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A daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 1,100 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the United States.
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Democracy Now! 2013-06-19 Wednesday
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VIDEO: After Man Was Beaten into Coma by Border Patrol, His Wife Stops His Deportation from Hospital
As the Senate begins its debate on the immigration reform bill, we speak to Shena Gutierrez, whose husband was nearly killed in an encounter with Border Patrol agents. While still unconscious in the hospital, he was threatened with deportation. She explains what happened. We also speak with Andrea Guerrero, co-chair of Southern Border Communities Coalition and executive director of Alliance San Diego.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. As the immigration reform bill makes its way through the mark-up process in the House and Senate, we turn now to the growing push to add harsher border security measures in order for the bill to pass. This week a key member of the so-called bipartisan Gang of Eight working on the bill, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, said he himself may vote against the bill unless it includes an amendment that calls for full control of the border and 90 percent apprehension of illegal border crossings before immigrants can apply for legal status. The amendment would also require what it calls "situational awareness" of each one-mile segment of the southern border.
For more, we turn to two people working to introduce measures that protect human rights and civil liberties and to the bill, as well. Andrea Guerrero is the co-chair of Southern Border Communities Coalition and executive director of Alliance San Diego. Joining her is Shena Gutierrez, volunteer with Southern [Border Communities] Coalition. She has a very personal experience related to the border: her husband nearly killed in an encounter with Border Patrol agents. While still unconscious in the hospital, he was threatened with deportation. Andrea and Shena live in California but join us from Washington, D.C., where they've been meeting with members of Congress.
Let's go to Andrea Guerrero. If you can talk for a moment about what the so-called Gang of Eight immigration reform bill is and what you are calling for?
ANDREA GUERRERO: Certainly, Amy. The Gang of Eight in the Senate introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a Title I that is all about border enforcement. Overall, we think that the bill is, on balance, a good bill. We think that the Title I that treats—deals with border enforcement is, overall, a good title. And we have been working to improve that title. In the mark-up process, we were able to advance some significant amendments that improve the quality of life in the border region, protect the civil liberties of those living in the border region. We are concerned that the rhetoric around the border continues to dominate the conversation around immigration reform. And many who speak of the border have never been to the border or don't know anyone from the border. So we are here in Washington, D.C., to carry a message of what the border is like. It's not a barren wasteland. There are 15 million people living in the border region. We have lives. We have businesses. We have families. And we want to make sure that Border Patrol, which has become the largest law enforcement agency in the country concentrated in the border region, is respecting our civil liberties, our civil rights and those of those who are crossing into the country.
AMY GOODMAN: Shena Gutierrez, can you tell us what happened to your husband?
SHENA GUTIERREZ: Sure. Two years ago, March 30th—he was deported to Mexico March 21st. And, you know, he was desperate. You know, we have two young children. At the time, our son was two and a half; our daughter was only four months old. And our daughter was in the hospital. And he was deported, and he was just trying to figure out how to get back to us. March 30th, he attempted to cross back, and I lost contact with him that day. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday go by. By Saturday, I'm completely going insane, not knowing what happened, where he's at, if he's alive, if he's OK. I mean, it just wasn't like him to not call me and let me know what was going on.
I get a call from the consulate in Arizona asking me, you know, "Is this Shena, who's his wife?" I said, "Yes." And I will never forget those words. She says, "Well, we have to inform you that there's been an accident." I had no idea what kind of accident she meant. After numerous phone calls, hours later, I find out he's in Phoenix, and they tell me he's unconscious. I get to the hospital, and in my mind I'm thinking, you know, "Unconscious: He's laying in a bed with maybe an IV in his arm, and that's it, at the most." And when I turn the corner and I see the two agents—because he was being protected, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by agents at the door—they stand up, and I notice gun on one side and taser on the other side. And I just kind of peek into his room, and I fall, because he had staples ear to ear, black and blue all over his body. He had machines all over him. And he was in a straight-up coma.
I wasn't told immediately what happened, but eventually I was told that he became combative. And I didn't believe it. I know my husband. They told me he fell back and hit his head on a rock. Now, by looking at him, black and blue and staples—and five parts of his skull were removed. But it was brain—his brain was so swollen from the hemorrhaging. I just knew it was not from a fall to a rock. Border Patrol changed their story with me three times. They gave me three different versions of what had happened. They—it just kept changing and changing. So I started calling, you know, all these organizations and media and trying to get some kind of help. I didn't know what to do, really. I didn't know. Their—the hospital started telling me, "We're going to deport him." He was in a coma. He was on life support. And I said, "You can't do this to him. This happened here. This needs to be taken care of here." I don't even know what's really going on. I never got a report. I never got any answers. I never got anything. It was hear—you know, he said, she said, that type of thing.
So, we almost lost him a few times. He was in a coma for four weeks. And it was so difficult, so difficult, because I—you know, I'm away from my children for a whole month, and I'm trying to deal with the hospital. My husband's almost dying, and they want to deport him. And hospital's blaming Border Patrol; Border Patrol's blaming them. And finally, he got, after two weeks, a—he got granted a stay from the Ninth Circuit. And they told me, "We're going to deport him anyways." And so, here's my proof. I'm showing them he can stay. He can stay here. You know, I'm excited about it. But they're saying, "No." They told me, "He's illegal. He's a criminal. He has no room to be here. He can't pay his medical bills. He needs to go. He's a criminal." That's all they kept telling me. "He's a criminal. He's a criminal." So, he, all the while, is still in a coma. And, thank God, you know, they stopped it. He was able to stay. The agents were gone, finally, from the door, because he was being protected 24 hours a day. And, I mean, after three weeks, he started waking up from the coma. But there was a lot of complications with his trach tube, so they had to put him back into a medically induced coma, off and on.
Finally, he wakes up, and I'm able to bring him back to Los Angeles with me, which is—was the whole plan, to get him out of Arizona. They wanted him out, but they kept telling me, "He can't go home. He needs to go to Mexico." Finally, I brought him home, and, you know, it was rough. It was three months in a hospital. Finally, the swelling started coming down from his brain, and he had indentions in his head. I mean, it was just skin on brain. That's it. It was horrifying. It was horrifying to see that. They did this to him. He went from being perfectly healthy—never been hospitalized, never even had the flu—to your head, your skull is missing, and seizures are happening, and all these complications, pneumonia. And it was—it was very scary, very, very scary.
AMY GOODMAN: And—
SHENA GUTIERREZ: And—mm-hmm?
AMY GOODMAN: What happened then?
SHENA GUTIERREZ: Well, once we got back to Los Angeles, he had to go through rehab. When he woke up from the coma, he couldn't walk, he couldn't talk, he couldn't move. I thought he was paralyzed. He started slowly moving, you know, parts of his body, his hands and whatnot. And they started basically doing rehab with him, getting him to take a few steps. He had trauma to his knee. Once he started talking, about six weeks after he woke from the coma, he started saying, "My knee hurts. It's killing me. It's killing me." And finally, after doing tests and MRIs, they found a lot of blood clots in his knee. And they said it was blunt trauma.
I don't know how. Border Patrol never gave me answers as to what happened. All they kept saying was, "Your husband was combative. He fell on a rock." He fell backwards first; then they said he fell forward. They told me, you know, they took him into an interrogation room. So I don't know what happened in that interrogation room or in second inspection or any other story they told me. I don't know what happened. And it's been over two years now, and to date, we don't have an answer as to what really happened. But we're left with a lot of questions. How did the—you know, this happen? Why did it happen? Who did this to him?
AMY GOODMAN: Shena, you had to deal with this at the same time—I mean, the reason your husband was trying to come back in so quickly over the border was because your four-month-old daughter was in the hospital with kidney problems. How were you dealing with her through dealing with your husband, who had been beaten so badly?
SHENA GUTIERREZ: I was kind of on survival mode. I don't know how I dealt with it. I just knew that I had to deal with it. While I was tending to Jose in Phoenix, my family was taking care of my children. My daughter was in the hospital. They were taking care of her. All the while, while in the midst of all this, not only is my daughter in the hospital, our son got diagnosed, in the midst of everything in Phoenix, while I'm with Jose while he's in a coma, he got diagnosed with autism. So I got that diagnosis while I was out there, so it was just so many emotions, so many thoughts going through my head. And I kind of felt numb. I had to make myself numb, in a way, because I was like, "I can't let anything bring me down. I can't let anything tear me down. I need to, like I said, be on survival mode for Jose, for my daughter Aleah, for my son Elijah." Then, two months—and, again, Jose is still in the hospital recuperating—two months later, my son developed a seizure disorder. So my son's—and it wasn't just a seizure disorder; it was epilepsy. They were constantly uncontrollable seizures. I don't know if it was related to the autism. I don't know. But I—it was just so much going on, and I didn't know what to do. But I had a—I have a very, very supportive family, who just kind of were holding me up. They were my backbone to everything that was going on.
AMY GOODMAN: And he—
SHENA GUTIERREZ: I had so many people.
AMY GOODMAN: You are together now in this country. Was your immigration status an issue through this time?
SHENA GUTIERREZ: Yes, it was, because—well, he got—once he got the temporary stay from the Ninth Circuit, a humanitarian visa, medical purposes and whatnot, it was only—it was good for a year. So it expired May of 2012. And again, that leaves me with the constant worry of what's going to happen. Can something happen? Will they pick him up in the middle of the night? I'm just constantly going through the—you know, it's just in my head constantly that he can still be picked up.
AMY GOODMAN: So let me ask Andrea Guerrero, how typical is Shena's story?
ANDREA GUERRERO: Well, Amy, unfortunately, this is a story that we hear about every other month. And we hear about somebody being killed by Border Patrol or seriously injured. And it's important to note that this is happening to U.S. citizens, as well as to immigrants. Of the 20 cases of those killed that we've tracked in the last two years, one-third are U.S. citizens. One-third are also teenagers. They are minors who were throwing rocks at agents, allegedly. And so, we are deeply concerned about what has been a trend in this agency, certainly since the—since the inception of the Department of Homeland Security, but really, this is a trend that predates the DHS formation.
And, you know, in the 100-year history of Border Patrol, rarely, if ever, has an agent been brought to justice for something that they've done in the community. And we're very concerned about that. So we've turned to the justice system. We've sought justice there for the more than 20 families now whose lives have been changed forever by Border Patrol use of force or excessive use of force. And now we're going to Congress, and we're asking Congress to take matters into their own hands, exercise the oversight authority that they have over this agency and provide a very concrete way for us to know what those agents are doing. And that's to use lapel cameras. And, you know, those are cameras that are placed on the agent's uniform and which records their interactions with the public every day. This is a technology that's used by police departments throughout the country. Within two years, we anticipate that all police departments will have such technology. They already use cameras on their vehicles, and they use it in specific settings, right? And so, we know this works. We know that in a police department near where we live, in Rialto, California, that when agents started wearing cameras, that the allegations of abuse dropped by 88 percent. And we also know that agents or officers that wore cameras were engaged in use-of-force incidents half as much as those without cameras. So it has a deterrence effect. It protects officers against false allegations. And, in general, it brings us transparency and openness to officers that are charged with protecting us, protecting the public welfare, making sure that they're doing their job, that they're not beating up people, that they're not, you know, engaged in sexual assaults or stalking of women, which is, you know, something that's happened recently in another part of California. You know, so, we need to make sure that the investment that Congress is about to make in enhanced border enforcement is—comes with some very meaningful and effective oversight and accountability. And, you know, while like a hearing is an effective way of getting a sense of what's going on in the agency every couple of months, what we need is a day-to-day oversight mechanism. If lapel cameras work for police, we think that they will work for Border Patrol.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida, and his saying he himself may vote against the bill unless it includes an amendment that calls for full control of the border and 90 percent apprehension of those who are engaged in illegal border crossings, before immigrants can apply for legal status. Andrea, talk about—what is your response to this?
ANDREA GUERRERO: Well, look, I think that, you know, in order for reform to be comprehensive, we have to address all parts of the broken system at the same time; otherwise, you know, if you—if you fix one leg of the stool and you don't fix the other, you're still not going to be able to sit down. We need to be able to move forward as a country on this issue. We need to be able to protect families, keep them together and fill labor needs. And we're not going to be able to do that if we are only fixing one leg of the stool.
In terms of, you know, enhanced border enforcement, the bill already provides sufficient—we believe, sufficient enhancements to border enforcement in such a way that allows us to move forward with a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented and protects the rights of border residents, because border enforcement—everyone has to remember that border enforcement in our communities affects not only those who would cross our border, but it affects the 15 million people who are living there who are subject to the roving patrols in our neighborhoods, agents standing outside of our churches, our schools and our grocery stores, asking us for papers, biking down our alleyways while we're taking out the trash, asking us for papers. I mean, this is a—what we consider a police state in the United States of America, where, you know, I myself recently was on a train to Los Angeles, 100 miles away from the border, and an agent boarded that train. I was alone, single and on that train at 6:00 a.m. in the morning, and that agent cornered me and asked me for my papers. I was terrified. And guess what? I wasn't carrying any proof of my citizenship. And who would be? So it was my word on whether I was a citizen or not, and it was up to the agent to determine what to do with me. I'm fair-skinned. I speak English without an accent. So he let me pass. But what if I didn't? You know, I know all too well, in the case of many others, who get wrapped up in the enforcement scheme by Border Patrol, which has extraordinary authority, which overruns our border community.
