'BUZZSAW' OR BLACK HOLE?
by Charles J. Reid
American Reporter Correspondent
Santa Cruz, Calif.
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- I cannot lie here. Although all Americans, indeed, every journalist, should read this book, it is going to be very difficult to write a good, compelling review of it. The best review of the "Into the Buzzsaw" is to read it in its entirety.
Normally, a critic receives the book and a press release with "talking points" prepared by the publishers. Many reviewers browse the book and base their review on the publisher's talking points. For many non-fiction or technical books, this makes for a quick and dirty process. An individual reviewer can get through more books within a given period of time.
In my case, I've always read each book I've reviewed and ignored the publishers' press releases.
As far as "Into the Buzzsaw" is concerned, I might have been tempted to use the publisher's talking points, if it did justice to the book. But, of course, that isn't possible within word-count limit of a book review, irrespective of the limitations of the publisher's press release. Borjesson's book just contains too much vital information about the media and its relationships with the other major institutions in our society-and the impact these relationships have on some of our best journalists.
After giving it considerable thought, I've decided to try to step outside of the box, so to speak, and write a book review based on a complex analogy without compromising the facts, that is, including some of the facts included in the book. I'm not sure I'll be successful, but I hope by the end you'll have not only a sense of what the book is about, but also essential truths about our American society in the 21st Century as presented by the authors that Kristina Borjesson assembled to write the articles published in the book.
At best, we can understand what is at stake for the American people and raise our consciousness to enable Americans to stop our slippery slide toward an America none of us wants.
My analogy starts with imagining a quintilateral - a five-sided convex polygon, or planar figure - ironically, a pentagon. At each vertex (or corner) of our pentagon there is one of the five major institutions of American society: the legisative, executive, and judicial branches of government; the corporate marketplace; and the media.
While the media is part of the corporate marketplace, we make it a separate vertex, since in this model we are constructing, its function is to report to the American people facts and information about all the other vertices. In addition each vertex provides information about itself: the media reports on the media, companies collecting market intelligence report on the Corporate Market place, and of course, branches of government periodically issue reports on themselves.
You must make an additional assumption about the institution at each vertex of the pentagon: each institution is corrupt beyond our Founding Fathers' dreams and expectations.
Let me qualify the "corruption" assumption. By saying that each institution is corrupt, we are not saying that every person working within the institutions is corrupt. Indeed, we might assume that the majority of people working in the institutions are good, hard-working, well-intention individuals who do good things for the American people.
But what is true is that many who work in these institutions are corrupt, as "Into the Buzzsaw" will show.
At the same time, many of the policies and procedures and laws governing the institutions, or those government or corporate bureaucrats who issue them on an ad hoc basis, are also corrupt, with no sense of humanity or respect for our Constitution.
The S&L scandals of the late 1980s and recent major corporate bankruptcies with 401(k) pension losses of employees along with a minimum of corporate prosecutions show the corruption of the Corporate and judicial vertices.
In the S&L scandal, President Reagan cut the staff of investigating agencies to levels equivalent to obstructing justice. Nevertheless, the FBI submitted more than 11,000 criminal referrals to the U.S. Justice Department. Of these, there were about 250 prosecutions and 50 convictions where the perpetrators received prison time. One example: Michael Milkin received two years in prison for manipulating billions of dollars, while a street junkie with a gram of crack - on a third conviction - can go to jail for life.
The corruption of the judicial system is its obvious injustice, perpetuating inequality before the law, and favoring the rich over the poor, cramming our prisons with the poor and minorities, making the Americans the most imprisoned people in the world.
Let me give you here two examples of executive corruption, one from the book.
The first is the Randy Weaver standoff that took place in 1992 (not mentioned in the book). For those who don't recall the incident, Weaver had been approached by the FBI to act as an informant by infiltrating a white supremacist group. Weaver declined, but he had sold them two sawed-off shotguns, whose barrels were a couple millimeters below the accepted length permitted by Federal law. So Weaver was charged with a Federal weapons violation and subpoenaed to appear in court for a preliminary hearing.
Weaver did not show up, so a group of federal marshals, dressed in black, surrounded his hill-top cabin one night, ostensibly to arrest him for failure-to-appear. When their dogs started barking, Weaver, his teenage son, and a friend who had joined them went out in the dark to find out what was going on, thinking a bear or other animal was approaching their dwelling. Instead, there was a shoot-out with the marshals, who ended up killing one of the dogs and shooting Weaver's son in the back, killing him. One of the marshals was also killed.
The next day FBI S.W.A.T. and sniper teams took over.
During the standoff, Dick Rogers and Larry Potts, two FBI officials in Washington, D.C., issued a directive that ordered any adult observed caring a weapon "should and can" be considered an object of "deadly force."
