In Congress we trust . . . not

In Congress we trust . . . not

May 6, 2009,

I have been known to quote long-dead men in my past writings. Whether eloquently expressed thoughts by our founding fathers, or those artfully expressed by ancient Greek thinkers, these quotes have always done a better job starting or ending my thoughts that tend to be expressed in long, winding sentences. For this piece I am going to break with tradition and start with an appropriate quote from a living current senator, John Kerry: “It’s a sad day when you have members of Congress who are literally criminals go undisciplined by their colleagues. No wonder people look at Washington and know this city is broken.”

The people do indeed look at Washington and know that this city is ‘badly’ broken, Senator Kerry. The public confidence in our Congress has been declining drastically. Recent poll results highlight how the American people’s trust in their Congress has hit rock bottom. A survey of progressive blogs easily confirms the rage rightfully directed at our Congress for abdicating its role of oversight and accountability. Activists scream about promised hearings that never took place -- without explanation. They express outrage when investigations are dropped without any justification. And they genuinely wonder out loud why, especially after they helped secure a major victory for the Democrats. The same Democrats who had for years pointed fingers at their big bad Republican majority colleagues as the main impediment preventing them from fulfilling what was expected of them.

The recent stunning but not unexpected revelations regarding Jane Harman by the Congressional Quarterly provide us with a little glimpse into one of the main reasons behind the steady decline in Congress’s integrity. But the story is almost dead -- ready to bite the dust, thanks to our mainstream media’s insistence on burying ‘real’ issues or stories that delve deep into the causes of our nation’s continuous downward slide. In this particular case, the ‘thank you’ should also be extended to certain blogosphere propagandists who, blinded by their partisanship, myopic in their assessments, and ignorant in their knowledge of the inner workings of our late Congress and intelligence agencies, helped in the cremation of this case.

Ironically but understandably, the Harman case has become one of rare unequivocal bipartisanship, when no one from either side of the partisan isle utters a word. How many House or Senate Republicans have you heard screaming, or even better, calling for an investigation? The right wing remains silent. Some may have their hand, directly or indirectly, in the same AIPAC cookie jar. Others may still feel the heavy baggage of their own party’s tainted colleagues; after all, they have had their share of Abramoffs, Hasterts and the like, silently lurking in the background, albeit dimmer every day. Some on the left, after an initial silence that easily could have been mistaken for shock, are jumping from one foot to the other, like a cat on a hot tin roof, making one excuse after another; playing the ‘victims of executive branch eavesdropping’ card, the same very ‘evil doing’ they happened to support vehemently. Some have been dialing their trusted guardian angels within the mainstream media and certain fairly visible alternative outlets. They need no longer worry, since these guardian angels seem to have blacked out the story, and have done so without much arm twisting.

Hastert redux

I am going to rewind and take you back to September 2005, when Vanity Fair published an article, which in addition to my case and the plight of National Security Whistleblowers, exposed the dark side of the then Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, and the corroborated allegations of his illegal activities involving foreign agents and interests.

Vanity Fair printed the story only after they made certain they were on sure footing in the face of any possible libel by lining up more than five credible sources, and after triple pit bull style fact-checking. They were vindicated; Hastert did not dare go after them, nor did he ever issue any true denial. Moreover, further vindication occurred only a month ago. On April 10, 2009, The Hill reported that the former Speaker of the House was contracted to lobby for Turkey. The Justice Department record on this deal indicates that Hastert will now be “principally involved” on a $35,000-a-month contract providing representation for Turkish interests. That seems to be the current arrangement for those serving foreign interests while on the job in Congress -- to be paid at a later date, collecting on their IOUs when they secure their positions with ‘the foreign lobby.’

In a recent article for the American Conservative magazine, Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer stationed in Turkey, made the following point:Edmonds’s claims have never been pursued, presumably because there are so many skeletons in both parties’ closets. She has been served with a state-secrets gag order to make sure that what she knows is never revealed, a restriction that the new regime in Washington has not lifted.”