We do not need any more border enforcement than what we have. We already have operational control in most sectors of the border. Where we don't, there are mechanisms in the immigration reform bill that's been proposed that would address those. We would not ask a police department to ensure that we have 90 percent operation control of crime before we would allow children to go to school, before we would allow people to go to work, to earn a living, before we would allow a mother to come home to be with her children. We wouldn't do that. In the immigration context, we cannot continue to separate families and leave employment gaps unfilled, while we're trying to address, you know, an enforcement issue at the border. We need to do all things at the same time.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to the case of Anastasio Hernández-Rojas. In May 2010—I'm going to just take that again—I want to turn to the case of Anastasio Hernández-Rojas. In May 2010, he was caught trying to enter the United States from Mexico near San Diego. He had previously lived in the United States for 25 years, from the age of 15. He was the father of five U.S.-born children. But instead of deportation, Hernández-Rojas's detention ended in his death. A number of officers were seen beating him before one tasered him at least five times. During the attack, Hernández-Rojas was handcuffed and hogtied. He died shortly after. The agents say they confronted him because he became—sorry, the agents say they confronted him because he became hostile and resisted arrest. But video recorded by eyewitnesses on their cellphones was released later and showed a very different story. The footage was obtained by reporter John Carlos Frey and appeared PBS last year.
ANASTASIO HERNÁNDEZ-ROJAS: [translated] Please! Señores, help me!
JOHN LARSON: What U.S. border agents did not realize is that eyewitness videos of the incident caught the sounds of Hernández-Rojas screaming and pleading for his life.
ANASTASIO HERNÁNDEZ-ROJAS: [translated] No! Help!
JOHN LARSON: And now, a never-before-seen eyewitness video of the incident raises new disturbing questions. The dark video reveals more than a dozen U.S. border agents standing over Hernández-Rojas. It shows the firing of the taser. Was Hernández-Rojas, as the police press release suggested, combative when he was killed? Or was he on the ground, handcuffed?
AMY GOODMAN: That was PBS Need to Know reporter John Larson. Democracy Now! spoke to Hernández-Rojas's widow, María Puga, last April. She talked about her family's response to his sudden death.
MARÍA PUGA: [translated] It has been very painful for all of us, for his brothers, his parents, for me. But perhaps the ones who are suffering the most right now are our children. My kids ask me all the time, "Why did they kill my daddy? What happened to my daddy?" And it's a question that I, myself, have no answers to, because I don't know why they did this to him. It's clear now that they beat him severely on that video.
AMY GOODMAN: That was María Puga. She is the widow of Anastasio Hernández-Rojas, speaking about what happened to her husband. I assume both of you know this story well. Andrea Guerrero, how would what you're calling for in legislation prevent this from happening again, this horror, which was of course denied? And then, only when the video and cellphone footage is there, does another explanation come out.
ANDREA GUERRERO: Well, a lapel camera on an agent would prevent this kind of deceit by the agency to the public. It would let us know right away what happened. But for the eyewitness video that came out two years after the incident, we wouldn't know what had actually happened, or we wouldn't be able to corroborate it. So, in the case of Jose Gutierrez, in the case of Anastasio Hernández-Rojas and in the case of the 18 others that we've been tracking, we would know what has happened. We have needed to rely on eyewitnesses who carry recording equipment themselves. But that's not the role of the public. That shouldn't be our role. Our role should be to trust that our tax dollars are funding an agency that is acting responsibly and not with impunity. You know, we are very lucky, Amy, that the media has been very aggressive in investigating these cases. They've been riding alongside of us to seek transparency and openness. And I think, fundamentally, this is about oversight and accountability, but it's also about government transparency and openness. In the case of Anastasio Hernández-Rojas, you know, the court is—excuse me, the border agency, Border Patrol agency, is currently trying to seal the court proceedings and seal the evidence in his case, which is going to trial in August. And it's, you know, because of media inquiries and because of advocacy organizations that hopefully we'll be able to keep those open. These are cases of public interest. You know, it's not only important for the families to understand what happened, but it's important for the rest of us, for the public to understand what is happening with an agency that, by all measures, is out of control and has never, ever been held accountable for its actions.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to end up with Shena Gutierrez. You have come to Washington. You left your family. What is the response of congressmembers as you lobby them to talk about humanity on the border, to the story of you and your husband, Jose Gutierrez, and what happened to him?
SHENA GUTIERREZ: I think it's been pretty positive. There's—actually, after, you know, telling the story over and over and over, there's been a congressman who's been trying to help out with trying to get a report from Border Patrol as to what exactly happened on that day. And—
AMY GOODMAN: Have you sued?
SHENA GUTIERREZ: —I'm so grateful. We did file—we did file this year.
AMY GOODMAN: I thank you both for being with us.
SHENA GUTIERREZ: Thank you.
ANDREA GUERRERO: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman.
Democracy Now! 2013-06-13 Thursday
Report from Istanbul: Turkish Police Attack Protesters in Taksim Square with Tear Gas, Water Cannons
Turkish riot police have forcibly removed throngs of protesters from Istanbul's Taksim Square after nearly two weeks of demonstrations. Beginning Tuesday and lasting overnight, officers fired tear gas and water cannons into a crowd of thousands of people, forcing them to disperse. Thousands of demonstrators also faced tear gas and water cannons in the capital Ankara. It was the most violent police crackdown since the initial protest against the razing of an Istanbul public park. The movement has since grown into a call for Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's resignation over what opponents call authoritarian and anti-secular tendencies. Turkish medics say around 5,000 people have been treated for injuries since the unrest began.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Turkish riot police have forcibly removed throngs of protesters from Istanbul's Taksim Square after nearly two weeks of demonstrations. Beginning Tuesday and lasting overnight, officers fired tear gas and water cannons into a crowd of thousands of people, forcing them to disperse. Thousands of demonstrators also faced tear gas and water cannons in the capital Ankara. It was the most violent police crackdown since the initial protest against the razing of an Istanbul public park. The movement has since grown into a call for Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan's resignation over what opponents call authoritarian and anti-secular tendencies. Turkish medics say around 5,000 people have been treated for injuries since the unrest began.
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we are joined by Koray Çalışkan, associate professor of political science at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, also a columnist with the liberal newspaper Radikal. Thank you so much for joining us. Tell us what's happening in the streets right now, Koray.
KORAY ÇALIŞKAN: I was in Gezi Park until 4:00 a.m. in the morning yesterday, and people were demoralized because the governor told them that the police wouldn't attack the park, and they did, with tear gas. I was there with a member of the Parliament, Mr. Sari of Republican People's Party. We were discussing what was going on. And the tear gas just came just near us, and we were on our knees. And people were vomiting, and I felt really bad. I've never—I've been under tear gas for these 15 days in Turkey right now, but nothing was worse than last night.
Right now I'm very close to Gezi Park, and people are cleaning the park, organizing themselves. They feel way better. And they are very determined. I got many calls from all around the country, telling people that they are coming to Istanbul to hang out in the park, and they're going to be here to support them. The most interesting call came from an administrator with Nationalist Action Party. This is a right-wing party. And he said he wanted to be in the park to support the people. The main image here is that the people are trying to protect their trees and democracy, whereas AK party insists on building a shopping mall on the last green patch of Taksim Square in Istanbul.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: But, Koray, could you explain why it is you think the governor went back on his word and that the police also responded with such excessive force, as reports suggest, to the protesters in Gezi Park?
KORAY ÇALIŞKAN: I think a lot of people want the governor to resign immediately, because he couldn't handle the situation well. And I believe he has political aspirations. A governor of Istanbul became the minister of interior later, and he wants to look good to the government. And on the one hand, he wants to look good to the electorate by showing the uncle governor face of himself. This is how he calls himself right now. Yet, on the other hand, he gasses Gezi Park and Taksim Square with cruelty. This is—this is unacceptable, and people really do not like what he's doing, because he said people—he said police would not attack Gezi Park, and he did. How are we going to believe in our governor now, in the next week or next month or the summer?
AMY GOODMAN: Koray Çalışkan, can you tell us why people are in the streets? Tell us how this all happened and what people are demanding now.
KORAY ÇALIŞKAN: The triggering mechanism was the governor's—excuse me, the prime minister's determination to demolish a public park and build a shopping mall and a residential tower on it. This is not very different from—imagine Bloomberg says one day that he wants to build a Bloomingdale's building by cutting out a corner of Central Park. How would New Yorkers would feel? How would Bostoners would feel if the mayor said Boston Commons will be a shopping mall and a residential center? So, this was a triggering mechanism, and people from all around political parties and backgrounds began to come to Taksim Square and also Gezi Park.
However, before that, the government responded to many of its mistakes with more mistakes. For instance, the prime minister was politically responsible for the death of 34 Kurds in Uludere. Instead of apologizing, he said he wanted to—in order to change the course of discussion, he said he was going to ban abortion in the country. He couldn't. That was very bad.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Koray, could you explain that incident?
KORAY ÇALIŞKAN: Later—
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Could you explain that incident, how the prime minister was responsible—
KORAY ÇALIŞKAN: Yes.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: —for the deaths of 34—
KORAY ÇALIŞKAN: Politically, the Turkish army accidentally killed 34 smugglers, Kurdish smugglers, all Turkish citizens, in Turkey with an air raid. AK party—the head of AK party, Mr. Erdoğan, is politically responsible, because the army reports to him. He didn't apologize. Not even a single private lost his job after this tragedy. And everyone was asking him to apologize, while ironically he apologized for something that happened in 1938 under the Republican People's Party government, and he didn't apologize for what he did. So, this created a huge upheaval in the country.
Later, 51 people lost their lives in an attack in Reyhanli. This was the September 11th of the country. This was the first time in Turkish history that a whole neighborhood was bombed in a Turkish small town. The prime minister's foreign policy that prescribes direct engagement with civil war in Syria was responsible for this attack. He didn't take responsibility. And ironically, he accused the head opposition party for what happened in Reyhanli. And this was—this was unacceptable. Everyone was criticizing him. And instead, you know what he did? He decided to introduce alcohol ban, to buy and to sell alcoholic beverages for adults after 10:00 p.m.
AMY GOODMAN: You—
KORAY ÇALIŞKAN: He makes a mistake—
AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned the ban on abortion. You mentioned the alcohol ban.
KORAY ÇALIŞKAN: Yes, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about religion in Turkey right now and what the Turkish prime minister, Erdoğan, represents?
KORAY ÇALIŞKAN: When he represented himself, he wants the West to see himself as a conservative democrat. Right now, people in Taksim and Gezi Park are trying to conserve their own park, which is a 70-years-old park. And the—and AK party's police force is gassing people who are raising their democratic voice. AK party is a neo-Islamist authoritarian party now. No one would believe that they are democrats. No one really believes that they are conservatives, because conservative parties, for the first place—in the first place, conserve national heritage, right? Values. And we are losing them. We are losing our parks. We are losing our democracy. We are losing our secularism.
Here is what's going on. After he decided to introduce the alcohol ban after 10:00 p.m. for adults to sell and to buy alcoholic beverages, people criticized him, and he said something terrible: "How come two drunk men can write law, and I can't, looking at our religion?" He didn't—he didn't come clear on that, but everyone knew that he was alluding to, if not referring to directly, to Atatürk, the founding father of Turkey. See, Kemalism, his own ideology, changed a lot. No one really believes in the Kemalist ideology. No one really believes in many of its respects. But cultural Atatürkism is the backbone of Turkish society right now. And when the prime minister alludes to him as a drunk man, this was—this was the end of it. And people realized that a prime minister was comparing the requirements of Qur'an al-karim with the founding fathers and his writings of this country. So, this was actually the main reason behind this upheaval for trees and democracy; however, the triggering mechanism was his determination to build a shopping mall in the park.
And until today, Amy, he didn't say anything. All people want is the following: "Excuse me. It was wrong to build a shopping mall on a public park. Let's go home." And he doesn't say that. Instead, he continues to incite problems by calling for two mass demonstrations, on Saturday in Ankara and on Sunday in Istanbul. This is very sad. You know why? Because people will go there—fine—but what will be their demand? To build a shopping mall on a park? Two big meetings with no political demands, just to support a prime minister who lost the moral cause.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Koray, would you agree: Supporters of the AK party, Erdoğan's party, say that he's taken, at least in the past, the most steps towards democratizing Turkish society, diminishing the role of the military in politics, etc.? Do you think that was true and is no longer true? And if so, why?
