Friday, April 14

Black. White. Reparations: A New Perspective

During the course of the FX Reality Series Black. White. which I diaried about yesterday, one subject came up which I think deserves a second look - the issue of Reperations.

Bruno and Brian the two fathers of the White and Black families who lived together, and with makeup in each others skin, for six weeks had the discussion.

Bruno said "It would be a mess", but I thought Brian had an new and interesting take on it. His suggestion was that Reparations should be targeted only to the companies and corporations who directly profited and benefited from generations of free labor.

Let's discuss...

Stage 1: The Companies

Reparations has been an issue on the Political Spectrum ever since Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) put forth a bill on the subject in the mid-90s. He's since gone on to put together a book of essays on the subject, "Should America Pay?: Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations".

Since Conyers originally brought the debate into the public sphere the issues has been seen by it's detractors as a hot bed of continued black resentment, entitlement and white guilt.

"Slavery was a long time ago", they would argue, "No one alive today was either the owner of slaves, or the subject to such conditions. Why should people today who had nothing to do with Slavery be forced to pay?"

One can even say that among the more extreme right-wing, this arguement has been used to battles all forms of entitlements - why should honest hard working people have to be forcibly taxed so that their money goes to people - who haven't earned it?

Some have argued that Welfare itself is "Reparations".

And typically, this is where the argument has died. Even when you bring up the fact that the United States has already paid reparations to a number of agrieved parties. Japanese-American's who were interned during WWII. Survivors of the Tuskegee Experiments were compensated. Germany has paid millions to the survivors of the Holocaust and their families.

Brian's arguement tends to short-circuit all of that. His proposal tends to specifically target those companies, corporations and families (especially tobacco companies) who benefited from free labor and suggests that the ill-gotten gains of those specific familes be paid as restitution to the families of those who worked specifically for those companies.

His suggestion isn't a Federal solution, he's talking about a Class Action Lawsuit. If a family of those who were slaves can accurately trace down exactly where their ancestors where bought and owned, and link that ownership to a currently existing company -- should they not have the right to sue for damages?

The main problem with this case is clearly going to be the documentary evidence. Can the ownership be verified. Can ancestry be accurately ensured? (Trust me on this: Black people have been spending a lot of time tracking their ancestry over the last couple decades since Alex Haley's "Roots" showed that it could be done!) Should each and every member of the owner family have to contribute to each and every member of the owned family? It could get sticky, but Brian's suggestion of keeping the focus Corporate tends to eliminate the issue of "White Guilt". This isn't about all white people or all black people. As David Horowitz points out in his attempts to debunk the claims for reparations - not all white people were involved in and responsible for slavery even while it was happening. There were freed blacks who owned slaves. One could even argue that many former slave-owning families lost everything during Reconstruction, which would make this a moot point for them.

But handled in this manner, it wouldn't neccesarily be just about Black and White - it would be about accountability for a crime that was commited for generations. It would be Recognitition that these people contributed to the creation of this nation's wealth, and that wealth is being held by corporation who have failed to share it equitably. In my own mind, I think it would be most appropriate for these companies to pay restitution in the form of Stock Options, not cash.

Could you imagine the impact of a fairly large set of black families gaining large amounts of stock, and as a result influence, over the companies that benefited from the exploitation of their ancestors? Just exactly what would that do to companies like Phillip Morris or RJ Reynolds?

I think it could be interesting. My suggestion to those families who might be interested in persuing this - talk to the people at the Southern Poverty Law Center, they have a nack for this kind of thing.

Stage 2: The Aftermath

The irony of the Reparations Debate is that Slavery didn't actually end with the Civil War. It continued on with the Black Codes. It continued on when "Seperate but Equal" was made the law of the land via Plessy V Ferguson. It continued on with the Lynchings of the 1920's, 1930's, 1940s and 1950s. It continued on with the burnings and bombings of black churches. It continued on with the murders of Emmet Till in 1955, the Freedom Riders in 1961, Medger Evers in 1963 (the year I was born).

And it continues on to this very day with the "Duly Convicted" escape clause in the 13th Amendment which allows for prisoners to be enslaved and worked without compensation. (You think it's a coincidence that black's are targeted by police and that sentencing guidelines are so completely out-of-wack that black men are 6-times more to be imprisoned (and subject to the modern-day slavery of Corporate Prisons) than almost anyone else? I don't.)

Where are the Reparations debates over Jim Crow? Where are the Reparations Debates over the Voter Repression and intimidation of the 1960 and 70's? Where are the Reparations of our abridged Civil Rights?

Each of these were individual acts, and each may need to be address as such - individually. But it can not be denied that from the passage of the 15th Amendment (which supposedly guaranteed the right to vote for non-whites) to the passage 95 years later of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 -- there was an ongoing injustice being perpetrated on Americans. Black Americans, yes -- but still - AMERICANS.

How can that ever be reconciled? I'm not sure that it can.

It's not a matter of cash, or a settlement -- to my mind it's something deeper. It was a fundamental betrayal of our American values - an outright betrayal of the Constitution.

There are still a great many people alive today who lived through that so that "this happened long ago" arguement doesn't work. This was within my own lifetime.

