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Democracy Now! 31 de Octubre de 2014
Watch part 2 of our conversation with Sheldon Krimsky, editor of The GMO Deception: What You Need to Know about the Food, Corporations, and Government Agencies Putting Our Families and Our Environment at Risk. He is a professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University, as well as an adjunct professor in the Department of Public Health and Family Medicine at Tufts School of Medicine. Professor Krimsky is also a board member of the Council for Responsible Genetics.
Click here to watch part 1 of this interview.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. Seventy-five percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves in the United States—from cracker, to soda, to soup—contain genetically engineered ingredients. Public concern has been steadily intensifying. The Vermont Legislature has passed a GMO labeling law, and now voters in Colorado and Oregon are voting on GMA labeling ballot initiatives.
Sheldon Krimsky is with us today, the editor and author of several contributions in the new book, The GMO Deception: What You Need to Know about the Food, Corporations, and Government Agencies Putting Our Families and Our Environment at Risk. He is a professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University, as well as an adjunct professor in the Department of Public Health and Family Medicine at Tufts School of Medicine. Professor Krimsky is also a board member of the Council for Responsible Genetics.
Welcome to Democracy Now! for part two of our conversation. Now, you tell a remarkable story about the scientists who get destroyed as they attempt to look at GMO foods. But before we do, what is the problem with genetically modified foods? Why in the United States are 75 percent of our foods have ingredients that are genetically modified, but in Europe, in state after state, it's completely outlawed? Why the difference?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: The Europeans operate on the precautionary principle. They say, if you introduce a new product on the market, you should evaluate it before the consumers get a chance to purchase it. In America, we made a decision that genetically modified foods are safe before you even have to test it. So the government never required tests for GMOs in the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: Who made that decision?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, that decision was made by a commission, first of all, in the United States headed by Dan Quayle, and then it was—
AMY GOODMAN: The vice president under President Bush.
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yes, yes, that's correct. And by the 1990s, the decision was made how to divide the regulatory authority over genetically modified organisms—plants, animals, etc. And there were three agencies. The EPA would deal with environmental effects. USDA would be dealing with how it affects agriculture. And the FDA would be addressing the questions of human health.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, why are you concerned?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, because we have some evidence that animal studies can produce adverse effects when fed GMOs. There have been many studies. Many of them have said there's no effects. But a few of them—I found 22 studies.
AMY GOODMAN: Give an example of one of these studies.
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, one of these studies was published in one of the most important journals in international journals. It's called The Lancet. It started publishing—
AMY GOODMAN: That's the British medical journal.
SHELDON KRIMSKY: The British medical journal. It's among the most prestigious journals in the world. And that was published in 1999 by a scientist who lived in Britain for 50 years—originally he was born in Hungary—Árpád Pusztai. And he was a researcher at the Rowett Institute. And he published a study which showed that his animals were harmed when fed a genetically modified potato.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to this scientist, to the biochemist, the nutritionist, Árpád Pusztai, world authority, as you said, actually on plant lectins, authoring some 270 papers, three books on the topic. In 1998, the scientist published research that showed feeding genetically modified potatoes to rats caused harm to their stomach lining and immune system. This led to a backlash against Dr. Pusztai and his subsequent suspension from his academic home, the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland. Let's turn to a clip of Pusztai explaining the experiment he did using these genetically modified potatoes, the experiment that unleashed such a firestorm of criticism.
ÁRPÁD PUSZTAI: What we did was that, first, we took the genetically modified potatoes and put as much as possible of this into the diet, and we fed rats on it for a short time, 10 days. That's an appropriate time in most of the nutritional studies as a sort of preliminary, short-term study. And we found that there were some problems. And then we said, "Oh, but it is—is it possible that if we dilute it with a good protein, a non-GM protein, would these problems disappear? Would you dilute them out? So when we did that, we found that, no, it didn't. The problems persisted, and particularly the problems affecting the gastrointestinal tract of the rats.
The problems were that the genetically modified potatoes induced what we call a proliferative growth in the small intestine. And I shall explain what it means. But before I do that, the most important thing was that we pre-selected the gene that its product should not do that. So, we spent six-and-a-half years of selecting out a gene whose product wouldn't do the thing which we did see in the genetically modified potatoes.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Professor Sheldon Krimsky, that's Árpád Pusztai.