KORAY ÇALIŞKAN: It is no longer true. A lot of people believed in them, because we didn't have any choice. I said, look, the main problem in Turkish democracy was the large power of the military. And everyone supported AK party when they tried to finish the power of military, at least to limit it. And AK party was also a pro-European Union party. They promised that Turkey would be a European-type democracy, right? And people supported them. Today is the first test. For the last two years, military is not a part of Turkish politics. Most of the colonels and officers who might have thought about a form of intervention are in jail right now, in Silivri. And this is the first time that Turkish civil and political society are alone without military, and Turkish democracy is run by the government of AK party. And they failed spectacularly. These tons of gas in Taksim Square is helping Erdoğan's legend evaporate in the West, in the East, in Middle East and in Turkey. People do not remember Erdoğan as a democrat right now. They know that he's an authoritarian leader who gasses his own people in order to build a shopping mall on a public park.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to the Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan's call for the protests to stop.
PRIME MINISTER TAYYIP ERDOĞAN: [translated] I urge the young people, who I believe are there with sincere feelings, to put an end to this protest. And I call on those who insist on continuing. This is over. We won't put up with this any longer.
AMY GOODMAN: And this is a Turkish protester responding to Erdoğan's call for the demonstrations to stop.
PROTESTER: [translated] It was the prime minister's choice to expose thousands of people here to tear gas, smoke grenades and water cannons. This is fascism. Our struggle will continue. We will keep on resisting. It will be the prime minister's loss if he doesn't change his attitude.
AMY GOODMAN: Koray Çalışkan, where do you see this going right now?
KORAY ÇALIŞKAN: I don't know. There is two options. Prime Minister Erdoğan should apologize for what happened, and he should tell people of Turkey that he doesn't want to build a shopping mall on a public park. Second, I don't think Erdoğan is right in not thinking his own political party. Members of the Parliament from AK party themselves started to criticize their leader, which was unheard of. The former minister of culture, who resisted the building of this mall in this park, public park, openly called Erdoğan to change his ideas. And without Erdoğan stepping back, which is going to be the first time in his political career, this is not going to go anywhere, and people are not going to leave Gezi Park. Tonight there will be a huge festival there. People are going to be there. The police is right across town, which is terrible. And it's very interesting that the police is now protecting Atatürk Kültür Merkezi and the Atatürk monument in Taksim, Gezi Park. The person, the founding father, who was alluded to by Erdoğan as the drunk man.
AMY GOODMAN: Before we wrap up, how has the conflict in Syria affected what's happening in Turkey right now? Do you see a connection, Koray?
KORAY ÇALIŞKAN: I don't think there's a connection. People in Turkey are against Assad, from left and right, but most of the people are against AK party's policy to engage in civil war by helping the resistance with guns and money. I don't think they are related, but one of the structural reasons that made people very upset with Erdoğan's take on Gezi Park is related to his foreign policy in Syria, but the events are not directly related.
AMY GOODMAN: Koray Çalışkan, we want to thank you very much for being with us, associate professor of political science at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, a columnist with Radikal. Thank you for joining us from Istanbul.
Democracy Now! 2013-06-12 Wednesday
On May 28, around 100 Wal-Mart workers in Florida, Massachusetts and California walked off the job for an unprecedented series of "prolonged strikes" against worker retaliation. Organizers of OUR Walmart describe the action as the longest Wal-Mart strike to date. Many of the striking workers traveled to Wal-Mart's annual shareholder meeting in Arkansas last week. In this web exclusive, we speak with Josh Eidelson of The Nation.
JOSH EIDELSON: Last year, after a series of failed efforts by unions, some using traditional National Labor Relations Board election tactics, some that were air wars involving all kinds of attempts to embarrass the company with very little involvement from workers, we saw something very different emerge in 2011: this group called OUR Walmart, organizing in concert with other groups organizing Wal-Mart warehouse workers, Wal-Mart workers who are involved abroad, and then, last year, these first-ever strikes. So, last year on Black Friday, 400-some Wal-Mart workers went on strike. We've now seen, over the past couple weeks, the longest strike in Wal-Mart's U.S. history in the retail sector. This strike involved 100-some workers who went to Arkansas to crash Wal-Mart's party there.
The question for these workers now is: What happens when they go back to work? Those workers have begun returning to work, and their challenge is going to be telling the story, amplifying the grievances, deepening their relationships with their co-workers in a way that engages more of those co-workers, that silent majority, to join them and to step up in the face of this well-founded fear of retaliation from Wal-Mart. And organizers have promised, in interviews that I've conducted over the past couple weeks, that by the end of the year they have pledged that we will see something larger than what happened on Black Friday last year.
AMY GOODMAN: What happened?
JOSH EIDELSON: Larger than the strike—
AMY GOODMAN: What happened?
JOSH EIDELSON: —that took place on Black Friday, when we had 400-some people walk off the job for one day.
AARON MATÉ: Josh, your sense of how workers, the rank-and-file workers, responded to OUR Walmart at this meeting in Arkansas last week? Were there—you mentioned one interaction during the show at a protest, but were there efforts to engage with Wal-Mart workers by these striking—by the striking colleagues?
JOSH EIDELSON: There were some efforts. But in my observation, in my interviews, my sense is that the workers who were flown in by Wal-Mart largely kept their distance. In general, they were chaperoned by Wal-Mart managers, both at the meeting and at various events. So, for example, the Wal-Mart strikers went to the Crystal Bridges Museum, which is largely funded by Wal-Mart. They brought a piece of art they had created and said, "Since you hang up all these paintings from the Waltons, hang up this piece of art we brought you." And they ran into a number of these workers who were brought by Wal-Mart. Their efforts to engage with them didn't get very far. When I talked to some of those workers brought by Wal-Mart, one said, "Oh, those are the people we were warned about," and then walked away. One said, "Well, they're going to do their thing. We're going to do our thing." Several declined to be interviewed or said they didn't think they were allowed to be interviewed while they were there. And these are workers who, according to local media reports, had already at that point sat in a meeting where top executives told them, "OUR Walmart is a group of paid agitators who think you're too stupid to know how good your job is."
AMY GOODMAN: Josh, Wal-Mart has a very comprehensive ad campaign that I see all the time on television, that has various Wal-Mart workers saying their name and saying how Wal-Mart offers them chances for career and advancement. Is this in response to OUR Walmart?
JOSH EIDELSON: There are—
AMY GOODMAN: The union organizing?
JOSH EIDELSON: There are several signs that together appear to indicate that Wal-Mart is feeling a level of stress about this campaign that it has not felt about the, frankly, not very effective campaigns that unions have backed in the past. So Wal-Mart is doing this PR campaign. It was even playing these ads, showing part of this ad campaign in the Arkansas airport when I flew out. At the same time, Wal-Mart has seen departures of top executives and a few of the CEOs of other companies on its board. It's made this announcement that it's going to change its scheduling system to make it easier for people to be promoted. And then, meanwhile, it has this anti-organizing campaign that's going on in the stores. So, yes, Wal-Mart is responding in a significant way, because you have not seen this kind of organizing in the belly of the beast of anti-unionism in the United States before.
AARON MATÉ: Can you talk about how Wal-Mart has responded in the past to efforts to unionize? I'm thinking of what happened in Canada, also the example of the meat-cutting department at a store here in the U.S.
JOSH EIDELSON: Yes, that's right. So, Wal-Mart—in an anti-union environment across the board in the United States, Wal-Mart has still distinguished itself with its zeal and its creativity in finding ways to suppress organizing. So, in Canada, workers won union recognition in Canada, and the entire store was shut down. In the United States, a handful of workers at one store, who were meat cutters, won a union election, and Wal-Mart responded by eliminating the entire meat-cutting department nationwide, because it was a department that they presumably observed would be ripe for unionization. And so, Wal-Mart has made a name for itself even among the ranks of anti-union U.S. companies in its willingness to suppress organizing, both through legal actions and, based on credible allegations, through illegal actions.
AMY GOODMAN: And the other organizing that's going on around the country right now among fast-food workers, can you make parallels? Are there connections?
JOSH EIDELSON: Oh, absolutely. So what we see now is this rise in the comprehensive campaign and the—using community, media, political, legal efforts, but, married to it, a rise in this different template of strikes, where we see strikes by workers who go out for a short period of time, who are not generally trying to shut down the workplace, but instead are trying to embarrass the company and engage the public, who specifically cite retaliation as the cause for the strike, because that gives them a bit more legal protection, and who represent a minority of the workforce—these minority strikes where, rather than getting everybody behind you first and taking them out, you have a courageous minority that thinks that their courage in their confrontation with the boss will lead the campaign to grow by engaging more co-workers. And in the case of the fast-food strikes in New York and elsewhere and in the case of the workers at Wal-Mart, there are at least some cities where that's happened.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about—these are some old reports. One, "Ex-Wal-Mart Worker Admits to Spy Campaign." This is from 2007. "A Wal-Mart employee, who was fired last month for intercepting a reporter's calls, says he was part of a sophisticated surveillance operation." Do you know anything about those? Now, this was years ago. This was, what, six years ago.
JOSH EIDELSON: So that's a case—Nelson Lichtenstein wrote about it in his book, The Retail Revolution. It's not clear whether that particular worker was talking about something that actually happened or being opportunistic and saying, "Well, the best explanation, if you get caught doing something at Wal-Mart, is that it's about Wal-Mart's anti-unionism, because everyone knows how extreme Wal-Mart's anti-unionism is." But what is very clear, as I've reported at The Nation, based on workers I've talked to, based on other reports that have come out, is that Wal-Mart has a consistent pattern of doing nearly whatever is possible to avert organizing. Wal-Mart denies retaliating, but there are credible allegations from around the country. And Wal-Mart does not deny that it holds mandatory meetings in which it tells workers why they should not be involved in trying to change their company. That's not the behavior of a company that actually thinks these hundred workers don't represent anyone else.
AMY GOODMAN: Josh Eidelson, I want to thank you very much for being with us, writer for The Nation. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report.
Democracy Now! 2013-06-11 Tuesday
William Binney describes how his former agency has built a massive system to track, monitor and record phone and Internet communications of U.S. citizens and people around the world. Binney resigned from the National Security Agency in 2001 to protest growing domestic surveillance. He was a senior NSA crypto-mathematician largely responsible for automating the agency's worldwide eavesdropping network. He was one of the two co-founders of the agency's Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center. He resigned after the Sept. 11 attacks. In 2012 he gave his first ever television interview to Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. Our guest is William Binney. He served in the National Security Agency for almost 40 years, including a time as director of the NSA's World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, a senior NSA crypto-mathematician, largely responsible for automating the agency's worldwide eavesdropping network. He was one of the two co-founders of the agency's Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center, resigned after the September 11th attacks, concerned about the increasing surveillance of the American people.
We are getting response to the massive series of releases and exposés from The Guardian newspaper and The Washington Post of information released by a 29-year-old information technician named Edward Snowden, who worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, a military contractor, within the National Security Agency in Hawaii. In response to these revelations about surveillance, President Obama spoke on Friday and defended the NSA's surveillance program, suggesting they help defend the country against terrorist attacks.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I came in with a healthy skepticism about these programs. My team evaluated them. We scrubbed them thoroughly. We actually expanded some of the oversight, increased some of the safeguards. But my assessment and my team's assessment was that they help us prevent terrorist attacks. And the modest encroachments on privacy that are involved in getting phone numbers or duration without a name attached and not looking at content, that on, you know, net, it was worth us doing. That's—some other folks may have a different assessment of that. But I think it's important to recognize that you can't have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. You know, we're going to have to make some choices as a society. And what I can say is, is that in evaluating these programs, they make a difference in our capacity to anticipate and prevent possible terrorist activity.
AMY GOODMAN: William Binney, you worked for the NSA for almost 40 years. You're reading all of this information that's been released right now about the surveillance abilities of the NSA and what they're doing right now. Can you respond to President Obama?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Yes. Personally, I've had the view for any—for quite a number of decades, that the Congress and the administration have been—have been fed by the intelligence community what I call technobabble. In other words, they're being bamboozled into thinking a certain way, that they have to do this in order to get terrorists. And that's simply false. There's a simple way to do it that would protect people's privacy and not invade anybody's telephone records or email. And that's to say, if you have a terrorist, and he calls somebody in the United States—I call this the two-degree principle—that's one degree of communication separation. Then you look at that as a target, and you collect that, and then you look also at the person in the United States and who they talk to. That could represent the—that's a zone of suspicion that would, in effect, be basically a support network for that person inside the country. That defines your terrorist relationship, and that's how you look at that. And the rest of the communication of the U.S. people don't mean anything, as relevant, and none of that's relevant to what's going on there. And you also have to look at the jihadi-type sites, those that advocate jihad or violence and so on, and you see who is accessing those sites. That's easy to monitor that, and it doesn't invade anybody's privacy that's been absolutely doing nothing of—that should be in any way considered suspicious.