He hits the nail on the head: “In Hastert’s case, it certainly should be a matter of public concern that a senior elected representative who may have received money from a foreign country is now officially lobbying on its behalf. How many other congressmen might have similar relationships with foreign countries and lobbying groups, providing them with golden parachutes for their retirement?”

The Congress went mum on my case after the Vanity Fair story, with, of course, the mainstream media making it very easy for them. They turned bipartisan in not pursuing the case, just as with the Harman case, and similarly, the mainstream media happily let it disappear. At the time I was not aware that during the publication of the Hastert story, Jane Harman’s AIPAC case was already brewing in the background. Moreover, one of the very few people in Congress who was notified about Harman was none other than Hastert, the man himself. The same Hastert, who in addition to being one of several officials targeted by the FBI counterintelligence and counterespionage investigations, was also known to be directly involved in several other high profile scandals: from his intimate involvement in the Abramoff scandal, to the Representative William Jefferson scandal ; from his ‘Land Deal’ scandal, where he cashed in millions off his position while “serving,” to the 2006 House Page scandal.

All for one, one for all

How does it work? How do these people escape accountability, the consequences? Are we talking about the possible use of blackmail by the executive branch against congressional representatives, as if Hoover’s days were never over?

Cases such as NSA illegal eavesdropping come to mind, when congressional members were briefed long before it became public, yet none took any action or even uttered a word; members of both parties. Or is it more likely to be a case of secondhand blackmail, where members of Congress keep tabs on each other? Or, is it a combination of the above? Regardless, we see this ‘one for all, all for one’ kind of solidarity in Congress when it comes to criminal conduct and scandals such as those of Hastert and Harman.

Although at an initial glance, based on the wiretapping angle, the Harman case may appear to involve blackmail, or a milder version, exploitation, of Congress by the executive branch, deeper analysis would suggest even further implications, where congressional members themselves use the incriminating information against each other to prevent pursuit or investigation of cases that they may be directly or indirectly involved in. Let me give you an example based on the Hastert case mentioned earlier.

In 2004 and 2005, I had several meetings with Representative Henry Waxman’s investigative and legal staff. Two of these meetings took place inside a SCIF, where details and classified information pertaining to my case and those involved could be discussed. I was told, and at the time I believed it to be the case, that the Republican majority was preventing further action -- such as holding a public hearing. Once the Democrats took over in 2006, that barrier was removed, or so I thought.

In March 2007, I was contacted by one of Representative Waxman’s staff people who felt responsible and conscientious enough to at least let me know that there would never be a hearing into my case by their office or, for that matter, any Democratic office in the House. Based on his/her account, in February 2007 Waxman’s office was preparing the necessary ingredients for their promised hearing, but in mid March the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, called Waxman into a meeting on the case, and after Waxman came out of that 20-minute meeting, he told his staff ‘we are no longer involved in Edmonds’ case.’ And so they became ‘uninvolved.’

What was discussed during that meeting? The facts regarding the FBI’s pursuit of Hastert and certain other representatives were bound to come out in any congressional hearing into my case. Now we know that Hastert and Pelosi were both informed of Harman’s role in a related case involving a counterespionage investigation of AIPAC. Is it possible that Pelosi asked Waxman to lay off my case in order to protect a few of their own in an equally scandalous case? Was there a deal made between the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House to keep this and other related scandals hushed? Will we ever know the answer to these questions? Most likely not, considering the current state of our mainstream media.

And the victims remain the same: The American people who have entrusted the role of ensuring oversight and accountability with their Congress. This kind of infestation touches everyone in Congress; one need not have a skeleton of his own to get sucked into the swamp of those infested. Does Waxman have to be a sinner to take part in the sin committed by the Hasterts and Harmans of Congress? Certainly not. On the other hand, he and others like him will abide by the un-pledged oath of ‘solidarity with your party members’ and ‘loyalty to your dear colleagues.’

