US Attorney General Eric Holder has claimed he was unaware of the subpoenas for AP’s phone records, but defended them as a necessary measure. Holder recused himself from the case that has been branded as an “unprecedented intrusion” into press freedom.
US lawmakers questioned the attorney general at a House Judiciary Committee about the two months of AP phone records obtained by the Justice Department without permission. In a session that saw the attorney on the back foot amid calls for his resign, he maintained his ignorance in the “ongoing matter.”
Flatly denying any prior knowledge to the subpoenas and who had issued them, he stated that he was 99 per cent sure that deputy attorney general James Cole had issued them.
“The matter is being supervised by the deputy attorney general. I am not familiar with the reasons why the subpoena was constructed in the way that it was because I’m simply not a part of the case,” Holder told the committee, adding he was confident that the people who are involved in the investigation adhered to Justice Department regulations.
Investigators wish to discern why it was necessary to gather so much information from AP phone records. The Justice Departments claims that the records were seized as part of an investigation into leaked data on a CIA operation in Yemen to stop an airliner bombing plot on the anniversary of the death of Osama Bin Laden.
Holder stressed that the leak was very serious and had put the safety of the American people at risk and as such the Justice Department’s action was justified.
Passing the buck
The Justice Department admitted its surveillance of AP’s phone lines in a letter to the organization’s heads last Friday. AP’s Chief Gary Pruitt reacted with ire, condemning the intrusion as a gross violation of press freedom that is inexcusable. AP estimates that over 100 of its journalists were affected by the phone surveillance and has implicated the involvement of the attorney general, alleging that subpoenas require his signature to be carried out.
There was a degree of frustration at Holder’s answers during the hearing due to his inability to answer questions on the subpoenas and why the Justice Department failed to negotiate with AP prior to the subpoenas, which is usually standard practice in such situations.
“There doesn’t appear to be any acceptance of responsibility for things that have gone wrong,” Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., told Holder. He suggested that Justice Department office should stop by Harry S Truman Presidential Library and take a photo of the famous sign, “The buck stops here.”
The White House has also claimed ignorance, stating that it had no knowledge of “any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the AP.”
Federal prosecutors secretly obtained two months’ worth of telephone records of Associated Press journalists in what the news agency described Monday as a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”
The Justice Department notified the AP on Friday that it had subpoenaed the records, which included more than 20 office, cellphone and home phone lines. The lines include the general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery.
The records included outgoing call numbers, the AP said, but it is unclear whether prosecutors also obtained incoming call numbers or the duration of calls. The news organization said it had no reason to think that the government listened in to the content of the calls. The government did not reveal why it seized the records, but the AP noted that federal officials have previously said they were investigating who had leaked information to the news service about a foiled terror plot in 2012. An AP story in May 2012 included details about a CIA operation in Yemen targeting al Qaeda operatives.
AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt called the action “a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.”
Republicans were quick to criticize the Department of Justice (DOJ), saying that the invasion of privacy of a news outlet was just the latest example of an administration rife with problems. News of the AP probe broke as the White House is already fending off criticism of its handling of last year’s attacks on the embassy in Benghazi, Libya, and the revelation that the Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative and Tea Party groups.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) called the DOJ subpoena “very disturbing” and said he expected to team up with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to probe the issue further.
“If this question went to the Attorney General then he’s responsible and he should be held accountable for what I think is wrong,” Issa said on CNN. “On the other hand, if it didn’t go to him, the question is: when is the Justice Department going to take responsibility for what it does?
“There are serious problems at DOJ, this is just the latest one.”
Department policy requires that the attorney general sign off on all requests for reporter phone records. It is unclear whether Attorney General Eric Holder signed off in this case.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Justice budget, said the department’s move was reminiscent of the wiretapping authorized by former President Nixon’s administration.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Wolf in an interview with The Hill after news of the story broke. “It kind of reminds you of the mid-70s.”
“It is the arrogance of power and paranoia. I think it’s shocking. It reminds me of the Nixon days. If they can do it to the AP, they can do to any news service in the country.”
Criticism also came from the left.
“The media’s purpose is to keep the public informed and it should be free to do so without the threat of unwarranted surveillance,” Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Office, said in a statement. “The Attorney General must explain the Justice Department’s actions to the public so that we can make sure this kind of press intimidation does not happen again.”
The AP’s Pruitt sent a letter on Monday to Holder protesting the seizure of records, demanding that the government return the call records to the AP and destroy its copies.
“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” Pruitt said.
“These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”
Federal regulations require that subpoenas for a reporter’s phone records be as “narrowly drawn as possible.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney referred questions about the probe to the Justice Department.
In a statement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said it takes its legal obligations and department policies seriously when subpoenaing media phone records.
“Those regulations require us to make every reasonable effort to obtain information through alternative means before even considering a subpoena for the phone records of a member of the media,” the office said. “We must notify the media organization in advance unless doing so would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.
“Because we value the freedom of the press, we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the public interest in the free flow of information and the public interest in the fair and effective administration of our criminal laws,” it said.
The FBI revealed in 2008 that it had subpoenaed the phone records of New York Times and Washington Post reporters in Indonesia as part of a terrorism investigation. The agency apologized for the incident, saying it failed to follow department policies.
Goodlatte said he planned to ask Holder “pointed questions” about the AP records on Wednesday when the attorney general is slated to testify during a general Judiciary oversight hearing.
“Any abridgement of the First Amendment right to the freedom of the press is very concerning,” said Goodlatte in a statement.
“The House Judiciary Committee will thoroughly investigate this issue and will also ask Attorney General Eric Holder pointed questions about it at Wednesday’s oversight hearing,” he said.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also said he would be probing the issue further and looking into whether the government may have overstepped its bounds.
“The burden is always on the government when they go after private information – especially information regarding the press or its confidential sources,” said Leahy in a statement. “I want to know more about this case, but on the face of it, I am concerned that the government may not have met that burden. I am very troubled by these allegations and want to hear the government’s explanation.”
News organizations have lost a significant share of their audience due to budget cuts that have impacted the quality and quantity of reporting.
A new poll from the Pew Research Center found that 31% of respondents said they had stopped using a particular news outlet because it was no longer providing the same kind of news and information as in the past.
Pew researchers said that those most likely to stop using news sources were better educated, wealthier and older than those who still used them—“in other words, they are people who tend to be most prone to consume and pay for news,” Pew’s The State of the News Media 2013 read.
Losses of subscribers and ad revenues have negatively impacted many news organizations in recent years, forcing layoffs and reduced coverage. Most of the people to whom Pew researchers talked were either largely or entirely unaware of this situation, the survey revealed.
There is, however, a glimmer of hope for the embattled newspaper industry, which has been under financial duress since the onset of the recession in 2007 and growing competition from online news services. The Pew study reports that a trend of stabilizing revenue is evidenced by news organizations’ use of social media to support advertisers, digital pay plans, increased investor interest, and across-the-board advertising growth attributed to a modestly improving economy.
The Pew authors concede, however, that these positive signs “are, for the time being, mostly promise rather than performance,” and that the overall prognosis still appears grim.
