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A Radical Question About the CIA in the Mainstream Press

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Several days ago, the New York Times, which of course epitomizes the mainstream press in America, asked a question that ordinarily would be found mainly on libertarian websites like that of The Future of Freedom Foundation. In the Room for Debate section of the Times’ Opinion Pages, the Times asked: “Do We Need the C.I.A.?” 

In the introduction to the debate, the Times pointed out:
Since Senator Daniel Patrick Moynahan introduced bills in 1991 and 1995 to abolish the Central Intelligence Agency and transfer its powers to the State Department, many have continued to share his concerns about the agency’s competence and performance. The Senate intelligence committee’s report on the use of torture is the latest example of the agency’s controversies.
The Times concludes its introduction with this remarkable question:
Would the security needs of the United States be better served if the C.I.A. were dismantled?
That is a remarkable development. When was the last time you read that question being asked by anyone in the mainstream press? Wouldn’t we ordinarily see the question posed in the following manner: “Is It Time to Reform the CIA?”
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The Victory of ‘Perception Management’

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To understand how the American people find themselves trapped in today’s Orwellian dystopia of endless warfare against an ever-shifting collection of “evil” enemies, you have to think back to the Vietnam War and the shock to the ruling elite caused by an unprecedented popular uprising against that war.

While on the surface Official Washington pretended that the mass protests didn’t change policy, a panicky reality existed behind the scenes, a recognition that a major investment in domestic propaganda would be needed to ensure that future imperial adventures would have the public’s eager support or at least its confused acquiescence.

This commitment to what the insiders called “perception management” began in earnest with the Reagan administration in the 1980s but it would come to be the accepted practice of all subsequent administrations, including the present one of President Barack Obama.

In that sense, propaganda in pursuit of foreign policy goals would trump the democratic ideal of an informed electorate. The point would be not to honestly inform the American people about events around the world but to manage their perceptions by ramping up fear in some cases and defusing outrage in others – depending on the US government’s needs.
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America: Australia's Dangerous Ally

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It is time for Australia to end its strategic dependence on the United States. The relationship with America, which has long been regarded as beneficial, has now become dangerous to Australia’s future. We have effectively ceded to America the ability to decide when Australia goes to war. Even if America were the most perfect and benign power, this posture would still be incompatible with the integrity of Australia as a sovereign nation. It entails not simply deference but submission to Washington, an intolerable state of affairs for a country whose power and prosperity are increasing and whose national interests dictate that it enjoy amicable, not hostile, relations with its neighbors, including China.

As painful as a reassessment of relations may be for intellectual and policy elites, there are four principal reasons why one is long overdue. 

First, despite much blather about a supposed unanimity of national purpose, the truth is that the United States and Australia have substantially different values systems. The idea of American exceptionalism is contrary to Australia’s sense of egalitarianism. 

Second, we have seen the United States act in an arbitrary, imprudent and capricious fashion. It has made a number of ill-advised and ill-informed decisions concerning Eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle East.
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Why is it Illegal to Buy Food From Your Neighbors?

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Virginians who try to sell homemade food from their kitchens are feeling the heat from state and local inspectors.

“I have to turn down my neighbors when they ask if they can buy pesto I make from my own basil plants,” says Bernadette Barber, a farmer in Lancaster, Va.

And this isn’t just a rural phenomenon.

In Arlington, government inspectors shut down a home-based soup maker, even though no customer complaints had been registered. Others have encountered similar fates, stripping them of needed income.
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The Real Meaning of the 1914 Christmas Truce

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One hundred years ago last week, on Christmas Eve, 1914, German and British soldiers emerged from the horrors of World War One trench warfare to greet each other, exchange food and gifts, and to wish each other a Merry Christmas. What we remember now as the “Christmas Truce” began with soldiers singing Christmas carols together from in the trenches. Eventually the two sides climbed out of the trenches and met in person. In the course of this two day truce, which lasted until December 26, 1914, the two sides also exchanged prisoners, buried their dead, and even played soccer with each other.
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‘The Interview’ Flops, FBI ‘North Korean Hack’ Story Also Debunked

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Official FBI claims that North Korea was behind the "Sony hack" were debunked today by two leading cyber security firms. More on that later, but first, let’s look at the failure of film itself…

To anyone in media or politics who said this week that it was our “patriotic duty as Americans” to go and see this movie, I hereby banish you to the outer realm of the consensus reality Bardo (in other words, you should be working for the North Korean government, not ruining America). 