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain further what exactly he's saying. Now, he was actually not critical of these genetically modified potatoes that he fed to rats, right?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: That's correct. And his institute had a patent on those potatoes. I mean, after all, if you can produce a potato that would be resistant to insects, then you'd save money on pesticides, and you might be able to, you know, have a product that would be worthy of pesticidal properties. So he took protein from a flower, a snowdrop flower. And that protein—the genetics for that protein was put into the potato. But he honestly believed that he would have a safe outcome. He had already done an experiment with genetically modified peas, which did not show adverse effects on animals. And he felt that—the protein that he used, he fed to the animals when it wasn't in the potato, so he felt the protein from the plant was going to be safe. And then he put it into the genetically modified potato, and then he fed it to the animals when it was embedded into the potato. And that's when it caused the effects.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain again the effects.
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, the effects he found were effects of the stomach lining of the animals, that there were proliferative growths in the stomach lining and other abnormalities in the intestines of the animals.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain then—so he did this scientific experiment. That's what he found. It's published in this very prestigious journal, Lancet.
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: So what happened to him, Dr. Pusztai?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, first of all, he published in Lancet in 1999. And prior to that, 1995, Scotland had put out a request for scientific studies to evaluate genetically modified food. So he put in one of those requests. At the time, he was the project director of eight projects. He was very well respected and had written a number of books on these lectins, which are insecticidal proteins. The plants themselves have proteins that resist insects. That's how they survived all those years. So, his project was accepted by the council in Scotland, and then he did the research for it. So it was already reviewed before it was accepted for funding. And he got 1.3 million pounds to do the study. That's where it began.
Prior to publishing his study in The Lancet, he was asked to appear on television. And he's not a political—you know, he's not a politicized scientist. He was naive. He went on television, with the approval of the director of the Rowett Institute. And the Rowett Institute, for one day, was very excited, because they got publicity being on TV with his research. The day after, all of a sudden, all of the phone calls started coming into the Rowett Institute, political phone calls from politicians—Tony Blair's office, etc. And then, within a day, he was dismissed from his position. Within a day, this man who had been working there for decades and had such a prominent position, all of a sudden, lost his entire position.
AMY GOODMAN: Dismissed on what grounds?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: He did not have tenure, the way we do in universities—dismissed because they felt—they believed his research was not good. At least that's what they said. What they didn't say was that there were political pressures on the institute to devalue and diminish and marginalize his study.
AMY GOODMAN: What was Blair's interest, the prime minister at the time, in negating, in going after the scientist, in genetically modified food?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: The United States had been the primary country that's promoting biotechnology and trying to transfer it all over the world. So, the Clinton administration was very high on biotechnology. It's going to rejuvenate American high technology and create many jobs, etc., and be able to spread it throughout the world. Blair was very interested in getting biotechnology into Britain. So, the U.S. government and the British government were both very interested in pushing biotechnology. And, of course, in the background were the corporations who were politicking those two governments to make sure that biotechnology had an easy road to success.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to another scientist. In 2012, French scientists carried out a study linking pesticide-treated, genetically modified corn with cancer in lab rats. The journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology initially published the report but later retracted it amidst controversy. The scientists stood by their findings, releasing a statement that read in part, quote, "Censorship of research into the risks of a technology so intertwined with global food safety undermines the value and credibility of science." Their article was republished this year in a different journal, Environmental Sciences Europe. I want to turn for a moment to the lead author on the study, Gilles-Éric Séralini. He recently told ME-TV what happened to the rats that were fed genetically modified corn and Roundup weed killer.
GILLES-ÉRIC SÉRALINI: Abnormalities in livers and kidneys, inflammations and pathologies, and we had also inversion of sexual hormones and also breast tumors.
AMY GOODMAN: That's the scientist, Gilles-Éric Séralini. If you can, Professor Krimsky, explain further what he found.
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, he found organ failure. First of all, he did one of the first long-term experiments. So, in other words, he did an experiment on the rats that lasted for a couple of years. Usually they would do a 90-day experiment on the animals. So this was a long-term experiment, which really was needed, because some of these effects you won't see right away. And his results showed damage to organs, kidneys, and also proliferation of tumors at a much higher rate than the controls. And after his results came out, there was another surge of vilification of his work and his research and his reputation, on and on and on.
A few very unusual things happened. The first you mentioned, that his journal first supported him and said, "We have a very good refereed system, and he passed the referees," to get into this peer-reviewed journal. Within a year, however, they changed their mind, because of the political pressure that there was a solid journal, American U.S. journal, that said there were problems with one of the genetically modified products. So, the journal went ahead and retracted his article, without his permission.
