Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mainstream Media Ignore Hersh’s Shocking Reports on Benghazi, Syria Atrocities

This as the "mainstream media" resurrects once more the Mighty Uncle Kim for the fourth time in as many months in a desperate attempt to distract from Obama's Benghazigate, IRSGate, NSAGate, CIAGate and the continuing, devastating Snowden revelations

By Andrew Kreig

The major U.S. media have ignored for the most part Seymour Hersh’s blockbuster column April 4 reporting the Obama administration's deceptive accounts of notorious killings in Benghazi and Syria.

Seymour Hersh
Several major U.S. outlets reportedly declined to publish his column The Red Line and the Rat Line. 

That is their right, of course, and he proceeded to publish his source-based allegations in the London Review of Books.

But at some point, failure to raise questions to authorities and publish criticism smacks of a cowardly self-censorship, not mere fact-checking.

I have monitored reaction to his revelations in part because I reported similar findings in my fall 2013 book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters and on the Justice Integrity Project site seven months ago.

One of Hersh's most explosive claims is that Turkey, a NATO member and U.S. ally in the fight to overthrow Syria's government, helped plan a sarin gas attack Aug. 21 that reportedly caused more than a thousand deaths in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.

Obama, CIA poodle Erdogan neck-deep in Syria gassings
The deaths, a war crime if proven, nearly prompted a massive U.S. bombing attack on the grounds that Syria's government had crossed a "red line" set by President Obama against use of chemical weapons.

The silent treatment helps authorities foster secret military actions worldwide for regime changes that arguably violate international law.

Reasonable people can differ on what constitutes adequate sourcing to publish claims even by such a noted reporter as Hersh, especially if his sources are anonymous. Hersh said in an interview with Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman that he respects a decision by the Washington Post not to publish his report that Turkey was behind the sarin attack. He is shown in a screenshot from a Democracy Now! video.

But if an iconic reporter like him cannot get his findings published in a major outlet in his home country or otherwise make a significant impact, who can?

Obama responsible for Benghazi deaths
Hersh cited anonymous sources, as I did in Puppetry, to describe how the infamous Benghazi attack in 2012 grew out of covert U.S. arms smuggling organized by the CIA from Libya via Turkey to NATO-supported rebels in Syria.

The smuggling violated official statements that the United States was providing merely non-lethal aid to rebels.

Hersh named the smuggling route through Turkey "The Rat Line" in his column. My book described the arms and fighter smuggling as being under the command of CIA Director David Petraeus in 2012, whose role has long been obscured by both major political parties and an increasingly timid corporate-controlled media.

On April 4, Hersh also reported that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey, led a joint chiefs effort to dissuade President Obama from undertaking a bombing campaign against Syria beginning Sept. 2 as reprisal for crossing the president's "red line" with sarin gas attacks two weeks previous.

Hersh reported the evidence of Syrian complicity was too disputed for easy answers, and so the president needed to obtain congressional approval at the minimum.

Hersh’s report thus amplified his column Whose Sarin? published by the London Review of Books Dec. 8.

Those findings by Hersh are congruent with those I made Sept. 3 in a report here on the Justice Integrity Project site about Dempsey's role. My report was based primarily on anonymous sourcing. So was an independent report Sept. 1 by former Navy intelligence analyst Wayne Madsen, who broke the story two days before me.

The mainstream media did not report these matters to my knowledge.

Instead, they misled the public by portraying a White House and Pentagon unified in decision-making, albeit with bomb planning that shifted from a presidentially ordered bombing attack to a bombing plan requiring congressional approval.

In The Red Line and the Rat Line, Hersh described the tense White House internal debates late last summer in much more detail. He confirmed that Dempsey played a key role in persuading Obama to seek congressional approval for any attack.

Support for an attack failed to materialize in Congress. Russia proposed a face-saving plan whereby Syria would destroy its chemical weapons and avoid allied bombing.

The White House photo at left shows President Obama and his top national security advisors on Aug. 30. It illustrates the seemingly united front at the White House as authorities described Syria's guilt in the sarin attacks, and White House determination to bomb Syria in reprisal.  

My column today summarizes Hersh's findings and interprets the implications. The gist is that the news blackout symbolizes the continued erosion of the media's willingness to report government operations -- aside from obedient stenography of misleading government announcements.