AMY GOODMAN: On Friday, President Obama also refuted claims that the intelligence community is listening to telephone conversations.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That's not what this program is about. As was indicated, what the intelligence community is doing is looking at phone numbers and durations of calls. They are not looking at people's names, and they're not looking at content. But by sifting through this so-called metadata, they may identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism. If these folks—if the intelligence community then actually wants to listen to a phone call, they've got to go back to a federal judge, just like they would in a criminal investigation. So, I want to be very clear. Some of the hype that we've been hearing over the last day or so—nobody is listening to the content of people's phone calls.
AMY GOODMAN: Is that true, William Binney? You worked at the NSA for almost 40 years.
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, it's pretty—it's pretty much true, yes. I think they are—my sense is that they are just looking at a target list. They have a target list that they input to the telephone network and use the switches to detect these phone calls going across the network and then download those to recorders and transcribe that. So that's what they're—I think that's what they're doing. But what Edward Snowden was talking about was having access to that network. What that meant was he could load—and what he was basically saying, he could load the attributes of anyone he wanted to target into the target list, and then that would start doing, executing and collecting all the information about them, including the content, and recording it, too. So they could—and someone would have to transcribe it, but they could, and all of that content for phones, as well as email, would be stored and collected in the base.
AMY GOODMAN: Let's go back to what Edward Snowden had to say.
EDWARD SNOWDEN: You don't have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use the system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you've ever made, every friend you've ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.
AMY GOODMAN: William Binney, your response to Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old NSA whistleblower?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Yeah, that's pretty much correct. I mean, when you pull in the call records at the rate of three billion a day over 12 years and you graph them, what that means is you now have the total communications communities that everyone has in the world, or in the United States, basically. And at that point, that shows you all of your relationships. And that's part of what he was talking about. The other part was the Narus devices that they deployed starting, I think, around 2003 onto the fiber optic networks, were capturing the emails and voice over IP, and that was being stored. And so, then that's why they have to—that's why they have to build places like Bluffdale in Utah, that big storage facility, because they're collecting so much data. The content is the real—the content is really the bulk that needs to be—that they're storing. The call records and just graphing the relationships is a pretty simple thing to do, and it doesn't take that much—you could put that in one room of storage capacity.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill Binney, could you say a little more about Bluffdale, this site in Utah that's being built right now? I don't think most people are aware of it.
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, what they're putting together there in Bluffdale is a million-square-foot storage facility, of which only 100,000 is really going to have equipment to store data. But the rest of it, the peripherals, then are power generation, cooling and so on. So, but in there, there's 100,000 square feet of storage capacity. And at current capabilities that are advertised on the web with Cleversafe.com, they can put 10 exabytes in about 200 feet—square feet of storage space in 21 racks. What that means is, when you divide that out, is you—that even at current capacity to store information, that's five zettabytes that they can put in into Bluffdale. And if you—and my estimate of the data they would be collecting, which would include the targeted audio and perhaps all of the text in the world, that would be on the order of 20 terabytes a minute—or, yeah, 20 terabytes a minute. So if you figure out from that how much they could collect, it would be like 500 years of the world's communications. But I only estimated a hundred, because really they want space for parallel processors to go at cryptanalysis and breaking codes. So—
AMY GOODMAN: William Binney, we didn't speak to you last week before PRISM came out, or we spoke to you before the revelations about PRISM, so I wanted to ask you about them today. I mean, these revelations are coming out almost every day right now, where the NSA obtains access to the central servers of nine major Internet companies, including Google and Yahoo! and Microsoft and Apple and Facebook, The Guardian then exposing how the president had ordered his senior national security and intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for U.S. cyber-attacks. Could you respond one—each one of those, first PRISM, and what that allows the NSA to do, and what you think should be done about that?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, first of all, what they were talking about there is the Internet and the communications going across the Internet. And that really—the access of that data really started back with Mark Klein when he exposed the deployment of the Narus devices on the web. That was giving them the content of everything on the fiber optic lines. That was the collection that they had. Now, when they had that—deploy those collection sites all around, they don't—still don't get all of the data, so they have holes in their collection. They may get 80 percent, basically, of what's being passed on the web. But by going to those companies and saying—they store everything they serve, so they've got a—if you aggregate them together, they've got a complete picture of what's on the web. And so, going there allows NSA then to fill in the gaps that they're missing from their real-time collection. So, that's the objective that I think is going on there. But, I mean, it's—in the meantime, that's collecting all the data on U.S. citizens again. And if they went back to use the two-degree principle, they could, again, protect U.S. citizens and still find all of the terrorists in the world. So, I mean—
AMY GOODMAN: Bill Binney, can you comment on this period we're going through right now, when you have Bradley Manning on trial at Fort Meade, which is the national headquarters of the National Security Agency? He faces life in prison or possibly death. Then you have this young man, Ed Snowden, who, 29 years old, understands the stakes, says he understands he may never be home again, now in Hong Kong, the last we know. The significance of what is coming out right now? And then, Julian Assange, you know, holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London—
WILLIAM BINNEY: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —afraid he might be extradited to the United States and face the same fate as perhaps Bradley Manning.
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, all of that, plus all of the previous prosecutions of whistleblowers is really an attempt to intimidate the governmental workforce and the contractor workforce that's associated with them, so that they don't compromise things that the government doesn't want the public to know. And so, that's really their objective, and that's why they're coming after whistleblowers and people who turn over documentation of government programs and trying to, of course, give them as much of the penalty of the law that they can do and—if they can get a hold of them.
AMY GOODMAN: Which brings us to you, Bill Binney. Talk about what you attempted to do, in terms of getting out information, sounding the alarm right after 9/11, when people were willing to give a lot of leeway, that, you know, you've got to trade privacy for security, but what you felt, being inside the National Security Agency for the decades that you were, and the shift after 9/11, what you faced, as well as your other colleagues.
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, it was pretty hard for me to believe that my agency, that I had supported for so many years, and the country, of course, and the laws that we had, including the USSID 18 that has—which was our guiding documentation internally in NSA about not spying on U.S. citizens—when they started doing that after 9/11, it was just hard for me to believe they did it, but it—the evidence—I mean, I had direct evidence that they were doing it, so I just couldn't—I couldn't stay there. I couldn't be a party to that. And what I did after that was tried—I went to the intelligence committees first to try to get them alerted to it, so they would try—address it. I mean, their responsibility was to prevent the intelligence community from spying on U.S. citizens, based on the FISA laws. And after that, when that didn't work, I even tried, with Diane Roark and others, to address this issue to the Chief Justice Rehnquist of the Supreme Court. But we weren't able to do that. And so, eventually, I tried the—as well as Kirk Wiebe and I, we both tried to get to the Department of Justice inspector general's office and alert them to this and say there are ways to do it without violating all the U.S. citizens' privacy. But that wasn't what the government wanted to do. I mean, when Qwest, the CEO of Qwest, was approached in February of 2001—that was before 9/11—to give over customer data, it was all—it was still targeting domestic spying, and that was call records they were trying to get from that. So, the—
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about that for a moment, Bill, the former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio, the only head of a communications company to—the only head of a company to demand a court order or approval under FISA.
WILLIAM BINNEY: Yes, and the consequence for him was they targeted him, and now he's in prison. So, I mean, they succeeded in prosecuting him. But what it told me was that the intent from the beginning was to do domestic spying, accumulating information and knowledge about the U.S.—the entire U.S. population. So I thought of that as a J. Edgar Hoover on super steroids, you know? It wasn't that he had information and knowledge to leverage just the Congress. You have information and knowledge to leverage everyone, judges included, in the country. So, that's why I got so concerned. I tried to work internally in the government to get people to do something about it, but that whole process failed. So what it did was it alerted them to what I was doing, and they targeted me with the FBI, and they attempted to falsely prosecute me. Fortunately, I was able to get evidence of malicious prosecution every time, so they finally backed off trying to prosecute me.
AMY GOODMAN: If you would briefly, though I don't like to have you relive this, tell us what actually happened to you, with the FBI raiding your home.
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, they came in, and there were like 12 FBI agents with their guns drawn, and came in. My son opened the door, let them in, and they pushed him out of the way at gunpoint. And they came upstairs to where my wife was getting dressed, and I was in the shower, and they were pointing guns at her, and then they—one of the agents came into the shower and pointed a gun directly at me, at my head, and of course pulled me out of the shower. So I had a towel, at least, to wrap around, but—so that's what they did.
And then they took me out and interrogated me on the back porch. And when they did that, they tried to get me—they said they wanted me to tell them something that would be—implicate someone in a crime. And I said, well, I didn't—I thought they were talking about someone other than the President Bush, Dick Cheney and Hayden and Tenet, so I said I didn't really know about anything. And they said they thought I was lying. Well, at that point, "OK," I said, "I'll tell you about the crime I know about," and that was that Hayden, Tenet, George Bush, Dick Cheney, they conspired to subvert the Constitution and the constitutional process of checks and balances, and here's how they did it. And I talked about program Stellar Wind, all the data coming in, about how they managed to graph it and also how they bypassed the courts. They didn't tell the courts about this program, and they didn't solicit any approval from the courts. And they also only told four people initially in Congress, that were the—they were the chiefs and deputies of the Intelligence Committee. That was on the House. That was Porter Goss and Nancy Pelosi. I don't remember the Senate side. But when you do that and—I mean, Senator Rockefeller, when he got briefed into those programs in 2003, said he wasn't capable of understanding any of it, because he wasn't—he wasn't a technician, he wasn't a lawyer, so he couldn't do anything about it. That was in his handwritten note to Dick Cheney. So, I mean, it was clear they were doing something that was unconstitutional and against any number of laws that existed at the time.
AMY GOODMAN: William Binney, what most surprised you about the latest series of revelations that come from Edward Snowden?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, the only surprise I got—I mean, the PRISM program, I had assumed was going on anyway. But the court order that was published that showed the—it showed the serial number at the top, on the top right side of it. It was 13-80. That meant it was the 80th order of 2013 of the FISA court. And if that order was typical of all those other 79, which was authorizing them—or ordering them to turn over records that would—to NSA, even though it was the FBI doing the request, it shows you the relationship between FBI and NSA. It's really close, and they're depending on NSA to do their processing. But what it is, what that tells me, that serial number told me that, gee, if all those orders addressed individually every quarter—this was the second quarter of 2013—then there would be, at a minimum, 40 companies involved in this activity. So, it would be telcoms—it would be a mix of telcoms and Internet service providers.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, there's been a lot made of the document that shows that Verizon is handing over its information.
WILLIAM BINNEY: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: But that's just because that's the document they have.
WILLIAM BINNEY: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you assume we're talking BellSouth, we're talking AT&T and the other corporations?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Yeah, plus the Internet service providers, and that would add up to 80 orders from that court that—this year so far, for two quarters. So, each company would get an order each quarter to do that. So that's—you have to divide 80 by two. And that's the minimum, OK?
AMY GOODMAN: Edward Snowden worked for Booz Allen Hamilton. That's a military contractor. He worked in the NSA offices in Hawaii. He had also worked at the CIA. He had also worked with Dell. He's only 29 years old. In fact, actually, he didn't graduate from high school, but a very smart, young, intelligent technician. Can you talk about that relationship between the military contractors and the NSA? I mean, how this young man has this kind of access, it's very similar to Bradley Manning sitting in the desert in Iraq.
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, I think it gets back to what Glenn Beck was—or, Glenn Greenwald was talking about: the outsourcing of the intelligence process to contractors. I mean, that's what's been going on for about at least 10 years. They've been outsourcing the dependency on contractors to run their programs. So that means these contractors all have access to all this information about U.S. citizens in all these programs that they're running. I mean, they're depending on them to support it and make it happen and operate so their analysts can access the information.
AMY GOODMAN: How many people have access to this information, if Edward does, 29 years old, can do all the things that he said he could do sitting in an office in Hawaii?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, if you're counting government employees, that could be thousands, depending on how many—how many agencies are involved in looking into that data. I mean, the FBI certainly is, and the fusion centers they have around the—around the country, with the FBI integrated, are probably all part of that, too.
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of the FBI, in 2008, actor Shia LaBeouf appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. During the interview, he talked about an FBI agent showing him a recorded conversation from two years prior to meeting him.
SHIA LABEOUF: I remember we had an FBI consultant on the picture telling me that they can use your ADT security box microphone to get your stuff that's going on in your house, or OnStar, they could shut your car down. And he told me that one in five phone calls that you make are recorded and logged. And I laughed at him. And then he played back a phone conversation I had had two years prior—
JAY LENO: Come on.