The very least we can do - the very least - is to fight hard to ensure that the right to vote is not denied for anyone, Ever. We have a President who states "I'm not familiar with the Voting Rights Act" during the year that it has come up for renewal? We still have voter disenfranchisement and intimidation taking place today?

THAT. IS. NOT. ACCEPTABLE.

Too many people fought and died to secure these rights for the rest of us. All of us, Black. White. Male. Female, Gay. Straight and Other!

At the very least we should actually try to abide by the 15th Amendment which was ratified 141 years ago. At the very least we should Fix the 13th Amendment and close the loophole for convicts to be enslaved, not to mention overhaul our justice system and sentencing guidelines so they reflect reality, not racial paranoia.

We still have unsolved lynchings and racial murders to address. The latest FBI Statistics continue to indicate that the most frequent Hate Crimes is an act of intimidation by a white person most often against blacks followed closely by acts of vandalism. (Although I wouldn't say that crimes based on religious or sexual orientation are neccesarily on a decline, murders are thankfully - fairly rare.)

The fact is, we have a long way to go. Congress has never offered a resolution apologizing for Slavery, Jim Crow or it's abject failure to address 95 years of Voter Suppression. They've never taken responsibility, and they 've never even acknowledged that it was wrong.

You can't fix a problem, until you realize you have a problem.

Should black people continue to feel agrieved -- hell, no - we all should fucking well feel agrieved, because we've all been betrayed. Before we can have Reparations on the aftermath of Slavery - we have to end the aftermath of Slavery - because it continues on, and on...

In the meanwhile, companies like Phillip Morris can take it in the ass for all I care. How 'bout you?

Vyan

Thursday, April 13

Black. White. and the ongoing issues of Race in America

Black. White.
Last night was the conclusion of the 6-part FX Reality Series "Black. White." which presented America with many challenges and some hope for the future.

The show took two families, one white from "loony-lefty" Santa Monica (Bruno, Carmen and daughter Rose) and another black from Hot-lanta (or Atlanta GA for you squares) featuring Brian, Renee and son Nick. Both families spent time together in an LA Suburb and literally living in each others skin as a way to gain some understanding of how race continues to affect our reality, our thinking and our lives.

At the very least, the show has sparked some discussion - and that's (usually) a good thing.

Brian

40-year-old Brian came into the project feeling that he basically knew all there was to know about "White America", and for the most part I can't say that he was wrong. White-Brian had little trouble melting into White society and quickly turning on his inner whiteness when the time came during his temporary undercover job as a bartender in a largely white neighborhood of Pasadena. He found himself somewhat shocked at the level of service and attention he received as a white patron at a golf shop where the attendent not only brought him a pair of shoes to try on - but actually put them on his feet by hand. Something that had never happened to him before in his life.

He and wife Renee seemed to be completely on the same page when it came to race issues, but greatly at odds with Brian's counter-part Bruno on the issue of whether ongoing racism remains a major factor in American life. Where as Bruno felt that the actions and racism of others was something you could choose to affect you or not, it could be argued that Brian was hyper-sensitive to each and every possible slight which may have had racial connotations.

As an LA Native myself, I feel that what the show didn't address is that southern-california by it's very nature is a locale where anti-ethnic racism is generally hidden. Even during the heyday of the civil rights movement it was rare for overtly racist rhetoric to be spoken aloud - but it was there, as was most eloquently made clear by the Oscar Winning Movie "Crash". Since that time and the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the truth is that displaying discriminatory tendencies and views can be considered a crime if actions can be linked to those views - this has created a "great quiet" where those who may feel negatively toward a minority person or group often dare not voice that opinion. Instead, they gives off signals and hints -- hints which people like Brian have remained constantly on their guard for, because essentially - a hint is all you're gonna get. (Taking this show to Brian's hometown of Atlanta would have made a major difference in how openly people would tend to display their racism IMO)

The downside of this is that sometimes a fairly innocent action or clumsy mistake can be interpreted as having a racial element when none-exists. Hence you have the conunndrum, do you dare to "cry wolf" at each potential issue - or do you instead try to "rise above it" and risk letting the genuine wolves who are still out there make a snack of you? Brian would clearly prefer the former to the latter. Bruno? Not so much.

Bruno

Bruno was certainly a lightening rod on the show. His basic view is that "Life is what you make of it", and there's little point in walking around feeling constantly aggrieved by the actions of others. You are responsible for yourself, and how you let other people impact you. A true "Boot-strapper" idealist.

But the revelation that put a lie to Bruno's "Shiny happy people" outlook is that he himself continues to this day to feel aggrieved, although he denies it, by an experience he faced in High-School basketball where he was "the best player on the team, and the other four (all black) players refused to pass him the ball". First of all, I have a hard time believing that any self respecting coach would allow the "best player on the team" to be block-out of the game like that. What school was he going to - at least 25-30 years ago - where four black players could get away with such a thing? Bruno claims that although that event deeply frustrated him at the time, it doesn't affect him today. Yeah, right.

[Update: Y'know his entire "I was the best guy on the team" stereo-typical white-guy self-aggrandizement rubs me the wrong way. This - "I was the best guy for the job, but they gave it to some unqualified black woman in order to fill the quote" - Bullshit. What the hell make you assume you're better than everybody else? If you were the best guy, GO GET A FREAKING REBOUND AND PROVE IT. Don't wait for someone else to do it and acommodate you, make your own luck - make yourself indispensible -- grab your own damn bootstraps pal! He expects Black people to turn the other cheek when he hasn't even found his yet?