This kind of directive is rarely issued. Normally, rules of engagement are based on an actual threat level. Holding a weapon is one thing. Pointing a weapon at a law enforcement officer is another. In the former instance, deadly force would probably not be the first response, since law enforcement often uses negotiation teams in many of these instances.
In the latter case, the rule had been "threat elimination," which, of course, would probably be "deadly force." On the basis of this directive, Weaver was shot in the back, his friend in the forearm, and his wife, who was not carrying a weapon, was shot in the head with a bullet so powerful that is passed through her, killing her and her infant child, and a injuring a second child in the cabin. Rogers and Potts rescinded their directive after this incident. And Bo Greitz, a former Green Beret with ties to survivalist groups, negotiated an end to the standoff.
In this case, Rogers and Potts did not have the direct authority to change the rules of engagement to the extreme they did on an ad hoc basis. While the sniper who shot Weaver's wife was prosecuted, no bureaucrat in the Bureau was. But Weaver did win a civil suit, and was awarded $3.2 million.
The point I want to make is that we have no effective laws that will prosecute "official" law enforcement decision-makers for murder, and this fact extends from the Federal to the local level, where in recent years many innocent people have been killed by law enforcement authorities, ansd only a handful of cases have been brought before the courts. The American public is not protected from "accidental" use of deadly force from Executive power from the Federal to the local level. "Into the Buzzsaw" mentions a couple of these instances. One is so shocking, I'll leave it to the reader to find it.
The next item on executive corruption is mentioned in Buzzsaw. According to John Kelly, author of "Crimes and Silence: The CIA's Acts and the media's Silence," the CIA is "committing hundreds of serious crimes around the globe" each year.
A House Intelligence Committee staff study issued a report that says, "A safe estimate is that several hundred times a day (easily 100,000 times a year), DO (Directorate of Operations) engage in highly illegal activities." This is a staggering number. It shows that while our politicians talk about "law and order," in practice, they ignore the illegal acts of their government.
Americans are responsible for so much "sanctioned" crime around the world that the U.S. State Department should add the U.S. to its list of rogue states, and G.W. Bush should include it in his Axis of Evil. Certainly American must face the facts about its government's illegal activities.
Kelly cites several examples, and one worth mentioning here. In the context of CIA efforts to legitimatize illegal activities in the 1980s, CIA Director William Casey allegedly wanted to extend the right to assassinate individuals from foreign countries to the America. Denied, Kelly says, Casey himself conspired to assassinate Sheik Mohammed Fadlallah of Lebanon, the spokesman and spirtual leader of Hezbollah, who was trageted for assassination three times by pro-Iraqi forces in Beirut, where he lived. "No fewer than three death squads were formed to track him down. On March 8, 1985, a car packed with explosives detonated outside of Fadlallah's apartment building, killing 80 innocent people and wounded 200. Fadlallah was left unscathed. The CIA was not investigated or prosecuted," Kelly writes.
Given this event, Americans might want to examine their consciences and face the facts in light of 9/11. Eighty deaths might not come close to 3,000, but what law excludes America from its own terrorist culpability, especially when the number of such instances add up to many more than 3,000?
Of course, this is not the end of the story. For years, the CIA has tried to get legislative authority to deploy spies on American soil. Congress would never grant them this authority, although there existed ad hoc agreements between the Justice Department and the CIA, enhanced for this purpose over the years. (Gary Webb discusses this issue in his book, Dark Alliance. I'll return to Webb's case below.)
In 1996, the President's Intelligence Oversight Board conducted an investigation and found that "specific U.S. laws pertaining to the CIA were violated." The House Intelligence Committee wanted to arrest and prosecute "brutal CIA informants and other CIA offenders."
According to Kelly, "In response to the committee's concern, the Senate Intelligence Committee proposed a bill that would immunize CIA offenders who violate treaties and international agreements while following orders. This is the Nazi rationale, pure and simple. The bill passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on December 27, 2000."
The law is Section 308 of the 2001 Intelligence Authorization Act. You can read Section 308 of the law in Borjesson's book. The language of the act does not limit the CIA to activities beyond American territory.
In effect, in writing Section 308, the Senate Intelligence Committee gave the CIA what it had been fighting for for at least two decades and claimed on May 4, 2000, that "some laws do not apply to the CIA."
Indeed, with the passage of Section 308, the statement made by CIA General Counsel Stanley Sporkin's 1987 Congressional testimony, some laws "do not have application to the U.S. Government." In short, it is now codified in law that the Executive Branch of government is "above the law."