SHIA LABEOUF: —to joining the picture. The FBI consultant. And it was like one of those—it was one of those phone calls—it was like, you know, "What are you wearing?" type of things.
JAY LENO: Really?
SHIA LABEOUF: Yeah, so it was—it was mad weird, but—
JAY LENO: Can we—no, wait. So you mean they had a record of you from—
SHIA LABEOUF: Two years prior to me joining the picture.
JAY LENO: —even being associated with the movie?
SHIA LABEOUF: With the movie.
JAY LENO: Well, that seems creepy.
SHIA LABEOUF: It's extremely creepy.
AMY GOODMAN: Shia Labeouf. It was 2008 that he was speaking on The Tonight Show, so I think he was talking about the film Eagle Eye that had just come out. William Binney, your response?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, you know, I would assume that they—they, for whatever reason—I'm not sure, I didn't see that movie, but he may have been saying things that were objectionable to the administration, and so they put him on the target list for monitoring. The same thing would happen to—happened to Laura Poitras. I mean, she was, because of her movies, showing—you know, My Country, My Country, basically—I think that was the one that did it, that—
AMY GOODMAN: About Yemen.
WILLIAM BINNEY: This—that one was about Iraq and the Iraq War and how the Iraqis were surviving and how they—in the war zone.
AMY GOODMAN: Right.
WILLIAM BINNEY: So, I think—I don't—I think if you're doing something like that, that—
AMY GOODMAN: And then she went on to do a film about Yemen.
WILLIAM BINNEY: Right. So, if you're doing something that irritates or is against what the government wants to be expressed to the American public, then you can become a target. That's what that's saying.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Edward Snowden used the codename VERAX, which is Latin for "truth teller." Do you see Edward Snowden as a truth teller, as a whistleblower?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, I think he's telling the truth. I mean, he's got the documentation to back it up to, so I think certainly what he's saying is correct.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you applaud what he has done?
WILLIAM BINNEY: I wouldn't have done it that way, OK, because I would have tried to work the system first. So, but, I mean, if you make the decision, you have to suffer the consequences. And with the government we have, they're going to be pretty harsh, I think. So, they're going to try to do whatever they can to him.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill Binney, Bloomberg Businessweek recently disclosed how a secretive unit inside the National Security Agency called Tailored Access Operations conducts massive cyber-espionage on overseas computer networks, the Pentagon hackers harvesting nearly 2.1 million gigabytes every hour, the equivalent of, oh, like hundreds of millions of pages of text. Do you know about this?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, I think they would refer to that as active attack on your computer, and it's like hackers. You know, it's this—that's how you can—what they're doing is going across the network and going through your weaknesses or holes in your operating system and then getting into your computer and then looking at whatever data you have in there, selecting it out, and using your unused CPU to send it back to themselves. So, that's—that's pretty much what they're doing. That's, of course, what the Chinese are doing to us, so that's—and I'm sure other countries are doing it—the Israelis, the Russians, all of them, you know? So that's standard hacking into the system that we hear about, too, so...
AMY GOODMAN: For people who have not been following the story of whistleblower after whistleblower after whistleblower, and it goes on from there, who have been cracked down on under the Obama administration, can you tell us about the coterie of folks who worked at the NSA, like you? And also, then, would you do this again, what you've done, considering what you've gone through?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, first of all, let me take you—the population at NSA, about 85 percent of them, I think, are ISTJs on the Myers-Briggs scale, and they're very strong introverts, you know? They have a very focused job to do. Breaking a crypt system or something is a very focused effort. You—it's really intense. So it's really something that's really compatible with their character. And so, when something happens and they see things happening to people who get involved, like myself or others, they get afraid. And being introverts, they even go further as—further into themselves and staying isolated. So, that's—that's the primary character of people. And the others, the others are probably part of it and believe that it's the correct thing to do. And they don't try to find a reasonable, constitutionally acceptable, legally acceptable way to do the—to achieve the objectives that they want. They simply felt that they had to go to the far—the other far side of the spectrum and get as much as they can about everybody they can.
AMY GOODMAN: Would you have done again what you did?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Uh, I probably wouldn't now. But if I were—if I had—if I wasn't—if I was facing a similar problem, I would still try to work a system—if it was a different system, I would still try to work within the system to try to get it changed. But if that didn't work, I'd probably do exactly what I'd done with the other situation, in NSA. So, I probably would still stay in character and try to get it worked out internally and then—and try to stay within the system, initially anyway.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, William Binney, I want to thank you very much for being with us, NSA whistleblower, 40 years almost at the agency, for a time NSA's World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, deeply concerned about the level of surveillance of Americans, ultimately was almost prosecuted, FBI gun at his head in the shower, as well as his wife and child, but in the end he did not face prosecution as others have under the Espionage Act. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman.
Democracy Now! 2013-06-10 Monday
Witness to a Massacre: Yemeni Tribal Leader Recalls How U.S. Attack on al-Majalah Killed 45 Civilians
In this web-only segment, we look at the first air strike on Yemen authorized by President Obama. On Dec. 17, 2009, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) launched a cruise missile attack on the Yemeni village of al-Majalah. The Yemeni government initially took credit for the strike, saying it had targeted an al-Qaeda training camp. But it was later revealed through the WikiLeaks cables that it was in fact a U.S. attack. Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill reports extensively on this attack in his new book and film Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield. The film, directed by Richard Rowley, opens today. Among the first Yemenis to arrive at the scene of the bombing was Yemeni tribal leader Sheikh Saleh bin Fareed, at the time a member of the Yemeni Parliament. He went there to investigate who was behind the bombing and found the victims were Bedouin villagers, not al-Qaeda members.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, as we turn to part two of our conversation about secret U.S. military operations inside Yemen. The first air strike on Yemen authorized by President Obama was on December 17, 2009. It was a cruise missile attack on the Yemeni village of al-Majalah. The Yemeni government initially took credit for the strike, saying it had targeted an al-Qaeda training camp. But it was later revealed through the WikiLeaks cables that it was in fact a U.S. attack. Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill reports extensively on this attack in his new book and film, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, and he joins us now. The film, directed by Rick Rowley, opens today around the country, in Washington, D.C., in Los Angeles, in New York, and is opening in cities all over the country in the coming weeks.
Among the first Yemenis to arrive at the scene of the bombing was Yemeni tribal leader Sheikh Saleh bin Fareed, at the time a member of the Yemeni Parliament. He went there to investigate who was behind the bombing. He says the victims were Bedouin villagers, not al-Qaeda members. Sheikh Fareed joins us from the Southampton studios of BBC in Britain. And I wanted to start by asking you, Sheikh Fareed, what did you see when you arrived at the scene?
SALEH BIN FAREED: It was, I mean, unbelievable. And the Americans or our government, they could have sent 10 or 20 people, if they thought that there was anybody from al-Qaeda. They told us that they were training fields, there were huge storage, stores for the ammunition and arms. When we reached there, we only—we found nobody at all except those poor Bedouin people who live just across the road from the main road. And, of course, we have to collect all the bodies and bury them in the village after that. And I assure you, and I challenge anybody—I challenge anybody in the United States of America, especially the American government, to prove that there was anybody from al-Qaeda at that site at all, when they bombed it with about seven huge rockets from the naval in the sea.
AMY GOODMAN: The evidence of the weapons used, Sheikh Saleh bin Fareed, what did you see?
SALEH BIN FAREED: They are the same weapons they say they have used against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. I mean, our government, at the beginning, said that it was Yemeni air force. The Yemen air force cannot carry this kind of huge rockets. The rocket is nearly the same size as our fighting airplanes. And, thank God, we—then we, of course—I go in again with the team from the member of Parliament, because I was a member of Parliament. We were about 15 of us. And we showed the site, and we showed them the rest of the rockets, which—which is not—it is the end of it. And all over that is written "Made in the United States of America."
Unfortunately, the site was not cleared. After the killing of the massacre, the second day—or, third day, I called for a meeting for all the tribesmen all around, and there were about 60,000 who came to see the site, just to prove to the whole world that there was no—no al-Qaeda people, there was no stores, there was no fields, training fields there, and to show it is an open space. The same day, after we left the meeting, those people, after—some people, some of the tribesmen, they took some small pieces of the rockets, and it exploded, exploded, and it killed three of them straightaway. Still today—'til today, the site is full of these rockets, I mean, the rest of the rockets. And 'til today, of course, about two months, about three months—no, sorry, about six months back or one year, two children, about the age of eight and nine, they go in, and they collected some of these small ones, and they took it back home. And when they were—family were having lunch together, then the father asked them, "What's that?" They said, "We brought it from the site." Then he said, "Oh, throw it away." And when they throw it away, it exploded. It killed the father, the mother, and the two—the other children were all wounded. This is a—it is a trap 'til today, which should be really cleared.
And we—the American government—Yemeni government should, first of all, apologize to what has been done. The American government should really apologize. They come—Mr. Obama should be brave enough to come and say openly, from his mouth, that he is apologizing that he killed the wrong people. Plus, I think the American government should be taken to court if they do not compensate those poor people, because nearly 46 were killed, and they lost everything. And there are many children who are now left without mothers and fathers.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, 46 killed. The U.S. has said they killed four U.S. citizens, announcing that after—what was it? Six hundred days after the killing of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki and Anwar al-Awlaki. In the case of Majalah?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Right, so, I mean, in this—this strike, it was the opening salvo in the air war against Yemen that the Obama administration launched, and they kill these 46 people. Sheikh Saleh bin Fareed, who we were just listening to, goes there with other tribal leaders, and they investigate the scene and realize that this wasn't an al-Qaeda facility, but rather this small Yemeni village. I don't know if it—maybe it was the case that the Yemeni government fed the United States bad intelligence and figured that no one would care about these people. We don't know; it needs to be investigated. But what we do know is that Yemen was taking responsibility for the strike.
And part of the reason why the world learned that the United States was in fact bombing Yemen was because a Yemeni journalist named Abdulelah Haider Shaye traveled to al-Majalah, took photographs of the munitions, of the weapons that were strewn across the desert, showing that they were Tomahawk cruise missiles manufactured by General Dynamics and that cluster bombs, which are like flying land mines, had been used against al-Majalah. These are munitions that shred people into meat, as you hear Saleh bin Fareed describing his own experience of pulling people out of the rubble and not knowing if it was the flesh of an animal or the flesh of a human being. And this journalist exposes this for the world. Munitions experts, working with Amnesty International, determine that it only could have been—they only could have been U.S. weapons and that Yemen's air force didn't have these kinds of munitions.
And soon after he exposed the American role, which we now—it was confirmed in the WikiLeaks cables that it was indeed an American strike, this journalist was abducted and taken to the political security prison in Yemen and was beaten and told that if he didn't stop talking about the U.S. attack on al-Majalah, that they were going to put him back in this prison. And he continued to talk about it. In fact, he, that night, went on Al Jazeera and said that the Yemeni regime had arrested him and beaten him and threatened him. And he continued talking about this. He also was interviewing Anwar Awlaki at a time when the United States government claimed it couldn't find him. This journalist found him and interviewed him in late 2009, early 2010. And, you know, I've reviewed his journalism. This is a—this was a serious independent journalist who worked with major U.S. media outlets, The Washington Post and ABC News. And as he continued doing this reporting and interviewing people that were alleged to be terrorist leaders, or, in fact, in some cases, he interviewed the leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Abdulelah Haider Shaye was then—had his house raided by Yemen's American-trained counterterrorism unit. They disappeared him for 34 days, and then they brought him into a tribunal that had been set up by the dictator of Yemen specifically to prosecute journalists for committing crimes against the dictatorship. And they had him in a cage in the courtroom, and they charged that he was an al-Qaeda facilitator and that he was helping al-Qaeda to plot attacks. And he was then sentenced in this kangaroo court to five years in prison.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to a clip. This is from your film, Jeremey. As you're saying, in January 2011, a Yemeni state security court gives the journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, a five-year jail sentence on terrorism-related charges, following this disputed trial that was condemned by a number of human rights and press freedom groups. While this isn't in your film, this is what you got. Speaking from a caged cell in a Yemeni courtroom, Shaye tells reporters at his trial that he was arrested because he reported on the murders of women and children.
ABDULELAH HAIDER SHAYE: [translated] When they hid murderers of children and women in Abyan, when I revealed the locations and camps of nomads and civilians in Abyan, Shabwa and Arhab, when they were going to be hit by cruise missiles, it was on that day they decided to arrest me. You noticed in the court how they have turned all of my journalistic contributions and quotations to international reporters and channels into accusations. Yemen, this is a place where the young journalist becomes successful, he is considered with suspicion.