Then again, maybe they didn't pass you the ball because you were an insufferable prick (who just happened to be White) and not nearly as good as you thought you were. Possible? I think so. Or else the coach should have been Sacked for letting this go on.]

Of all the people on the show Bruno was the one person who only saw racism directled against whites but never the reverse. When Black-Bruno and his wife Black-Carmen went out country line-dancing they got major-ly "Funny Vibed" with surreptitious looks and glares by the completely White crowd. It was enough to upset Carmen, but Bruno was oblivious. However when the two of them travel down to Leimert Park in the Crenshaw district (where Carmen reverted to "normal") they could certainly feel tension in the air from their presence. No one said anything negative to them, but apparently resentment directed at the Black Guy (Bruno in makeup, who frankly looks more like an Indian Sikh or an Egyptian than a Black man) daring to show up with a White-woman (Carmen) - playing into that ole' Jungle Fever vibe - was palpable.

The fact is, as I stated above, that culturally, whether they themselves are racist or not, many people have general learned that overtly displaying racism isn't "Politically Correct". Further, it can become civilly actionable and costly. Some, like Bruno frankly, have begun to rebel against this and like the bloviating racist of the right-wing will make inflammatory racisl statement against blacks or other immigrants openly under the guise of "i'm justing telling it like it is..." Bruno was expecting, even hoping, that someone was going to call him "Nigger", but that shit simply ain't happening, man. Not outside of a Aryan Nations or Skinhead Rally. (Well, maybe in Tujunga... it might happen, but hardly anyone else around LA.) Whether people speak or show their feelings, they still have them. Black people, IMO, have generally remained above board when it comes to whether they approve or disapprove of someone on racial grounds. They haven't yet learned not to say or express certain things. The irony of the Leimert experience from Bruno and Carmen wasn't that they were so upset with her for being white, they were upset with Bruno - who they perceived as a black man - who had strayed. It was Black on Black disapproval, not Black on White.

(In the area of full disclosure I will point out that I am a black man, who lives in the LA area and has been married to a white woman for the last 16 years. We've been to Leimert Park together many times, but never experienced anything like what happened to Black-Bruno and Carmen. So I have to wonder, if maybe Bruno's own confrontational attitude may have had something to do with the reaction he received. A little of his own medicine ya think?)

My favorite Bruno moment was when he went and visited the Self-made Black Man, a jazz musician who'd struggled through a difficult upbringing to became successful and affluent. Bruno's shining example of how a man can remake himself regardless of his circumstances and rise above all. And after Bruno delivers his big bad "up with the individual and down with group-ism speech" - the guys tells him "You're totally full of crap!"

Ohh, snap!.

I could spend this entire Diary on Bruno and his ridiculous anti-Black Rap song ("I don't speak in Ebonics"), or his virtual freak-out after Brian took him to the dominoes game ("Smoking and drinking and getting high - that's not my element") - but then I'd never get to anyone else. I mean seriously dude, the entire point of the show was to not be in your element, and learn from the process. WhataDumbass.

Brian ultimately began to suspect that Bruno himself might be a racist, and I can't say he's entirely wrong - but I am glad to see that he eventually saw past that learned to respect Bruno. I guess almost anything is possible then, eh?

Renee

Renee as I said tended to be in harmony with Brian on most issues, but her biggest conflict came with her opposite number - Bruno's wife Carmen. During a racial role-playing exercise Carmen while reading from a script blurted out "Yo, Bitch" - and Renee took huge offense. This began a brujah that lasted for weeks, and again goes back to what I mentioned earlier about racism sometimes only appearing in little tell-tale signs since the Civil Rights Era.

Renee simply couldn't understand how anyone could not realize how offensive that could be, even in that context. Brian backed her up on this, but I have to say I disagree with them on this one. Sometimes people make innocent mistakes, sometimes they say or do things that they simply don't realize have deeper meanings and an impact to people around them - and frankly Carmen was like blind and clueless bull in the china shop most of the time. Well meaning, but basically a train-wreck in process.

Eventually, after several naive attempts of her own at connecting with white people by joining a knitting club (what the heck was she thinking there? - "Yeah, that's what White People do - they Knit!" Brilliant? er - not so much) Renee eventually did meet someone who she "clicked with" and shared a great deal of personal values with who happened also to be white. It wasn't easy, but it's possible. It's ironic that she and her new found friend were mostly drawn together by the things they had in common. Both were catholic and had a similar perspective on raising their children. Her friend was fairly progressive, and took the lead on confronting this one off-duty police officer (in the exact same line-dancing bar that Bruno & Carmen had previous went to) who had this speil justifying racial profiling in Glendale.

(Another disclosure moment, me and my wife lived in Glendale for several years -- and everything he said about Glendale PD being intolerant and borderline racist is dead on target in my experience)

Finding common ground with someone who you already have a great deal in common with is realively easy, finding a bridge to someone whom you don't share common ground with is the ongoing challenge. We shouldn't all have to basically be alike in order to relate. We are different, and we're going to stay different. Thank God, Honor Allah and Praise Buddah for that.