To me, this is sufficient to say that the Executive Branch of the American government is corrupt de jure, irrespective of any individual who may be working in the executive bureaucracy. And the situation has deteriorated since 9/11 with the emotional passage of the "Patriot Act" and the agitation for passage of enhancements of this and other legislative bills relating to law enforcement and "national security."
So here we have both legisative and Executive corruption. corporate, judicial, executive, and legislative corruption lead to media corruption which is probably the ultimate point of Borjesson's book.
We need to return to the analogy I'm trying to build, so for the moment, we will take it on faith that the corporate marketplace, the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, and the media are all corrupt in their own ways, all of which are leading our country down a path threatening Constitutional destruction. We'll return to the truth of this statement later, while noting that the basic facts are found directly or indirectly in Borjesson's book.
The lines between the vertices of our pentagonal illustration correspond to relationships between the institutions. And we can't forget to extend the diagonals between the media and the corporate marketplace and the executive branch, and between the legislative and judicial branches of government. Through these channels pass "official" information, which may be true, false, or ambiguous, permitting subjective interpretation.
We can start with a static pentagonal shape, i.e., the distance between the vertices are the same-if you draw it on a piece of paper, say two inches. Apply the appropriate mathematical formula to calculate the lengths of the diagonals, which cannot be the same as the distance between the vertices at our static starting point due to the nature of the geometry.
From a static pentagon, we want to move to a dynamic one. You have to imagine the distances between the vertices constantly changing at a fast pace. At one point in time, the distance between the media and the Executive Branch is four times the square root of 5, at another moment it might be three inches, and a following moment, one inch. This is the same for all the other distances between the vertices. In addition, the speed, rate of change, and volume of information change over time.
For simplicity's sake, my pentagonal architecture is a constant shape shifter, changing states on a daily basis. Logically, The distances between all the institutions - based on the mathematics of the model - can never be the same. And the volume of information is massive.
In fact, information is so massive that legisators cannot read all the bills they vote on. Executives make decisions based on uncertainty. False information easily penetrates judicial proceedings. Corporate spin omits critical facts. And it may take years for the media to get to the truth of a story, only to have it disappear down the black hole of institutional pressure.
The causes of the dynamism of the black hole information pentagon are at least two: the high volume of acts emanating from each vertex - e.g., hundreds of pieces of legislation from the Congress, or judicial lawsuits or decisions, or investigations undertaken by Time magazine or the Washington Post or all the other media organizations; the second cause for the dynamism of my pentagonal is the volume of "classified" or concealed information passing through its boundaries. In fact, imagine that the classified or "concealed" information is passing into a black hole and the boundaries constitute an event horizon. If you fall into the space surrounded by the boundaries, you simply disappear and the information disappears with you.
We can look at three examples not included in Borjesson's book, but which complements the information there, supporting our analogy. In the late 1980s investigative reporter Danny Casalaro was investigating the Inslaw case, which concerned computer software sold to the Justice Department in the early 1980s. One morning he was found dead in a Virginia motel, with all his notes and records missing. While the local coroner declared that the death was a suicide at a time when Casalaro's investigation led him there to a meeting with a government source, whatever is true, our analogy suggests that he fell into the Black Hole along with all his information.
In 1994, Congressman Stephen Schiff asked the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), the government's independent auditing bureau, to investigate the 1947 Roswell UFO incident. Irrespective of the facts relating to the UFO issue, what the GAO reported was that all information relating to the incident had been illegally destroyed, or in bureaucratese, "the document disposition form did not properly indicate the authority under which the disposal action was taken."
Schiff pressed the Air Force to investigate the matter. He also appeared twice on Larry King's CNN talk show. Ultimately, he contacted a deadly form of fast-acting skin cancer and died in 1998, nine months after the Air Force issued its "final" report, "The Roswell Report, Case Closed."
Meanwhile, along the edges of the event horizon, you need to imagine agents of the various vertices grabbing at the information that is flowing into the black hole, or shredding information and throwing scraps into it.
For example, in 1973 there was a fire at the military's National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). The NPRC fire ostensibly destroyed military records dating from November 1912 to January 1964. These are public facts. But we have no reason to accept the "public facts" as complete, since many records were classified, and would not be mentioned "for national security purposes." Thus, records of personnel who might have participated in illegal covert operations up to 1973 can be considered lost.
We know Oliver North shredded documents related to Iran Contra in the late 1980s.
Since we cannot trust the Executive Branch of government, we cannot accept up front that the last document that disappeared into the flames of the fire was dated 1964, excluding the greater part of information relating to the Vietnam War. Be this true, then a top secret group of falsely listed soldiers killed in action could be created to carry out covert tasks while providing "plausible deniability" to American bureaucracies.
Frank Dux talks about this in his book, "The Secret Man," mentioned below.