AMY GOODMAN: There you have it, Abdulelah Haider Shaye. Where he is now?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, well, so he's sentenced to five years in prison. He's held in solitary confinement. There's tremendous outcry—major human rights organizations around the world, media freedom organizations, tribal pressure from within Yemen on the dictator to release him. And Ali Abdullah Saleh was considering pardoning Abdulelah Haider Shaye. This court was used as an intimidation machine against journalists. They would do this often. They put them in, they tell them they're going to be there for years, then they pardon them. And it's a warning. It's meant to stop real journalism from taking place in Yemen. So, word leaks in the Yemeni media that Abdulelah Haider Shaye is going to be pardoned by Ali Abdullah Saleh. That day, President Obama calls the dictator of Yemen and says that the United States is deeply concerned about reports that they're going to release Abdulelah Haider Shaye. The pardon was torn up, and he remains in prison to this day. And, in fact—so he's in prison because of President Obama's direct intervention. In fact, Nasser Awlaki, when I was speaking to him the other day, told me about a message that had been smuggled out of the prison from Abdulelah Haider Shaye. And maybe he could tell people what that message said.
AMY GOODMAN: We just actually lost him.
JEREMY SCAHILL: So, the message from Abdulelah Haider Shaye was that he does not hold the American people responsible for his imprisonment. He holds President Obama personally responsible. He said in his text that was smuggled out, "There's only one person in the world keeping me in prison, and that's President Obama."
AMY GOODMAN: Attorney General Eric Holder defended Obama's targeted killing program when he testified just Thursday, yesterday, before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: It's incorrect to say that it is only in the—it's in the un—that the president has unlimited authority in this regard, with regard to the use of drones. And we're talking about being more transparent. I sent a letter to Chairman Leahy. The president gave a speech to make more transparent our efforts in this regard. But we operate under the—the statute that Congress passed, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. And we also, when we are dealing with these matters, try to focus on capture, where possible. We focus on whether or not the threat is imminent. We also operate under the rules of law. And as the president said, I think, in his speech, people cannot plot against the United States, people cannot kill American citizens, and then use as a shield their American citizenship. These are steps that we take with great care. They are the most difficult of decisions that we have to make. They are the things that keep me up at night.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Attorney General Eric Holder during a Senate hearing Thursday. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine went on to press Holder about why suspected terrorists are killed rather than captured.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: I haven't seen a preference for capture. If you compare the number of terrorist suspects who were captured in the previous administration versus this administration, there is a huge difference, as there is in the number of lethal strikes with drones that were undertaken. Is the reason for the exceedingly low number of captures due to the change in the Obama administration's position on detention and the fact that the administration does not want to send captives to Guantánamo? Isn't that really the reason? I mean, here we have a case of the terrorist Warsame, who ultimately was convicted, but who was driven around on a Navy ship for two months because there really was no place to put him.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: No, it is not a function of not trying to take people to Guantánamo. We have a—as you indicated, Warsame was captured. Abu Ghaith was captured and brought to face justice in an Article III court. The desire to capture is something that is something that we take seriously, because we gain intelligence.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Right.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Warsame, I'm not sure how—how long he was on that—on that boat. He was not—it was not a joyride for him. We were in the process of gathering important intelligence from him, from the intelligence community, and then, later on, after he was read his rights and waived them, from people in law enforcement. So that was time well spent, and I think ultimately led to his plea in that case or his conviction in that case. So it is not a function of us not trying to take prisoners to particular places. We try to capture people. We try to interrogate them. We try to gain intelligence. And then we try to bring them to justice.
AMY GOODMAN: You've just been listening to Attorney General Eric Holder being questioned by Susan Collins, the senator from Maine. We are still joined by Sheikh Saleh bin Fareed, joining us from the BBC studios in Britain, in Southampton. Sheikh Saleh bin Fareed, what is the effect of the drone strikes on the people, overall, of Yemen?
SALEH BIN FAREED: Sorry? Say it again?
AMY GOODMAN: What is the effect of these drone strikes on the people, overall, of Yemen?
SALEH BIN FAREED: Unfortunately, nobody can explain this to the ordinary people. All of them, highly educated and ordinary people, are completely against this open sky for the Americans to strike anywhere in Yemen, and they hit anywhere. It is a big shame on our government to allow it. Unfortunately, 'til today, it is still happening. Every week or every two weeks, we will hear of attacks by the Americans on our citizens. Of course, nobody can prove if they are al-Qaeda or if they are not. But, in fact, this really made big—I mean, turned the people to be against the—completely against the American government. And they should really think twice about it, and they should stop it. And they should come bravely and say—and apologize for that. What they claim, that they are al-Qaeda, they can easily get them if they want them. They are—they are not far away. And they are everywhere, if they—but we don't know if they are al-Qaeda or not. Then why they don't capture them instead of killing them? They can get any information from them. But they don't do that at all. And I think our government is happy to play this role.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, you know, when I traveled in southern Yemen and interviewed tribal leaders, one thing that I heard repeatedly was people saying, you know, "You consider al-Qaeda terrorism. We consider your drones terrorism." And these are tribal leaders that don't have any love for al-Qaeda and would prefer them not to be in their areas. But there was a sense I got from talking to people that the strikes were emboldening people and encouraging them to not join al-Qaeda, but to look more sympathetically at al-Qaeda's declared war against the United States, because there is this perception that the drones were hitting innocent civilians. And, I mean, one tribal leader said to me, "How is it that I can go into a restaurant in Shabwa province in Yemen and see Nasir al-Wuhayshi and Said al-Shihri, two of the leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, walking around openly, and the American drones can't seem to find them, but they can find our children?" And he was saying, you know, "Look, if you keep doing this, you are going to push us all over the ledge." And I think that what we've seen in Yemen, in particular, is that the United States is creating more new enemies than it is killing actual terrorists.
It's not that terrorists have not been killed in these strikes—they have—you know, people that are involved in active plots against the United States. One of the guys who was implicated in the—involved with the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, Saleh Ali Nabhan, was killed by JSOC in Somalia in September of 2009 in an operation authorized by President Obama. He clearly was involved with blowing up two American embassies. In the case of Yemen, there are individuals that have engaged in attempts to bring down U.S. airplanes, have attempted to assassinate Saudi officials. It's not that there aren't those people there. It's that the U.S. response has been to bomb based on bad intelligence, sometimes provided by the Yemeni government, sometimes provided by Saudis, and these strikes have ended up killing a tremendous number of innocent people who don't have an actual connection to al-Qaeda. And I think that that's part of what we're seeing with the anger in Yemen, is this sense that the United States is not actually very effective at killing bona fide terrorists, but has been quite effective at killing civilians.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to our guest. We have been left by Nasser al-Awlaki, but we are still joined by Sheikh Saleh bin Fareed in Southampton in Britain. And I had cut you off earlier, because we were ending the major broadcast, when you were talking about asking for evidence and not getting evidence in the killing of Anwar al-Awklaki. And I was wondering if you could continue to talk about that.
SALEH BIN FAREED: Well, as I have said earlier, I met ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh several times, and I asked him questions, if he got any proof against him. And he told me openly, "To be honest, we have nothing at Yemeni government against Anwar. We are proud of him. But we have been asked by the American government to put him in jail. And when we asked them to give us a proof, they said, 'Yes, we will try.'" And he said, "We kept corresponding with them from time to time, many, many times, and they could not give us any proof. And then, at the end, when we lost hope, we told them, 'Then why should we keep him?' They said, 'Please keep him, because he is a religious leader, and he is very popular, and many people listen to him in the Arab world and in America. And we want him to be kept in jail for a few years so that people can forget about him.'" Then I said to him, "Then, this is not the case. I mean, this poor man, he will lose his future. Please, I am his uncle, and his father, we request you to allow him out, if there is no proof." He said, "In fact, to be honest, there is no proof whatsoever from the Americans. And we will allow him out if you guarantee him." I said, "I will guarantee him." He said, "Are you sure?" I said, "Yes." He asked his secretary to write a letter to sign, so that I guarantee him, and he will be kept in peace. And that's what was done.
And also, I have met General Ghalib al-Qamish, who is still alive. And I asked him the same questions. And he said, "We have no proof against this man, except we have been asked by the Americans." And he told me the same story as the president told me. And he told me, "Honestly, you should be really proud of Anwar. He is a great man. He is a great leader. We thought that he is a terrorist. But by having him in custody here, we learned from him more than we thought we would teach him." And that is the case of Anwar. Anwar was killed because he was very promising young man. And as I said earlier, he was born to be a great leader. Unfortunately, they have killed him with no reason.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, your response?
JEREMY SCAHILL: I mean, I think that—you know, look, the fact is that President Obama is posthumously prosecuting this American citizen. I mean, I want to stress, you know, in my investigation into it, there's all sorts of smoke around Awlaki. And, to me, the key issue is, how do we deal with people that are being accused of reprehensible acts or of being engaged in plots? I mean, to me, it's not about who Awlaki was; it's about who we are as a society. You know, when you look at the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, all these calls for Jahar Tsarnaev to be treated as an enemy combatant, this young guy who's in custody in connection with the bombing, or some calling for him to be sent to Guantánamo. I think, you know, over the past 12 years, the United States government has been able to roll back civil liberties in this country, to authorize an incredible executive power grab on the part of both Bush and Obama. And these assertions and these actions, these drone strikes, these assassination operations, are going to have far-reaching implications down the line. And so, to me, it's more about the principle at play here and how we as a society—that's how we're defined, how we respond to those kinds of people, not how we respond to people that everyone perceives or knows are law-abiding citizens. So, those are the stakes in this for me, and in what I see.
Democracy Now! 2013-06-07 Friday
In this video report filed from inside Taksim Square, independent journalist Brandon Jourdan brings us the voices of union members and others who have continued to join in the protest that began nine days ago and has continued despite police violence that has left thousands injured. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is set to return to the country today after being silent so far about the biggest anti-government rallies in decades.
See more from Democracy Now! A Turkish Spring? Over 1,000 Injured as Anti-Government Protests Spread Outside of Istanbul
ÖMER MADRA: I'm Ömer Madra. I'm the editor-in-chief of Open Radio, Açik Radyo, Istanbul. And this is, I think, the ninth day of the, so to say, Gezi, Taksim-Gezi resistence. I was on the streets protesting in—starting in 1965, and I've never returned home, so to say. So, but this is the first time that I'm seeing all these different kinds of people, from all walks of life. People from all walks of life, all kinds of ideologies, are working together.
ELMAS DENİZ: My name is Elmas Deniz, and I'm living here in Istanbul. I'm an artist. And as an artist, it's really awful. Like, I'm a very hopeful person now. I mean, a week before, I was thinking that maybe I should move. It's really hopeless in this country, and there's no way to live freely. And now I have more hope. I mean, it's more or less like a community. And while you are coming here, you're bringing some stuff that can be useful. And a lot of places, that is for free. And all these different political groups has their own places. And previously they'd been fighting among each other, and now, suddenly, they become all together, because they really understand that this is what they want. And what's happening at the moment in the park is people are sharing. And, yeah, this is what they're doing.
HÜSEYİN KARABEY: My name is Hüseyin Karabey. I am an independent filmmaker. Actually, this is my neighborhood, so this park is like my second office. You know, I come every day from green tea. But nowadays I come for another reason: just to be together with the protesters. They don't really care about the people or habitat, you know? They don't ask the people. And, unfortunately, one of—this park has the same kind of fate. They didn't ask the owners of the park, the people of the Taksim [inaudible]. They decided to do something else. And they decided to cut the trees and build some stupid building. And it, I think, was the last moment. You know, everyone has some kind of a problem with the government decision in the last five years, so this park became a symbol for all kind of protest. People said, "Enough. OK, if opposition cannot represent me, I will represent myself."
HASAN HÜSEYİN ŞEHRİBAN KARABULUT: [translated] My name is Hasan Hüseyin Şehriban Karabulut, and I am a feminist. I am Alawite. I am Kurdish, and I am gay. As LGBTT, we are here since the beginning, because we do not want the trees to be cut, because with the trees and the shadow of this trees, Gezi Park is a symbol for us. As LGBTT, we are one of the marginalized groups, and we want to show our presence. There are so many different groups. There are atheists, Kemalists, nationalists, leftists and right-wing people. With these groups, we are all together. We are still not having any trouble, and it is our ninth day.
ÖMER MADRA: The trade unions are joining in and doing a two-day, I believe, strike.
SEVGI İNCE: [translated] The strike today, June 5th, was actually decided upon beforehand. However, since last week, these protests started here in Gezi Park and other public places where people are protesting the policies of the AKP. We changed the strike dates to June 4th and 5th. Today we are here for this reason.
ÖMER MADRA: Today we have the third person who was killed and the more than 2,000 people who got injured, wounded and so on. But the number of attendees, the number of people who are taking part in this huge thing doesn't get less at all. Nobody is afraid anymore, not from the police. I have seen this in the eyes. The fear is over, and it will never—it will never return.