- U.S. news industry unprepared to uncover news and challenge claims, report says
- In the End, Awful Journalism
- On Venezuela, The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson Fails at Arithmetic
- Chavez Is Dead, the Media Are Alive and Kicking
- Time’s Ticking Clock on War With Iran
- AP: Chavez Wasted His Money on Healthcare When He Could Have Built Gigantic Skyscrapers
Merida – Globovision, an opposition news television station, announced yesterday that it has accepted a buyout offer, to be carried out after the 14 April presidential elections.
Various Globovision spokespeople attributed the sale to supposed operational and profitability issues, on which they blamed the Venezuelan government.
According to Globovision’s majority owner, Guillermo Zuloaga, the group buying the channel is headed by Juan Domingo Cordero, who also runs an insurance company, Vitalicia. According to El Nacional, Cordero has also been on the executive boards of the stock exchange, another insurance company, and a small bank.
“We are economically unviable, because our revenues no longer cover our cash needs… we are politically unfeasible, because we are in a totally polarised country and against a powerful government that wants to see us fail,” Zuloaga said in a statement.
Further, the host of Globovision’s program ‘Alo Ciudadano’ – a program that aimed to counter Chavez’s Sunday show ‘Alo Presidente’, Leopoldo Castillo, discussed the sale yesterday. He claimed the reasons for it include requiring technology, being judicially unviable, the priority of “saving the workers” and “many difficult years, it has become more and more difficult to satisfy the needs … of the personnel of Globovision”.
So far, the English language private press has reported the news of the sale as an issue of “press freedom”, with Associated Press referring to the government’s so called “campaign to financially strangle the broadcaster through regulatory pressure… the announcement… is a crushing blow to press freedom”.
Jose Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch, also said the news was part of a “disturbing trend… the government of Venezuela has created an environment in which journalists weigh the consequences of what they say for fear of suffering reprisals”. Human Rights Watch has consistently attacked the Bolivarian government, misrepresented its human rights situation, and declined to criticise the 2002 short lived coup against then president Hugo Chavez.
However Zuloaga’s own statement says, “Since we began [20 years ago] we have had problems with the government, which is natural for an information channel. With the last government of Rafael Caldera… they didn’t want to give us access to official sources”.
He then mentions the “attacks getting stronger” under the current government, and that last year, he decided to “do everything in our power…to make sure the opposition won the [presidential] elections in October…but the opposition lost”.
Private press are reporting that the buyer, Cordero, is “friendly” with some government officials, but so far has offered no concrete examples or proof of this, only citing anonymous “sources”.
According to Entorno Inteligente, Cordero has promised to improve the quality of news, and maintain the channel’s audience and workers. Zuloaga says in his statement that he has known Cordero “for years” and “he is a successful man in the financial world”.
Globovision’s public broadcast licence is up for renewal in 2 years. The Zuloaga family owns 80% of Globovision, but Zuloaga has been living overseas since 2010 when courts put out an arrest warrant for him for conspiracy and general usury over irregularities in his car dealership.
Journalists for the Truth respond
“The announced sale of Globovision is the strongest proof of the upcoming defeat of the candidate for the bourgeoisie [and the opposition], Henrique Capriles, in the 14 April [presidential] elections,” said Marco Hernandez, president of the Venezuelan NGO, Journalists for the Truth.
He asserted that the timing of the announcement was convenient, arguing that “its false that the channel is economically nonviable… it’s enough to look at their publicity income… with net earnings of BsF 11 million (US $1.75 million) … and Globovision’s workers have the highest salaries in the field and they have the best technology in Venezuela”.
“What’s happening is the owners of [Globovision] are only thinking about their own interests as capitalists… not in the journalists who they use like cannon fodder… they take for granted that Capriles will lose… and knowing that their licence doesn’t deserve renewing… they are selling their channel because it doesn’t have any value without the concession granted to them by the state,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez pointed out that Zuloaga is a “fugitive” and that in his statement he had admitted he was an “enemy of the government” and therefore his channel wasn’t “an independent news channel” as it claimed to be.
“The truth is that it is a propaganda trench for the Venezuelan and international oligarchy opposed to the changes promoted by Chavez, something that is provable by analysing their programming,” Hernandez said.
“Their programming is so extreme and manipulative of the truth that it has been the object of innumerable denunciations by Consumer Organisations (OUU), and the opening of eight administrative proceedings against it, and a sanction by [public communication body] Conatel,” Hernandez added.
Last June Globovision paid a fine of Bs 9.3 million (US $1.5 million), eight months after the fine was first emitted by Contatel. The station only paid the fine after the Supreme Court ordered an embargo on part of its assets, to force compliance.
Conatel issued the fine after determining that Globovision had broken articles 27 and 29 of the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television during its coverage of the Rodeo prison hostage situation in June 2011. The station played interviews of distraught prison mothers 269 times over four days and added the sound of gunfire to the reports.
In recent days, reports about an alleged Israeli-US bombing attack that would have allegedly destroyed a large portion of the Fordo nuclear enrichment plant in Qom were circulating in Western media. However, its falsehood was soon revealed by several sources.
The story first appeared on February 25th when an Iranian defector going by the pseudonym Reza Kahlili published an evidence-free article in the US site wnd.com, in which he claimed that the Fordo plant had been the target of a sabotage operation. The article claimed that a blast deep within Fordo had “destroyed much of the installation and trapped about 240 personnel deep underground”.
However, the first doubts came due to the personality of the author himself, as Kahlili, a defector, is widely considered as a liar because of his previous claims. He wrote some months ago that Iran actually had nuclear weapons.
Kahlili’s sole source was Hamid Reza Zakeri, another Iranian defector, who is also notorious for his lies against Iran. A US official has been quoted by some US media as saying that Zakeri was “a fabricator or monumental proportions”.
This is not the first time that defectors are used in order to launch false accusations against a country. In the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003, New York Times reporter Judith Miller (and some others) published several stories about Saddam Hussein´s non-existent weapons of mass destruction programs and these reports were used by the Bush administration as a pretext to launch the war. Later, all these allegations turned out to be false and the newspaper was forced to admit that Miller had based her reports on Iraqi defectors. In that sense, the case for the war on Iraq was built on a set of fabricated documents and deliberately manipulated intelligence that US media outlets uncritically reproduced.
Israel spreads the story
Shortly after the Fordo story appeared, Israeli sites and officials tried to make it pass as true. The website of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot repeated the claim and it was later echoed by the Times of London, which added that the story had been confirmed by Israeli intelligence officials. “We are still in the preliminary stages of understanding what happened and how significant it is,” one Israeli official told the London Times. “Israel believes the Iranians have not evacuated the (Fordo´s) surrounding area. It is unclear whether that is because no harmful substances have been released, or because Tehran is trying to avoid sparking panic among residents.”
For his part, Israeli acting Defense Minister, Avi Dichter, reacted to the story by saying that indeed any explosion in Iran was “good news”.
Of course, Israeli officials always knew that the story was false but it is clear that they wanted to feed the notion that they -with US help- were conducting a successful secret war against Iran in order to reinforce their own extremist stance. However, as these stories are revealed as lies, the effect is counterproductive to them because they expose themselves, once again, as liars before the international community, especially on the Iran nuclear issue.