And then they gave the reason for the retraction. And this is where a hundred scientists had signed a petition saying that the reasons they gave were not only unorthodox, they violated international standards. The reason they gave was very explicit. They said, "There is no fraud. There is no clear mistakes in this paper. The results were not definitive, and that's why we're retracting it." Now, if you use that criteria, you would have to retract 95 percent of all published work.
AMY GOODMAN: What does "definitive" mean?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, "definitive" means that it hasn't resolved the controversy, that some people still believe that maybe he didn't have enough rats. Maybe they would have changed the methodology slightly differently. There isn't an experiment in toxicology that can be done which doesn't have some shortcomings. Everybody knows that.
AMY GOODMAN: Or you reach a kind of critical mass in your studies indicating a trend; no one study actually proves it.
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Exactly. There's no single study that can absolutely definitively prove it, so you need follow-up studies to account for criticisms or larger numbers of animals, etc.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Krimsky, can you explain what "the funding effect" is, a term you've coined with your colleagues?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Many years ago, we began looking at what happens to scientific research when it's heavily funded by corporate interests. And we started by looking at drug research. And as a result of publishing a few papers, other people started doing these studies, and there is now a body of research in the drug industry which shows that corporate funding of research tends to produce the outcomes favorable to the financial interests of the corporation. That's what we mean by "the funding effect." You have to show that the effect exists for any particular area. You can't just assume it exists. So there are methods for showing that there is a funding effect. We've shown it in tobacco, we've shown it for drug research, in the best journals that we have, that have accepted these studies. And now people are beginning to look at it in other fields, like chemical toxins and GMOs.
AMY GOODMAN: How are other countries dealing with genetically modified foods?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, it's interesting, because when you look at the studies that have been done that have negative outcomes—and I say I found 22 of them in the literature—they're almost all done by European scientists. In order to do a study of a genetically modified plant seed in the United States, you have to have funding. Funding doesn't come from the federal government, because the federal government has said, "We don't need information about this." So the only funding that can produce these results is funding from corporations.
Secondly, you have to have permission from the company that manufactures the seeds to do this kind of research, to get the seeds, the special seeds that you need from the company. And they won't release the seeds. So, people like Pusztai and Professor Séralini—well, Pusztai produced his own potato. Séralini had to get the seeds from some other source, not from the company. Pusztai could not get seeds from Monsanto. Monsanto signs—everyone who purchases seeds from Monsanto has to sign a contract with them. And one of the provisions of that contract is they cannot save their seeds, and they cannot deliver their seeds to some institute for study. In other words, Monsanto has complete control over the seeds, as well as other companies, so that it's not even possible for researchers to do the work they need to do, unless they get permission from the companies.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you respond to the claim that GMOs will feed the world? Explain also the difference between genetically modified vegetables, plants—wait, can you respond to the claim that GMOs will feed the world, genetically modified organisms?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, this claim has been made by a number of people, but there's no evidence for it. It may very well be that for a certain farm in a certain region, that a particular GMO might give them higher productivity in that particular area. But the world is filled with different regions of, you know, ecological regions, and seeds that work in one region do not necessarily work in another region. That's what we call agroecology. We have to understand that you have to match the seed to the region, and not match the region to the seed. That's why you don't necessarily have high productivity in every region of the world. Some of the Indian farmers did not get high productivity with GMOs. And unfortunately, some of them committed suicide.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: The Indian farmers had a high rate of suicide in the last few years, and that's because many of them got into intense debt, and they couldn't pay their debt. And in their mental capacity, they felt the only way to deal with this was to take their lives, unfortunately. Part of that debt was due to the fact that they were purchasing GMO seeds, which were at a higher rate than the seeds that they were originally purchasing.
AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now! just traveled to Austria, and I was speaking to an Austrian farmer who was saying, "We recognized in our country, which is why we made it GMO-free," he said, "that you can't have an organic farm next to a farm that's growing genetically modified plants, because there is drift, and you can't honestly have—say something is organic if you're right nearby something that isn't."
SHELDON KRIMSKY: That's correct. And the pollen flows can flow quite a distance, a number of kilometers, so that in the United States, if you have an organic farm, there's no protections for that organic farmer from the drift of pollen from another farm.