Carmen

Oh, what to say about Carmen. Poor naive, sheltered Carmen. More than a few times I had to wonder - "what Planet is this woman from?" with her Let's wear Daishiki's to a Black Church deal. She was so clueless, but at the same time so curious and interested in learning what it was she didn't know -- which was a lot.

I do think she was overly bashed for the "Yo, Bitch" comment -- but at the same time she followed that up with some truly off-the-wall moments. Like when the her daughter Rose's poetry group visited the house and she called one of them "a beautiful black creature". Definitely an awkward moment.

There are certain things that you shouldn't say until have built a bridge of understanding, because it's possible that you can be misunderstood without that foundation, without that common foothold. This country is made up of many different people, with many different cultural perspectives. Carmen is like the one person you don't want to leave holding the cartoons of Mohammad.

She'd turn them into Greeting Cards.

I think there's a lot of hope for Carmen, a massive potential for growth -- and unlike Bruno -- quite a bit of desire to go about that process, but it's going to be painful. She's going to make some stumbles as many of us will, but I suspect she'll have the courage to keep. I suspect few of the rest of us will.

Nick

16-year old Nick entered this living situation simply because his parents dragged him into it. He had no interest in race, or racial matters. His response to the entire deal was a shrug. "Whatever".

But in many ways, Nick was the one person who needed to go through this experience even more desperately than Bruno. At the outset he refused to see racism, and didn't even care. Now, on the one hand that could be a good thing -- he was effectively "color-blind" just as Bruno would claim to be, but the problem is that in being blind -- you see nothing even when there actually is something to see.

Nick is like lots of kids I see everyday in South Central. Oversized t-shirts and shorts, that are basically a basketball uniform passing as street clothes. (Constantly, ready to shot a hoop at the drop of a dime...) They idolize the Rap Star, the Hustler, the Gangster with an addiction to Bling without any appreciation of the education or hard work it takes to earn it. He had a lot to learn, and his parents had clearly been trying hard to reach him -- but it was obvious that the harder they tried, the more he shut down and thickened his skin. The harder they banged on his skull, the harder his head became.

But in the end, Nick may have been the one person to make the most important strides after a visit with a real former Gang-member --- not some wannabe -- the real deal. Nick got a little Scared Straight treatment that seemed to wise him up a bit. Everything he thought was cool, wasn't so cool. And after a visit to the Seiman Wiesenthal Center (The Museum of Tolerance) he started to see that all the things that mom and dad constantly harped on him about -- responsibility, education, direction -- we're things that other black and white people fought and many died to grant his generation.

And all this occurred within his father's lifetime.

It's only been 40 years since we had our own domestic terrorists bombing churches in Selma Alabama for ethnic and religious reasons. Slavery may have been a long time ago, but Slavery didn't really end in 1865. It didn't end with the Emancipation Proclamation (Which itself was quasi legal Unitary Executive Directive), or the 13th Amendment (which ended Slavery - except for the "Duly Convicted" and of course The Black Codes), or the 14th Amendment (which supposedly guaranteed the equal protection of the laws regardless of race -- except for Plessy v Ferguson and Jim Crow!), or the 15th Amendment (which supposedly granted the right to vote -- except for Poll Tax).

It didn't end until a century later - in 1965, and it could be argued that with continued economic segregation, ongoing employment discrimination, rollbacks of Affirmative Action and voter disenfranchisement -- it hasn't really ended at all, merely moved increasingly underground, where you have to be like Brian - hyper-sensitive to catch it, identify it (accurately) and fight against it - or else it'll catch you.

Rose

Rose was a blessing for this show. She seemed to immediately and intuitively understand nearly all the issues and complexities of situation right from the start. Like her mom, she was hungry for knowledge - but far more sensitive to her own responsibility to avoid some of Carmen's mind-numbing faux-pas.

She showed the best balance between Bruno's blunt idealism with Carmen's empathy, blending to two together into a strong mix of compassion and practicality. She seemed for more aware of the vulnerability, pain and frustration that 400 of overt (and covert) oppression has heaped on these people -- and that they carry much of that pain to this very day. It has shaped who they (well, ok who "we") are in both positive and negative ways, forging both strength and weakness. Passion and folly. Both Black-Bruno and Black-Rose walked around their home neighborhood of Santa Monica to see if people were going to react differently to them. Where Bruno was basically - Bruno in black-face, Rose wasn't. She was almost instinctively different, not only in dress but also mannerism. She internalized the sense of distance that comes from being "the other", where Bruno saw no difference in anyone reaction (or simply refused to look close enough expecting unrealistically that anyone would be criminally stupid enough to be obvious about it), Rose picked up on the change in vibe almost immediately.

Rose was the only person on the show who seemed to have not only a different color, but a different hair style -- a different wardrobe and a different demeanor. (Not like Brian who had his little tight-assed white guy walk and super straight diction even when he was in make-up) She was a practically a different person, and I don't think it was deliberate - I think it was just happening because of the circumstances. Sometimes you do perceive yourself as an internal reflection of how the world perceives you.

Ultimately the differences between black and white Americans isn't simply a matter of skin-tone. It is about who you are as a person, who you are culturally, socially, how you relate to others, what you're expectations of them are as well as how you treat them. These vary wildly not only between black and whites, but between blacks and other blacks - between whites and other whites.