Those on our analogy's event horizon who succeed in grabbing the information may be archiving it for the history of the bureaucracy or media organization they represent. If the media gets its hand on it, it may be used in an ongoing investigative report, though at we shall see below, the report may never see the light of day or modified such that what was true in one draft of the report become a lie in the final, published draft.
We now come Borjesson's book, "Into the Buzzsaw," which in this review becomes "into the black hole," describes how journalists and/or their stories or both end up falling into the black hole, due to the corruption of the vertices, each of which are corrupt in their own way. Some stories never reach the public due to pressure from one or another branch of government or corporate power.
If it happens that a story reaches the public, editors or producers, when pressured by one or another of the power vertices sensitive to the truth of the stories, retract the story, issue an apology, and fire the journalists. This creates a climate within the reporter corps to self-censorship or to accept editorial modifications that ultimately change the concept and truth of the story. To add facts to our model, we can now turn to facts discussed in Borjesson's Book.
The first Chapter of "Into the Buzzsaw" written by Gerard Colby, entitled "The Price of Liberty," describes how books become suppressed in various ways. Colby writes in his first paragraph, "In the thirty years I have been a freelance investigative journalist, I've seen books suppressed in varying ways, sometimes by the subjects of the books, sometimes by publishers, and sometimes by authors succumbing to self-censorship out of fear of repercussions for telling the truth. In the 1970s, a new term came into the vernacular of industry-wise writers: privishing."
Colby adds, "Privishing is a portmanteau meaning to privately publish, as opposed to true publishing that is open to the public. It is usually employed in the following context: 'We privished the book so that it sank without a trace.'" The publisher's purpose is to kill off the book for some reason. This results in cutting off "the book's life-support system." Sometimes the entire printing is withdrawn from all distributors. Publishers refuse to do reprints, slash advertising budgets, cancel promotional tours, and even burn all remaining copies.
Colby tells the story of his first book, "DuPont: Behind the Nylon Curtain." The DuPont's - who he says supported the Nazi movement in Germany in the '20s and '30s, violated wartime trading-with-the-enemy restrictions, and allegedly were part of a conspiracy to institute a coup d'etat against FDR using General Smedley Butler as the front man - did everything possible to try to stop the book after they got a preview. Read Colby's story in "Buzzsaw<".
But I'll mention one Laurel-and-Hardy fact: apparently at one point, DuPont allegedly hired a U-Haul truck to visit a high-volume book shop and purchase every copy on the shelves. The book fell into the black hole. Unfortunately, Colby is not the only writer to suffer this kind of fate.
There are probably hundreds of authors who have experienced the same treatment in the last 20 years. But two more are worth mentioning.
Between 1975 and 1980 Frank Dux was the world heavyweight kumite champion. His rise in the kumite world became the subject of a movie, Bloodsport, where Claude van Damme plays Dux. In the early 1980s, Casey, Director of the CIA, surreptitiously contacted Dux and, appealing to his patriotism, asked Dux to serve as a contract agent, reporting solely to Casey.
As far as one can tell from a reading of the book, only Casey and Dux knew of the relationship. In short, Dux became a hit-man for Casey. Dux was sworn to silence. But in the early 1990's, doctors told him he had a terminal brain tumor. Dux thought about it, and, thinking he was going to die, he wrote the book, "The Secret Man: An American Warrior's Uncensored Story." In it, he describes chasing one "rogue agent" along with a number of other extra-legal assignments he got from Casey.
The book is a complete, horrific story in itself. All readers on Amazon.com give it a five-star rating. Yet it is nearly impossible to get the book, originally published by Regan/Harper Collins in 1996. The 316-page book originally cost $24.00. Private sellers are now offering "new, original" first-and-onlyeditions for $132.00. Once on the shelves of our local library, it disappeared. They say it is now and has been for several months, "at the binders for repair."
Harper Collins won't answer questions about the book, except to say that there are no plans to reprint it. The good news is that Frank Dux didn't die, and he has somewhat of a following, which you can check out on the net.
Another book worth mentioning is J.H. Hatfield's "Fortunate Son." Hatfield was a Texas freelance journalist who contributed to a number of publications in Texas. He also wrote a biography of "Star Trek" star Patrick Stewart. "Fortunate Son" recounts the early, reprobate life of George W. Bush, including an alleged 1972 arrest for cocaine possession. Bush's early business failures and bailouts are also described.
Published during the 2000 presidential campaign, the Bush team did everything it could to have the book withdrawn. Just before the book came out, he and his family's lives were threatened. Ultimately, the first edition publisher, St. Martin's Press, withdrew all copies from distributors and burned them.