However, two senior Iranian officials dismissed reports of the explosion. Deputy head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency Seyyed Shamseddin Barbroudi said there had been no explosion at the Fordo facility, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). The chairman of the Iranian parliament’s Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said they were “baseless lies” meant to impact talks on Iran´s nuclear program, reported IRNA.
The Iranians´ statements were then confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which claimed that there were no signs of any explosion whatever in Fordo. The IAEA has live cameras at the site and its inspectors regularly visit it, and, therefore, they would have known if it had been “in ruins with hundreds trapped within”. “We understand that Iran has denied that there has been an incident at Fordo. This is consistent with our observations,” IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said.
The White House also rejected the report as unreliable. “We have no information to confirm the allegations in the report and we do not believe the report is credible,” spokesman Jay Carney said in a briefing with reporters. “We do not believe those are credible reports.”
The false diagram
The Fordo false explosion was not the only Israeli fabrication on the Iranian nuclear issue. On November 27th 2012, the Associated Press agency published a report claiming that it had discovered the existence of alleged evidence of “Iranian work on a nuclear bomb”. “Iranian scientists have run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the World War II bomb that destroyed Hiroshima”, the agency said.
This evidence, according to AP, was a “graph” which the agency said was “leaked” to it by “officials from a country critical of Iran’s atomic program” to “bolster their arguments that Iran’s nuclear program must be halted before it produces a weapon”. Moreover, “an intelligence summary was provided with the drawing” claiming that “Iran is working not on isolated experiments, but rather on a single program aimed at mastering all aspects of nuclear arms development.”
Why did AP hide which country had delivered the diagram? It said that officials of that country wanted anonumity, so the agency gave it anonymity. However, everybody was certain it was Israel.
The author of the AP report, George Jahn is also notorious because every time there is a possibility of a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Iran´s nuclear program, he reports an “exclusive” anti-Iranian revelation, always provided to him by “an official of a country tracking Iran’s nuclear program,” or “an official of a country that has been severely critical of Iran´s nuclear program.”
Nevertheless, experts soon discovered that the diagram was fake and amateurish. According to the British newspaper The Guardian, it simply showed that “the bulk of the nuclear fission yield is produced in a short 0.1 microsecond pulse”, which is a common knowledge for any physics student. Later, it was equally discovered that it is widely available all over the Internet and in university textbooks. Even worse, the diagram contained huge errors, which were unlikely to have been made by research scientists who work in a state-run national program.
Scott Kemp, an assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), told IPS he suspects the graph leaked to AP was “adapted from the open literature”. He said he believed its authors “were told they ought to look into the literature and found that paper, copied (the graph) and made their own plot from it.”
After the hoax became exposed, Western diplomats privately accused Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, of being behind the leaks, which would be part of an effort to implicate a murdered Iranian in an alleged weapons program. The diplomats also said Mossad is becoming increasingly active in Austria, the home of the IAEA and the place where George Jahn works, in order to drive support for a war on Iran.
Therefore, what AP presented as a kind of highly specialized and very complex document was only a very common graph, which can be easily found on the internet. The agency helped create and spread a dangerous hoax and its credibility was severely damaged by this serious incident that demonstrated that it let itself be manipulated by officials “of an anonymous state” in order to incriminate Iran. The agency did not tell the public who gave it the false and misleading information with the evident goal of misleading the public into believing that Iran had a weapons programme.
Recently and after having scored a heavy defeat in the latest parliamentary elections, where he and his his right-wing partner Avigdor Lieberman lost 25% of their seats in the Knesset, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to hide his current political weakness by shifting the public´s attention to Iran. In his “victory speech”, he insisted that his first challenge would be “preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons”.
Of course, this rhetoric does not deceive anyone, as even the US and the IAEA reports recognize that Iran continues to use civilian enriched uranium only for civilian purposes. US officials have recently said that the assessment included in the 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, which claims that there is no evidence whatever of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, remains the consensus view of the US´s 16 intelligence agencies.
The international community is actually fed up with Israel’s false allegations and fabrications against Iran. Netanyahu and his Zionist supporters in the US probably know that the American and Western public cannot be manipulated into supporting an attack on Iran, as all the polls show.
Another for-Israel war in the Middle East would not benefit anyone but the far right in Israel, the pro-Israeli lobby in the US and its neocon agents. It would not only devastate the Middle East and kill hundreds of thousands, if not more, but it would also produce a decades-long conflict between the Muslim world and the West that would also destroy the West´s economy. Due to all this, the international community and the peoples of the world must confront these Zionist plots threatening the existence and hopes of humanity.
- IAEA Dismisses Reports of Explosion at Iran’s Fordo (alethonews.wordpress.com)
An Associated Press report from this past week demonstrates how plain facts and provable, documented historical events are often described as subjective perceptions and matters of perspective in the mainstream media whenever an honest presentation and assessment of those facts would serve to reduce the fear-mongering propaganda over Iran’s nuclear energy program.
Writing from Tehran on January 15, 2013, AP‘s Iran correspondent Ali Akbar Dareini reported that Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast had declared Iran’s intention to register its long-stated (and officially binding) prohibition on nuclear weapons as a legally-recognized, secular, international document.
“Mehmanparast could not be more definitive in dispelling suspicions that Iran may ultimately develop a nuclear weapon,” Dareini wrote, before explaining that while Iran is confident that “any ambiguities or concerns” regarding its nuclear program can be addressed and resolved as long as “a structured approach” is first agreed upon.
Iranians say they have a bitter memory of allowing IAEA inspections and providing replies on a long list of queries over its nuclear program in the past decade. Now, Tehran says such queries should not be revived or remain open-ended once the IAEA has verified them.
Mehmanparast said Iran provided detailed explanations to IAEA questions on six outstanding issues in the past but instead of giving Iran a clean bill of health, the agency leveled new allegations on the basis of “alleged studies” provided by Iran’s enemies.
Iran uses that term to refer to a list of questions including a dispute at Parchin, a military site southeast of Tehran, where the agency suspects Iran ran explosive tests needed to set off a nuclear charge.
Note the repeated use of the same basic construction: “Iranians say…” and “Tehran says…” and “Mehmanparast said…” and “Iran uses…” The statements made after this routine prefix are therefore presented as subjective declarations coming from Iran and are never qualified or substantiated as facts. In short, they are used as disclaimers, readily understood by a suspicious and ill-informed audience.
The readers of this AP report are therefore intentionally left with the perception that these are simply Iranian contentions and therefore automatically suspect, dubious, disputed or otherwise easily dismissed; after all, the comments all came out of an Iranian government spokesman’s mouth and the mainstream media (and politicians, of course) has spent decades training its readers to believe nothing the Iranian government says or does can be trusted.
While Dareini writes that “Mehmanparast said Iran provided detailed explanations to IAEA questions on six outstanding issues in the past,” he omits that this isn’t just a claim made by the Iranian government. Amazingly, the “bitter memory” that Iranians have about cooperating with the IAEA inquiries only to receive international sanctions and more military threats from the world’s most well-armed and aggressive states is not merely some crazy Persian fantasy! No, it actually happened.