Prejudice is simply coming to a conclusion. You may indeed have facts to draw on to build that conclusion (every cliche is based on at least some truth), but the problem is do you have all the facts? And further, can you take the risk of disregarding what you think you know long enough to discover what you don't know? Do you have the guts to face the possibility that everything you currently believe just might be completely wrong?

The key to defeating racism and all forms of bigotry, is having the courage to take those risks. You might find out that those young hoodlum looking kids really do want to rob you -- or you might find out that they don't want your bling because it's dated and wack. Do you avoid the risk, or do you have a duty not to presume and prejudge them without real evidence? You might feel that the elderly couple just crossed the street to avoid a confrontation or coming in contact with you, but then again maybe they were just headed to a different store? Should you ignore it, get upset about it - or simply list it under "unknown"?

Sometimes our perceptions and preconceptions are right on the money - sometimes they're not. We all have the capacity to be racists and bigots -- the question is, do we have the courage that Brian, Bruno, Renee, Carmen, Nick and Rose displayed to try not to be?

And can we afford not to find that courage, somewhere - somehow?

Vyan

Tuesday, April 11

Linking Bush to Plame - Next Steps

Yesterday's dramatic revelation by Jason Leopold put us in a very strange and unique position.

We now know that the President has a direct connection not only the leaking (of allegedly declassified) information to the press, but also that he was aware of the (false) claim Joseph Wilson wife was the person who "sent him to Niger". A claim that eventually led to the disclosure of her identity by Robert Novak.

Not being a mainstream reporter, Leopold's article has so far received little or no notice by other press outlets -- but we know about it, and therefore we are a step or three ahead of the rest of the country on this issue.

The facts appear to be that the President was apparently involved in a conspiracy to perpetuate a series of lies that falsely led us into war -- and resulted in an act that his own father says was treasonous.

I think we have to take a long hard look at these issues, examine them closely and fairly -- then spread the word.

Coming on the heels of the Fitzgerald filing which indicates that Scooter Libby received Presidential authorization to disclose (then classified) NIE information to Judith Miller we now have this from Jason Leopold on Truthout.org.

In early June 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney met with President Bush and told him that CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson was the wife of Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson and that she was responsible for sending him on a fact-finding mission to Niger to check out reports about Iraq's attempt to purchase uranium from the African country, according to current and former White House officials and attorneys close to the investigation to determine who revealed Plame-Wilson's undercover status to the media.

Other White House officials who also attended the meeting with Cheney and President Bush included former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, her former deputy Stephen Hadley, and Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove.

It's been well discussed that the Uranium Niger Claims were based on forgeries, and the that NIE included many doubts about both that claim and the intended uses for the aluminum tubes (Facts which Rove and Hadley attempted to hide during the Election).

It's also been well documented that Cheney and Libby were personally informed by the CIA that these claims had been disproven.

I have another issue to address - the subject of the meeting in question.

The discussion that "Plame sent Wilson to Niger" is yet again the repetition of falsehood that seems to have originated from a June 10th classified State Dept addendum to an CIA document on Wilson's trip. Both the CIA and Wilson himself have already directly responded to, and debunked this allegation:

The original source for this claim seems to be a document produced by the INR which was attached to Wilson's report to the CIA, but the claim made by that document was disputed by the CIA nearly two years ago by Mike Allen and Dana Milbank at the Washington Post.

Sources said the CIA is angry about the circulation of a still-classified document to conservative news outlets suggesting Plame had a role in arranging her husband's trip to Africa for the CIA. The document, written by a State Department official who works for its Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), describes a meeting at the CIA where the Niger trip by Wilson was discussed, said a senior administration official who has seen it.

CIA officials have challenged the accuracy of the INR document, the official said, because the agency officer identified as talking about Plame's alleged role in arranging Wilson's trip could not have attended the meeting.

"It has been circulated around," one official said. CIA and State Department officials have refused to discuss the document.

The Senate Intelligence report has also been referenced on this point, but it appears that their claims that Valerie Plame-Wilson was at least perpherally involved in suggesting her husband be dispatched to Niger really almost entirely on the exact same INR analyst who the CIA claims "wasn't at the meeting" in question.

Wilson responding to the Senate Report's suggestion that his "Wife sent him" to Niger:

First conclusion: "The plan to send the former ambassador to Niger was suggested by the former ambassador's wife, a CIA employee."

That is not true. The conclusion is apparently based on one anodyne quote from a memo Valerie Plame, my wife sent to her superiors that says "my husband has good relations with the PM (prime minister) and the former Minister of Mines, (not to mention lots of French contacts) both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity." There is no suggestion or recommendation in that statement that I be sent on the trip. Indeed it is little more than a recitation of my contacts and bona fides. The conclusion is reinforced by comments in the body of the report that a CPD reports officer stated the "the former ambassador's wife `offered up his name'" (page 39) and a State Department Intelligence and Research officer that the "meeting was `apparently convened by wife who had the idea to dispatch him to use his contacts to sort out the Iraq-Niger uranium issue."