Back to the enablers: How can we explain the continued blackout by the mainstream media, and/or, illogical defenses of the Harmans and Hasterts alike by the apologist spinners -- some of whom pass as the ‘alternative’ media? Some are committing what they rightfully accused the previous administration and their pawns of doing: cherry picking the facts, then, spin, spin, and spin until the real issue becomes blurry and unrecognizable. The conspiracy angle aimed at the timing; Porter Goss’ possible beef with Jane Harman; accusing the truth divulgers, CQ sources, of being ‘conspirators’ with ulterior motives; portraying Harman as an outspoken vigilante on torture. And if those sound too lame to swallow, they throw in a few evil names from the foggy past of Dusty the Foggo man! If the issue and its implications weren’t so serious, these spins of reality would certainly make a Pulitzer-worthy satire.

Let’s take the issue of timing. First of all, the story was reported, albeit not comprehensively, by Time magazine years ago. It took a tenacious journalist, more importantly a journalist that could have been trusted by the Intel sources to give it real coverage. It is also possible that the sources for the Harman case got fed up and disillusioned by the absence of a real investigation and decided to ‘really’ talk. After all, the AIPAC court case was dropped by the Justice Department’s prosecutors within two weeks of the Harman revelations. Same could be said about the Hastert story. At the time, many asked why the story was not told during the earlier stages of my case. It took three years for me and other FBI and DOJ sources to exhaust all channels: congressional inquiry, IG investigation, and the courts. Those who initially were not willing to come forward and corroborate the details opened up to the Vanity Fair journalist, David Rose, in 2005.

Now let’s look at the ‘blackmail’ and ‘Goss’ Plot’ angles. Of course the ‘blackmail’ scenario is possible; in fact, highly possible. We all can picture one of the president’s men in the White House pulling an opposing congressional member aside and whispering ‘if I were you, congressman, I’d stop pushing. I understand, as we speak, my Justice Department is looking into certain activities you’ve been engaged in. . . . ’ We all can imagine, easily, a head of the Justice Department, having a ‘discreet’ meeting with a representative who’s been pushing for a certain investigation of certain department officials for criminal deeds, and saying, ‘dear congresswoman, we are aware of your role in a certain scandal, and are still pondering whether we should turn this into a direct investigation of you and appoint a special prosecutor . . . ’ But, let’s not forget, the misuse of incriminating information to blackmail does not make the practitioner of the wrong deed a victim, nor does it make the wrong or criminal deed less wrong.

Instead of spinning the story, taking away attention from the facts in hand, and making Harman a victim, we must focus on this case, on Harman, as an example of a very serious disease that has infected our Congress for way too long. Those who have been entrusted with the oversight and accountability of our government cannot do so if they are vulnerable to such blackmail from the very same people they are overseeing . . . Period. Those who have been elected to represent the people and their interests cannot pursue their own greed and ambitions by engaging in criminal or unethical activities against the interests of the same people they’ve sworn to represent, and be given a pass.

As for far-reaching ties such as Harman’s stand on torture, or specific beef with Porter Goss, or wild shooting from the hip by bringing up mafia-like characters such as Dusty Foggo, please don’t make us laugh! Are we talking about the same Hawkish Pro-Secrecy Jane Harman here? Harman’s staunch support of NSA wiretapping of Americans, the FISA Amendment of 2008, the USAPATRIOT Act, the war with Iraq, and many other activities on the Civil Liberties’ No No-list, is known by everyone. But, apparently not by the authors of these recent spins! And, let’s not forget to add her long-term cozy relationship with AIPAC, and the large donations she’s received from various AIPAC-related pro-Israeli PACs. To these certain ‘wannabe’ journalists driven by far from pure agendas, shame on you; as for honor-worthy vigilant activists out there: watch out for these impostors with their newly gained popularity among those tainted in Washington, and take a hard look at whose agendas they are a mouthpiece for.

Despite a certain degree of exposure, cases such as Harman and Hastert, involving corruption of public officials, seem to meet the same dead-end, literally dead. Powerful foreign entities’ criminal conduct against our national interest is given a pass as was recently proven by the AIPAC case. The absence of real investigative journalism and the pattern of blackout by our mainstream media are known universally and seem to have been accepted as a fact of life. Pursuit of cases such as mine via cosmetically available channels has been and continues to be proven futile for whistleblowers.