In August 2007, Iran and the IAEA agreed to a “Work Plan” which defined modalities and a timetable in order to “clarify the outstanding issues” in relation to Iran’s nuclear program. With regard to the memorandum of understanding itself, IAEA Director General Mohammad ElBaradei pointed out at the time that although “these outstanding issues are the ones that have led to the lack of confidence, the crisis,” he confirmed, “We have not come to see any undeclared activities or weaponization of their programme.” This conclusion was reached after two years of Iran’s voluntary implementation of the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, including a complete suspension of its enrichment program, which allowed intrusive and unfettered access to Iranian facilities for its inspectors.
Despite the constant allegations of nuclear weapons work, the IAEA has confirmed both that “[t]o date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities referred to above were related to a nuclear weapons programme” and found that ”all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities.”
The IAEA has consistently reaffirmed this finding in each of its reports over the past decade.
It too should be remembered that Iran only suspended its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol after the EU-3 (now referred to as the P5+1) failed to offer any substantive proposals and reneged on its agreement to acknowledge Iran’s inalienable right to enrich uranium as part of a peaceful, safeguarded nuclear energy program. The proposal eventually brought to Iran by Western negotiators has been described as “vague on incentives and heavy on demands,” and even dismissed by one EU diplomat as “a lot of gift wrapping around an empty box.”
Regarding the Work Plan itself, it affirmed that the “[t]hese modalities cover all remaining issues and the Agency confirmed that there are no other remaining issues and ambiguities regarding Iran’s past nuclear program and activities” and that that IAEA had “agreed to provide Iran with all remaining questions according to the above work plan. This means that after receiving the questions, no other questions are left. Iran will provide the Agency with the required clarifications and information.”
In October 2007, ElBaradei confirmed, “I have not received any information that there is a concrete active nuclear weapons program going on right now [in Iran],” adding, “Have we seen Iran having the nuclear material that can readily be used into a weapon? No. Have we seen an active weapons program? No.”
By February 2008, due to Iranian cooperation and efforts at transparency, ElBaradei was able to report, “We have managed to clarify all the remaining outstanding issues, including the most important issue, which is the scope and nature of Iran’s enrichment programme” and the IAEA continued “to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran.”
Nevertheless, the so-called “alleged studies” – information provided to the IAEA by Western and Israeli intelligence agencies that accuses Iran of engaging in research regarding uranium conversion, high-explosives testing that could be linked to the creation of a nuclear-weapon trigger, and ballistic missile designs that might be capable of accommodating a nuclear warhead – remains the sole point of contention and is often pointed to by Iran alarmists and the mainstream press as evidence of Iranian duplicity and intransigence.
As Iran itself has repeatedly noted, according to the Work Plan, the IAEA was obligated to submit “all related documents” regarding these “alleged studies” to Iran and, in return, while reiterating its insistence that these accusations were “politically motivated and baseless,” Iran would “review and inform the Agency of its assessment,” which was acknowledged “as a sign of [Iran's] good will and cooperation.”
As per this agreement between Iran and the IAEA, “no visit, meeting, personal interview, [or] swipe sampling were foreseen for addressing this matter.” Still, in yet another example of constantly moving goalposts, after Iran examined the documents it was allowed to see (far from the “all related documents” as promised in the Work Plan) and delivered a detailed “117-page assessment in which it asserted that the documentation was forged and fabricated,” the IAEA dismissed the evaluation as being too “focused on form rather than substance” and “requested Iran to provide a substantive response.”
That Iran’s assessment wasn’t as substantive as the IAEA may have hoped is perhaps unsurprising considering that the IAEA didn’t provide Iran with “all related documents” as required. In fact, the IAEA openly admitted to concealing most of the alleged documentation from Iran, claiming that it had “received much of this information only in electronic form and was not authorised to provide copies to Iran” and revealing that while “the Agency had been shown the documents that led it to these conclusions, it was not in possession of the documents and was therefore unfortunately unable to make them available to Iran.”
Furthermore, the IAEA itself “noted that the [IAEA] currently has no information – apart from the uranium metal document – on the actual design or manufacture by Iran of nuclear material components of a nuclear weapon or of certain other key components, such as initiators, or on related nuclear physics studies.” The alleged “uranium metal document” referred to is identical to one produced by Pakistan, was neither commissioned nor requested by Iran and, along with other alleged documents, dates to “the late 1970s and early to mid-1980s.”
The IAEA also repeatedly emphasized that, despite all the allegations, “the Agency has not detected the use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies, nor does it have credible information in this regard” but still “urged Iran to engage actively with the Agency in a more detailed examination of the documents available about the alleged studies which the Agency has been authorized to show to Iran.”
In a reasonable world, that the IAEA lacks both full access to and authorization over any alleged documentation purporting to show past weaponization research and testing and upon which is based its own claims that it demand Iran substantively explain would cast considerable doubt on the authenticity of such information and clearly demonstrates the dubious integrity and political nature of the allegations themselves. As the Iranian Mission to the IAEA has noted:
The Agency has not delivered to Iran any official and authenticated document which contained documentary evidence related to Iran with regard to the Alleged Studies.
The Government of the United States has not handed over original documents to the Agency since it does not in fact have any authenticated document and all it has are forged documents. The Agency didn’t deliver any original documents to Iran and none of the documents and materials that were shown to Iran have authenticity and all proved to be fabricated, baseless allegations and false attributions to Iran.
Iran has also wondered, “How can one make allegations against a country without provision of original documents with authenticity and ask the country concerned to prove its innocence or ask it to provide substantial explanations?“
In his own memoir, published in 2011, former IAEA head Mohammad ElBaradei echoed that question:
Absurdly, we were limited with regard to what documentation we permitted to show Iran. I constantly pressed the source of the information to allow us to share copies with Iran. How can I accuse a person, I asked, without revealing the accusations against him? The intelligence crowd refused, continuing to say they needed to protect their sources and methods.
Iran, for its part, continued to dismiss most of the allegations as fabrications. Since the Iranians’ cooperation on the work plan had been rewarded with yet more Security Council sanctions, their cooperation on the alleged weaponization studies had been minimal. Their predicament, they said, was that proving the studies were unrelated to nuclear activities would expose a great deal about their conventional weaponry, particularly their missile program. (p. 291)
ElBaradei also lamented the “willingness, on the part of Israel and the West, to treat allegations as fact,” admitting that the IAEA “did not have the tools or expertise, however, to verify the authenticity of documents.” (p. 290)
It should also be remembered that, in early 2007, an unnamed senior official at the IAEA revealed to the Los Angeles Times, “Since 2002, pretty much all the intelligence that’s come to us [from the United States about the Iranian nuclear program] has proved to be wrong” and has never led to significant discoveries inside Iran. Additionally, the paper noted that “U.S. officials privately acknowledge that much of their evidence on Iran’s nuclear plans and programs remains ambiguous, fragmented and difficult to prove.”