In fact, Valerie was not in the meeting at which the subject of my trip was raised. Neither was the CPD Reports officer. After having escorted me into the room, she departed the meeting to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest. It was at that meeting where the question of my traveling to Niger was broached with me for the first time and came only after a thorough discussion of what the participants did and did not know about the subject.

So the first important and independantly verified point about the meeting of the anti-Wilson Cabal is that the key element of their discussion - was a falsehood. Wilson's wife did not send him to Africa. The second point, is what exactly did they decide to do with that information at that point?

Cheney's involvement in this meeting is particularly interesting since he stated while appearing on Meet the Press (Sept 14, 2003)...

I don't know Mr. Wilson. I probably shouldn't judge him. I have no idea who hired him and it never came [up]...

Apparently he did (think) he knew who hired him, and it did come up.

I've always been curious as to who exactly the "CPD Reports Officer" and "INR Analyst" were. Was the INR analyst David Wurmser (who appears to be fully cooperating with the Fitzgerald investigation and whom Raw Story indicates was told about the Wilson/Plame connection by someone at CIA) or was it the VP NSA Assistant John Hannah?

Last night on Keith Olbermann, David Shuster pointed out that the one thing that is missing from the Fitzgerald filing is a link between the President and Plame.

SHUSTER: Well, I would think the latter, in fact, in this particular case, the source that is talking to the AP wasn‘t reasonable at all, because it doesn‘t make any sense that somebody the president would not want this information to get in the hands of the public or the media, but would say, Well, go ahead and declassify it. Declassifying it does exactly that, so there‘s a contradiction. But the other thing to focus on, Keith, and that is the next shoe to drop that many people here in this town believe is the whole idea of most of the conversation that Judy Miller remembers of her meeting with Scooter Libby on July 8 that was prompted by the vice president saying, Yes, you‘ve got the authority to talk to Judy Miller from the president, most of the conversation she remembers was not about the National Intelligence Estimate but was about Valerie Plame, about her identity, and where she worked at the CIA.
According to the Fitzgerald Indictment - Libby had already revealed Plame's identity to Judith Miller on June 23rd, at least a week before the President declassified anything - but long after the meeting between the Veep, Prez and underlings was already held discussing Valerie Plame's link to Wilson's trip.

On July 6th Wilson's Op-ed "What I didn't find in Africa" was published by the New York Times.

On July 8th, two days later and still two days before the President declassified portions of the NIE via the Vice President, Libby spoke to Miller again.

On or about the morning of July 8,2003,LIBBY met with New York Times reporter Judith Miller.When the conversation turned to the subject of Joseph Wilson,LIBBY asked that the information LIBBY provided on the topic of Wilson be attributed to a “former Hill staffer ” rather than to a “senior administration official,” as had been the understanding with respect to other information that LIBBY provided to Miller during this meeting.LIBBY thereafter discussed with Miller Wilson ’s trip and criticized the CIA reporting concerning Wilson ’ s trip. During this discussion,LIBBY advised Miller of his belief that Wilson ’s wife worked for the CIA.
That would be "advised Again" actually. Shuster continued...
And furthermore, leading up to that meeting in June, the vice president and Scooter Libby had discussed where Valerie Plame worked at the CIA. So a lot of people in Washington are buzzing about the idea, exactly what was the vice president‘s role? What kind of instructions did he give to Scooter Libby as far as what to focus on in this meeting? And secondly, did the vice president at any point in his conversations with the president make some sort of mention of this other information, not the NIE, but Valerie Plame‘s status at the CIA? Did the president and vice president talk about that?
Well, it's seem that Leopold has found that missing link.

Assuming Leopold's sources are accurate, Fitz already has this information but hasn't yet revealed it. Most likely, this is fodder for his second investigation which is ongoing and may indicate that possible Conspiracy and Obstruction Charges may be on the line for Hadley, Rice, Rove, Card, Cheney and the President.

But what about Treason, espionage and revealing the name of a Covert Agent?

Espionage under USC Title 18 Section 793 requires that the persons intent is to "reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation", and frankly though their efforts were deeply misguided - it would be difficult to directly make the case that anyone in the chain between Plame and the President were deliberately attempting to hurt the United State or help any other nation, even if that is exactly what the end result has been with the loss of Plame's cover and the viability of Brewster/Jennings as a front for non-proliferation efforts.

The Covert Agent charge depends largely on whether there was a willful and knowing violation of Inteligence Identities Protection Act, which requires that the parties involved in disclosing the identity be aware that the person is a covert operative.

Thinkprogress has pointed out that the Libby indictment indicates at least three instances where Libby's behavior shows that he was aware that what he was doing in revealing Plame's identity was highly sensitive and potentially criminal.

Some of the oh-too-careful maneavering by people such as Karl Rove "I didn't know her name and didn't leak her name." are clearly ment as a dodge to the fact that he did reveal her identity (as "Wilson's wife") and such an act is a violation of section 421 of the IIPA.

Still direct willfulness and knowing-ness is difficult to prove - particularly when there are so many lies flying back and forth. I know from my time working in a Dod secure environment (12 years) that classified information should only be shared on a "Need to Know" basis, and that it is incumbent on the person providing the information to both ensure that they are only providing it to someone with the appropriate clearance, as well as informing them on the level of sensitivity of that information so that the newly informed person maintains it's protection.