The Justice Integrity Project has frequently reported this dire trend, especially regarding the crackdowns by authorities on government employees who communicate with the media without approval. The Hersh experience is a case study on how the problems get worse the more important the story.

Seymour Hersh

Seymour "Sy" Hersh broke the story of the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War. He has won a Pulitzer and five Polk awards. For more than two decades, he has been a frequent contributor to the New Yorker on national security issues. A self-described freelancer, he is the most honored of all such investigative reporters in the English-speaking world and is widely respected for his independence.

My Lai massacre
His office for years until recently was in the same office building on Connecticut Avenue where I used to work in Washington, DC. After chance encounters in the building I invited him for a couple of extended discussions about pressures on journalists. That was the topic in 1987 of my first book, Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America's Oldest Newspaper.

As regular readers here know, this site has focused increasingly on the timid coverage that mainstream news organizations are providing on major issues covering the full range of public policy, especially on intelligence, war, and police matters. Hersh holds a rare position in being able to overcome those obstacles.

Thus I looked him up this fall when he was reported to have questioned conventional wisdom regarding Benghazi in a way seemingly congruent with my findings reported in Puppetry. Seymour Hersh Attacks Obama, Fellow DC Journalists was my report, and I dropped off a courtesy copy of my book. He told me he rarely does interviews or speeches except when he is about to publish a book, which he plans to do this summer.

His ambivalence on those promotional issues make his revelations all the more important for the rest of us to study.

Obama with CIA puppet Erdogan
In Hersh's Red Line column this month, he quotes a former senior U.S. intelligence officer as saying of the sarin attack, "We now know it was a covert action planned by [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan's people to push Obama over the red line." Hersh also exposed in his column what the CIA calls "the rat line," the supply route for the Syrian rebels that the CIA has overseen in secret cooperation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The information reputedly comes from a secret part of the report by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on the attack by Libyans on the U.S. consulate annex in Benghazi Sept. 11, 2012 in which U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed along with three other men.

Freelancer Brad Hoff, a Marine from 2000 to 2004 at Headquarters Battalion at Quantico, summarized Hersh's recent disclosures on Syria as follows. Hoff lived, studied, and traveled throughout Syria off and on from 2004 to 2010 following his military service.

His column, Media Blackout over Syria, states, "Hersh’s newest investigative findings are going unacknowledged in mainstream US media." Hoff listed 11 major points (excerpted below). The first was "Obama’s push for attack on Syria was halted last minute when evidence that the Syrian government had nothing to do with the August 21 chemical attack became too overwhelming."

Saudi Prince "Chemical" Bandar involved in CIA/FSA gassings
Consortium News founder Robert Parry assessed the importance of Hersh's report in Was Turkey Behind Syrian Sarin Attack? Parry is especially well-qualified to make such judgments after taking the lead role in breaking the Iran-Contra arms smuggling scandal in the 1980s while he worked for the Associated Press and Newsweek.

"The significance of Hersh's latest report is twofold," Parry wrote. "First, it shows how Official Washington's hawks and neocons almost stampeded the United States into another Mideast war under false pretenses, and second, the story's publication in the London Review of Books reveals how hostile the mainstream U.S. media remains toward information that doesn't comport with its neocon-dominated conventional wisdom."

Powell giving now infamous UN Iraq WMD speech
"In other words," Parry continued, "it appears that Official Washington and its mainstream press have absorbed few lessons from the disastrous Iraq War, which was launched in 2003 under the false claim that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was planning to share hidden stockpiles of WMD with al-Qaeda, when there was no WMD nor any association between Hussein and al-Qaeda." Passing up Hersh’s column, according to news reports, were the New Yorker, Washington Post and New York Times. Hersh had won a Pulitzer at the Times for exposing the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War.

Congressman Frank Wolf, a senior Republican representing Northern Virginia, is among others facing difficulty raising some of these issues. Wolf has tried with scant success to raise media attention regarding his suspicion that the Obama administration and the CIA were running an arms smuggling program from Benghazi to Syria via Turkey.

Congressman Frank Wolf
Wolf, even more than Hersh, would seem an unlikely Washingtonian to face the silent treatment. Elected in 1980 with Ronald Reagan leading their GOP ticket, Wolf represents the 10th Congressional district that includes the CIA’s headquarters.

