued a letter stating that the US government stood by its precedent.

But, the Seminole Wars were not the only such precedent embedded in the US military. Afghans resisting US forces and others who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time were taken into custody, and most of them were sent to a hastily constructed prison facility on the US military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on land the United States appropriated in its 1898 war against Cuba.

Rather than bestowing the status of prisoner of war on the detainees, which would have given them certain rights under the Geneva Conventions, they were designated as “unlawful combatants,” a status thought to have been previously unknown in the annals of Western warfare. As such, the detainees were subjected to torture by US interrogators and shamelessly monitored by civilian psychologists and medical personnel. Much of the rhetoric following the declaration of the “War on Terror” after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 references US American militaristic memory of the wars against Native nations.

In response to questions and condemnations from around the globe, a University of California international law professor, John C. Yoo, on leave to serve as assistant US attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, penned in March 2003, what became the infamous “Torture Memo.” Despite strong objections to the “unlawful combatant” moniker, not much was made at the time of one of the precedents Yoo used to defend the designation “unlawful combatant,” the US Supreme Court’s 1873 opinion in Modoc Indian Prisoners.

In 1872, the Modoc leader, Kint-pu-ash, also known as Captain Jack, led some 150 of his people to return to their own country in Northern California after the US Army had rounded them up and forced them to share a reservation in Oregon. Fifty-three insurgent fighters from the group were surrounded by US troops and Oregon militia and forced to take refuge in the barren and rugged lava beds around Mount Lassen, a dormant volcano, a part of their ancestral homeland that they knew every inch of.

More than a thousand troops commanded by General Edward R. S. Canby, a former Civil War general, attempted to capture the resisters, but had no success as the Modocs engaged in effective guerrilla warfare. Before the Civil War, Canby had built his military career fighting in the Second Seminole War and later in the invasion of Mexico. Posted to Utah on the eve of the Civil War, he had led attacks against the Navajos, and then began his Civil War service in New Mexico. Therefore, Canby was a seasoned Indian killer.

In negotiations between the general and Kint-pu-ash, the Modoc leader killed the general and the other commissioners when they would allow no resolution other than Modoc surrender. In response, the Army command dispatched another former Civil War general with more than a thousand additional soldiers as reinforcements, and in April 1873, these troops attacked the Modoc stronghold, this time forcing the Modoc resisters to flee.

After four months of fighting that cost the United States almost $500,000—equal to nearly $10 million currently—and the lives of more than four hundred of its soldiers and a general, the nationwide backlash against the Modocs was vengeful.[9]

Kint-pu-ash and several other captured Modocs were designated prisoners of war, imprisoned, tried, hanged at a military base, and the Modoc families were scattered and incarcerated on reservations as far away as Oklahoma. Kint-pu-ash’s corpse was embalmed and exhibited at circuses around the country.[10]

Drawing a legal analogy between the Modoc prisoners and the Guantánamo detainees, Assistant US Attorney General Yoo employed the legal category of homo sacer—in Roman law, a person banned from society, excluded from its legal protections but still subject to the sovereign’s power.[11] Anyone may kill a homo sacer without it being considered murder.[12] To buttress his claim that the detainees could be denied prisoner of war status, Yoo quoted from the 1873 Modoc Indian Prisoners opinion:

All the laws and customs of civilized warfare may not be applicable to an armed conflict with the Indian tribes upon our western frontier; but the circumstances attending the assassination of Canby [Army general] and Thomas [U.S. peace commissioner] are such as to make their murder as much a violation of the laws of savage as of civilized warfare, and the Indians concerned in it fully understood the baseness and treachery of their act.[13]

Thereby, anyone who could be defined as “Indian” could thus be killed legally, and they also could be held criminally responsible for engaging any US soldier.[14]

The United States is a militarized culture. We see it all around us and in the media. But, as military historian John Grenier notes, the cultural aspects of militarization are not new; they have deep historical roots, reaching into the nation’s Anglo-settler past and continuing through unrelenting wars of conquest and ethnic cleansing over three centuries. Grenier writes, “Beyond its sheer military utility, Americans also found a use for the first way of war in the construction of an ‘American identity.’ . . . [T]he enduring appeal of the romanticized myth of the ‘settlement’ (not calling it conquest) of the frontier, either by ‘actual’ men such as Robert Rogers or Daniel Boone or fictitious ones like Nathaniel Bumppo of James Fenimore Cooper’s creation, points to what D. H. Lawrence called the ‘myth of the essential white American,’”[15] as “hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.”[16]

The astronomical number of firearms owned by US civilians, with the Second Amendment as a sacred mandate, is also intricately related to militaristic culture. The militias referred to in the Second Amendment are those civilians who were mobilized to attack Indigenous towns, burning their fields, to take their land. Everyday life and the culture in general are damaged by ramped-up militarization, and this includes academia, particularly the social sciences, with psychologists and anthropologists being recruited as advisors to the military. Anthropologist David H. Price, in his indispensable book Weaponizing Anthropology, remarks that “anthropology has always fed between the lines of war.” Anthropology was born of European and US colonial wars. Price sees an accelerated pace of militarization in the early twenty-first century: “Today’s weaponization of anthropology and other social sciences has been a long time coming, and post-9/11 America’s climate of fear coupled with reductions in traditional academic funding provided the conditions of a sort of perfect storm for the militarization of the discipline and the academy as a whole.”[17]

Chickasaw scholar Jodi Byrd writes: “The story of the new world is horror, the story of America a crime.” It is necessary to start with the origin of the United States as a settler state and its explicit intention to occupy the continent. These origins contain the historical seeds of genocide. Any true history of the United States must focus on what has happened to (and with) Indigenous peoples—and what still happens.[18] It’s not just past colonialist actions but also “the continued colonization of American Indian nations, peoples, and lands” that allows the United States “to cast its imperialist gaze globally.” The United States is a crime scene.

[1] Jodi A. Byrd, The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 122–23.

[2] Robert D. Kaplan, Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground (New York: Random House, 2005).

[3] John Grenier, The First Way of War,1607-1814. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005, 10.

[4] Kaplan, Imperial Grunts, 3–5.

[5] Ibid., 6.

[6] Kaplan, Imperial Grunts, 8, 10.

[7] Ibid., 10.

[8] Vincent Warren, “Government Calls Native American Resistance of 1800s ‘Much Like Modern-Day Al-Qaeda,’” Truthout, April 11, 2011, (accessed October 3, 2013).

[9] Frederick E. Hoxie, Encyclopedia of North American Indians (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996), 319.

[10]Byrd, The Transit of Empire, 226–28.

[11] Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).

[12] Byrd, The Transit of Empire, 226–27.

[13] The Modoc Indian Prisoners, 14 Op. Att’y Gen. 252 (1873), quoted in John C. Yoo, Memorandum for William J. Haynes II, General Counsel of the Department of Defense, March 14, 2003, p. 7. Quoted in Byrd, Transit of Empire, 227.

[14] Byrd, Transit of Empire, 227.

[15] Grenier, The First Way of War, 222.

[16] D. H. Lawrence, quoted in Richard Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1973), 466

[17] David H. Price, Weaponizing Anthropology (Oakland: AK Press, 2011), 1, 11.

[18] Byrd, The Transit of Empire, xii–xiv.

Bradley on His Visit to the Philippines

imgresIn his book The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War, the author James Bradley recounts his visit to Pershing Plaza in the Philippines:

On July 4, 1902 Roosevelt had proclaimed the U.S. war in the Philippines over, except for disturbances in the Muslim area. In 1905, the imperial cruise steamed into the port city of Zamboanga, a Muslim enclave 516 miles south of Manila. Princess Alice sipped punch under a hot tropical sun as “Big Bill” Taft deliver a florid speech extolling the benefits of the American way.

A century later I ventured to Zamboanga and learned that the local Muslims hadn’t taken Taft’s message to heart: Zamboanga officials feared for my safety because I was an American and would not allow me to venture out of my hotel without an armed police escort.

The city looked peaceable enough to me and I thought the Zamboanga police’s concern was overdone. One morning I was sitting in the backseat of a chauffeured car with my plainclothes police escort as we drove by city hall. The handsome old wooden building had once been headquarters of the American military. The U.S. general “Black Jack” Pershing had ruled local Muslims from a desk there, and the grassy shaded park across the street was named after him.

“Can we stop?”, I asked the driver, who pulled to the curb. I got out of the car alone to take pictures, thinking I was safe in front of city hall. After all, here I was in the busy downtown area, in broad daylight, with mothers and their strollers nearby in a park named after an American.

My bodyguard thought otherwise. He jumped out of the car, his darting eyes scanning pedestrians, cars, windows, and rooftops, and his right hand hovered over the pistol at his side.

It was the same later, indoors at Zamboanga’s largest mall. I was shopping for men’s trousers, looking through the racks. I glanced up to see my bodyguard with his back to me eyeing the milling crowd. The Zamboanga police probably breathed a sigh of relief when I eventually left town.

Muslim terrorist attacks struck Zamboanga the day after I departed. Two powerful bombs maimed twenty-six people, brought down buildings, blew up cars, severed electrical lines, and plunged the city into darkness and fear. The first bomb had cratered a sidewalk on whose cement I had recently trod, while the second one collapsed a hotel next door to Zamboanga’s police station — just down the street from the mall I had judged safe. Police sources told reporters the blasts were intended to divert Filipino and American army troops from their manhunt of an important Muslim insurgent.

Video of Sterling News Conference

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 9.06.57 AM

Speakers at news conference for Sterling. Click on image to access video.

On February 17th, 2016, Holly Sterling, Jesselyn Radack, John Kiriakou, Tim Karr, Delphine Halgand, and Cornel West spoke at a news conference at the National Press Club, then delivered a petition containing over 150,000 signatures to the White House calling for the pardon of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling.

Sterling was convicted in 2015 under the Espionage Act as a source for New York Times reporter James Risen’s book State of War. Sterling began serving his three-and-a-half-year prison sentence eight months ago.

See: “Wife of CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Asks Obama to Pardon Him” for more details. 

Media Advisory — Cornel West, John Kiriakou among speakers to urge Obama pardon for CIA whistleblower


News Conference:

Release of Petition Urging Obama to Pardon Imprisoned CIA Whistleblower;

Speakers to Include Cornel West, John Kiriakou, Jesselyn Radack, Holly Sterling

When:  Wednesday, February 17 at 9:30 a.m.