In other words, anyone who was aware of Plame's employment status (which Fitz has well pointed out was classified) would have also had to know that she was an undercover operative, and would have been required to include that fact in sharing that information with any other cleared persons. I find it pretty much inconceivable that the President, Vice President and various support staff could have been in a meeting about Wilson, mention that "his Wife sent him to Niger" and not also know that his wife was a covert operative - but it is in fact, possible that they didn't know.

This is where the identity of that CPD and INR officers who made the initial false claims becomes crucial, because if they disclosed this information in the addendum to the CIA memo and didn't properly mark or identify the level of sensitivity of this information he (or she) were the first domino in the chain and is highly vulnerable to various charges including violation of the IIPA. (And again, if one of these people is Wurmser (who worked Non-proliferation under John Bolton at State, Cheney and the President's goose is already pretty well cooked)

In conclusion, persons downstream from the original breach by the CPD Officer (who shared information about a meeting he didn't even attend) to the INR analyst and eventually to Novak and possibily including the President along the way may not technically be in legal jeopardy (depending on exactly what they did and didn't say to investigators and the grand jury) -- but that doesn't absolve them from their violation of duty and the oath to the American People and the Constitution to "Protect this Nation from all threats".

Including in this case, themselves.

Even without knowing the Leopold story 63% of those polled think the President Acted Illegally and Unethically in Declassfying selected portions of the NIE.

Impeachable? Oh, yes - I think so.

<> But Indictable? That remains to be seen particularly since a full After-Action Report on the Plame outing remains undisclosed.

Vyan

Sunday, April 9

When a leak is not a leak...

From Firedoglake today:

The American public may have a short attention span about certain stories in the news - tending to go for the more sensational over the intricate detail sorts. But they understand one thing very clearly: liars and hypocrites make for a good storyline. Especially when the liar or hypocrite has previously wagged his finger at them on television and proclaimed that he deplores that thing which, ultimately, we find out he has in truth done.

And so we come to George Bush.

Leaks are bad. Shading the truth is horrible. I'm a gonna "restore honor and integrity to the White House" kind of guy.

...unless, of course, my political self is roasting on a public perception spit, in which case I will selectively release only that previously classified information that makes me look good -- while I keep all information which calls my judgment into question conveniently classified. (It's good to be the King, isn't it George -- until you get caught, that is.)

We've arrived in a completely amazing place, deep through the looking glass where the President can brazenly accuse people who perform the public service of Whistle-blowing an Illegal Surveillance Program as "Leakers", yet do an amazing about face when releasing classified information in order to debunk the TRUTH - and claim that isn't a "Leak". Oh, really?

First there is the fact that the President didn't follow standard declassification procedure when he authorized Libby to talk to Judith Miller about the NIE.

I worked in a secure environment under to perview of the DOD for 12 years. From that experience I know that all classifed documents are clearly Marked as such, and that any changes in classification require that these documentes either be re-marked, or destroyed and re-created with the new classificaiton - yet there is no indication that this took place an July 10th when Scooter talked to Judy.

Scott McClennan was asked about this.

Q Back when the NIE was released on July 18, 2003, you were asked that day when that had been actually declassified. And you said in that gaggle that it had been declassified that day. And if that's the case, then when the information was passed on to the reporter 10 days earlier, then it was still classified at that time.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you're referring -- a couple of things. First of all, it was publicly released that day, so that's when a portion of the National Intelligence Estimate that we were making available to the public was released. The second part of your question is referring to an ongoing legal proceeding, and referring to a filing in that legal proceeding. We have had a policy in place, going back to the October time period of 2003, that we are not going to comment on an ongoing investigation or an ongoing legal proceeding. That policy remains unchanged.

Of course, Scotty ducked the question - but his answer is revealing in that he links it to the "ongoing investigation" and that means that persons involved in sharing that information, and violating standard classification procedure just might include the President and Vice President.

So it remains an open question as to whether the information given to Judy was technically still classified or not, and the Presidents Press Secretary has not denied that it was.

Then there is the fact that the information itself was quite suspect.

From the NYTimes.

WASHINGTON, April 8 -- President Bush's apparent order authorizing a senior White House official to reveal to a reporter previously classified intelligence about Saddam Hussein's efforts to obtain uranium came as the information was already being discredited by several other officials in the administration, interviews and documents from the time show.

A review of the records and interviews conducted during and after the crucial period in June and July of 2003 also show that what the aide, I. Lewis Libby Jr., said he was authorized to portray as a "key judgment" by intelligence officers had in fact been given much less prominence in the most important assessment of Iraq's weapons capability.

Mr. Libby said he drew on that report, the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, when he spoke with the reporter. However, the conclusions about Mr. Hussein's search for uranium appear to have been buried deeper in the report in part because of doubts about their reliability.

In short, in that NIE the INR had questioned the legitimacy of Niger documents, and suspected they might be forgeries. There were also doubts from the Energy Dept. about the intended use of the Aliminum Tubes that Iraq had purchased.

Did Libby release this?

Hell, no.

The truth remained classified while Libby (illegaly) released the same set of lies that most of Congress had seen. Senator Bob Graham saw more than most, and he was troubled by what he saw.