AMY GOODMAN: In fact, hasn't Monsanto famously sued farmers, saying that they stole their genetically modified seeds, when in fact they drifted onto their property?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: As far as we know, the evidence suggests that the Canadian farmer that had the genetically modified plants didn't—
AMY GOODMAN: This is Percy Schmeiser?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yes, Schmeiser. As far as we know, evidence that I have is that he did not plant those seeds, that those seeds had drifted into his farm. And Monsanto sued him for intellectual property theft. And in some bizarre ruling of the Canadian court, Monsanto won. But the penalty was very, very low, like a dollar or something like that. So, Monsanto won, but Schmeiser didn't have to pay a severe penalty.
AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this year, Vermont became the first state to approve GMO labeling with the passage of HB 112. The legality of the decision is now being challenged by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other national organizations, which have come together to file a lawsuit in federal court. The Grocery Manufacturers Association put out a statement that read in part, quote, "Consumers who prefer to avoid GM ingredients have the option to choose from an array of products already in the marketplace labeled 'certified organic.' The government therefore has no compelling interest in warning consumers about foods containing GM ingredients, making HB 112's legality suspect at best." Your response to this, Professor Krimsky?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Well, it is true that right now, under government standards, if a product is classified as organic—and there are criteria for that, including non-GMO—that there is some level of confidence that they won't contain GMO products. But organic costs a lot of money. So there might be food companies that want to put out food that wouldn't be classified as organic, but would be classified as non-GMO. Just like there are plastic companies that want to put out their plastics and say, "We don't contain bisphenol A in our plastics," because there's been a lot of evidence that it might be harmful, and therefore consumers have the right to buy something that says, "No bisphenol A in this substance," they should have the right to buy some food products that say, you know, "No GMOs," even though they're not classified as organic, because the prices might be quite different.
AMY GOODMAN: Backers of GMOs cite the success of genetically modified papaya in Hawaii. It was designed to resist a virus that was killing off the fruit crop. It's the only commercially grown GMO fruit in the United States. According to The New York Times, "after an outbreak of Papaya ringspot virus in the mid-’90s, only the Rainbow, endowed with a gene from the virus itself that effectively gave it immunity, had saved the crop." Your response to that, Professor Krimsky?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: You know, one of the issues about biotechnology is that they try to put into the crop a pesticidal property. And in theory, you know, one might think that this would be terrific. You include the pesticide or the herbicide-resistant/tolerant into the crop. But nature has its own way of adapting. So if you put in herbicide-resistant into the crop, eventually the weeds will get resistant to the herbicide that you use. And that's in fact what's happening with glyphosate, which is the most widely used herbicide now in the United States. So, they have plants which are glyphosate-resistant, so you can spray all the herbicide on your plant; it'll kill everything else. But the weeds have adapted to it. So now they need a next generation of herbicide in the plant. So, the whole theory that you can introduce into the plants some magical protein that is going to be sustainable is just not a viable theory.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you referring to the superweeds that are growing throughout the West?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: The superweeds, exactly. And now the farmers are saying, "Hey, we bought into this glyphosate resistance, and now we're getting these weeds that are in fact resistant to the glyphosate." And now they're introducing a second generation. And one of the products that they're trying to introduce is 2,4-D, which was used in the Vietnam War as part of the herbicides, defoliants.
AMY GOODMAN: You're talking about Agent Orange. So—
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yes, it was part of the Agent Orange mix. And I have to say, Rachel Carson cited 2,4-D as a suspect chemical in her 1962 classic book, Silent Spring.
AMY GOODMAN: Considered the mother of the modern environmental movement, she would later die of cancer herself.
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yes, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, the significance of the ballot initiatives in Colorado and Oregon? In California and Washington state, genetically modified labeling bills failed.
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Is there anything different about Colorado and Oregon right now?
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Colorado is always different. It's a very single-minded, independent state that pushed the boundaries beyond belief in terms of, you know, legislation on marijuana, etc. If any state can do it, they have a very high consciousness for environmental issues. And if they do do it, I think it'll cascade to other states, because I think the fear that the prices will skyrocket is just a scare tactic, it's not real. We have companies that issue milk that say, "No bovine growth hormone used to make this milk," and it hasn't skyrocketed the price of milk. So—
AMY GOODMAN: It's interesting that Ben & Jerry's and the Denver-based Chipotle company, the chain, food chain Chipotle—
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —have actually come out in support of GMO labeling, whereas you've got Pepsi and Kraft Foods and, well, most importantly, Monsanto pouring millions into the anti-labeling movement.