Where:  National Press Club (Bloomberg Room), 13th Floor, National Press Building, Washington

In addition to CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling’s wife Holly Sterling, the speakers at the news conference will include:

*  Cornel West, prominent civil rights activist, scholar, professor at Union Theological Seminary;

*  John Kiriakou, CIA whistleblower and former agency case officer;

*  Jesselyn Radack, director of Whistleblower and Source Protection Program at ExposeFacts;

*  Delphine Halgand, U.S. director of Reporters Without Borders;

*  Tim Karr, senior director of strategy for Free Press.

Jeffrey Sterling was convicted under the Espionage Act as a source for New York Times reporter James Risen’s book “State of War.” Sterling began serving his three-and-a-half-year prison sentence eight months ago.

In December, Holly Sterling launched a petition on and on asking President Obama to immediately pardon her husband. Since then the petition has accumulated well over 100,000 signers. After the news conference, she will walk with the petition to the White House main gate, arriving there by 11:30 a.m. (with photo opportunities for the press).

Cosponsoring the news conference at the National Press Club are ExposeFacts, Reporters Without Borders and Those organizations initiated a coalition of groups in support of the petition that also includes the Bill of Rights Defense Committee / Defending Dissent Foundation, the Center for Media and Democracy, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, The Nation magazine and Restore the Fourth.

ExposeFacts is a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Noam Chomsky & Abby Martin: Electing The President Of An Empire (Full Transcript)

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., Abby Martin interviews world-renowned philosopher and linguist Professor Noam Chomsky.

Abby Martin:
This week we’re here at MIT in Cambridge, MA to interview world renowned linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, someone who’s authored over 100 books on everything to war to propaganda. I wanted to get his take on democracy and elections in the context of American empire.


As extreme as the political spectrum is right now in the US, there is still almost complete uniformity on the war on terror, the stance toward Latin America, sanctions on Iran. And there’s really no anti-war candidate despite popular opinion agreeing on that. Why can no candidate touch that?

Noam Chomsky:
The spectrum is broad but in an odd sense. The spectrum is basically centre to extreme right. Extreme right. Way off the spectrum. The Republican Party about 20 years ago basically abandoned any pretense of being a normal political party. In fact, the distinguished, respected conservative commentators, from the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank, like Norman Ornstein, described the Republican Party as a radical insurgency which has abandoned parliamentary politics. They just don’t want anything to happen. Their only policies are “don’t do anything” or bomb. That’s not a political party.

What happened is that the party, during the whole neoliberal period, both parties shifted to the right, as did everywhere in the world. And the Republicans went off the spectrum. They became so dedicated to the interests of the extreme wealthy and powerful that they couldn’t get votes. So they had to turn to other constituencies which are there, but were never politically mobilized: the Christian evangelicals, the nativists who are afraid that “they’re taking our country away from us.” People who are so terrified that they’re going to carry a gun into a coffee shop. And that’s their base essentially. And when you look at…take a look at the primaries: when any candidate who has a semblance of rationality is not even competing.

So that’s the Republicans. The Democrats have shifted to the right as well. Today’s mainstream democrats are pretty much what used to be called moderate Republicans. Somebody like Eisenhower, for example, would be considered way out on the left. So for example Eisenhower strongly made it clear that anyone who questions the programs of the New Deal is just not part of American political life. Well, by now, that’s a left-wing program. It’s basically Bernie Sanders’ program. It’s Eisenhower.

So the spectrum, it’s true that it’s broad, but in a very strange sense. As far as anti-war candidates are concerned: you have to ask what it means. So for example Obama is considered an anti-war candidate. He described the Iraq war as a mistake, a “strategic blunder” as he put it. That’s like Russian generals in Afghanistan in the early 1980s who criticized the invasion as a strategic blunder. That’s not criticism of the war. That’s saying that you’re making a mistake. The debate about the Obama’s [administration] is running a global terror program of a kind that has never been envisioned before the drone program, is now being discussed to an extent because of recent leaks.

But the questions that are being raised, overwhelmingly, not by Jeremy Scahill or Glenn Greenwald, but by most of those who are talking about it is: “are you killing too many civilians?”  What about just assassinating people because you think that someday they might want to harm you?

Suppose for example that Iran was murdering people in the US because they think, with some reason, that they might want to harm them? For example the editors of The New York Times and The Washington Post , who publish articles, op-eds, calling for the bombing of Iran. So suppose they said that “this is a given threat, let’s kill them.” Would we accept that?

The idea that we have the right to use force and violence at will is accepted pretty much across the spectrum. Take say the Iran negotiations. Virtually everyone, President, political leaders, commentators in the press, dove-ish commentators, almost universally say that if we unilaterally detect, think we detect, some Iranian violation of the agreements, that we have the right to use military force to attack them. I mean, that’s just outlandish in terms of international law and practice. But it’s universal, virtually universal. You have to go way to the margins to find somebody that will question that.

Abby Martin:
And there’s not even a mild critique of the assassination program or even the war on terror, the premise, from any of these candidates. Every four years we’re made to feel like we’re playing this great role, this great democratic practice in decision making where we celebrate electing these leaders who rule over us. How does power really function in our society?

Noam Chomsky:
There’s very good studies of this from mainstream political science. Nothing on the edges. So one of the main topics that’s studied in academic political science is the relation between peoples’ attitudes and public policy. And it’s a pretty straightforward study, you see public policy. There’s very good polling evidence on what people think about things. So for example for about 40 years, a considerable majority of the public has thought that taxes should go up on the rich. Taxes go down on the rich. A substantial part of the public, often a big majority, thinks that we ought to have a national healthcare program. Nothing. Impossible. In fact when the press discusses this they call it “politically impossible.” Meaning the pharmaceutical companies won’t accept it, the insurance companies won’t accept it, and so on. So it basically doesn’t matter what the public thinks.

About 70% of the public, the lowest 70% on the income scale, are pretty much disenfranchised. Their attitudes have no detectable influence on the policies of their own representatives. As you move up the scale you get a bit more influence. When you get to the top, policy is made.

Now the top can mean a fraction of 1%, so it’s kind of a plutocracy with democratic forms. And the elections, I mean by now it’s almost become a joke but it’s always been true that campaign financing plays a very substantial role in not only who’s elected but what the policies are. That goes back 100 years. Great campaign manager 100 years ago, Mark Hanna, was asked once: “What are the important things that you have to have to run a campaign. He said: “There are three things. First one’s money. The second one is money. And I forget what the third one is.”

Pretty much that’s true. With the current reactionary Supreme Court, it’s just gone out of sight. Campaign spending is billions and billions of dollars.

Abby Martin:
And people have argued that it’s just because of too much government interference. We need to widen the market. We need capitalism to be more free. You’ve argued that in any scenario of capitalism working, it’s incongruous, it’s incompatible with democracy.

Noam Chomsky:
There was recently an IMF study, International Monetary Fund, study of the profits of big banks in the United States. The financial sector has become enormous during the neoliberal periods. Almost half the profit of corporate profit.

Now where does their profit come from? Turns out it comes from the taxpayer, largely through the- there’s an implicit government guarantee against failure. It’s not state, it’s not the law, but it’s understood that if a major financial institution gets into trouble that the government will bail it out, which happened repeatedly. Only during the neoliberal period, incidentally. There were no major failures during the 50’s and 60’s. When the neoliberal policies began to be instituted, deregulations and so on, then you start getting a series of financial crises, and every time the public bails them out.

Well that has consequences. For one thing it means the credit agencies understand that these corporations are high-valued beyond the level of what they actually do because they’re going to be bailed out. So they’re going to get good credit ratings, which means they can get cheap credit. They can get cheap loans from the government, they can of course get the bailouts. They can undertake risky transactions which are profitable, and if they’re wrong the taxpayer will take care of it. Net result is that it amounts to practically all their profits. Is that capitalism?

Energy. There’s another IMF study of government subsidies to energy subsidies around the world, not just the U.S. They estimated that I think $5 trillion a year, which includes the U.S. of course. Plenty of subsidies. Agrobusiness is subsidies.

Abby Martin:
But isn’t that what the whole new libertarian movement would tell you is that precisely that? That the government is being used as an extension of the market to protect this kind of irregular form of capitalism that is hand in glove with the government and we just kind of have to free up government regulation and let capitalism work on its own.

Noam Chomsky:
First of all, the business world would never tolerate that because they rely heavily on government. But if you did follow the libertarian- what are called libertarian. Remember: What is called libertarian in the United States has nothing to do with traditional libertarianism. It’s a kind of ultra-right capitalist- a narco-capitalism, they call it.

If that was allowed to function, the whole society would collapse. And we turn to total tyranny. We would have tyranny of unaccountable private institutions. Private concentration of capital is totally unaccountable to the public is absolute tyranny. The only thing that protects the public from predatory capitalism is some degree of state intervention.

So it’s true that state intervention does support the capitalist institutions. It also protects the society from total destruction. A predatory capitalism system simply couldn’t survive. I mean, for perfectly obvious reasons. For one thing: it wouldn’t care about externalities, effects on others. So in no time it would destroy the environment simply by destroying resources and pouring CO2 into the atmosphere and “Who cares?”

Furthermore, there would be no public goods. The markets, there’s an ideology, which claims that markets provide freedom of choice. Some may find it democratic. That’s not true and we all know it’s not true. So suppose I want to get home this evening. The market does offer choices. Ford or a Toyota. It doesn’t offer the choice I want, which is a public transportation system. That’s not part of the market. The market focuses you on individual consumption of consumer goods. Period. Is that what you want in life? Just more and more gadgets around? There are lots of other things in life which the market doesn’t even offer.

So what’s called libertarianism is a prescription for complete disaster. I don’t think the people advocating this understand this. I’m not criticizing them but: just think it through. And I should say it’s very anti-libertarian. Traditional libertarianism, which was always on the left, was opposed to the master-servant relation. People giving orders and people taking them. That’s libertarianism, not in this version.

Abby Martin:
A few weeks ago the US military intentionally bombed a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. I mean the US government felt it enough to just apologize. And there’s people leaping to the defense of the establishment here, saying there must have been a good reason, either they did it on accident even though we know that they didn’t or there was Taliban hiding in there so it justified this human shield logic, just like Israel does. How does this specific example illustrate how American Exceptionalism functions.

Noam Chomsky:
Well, we have to be careful about the term “American Exceptionalism.” For one thing, it’s not all exceptional. Every imperial power has behaved the same way, sometimes worse. So it’s just normal imperial practice. It’s called exceptionalism, but nothing about that…of course it’s called, it’s supposed to be exceptional in that we have the highest ideals so maybe we make mistakes but it’s always with the highest ideals. That’s American Exceptionalism.