Despite being hyped and spun with unprecedented faux patriotic fervor, and getting a ton of free publicity from President Obama, Sony Entertainment’s The Interview is officially a flop.

The film was released in 331 independently owned cinemas on Christmas Day, pulling a paltry $1 million in gate receipts, as well as an equally poor showing on the download charts too. The film was a big hit on the "illegal" download front though. According to the blog TorrentFreak, the film was downloaded around 750,000 times as of yesterday (we use the term "illegal" loosely here, because it would a real crime to charge money to see this turkey).
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2014: The Year Propaganda Came Of Age

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From just about as early in my life as I can remember, growing up as a child in Holland, there were stories about World War II, and not just about Anne Frank and the huge amounts of people who, like her, had been dragged off to camps in eastern Europe never to come back, but also about the thousands who had risked their lives to hide Jewish and other refugees, and the scores who had been executed for doing so, often betrayed by their own neighbors.

And then there were those who had risked their lives in equally courageous ways to get news out to people, putting out newspapers and radio broadcasts just so there would be a version of events out there that was real, and not just what the Germans wanted one to believe. This happened in all Nazi — and Nazi friendly — occupied European nations. 

The courage of these people is hard to gauge for us today, and I’m convinced there’s no way to say whom amongst us would show that kind of bravery if we were put to the test. I certainly wouldn’t be sure about myself.
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Why Obama Won’t Reach an Agreement With Iran

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Everyone following the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program and the lifting of economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic agrees that the Obama administration would like to have an agreement with Iran.

It would be in line with the real interests of the United States to be able to cooperate openly with Iran against the common enemy of Sunni terrorists of ISIL. And it would be the one major accomplishment in foreign affairs that Obama could cite in his two terms in office.

But the evidence suggests that the administration won’t make the compromises with Iran necessary to get a comprehensive agreement. On one hand, the political and legal system of the United States has been so thoroughly reshaped over more than two decades by Israeli interests that the hoops Obama would have to jump through to lift sanctions against Iran would be far more politically demanding than what he had to do to lift sanctions against Cuba.
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US Looks to Israel to Justify Torture

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Footnotes in government reports are often the place where disgruntled bureaucrats leave clues. It is where bits of information that lead elsewhere are suggestively placed. Senior officials might not allow potentially controversial information into the body of a report. 

In the Senate report on CIA torture there is such a footnote. Early in the report’s more than five hundred pages, footnote 51 concerns the November 26, 2001 Draft of Legal Appendix, Hostile Interrogations: Legal Consideration for CIA Officers. 

This draft memorandum, according to the Senate report, “cited the ‘Israeli example’ as a possible basis for arguing that ‘torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm.’”

US law is fairly clear: torture is illegal in all cases. There is no “ticking-time bomb” scenario that allows for the cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners. If it has no basis in US law, the CIA suggests, then its officers could use Israeli practice as a precedent. The Israeli judiciary has been kinder on torture.

In 2007, the CIA was worried: could they be held accountable for the torture their officers had been conducting at the so-called “black sites”?
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Should You Condemn the CIA for Torture If You Don't Condemn the Iraq War?

For Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, an RPI academic board member, the CIA has botched its mission, post 9/11, and has reached what he called "the pinnacle of incompetence," to where it has become a detriment to the United States. In a recent interview on the Real News Network, Wilkerson advised that this incompetence was not only about the recent Senate torture report. The Senate report, according to Wilkerson, gives us only a very limited view of how the CIA botched its mission, but even that glimpse is a good start if the mistakes are to be corrected.
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