Hatfield fortunately kept the rights to further publication, but he died in 2001. His death, of course, was ruled a suicide. But he didn't pass away before enabling an independent publisher, Soft Skull Press, the right to publish the book, which is now in its third printing.
Luckily, Fortunate Son bounced off the event horizon and found some sunlight.
Chapter 2. "The Fox, the Hounds, and the Sacred Cows," by Jane Akre, tells the story she and her husband, Steve Wilson, experienced as they investigated the use of a Monsanto growth hormone drug, rBGH. It's a long story that everyone should read about how corporations, lawyers, and editors tried to get the reporters to lie. But they honorably held on to their ethics, after discovering first, that the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug after only 90 days, and tests on 30 rats; and second, the drug has deleterious physical effects on the injected cows.
A side story is how problems for the reporters started after Fox bought the station, WTVT in Tampa. Ultimately, the reporters refused to accommodate Monsanto, which allegedly put increasing legal pressure on the station to change critical facts. The reporters were fired. They sued the station and finally won $425,000. Meanwhile, we still don't know what the long-term effects are of those who drink milk from cows injected with the drug.
Akre's experience was similar to April Oliver's and her colleagues, described in Chapter 10, "A Dream Job." Oliver, a CNN producer/reporter with wide experience in her own right, worked with Jack Smith, who had been CBS's Washington Bureau Chief from 1981 to 1987, when he moved to CNN.
CNN management encouraged the pair's ongoing investigation of Operation Tailwind, a report that during the Vietnam War the U.S. used nerve gas (sarin) on a raid to kill defectors in Laos. Well-known war correspondent Peter Arnett joined the project later. The result was a joint Time Magazine/CNN report on the incident in June 1998.
CNN retracted the story a month later and fired the producers. Oiver describes the pressure the Pentagon, Henry Kissinger and other put on CNN, whose executives from Ted Turner to Walter Isaacson, eventually bowed to a cross-section of high-level political and military figures.
In defense of their position, Oliver and Smith produced a taped interview with Admiral Thomas Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff.
"I did not authorize the use of sarin gas by U.S. military forces during Operation Tailwind in Laos in September 1970. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, I had no documents, operational orders, after-action reports or knowledge of the use of sarin. However, later in general discussions I learned of the operation, including verbal statements indicating the use of sarin on the Tailwind mission," Moorer said.
What's interesting is there are independent reports since Tailwind of up to 2000 uses of sarin gas in Vietnam on the Internet.
I can report here that, after Tailwind broke and Oliver and her team were fired, I pursued a personal investigation and eventually wrote an article, "Broken Winds of Accountability: The Tailwind Cover-up," published in the Los Angeles newspaper, Change-Links, and online on a site Hank Roth manages. In preparation for this article, I interviewed April Oliver.
We spent several minutes establishing exactly what Admiral Moorer said, as well as a fax he received from the Pentagon after the story broke, admonishing him to modify his statement. Eventually I found the after-action report of Operation Tailwind. The report does not mention gas, but speaks of "hundreds of bodies of the enemy" and the necessity to "move the pickup site."
This report did not contradict the conclusions made by Oliver and her team. In fact, to my mind, it provided circumstantial evidence that their report was accurate, as I so concluded in my article. I added that we cannot blame the soldiers involved in the operation, but we can blame the politicians and special ops bureaucrats who made the decision to proceed with the operation. The men were in a bad spot, so something had to be done. There is a high probability that sarin gas was called in to save American lives.
The Tailwind story led to a belated political and military cover-up operation, keeping from the public a truth that was part of a war that was dishonorable in its essence and harmful to an entire generation of Americans. Unfortunately, with CNN's apology and retraction - allegedly to keep their military analysts happy - the story faded from the short attention span of Americans and the journalist corps, who may have concluded that discretion is the better part of valor.
The Tailwind story is similar to J. Robert Port's, "The Story No One Wanted to Hear." Port, a distinguished journalist, tells of a Korean War massacre committed by American soldiers at No Gun Ri. Being the editor of an AP Special Assignment team, Port's report was prepared for AP's New York's office. Here again the managing editors wanted to spike it after Port declined to edit out facts pertaining to American military men gunning down defenseless villagers.
Instead, Port says he was taken off the story and made a "systems editor" in charge of computerized editing terminals in the New York office. He resigned a month later. Interestingly enough, after being processed by a team of editors, the story was published, and it won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. But AP abolished its New York Special Assignment team. And Port received no recognition for his work. Part of the eyewitness story it was based on was recanted by the witness after AP won the Pulitzer..
I can't recalling an anecdote found in Borjesson's own contribution to "Buzzsaw," appropriately called "Into the Buzzsaw."