SHELDON KRIMSKY: Yeah. You know, the corporations don't want a patchwork of regulations. I could understand that. They always would rather have one regulation that applies to everyone. And so, from their standpoint, they don't want to have to make an adjustment to Colorado and an adjustment to this other state. But that doesn't—
AMY GOODMAN: Well, they wouldn't have to make an adjustment. If it was passed in Colorado and Oregon, they could just identify genetically modified foods all over the country.
SHELDON KRIMSKY: That's correct. That's correct.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, so goes Oregon and Colorado, so goes the nation.
SHELDON KRIMSKY: And that's exactly what happens when California passes as an initiative on a toxic chemical. The companies just list it on the product, and every state, every community, has access to that information. It's just a question of open information, which is really supposed to be at the groundwork of American capitalism. Keep the information open.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Professor Sheldon Krimsky, editor and author of The GMO Deception: What You Need to Know About the Food, Corporations, and Government Agencies Putting Our Families and Our Environment at Risk. You can read an introduction on our website at democracynow.org. Professor Krimsky teaches urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University, as well, adjunct professor at the Tufts School of Medicine. Krimsky is also a board member of the Council for Responsible Genetics. This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.
We continue our conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eric Lichtblau about his new book detailing how America became a safe haven for thousands of Nazi war criminals. Many of them were brought here after World War II by the CIA, and got support from then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We continue our conversation with investigative reporter Eric Lichtblau, author of a new book that unveils the secret history of how America became a safe haven for thousands of Nazi war criminals. Many of them were brought here after World War II by the CIA and got support from the FBI's director, J. Edgar Hoover.
AMY GOODMAN: Eric Lichtblau's book is called The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men. You can read the prologue on our website at democracynow.org.
Eric, we left the first part of the interview by you talking about those held in the concentration camps under the Nazis. Once the Allies won, the U.S. and Allies took over these camps.
ERIC LICHTBLAU: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: And the Jews and others were kept there, often under the supervision—if you could call it that—of the Nazi POWs who were put in these camps, as well.
ERIC LICHTBLAU: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: The people who had killed and murdered and maimed them.
ERIC LICHTBLAU: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you take it from there and talk about General Patton and, ultimately, President Truman, as well?
ERIC LICHTBLAU: Sure, yeah, yeah. It's a remarkable saga and a fairly shameful period in postwar history. We sort of think of the concentration camps, you know, being liberated at Dachau, at Bergen-Belsen, at Auschwitz, by the U.S. and Britain and Russia. But liberation for the survivors who were left in the camps meant staying in those same camps, behind barb wire, under armed guard. And remarkably, sometimes they were supervised by the same Nazis who had lorded over them when the Germans were still in charge.
And there was a report to Truman from the dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, a guy named Earl Harrison, that compared the camps to the Nazi concentration camps, except that, Harrison wrote, the only difference is we're not exterminating the Jews. And General Patton, who ran the camps as the supreme Allied commander for the United States after the war, was furious when he read Harrison's findings to Truman. And he wrote in his own journal—and I looked at these. I found the remarks so troubling and so jarring, I thought maybe at first they were a forgery, but it turned out to be true. He wrote in his own journal that what Harrison doesn't understand, he thinks that the displaced persons in the camps are human, and they're not. The Jews, he wrote—this is General Patton speaking—are worse than human, they're locusts, and they have no respect for human dignity. And he recounted taking General Eisenhower, soon to be President Eisenhower, on a tour of the displaced person camps, and he said that Eisenhower didn't really understand how loathsome the displaced persons were, and he thinks that they have some human dignity, when really they don't.
Patton, it turns out, was not only a virulent anti-Semite, but also held the Germans in a weird sort of place of respect. I also tell the story in the book about, in those displaced person camps, Patton went to the holding cells for the German POWs, the German scientists, and he sought out one in particular, General Walter Dornberger, who oversaw the production of Hitler's V-2 rockets, which had been phenomenally successful and destructive in bombing London and Antwerp. And Patton brings him out of the cell and says, "Are you Dornberger? Are you the guy who ran the V-2 program?" And Dornberger said to him, "Jawohl, Herr General." And Patton pulled out three cigars from his pocket and handed them to the Nazi general and said, "Well, congratulations. We couldn't have done it." And it sort of epitomized this attitude that he had towards the Nazis. He even defied an order from Eisenhower at one point, General Eisenhower, and maintained the Nazis as supervisors in the DP camps, because he saw them as the most competent group that the Allieds had. So, I think you need to understand how horrific the conditions were for the survivors to understand how it was that so many Nazis made it into the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain the—
ERIC LICHTBLAU: I think there was—yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —the V-2 factories, just to explain the significance of what happened—
ERIC LICHTBLAU: Sure.