Except that, too, is true of just about every imperial power. So when the British were destroying the world, they were always doing it with the absolutely highest ideals. Leading figures, leading intellectuals, people like John Stuart Mill, estimable people, were describing England as an angelic country beyond anything anyone has ever imagined. “People have got to understand how marvelous we are” and so on. The French were the same. It’s hard to find an exception.

So there’s no exceptionalism. In the case of the Kunduz hospital, apparently, I don’t think all the details have come out, but it seems that they were trying to kill some people they regarded as Taliban leaders. Or activists. And they happened to be in the hospital so they killed everybody. And there’s a lot of criticism of killing the others. What about killing the person we’re targeting? What right do we have to kill somebody in some other country who we don’t like? I don’t like him either, I don’t like the Taliban at all. But does that mean we have a right to go kill them? I mean do they have a right to go kill us if they don’t like us? That’s not questioned at all. What’s questioned and criticized is attacking a hospital and killing the staff and killing the patients.

And that’s not the first time. So for example, when the U.S., one of the lauded achievements of the U.S. Army in Iraq is the conquest of Fallujah, in November 2004. Take a look at it. Just take a look at the New York Times on the days of the attack on Fallujah. The first day of the attack, there’s a picture on the front page, you can practically visualize it, which is a picture of the general hospital in Fallujah. Marines attacked the general hospital, threw the patients off their bed, put them on the floor, put shackles around them, threw the doctors on the floor. Attacking a hospital is a gross violation of international law and they were asked “Why did you attack it?” And they said “Because it was a propaganda agency for the rebels.” “How was it a propaganda agency?” “It was releasing casualty figures.” That was okay, that’s an achievement.

But even beyond that, what were the Marines doing in Fallujah? I mean, are there Iranian marines in Cambridge? What are U.S. marines doing in Iraq? The invasion of Iraq is the worst crime of the century. It’s had horrible effects but it’s now spawned sectarian conflicts that are tearing the region apart.

But suppose it had worked. Suppose it had pacified Iraq and there was no disasters. Still a major crime. Why do we have the right to invade another country?

And in fact if you look back, there’s another crime which is never discussed. In the 1990s, the sanctions on Iraq were so severe that they virtually destroyed the society. In fact, the sanctions were administered by the United Nations and the international diplomats who administered the sanctions were respected international diplomats. Dennis Halliday, Hans von Sponeck, they both resigned in protest on the ground that the sanctions were genocidal. Their term, not mine. They said that the sanctions are genocidal, they’re destroying the society, they’re strengthening the dictator, they’re forcing the population to rely on him for survival and probably they saved him being overthrown from within. And this happened to one after another of dictators of the same sort.

That was the 1990s. That’s considered no problem, that was liberal Democrats. Well, I mean, by the time Bush and Blair decided to invade Iraq, the society was half-devastated. So you hit a very fragile system with a sledgehammer you’re going to have horrible results. And the very idea of invading is criminal. And try to find someone who describes it as a crime.

Abby Martin:

Noam Chomsky:
Obama is praised because he describes it as a mistake. Does he describe it as a crime? Does anyone? Except way out at the fringes?

Abby Martin:
It was the “dumb war,” right?

Noam Chomsky:
Dumb War. We shouldn’t do dumb things, we do smart things

Abby Martin:
Yeah we do “smart wars.”

Noam Chomsky:
It’s like German generals after Stalingrad, who says it’s really stupid to have a two-front war. We should have destroyed England first.

Abby Martin:
I always think it’s interesting that people use the rationale that we didn’t find WMDs as if that would have been a rationale to invade and occupy a country, finding weapons of mass destruction. It’s insane.

Noam Chomsky:
Of course not. If they’re concerned about weapons of mass destruction, there are ways to proceed. The UN inspector is doing a fine job. Actually, pretty much the same, similar questions arise in the case of the Iran nuclear deal. So Iran, according to the United States, poses a grave threat to the world. Now, that’s pretty much an American and Israeli obsession. Most of the world doesn’t see it that way. But let’s say it’s a threat. Suppose Iran poses a threat. How do you, are there simple ways of dealing with this? In fact there are. In fact very popular ones. The best way to deal with it would be to work towards instituting a nuclear weapons free zone in the region. That’s supported by almost the entire world. It’s strongly supported by Iran. In fact they’re one of the leading advocates of it.

Abby Martin:
When you’re not even acknowledging that Israel has them, then…

Noam Chomsky:
That’s the problem. The US won’t permit it, because it does not want Israeli nuclear weapons to be open to inspection. So therefore we block the obvious way to deal with whatever problem there is, and it is supported by virtually the entire world. Comes up every 5 years at the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference. And in fact the continuation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty is actually contingent on doing this. That was agreed 20 years ago. That’s the most important arms control treaty there is. If that treaty collapses, we’re gone. Everybody will have nuclear weapons and be using them. But the U.S. is so committed to protecting Israel’s nuclear weapons that it’s willing to endanger the Non-Proliferation Treaty and prevent the obvious means from keeping nuclear weapons away from Iran in case they have any interest in developing them.

Do you see a word of discussion about this outside of the arms control literature. I mean, I write articles but way out on the fringes. Nothing that can possibly make the mainstream.

Abby Martin:
There’s this huge amount of grassroots energy, donations, around getting people elected who are believed to be able to give us solutions to the problems that we face now. What do you think we should be focusing our energy on?

Noam Chomsky:
Take, say, the Bernie Sanders campaign, which I think is important, impressive. He’s doing good and courageous things. He’s organizing a lot of people. That campaign ought to be directed to sustaining a popular movement that will use the election as a kind of an incentive and then go on, and unfortunately it’s not. When the elections over, the movement is going to die. And that’s a serious error.

The only thing that’s going to ever, ever bring about any meaningful change is ongoing, dedicated, popular movements that don’t pay attention to the election cycle. It’s an extravaganza every four years. You have to be involved in it, so fine. We’ll be involved in it, but then we go on. If that were done, you could get major changes.

Calls to Suspend Syrian Refugee and Other Recent Anti-Muslim Statements by Government Officials

PDF of Fact Sheet

Arun Kundnani, who is the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror and a lecturer at New York University, said on an IPA news release: “While it’s very easy to denounce Trump’s recent repugnant, bullying statements — and much of the political class has — it’s important to keep several things in mind:

“First, as the compilation of statements by elected officials makes clear, he made these statements after many officials from across the country made scores of statements playing on unfounded fears against Syrian refugees and other Muslims.” [See full news release: “Trump’s Islamophobia is Tip of Iceberg“]

Compiled by the Institute for Public Accuracy with Arun Kundnani and Deepa Kumar.