When, in 2009, “the Israelis provided the IAEA with documentation of their own, purportedly showing that Iran had continued with nuclear weapon studies until at least 2007,” in order to “create the impression that Iran presented an imminent threat, perhaps preparing the grounds for the use of force,” ElBaradei has written that the IAEA’s “technical experts, however, raised numerous questions about the document’s authenticity.” He also pointed out that “[t]he accuracy of these [Israeli] accusations has never been verified; however, it is significant that the conclusions of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate were not changed, indicating that they, at least, did not buy the ‘evidence’ put forward by Israel.” (p. 291)
This history of IAEA allegations and Iranian assessments is completely absent from the recent Associated Press report, leading readers to believe Iran is making claims that can’t be backed up with evidence.
Also, that reporter Dareini states that the “alleged studies” referred to by Mehmanparast is a term used by Iran “to refer to a list of questions including a dispute at Parchin,” gives the distinct impression that this term is not an official one and that only Iran claims the studies in questions are merely “alleged” to have taken place rather than “proven,” “corroborated,” and “authenticated.”
But the term “alleged studies,” is not an Iranian creation. Rather, that phrase is a construction of the IAEA itself; Iran didn’t make it up. The first informal use of the term, referring to “topics which could have a military nuclear dimension” appears to be found in an IAEA Safeguards report on Iran from February 26, 2006.
These “topics,” purportedly revealed in documents taken from a mysterious stolen Laptop of Death, the authenticity of which has long been known to rest somewhere on the spectrum of dubious to fabricated, and which was provided to the IAEA by the United States by way of the MEK by way of the Mossad in late 2005; in fact, information gleaned from the laptop does not even contain any words such as nuclear or nuclear warhead.
It is unsurprising, then, that IAEA chief ElBaradei once stated, “The IAEA is not making any judgment at all whether Iran even had weaponisation studies before because there is a major question of authenticity of the documents.”
The IAEA continued to use the term informally throughout 2006 and early 2007, before elevating the term to an official section heading in its August 30, 2007 report. It was subsequently used as such until May 26, 2008, when the more alarmist phrase “Possible Military Dimensions” superseded “Alleged Studies” in IAEA nomenclature. These allegations, unverified and long considered to have questionable authenticity by the IAEA’s leadership, were suddenly resurrected and “assessed by the Agency to be, overall, credible,” when Yukiya Amano (the America’s man in Vienna who has proudly boasted of being, not an objective arbiter of truth and evidence, but as “solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision”) took over stewardship of the agency and began secretly meeting with White House and National Security Council officials before presenting biased IAEA reports on Iran.
Back to the AP report: While Dareini notes that “Tehran has in the past allowed IAEA inspectors twice into Parchin,” he fails to explain that because Parchin is not a nuclear facility, but rather a military complex not safeguarded by the IAEA, it is therefore off-limits legally to its inspectors. When Iran voluntarily allowed two rounds of inspections of Parchin by IAEA personnel in 2005, the agency revealed that its inspectors “did not observe any unusual activities in the buildings visited, and the results of the analysis of environmental samples did not indicate the presence of nuclear material at those locations.”
Regarding the current accusations centered around an alleged detonation chamber located at the site (a charge made in documents provided to the IAEA by Israel), nuclear expert and former IAEA inspector Robert Kelley has explained, “The IAEA is stretching its mandate to the limit in asking for access to a military site based on tenuous evidence.” Kelley also called the Parchin impasse “a secondary issue” that is deliberately serving Israel and the West as “a distraction for the negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany (the ‘P5+1′).” He adds (and explores in depth) that “the case for visiting the Parchin site—a matter on which the IAEA continues to insist—is not as clear-cut or compelling as some experts and officials portray it.”
It is undeniable that AP‘s Dareini is nowhere close to the propagandist that his colleague George Jahn is. Considering Jahn contributed “additional reporting” to Dareini’s article, perhaps the problematic sections were his work.
Regardless, for the Associated Press to omit crucial and easily accessible information from its characterizations of Iran’s nuclear program is irresponsible and serves to continually misinform (or under-inform) the public on the facts. And when facts aren’t important, innuendo, allegations and demonization take over, inevitably setting the stage for something far more dangerous: an uncritical and unscrupulous press, aiding and abetting (wittingly or not) the dissemination of propaganda, dutifully presenting a manufactured justification for the supreme international crime, the initiation of (yet another) a war of aggression.
The U.S. is ramping up pressure on the American public to accept an attack on Iran, with not one but two stories in today’s news. It wasn’t enough to accuse Iran of producing nuclear weapons based on no evidence, now we’re throwing into the mix accusations of cyberattacks and hostage taking as well.In perhaps the more serious charge, an AP story accuses Iran of holding retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in 2007 on an Iranian island. Iran has repeatedly denied holding Levinson, which would seem reasonable on two counts — one, they never denied holding the three American hikers, nor journalist Roxanna Saberi; why would they deny holding Levinson? And two, considering they have made no demands for a “spy swap” or anything of the sort, to what end would they be holding him?
Logic, of course, doesn’t deter the U.S. authorities who planted this story. And what exactly is their “evidence”? “The tradecraft used to send those items [videos and pictures of the hostage] was too good, indicating professional spies were behind them.” An example of that “professional tradecraft”? They used a cybercafe to send the video and never used that email address again! Oh, the amazing professionalism! The wondrous “tradecraft” of anyone who could pull off such a daring feat! Yes, you read right, this is the evidence on which “the U.S. government’s best intelligence analysis” says that Iran is holding Levinson.
The second story comes with an equal lack of significant evidence. The U.S. government (through the accommodating auspices of the New York Times) is accusing Iran of being behind recent DDoS attacks on American online banking sites. And here comes the “evidence”:
American officials have not offered any technical evidence to back up their claims, but computer security experts say the recent attacks showed a level of sophistication far beyond that of amateur hackers. Also, the hackers chose to pursue disruption, not money: another earmark of state-sponsored attacks, the experts said.
Again, two things. One, amateur hackers are pretty much capable of doing anything these days. And two, many amateur hacking attacks, probably most of them, are done for the purpose of disruption, not money.The most interesting aspect of this story is actually this admission:
American intelligence officials…claim Iran is waging the attacks in retaliation for Western economic sanctions and for a series of cyberattacks on its own systems.
Needless to say, Iran would be perfectly justified in doing so, given that the U.S. is waging an all-out non-military war against Iran. It’s no accident that sanctions are referred to as “tightening the noose.” U.S. “officials” even admit that the sanctions are “designed to…threaten the country with economic collapse.” This is war, and Iran would be perfectly justified in retaliating by a lot more serious means than these cyberattacks. That said, it must be noted again that the “evidence” that Iran is behind these attacks borders on the laughable.But the U.S. government is not laughing. It is deadly serious in its intent to bring down the Iranian government, and remove from the world one more pole of independence from imperialism.
Bad enough, assuming the details are as they seem. (The explosive was reportedly seven grams, about a quarter of an ounce, of a substance called HTMD, which is slightly less explosive than TNT; this amount seems more suitable for blowing off your fingers than for blowing up a building.)
But the Murdoch-owned New York Post gave the story a political angle (12/31/12):
The pregnant daughter of a prominent city doctor, and her boyfriend–a Harvard grad and Occupy Wall Street activist–were busted for allegedly having a cache of weapons and a powerful bomb-making explosive in their apartment in a Greenwich Village brownstone.