She relates the investigation into the fate of TWA Flight 800. The government's conclusion is that the explosion that brought down TWA Flight 800 was due to sparks coming into contact with fuel fumes in the central fuel tank. No one who witnessed the event accepts this explanation, which is also contradicted by other evidence. There is significant technical and independent evidence that a missile fired from a naval ship on maneuvers in the immediate area brought the plane down. You can read Borjesson's piece for further information on this explanation, which she carefully and reasonably lays out in a way that is hard to refute, despite the government's conclusion.
Borjesson describes an incident on Nov. 8, 1996, a few months after the tragedy, when for Kennedy press secretary Pierre Salinger announced in Paris that he'd received documents from French intelligence saying an American missile had shot down the jetliner. The same day, FBI's Jim Kallstrom, the Special Agent in Charge of the investigation, called a press conference to refute Salinger's allegations.
After opening remarks, Kallstrom took questions. At this point the missile theory was still viable, so the Navy was, in a word, an "institution of interest" or suspect. So the first question asked was, "Why was the Navy involved in the recovery and investigation while still a possible suspect?"
Kallstrom yelled, "Remove him!" Two men leaped at the questioner, grabbed him and dragged him out of the room. Those familiar with Jim Kallstrom, who is now retired, know that if you take away his badge, his organizational authority, and any muscled backup, he can come across as a wimp.
But his behavior, and that of other misplaced bureaucrats within government organizations, demonstrated the corruption thesis advocated throughout this review: certain individuals in positions of authority lack the collegial, civilized ability to deal with reasonable people reasonably doing their jobs. The corruption is manifested by unnecessary resort to violence, in this case, when a perfectly reasonable question is asked.
Civilization is based not on the advance of technology and complex organizations for the application of violence. It is the emergence of a consciousness directed toward ways of solving problems by avoiding violence. Unfortunately, in America, some of our institutions and the folks with authority inside them - and our culture - have not quite grasped this point.
Gary Webb's and Michael Levine's pieces have to do with the "War on Drugs." Webb was a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist while working for the San Jose Mercury News. His series dealt with how the CIA allegedly worked with President Ronald Reagan's Nicaraguan "Contras" to introduce crack cocaine in Los Angeles, as part of plot to use the profits from the sale of the drugs to finance the Contra insurgets against the Sandinista regime in the early 1980s.
You can read Webb's chapter in "Buzzsaw" for the details. What I want to do here is describe how he got involved with the story, in an incident of judicial corruption described in his book, Dark Alliance, an extension of his Mercury News series identifying CIA crimes on American soil before they wwere legally permitted to do so when Clinton signed the Intelligence Authorization Action at the end of 2000, as noted earlier in this review.
According to Webb, in July 1995 he got a pink message slip bearing an unfamiliar name: Coral Marie Talavera Baca. There was no message, just a number, which he called, but there was no answer. Several days later, an identical slip appeared on his desk. This time Coral Marie was home when he called.
Coral Marie started by saying she had read a story about California drug seizure laws Webb had published some weeks earlier. "I thought you did a good job," she said.
After a few more minutes of exchanging pleasantries, she got to the point. Her boyfriend was in trouble. "What the government has done to him is unbelievable."
"Your boyfriend," Webb repeated.
"He's in prison right now on cocaine trafficking charges. He's been in jail for three years."
"How much more time does he got?"
"Well, that's just it," she said. "He's never been brought to trial. He's done three years already, and he's never been convicted of anything."
"He must have waived his speedy trial rights," Webb pointed out.
"No, none of them have," Coral Marie said. "There are about five or six guys who were indicted with him, and most of them are still waiting to be tried, too. They want to go to trial because they think it's a bullsh-t case. Rafael keeps writing letters to the judge and the prosecutor, saying, you know, try me or let me go."
Rafael Corņejo had been arrested on drug charges and under the asset forfeiture program, all his property, cars, houses, businesses, and bank accounts had been seized, leaving him with no money to hire a lawyer. He was stuck with a court appointed lawyer, who, paid by the hour, didn't seem to care how long the case took. Coral Marie also reported that one of the government's witnesses is "a guy who used to work with the CIA selling drugs." In addition, to ensuring he would not be eligible for bail, the Assistant U.S. Attorney, David Hall, framed him by blackmailing another inmate into testifying that Rafael was planning to escape.
So here we have a judge and a lawyer who fail to entertain a motion of a writ of habeas corpus or a bail hearing and a scam on the part of the prosecutor to frame the accused to ensure he stays in jail. In fact, it was all part of a bureaucratic plot, Webb says. The escape charges were ultimately thrown out on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct, and U.S. Attorney Hall was referred to the Justice Department for investigation, where it was discovered that it was not the first time he had been under such scrutiny. Prior to his position in San Francisco, he had served with the Dept. of Justice in Texas, where he was investigated by the Office of Professional Responsibility, which ultimately concluded that those pending charges were "without merit" - another case of an institution investigating one of its own.