Also, Wolf chairs the House Appropriations Justice, Science and Technology Subcommittee during a period when his House colleagues continue, as they did during the 2012 Presidential campaign, to make the Benghazi killings a central attack point against the Obama presidency. 

But his questions, like Hersh’s reporting and my book, do not neatly play out in traditional Republican vs. Democrat politics, and so are ignored for the most part.

In sum, these developments illustrate how government and the media are increasingly dominated by what I call their “masters” who keep a low profile in the private sector.


Major media mostly gave Hersh the silent treatment, as noted here. Those relatively few high-profile critics who commented attacked him for publishing such an important story based on anonymous sources.

Pretty face, empty head - The Beast's Kirsten Powers
In Seymour Hersh Gasses Turkey, the Daily Beast quoted pro-intervention analysts and anonymous government officials as disputing Hersh.

But the Daily Beast, a glitzy, celebrity-focused founded by the now-departed Tina Brown, is an apologist for the UK-US foreign policy establishment. Its criticism of Hersh relies on the unsupported opinion of pro-government advocates, some anonymous. 

Hersh was subjected also to derogatory commentaries on various discussion groups, such as the TerraList thread "Why Doesn't New Yorker Publish Seymour Hersh Anymore?"

Much of that criticism was misplaced. Neither Hersh nor anyone else can readily quote on-the-record sources and documents without subjecting sources to job or criminal reprisals. Mainstream publications increasingly fail to identify top government spokespeople who making official messages. Most leading news organizations cooperate -- not always but all too frequently -- by keeping officials anonymous when they spin reporters on sensitive matters, thereby preventing accountability if the officials are wrong.

Furthermore, most major news and publishing companies have employees who are highly sympathetic to their official contacts, thereby posing a risk to sources that is not entirely theoretical.

Under such circumstances, it is preposterous for some critics to suggest that work of such established journalists as Hersh should not even be mentioned because the sources are not more verifiable.

Under the Obama administration especially, government security experts risk indictment as spies if they help a reporter as a source. Among those charged with such spy charges in an unprecedented crackdown have been Jeffrey Sterling, Thomas Drake, Stephen Kim, and John Kiriakou. Sources run extreme risk of arrest and punishment because of the advanced detection methods now possible from NSA surveillance and retention of essentially all electronic communications of Americans with the cooperation of private sector companies.

An Even Bigger Picture

In Presidential Puppetry, I asked readers to reflect on where they would go if they thought they had important, secret information about a major news story. Congress? Somewhere in the press?

I suggested that it is not as easy to find an outlet as one might think even if -- or especially if -- the information is important.

As noted above, Hersh published his findings April 4 in the London Review of Books. It is a well-regarded publication but has a circulation of just 59,000 and little ripple effect in the United States.

Roughly at the same time, on April 2, the Associated Press distributed a major investigative story published in the Washington Post under the headline, U.S. secretly created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest on communist island. The long investigative report by Alberto Arce, Desmond Butler and Jack Gillum show how the social network was meant to be a tool to organize demonstrations that might trigger a Cuban Spring.

It's revealing to compare follow up treatment of the the AP and Hersh stories. The commitment by the nation's largest news organization, AP, meant that the story would be carried widely by member news organizations, particularly the relatively few that still have a strong commitment to international news.

Colonel Lolo Soetoro with Stanley Ann Dunham, Obama
Yet even in this instance, the elite media (largely concentrated in Washington and New York City) timidly avoided mentioning facts that would have underscored major implications of the secret U.S. government effort to use social media and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in a botched and expensive effort to overthrow another government.

For one thing, the government plot illustrated why governments in many parts of the world increasingly distrust U.S.-control of the Internet and funding of "democracy-building" initiatives in nation's whose leaders might be thrown out by similar U.S. intelligence operations. Also, the AP story failed to note that President Obama's mother had worked in the 1960s following a coup in Indonesia for precisely the same government contractor, Development Alternatives, Inc., identified by AP in the Cuba story. In the CIA-orchestrated coup, whose history we now know from declassified documents and books, Indonesia's founding president Sukarno (1949 to 1966) was overthrown in favor of a pro-West leader, Suharto.

