Washington’s watchdog institutions — including its timid, corporate-controlled media — are failing to protect the public.
That was my lecture theme July 11 at the National Press Club as I presented reasons why mainstream news organizations under-report or ignore certain major stories about domestic and foreign affairs.
Former CBS and NBC news editor John Kelly organized the invitation-only dinner lecture, which focused on recent developments illustrating themes from my book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters. The book reveals and documents via 1,100 endnotes Wall Street’s use of the CIA and NSA to influence elections and government extending back decades and affecting all Americans.
Among other examples, I described prominent government officials in the Obama administration, including President Obama, who have successfully hidden key parts of their past. Suppressed information protects and empowers “puppet masters” in the private sector.
They profit from — if not orchestrate — elections, revolts and financial panics, as well as their more routine fare of looting the treasury via lucrative government contracts and plutocrat-friendly tax laws and regulations.
Profiteers operate via minions in government and the media, most of whom are so ambitious that they rarely inquire into sensitive areas.
A lifelong exception to the go-along, get-along spirit is John Kelly, shown in a file photo. He is the last surviving reporter who reported 1960 election results from the Hyannis Port family compound of winner John F. Kennedy.
Kelly’s impressive career includes service as a CIA officer, stepping forward to Jack Anderson as a taxpayer advocate. Anderson quoted him as saying as patriot that the leading American victims of the war were GIs and taxpayers. Kelly ten returned to journalism, and covered Watergate for CBS News. Kelly is a founding director of the Justice Integrity Project, which operates the non-partisan investigative service you are reading here.
In introducing me last week to a dinner audience, Kelly spoke of the harm to the public that occurs when slanted or entertainment news squeezes out hard news. He said those newscasters who began their careers in public relations often drive agendas to “soft” news that pleases the powerful and foster advancement for amenable journalists, their organizations and affiliated companies.
The topic remains in this news this week in multiple ways, including Glenn Greenwald’s report today, NBC News Pulls Veteran Reporter from Gaza After Witnessing Israeli Attack on Children. The fatal crash of a Malaysian airline in the Ukraine represents another reporting challenge to overcome bias and intrigue, as indicted by a July 17 forum by the think tank CSIS and moderated by CBS News Anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.
Appended below to this column are previous columns on these themes. They quote other experienced journalists, public officials and other commentators who decry the loss of a free press, and related rights such as free speech, privacy and due process.
In Press Probes ‘Obama’s War On Leaks,’ for example, I reported in 2012 how the nation’s two leading press clubs convened experts on national security for a gripping, historically important assessment of the Obama administration’s shocking prosecutions of government news sources.
One panelist was New York Times reporter James Risen, who faces jailing for refusing to reveal his government sources.
“The fundamental issue,” said Risen, author of the path-breaking 2006 book, State of War, “is whether you can have a democracy without aggressive reporting. I don’t think you can.”
In my remarks July 11, I noted that Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, a consummate insider, that morning had described Obama national security aide Benjamin Rhodes as in effect the president’s “chief strategist.” Rhodes is shown below at the president’s immediate left during a staff meeting two months ago in the Oval Office.
Ignatius failed to mention that the aide’s brother, David Rhodes, is president of CBS News.
This is one of a vast number of such conflicts and omissions harming public discourse. Such omissions enable powerful private sector players to impose their agendas with little scrutiny from government or other supposedly independent watchdogs. Many of those watchdogs in the media, politics, courts and elsewhere are mere faithful servants for the powerful, not protectors of the public.
What follows is a summary of last week’s discussion, which was covered also by an interview in the New Cambridge Observer in ‘Presidential Puppetry,’ New Book on Intelligence/Media Ties.