All this did not help Rafael Cornejo. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison for cocaine trafficking. Meanwhile, others with ties to the CIA engaged in the same criminal activity were not prosecuted and served no time, as Webb's book shows. There's much more about the corruption of the judicial system in Webb's writings, which are well worth reading.
My last topic is the media's role in perpetuating the corruption described above. The media's grasp for information extends to all the other four vertices of the black hole analogy I created. Here, I'll limit the discussion to the media's relationship the Executive Branch of government and its basis failure to serve the American people as the Founding Fathers had anticipated.
The article in Borjesson's book which covers this issue is, "Mainstream Media: The Drug War's Shills," by Michael Levine. Levine served in the DEA for 25 years, much of his work undercover. Now retired, he currently hosts the popular "Expert Witness" radio program on WBAI in New York.
Levine starts with the sentence, "Everything you need to know about mainstream media's vital role in perpetuating our nation's three-decade, trillion-dollar War on Drugs - despite overwhelming evidence that it is a fraud - you can learn by watching a three-card monte operation."
"Three-card monte is a con game where the dealer lays out three card on a table, shows you that one of them is the queen of spades, or some other card, turns them over and shuffles them quickly. The guy before you won a couple of games, so you're sure you know where the queen is, so you bet your money. You think, 'If that dopey-looking guy can win, so can you.' But incredibly you've guessed wrong. You lost. You've been taken for a sucker."
The suckers in three-card monte cannot possibly win, though they're ready to lay down their money as fast as the dealer can get to them. Why? Because what they don't know is that the winning, dopey-looking guy before them is a shill. Simply put, shills are con men and women who entice suckers into playing the phony game by putting on a show intended to convince those watching that the game is honest and, if you keep playing long enough, you can actually win.
According to Levine, the "media's success as shills is unparalleled in the history of scams, con jobs, and rip-offs and can best be measured by how effectively they continue to sell us a fraud so obvious and so impossible to win that is makes South Bronx gold mine certificates look like a conservative investment."
Levine proceeds to provide "some of the true history that, thanks to excellent shilling," most of us are unaware of. When President Nixon first declared war on drugs in 1971 there were fewer than half a million hard-cord addicts in the country, and the total drug budget was less than $100 million. Three decades later, despite $1 trillion in expenditures, the number of hard-core addicts is close to exceeding 5,000,000. Before, hard-core addicts were limited to the big cities - New York, Chicago, Los Angeles. Now the problem covers the map.
Levine writes that "Currently, 55 federal and military agencies (that we know of) are involved in federal drug enforcement alone (not counting state and local agencies), while U.S. military troops are invading South and Central American nations under the banner of the 'drug war'."
Mainstream media, as they did during the Vietnam War, shill us by means of an incessant flow of fill-in-the-blanks bullsh-t "victory" stories, into believing the drug-war-monte is a real war our leaders intend to win, he says.
"Media shills, which now include Hollywood and 'entertainment' television and the publishing industry, are continuously conning us into believing that if - in a fit of sanity - we really tried to end the costly fraud, some unspeakable horror would occur, like Mexican and Colombian drug dealers" invading our insufficiently protected borders to "force-feed" our kids cocaine and heroin.
"Unless, of course, our kids, 'Just Say No,' as Nancy Reagan's billion-dollar boondoggle taught them," he continues.
"And when the mainstream media hasn't been directly shilling us into supporting drug-war monte ... they have helped perpetuate it via their censorship, or conscious omission of scandalous events that-had they been reported with the fervor the Washington Post showed during the Watergate era-could have brought the whole deadly and costly charade crumbling to the ground three decades ago. I know this first hand because I personally participated in some of the most significant scandalous events either as a federal agent, and/or court-qualified expert witness, and/or journalist."
Levine proceeds to tell a set of lively and dangerous stories of undercover set-ups and scams designed to capture the "big fish" running smuggling operations from Vietnam and Thailand to Mexico and Colombia, including the swamps of Florida. In several instances, his life was on the line. And in most instances the details, interagency plans were sabotaged in one way or another by our own bureaucracy, be it DEA, DIA or military complicity.
Levine describes how massive amounts of heroin were being smuggled into the United States in the bodies and body bags of GIs killed in Vietnam. "We could not avoid witnessing the CIA protecting major drug dealers," he says. And he describes how the CIA-owned airlines, like Air America; set up banking operations to launder money; and smuggled drugs directly into the country by such techniques as using Panamanian diplomatic pouches to transport the goods.