December 15, 2015


  • AL: Gov. Robert Bentley ​(​11/15/2015​)
    • “After full consideration of this weekend’s attacks of terror on innocent citizens in Paris, I will oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. As your Governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way.”
  • AZ: Gov. Doug Ducey ​(​11/16/2015​)
    • “Given the horrifying events in Paris last week, I am calling for an immediate halt in the placement of any new refugees in Arizona.”
  • AR: Gov. Asa Hutchinson ​(​11/16/2015​)
    • “This is not the right strategy for the United States to become a permanent place for relocation.”
  • FL: Gov. Rick Scott​ (​11/16/2015​)
    • “Following the terrorist attacks by ISIS in Paris that killed over 120 people and wounded more than 350, and the new that at least one of the terror attack suspects gained access to France by posing as a Syrian refugee, our state agency will not support the requests we have received.”
  • GA: Gov. Nathan Deal ​(11/16/2015​)
    • “In light of the terror attacks in Paris, I’ve issued an executive order [​pdf​]directing state agency heads to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Georgia […] Further, I call upon the Obama administration to work with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security to confirm the backgrounds of the 59 Syrian refugees recently resettled to ensure they do not pose a security threat to our citizens. Until the federal government and Congress conducts a thorough review of current screening procedures and background checks, we will take every measure available to us at the state level to ensure the safety of Georgians.”
  • IA: Gov. Terry Branstad ​(11/16/2015​)
    • “Until a thorough and thoughtful review is conducted by the intelligence community and the safety of Iowans can be assured, the federal government should not resettle any Syrian refugees in Iowa.”
  • ID: Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter ​(11/16/2015​)
    • “It makes no sense under the best of circumstances for the United States to allow people into our country who have the avowed desire to harm our communities, our institutions and our people […] The savage and senseless ISIS­driven attacks in Paris illustrate the essential inhumanity of terrorism and make it clearer than ever that we must make protecting our homeland from this threat our primary focus.”
  • IL: Gov. Bruce Rauner​ (​11/16/2015​)
    • “We must find a way to balance our tradition as a state welcoming of refugees while ensuring the safety and security of our citizens. Therefore, the state of Illinois will temporarily suspend accepting new Syrian refugees and consider all of our legal options pending a full review of our country’s acceptance and security processes by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
  • IN: Gov. Mike Pence​ (​11/16/2015​)
    • “In the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris, effective immediately, I am directing all state agencies to suspend the resettlement of additional Syrian refugees in the state of Indiana pending assurances from the federal government that proper security measures have been achieved. Indiana has a long tradition of opening our arms and homes to refugees from around the world but, as governor, my first responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of all Hoosiers. Unless and until the state of Indiana receives assurances that proper security measures are in place, this policy will remain in full force and effect.”
  • KS: Gov. Sam Brownback (11/16/2015​)
    • “Most people seeking refugee status are peaceful individuals looking for a better life. But we cannot allow an influx of Syrian refugees, without any meaningful security checks, while ISIS is promising to infiltrate the refugee process. “Our resources can be better used to help persecuted Syrians. We must consider whether refugees fleeing the persecution of their home country may be better served by resettlement in a friendly nation closer to their homes.”
  • KY: Governor­Elect Matt Bevin ​(11/16/2015​)
    • “My primary responsibility as Governor of Kentucky will be to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth. This is why I am joining with other governors across the country in opposing the resettlement of Syrian nationals until we can better determine the full extent of any risks to our citizens.”
  • LA: Gov. Bobby Jindal ​(​11/14/2015​)
    • “Mr. President, in light of these attacks on Paris and reports that one of the attackers was a refugee from Syria, it would be prudent to pause the process of refugees coming to the United States. Authorities need to investigate what happened in Europe before this problem comes to the United States.”
    • Signed executive order prohibiting resettlement (​11/16/2015​)
  • ME: Gov. Paul LePage (11/16/2015​)
    • “To bring Syrian refugees into our country without knowing who they are is to invite an attack on American soil just like the one we saw in Paris last week and in New York City on 9/11. That is why I adamantly oppose any attempt by the federal government to place Syrian refugees in Maine, and will take every lawful measure in my power to prevent it from happening.”
  • MD: Gov. Larry Hogan ​(11/17/2015​)
    • “Following the terrorist attacks on Paris just four days ago, and after careful consideration, I am now requesting that federal authorities cease any additional settlements of refugees from Syria in Maryland until the U.S. government can provide appropriate assurances that refugees from Syria pose no threat to public safety.”
  • MA: Gov. Charlie Baker​ (​11/16/2015​)
    • ‘‘I think at this point in time we would have to be very cautious about accepting folks without knowing a lot more about what the federal government’s plan looks like… I would certainly say no until I know a lot more than I know now.’’
  • MS: Gov. Phil Bryant (11/16/2015​)
    • “I will do everything humanly possible to stop any plans from the Obama administration to put Syrian refugees in Mississippi. The policy of bringing these individuals into the country is not only misguided, it is extremely dangerous. I’ll be notifying President Obama of my decision today to resist this potential action.”
  • NE: Gov. Pete Ricketts (11/16/2015​)
    • “While it is my understanding that no Syrian refugees have been resettled in Nebraska to date, I am requesting that your organization and all refugee resettlement agencies in our state decline to participate in potential resettlement efforts.”
  • NH: Gov. Maggie Hassan ​(11/16/2015​)
    • “The Governor has always made clear that we must ensure robust refugee screening to protect American citizens, and the Governor believes that the federal government should halt acceptance of refugees from Syria until intelligence and defense officials can assure that the process for vetting all refugees, including those from Syria, is as strong as possible to ensure the safety of the American people.”
  • NJ: Gov. Chris Christie ​(11/16/2015​)
    • “I do not trust this administration to effectively vet the people who are proposed to be coming in. In order to protect the safety and security of the American people, so I would not permit them in […] The fact is, that we need for appropriate vetting and I don’t think orphans under five should be admitted into the United States at this point. You know, they have no family here. How are we going to care for these folks? The fact is, you could come up with a number of different scenarios Hugh,” explained Christie. “But in the end, I don’t trust this administration to effectively vet the people that they are asking us to take in. We need to put the safety and security of the American people first.”
  • NM: Gov. Susana Martinez ​(11/16/2015​)
    • “The governor strongly opposes the Obama administration’s plan to accept more Syrian refugees until there is a very clear plan in place to properly vet and place the refugees, and the voices of governors and the public can be heard.”
  • NC: Gov. Pat McCrory​ (​11/16/2015​)
    • “However, because President Obama has increased the number of refugees from Syria coming into the United States from 2,000 to 10,000 and because of the terrorist attacks in Paris and the very real possibility that one of the terrorists entered France as a recent refugee, I am requesting that the federal government cease sending refugees from Syria to North Carolina.”
  • ND: Gov. Jack Dalrymple ​(11/17/2015​)
    • “Ensuring the safety and security of North Dakotans, as well as all Americans, is a top priority for us all, and so I urge the administration to halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S. until the system has been reviewed and we can be assured that our citizens will be safe.”
  • NV: Gov. Brian Sandoval (​11/16/2015​)
    • “I would also request that until your administration has completed the review of these programs, no additional Syrian refugees be admitted for resettlement in Nevada.”
  • OH: Gov. John Kasich (11/16/2015​)
    • “There is no way that we can put any of our people at risk by bringing people in at this point. You asked the question, ‘should anyone be able to come in here before the end of the year.’ The answer to that question should be ‘no.’ We cannot jeopardize our people.”
  • OK: Gov. Mary Fallin ​(11/16/2015​)
    • “The Obama administration needs to assure the public that the background checks they are doing are rigorous, and that American lives will not be endangered in the process [..] Until then, I call on the Obama administration to suspend any Syrian refugees into the United States. During these uncertain times, the Obama administration needs to make sure those entering the United States are not terrorists.”
  • SC: Gov. Nikki Haley​ (​11/16/2015​)
    • “This lack of historical and verifiable intelligence with many Syrian refugees makes it difficult, if not impossible, to thoroughly vet individuals seeking to enter the United States as a refugee.”
  • TN: Gov. Bill Haslam ​(11/16/2015​)
    • “While screening, acceptance and placement is legally under the authority of the federal government, they have said in the past they would be open to cooperating with receiving states. Today I’m asking the federal government to suspend placements in Tennessee until states can become more of a partner in the vetting process.”
  • TX: Gov. Greg Abbott ​(​11/16/2015​)
    • “Given the tragic attack in Paris and the threats we have already seen in Texas, coupled with the FBI director’s acknowledgment that we do not have the information necessary to effectively vet Syrian nationals, Texas cannot participate in any program that will result in Syrian refugees ­ any one of whom could be connected to terrorism ­ being resettled in Texas.”
  • WI: Gov. Scott Walker​ (​11/16/2015​)
    • “With this in mind, I am calling upon the President to immediately suspend the program pending a full review of its security and acceptance procedures. The State of Wisconsin will not accept new Syrian refugees.”
  • WY: Gov. Matt Mead​ (​11/17/2015​)
    • “In light of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, I have joined other governors in demanding the refugee process be halted until it is guaranteed to provide the security demanded by Wyoming and United States citizens.”

Members of Congress:

  • House Speaker Paul Ryan (R­WI) (11/17/2015​)
    • “Our nation has always been welcoming, but we cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion. This is a moment where it’s better to be safe than to be sorry. So we think the prudent — the responsible thing is to take a pause in this particular aspect of this refugee program in order to verify that terrorists are not trying to infiltrate the refugee population.”
  • Brian Babin (R­TX) ​(11/16/2015​)
    • “The terrorist attack in Paris by militant Islamists is a loud clanging alarm bell to Congress and the American people warning us why we must block Obama’s reckless and foolish plan to allow tens of thousands of Syrian refugees into the U.S.”
    • “Mary and Jesus didn’t have suicide bomb vests strapped on them, and these folks do. You can see it in technicolor in Paris.”
  • Lou Barletta (R­PA) (11/16/2015​)
    • “With all these facts considered, I appeal to your concern for the safety of your fellow Pennsylvanians and ask that you reverse tour policy of accepting the so­called ‘Syrian refugees.'”
  • Joe Barton (R­TX) ​(11/16/2015​)
    • “As we continue to reflect on the terrorist attacks in Paris, one thing has become abundantly clear. The United States cannot continue to participate in Syrian refugee resettlement. ISIS has already claimed credit for one attack in Texas, and we must do everything in our power to make sure it will never happen again.”
  • Mike Bishop (R­MI) (11/16/2015​)
    • “America will always be a nation of immigrants, but without adequate background information to crosscheck, it would be more than irresponsible to push ahead and simply ‘hope for the best.’ The terrorist attacks in Paris remind us that, despite the president saying ISIS is ‘contained,’ they are in fact alive and well, and we cannot afford a misstep when it comes to our national security.”
  • Bradley Byrne (R­AL) ​(11/16/2015​)
    • “We have no greater responsibility as a federal government than to ensure the safety and security of the American people. It is clearly in the best interest of the American people to halt the Syrian refugee resettlement program.”
  • Chris Collins (R­NY) (11/16/2015​)
    • “At this point, we cannot guarantee with 100 percent certainty that the refugees we are accepting from Syria don’t pose a threat to our community. Until we have a process in place that achieves that goal, I am calling on Governor Cuomo to stop plans to accept Syrian refugees.”
  • Bob Goodlatte (R­VA) ​(​11/16/2015​)
    • “ISIS terrorists and sympathizers have made clear that they plan to infiltrate Western countries through the refugee system. When will President Obama take ISIS threats seriously, as well as the warnings of national security officials within his own administration, and cease his plan to bring thousands of Syrian refugees into the United States?”
  • Glenn Grothman (R­WI)​ (​11/16/2015​)
    • “President Obama should immediately halt his Syrian refugee program until the United States Intelligence Community can guarantee the program does not pose any threats to our national security.”
  • Bill Johnson (R­OH) ​(11/16/2015​)
    • “I agree with Gov. Kasich. As unanswered questions remain about the screening process used for Syrian refugees admitted into the U.S., it is time for the State Department, at a bare minimum, to halt bringing more refugees into the United States and Ohio.”
  • Walter B. Jones (R­NC) (​11/16/2015​)
    • “After the atrocious attacks in Paris on Friday night brought on by at least one Syrian refugee, it is dishonest for any politician to pretend that importing ‘refugees’ from radical Islamic countries does not increase the threat of horrific attacks against Americans.”
  • Peter King (R­NY) (11/15/15​)
    • “We have to put political correctness aside. We have to have surveillance in the Muslim communities. That’s where the threat is coming from. I don’t think today the French police or french intelligence is monitoring the Catholic or Jewish community. The threat is coming from the Muslim community.”
  • Barry Loudermilk (R­GA) ​(11/16/2015​)
    • “The threats against our nation are real and serious, and we must make every effort to protect the people and interests of our nation. Therefore, I am calling on the administration to immediately cease plans to admit any refugees from the conflict zones associated with the expansion and occupation of ISIS or the civil war in Syria.”
  • Candice Miller (R­MI) (11/15/2015​)
    • “I support Governor Snyder’s decision to suspend efforts to relocate Syrian refugees to Michigan, and have cautioned against the Administration’s decision to increase the number being admitted into the U.S. […] Anyone who says we can adequately and safely vet these refugees is wrong because there is no database in Syria and no way to identify who’s who.”
  • Jeff Miller (R­FL)​ (​11/16/2015​)
    • “We must be vigilant in defending our shores. I will continue to oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to this country.”
  • Ted Poe (R­TX) ​(​11/17/2015​)
    • “Current federal law does not clearly give governors the absolute right to refuse. This matter will end up being fought in long court battles if Congress does not act to clarify the law. ISIS has threatened to attack our homeland. We should believe them. The Director of the FBI even stated that he does not believe we have enough resources to screen the refugees. We should allow state governors to take action to protect their citizens.”
  • Bill Posey (R­FL) ​(11/16/2015​)
    • Furthermore, I oppose the President’s plan to bring tens of thousands of Syrian refugees into the United States, and I have cosponsored legislation to stop the Administration from taking this action.”
  • Martha Roby (R­AL) ​(​11/16/2015​)
    • “As many as 10,000 Syrian refugees are reportedly about to start showing up in the United States in 2016 per President Obama’s directive. Are we really this naive? At least one of the Paris attackers came into that country via similar means, and ISIS has said they would actively try to game the refugee resettlement process to infiltrate western countries.”
  • Lamar Smith (R­TX) (11/16/2015​)
    • “At a time when we are on high alert, all plans for relocating Syrian refugees should come to a screeching halt. We should not allow Syrian refugees into our country until this administration can guarantee that they pose no danger to the American people.”
  • Ted Cruz (R­TX) ​(​11/16/15​)
    • “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror. If there were a group of radical Christians pledging to murder anyone who had a different religious view than they, we would have a different national security situation […] But it is precisely the Obama administration’s unwillingness to recognize that or ask those questions that makes them so unable to fight this enemy. Because they pretend as if there is no religious aspect to this.”
  • Rand Paul (R­KY)​ (​11/16/2015​)
    • “The best way to defend the country from attackers that don’t really have an army, but come here as individuals, is to prevent their access into this country […] It is about time, and I think Paris should wake us up to the fact that we can’t just let anyone come to this country.”
  • Jeff Sessions (R­AL) ​(​11/16/2015​)
    • “The barbaric attacks in Paris ­ an assault on civilization itself ­ add immense new urgency. As the former head of the USCIS union warned in a public statement more than a year ago: ‘as we know from the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, from the Boston Bombing, from the recent plot to bomb a school and courthouse in Connecticut, and many other lesser­known terror incidents, we are letting terrorists into the United States right through our front door.’”
  • Chuck Grassley (R-IA) ​(11/16/2015​)
    • “I would also suggest to President Obama that he reconsider his plans to admit Syrian refugees until the dust settles and we get to the bottom of the Paris attacks. We need to analyze what happened. We need to figure out how we can better screen these refugees and ensure that terrorists among them are not evading proper screenings. We need a time­out before we press forward.”
  • Ryan Zinke (R­MT)​ (​11/16/2015​)
    • “In the case of the Syrian refugees, most of them are male. Most of them are of military age, and yes, it is a significant security issue in that a background check is only as good as the authorities have information on them. But when you have a background check and you don’t know their background, you don’t know what they’ve done, it is enormously dangerous in the interest of our national security to accept potential terrorists. ISIS said, and now they have proven, they will use this chaos to infiltrate ISIS members in the refugee population.”
  • Mark Kirk (R­IL), Kelly Ayotte (R­NH), Joni Ernst (R­IA), Daniel Coats (R­IN), Shelley Moore Capito (R­WV), and Joe Manchin (D­WV) (11/16/2015​)
    • “It is already clear that ISIS is responsible for the barbaric attacks. Reported indicates that at least one of the attackers apparently utilized the flow of refugees to infiltrate Europe. These facts require a serious and objective reexamination of the Administration’s policy toward Syrian refugees to avoid unnecessary risks.”
  • David Vitter (R­LA)​ (​11/15/15​)
    • “Please join me and others in demanding that President Obama stop accepting these Syrian refugees immediately, and stop settling any into New Orleans, given this unacceptable lax security and lack of full vetting on their backgrounds,”
  • Jeff Duncan (R­SC) ​(11/13/15)
    • Tweeted: “How’s that Syrian refugee resettlement look now? How about that mass migration into Europe? Terrorism is alive & well in the world. #No
  • Former Rep. Hoekstra (R-MI) (11/6/15)
    • “We can make a very compelling case that Judeo-Christian values as exercised in the United States, that we are superior”
    • “There is a reason we say Judeo-Christian values rather than Judeo-Christian-Islamic values”
  • Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) (12/3/15)
    • “So the president has presided over hundreds of thousands, millions really, being in the country illegally, at least 179,000 that, as I understand it, they have detained previously but have let loose on the country who have committed crimes, including murder, rape, robbery. And with all of those people that are coming into the country, some of whom are violent criminals, coming into our interior, some of them are actually picked up by Homeland Security and shipped all over our country, no matter whether they’re sick or not, I’ve seen them shipped out while they’re sick, but they’re shipped all over the country, not knowing for sure whether they’re violent criminals or not. So then we have people in the country that should never have been allowed in the country.”
    • “Refugees that have been allowed in the country, some of whom are violent terrorists, and they’ve been let in the country, and then when they do some act of violence, we’re told, and I know they haven’t said these words but basically by the position the administration is taking, they’re saying, ‘Yep, we’ve let all of these terrorists, these criminals come into the middle of our country, so all of you law-abiding citizens are going to have to give up your Second Amendment rights because I’ve let all these terrorists in; we can’t let terrorists go in and buy guns so we need to be really restrictive.’ So law-abiding citizens are going to have to give up a big portion of their Second Amendment rights because we’ve allowed all of these terrorists to be in our country without doing anything to remove them. Yes they’ve removed some, but there’s a massive number they haven’t.”
  • Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
  • Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) (10/9/2015)
    • “There is a small group, and we don’t know how big that is—it can be anywhere between 5 and 20 percent, from the people that I speak to—that Islam is their religion and who have a desire for a caliphate and to institute that in any way possible, and in particular go after what they consider Western norms—our way of life.”
  • Trey Gowdy (R-SC) (11/19/2015)
    • “The president says we’re scared of widows and orphans. With all due respect to him, what I’m really afraid of is a foreign policy that creates more widows and orphans.”
  • Steve King (R-IA) (11/19/2015)
    • “Have you ever seen a suicidal terrorist that was not a Muslim?”
    • “We’re talking about a huge haystack of humanity and that hay is benign, relatively speaking, but in that haystack are the needles called terrorists, and the proposal that’s coming from the administration is we’re so professional that we can examine all of that hay and we can identify any of the needles in it — terrorists — and we can sort the needles out of they haystack, and somehow prevent them from coming into America.”
    • (12/09/2015): “We should be profiling people who are getting on airplanes, and we should be profiling people that are coming into America, and those coming into America should meet a profile where they are most likely to be able to contribute to our society and our economy, and assimilate into the American civilization. And I have said publicly that Muslims do not do that in significant numbers.”
  • Marco Rubio (R-FL) (11/15/2015)
    • [In response to statements denying “war against Islam”] ““That would be like saying we weren’t at war with Nazis, because we were afraid to offend some Germans who may have been members of the Nazi Party but weren’t violent themselves.”
    • (12/3/2015)
      • “When you understand it, you realize these are not people you can negotiate with. These are not people that are going to go out of business. These are not individuals that are disgruntled or unemployed. These are not people that are upset because American troops were deployed in Iraq.”
      • “These are individuals with an apocalyptic vision of the future, and they will not stop until they feel they have succeeded in triggering this apocalypse. It, by the way, is similar to the views held by the Ayatollah in Iran. And so when people that have an apocalyptic vision of the future are growing in their capabilities in the case of ISIS, or trying to acquire a nuclear weapon in the case of Iran, you understand why it is that in many cases, diplomacy and engagement does not work, and in the case of ISIS has no chance of working.”
  • Former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) (12/10/2015)
    • “Donald Trump is right. Obama’s insane open-door immigration policies are getting innocent Americans killed.”
    • “No one has a right to enter the United States. Until we can set up a working, fail-safe vetting system, Trump’s idea is the only one that ensures the innocence, safety and security of all Americans, Muslims included.”

State lawmakers

  • NC: House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger (11/17/2015​)
    • “We commend our Governor for his leadership in requesting that Syrian refugees not be placed in North Carolina. It is important that our States unite to challenge the Obama Administration on its weak foreign policy.”
  • RI: State Rep. Doreen Costa ​(​11/16/2015​)
    • “Please re­think welcoming refugees here to Rhode Island. We need to protect our citizens”
  • TN: Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R­Blountville) and House Speaker Beth Harwell (R­Nashville)​ (​11/16/2015​)
    • “Out of an abundance of caution, the flow of refugees must be stopped. As Tennessee’s congressional delegation, we ask you to advocate strongly for an immediate moratorium on refugees entering the United States, specifically Tennessee.”
  • TN: State Rep. Shelia Butt (R­64) ​(​11/16/2015​)
    • “Michigan Governor, Rick Snyder, who has made the comment himself that he believes he is “the most pro­immigration governor in the country” has already suspended settlement of Syrian refugees in Michigan. We implore you on behalf of the people whom we represent to take the responsibility as Governor to protect the safety of the people in the great state of Tennessee and do the same.”
  • ID: State Rep. Heather Scott (R­1)​ (​11/16/2015​)
    • “Along with many local, state, and federal representatives I believe this administration, in conjunction with the United Nations, is deliberately flooding America with Islamic refugees while paying lip service to states’ resources and national security.”
  • TX: State Rep. Tony Dole (R­136)​ (​11/16/2015​)
    • “I am asking you to stop more Syrians from being admitted to the United States and specifically to Texas. The risk outweighs the reward in admitting these individuals. Either we act in a way that protects Americans from Daesh or their desire to attack us will be made a reality.
  • NV: Assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R-4) (11/21/2015)
    • “What–are you kidding me? I’m about to fly to Paris and shoot ‘em in the head myself!”
    • “I am not OK with Syrian refugees. I’m not OK with terrorists. I’m OK with putting them down, blacking them out, just put a piece of brass in their ocular cavity and end their miserable life. I’m good with that,” she continued.
  • WA: Jay Rodne (R-5) (11/20/2015)
    • “I’m concerned about the safety and security of the people of the state of Washington first and foremost and that trumps, in my view, concerns about being compassionate. Especially when given our current threat environment, we have no reliable way to vet these migrants coming in from Syria.”
    • “If there had been a concealed carry in that theater in Paris; if there had been individuals there that had been concealed carry like we enjoy in this country; had there been individuals there that were properly concealing, maybe we wouldn’t have 100 dead hostages. People of France have been disarmed.”
    • “We have no vetting process in place, we have no reliable way to determine who is an innocent refugee and who is a terrorist, who wants to use those freedoms against us.”