At a meeting of the Senate intelligence committee on Sept. 5, 2002, CIA Director George Tenet was asked what the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) provided as the rationale for a preemptive war in Iraq. An NIE is the product of the entire intelligence community, and its most comprehensive assessment. I was stunned when Tenet said that no NIE had been requested by the White House and none had been prepared. Invoking our rarely used senatorial authority, I directed the completion of an NIE.

Tenet objected, saying that his people were too committed to other assignments to analyze Saddam Hussein's capabilities and will to use chemical, biological and possibly nuclear weapons. We insisted, and three weeks later the community produced a classified NIE.

There were troubling aspects to this 90-page document. While slanted toward the conclusion that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction stored or produced at 550 sites, it contained vigorous dissents on key parts of the information, especially by the departments of State and Energy. Particular skepticism was raised about aluminum tubes that were offered as evidence Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program. As to Hussein's will to use whatever weapons he might have, the estimate indicated he would not do so unless he was first attacked.

So even if Hussein had the weapons the NIE stated that he would only use them in self-defense, and what did we do? We attacked him.

Did Libby share this with Judy?

Hell, no.

According to Scotty, this is what he did.

But let's go back to the time period that you're talking about, because I think it's important for the public to know or recall that time period.

There was a lot of debate going on about the pre-war intelligence that was used in the lead up to the decision to go into Iraq and remove a brutal tyrant from his position of power. There were irresponsible and unfounded accusations being made against the administration, suggesting that we had manipulated or misused that intelligence. That was flat-out false. The National Intelligence Estimate was a document that was provided to members of Congress. It is the collective judgment of the intelligence community. And because of the public debate that was going on and some of the wild accusations that were flying around at the time, we felt it was very much in the public interest that what information could be declassified, be declassified. And that's exactly what we did.

Uh huh...

Now, let's look at the "leakers" that the President has railed against - people like Russel Tice.

Former NSA intelligence agent Russell Tice condemns reports that the Agency has been engaged in eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without court warrants. Tice has volunteered to testify before Congress about illegal black ops programs at the NSA. Tice said, "The freedom of the American people cannot be protected when our constitutional liberties are ignored and our nation has decayed into a police state.

...

AMY GOODMAN: Russell Tice, you have worked for the National Security Agency. Can you talk about your response to the revelations that the Times, you know, revealed in -- perhaps late, knowing the story well before the election, yet revealing it a few weeks ago -- the revelation of the wiretapping of American citizens?

RUSSELL TICE: Well, as far as an intelligence officer, especially a SIGINT officer at N.S.A., we're taught from very early on in our careers that you just do not do this. This is probably the number one commandment of the SIGINT Ten Commandments as a SIGINT officer. You will not spy on Americans. It is drilled into our head over and over and over again in security briefings, at least twice a year, where you ultimately have to sign a paper that says you have gotten the briefing. Everyone at N.S.A. who's a SIGINT officer knows that you do not do this. Ultimately, so do the leaders of N.S.A., and apparently the leaders of N.S.A. have decided that they were just going to go against the tenets of something that's a gospel to a SIGINT officer.

...

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think of the news that the National Security Agency spying on American citizens without a court order and foreign nationals is now sharing this information with other agencies like, well, the other agency you worked for, the Defense Intelligence Agency?

RUSSELL TICE: Intelligence officers work with one another all the time. As an analyst, you might have a problem. Everybody gets together. It's just common sense to find out what everybody knows, you know, come to a consensus as to what the answer is. It's sort of like a puzzle, you know, chunks of the puzzle. And maybe you have a few chunks as a SIGINT officer, and the C.I.A. has a few chunks in their arena and D.I.A. has a few elements of it, and everybody gets together and does a little mind meld to try to figure out what's going on. So it's not unusual for the intelligence community to share information. But when we're talking about information on the American public, which is a violation of the FISA law, then I think it's even something more to be concerned about.

So people like Russel Tice have come forward and tried to end violations of FISA, yet what has the Administration had to say about them?

Q The purpose of releasing portions of this clearly had a political implication for the administration. There is a debate going on, and you wanted to counter that debate. And, yet, you're criticizing Democrats, saying that they are engaging in crass politics for saying that they're -- that this was leaking. How do you not see that there was a --

MR. McCLELLAN: For the reasons I stated. That's a very good question. Let's talk about the distinction. There is a difference between leaking classified information that could compromise sources and methods, which could be harmful to our nation's security. The terrorist surveillance program is a prime example. There was an unauthorized disclosure of this vital program that is helping to prevent attacks and save American lives. This is a program that is aimed at intercepting international communications involving known al Qaeda members or suspected al Qaeda affiliates. And it is vital to our nation's interest.

General Hayden, the number-two man in our intelligence community, said its disclosure is harmful to our nation's security. So there is a clear distinction here. Democrats refuse to recognize that distinction. That is engaging in crass politics.

Let me get this straight, disclosing that the Administartion is failing it's Constitutional Duty and Legal Requirements under FISA to obtain Warrants - even three days after they begin eavesdropping - is bad.

But perpetuating lies about non-existence weapons in order to justify an unprovoked war - is good.

Welcome to bizarro world people. I know we've been here for a while now, but sometimes looking back at exactly where we are is simply startling.

And it looks like our first exit of this insane highway will be in November 2006. Maybe.

Vyan