Democracy Now! 2013-06-06 Thursday
President Obama is set to nominate former White House aide Samantha Power to replace Susan Rice as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Power has long been a staunch advocate for U.S. intervention on moral grounds. In 2008, she appeared on Democracy Now! to debate journalist Jeremy Scahill about Kosovo, Iraq sanctions and Bill Clinton's foreign policy record. Power wrote extensively about Bosnia and Kosovo in her book, "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide," which won a 2003 Pulitzer Prize. Scahill covered the NATO bombings of Kosovo and Yugoslavia for Democracy Now! in 1999. Scahill is the author of the new book "Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield." The fim of the same names opens in theaters on Friday.TRANSCRIPT
AMY GOODMAN: You’re an adviser to Barack Obama, in addition to having just published another book, but I wanted to play for you Hillary Clinton's comments last night in the debate, at the Democratic presidential debate in Austin, when she brought up the issue of Kosovo. This is what she had to say.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: I’ve supported the independence of Kosovo, because I think it is imperative that in the heart of Europe we continue to promote independence and democracy, and I would be moving very aggressively to hold the Serbian government responsible with their security forces to protect our embassy. Under international law, they should be doing that.
AMY GOODMAN: Samantha Power, your response?
SAMANTHA POWER: Well, I just think it’s one thing — I mean, on some level, I agree. I think that if there wasn’t violence in Serbia today because of the declaration of independence, there would be violence in Kosovo today because the Albanians were literally just recoiling under international occupation, I mean, ultimately. So we were sort of in a lose-lose situation once it got to this point. And the tragedy is that the nine years weren’t used to do more to actually sort of deepen the economic ties and deepen the minority rights protections and so forth in Kosovo and that it has come to this. But I think that one has to be very careful not to think about Kosovo a la carte, and, to some degree, this sort of “I’m going to stampede ahead” and “We’re going to recognize this” and, you know, “The Serbs are responsible yet again” — I mean, that kind of implication probably isn’t going to do the people of Serbia any favors in the long term. We’ve really got to start to think about integration and not simply denunciation.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Jeremy, I’d like to ask you, you covered the original US-led NATO bombings in that region years ago, and it was raised then as sort of an example of humanitarian intervention that worked. And here we are a decade later, and we still have major, major divisions and problems in the region. Your perspective, as you look at this new upsurge of problems?
JEREMY SCAHILL: I find it very interesting that the Bush administration is talking about international law and how international law needs to be upheld for the protection of the US embassy. That certainly is true, but notice the selectivity of when the Bush administration chooses to recognize that there actually is international law. I mean, this is an administration that refuses to support any kind of an effective and independent international criminal court, preferring to support these sort of ad hoc tribunals, which have been used against Yugoslavia and certainly with Rwanda.
In the case of Hillary Clinton, what’s particularly interesting is that she and her advisers, which include many of the key figures involved with the original bombing of Yugoslavia and, in fact, the architects of much of US policy in the 1990s toward Yugoslavia, people like Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrooke, that Clinton holds this up as a sort of successful US foreign policy or international action.
And I think it’s important to remember that this declaration of independence from Kosovo was immediately supported by the Bush administration and many powerful countries in the world. I was recalling during the 2000 elections in the United States, being in Serbia and people joking that the worst thing that could happen to us is that Al Gore would be president, because then we’ll have the Democrats continuing to focus on us, and if Bush is president, he’ll ignore us. And, well, of course, Bush immediately recognized Kosovo, and that sort of seals the deal, in a sense.
But it’s important to remember how we got to this point. I mean, Samantha was talking a little bit about the broader context here. The fact is that this was sort of Clinton’s Iraq, in a way. He bombed Yugoslavia for seventy-eight days with no United Nations mandate. I was at the UN the night that it began, and Kofi Annan was sort of beside himself that the action had been taken so swiftly, this military action, seventy-eight days of bombing of Yugoslavia under the auspices of NATO.
Wesley Clark was the commander of those operations, the Supreme Allied Commander. They bombed a Serbian television station, killing sixteen media workers; some of them were media workers, some of them were makeup artists, others were engineers. They directly targeted passenger trains and then fabricated a video afterwards to make it seem as though it was a split-second decision. They killed thousands of civilians.
And the fact was that the exaggerations of what was happening in Kosovo by William Cohen, the Defense Secretary at the time, who talked about a million missing people — then it was scaled back to 100,000, then 50,000, then 10,000, and now the official number is that there were 2,700 people that were killed, and there’s been no determination of their ethnicity. Now, I can tell you from being on the ground in Kosovo that some of the worst violence that occurred, slaughtering of Albanians, happened after the NATO bombing began. And the fact was that the US sabotaged the work of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in the weeks leading up to the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
And I think that what we have to understand here is that this is where the sort of liberals, like Hillary Clinton, come together with the neocons, because there are a lot of similarities between what happened in Yugoslavia and what happened in Iraq, with the lead-up to the war, the disregard for international law or international consensus, and then the outright killing of civilians under the auspices of a humanitarian intervention.
AMY GOODMAN: Samantha Power, your response? And you’re saying Barack Obama isn’t that different on this issue than Hillary Clinton in his attitude to what has happened.
SAMANTHA POWER: Well, I think he feels like it has come to this point, and, as I said, there was going to be major violence in Kosovo if the status of the province was left untended to.
I do have a different perspective from Jeremy from that period, as one who spent time in Kosovo in advance of the NATO bombing and wondered what on earth was going to be the fate of those people if the Serbian regime remained in power, and disagree with some of the specific facts of what he said about what actually happened during the bombing.
But I think the important fact is that we reveal, over time — in academia, one talks about revealed preferences, revealed agendas. If we could put the people of Kosovo finally at the centerpiece of our thinking about what to do about the region, or the people of Serbia, for that matter, I mean, whatever the motives are for getting involved, whatever happened back in 1999 — and I’m not saying we should brush it under the rug, by any means — but what is revealed again and again is when we pay attention to these kind of places, it’s a spasm, and it’s usually for some combination of national — something to do with national interest. At that time, it was probably NATO credibility. But I have to say, if it weren’t for the atrocities against the Kosovo Albanians, there would not have been an intervention. It wasn’t merely about NATO credibility. You don’t just go bomb gratuitously — and I recognize that I’m probably in the minority at this table in believing this to be true.
But having gone in, you had a responsibility to the province, you had a responsibility to the Serbian minority. And what happened is we got involved and then turned our attention elsewhere. And Bush, in coming into office, pulled US troops out of Kosovo, basically said, “This isn’t my problem,” and then started to pay attention at the moment we recognized Kosovo's independence. That’s not the way you go. You don’t sort of spasm here, spasm there. It’s going to produce this kind of turbulence and this kind of violence.
JEREMY SCAHILL: What the United States did, though, right after NATO forces entered Yugoslavia is they brought in some high-profile thugs and criminals, people like Agim Ceku, who became the commander, the military commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army. This was a man who was a war criminal from the war in Bosnia when he served in the Croatian military. He was trained by a US mercenary company called Military Professional Resources Incorporated. He was the guy that the United States was basically bolstering to become the new head of the Kosovo army, and it’s quite interesting that that man is a war criminal.
And the fact is that Camp Bondsteel is of tremendous, significant importance, significance, to the United States for geopolitical reasons, and I think that’s one of the reasons why Bush moved so swiftly to support the independence of Kosovo, is that the government in Pristina is very easy to manipulate. The government in Belgrade, that’s a tougher story. Vojislav Kostunica, who’s one of the main political figures, the prime minister of the country, is a fairly rightwing isolationist and I don’t think would be too happy about a US military base operating on Serbian soil.
But, you know, in response to some of what Samantha was saying, in the 1990s, the worst humanitarian crises in the world, certainly Rwanda and other African nations, certainly in Europe, but Iraq — I mean, where is the label of genocide for the US policy toward Iraq? It was Bill Clinton who initiated the longest sustained bombing campaign since Vietnam against Iraq under the guise of humanitarian intervention in the north and south of that country, the sanctions killing hundreds of thousands of people. I mean, we have had one of the greatest mass slaughters in history, in modern history, in Iraq, going from 1990 to the present, and yet everyone talks about this as though it’s not genocide, as though it’s not part of that bigger picture. Clinton selling weapons to the Turks to slaughter the Kurds — I mean, there were all sorts of horrific things happening in the world. And it’s the selectivity of US foreign policy that I think is really outrageous. It’s not that no one should do anything about it; it’s that the Iraqis — it’s sort of, you know, good victims, bad victims.
AMY GOODMAN: Samantha Power?
SAMANTHA POWER: Where does one start? I mean, I would just like to know — I guess Jeremy just asked — the question is, since you’ve spent so much time there, at the moment that we're at now, what do we do, in fact? I mean, are you suggesting that then basically the Serbian — the Kosovars should become part of Serbia? I mean, I felt like we hit a stalemate, and something had to budge. There was going to be violence in Kosovo. And I, again, don’t mean to brush all the crimes of American foreign policy under the rug, and I’ve written extensively also about sanctions and the toll of sanctions and so forth in Iraq. But just to stick to this moment —-
JEREMY SCAHILL: But is that genocide, according to you?
SAMANTHA POWER: No, but we can talk about that. I don’t think the Clinton administration set out to deliberately destroy the Iraqi people as such.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Oh, I totally disagree. But what Madeleine Albright said, it was worth the price, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi victims of US policy.
SAMANTHA POWER: So can I just ask: so what exactly do we do now in terms of Kosovo, as one who has spent a lot of time there?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, now, I think we have a very serious problem, because I think, and as Professor Robert Hayden from the University of Pittsburgh pointed out last night, who of course is fluent in Serbian, spent a lot of time there and is a specialist in international law, there could have been some kind of a negotiated border agreement, I think, where the Serbs would have been guaranteed protection. I mean, I was talking to sources in Serbia last night who said that now the Serbian military is actually engaging in incursions into the northern part of Kosovo. This could potentially be a very serious issue.
And I think that even if we look at it from the most mainstream political perspective, it was unwise for the US to come in so swiftly without giving the Serbian government an opportunity to deal with the safety of the Serbs in Mitrovica and in some of those border areas. And I think, internally in Serbia now, one of the reasons we’re seeing so much protest is that the Milosevic government had a despicable policy toward refugees from all of the various former Yugoslav republics who found themselves in Serbia. And you have literally hundreds of thousands of Serbs who are sort of left without a place to go and don’t have full rights in Serbia. I just think it was very poor diplomacy on the part of the Bush administration to do this so swiftly, and I think it raises serious questions about what the US agenda there is. So we have a very serious international crisis there right now.
SAMANTHA POWER: I just think to call it “swift,” when for nine years Kosovo’s status has been hanging in limbo, is not right. And part of the issue is what -— even stipulating everything you said about NATO bombing, what exactly do you do then about a province that is hanging by a thread where you have a Serbian minority? I mean, one of the things that I think we don’t talk near enough about is that there are no takers for the demand that monitors be put into Kosovo. You don’t see European governments, you don’t see other international governments around, you don’t see people stepping up to say, you know, “I prefer to do more than simply denounce George Bush; I’d actually like to help the Serbian minority in Kosovo.” Those minority rights protections have been in play for two years. The Serbian government wasn’t interested in negotiating and being a part of anything that would constitute a compromise in terms of Kosovo’s future.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Is your sense that the rush or the quick movement of the Bush administration to support this independence is in some way effected also by the continuing tensions between the United States and the rest of the Muslim world, that this is a — because I would assume that in other parts of the Muslim world, there’s support for this — for Kosovo independence?
SAMANTHA POWER: Can we just push back a little on this idea of swiftness, again, as I wasn’t very articulate just now? But there has been a process overseen by the United Nations by Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish prime minister [president], for I think now going on three years, as basically an effort to do this peaceably. I don’t see how there was ever going to be a way to get out of this bind without offending either Serbia or the ethnic Albanians and either stemming violence in Serbia or stemming violence in Kosovo. But whether there could have been a compromise or not, it was an international diplomat, who has the respect — allegedly, anyway — of both sides, who tried try to come up with a solution which would have protected the Serbian minority and would have protected hopefully ethnic Albanians, as well. That was rejected. There were no negotiations that were accepted by Serbia. Then, at a certain point, the Albanians said, OK, after three years, we’re going to declare independence, or we’re going — this is going to explode. Now, they don’t care about the Serbian minority at all. They’d just assume the Serbs be cleansed, I couldn’t agree with Jeremy more.
But the idea that this is swift, what it is is a swift response to the declaration of independence in the hopes, almost, that it will just go away, that if you could just get enough countries within the UN to recognize this independence, then maybe that will — cooler heads will prevail. And the irony of what happened yesterday in Belgrade is there’s some chance that perhaps the perverse counter-effect to the violence is that maybe in Serbia this will actually — because of the fear of thuggery and so forth, that tempers will abate. But I’m just trying to think about how to go forward in an impossible situation where Kosovo is also now sadly the playground for great powers, as it has been arguably for a very long time, rather than a place where people are actually focusing on the welfare of the people in peril.