Classified Politics: A System and a Clinton in Disrepute

by Diane Roark
    The system for classifying intelligence and other national security documents is broken in major respects. Increasingly, it is also manipulated to punish perceived critics or to protect agency reputations and high officials, both from adverse publicity and in the courts. Hillary Clinton’s use of a private rather than State Department email service illustrates many of these issues. Her experience stands in stark contrast to treatment of national security whistleblowers, as illustrated in particular by variance in NSA (National Security Agency) communications intelligence policies.
    Culpability. Mrs. Clinton clearly and knowingly mishandled classified information. Security clearances were required for her membership on the Senate Armed Services Committee from 2003 to 2009. Therefore, she knew the rules for handling classified information before she decided, at the outset when she became Secretary of State in early 2009, to use personal rather than secure email.
    Hillary and Bill Clinton had suffered many political and public relations crises. She had already run for the presidency and likely would do so again. Rules for handling classified information were ignored, the effect being to hide records that could be used against her in a second presidential run.
    It simply could never be argued plausibly that for four years, a person in the highest U.S. foreign policy slot had no classified or sensitive information in any business emails that she wrote or received – over 30,000 of them. This defies the definition of the job. The State Department is a primary user and a significant generator of classified information, that bears on the great majority of issues coming before the Secretary. The State Department is also a profligate designator of “Sensitive But Unclassified” information.
    Overclassification. It is widely admitted that the intelligence classification system suffers from systemic over-­classification. President Obama has acknowledged the problem, and one review group even stated that almost every item now labeled Confidential should be Unclassified. There is no penalty for playing it safe – or playing it political – by classifying at too high a level, but there are potentially severe repercussions for an individual who mistakenly classifies at too low a level, or who is known to mishandle or publicly reveal classified information.
    It is most unlikely, however, that Hillary Clinton will fall victim to accusations that rely on improper over-­classification. The State Department and White House, including President Obama himself, sought to protect her and to minimize the effects of her behavior. The case is extremely high­-profile, Democrats in Congress would attack any borderline classification, and a host of well-­paid lawyers would rise to her defense. Improperly classified items or those deemed Sensitive but Unclassified may be redacted from publicly released documents, but it is hard to imagine that Mrs. Clinton would be falsely accused of felonies.
    Whistleblowers suffer a quite different fate. Intelligence agencies easily and repeatedly retaliate for the airing of their dirty laundry by accusing the whistleblower of improperly handling or revealing allegedly classified information. The Obama administration then prosecutes them under the Espionage Act, under which altruistic motivation is irrelevant and may not even be raised in court.
    John Kiriakou revealed on television that post ­9/11 torture was official U.S. policy, not just attributable to a few rogue agents. The CIA seethed, but the Justice Department would not prosecute. Unfortunately, Kiriakou erred in giving a reporter the business card of a man he thought had retired from CIA but was still an agent under cover. The agent’s name was not published, but CIA got its revenge when Kiriakou was indicted under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1981. Left penniless with over $700,000 in legal bills even before trial, Kiriakou finally accepted a felony plea bargain and went to jail.
    Thomas Drake and this author went through proper official channels in 2001­2002 to protest NSA’s surveillance of U.S. citizens. Along with colleagues Kirk Wiebe, Bill Binney and Edward Loomis, they also reported to the Defense Department Inspector General the waste of money on NSA modernization. After domestic surveillance leaked to the New York Times four years later, the five became primary suspects, partly because the IG improperly offered their names to the FBI. All were raided, but no evidence was found because, as the reporter later stated publicly, he had not then met or communicated with any of the five.
    Nonetheless, Drake was prosecuted under the Espionage Act for possessing five Unclassified NSA papers that NSA retroactively classified. He was threatened with 35 years in prison unless he pled guilty, but heroically resisted. Pre­trial hearings proved all the information in the documents had been declassified by NSA. After a years-­old interview record was orally falsified, this author was asked to plead guilty to felony perjury, but also refused.
    Section 1.7 of Executive Order 13526 governing classification stipulates that no information may be classified to conceal violations of law, inefficiency or administrative error; to prevent embarrassment; to restrain competition; or to prevent or delay release of information not requiring protection. This section is observed in the breach, as political considerations dictate. For all the above proscribed reasons, unclassified parts of the NSA IG audit we requested are still withheld by NSA ten years after the audit was first published. Edward Snowden and John Kiriakou showed that illegal and unconstitutional activities were hidden from American citizens and others behind the veil of classification. For revealing material that never should have been classified in the first place, they are paying a very high price. In Snowden’s case, many revelations about domestic surveillance still are treated as classified to keep them from U.S. voters, although every terrorist and every intelligence agency in the world has access to the documents and almost no ordinary person in any country of interest to the US can function efficiently whilst avoiding NSA surveillance.
    Sensitive but Unclassified Material. Individual agencies claim an unsupervised right to withhold admittedly Unclassified information according to any criteria they see fit and for as long as they choose. In the Clinton email case, it is quite striking that not a word has been breathed about such Unclassified but Sensitive material. Her free pass in this respect is is the envy of whistleblowers.
    In our case, NSA initially refused to return any materials seized in the raids. When sued, NSA claimed that if a computer contained even one admittedly Unclassified document with material that had not been officially released by NSA, the Agency could retain and destroy the entire computer content. Courts eventually allowed NSA to keep such individual documents in their entirety and at their sole discretion, but required that others be copied and returned.
    With ordinary citizens or lower­-level whistleblowers, Sensitive but Unclassified material is wielded as yet another weapon in the Executive’s arsenal of punishments. Even high­-level intelligence officials have had difficulty publishing their memoirs, partly because pre-­publication review agreements routinely allow an agency to withhold unclassified information.
    Since the 1950s, most judges refuse to review allegedly classified or sensitive material even to determine that it does not fall under the common-­sense prohibitions of Section 1.7 of the Executive Order on classification. The executive branch has also been famously successful in promulgating a “state secrets” doctrine to avoid or indefinitely delay court scrutiny of important civil liberties issues such as domestic surveillance. It is now known, however, that the original state secrets precedent wrongly invoked intelligence sources and methods to cover up Air Force culpability for a plane crash.
    In the author’s case, even NSA’s grossly inconsistent classifications got a free pass. A document that was released to Kirk Wiebe as Unclassified was branded Top Secret Compartmented when found on the author’s computer. Confronted with this vast discrepancy, NSA alleged that it could neither confirm nor deny that the document had previously been released. It keeps no records of prior declassifications. Even in a related court case. Nor is it interested in an available system to compile and compare such records. But the judge let the classification stand.
Diane Roark retired in 2002 after 17 years on the professional staff of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and prior service on the National Security Council Staff, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and in the Intelligence section of the International division of the Department of Energy.

Video of Sterling News Conference

Please enjoy the full video of Holly Sterling’s news conference, which was her first such appearance since her husband’s trial and imprisonment. The news conference also featured Thomas Drake, Delphine Halgand, Ray McGovern, and Jesselyn Radack.

Open Letter to President Obama from Holly Sterling

Image by Noel St. John

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500

October 15, 2015

Dear Mr. President, I am writing you on behalf of my innocent husband Mr. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling. You know Mr. Sterling as the former “disgruntled” CIA Officer that your administration indicted and prosecuted, resulting in conviction on nine felony counts, seven of them under the antiquated Espionage Act, with a sentence of three and a half years in prison. I would like to introduce you to the real Jeffrey Sterling who is my best friend and husband for the past 11 years.

Jeffrey Sterling was born and raised in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He is the youngest of six boys, and his parents divorced at a very early age. Jeffrey was a very inquisitive, bright, and driven child. He once took apart his mother’s radio just to see the interior working mechanisms and as a challenge to be able to reassemble it in working order. As a young boy, he would spend every Friday evening with his maternal grandmother visiting, watching their beloved Cardinals baseball team, or assisting her around her home.

Even at a young age, Jeffrey had a very strong moral code of ethics. Jeffrey’s cousin, Darian Martin, fondly recollects Jeffrey as “always being like a big brother to me. I always looked up to Jeff because he was extremely talented. He was an artist, musician, a writer, and was also an outstanding athlete to name a few of his qualities. Jeff also spent time with me and 2 our other cousins and instilled discipline in our lives. He is truly a role model and one of the most successful members of our family. Jeff has always been an honest person and has always made excellent decisions. Jeff gave me hope that I could grow up and be someone, and that is exactly what I have done by walking in his footsteps.”

Jeffrey enjoyed and excelled at academics and knew from an early age he would attend college; as it turned out he was the only one of his siblings to do so. After graduating from high school, Jeffrey attended Millikin University and pursued a political science degree. During his schooling, he became a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity where he met and befriended current Commander William Roth of the United States Navy Reserve Component. Mr. Roth describes Jeffrey “as selfless, he regularly put the needs and wants of others ahead of his own.” Mr. Roth recalled a Sunday morning when he caught a young African American teenager who had broken into the fraternity house attempting to break into the soda machine coin box. Mr. Roth was holding the young man by one hand and reaching for the telephone with the other when Jeffrey asked him to wait. Jeffrey talked with the youngster, asked him what he was doing, and stated he was going down a bad road. Jeffrey talked Mr. Roth into letting the boy go and giving him another chance, which he did.

After graduation, Jeffrey continued his studies at Washington University in St. Louis, to obtain his Juris Doctorate. One day while in his third year of law school, he noticed an employment advertisement that caught his eye. It was advertising operational officer positions with the Central Intelligence Agency. The ad depicted a man looking over a canal and the caption described serving the country and seeing the world in a unique opportunity. Jeffrey was immediately intrigued. Growing up he always wanted to see the world and serve his country, as three of his older brothers had done in the military. He recalls it being a great opportunity, as 3 “how many times do you come across something that may give you the opportunity of a dream you had for so long; that was all of it wrapped into one. I was excited to see if I could join and be a part of that organization. I felt special about the ad and the opportunity and rushed home that day and started the process.”

Jeffrey’s dream came true as he joined the CIA in May of 1993, training to be a case officer. After completing training, he was assigned to the Iran Task Force and was taught to speak Farsi. In 1997, Jeffrey was finalizing arrangements for his first overseas post in Germany, when he was informed by his supervisor that the job role had been assigned to another individual. It was at that moment, his supervisor stated, “we are concerned you would stick out as a big black guy speaking Farsi.” With shock and dismay, Jeffrey replied: “When did you realize I was black?”

It was then that Jeffrey began to realize his dream was beginning to unravel, as after securing a different overseas assignment he was ordered to Germany to take the original assignment as the appointed individual had quit the agency. Jeffrey recalls not having a choice in the matter, as he was told “you either go where we want or you’re going nowhere.” He agreed and decided he was going to prove to them he was a great case officer. However, without a proper cover or supports it made it impossible for Jeffrey to be successful and he soon returned to the United States. Jeffrey was assigned to the counter-proliferation division and reported to New York, where he was again confronted with the realities of disparate treatment and unrealistic performance expectations. Thus, Jeffrey decided to file an Equal Employment Opportunity Complaint based on racial discrimination. Subsequently, the agency reported no findings of racial discrimination and Jeffrey was fired on January 31, 2002. Soon after, he was the first black officer to file a racial discrimination lawsuit against the CIA. The case was 4 ultimately dismissed on August 3, 2005, based on State Secrets Privilege. The judge noted, “We recognize that our decision places, on behalf of the entire country, a burden on Sterling that he alone must bear.” One New York Times reporter, James Risen, published an article about Jeffrey’s discrimination suit in 2002.