That’s right–Occupy Wall Street. This isn’t the first time the paper has reported a link between a criminal case and the activist movement. Back in July, the paper reported that DNA from an Occupy protest was linked to an unsolved 2004 murder. The DNA “match” turned out to be contamination by an employee of the police department lab.
And this time around, the OWS link would seem to be nonexistent. No one associated with Occupy seems to know who this Aaron Greene person might be. The paper notes in the final paragraph that Greene “has five prior run-ins with the police,” which might be more relevant than a seemingly phantom connection to an activist group.
The Post’s report was cited in other news accounts; the Associated Press (12/31/12), for instance, put it this way:
The New York Post reported in its Monday editions that Gliedman is the daughter of a prominent Manhattan doctor. It described her boyfriend as a Harvard graduate and an Occupy Wall Street activist.
And on CBS This Morning (1/2/13), Seth Doane reported:
CBS News has learned that police seized two shotguns, a flare launcher, nine high-capacity rifle magazines, various handwritten notebooks containing formulas, literature on how to make booby traps and homemade weapons, and pages from a do-it-yourself manual called The Terrorist Encyclopedia. The New York Post reported Greene was a member of the Occupy Wall Street movement but the group has denied this.
But CBS doesn’t leave it there. They followed that with a soundbite from Mitchell Silbe of K2 Intelligence, who spun out this scenario:
The assumption is that the vast majority of the people there were peaceful protestors, but there was a more radical fringe element to the group, and there was a concern that at some point they might turn to violence if they weren’t accomplishing their political aims.
It’s bad enough to treat a unsubstantiated claim by a partisan news outlet, with a record of sensational misinformation on the same subject, as a relevant fact in a story. But how do you justify using this junk journalism as a chance to let a source give free rein to his fantasies of how Occupy might take a turn towards violence?
- New York Post Helps NYPD Slander Occupy Wall Street (Again) (blogs.villagevoice.com)
That Associated Press story displaying a graph alleged to be part of an Iranian computer simulation of a nuclear explosion — likely leaked by Israel with the intention of reinforcing the media narrative of covert Iranian work on nuclear weapons – raises serious questions about the International Atomic Energy Association’s (IAEA) claim that it has credible evidence of such modeling work by Iran.
The graph of the relationship between energy and power shown in the AP story has now been revealed to contain absurdly large errors indicating its fraudulence.
Those revelations indicate, in turn, that the IAEA based its publication of detailed allegations of nuclear weapons-related Iranian computer modeling on evidence that should have been rejected as having no credibility.
Former senior IAEA inspector Robert Kelley, who has challenged the accuracy of IAEA reporting on Iran, told Lobe Log in an e-mail that “It’s clear the graph has nothing to do with a nuclear bomb.”
“The pretty, symmetrical bell shaped curve at the bottom is not typical of a nuclear explosion but of some more idealized natural phenomena or mathematical equation,” he said. “Clearly it is a student example of how to perform integrals to which someone has attached some meaningless numbers.”
Nuclear physicists Yousaf Butt and Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress also pointed out that the graph depicted by AP is not only so rudimentary and crude that it could have been done by an undergraduate student, but is based on a fundamental error of mind-numbing proportions.
The graph shown in the AP story plots two curves, one of energy versus time, the other of power output versus time. But Butt and Dalnoki-Veress noted that the two curves are inconsistent. The peak level of power shown in the graph, they said, is nearly a million times too high.
After a quick look at the graph, the head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Cal State Sacramento, Dr. Hossein Partovi, observed, “[T]he total energy is more than four orders of magnitude (forty thousand times) smaller than the total integrated power that it must equal!” Essentially, the mismatch between the level of total energy and total power on the graph is “more than four orders of magnitude”, which Partovi explained means that the level of energy is 40,000 times too small in relation to the level of power.
One alert reader of the account of the debunking of the graph at the Mondoweiss blog cited further evidence supporting Kelley’s observation that the graph shown by AP was based on an another graph that had nothing to do with nuclear explosions.
The reader noted that the notation “kT” shown after “energy” on the right hand scale of the graph does not stand for “kilotons” as Jahn suggested, but “Boltzmann constant” (k) multiplied by temperature (T). The unit of tons, on the other hand, is always abbreviated with a lower case “t”, he pointed out, so kilotons would be denoted as “kt”.
The reader also stated that the “kT” product is used in physics as a scaling factor for energy values in molecular-scale systems, such as a microsecond laser pulse.
The evidence thus suggests that someone took a graph related to an entirely different problem and made changes to show a computer simulation of a 50 kiloton explosion. The dotted line on the graph leads the eye directly to the number 50 on the right-hand energy scale, which would lead most viewers to believe that it is the result of modeling a 50 kiloton nuclear explosion.
The graph was obviously not done by a real Iranian scientist — much less someone working in a top secret nuclear weapons research program — but by an amateur trying to simulate a graph that would be viewed, at least by non-specialists, as something a scientist might have drawn.
Although AP reporter George Jahn wrote that officials who provided the diagram did so “only on condition that they and their country not be named”, the country behind the graph is not much of a mystery.
Blogger Richard Silverstein has reported that a “highly-placed Israeli source” told him the diagram “was stolen by the Mossad from an Iranian computer” using one of the various malware programs deployed against Iran.
Whether one chooses to rely on Silverstein’s reporting or not, it is clear that the graph is part of a longer stream of suspicious documents supposedly obtained by Israeli intelligence from inside Iran’s nuclear program and then given to the IAEA over the past few years.
Former IAEA Secretary General Mohammed ElBaradei refers in his memoirs to documents provided by Israel in 2009 “purportedly showing that Iran had continued with nuclear weapons studies until at least 2007.” ElBaradei adds that the Agency’s “technical experts” had “raised numerous questions about the documents’ authenticity”, and suggested that US intelligence “did not buy the “evidence” put forward by Israel” in its 2007 National Intelligence Estimate.
Jahn’s story indicates that this and similar graphs were the basis for the IAEA’s publishing charges by two unnamed states that Iran had done computer modeling that the agency said could only have been about nuclear weapons.
Jahn cites a “senior diplomat who is considered neutral on the issue” as confirming that the graph accompanying his story was one of “a series of Iranian computer-generated models provided to the IAEA by the intelligences services of member nations.”
Those “computer generated models” were discussed in the November 2011 report, which referred to “[i]nformation provided to the Agency by two Member States relating to modelling [sic] studies alleged to have been conducted in 2008 and 2009 by Iran….” The unnamed member states were alleging that the Iranian studies “involved the modelling [sic] of spherical geometries, consisting of components of the core of an HEU nuclear device subjected to shock compression, for their neutronic behaviour at high density, and a determination of the subsequent nuclear explosive yield.”
Nothing in that description of the alleged modeling is documented by the type of graph shown by the AP story.
The IAEA report concludes by saying, “The information also identifies models said to have been used in those studies and the results of these calculations, which the Agency has seen.”
In other words, the only evidence that the IAEA had actually seen was the graphs of the alleged computer modeling, of which the graph shown in the AP story is alleged to be an example. But the fact that data on that graph has been credibly shown to be off by four orders of magnitude suggests that the Israeli claim of Iranian computer modeling of “components of the core of an HEU nuclear device subjected to shock compression” was completely fabricated.