That factoid becomes even more interesting when one learns, as first Madsen and then I have documented, that President Obama's first job out of college was with Business International Corp., a CIA front company. Business International had been involved in a CIA-orchestrated coup against Australia's left-leaning prime minister, Gough Whitlam in the mid-1975 to install a pro-CIA leader.

Stanley Ann Dunham with son Obama
Presidential Puppetry lays out the details in a century of history, documented with more than 1,100 endnotes. True, all of that may be subject to rationales or even revision upon further analysis.

But my larger point is that very few have any incentive to do so even though the nation has vast numbers of quasi-academic think tanks and actual universities that are supposed to be undertaking such work, in theory, after investigative reporters break the story. 

However there is clearly little money or other career incentive for such study, and the public loses out.

During recent weeks, we have been publishing numerous columns reporting the apathy if not cowardice of most in the mainstream media on vital issues. This overview would not be complete without noting that the CIA issued a $600 million contract last year to to handle its advanced computing needs. is the source of the fortune of the Washington Post's new owner, Jeffrey Bezos.

Defenders of the arrangement note that and the Post are separate companies, and that intelligence agencies have often worked closely with the Post and other major media. Frank Wisner, the CIA's propaganda chief during the 1950s and early 1960s, had weekly dinners with Post owners Philip and Katherine Graham. Insiders have described how Wisner coined the phrase "A Mighty Wurlitzer" to describe for fellow insiders on a confidential basis the spy agency's ability to generate major news stories on topics of its choice, and stifle others.

Sharyl Attkisson
As a new development, CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson announced on Fox News her resignation from the network in March after two decades in journalism. 

She described "unprecedented" restrictions that journalists face under the Obama administration.

Full details of her dispute are not public.

Her comments suggest, however, that her differences involve timid treatment by the media of powerful news subjects, as reflected in such decisions as assignments, sourcing, editing and air-time. She is hardly the first to have such disputes. Edward R. Morrow and Dan Rather were among of her prominent predecessors forced out from CBS.

Yet academic studies and anecdotal evidence suggests that the problem is getting worse. Her situation is especially interesting because CBS News President Andrew Rhodes is the brother of White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. That relationship is far from unique, and illustrates the tight, overlapping circles in Washington between government and the media.

Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods died at Benghazi consulate
In sum, prominent journalists have been warning that many stories in Washington are off-limits to vigorous news coverage.

Update: Director of National Intelligence announced April 21, 2014 that anyone in the government's intelligence sector who talks to the media, broadly defined, even about unclassified intelligence matters may be fired, reprimanded or lose security clearance.

FireDogLake published a news report, Clapper Clamps Down.

New York Times investigative reporter James Risen, a Pulitizer winner, spoke at a major conference last year run by the National Press Club and Overseas Press Club to analyze the impact on the public of the Obama administration's crackdown on leaks to reporters from government and former government employees, especially on matters involving intelligence, war and diplomacy. I covered the event in Press Probes 'Obama's War On Leaks.

“The fundamental issue,” said Risen, “is whether you can have a democracy without aggressive reporting. I don’t think you can.”

Andrew Kreig is Justice Integrity Project Executive Director and co-founder. Andrew Kreig has two decades experience as an attorney and non-profit executive in Washington, DC. 

Andrew Kreig
An author and longtime investigative reporter, his primary focus since 2008 has been exploring allegations of official corruption and other misconduct in federal agencies. Kreig has also been a consultant and volunteer leader in advising several non-profit groups fostering cutting-edge applications within the communications industries. 

In 2008, he became a senior fellow with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University and an affiliated research fellow with the Information Economy Project at George Mason University School of Law. 
As president and CEO of the Wireless Communications Association International (WCAI) from 1996 until 2008, Kreig led its worldwide advocacy that helped create the broadband wireless industry. Previously, he was WCAI vice president and general counsel, an associate at Latham & Watkins, law clerk to a federal judge, author of the book Spiked about the newspaper business and a longtime reporter for the Hartford Courant. Listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World from the mid-1990s and currently, he holds law degrees from the University of Chicago School of Law and from Yale Law School. Reared in New York City, his undergraduate degree in history is from Cornell University, where he was a student newspaper editor, rowing team member, and Golden Gloves boxer. 




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