JEREMY SCAHILL: I mean, but what I do think is of particular concern to people in this country is when Hillary Clinton holds this up as a success. I mean, did you support, you know, the total sabotage of diplomacy at Rambouillet, when the United States put forward an occupation agreement that said that NATO ships and vessels and troops would enjoy free and unrestricted access throughout all of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, not just Kosovo, and then said, “Oh, Milosevic rejected peace”? The reality was that Albright and Holbrooke delivered basically a document that no sovereign country on earth would have signed, and it was a setup. It was an occupation agreement that said immunity for US troops traveling around. I mean, this is how the Democrats and Republicans come together in their foreign policy. I mean, this is the Hillary Clinton-George Bush alliance. This is how international diplomacy is waged: through bombs.
SAMANTHA POWER: So Kofi Annan, who you invoked earlier, gave a very good speech in the middle of the NATO war, which was: I don’t want to live in a world where countries like the United States can just trample over the UN Security Council, as you alluded to earlier in terms of both Kosovo and Iraq. I also don’t want to live in a world where a government can commit massacres with impunity. Kofi Annan was much more torn —-
JEREMY SCAHILL: As Clinton did in Iraq -—
SAMANTHA POWER: If I may —-
JEREMY SCAHILL: —- and Bush is doing in Iraq.
SAMANTHA POWER: If I may — Kofi Annan was hugely torn about the Kosovo intervention. He didn’t want to see the UN Security Council trampled, you’re right. There wasn’t adequate international legal authorization for that, by any means. But he also didn’t want to live in a situation where the Serbs could massacre the ethnic Albanians at will.
Sergio Vieria de Mello, who at some point we will maybe talk about, was also somebody totally loyal to the UN Charter, totally loyal to the idea of civilian protection. He also supported the war in Kosovo. So, yes, in fact, I did support the Rambouillet negotiations. I don’t see it at all the way that you did. And, again, I haven’t heard a scenario by which ethnic Albanians would actually have been free of massacres and free of fear in the scenario which would have left the province alone in a way that you suggest.
Democracy Now! 2013-06-05 Wednesday
In this web exclusive, we continue our conversation with longtime consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader. He has just published a new book, Told You So: The Big Book of Weekly Columns, and is organizing with the campaign RaiseTheMinimumWage.org.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Aaron Maté. Our guest is Ralph Nader, who's written a new book called Told You So: The Big Book of Weekly Columns. It's got an introduction by Jim Hightower. And it is a book of many columns that he has been writing for years. He's also been running for president for years. Four times, Ralph, you ran for president?
RALPH NADER: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Four times. You know, you are so fiercely critical of Obama right now. Would you consider running again?
RALPH NADER: No, but I've got a—I've got a plan. I'm going to get some enlightened billionaires to turn the 2016 race into a three- or four-way race. And it can be done, because they can write the check for themselves. We have to break up the two-party tyranny. It's destroying the country, because it's nothing more than a mission for a few giant corporations to run the country into the ground and to abandon it. Imagine—there's no gratitude by these corporations. They'll abandon the jobs and the industry, ship them to fascist and communist regimes overseas who know how to put workers in their place. And there's no standards for corporate patriotism. You know how these corporations, they always want to be known as people, so they can get all the rights we have? Well, let's treat them like people and give them standards of patriotism. They were born in this country. They made money in this country. They were bailed out by marines or taxpayers. And we're not judging them that way. We're allowing them to depersonalize power and get away with enormous abuses as our country declines, according to many indicators, not just economic.
AARON MATÉ: Ralph, I wanted to present a hypothetical. So, say you back a third party in 2016 and they're competitive.
RALPH NADER: Mm-hmm.
AARON MATÉ: But what if you have a situation where it's similar to 2000, where it comes down to a swing state, to Florida? Would you consider backing a call to support the Democratic candidate in a swing state that would decide the election?
RALPH NADER: Well, first of all, I don't think small parties have that responsibility. They're not second-class citizens. They have an equal right to run. But let's say the Democratic Party wanted what you said to happen. Then they could easily adopt the entire platform of the Green Party and say, "OK, we're going to take it on. Here it is. We're going to sign an affidavit." OK? Why do you want to give them something free and let down all your supporters in April, May, June, who worked their heads off to get you to November?
AARON MATÉ: Well, the counterargument is that it's about more than the volunteers; it's about the working people of the country.
RALPH NADER: Yeah.
AARON MATÉ: And, as you know, it's widely understood—
RALPH NADER: Yeah.
AARON MATÉ: —that Republican policies are generally more harmful for working people.
RALPH NADER: Yeah.
AARON MATÉ: So, for their interest, for the sake of not subjecting them to a Republican administration, why not, in this one swing state, say, "OK, let's go for lesser of two evils"?
RALPH NADER: First of all, you know, you're talking winner-take-all Electoral College. Let's get rid of the Electoral College. I mean, Gore won the election by half-a-million votes, and he came in second because he was—Bush was selected by the Supreme Court. So, we want to go there. We don't want to force to people to say, "We're going to back off and not give voters more choice, other than Republican and Democrat," because the system is a winner-take-all Electoral College system and we've got to cave and withdraw, because what is—what kind of lesson is that for the next election and the next election? The Democrats can figure out, "Well, they're always going to back off; we don't have to change our agenda." So, that's what we have to show.
And I—but, by the way, I don't care about these two parties. And when I was running, my concern—let me give you a few statistical concerns. Hundred thousand people dying in hospitals, medical malpractice; almost nothing was done about it. Fifty-eight thousand workplace-related diseases and deaths every year, OSHA; almost nothing is done about it. Forty-five thousand die because they don't have health insurance, unlike any other Western country. You have 68,000 people or so dying from air pollution. You have huge numbers of people suffering in poverty. Fifteen million children go to bed hungry at night. That's what should animate us, not, you know, the difference between increasingly converging Republican and Democratic Party dialing for the same corporate dollars, and then saying to you, the voter, "Hey, you've got no choice but one of us. Take the least worst."
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about Ben Bernanke.
RALPH NADER: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: The Federal Reserve is currently on its third round of a program called "quantitative easing." It's spending $85 billion a month buying up Treasury and mortgage bonds in a bid to stimulate the economy. So, testifying before the Joint Economic Committee last month, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke said the program will continue until the unemployment rate improves.
BEN BERNANKE: We are looking at—we are trying to make an assessment of whether or not we have seen real and sustainable progress in the labor market outlook. And this is a judgment that the committee will have to make. If we see continued improvement and we have confidence that that is going to be sustained, then we could—in the next few meetings, we could take a step down in our pace of purchases. Again, if we do that, it would not mean that we are automatically aiming towards a complete wind-down. Rather, we would be looking beyond that to seeing how the economy evolves, and we could either raise or lower our pace of purchases, going forward.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Ben Bernanke. Ralph Nader?
RALPH NADER: Yeah, he's inebriating the speculators on Wall Street. And he's basically giving more money to speculators who use other people's money—pension money, mutual fund money—to rake off huge fees and huge profits. So, if he really wants to lower the unemployment rate, if he's going to have quantitative easing, why isn't this $85 billion a month being circled through Congress so that they can repair America and create real jobs? See, it's just printing money. And he is engaging in a huge gamble. And he knows a lot about this. He's engaging in a huge gamble, that when the bill comes due, we're going to have rocketing inflation and rocketing interest rates. That's the real danger, that he's—for a short-term inflating the stock market. And he makes no bones about it, that this quantitative easing is going to increase stock values, and the Dow Jones is going up and up. But it's a very dangerous game he's playing.
AMY GOODMAN: We only have a few minutes. Turkey, people are rising up throughout the country. Talk about what it means, what an uprising like this means to you.
RALPH NADER: Well, first of all, it means that people feel their strength. They lose their fear, as often is said. And we haven't seen that in the United States. The streets are still available for people. The marches are still available. Occupy Wall Street was a good start, but it fizzled out, for reasons we all know.
AMY GOODMAN: Like what? What are the reasons we all know?
RALPH NADER: One is, the minute they were evicted from the encampments, they lost the media. And they didn't have an agenda. And I would say to them, repeatedly, "Take up the minimum wage increase. Bring it up to $10.50. You'd be a champion of 30 million workers." You want to talk about a base? Because, you know, at its peak, Occupy Wall Street, if you add up the number of people who marched around the country, who rallied and who were in the encampments, quarter of a million. That's all. I mean, look what they did. What if it was two million? What if it was four million? You see?
You know, I'd settle for a tenth of the number of serious bird watchers in this country. I mean, people have to know their strength. They don't know their strength. They make excuses. They give up on themselves. It's very sad. Even though they know the Constitution never mentions "corporation," never mentions the word "company." It's all about people. It starts with "We the people." That's why I wanted to give the subtitle to this book—I wanted it to be It's Easier Than You Think, to turn this country around in one area after another, going after corporate crime, living wage, full health insurance, ending these wars of aggression, rebuilding the public works. Good heavens! You know they talk about the 1 percent and the 99 percent, you know, like the 1 percent plutocrats, the 99 percent suffering. How about the other 1 percent? That's all it takes: Three million Americans in all these congressional districts making—controlling Congress through civic hobby. Some people play mahjong. Some people play poker. Some people watch birds. I want people to watch Congress. You'll see the change.
AARON MATÉ: Ralph, on the show today we covered the first day of the trial of Bradley Manning. Your thoughts on the Obama administration and its record on whistleblowers?
RALPH NADER: Well, it's the war criminals prosecuting the innocents. I mean, here's a man who basically disclosed evidence of war crimes, evidence of lying and cover-up. He's in the dock. But Cheney and Bush and Wolfowitz and Elliott Abrams and these people, they're making big-fee speeches and getting published and gaining entry to the corridors of power. So, I agree with Ron Paul. Ron Paul said, "We need more WikiLeaks." And, by the way, the crimes of secrecy, the crimes of cover-up, have killed thousands of American soldiers and injured and sickened hundreds of thousands. And yet, that isn't even in a courtroom.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?
RALPH NADER: All the crimes, all the lies about why we had to go into Iraq. It was a lie there's—there were no weapons of mass destruction. He was not a threat to his neighbors. He was a tottering dictator surrounded by a dilapidated army and with three powerful countries around him if he made a false move. They said he was an ally of al-Qaeda. He was an enemy. He was a secular; al-Qaeda was fundamentalist, etc. All these lies and more got us into this—you know, this huge quagmire in Iraq, of which we're really not out of yet, blew the country apart. A million Iraqis died. They're dying now at a thousand a month. We pit one sect against the other. That's not hard to do if you're an outside invader with a lot of hundred-dollar bills and death squads, etc. And then we blew apart Afghanistan. Instead of pursuing a criminal gang, we turned this criminal gang into a metastasized gang. Now it's in a dozen countries. And it's become—the war on terrorism has become one of the greatest impetuses to our GDP. It's big business. And that's why they pay attention to this, because it's big contracting business—Pentagon contracts and the rest. And that's why we don't spend time on saving hundreds of thousands of lives lost that are preventable in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph, very quickly, on Israel and the Palestinian conflict, you wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, saying what?
RALPH NADER: I said, if he's going to succeed with this peace process, he's got to do more than go to the area four times in three months. He's got to focus on Congress. Congress is where it's going to start, unless he turns Congress around. How does he do it? He takes the very prominent Israeli peace advocates, which include former Shin Bet directors, former Mossad directors, former generals, former mayors, former ministers of justice, who are on the outs with Netanyahu—they're out of power, but they have experience, and they have a constituency—and get them to Capitol Hill. In over 60 years, there's never been a hearing of prominent Israeli peace advocates. And if he does that, AIPAC would never be able to stop it. Imagine AIPAC saying, "We don't want former Israeli generals, Israeli mayors and Israeli security experts testifying on Capitol Hill." So, he has got to go back to his old haunts.
And I wrote a column on this. By the way, anybody can get a copy of the column every week electronically. Just go to nader.org and sign up. But, you see, the pro-peace people don't have that strategy. It all starts with Congress. When Netanyahu goes to the White House, he's got Congress in his hip pocket. What is the president of the United States going to do? So—and Kerry knows Congress. So, if he's serious, he will develop that kind of strategy. You know that movie that you highlighted, The Gatekeepers, the documentary? Well, that was six former Shin Bet retired chiefs.
AMY GOODMAN: The only surviving former Shin Bet leaders.
RALPH NADER: Can you imagine, six of them talking about actions that could have led to peace that were overwritten by politicians? I mean, you've got an asset like that, and you bring them to the Senate and the House, what's AIPAC going to do?
Democracy Now! 2013-06-04 Tuesday