Then, you may want to ask, why in the world am I writing this piece? Because more and more people, although not nearly enough, are coming to the realization that our system is rotten at its core; that in many cases we have been trying to deal with the symptoms rather than the cause. I, like many others, believed that changing the congressional majority in 2006 was going to bring about some of the needed changes; the pursuit of accountability being one. We were proven wrong. In 2008, many genuinely bought in to the promise of change, and thus far, they’ve been let down. These experiences are disheartening, surely, but they are also eye-opening. I do see many vigilant activists who continue the fight, and as long as that’s the case, there is hope. More people realize that real change will require not replacing one or two or three, but many more. More people are coming to understand that the road to achieving government of the people passes through a Congress, but not the one currently occupied by the many crusty charlatans who represent only self-interest -- achieved by representing the interests of those other than the majority of the people of this nation. And so I write.

Here I go again, rather than ending this in a long paragraph or two, I will let another long-gone man do it shortly and effectively: “If we have Senators and Congressmen there that can’t protect themselves against the evil temptations of lobbyists, we don’t need to change our lobbies, we need to change our representatives.” --Will Rogers

Sibel Edmonds is the founder and director of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC). Ms. Edmonds worked as a language specialist for the FBI. During her work with the bureau, she discovered and reported serious acts of security breaches, cover-ups, and intentional blocking of intelligence that had national security implications. After she reported these acts to FBI management, she was retaliated against by the FBI and ultimately fired in March 2002. Since that time, court proceedings on her case have been blocked by the assertion of “State Secret Privilege”; the Congress of the United StatesPEN American Center awarded Ms. Edmonds the 2006 PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award. has been gagged and prevented from any discussion of her case through retroactive re-classification by the Department of Justice. Ms. Edmonds is fluent in Turkish, Farsi and Azerbaijani; and has a MA in Public Policy and International Commerce from George Mason University, and a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from George Washington University.

The G.O.P. is finished; stick a fork in it

May 6, 2009,

The experts think the Republican Party can get up off the canvas and stage a comeback, but don’t bet on it. The poor GOP isn’t really even a party anymore; it’s more like a vaudeville troupe scuttling from one backwater to the next, performing the same worn slapstick. No wonder party membership is in the tank. Who wants to stick with a loser?

George W. Bush drove a stake through the heart of the party with his gratuitous wars and his reckless spending. He left behind a bloated, intrusive, out-of-control federal government and an economy in tatters. Things have gotten so bad, the party has a hard time fielding a second place candidate in a two-man race.

But the GOP’s problems run deeper than just Bush. The party has become an anachronism, a plodding, dogmatic, self-righteous amalgam of disgruntled white zealots who are wildly out of step with the times. It’s become irrelevant; and that’s its biggest drawback. The party has lost its Reaganesque glitter and become a rigid, monochromatic “non-party” that no one pays much attention to apart from the occasional zinger on the Daily Show or Letterman. The truth is, the party is just plain dull.

That doesn’t mean the Democrats are any great shakes, either. Far from it. In fact, the feckless Dems became Bush’s biggest enablers. In two terms, they never stopped Bush once from doing exactly what he wanted, however heinous it was. Wiretapping. Iraq. Torture. Never. The Dems never seemed to grasp that politics is more than just trolling for campaign contributions and preening for the camera. Every once in a while representatives are expected to earn their pay and show some guts. That message is lost on the Democrats.

The Democratic Party is loaded with pompous windbags like Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi who “talk the talk” but never deliver the goods. Frank has proved over and over again that he’s just lobby-fodder for the banking fraternity, faithfully doing their bidding and dressing it up in altruistic mumbo-jumbo. Pelosi’s just as bad. When she’s not applying tooth-whitener or getting her hairpiece re-lacquered, she’s busy making sure that anything remotely resembling progressive legislation never reaches the floor of the House.

Yer doin’ a heckuva job, Nancy.

The only thing the Dems have going for them is that they’re not Republicans. They’re not the party that took over all three branches of government and then drove the country off a cliff. That’s how the Republicans celebrate their victories; mass harakiri. In America’s 230-year history, no party has ever crashed-and-burned so fast or with such fanatical zeal.