Former IAEA Inspector Kelley also told Lobe Log that “We can only hope that the claim that the IAEA has relied on this crude hoax is false. Otherwise their credibility has been shattered.”
- Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specializing in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
It’s interesting to examine how the Associated Press reported on a recent statement by the UN envoy to Israel-Palestine demanding that Israel protect Palestinian farmers from daily attacks by Israeli settlers.
The situation is dire for Palestinian farmers. In the first weeks of the olive harvest, a critical period for sustaining their families, Palestinian farmers have suffered daily attacks by Israelis (often armed) living in nearby settlements.
Settlements are illegal colonies on confiscated Palestinian land that not only bar the Palestinians from whom the land has been confiscated, they also bar citizens of Israel who are Christian and Muslim from living in them.
In its lead paragraph AP reported, “The U.N. Middle East envoy says he’s alarmed by attacks blamed on Israeli settlers against Palestinian farmers and their olive trees.”
The AP headline said: “UN envoy alarmed by attacks on Palestinian trees.”
Somehow the word “farmers” didn’t make the cut, implying that the UN envoy was alarmed about what could seem a minimal concern and playing into Israeli claims that the UN is unduly picking on Israel.
While the headline might sound like the UN envoy is quibbling over Palestinian trees while people (Israelis) are suffering, the true situation is lost entirely: that these trees are the livelihood for entire village communities whose subsistence is at stake.
Also, AP’s paraphrase of the envoy’s statement is far milder than his actual words: “I am alarmed at recent reports that Israeli settlers in the West Bank have repeatedly attacked Palestinian farmers and destroyed hundreds of their olive trees at the height of the harvest season.”
The envoy, Robert Serry, also said:
“These acts are reprehensible and I call on the Government of Israel to bring those responsible to justice.”
AP left that out.
Serry also said:
“Israel must live up to its commitments under international law to protect Palestinians and their property in the occupied territory so that the olive harvest – a crucial component of Palestinian livelihoods and the Palestinian economy – can proceed unhindered and in peace.”
AP also left that out.
Two Israeli human rights groups had released reports on the Israeli attacks a few days earlier.
One, B’Tselem, said that it had documented five such settler attacks on Palestinian farmers in the previous four days, and called on the Israeli army and police “to investigate each incident,” as well as complaints that Israeli soldiers, who are legally required to protect the civilian population under their control, “did not intervene to prevent attacks.”
AP also left that out.
The report by the other Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din, stated that of 162 attacks on Palestinian trees since 2005, only one case had led to charges.
AP also left that out.
The Yesh Din report also stated that the Israeli failure to investigate the attacks is “only one aspect of its continuous and broad failure to enforce the law against ideological crimes by Israeli citizens against Palestinians in the occupied territories.”
AP also left that out.
A recent story in Ma’an News reports that over 7,500 Palestinian olive trees were destroyed by Israelis throughout 2011, according to The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs.
AP also left that out.
Below is the AP story found on US newspaper websites in its entirety. Below that is the AP story in an Israeli newspaper.
Note that there are two significant paragraphs in the middle of the Israeli story that are not in the US version. I am placing them in boldface.
AP sends different versions of its articles to its different wires and in my experience generally sends milder articles on this topic to its US wire than to other wires.
Whether AP omitted those significant paragraphs from its US version of the story or the Israeli editors added them, we know that AP had easy access to that important context – and chose not to include it in its report to American audiences.
AP story for US news media:
The U.N. Middle East envoy says he’s alarmed by attacks blamed on Israeli settlers against Palestinian farmers and their olive trees.
Robert Serry says Israel must do more to protect Palestinians and their property in the West Bank, in a statement sent to reporters Sunday. Israel’s military had no immediate comment. The West Bank, claimed by the Palestinians for a state, is under Israeli military rule.
An Israeli rights organization, B’Tselem, counts 450 Palestinian-owned trees either damaged or uprooted since the harvest season began on October 10.
Every year a small number of extremist Jewish settlers carry out attacks during harvest season. Most attacks occur close to Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Olive groves provide crucial income for Palestinian farmers.
AP story in Israeli newspaper:
The UN’s Middle East envoy said on Sunday that he’s alarmed by attacks blamed on Israeli settlers against Palestinian farmers and their olive trees.
Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that Israel must do more to protect Palestinians and their property in the West Bank in a statement sent to reporters.
Israel’s military had no immediate comment. The West Bank, claimed by the Palestinians for a state, is under Israeli military rule.
“I am alarmed at recent reports that Israeli settlers in the West Bank have repeatedly attacked Palestinian farmers and destroyed hundreds of their olive trees at the height of the harvest season,” Serry wrote. “These acts are reprehensible and I call on the Government of Israel to bring those responsible to justice.”
He continued: “Israel must live up to its commitments under international law to protect Palestinians and their property in the occupied territory so that the olive harvest – a crucial component of Palestinian livelihoods and the Palestinian economy – can proceed unhindered and in peace.”
An Israeli rights organization, B’Tselem, counts 450 Palestinian-owned trees either damaged or uprooted since the harvest season began on October 10.
Every year a small number of extremist Jewish settlers carry out attacks during harvest season. Most attacks occur close to Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Olive groves provide crucial income for Palestinian farmers.
A 2006 study of AP’s coverage of Israel-Palestine found that AP covered Israeli children’s deaths at a rate over seven times greater than it reported on Palestinian children’s deaths.
* * *
- Arson Attack on Olive Trees in Qaryut (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the OPT (4-10 Oct) (gazasolidarity.blogspot.com)
By Keane Bhatt | NACLA | June 19th 2012
The presidential candidate of Venezuela’s coalition of opposition parties, Henrique Capriles, hosted a rally on June 10 to formally initiate his campaign against President Hugo Chávez. “Hundreds of thousands” of Venezuelans—according to Reuters, the Associated Press, and The Miami Herald—flooded the streets of downtown Caracas to support his candidacy.
The “good looks of the bachelor candidate” helped attract a huge crowd to the event in which Capriles walked or jogged six miles to register with electoral authorities, “burnishing his image of physical fitness,” per Reuters’s account. He “exuded youthful energy,” said the AP, and had won praise for being an “energetic and dedicated leader” as the governor of Miranda State, according to The Miami Herald.
All three news outlets contrasted Capriles’s vigor with Chávez’s frailty (he is recovering from an undisclosed form of cancer), while conveying Venezuelans’ disgruntlement. Even some Chávez supporters “have grown tired of a murder rate that rivals some war zones, sputtering public services such as electricity and periodic shortages of staple goods,” asserted Reuters. It was only natural, then, that a marcher was quoted stressing, “It’s time for a change.”
The AP, for its part, quoted a housewife who would vote for Capriles “because of his reputation as an efficient administrator and out of fear that Chávez will ruin the economy and drive millions of Venezuelans to emigrate if he is re-elected.” The AP used the housewife’s ominous prediction as the final sentence for its report: “If Chávez emerges as the winner in October, he’s going to destroy this country.”
Censure for Chávez has so thoroughly permeated Venezuela’s body politic, apparently, that even communists oppose him: “Chávez was the great hope for our cause, but we’ve given up on him because he has turned his back on the people even as he claims to be the voice of the people,” The Miami Herald quoted the secretary general of the Bandera Roja (Red Flag) Party as saying.