In 2003, Jeffrey went to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to voice concerns he had regarding “Operation Merlin,” which he worked on while at the agency. He had grave concerns about mismanagement of the program and potential harm to our country. This was a legal and proper channel for agency employees to voice any such concerns.

Since his termination from the agency, Jeffrey was unable to secure employment due to the stigma of suing the CIA and was in dire financial straits. He sold his possessions, gave his beloved cats to a neighbor and spent nights sleeping in his car as he made his way back to St. Louis. With no other options, Jeffrey moved in with friends and provided childcare to their newborn daughter in exchange for room and board. He recalls “it was very humbling to go from being a case officer with the Central Intelligence Agency to now I’m a manny.”

Finally, in the summer of 2004 Jeffrey caught a break and secured employment as a Senior Fraud Investigator for WellPoint, Inc. His spirits were lifted and he once again had an optimistic view he would be able to recover from the devastation of his fallout with the CIA. It was on July 29, 2004, that I had the pleasure of meeting Jeffrey for the first time, and our relationship flourished immediately. Jeffrey’s life as he knew it was once again full of promise. He thoroughly enjoyed his work and was able to utilize some of the skills he was taught by the agency to aid in the discovery of healthcare fraud. Jeffrey quickly became a very notable employee. Ms. Tammy Tait, a former Pharmacy Compliance Officer, describes Jeffrey as “a 5 motivated and dedicated employee who demonstrated at all times a professional and ethical attitude towards his work and his clients.”

Jeffrey felt secure that his life was moving forward in a positive direction and he was once again a productive member of society, that is until the FBI came knocking on our door in the summer of 2006, with a grand jury subpoena stating that Jeffrey was the target of an investigation regarding the disclosure of classified information. Approximately two months later, the FBI issued a grand jury subpoena to myself. In October, I endured seven hours of interrogation by Special Agent Ashley Hunt and her associate at FBI Headquarters, and the following day testified for three hours before a grand jury. Upon returning home, I immediately received a call from my attorney stating he was on his way to our home as the FBI was en route with a search warrant. My attorney told me that the FBI agents “had nothing” on Jeffrey because never before in any of his prior client’s cases did he receive a call from the FBI prior to a search. Minutes later, our home was surrounded and infiltrated by at least a dozen FBI agents confiscating our personal belongings. The sanctity of our home was violated and I had a complete meltdown. I attempted to go to work the next day, only to be completely emotionally overwhelmed and was sent home by my employer who stated that I needed to leave because she thought I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Jeffrey and I slowly recovered from the traumatic events of October 5, 2006, and focused on our life together although there was always an uneasy feeling of what was to come next and when. However, as time passed those feelings lessened. Jeffrey and I were married in June of 2007, and he continued to excel in his career receiving many accolades. In 2010, Jeffrey was awarded Investigation of the Year Award, Honorable Mention, after identifying Medicare fraud in Florida totaling more than 32 million dollars in false claims. His investigation led to the 6 conviction of those responsible for the fraudulent theft. During the hearing, the judge personally acknowledged Jeffrey, stating that his victim impact statement illustrated the grave implications of Medicare fraud on society. Jeffrey was also appointed as the Ambassador of Giving for WellPoint’s Annual United Way Giving Campaign. It was reported by several coworkers and friends that Jeffrey exemplified honesty, integrity, and humility; the exact characteristics of the true nature of the campaign. Jeffrey also personally took the time to individually thank each employee who donated to the campaign. In the fall of 2010, Jeffrey received a call from his lawyer stating he thought the FBI investigation was winding down as there had been no activity since our home was searched. Jeffrey and I began to feel a sense of relief and that the heavy burden was being lifted.

That sense of relief and security would be short lived. On January 6, 2011, Jeffrey was asked to attend a meeting at work despite being on medical leave after having total knee replacement surgery. Jeffrey obliged, and walking with the assistance of a cane, reported to his office. Shortly after his arrival, he was arrested by the FBI. WellPoint, which had just honored him months prior, assisted in the orchestration of the false meeting and arrest. Jeffrey was arrested on allegations of providing classified information to the reporter, James Risen, because he was apparently “disgruntled” after being fired by the CIA and having his discrimination case dismissed per the prosecutor.

Jeffrey was transferred to a jail in Alexandria, Virginia. During the hearing Judge Leonie Brinkema denied a request to return home, and ordered him to stay with local friends or remain in jail. Jeffrey remained in Virginia until the latter part of April when he was allowed to return to our home awaiting a trial date.

Three days after Jeffrey’s arrest he was terminated from WellPoint. However, in my 7 discussions with the head of human resources, they reported Jeffrey technically resigned as he did not report for duty for three consecutive days, as was their policy. I argued that Jeffrey’s legal counsel and I had immediately called and informed WellPoint of the situation. During my initial call, I requested that Jeffrey be placed on temporary administrative leave without pay due to the unusual circumstances, as I was certain he would be released and able to return to work, also noting that Jeffrey was in good standing with his employer. Tragically, Jeffrey was never again to be employed. His release conditions made it impossible to obtain employment as he was ordered to inform prospective employers of being under indictment and the charges involved. He also was subjected to random substance screenings despite never having any history of substance abuse issues. We also suffered the loss of friendships, as those individuals the government deemed as potential witnesses were precluded from having any contact with us.

Jeffrey and I would travel to Virginia, at our expense, to be present for every pretrial hearing. We made a commitment to attend every hearing, no matter the cost, as we were fighting for Jeffrey’s life. I would often work weekends, per an agreement I made with my employer, to be able to attend the hearings as I had continually exhausted all accrued vacation and sick time. On the Friday prior to the October 17, 2011 trial date, it was determined the government could not go forward with the trial, and Jeffrey and I returned home and waited.

What exactly were we waiting for? The government was attempting to subpoena journalist James Risen to testify that Jeffrey Sterling was his source for the leak of classified information. A lengthy battle ensued between the government and Mr. Risen’s attorneys, all the while forgetting Jeffrey. During oral arguments on May 18, 2012, the government referred to Jeffrey as “one of the most dangerous men in our country.” Jeffrey’s counsel, Mr. Edward MacMahon, Jr., stated for the record, “Mr. Sterling, one of the most dangerous men in our 8 country is present today.” The entire courtroom erupted into laughter, except for Jeffrey, myself, and his attorney, who found no humor in the statement. Our life was not a comedy, but had become very much a tragedy.

Time marched on as we continued to endure the excruciating burden of the pending trial, wanting desperately to return to our former life. Although Jeffrey was determined and persisted to obtain employment, he continued to be rejected time and time again. As time continued to fade away, so did our dreams and monetary resources. Although I was employed as a social worker, it was not enough to adequately pay our bills and pay for all the expenses related to traveling back and forth to Virginia for countless hearings. In the winter of 2014, I became unemployed for six months. We had no health insurance, were receiving food stamps, and facing foreclosure on our home. Our life had taken a severe turn for the worse and we had nowhere to turn. We had to rely on the goodwill of family and friends, taking monetary loans to keep afloat, and selling my 1998 Toyota Camry in desperate need of repairs beyond its value. Finally, I obtained a new job and at the final hour of losing our home, the bank was willing to grant a loan modification. The new day had shed some light, but the darkness continued to loom as we awaited a new trial date.

In October of 2014, we learned the trial was scheduled for January 12, 2015. I had just begun my new job approximately one month prior and had to bare my soul to my employer and hope they would not dismiss me due to the extreme circumstances and time required to attend the trial. Thankfully my employer was understanding and supportive. For the first time ever, Jeffrey attended pretrial hearings without me, as I was saving my vacation time for the trial. We spent the next months mentally preparing for what lay ahead and spent countless hours engrossed in planning for the absolute worst outcome yet maintaining constant faith that his innocence would 9 prevail.

In late December, tragedy struck as we learned that Jeffrey’s second-oldest brother, Steve, was diagnosed with cancer. Jeffrey and I went to visit him immediately, but that would be the last visit. Steve died on January 5th while Jeffrey was in Virginia for pretrial hearings. I garnered strength and called Jeffrey. Immediately, he knew by the tone in my voice as I did not even say the words, and he began to sob. My heart ached as I was unable to physically console him. All I could do was tell him how much I loved him. I spent the evening calling Jeffrey’s lawyers to inform them and discuss our options as Steven’s funeral was being held on January 12, the first day of the trial. The lawyers filed a motion requesting a delay for Jeffrey to attend Steven’s funeral. Judge Brinkema granted the motion with a delay of only one day. Next was figuring out how Jeffrey would return home as we had absolutely no money and were living paycheck to paycheck. Graciously, the Simons family purchased an airplane ticket for Jeffrey to return home on Friday evening January 9th. We spent the weekend grieving and once again examining our limited options of returning to Virginia in time for the trial. We decided we would have to drive straight through after Steven’s funeral as we did not have money to afford airplane tickets. Sunday afternoon came, and friends arrived at our home to pay their respects and visit with Jeffrey as that possibly could be the last time they would see him. Concerned for our mental health and safety driving such a long distance, they presented two airplane tickets for us to fly to Virginia. We attended Steve’s funeral but could not accompany our family to the cemetery as we had a three-hour drive back to St. Louis. Due to the trial, Jeffrey and his family were cheated out of being able to grieve their loss together.

As the jury selection began, it was very evident this was clearly not a “jury of Jeffrey’s peers,” as out of approximately 110 jurors in the jury pool only 7 were African American and all 10 of them were struck. The prosecution had no direct evidence to support their allegations that Jeffrey committed the alleged acts. In fact, during cross examination of Special Agent Ashley Hunt, she said she had no proof that Jeffrey and Mr. Risen ever talked about the classified operation in the emails or phone calls. Additionally, Agent Hunt testified to never obtaining the telephone and email records of other potential leak sources. Agent Hunt stated she merely “suspected” Jeffrey Sterling was the individual who leaked the information. Defense counsel Mr. Barry Pollack also ascertained from a current CIA manager that over 90 individuals were briefed on the classified operation. How can the government explain that Jeffrey was their only suspect when over 90 additional individuals had opportunity and motive to divulge classified information? Another disturbing part of the trial was when the jury foreman reported they could not reach a decision. It was at that moment when Judge Brinkema was once again responsible for executing the proper instructions. Instead of stating to the jury that it was acceptable to not conclude a unanimous decision, she told the jury to return and deliberate. After a forty-five minute lunch break, the jury found Jeffrey guilty on all nine counts. Completely in utter shock and despair, Jeffrey and I returned to our home. Once again not having the financial resources, two plane tickets were donated to us.