Republican leaders have been given a permanent roost at FOX News so they can appear from time to time and hurl stones at Obama or hold forth on the evils of illegal immigration. It’s just more of the same polarizing claptrap that keeps them from becoming a serious contender. They’re determined to dig an even bigger hole for themselves by opposing Obama at every turn. What are they thinking? Their ranks are already thinning faster than anyone expected, and now they want to duke it out with the most popular president in modern times? No wonder they’re the brunt of every joke on late night TV. The Republican strategy is tantamount to suicide.

Who deep-sixed the G.O.P.?

Now that the election is over, the finger pointing has begun and everyone wants to know who’s responsible for destroying the party. Naturally, the first name that comes to mind is George W. Bush.

But Bush wasn’t as important as people think. He was chosen for the job because his supporters thought they could stitch together another Reagan and because he could be counted on to follow orders without question. But Bush wasn’t steering the ship o state, not really. The administration was essentially a franchise split among three main actors: Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove.

Of those three, it was probably Rove who did the most damage through his backroom maneuvering, his ham-fisted public relations operations and his political arm-twisting. Rove’s bullyboy antics produced a number of short-term triumphs, but they cost the party dearly in terms of credibility. Just look at the Terry Schiavo fiasco; an emotionally-charged issue of personal morality which the administration turned into a circus sideshow. The poor husband was blasted as the devil incarnate for simply carrying out the explicit wishes of his stricken wife. Michael Schiavo was ripped to shreds by a feral media that had become the propaganda-arm of the White House. The incident had “Karl Rove” written all over it.

Eventually Rove’s wheeling and dealing caught up to him and he was forced to step down amid a barrage of allegations. His scorched earth, “take no prisoners” approach galvanized the base, but alienated decent conservatives who were not comfortable with his win-at-all-cost shenanigans. Ultimately, the party of Lincoln became the party of Rove, slipping its ideological moorings and abandoning all claim to moderation. By the time Rove left, the party was in ruins.

Obama didn’t beat the Republicans. The Republicans beat themselves. It was a self-inflicted wound. The party had become too ideologically rigid and self-destructive. Besides, how much mileage can a party get on a platform which only contains two planks: War and tax cuts? That’s not a vision of the future; it’s the fast track to disaster.

The Republican Party has never been “the party of ideas”; that’s a complete myth. The Republican leadership hates ideas, because ideas mean social programs which divert money from the coffers of business tycoons and crooked banksters.

Republican ideas are different; they usually involve poking around people’s bedrooms telling them what they can and can’t do or railing against science like evolution or stem cells. The party should lay off ideas altogether and do what they do best; traditional values.

Republicans have always been able to sell the notion that America needs to return to some mythic “Golden Age” where Pop ran the corner store and Mom baked cherry pies. That idealized vision resonates with a broad cross-section of the voting public. The Republicans should go back to the things that won them elections and forget the war on immigrants.

The United States has always veered to the right politically, so winning elections shouldn’t be hard for a party that truly represents conservative values. But the Republican Party doesn’t represent conservative values; that’s another myth. In fact, the party isn’t really even pro-life. If they were, then Bush would have pushed for anti-abortion legislation when he controlled both houses of Congress. But he didn’t, because he knew that if the Republicans put an end to the abortion flap for good, half of their base would have no reason to drag themselves to the polls every two years. Preserving abortion as a permanent issue is all part of a cynical calculation to keep the single-issue fanatics engaged. The Republicans will never end abortion. It’s their meal ticket.

Republicans seem to like their role as minority party; they were never comfortable governing anyway. Besides, wandering aimlessly through the political wilderness has its upside, too. There’s more time for drumming up campaign contributions and appearances on Hannity with the other far-right screwballs. There’s even time to work on that slice and (hopefully) shave a few points off the old golf game.

Political parties are like people. They should do what suits their temperament. The Republicans aren’t suited for governing; they had their chance and they made a mess of it. And that’s a good thing, because no one wants another eight years like the last eight.


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