So it came as no surprise that just one day later, the U.S. press reported that Chávez’s own rally to officially inaugurate his presidential campaign attracted a crowd an entire order of magnitude smaller than that of Capriles. The AP’s headline, “Chavez rallies thousands launching re-election bid”—a figure also used by NPR and the Los Angeles Times—implied that the number of pro-Chávez participants could have been anywhere between 20 to 500 times smaller than the number present at the previous day’s pro-Capriles rally. The AP’s Fabiola Sanchez cited a higher estimate of “tens of thousands” in the body of her piece, but even this number (also used by The Miami Herald) amounts to just a fraction of Capriles’s “hundreds of thousands” of supporters.
Reuters went further in minimizing Chávez’s support. Correspondent Brian Ellsworth provided a sinister explanation for a 66-year-old pro-Chávez retiree’s observations, as she danced in the city square during the rally. “Look at this sea of people; look at the happiness,” she urged. “For every person that came out yesterday, we’ve brought out 10, 20, 30 more. And that’s going to be reflected in the election.” But Ellsworth countered this with circumstantial evidence that the event was little more than a Potemkin spectacle:
Hundreds of buses that ferried his followers to Caracas stood parked in side streets. . . . Critics accuse Chavez allies of using state resources to swell demonstrations and forcing government employees to attend. Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez said the ruling Socialist Party had ordered ministries to help bring 120,000 people to the march, citing what he called an internal party document.
Reuters provided no follow-up on the veracity of the unnamed critics’ accusations, nor did it verify the existence of the internal party document that Leopoldo López cited. This lapse in journalistic ethics is even more remarkable considering that in relying upon López’s hearsay for the final word on Chávez’s mobilization, Reuters displayed exactly the same flaw as Fox News’ coverage of Venezuela in 2005. (López, as I will mention in further detail below, is a long-time collaborator of Capriles, and played a crucial role in the short-lived coup government that overthrew Chávez in 2002.)
Ellsworth’s article also failed to include any estimate of the number of participants at Chávez’s rally, despite a widely-distributed Spanish-language dispatch by Reuters itself, which stated in its first paragraph that Chávez was “accompanied by hundreds of thousands of sympathizers.” Although the Spanish news website Público.es and Britain’s The Guardian corroborated this estimate, no major U.S.-based news source used it to describe the number of participants in Chávez’s rally.
Far more troubling than partial reporting on the popularity of the two candidates is the U.S. media’s superficial portrayalof Capriles as simply a “a polite, non-confrontational politician,” above the fray of Chávez’s insults and negativity. “I want to be everybody’s president, not the president of a single group,” the AP quoted Capriles as saying. “I am not anybody’s enemy,” he continued. “I’m the enemy of problems.”
At times, Capriles deviates from this persona, as when he referred to poll numbers—many of which consistently show Chávez leading by double-digit margins—as the work of “immoral mafiosos,” according to Reuters. More importantly, his political record betrays far-right tendencies that contradict his inclusive, conciliatory image. As the BBC notes, Capriles “was involved with a group of other young politicians in setting up in 2000 a new opposition party Primero Justicia.” In the lead-up to the 2002 coup d’etat against Chávez, which killed dozens, Primero Justicia indirectly received hundreds of thousands of dollars and training from a foreign government—in this case, the United States, through the National Endowment for Democracy, an agency largely financed by Congress. Leopoldo López and Leopoldo Martinez, two of Primero Justicia’s other top leaders, went on to play key roles in the 2002 coup government of Venezuelan business magnate Pedro Carmona. López—who Reuters deemed fit to comment on the supposedly authoritarian nature of last week’s pro-Chávez rally—himself signed on to Carmona’s 2002 decree to abolish the General Assembly, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution.
During this U.S.-backed two-day coup, hundreds of anti-Chávez demonstrators destroyed cars outside the Cuban embassy in the Caracas municipality of Baruta. They also cut off water and electricity to the building. Capriles, then the mayor of Baruta, was filmed approaching the Cuban ambassador and reportedly asking for proof that there were no Chávez administration officials who had sought refuge inside the embassy. The Cuban embassy later released a statement condemning Capriles’s behavior: “The immediate responsibility of Mr. Capriles Radonsky and other Venezuelan state authorities was demonstrated when they failed to act diligently in order to prevent an increase in the aggression to which our embassy was subjected, causing serious damage and endangering the lives of officials and their families in clear violation of national and international law.”
It is in this light that Chávez’s public broadsides against Capriles become more understandable. The Miami Herald quoted Chávez at his June 11 rally as saying, “We have made the vital strategic decision that every time there’s aggression from the imperialists and the bourgeoisie . . . we will respond by deepening the socialist revolution.” But the Herald leaves out any background information about the 2002 coup d’etat, in which the military reportedly threatened to bomb the presidential palace. Only within this context does the Herald’s quotation of Chávez make sense: “‘Their plan is the imperialist project from Washington,’ he said. ‘They are the puppets of imperialism…and now they hope to trick the people to take back the Miraflores [presidential palace]. But they’ll never get it back.’”
The truly remarkable aspect about Capriles’s candidacy is that more than a decade of aggressive poverty reduction and social spending has created a political climate that has forced an otherwise reactionary opposition to fully endorse Chávez’s social programs in order to be viable with the Venezuelan public. Ten years after the Cuban embassy fiasco, Capriles says he would be “mad” to end Chávez’s Barrio Adentro program, which dispatches Cuban doctors to poor neighborhoods in Venezuela to provide residents with free healthcare. Capriles reassured Venezuelans by saying “the missions belong to the people,” and on a separate occasion announced, “I want to expand them.” In a fairly stunning transformation, the opposition—rather than plotting coups and carrying out debilitating oil strikes—has rallied around Capriles, who has publicly modeled his platform after that of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who the AP said “financ[ed] expansive social programs . . . that made him popular among the poor.”
As all of the press coverage duly notes, Capriles has an uphill battle, and the poll numbers are not in his favor. It’s hard not to see why. As journalist Stephanie Kennedy notes in the Huffington Post, Venezuela was ranked the “happiest” country in South America by Columbia University, which she attributes, in large part, to serious improvements in Venezuelans’ material conditions under the Chávez administration:
The country currently boasts the highest minimum wage in Latin America and its latest bill for workers rights hails in a new era of legal protection and social security to a large part of the population who had up until recently been labouring within informal and vulnerable frameworks. Domestic workers, voluntary full time carers of family relatives and housekeepers now too have rights and a state pension, whilst peasants, fisherman and others practicing the more traditional trades, who have always been omitted from formal registers, will now enjoy the same rights as their urban peers. There are local clinics where people had never seen a doctor before, new brick-layered houses for people who had been living in cardboard slums, and subsidized food products and medicines.
A leader seeking reelection with a track record of spearheading the policies listed above can surely afford some bravado on the campaign trail.
- Henrique Capriles, Chavez Challenger, Leads Massive March In Venezuela (huffingtonpost.com)
- With song and dance, Venezuela’s Chávez launches reelection bid (miamiherald.com)