AMY GOODMAN: —in these rocket factories.
ERIC LICHTBLAU: Sure. These rocket factories were basically torture chambers. These were places where 10,000 prisoners—not most of them Jews, but most of them POWs from France, Poland, Russia and elsewhere—were building on an assembly line—an assembly line of death, basically—hundreds of rockets each month for Hitler. And if they did not meet their quotas, if they did not work up to standards, if they were suspected of sabotaging the rockets, as some tried to do, they were hanged from a giant crane, and all the other prisoners would be gathered around to watch them. And those who weren't intentionally killed, thousands of them died just from disease and malnutrition and exhaustion, kept in these horrible, horrible conditions literally inside a mountain in Nordhausen, where the factory was held.
So, this was the production facility that Dornberger and Wernher von Braun, who went on to become even more famous, ran. And there was a guy who—physically at the mountain factory, named Arthur Rudolph, who was the production head at the Mittelwerk Nordhausen plant, he came to the United States, along with Wernher von Braun and Dornberger and the others, and Rudolph became almost as famous, as one of the geniuses behind the Saturn space program. And their Nazi legacies were basically erased.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Eric, the government files and records that tell this story were kept, obviously, from the public for decades. Could you talk about the importance of those files finally being released to be able to put together this story?
ERIC LICHTBLAU: Sure, sure. Well, the CIA, especially, and other intelligence agencies really went to enormous lengths to conceal their ties to the Nazis. They had had all these relationships, beginning immediately after the war through the '50s, the '60, in some cases even the '70s, with Nazi spies and informants and scientists. And they went to great lengths to cleanse the records of a lot of the Nazis who came to the United States, removing material that showed their links to Nazi atrocities. Now, I found cases even in the 1990s, believe it or not, where you had the CIA actively intervening in investigations. By the 1980s and 1990s, the Justice Department was going after a number of these guys, was trying to deport them, for their involvement in war crimes, belatedly, I think.
And the CIA—in the case of a Lithuanian security chief who was involved in the massacre of about 60,000 Jews, the CIA tried to kill that investigation in 1994 and '95. And they told Congress, yes, this guy was a CIA spy for us, this former Nazi collaborator, but we knew nothing of his wartime activities, is what they said. And, in fact, in their own files, in their own postwar files, it showed that they knew that this Lithuanian was under—quote, "under the control of the Gestapo and was probably involved in the murder of Jews in Vilnius." So, this was—again, this is not the 1950s we're talking about; this is the 1990s, where people at the CIA were actively trying to conceal their ties.
And some of these documents, as you suggested, only became available beginning in the 1990s, the late 1990s, when Congress ordered the declassification of war crime files. The CIA really resisted that at first. It took years for the historians to get at the war crime files. But beginning in around 2003, 2004, a lot of these files became declassified, and they really painted a pretty troubling picture.
AMY GOODMAN: But even the piece that started you on this journey, Eric Lichtblau, in 2010 was about a report coming out that had been censored right until most recently.
ERIC LICHTBLAU: Sure.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain why right through until these last few years the U.S. has refused to give this out? And the man who had campaigned to his death bed to have it released—it was a CIA report?
ERIC LICHTBLAU: True. No, it was a Justice Department report. But as you say, it was kept under wraps for about five years. It was written in the mid-2000s. And I first got onto this, and really what started the book was that I got a tip that there was this exhaustive internal report at the Justice Department that looked at the efforts to go after the Nazis, and the Justice Department was sitting on the report. They had refused to release this publicly for very mysterious reasons. And I was able to get a hold of it and did a story on that. And I think even before I finished writing the story, I thought, you know, the material was so rich and so troubling that I wanted to try and do a book on it, because it really—it exposed both the successes of prosecutors in later years in going after these guys, but also really the just perverse relationships that the government had with a lot of these guys going back to the 1950s and 1960s. And that was something that the Justice Department did not want out there publicly.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the anti-Semitism also of President Truman and then this issue of the scientists? What, 1,600 scientists were brought into the United States, many others, but at the same time, how many Jews were held in these camps, millions of them, not allowed to come into the United States? This is after the war.
