Norman Solomon

Solomon: Why the Washington Post’s new ties to the CIA are so ominous

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American journalism has entered highly dangerous terrain.

A tip-off is that the Washington Post refuses to face up to a conflict of interest involving Jeff Bezos -- who’s now the sole owner of the powerful newspaper at the same time he remains Amazon’s CEO and main stakeholder.

The Post is supposed to expose CIA secrets. But Amazon is under contract to keep them. Amazon has a new $600 million “cloud” computing deal with the CIA.Read more »

Solomon: The CIA, Amazon, Bezo, and the Washington Post: An exchange with Executive Editor Martin Baron

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By Norman Solomon 

(B3 note: This exchange between Norman Solomon and the Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron followed a Solomon column that dramatized the ethical issues involving the Post and its new owner Jeff Bezos, founder and CE0 of  Amazon. Solomon noted that Amazon has landed a $600 million contract with the Central Intelligence Agency.  He wrote that "news media should illuminate conflicts of interest, not embody them" and that Bezo is now doing "big business" with the CIA "while readers of the newspaper's  CIA coverage are left in the dark.") 

 
To: Martin Baron, Executive Editor, and Kevin Merida, Managing Editor, The Washington Post
 
Dear Mr. Baron and Mr. Merida:

On behalf of more than 25,000 signers of a petition to The Washington Post, I’m writing this letter to request a brief meeting to present the petition at a time that would be convenient for you on Jan. 14 or 15.

Read more »

Solomon: Obama will launch a huge propaganda blitz--and may attack Syria even if he loses the vote in Congress

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Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information on the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

Grassroots pressure has forced President Obama to seek approval from Congress for an attack on Syria. But Obama is hell-bent on ordering a missile assault on that country, and he has two very important aces in the hole.

The administration is about to launch a ferocious propaganda blitz that will engulf a wide range of U.S. media. And as a fallback, the president is reserving the option of attacking Syria no matter what Congress does.

Until Obama’s surprise announcement Saturday that he will formally ask Congress for authorization of military action against Syria, the impassioned pitches from top U.S. officials in late August seemed to be closing arguments before cruise missiles would hit Syrian targets. But the pre-bombing hyper spin has just gotten started.

The official appeals for making war on yet another country will be ferocious. Virtually all the stops will be pulled out; all kinds of media will be targeted; every kind of convoluted argument will be employed. Read more »

Solomon: What the assault on whistleblowers has to do with Syria

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Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

Without whistleblowers, the mainline media outlets are more transfixed than ever with telling the official story. And at a time like this, the official story is all about spinning for war on Syria.

Every president who wants to launch another war can’t abide whistleblowers. They might interfere with the careful omissions, distortions and outright lies of war propaganda, which requires that truth be held in a kind of preventative detention.

By mid-week, media adrenalin was at fever pitch as news reports cited high-level sources explaining when the U.S. missile attacks on Syria were likely to begin, how long they might last, what their goals would be. But what about other (potential) sources who have documents and other information that contradict the official story?

It’s never easy for whistleblowers to take the risk of exposing secret realities. At times like these, it’s especially difficult -- and especially vital -- for whistleblowers to take the chance.

When independent journalist I.F. Stone said “All governments lie and nothing they say should be believed,” he was warning against the automatic acceptance of any government claim. That warning becomes most crucial when a launch of war is imminent. That’s when, more than ever, we need whistleblowers who can leak information that refutes the official line. Read more »

Solomon: You failed to break the spirit of Bradley Manning: An open letter to President Obama

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Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information on the documentary based on the book is at WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

Dear President Obama: Read more »

Solomon: Oiling the war machinery, from Oslo to Heathrow to Washington

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Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information on the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

In Oslo, the world’s most important peace prize has been hijacked for war.

In London, government authority has just fired a new shot at freedom of the press.

And in Washington, the Obama administration continues to escalate its attacks on whistleblowers, journalism and civil liberties.

As a nation at peace becomes a fading memory, so does privacy. Commitments to idealism -- seeking real alternatives to war and upholding democratic values -- are under constant assault from the peaks of power. Read more »

Solomon: Memo from Oslo: If peace is prized, a Nobel for Bradley Manning

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Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death."

Oslo, Norway: The headquarters of the Nobel Committee is in downtown Oslo on a street named after Henrik Ibsen, whose play “An Enemy of the People” has remained as current as dawn light falling on the Nobel building and then, hours later, on a Fort Meade courtroom where Bradley Manning's trial enters a new stage -- defense testimony in the sentencing phase.

Ibsen’s play tells of mendacity and greed in high places: dangerous threats to public health. You might call the protagonist a whistleblower. He's a physician who can't pretend that he hasn't seen evidence; he rejects all the pleas and threats to stay quiet, to keep secret what the public has a right to know. He could be content to take an easy way, to let others suffer and die. But he refuses to just follow orders. He will save lives. There will be some dire consequences for him.

The respectable authorities know when they've had enough. Thought crimes can be trivial but are apt to become intolerable if they lead to active transgressions. In the last act, our hero recounts: “They insulted me and called me an enemy of the people.” Ostracized and condemned, he offers final defiant words before the curtain comes down: “I have made a great discovery. … It is this, let me tell you -- that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.” Read more »

Solomon: The moral verdict on Bradley Manning

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Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

The sun rose with a moral verdict on Bradley Manning well before the military judge could proclaim his guilt. The human verdict would necessarily clash with the proclamation from the judicial bench.

In lockstep with administrators of the nation’s war services, judgment day arrived on Tuesday to exact official retribution. After unforgiveable actions, the defendant’s culpability weighed heavy.

“Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house,” another defendant, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, wrote about another action that resulted in a federal trial, 45 years earlier, scarcely a dozen miles from the Fort Meade courtroom where Bradley Manning faced prosecution for his own fracture of good order.

“We could not, so help us God, do otherwise,” wrote Berrigan, one of the nine people who, one day in May 1968 while the Vietnam War raged on, removed several hundred files from a U.S. draft board in Catonsville, Maryland, and burned them with napalm in the parking lot. “For we are sick at heart…” Read more »

Solomon: Obama's escalating war on freedom of the press

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The part of the First Amendment that prohibits “abridging the freedom … of the press” is now up against the wall, as the Obama administration continues to assault the kind of journalism that can expose government secrets.

Last Friday the administration got what it wanted -- an ice-cold chilling effect -- from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled on the case of New York Times reporter James Risen. The court “delivered a blow to investigative journalism in America by ruling that reporters have no First Amendment protection that would safeguard the confidentiality of their sources in the event of a criminal trial,” the Guardian reported.

The Executive Branch fought for that ruling -- and is now celebrating. “We agree with the decision,” said a Justice Department spokesman. “We are examining the next steps in the prosecution of this case.” The Risen case, and potentially many others, are now under the ominous shadow of the Appeals Court’s pronouncement: “There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify … in criminal proceedings.” Read more »

Solomon: Denouncing NSA surveillance isn't enough--we need the power to stop it!

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By Norman Solomon

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

For more than a month, outrage has been profuse in response to news about NSA surveillance and other evidence that all three branches of the U.S. government are turning Uncle Sam into Big Brother.

Now what?

Continuing to expose and denounce the assaults on civil liberties is essential. So is supporting Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers -- past, present and future. But those vital efforts are far from sufficient.

For a moment, walk a mile in the iron-heeled shoes of the military-industrial-digital complex. Its leaders don’t like clarity about what they’re doing, and they certainly don’t like being exposed or denounced -- but right now the surveillance state is in no danger of losing what it needs to keep going: power.

Read more »