As we gravely awaited the sentencing hearing scheduled for April 24, 2015, we spent every waking moment together and reviewed the decisions we previously made prior to the trial. We spent many hours just sitting together in silence as we could not comprehend how a jury convicted Jeffrey, and we were terrified of the possibility of Jeffrey living the rest of his life in prison. Shortly before the sentencing hearing, Jeffrey received a call from his attorney stating the date of the sentencing hearing was being moved up to our utter shock. Jeffrey was too despondent to speak so I discussed the matter with the attorneys stating we had already 11 purchased plane tickets and could not afford the extra $1,000 it would cost to rebook. Not to mention, no reason was given as to the purpose of having to reschedule the hearing. After many days of telephone calls and emails, the new sentencing hearing was scheduled for May 11, 2015. The day came with much trepidation as we knew the government was seeking the maximum sentence. During the proceedings, Jeffrey addressed the court thanking them for the delay of the trial to attend his brother’s funeral and for the respect they had shown him for the last five years. Judge Brinkema expressed the view that the sentencing guidelines were too high, however, she said that the offenses of John Kiriakou and Jeffrey were similar, but that Jeffrey should get a slightly longer sentence because Mr. Kiriakou admitted his guilt in a plea bargain, while Jeffrey admitted no wrongdoing and went to trial. Since when is it permissible to punish someone for exercising their constitutional right to assert their innocence?

In a similar case involving Mr. Thomas Drake, it was apparent that Judge Richard Bennett clearly saw through the murky arguments of the government when he questioned the prosecutor, Mr. Welch, who was also the presiding prosecutor in Jeffrey’s first scheduled trial that never commenced. Judge Bennett requested to know how many defendants waited over two and a half years after their home was searched before an indictment is to be returned. He reported that is an “extraordinary period of delay” and that the average American citizen is “entitled to an answer.” Our home was searched on October 5, 2006 and Jeffrey was indicted on December 22, 2010. That is more than a four year delay. Judge Bennett stated, “I think at some point in time that the average citizen when their home is searched, which is a pretty, as you and I both know, Mr. Welch, is a pretty extreme experience for those who have experienced it, to have someone arrive at the crack of dawn and knock on the door and come through and inventory all the items in your home. I would think the average American after two years is entitled to know 12 what the status of the case is.” Judge Bennett further pressed Mr. Welch about the extraordinary time frame and when he was not provided a response he concluded “that if the executive branch of government doesn’t provide an explanation, at least it’s up to the judicial branch to note the impropriety of it. It was not proper. It doesn’t pass the smell test.” How is it Judge Bennett was clearly cognizant of the improprieties regarding Mr. Drake’s case, yet Judge Brinkema failed to recognize the similarly improper treatment of Jeffrey?

During the sentencing hearing, Judge Brinkema stated that Jeffrey should be placed in a prison near our home. It is apparent yet again that Jeffrey has been stripped of his rights, as he was placed in a Colorado prison nearly 900 miles away from his home in St. Louis. Jeffrey began serving his three and a half year sentence on June 16, 2015.

Mr. President, I ask you to explain how this unfathomable sequence of events has been allowed to continue for over a decade. Does the government have no shame in destroying one man’s life and wasting tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to punish a man who had the audacity to do two things: Stand up for his constitutional rights and utilize proper channels provided to him to express concern for the citizens of our country? I am deeply saddened by our lives’ events that Jeffrey and I have suffered and endured. You publicly committed to a transparent government led by your administration, yet it has been shrouded in mistruth and secrecy. Since you have started your push this summer to commute prison sentences for nonviolent offenders, will you not extend the same courtesy to an innocent man in prison?

As your presidential election was a historical moment in this country, and most had high hopes of actually achieving the dream that all men and women are created equal despite the pigmentation in one’s skin, it appears the reverse has actually happened. How do you explain the obvious disparate treatment of General Petraeus? If one strips away the race, financial status, 13 and political clout of Jeffrey and Mr. Petraeus and solely reviewed the alleged crimes of Jeffrey and those pled by the general, it is glaringly obvious this was selective prosecution and sentencing. Mr. Petraeus pled to far more egregious acts than Jeffrey was convicted of, yet Jeffrey is rotting in a prison cell while Mr. Petraeus continues to live his life as he so chooses. How was it that Mr. Petraeus was allowed to blatantly lie to the FBI, which is a felony, yet this is not reflected on his criminal record? The treatment of Mr. Petraeus solidified the reprehensible belief in this country that the white man is presumed to be innocent and can do no wrong, and at worst is apt to only receive a slight slap on the wrist, while the black man is guilty until proven innocent and belongs behind bars.

The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote in a letter to Judge Brinkema this spring: “Equality under the law as a cornerstone of justice, is significantly at stake in the sentencing of Mr. Sterling. While I realize that no two cases are identical, the fact remains that charges akin to those for which Mr. Sterling was convicted have in recent years resulted in extremely disparate penalties.”

Not only has Jeffrey suffered but so have his family, friends, community and society. And now an intelligent, strong, ethical, and productive member of our world feels as though he ceases to exist while in prison. Dr. Chad Holloway, a dear friend and former colleague of Jeffrey, shares: “it has been very painful for me, his other friends, and his family to observe the ruin of Jeffrey’s life, with the allegations and now conviction. But, even in time of crisis throughout this process, he has been a better friend to me than I to him. Even with the heaviness of his situation, he always asks about the things important to me and supports me.”

Mr. President, I ask you what do you want your legacy as president to be? Is it one in which you are remembered for prosecuting more whistleblowers than any other previous 14 administration combined, or rather, in the words of Pope Francis, “Let us remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Mr. President, you would be remiss not to consider what you have learned in this letter about the true Jeffrey Sterling, as he is not the “disgruntled man who hated the CIA and wanted to settle a score” as federal prosecutor Eric G. Olshan described him. Jeffrey deserves so much better than what he has been the recipient of.

Mr. President, this is your opportunity to show Jeffrey, our country, and the world what it means to be a true leader by acknowledging a grave injustice has been done and making amends. This can only be accomplished by granting Jeffrey Alexander Sterling an immediate pardon.

Most respectfully,

Mrs. Holly Sterling

Unprecedented News Conference: Wife of Imprisoned CIA Whistleblower to Speak Out

Media Advisory

Unprecedented News Conference: Wife of Imprisoned CIA Whistleblower to Speak Out

October 15 at 9:30 a.m. – National Press Club, Washington

What:  News Conference with Holly Sterling, wife of imprisoned CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, plus whistleblowers from government agencies

When:  Thursday, October 15 at 9:30 a.m.

Where:  National Press Club (Zenger Room), 13th Floor, National Press Building, Washington, D.C.

Cosponsors: ExposeFacts, Reporters Without Borders,


Jeffrey Sterling was convicted under the Espionage Act as a source for New York Times reporter James Risen’s book State of War. He began serving his three-and-a-half year prison sentence in June. His wife’s news conference will be the first time the spouse of a CIA whistleblower has made such an appearance.

National Press Club President John Hughes will give opening remarks.

Additional speakers include:
*  Thomas Drake
*  Delphine Halgand
*  Ray McGovern
*  Jesselyn Radack

Background on News Conference Speakers:

Thomas Drake is a former senior executive at the National Security Agency where he blew the whistle on massive multi-billion dollar fraud, waste and the widespread violations of the rights of citizens through secret mass surveillance programs after 9/11. As retaliation and reprisal, the Obama Administration indicted Drake in 2010 as the first whistleblower since Daniel Ellsberg was charged with espionage, and Drake faced 35 years in prison, turning him into an Enemy of the State for his oath to defend the Constitution. In 2011, the government’s case against him collapsed and he went free in a plea deal. He is the recipient of the 2011 Ridenhour Truth Telling Prize, and a joint recipient with Jesselyn Radack of the 2011 Sam Adams Associates Integrity in Intelligence Award and the 2012 Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award. He is now dedicated to the defense of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Delphine Halgand has been working as the Director of the US office for Reporters Without Borders since December 2011. She runs activities for the organization in the country and advocates for journalists, bloggers and media rights worldwide. Acting as RSF’s spokesperson in the US, Halgand regularly appears on American (CNN, Fox News, PBS, Democracy Now…) and foreign media (BBC World TV, Al Jazeera, NTN24…) and lectures at conferences in US universities (Harvard, UCLA, Yale, Columbia…) on press freedom violation issues. She previously served as Press attaché in charge of outreach at the French Embassy to the US. Since graduating from Sciences Po Paris with an M.A. in Journalism, Halgand has worked as an economics correspondent for various French media (Le Monde, Les Echos, L’Express…), focusing mainly on international politics and macroeconomic issues.

Ray McGovern, a retired CIA analyst turned political activist and speaker, chaired the National Intelligence Estimates in the 1980s. He prepared the daily briefs for presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush. For his CIA service he received the Intelligence Commendation Medal, which he returned in 2006 in protest of the CIA’s involvement in torture. In 2003, he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, an organization committed to analyzing and criticizing the use of intelligence. McGovern was one of four American whistleblowers who met with Edward Snowden in Russia in 2013 to present Snowden with an award for integrity in intelligence for providing NSA documents to the press.

Jesselyn Radack 
heads the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts. As National Security and Human Rights Director of WHISPeR, her work focuses on the issues of secrecy, surveillance, torture and drone attacks, where she has been at the forefront of challenging the government’s unprecedented “war on whistleblowers,” which has become a war on online activists, journalists and information. Among her clients are seven national security and intelligence community employees who have been investigated, charged, or prosecuted under the Espionage Act for allegedly mishandling classified information, including Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, and John Kiriakou. She also represents clients bringing whistleblower retaliation complains in federal court and other administrative bodies. Previously, she served for seven years as National Security and Human Rights Director at the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization, on the DC Bar Legal Ethics Committee and worked at the Justice Department for seven years, first as a trial attorney and later as a legal ethics advisor.

Cosponsoring the news conference are ExposeFacts, Reporters Without Borders and

ExposeFacts is a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

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