ERIC LICHTBLAU: Right, right. You know, I think the anti-Semitism really did play a part in the immigration policies after the war, which had the dual effect of both keeping out Jews—I mean, there were documents that I looked at from Senate immigration lawyers who actively said they didn't—they thought Jews were lazy and not hard-working enough and didn't belong in America. And so, it was very difficult. Only a few thousand Jews got into the United States in the immediate aftermath of the war.
And you had something like 400,000 Eastern Europeans who, because of the, quote, "immigration quotas," were allowed in in those years from places like Lithuania and Latvia and Estonia and Ukraine. And many of those, probably the vast majority of those 400,000, were in fact legitimate war refugees. These were people who were victims of Nazi occupation and were about to be taken over by the Soviet Union and were exiles. They really were. But among those 400,000 were many, many, probably several thousand or more, Nazi collaborators, and they came in with the group as—disguised basically as refugees and POWs. I mean, these were people who ran, for instance, a Nazi concentration camp in Estonia. There was—the head of that camp lived on Long Island for about 30 years. There were people who were prison camp guards. There were people who were the heads of Nazi security forces all throughout Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe. And it was very easy for them to basically fade into the larger group of war refugees and become Americans.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Eric Lichtblau, we want to thank you very much for being with us
ERIC LICHTBLAU: Thank you. Appreciate your interest.
AMY GOODMAN: Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times. The new book, out this week, The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men. You can read the prologue at democracynow.org. Thanks so much.
Democracy Now! 2014-10-31 Friday
Edward Snowden and the Golden Age of Spying - A TomDispatch Interview with Laura Poitras
October 30, 2014
By Laura Poitras and Tom Engelhardt
TomDispatch.com (October 19, 2014)
Citizenfour, Laura Poitras's new film on Edward Snowden, with breaking news at film's end: there is indeed at least one new, post-Snowden whistleblower who has come from somewhere inside the U.S. intelligence world with information about a watchlist (that includes Poitras) with "more than 1.2 million names" on it and on the American drone assassination program. [...]
An op-ed from the Republican nominee for governor promises tax reduction, replacing Common Core and vigorous oversight of the city's finances.
Nurses Emerge as Front Line 'Climate Workers'
October 30, 2014
By Tamanna Rahman, Brendan Smith
Truthout (October 27, 2014)
Many of the most deadly diseases on earth - malaria, dengue and yellow fever, encephalitis and cholera - are highly climate sensitive, and are thriving as patterns of temperature, precipitation, and sea levels shift in their favor. They are spreading to new parts of the globe, including the US. Instead of celebrating the bravery of the nursing profession, politicians and media reacted to the Ebola outbreak by blaming nurses for their carelessness. [...]
Will Catalonia Secede From Spain?
October 30, 2014
By Andy Robinson
The Nation - November 10, 2014 edition (October 21, 2014)
Catalonia has decided to recast its planned November 9 referendum on independence as a nonbinding consultation.Why are so many Scots (45% in September's referendum) and Catalans (50% in recent polls) set on leaving now? The answer is surely a desperate search for sovereignty with longstanding resentments over discrimination by the power centers in their respective states. [...]
In Cold War, U.S. Spy Agencies Used 1,000 Nazis
October 30, 2014
By By Eric Lichtblau
New York Times (October 26, 2014)
U.S. agencies directly or indirectly hired numerous ex-Nazi police officials and East European collaborators who were manifestly guilty of war crimes. Information was readily available that these were compromised men. The wide use of Nazi spies grew out of a Cold War mentality and McCarthyism. Mr. Hoover, the longtime F.B.I. director, and Mr. Dulles, the C.I.A. director.believed "moderate" Nazis might "be useful" to America, records show. [...]
Tidbits - October 30, 2014 - Two Week's Worth
October 30, 2014
Portside (October 30, 2014)
Reader Comments- Ebola, Capitalism, Cuba, Disease Control; Elections- Black Vote, Voter Restrictions; War against Islamic State; Detroit; U.S.
Re: What Cuba Can Teach the World About Disease Control (Claire Carsman)
Re: The Political Economy of Ebola (Furaha Youngblood)
Re: Ebola, Capitalism and the Idea of Society (Ken Luckhardt, Larry, Carlos Munoz Jr.) [...]
Democracy Now! 30 de Octubre de 2014