Levine admits, "Those of us on the inside, who were aware of the glaring inconsistencies between drug-war policies as reported through the mainstream mass media and what was really going on, were afraid to go to either Congress or the media for help."
Levine moves on to tell us about the 1980 Bolivian coup led by CIA-recruited mercenaries and drug traffickers against a democratically elected President, Lidia Gueiler. According to Levine, "On July 17, 1980, for the first time in history, drug traffickers actually took control of a nation.
"It was not just any nation: it was Bolivia, at the time the source of virtually 100 percent of the cocaine entering the United States...The drug traffickers also took the opportunity to eliminate their competitors along with all suspected DEA informants so they could consolidate raw materials and production to meet the U.S.'s skyrocketing demand for cocaine."
Levine calls this a "day of infamy," due to the long-term damage the coup ultimately caused our nation.
"What America was never told," Levine says, "despite mainstream media having the information as well as a prime, inside source who was ready to go public with the story-was that the coup was carried out with the aid and participation of Central Intelligence. The source could also testify and prove that, to carry out the coup, the CIA along with the State and Justice departments had to combine forces to protect their drug-dealing assets by destroying a DEA investigation-U.S. v. Roberto Suarez, et al. How do I know? I was that inside source...I learned the Three Days of the Condor lesson well: [the media] most definitely would not print the story."
Levine wrote two books based on his DEA experiences: "White Lies" and "Deep Cover," the latter making the New York Times Best-Seller list "despite being virtually ignored by mainstream media and Congress."
Levine's piece in "Buzzsaw" contains a lot of information on the interaction between the various agencies involved with the "War on Drug" and, his main complaint, that mainstream media has many of the facts, but won't publicize them. My personal theory is that retired and/or active intelligence personnel penetrate key media posts, serving as choke points for their handlers, thereby controlling the spins on how the news is reported.
In the closing essay, Robert McChesney, author of seven books and a research professor at the Institute of Communications Research of the U. of Illinois, summarizes the "devastating account of the assault on democratic journalism that is taking place in the United States today." In his essay, "The Rise and Fall of Professional Journalism, " he cites a number of journalistic "biases" for the state of corrupt decline.
One bias, he says, is that journalists regard "anything done by official sources, for example government officials and prominent public figures, as the basis for legitimate news... . This reliance upon official sources gave those in power to set the news agenda by what the spoke about and what they kept quiet about. It gave the news a very establishment and mainstream feel."
A second bias is that journalists "tended to downplay or eliminate the presentation of a range of informed positions on controversial issues. Instead journalism produced the range of elite opinion on those issues the elite were debating. This produces a paradox: Journalism, which, in theory, should inspire political involvement, tends to strip politics of meaning and promote a broad depoliticization."
Thirdly, "by providing slick press releases, paid-for "experts," neutral-sounding but bogus citizens' groups, and canned news events, crafty PR agents have been able to shape the news to suit the interests of their mostly corporate clientele."
Here I can only add that the branches of government have their own "crafty PR agents" who spew out press releases whose truth or falsity cannot be taken for granted, but must be validated by secondary sources. The trouble is, few journalists do it.
The most investigated story since Woodward and Bernstein took on Watergate in the early 1970s has been the government Whitewater investigation, which led nowhere, except to a Senate not-guilty verdict of a president impeached as a result of a politically motivated sex scanda. Meanwhile. many other important stories fell by the wayside.
Finally, McChesney says that fourth bias of professional journalism is "more subtle but most important: far from being politically neutral, it smuggles in values conducive to the commercial aims of the owners and advertisers as well as the political aims of the owning class."
This bias is even more critical as the media becomes more consolidated. According to McChesney, "The general rule in professional journalism is this: If the elite, the upper 2 or 3 percent of society who control most of the capital and rule the largest institutions, agree on an issue then it is off-limits to journalistic scrutiny. Hence, (for example), the professional news media invariably take it as a given that the United States has a right to invade any country it wishes for whatever reason is may have... ."
Similarly, U.S. professional journalists equates the spread of "free markets" with the spread of democracy, although empirical data shows this is nonsensical. To the U.S. elite, however, democracy tends to be defined by their ability to maximize profit in a nation, and that is, in effect, the standard of professional journalism.
"In sum, on issues such as these, U.S. professional journalists, even at its best, serves a propaganda function similar to the role Pravda or Izvestia in the old U.S.SR," McChesney says.
I couldn't have said it better. Read this the book to understand twisted news and the black hole into which the truth flows. And remember: Without access to the truth, democracy dies.
American Reporter Correspondent Charles J. Reid, the former editor of the AR Book Review, is a freelance and technical writer living in Santa Cruz.