eKC feature
November 9, 2007

 


Censored 2008 –
The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2006-07
page 2

by Project Censored


#6 Operation FALCON Raids

Sources:
SourceWatch, Nov. 18, 2006
Title: “Operation Falcon”
Author: Brenda J. Elliot
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Operation_FALCON

Ukernet, Feb. 26, 2007
Title: “Operation Falcon and the Looming Police State”
Author: Mike Whitney
http://uruknet.info/?p=m30971&s1=h1

Under the code name Operation FALCON (Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally), three federally coordinated mass arrests occurred between April 2005 and October 2006.
In an unprecedented move, more than 30,000 “fugitives” were arrested in the largest dragnets in the nation’s history. The operations directly involved over 960 agencies (state, local and federal) and were the brainchild of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and US Marshal’s Director Ben Reyna.

The DoJ supplied television networks government-shot action videotape of marshals and local cops raiding homes and breaking down doors, “targeting the worst of the worst criminals on the run,” emphasizing suspected sex offenders. Yet less than ten percent of the total 30,150 were suspected sex offenders and less than two percent owned firearms. The press has not asked, “Who were the others?” And to date, the US Marshal’s office has issued no public statement as to whether the people arrested in Operation Falcon have been processed or released. This action is instead, author Mike Whitney warns, a practice roundup in the move toward martial law.

Altogether, there were three FALCON Operations, each netting roughly 10,000 criminal suspects. Between April 4–10, 2005, FALCON I swept up 10,340 fugitives in the largest nationwide mass arrest (to that date) in American history. Gonzalez proudly announced on April 15 through corporate media, “Operation FALCON is an excellent example of President Bush’s direction and the Justice Department’s dedication to deal both with the terrorist threat and traditional violent crime. This joint effort shows the commitment of our federal, state, and local partners to make our neighborhoods safer, and it has led to the highest number of arrests ever recorded for a single initiative of its kind. We will use all of our Nation’s law enforcement resources to serve the people, to pursue justice, and to make our streets and Nation safer.”

Operation FALCON II, carried out the week of April 17–23, 2006, arrested another 9,037 individuals from twenty-seven states mostly west of the Mississippi River. Operation FALCON III, conducted during the week of October 22–28, 2006, netted another 10,733 fugitives in twenty-four states east of the Mississippi River.

The US Marshals Service has not yet disclosed the names of the people arrested in these massive sweeps nor of what crimes they were accused. We have no way of knowing whether they were provided with due process of law, where they are now, or whether they have been abused while in custody.

The media played an essential role in concealing the important details of the Operation. In fact, the non-critical “cookie cutter” articles which appeared in newspapers across the country suggest that the media may have collaborated directly with the Justice Department. Whitney notes that nearly identical “news” segments and articles put the best possible spin on a story that most Americans might find deeply disturbing, and perhaps frightening.

While mass militarized police roundups make little sense as a method of apprehending fugitives, the FALCON program does make sense as a means of effectively setting up a chain-of-command structure that radiates from the Justice Department and relocates the levers of control to Washington, where they can be manned by members of the administration. Whitney warns that the plan behind the FALCON program appears to have been devised to enhance the powers of the “unitary” executive by putting state and local law enforcement under federal supervision, ready for the institution of martial law (see story #2.)

Update by Mike Whitney

Operation FALCON presents the first time in US history that all of the domestic police agencies have been put under the direct control of the federal government. The implications for American democracy are quite profound.

Operation FALCON serves no purpose except to centralize power and establish the basic contours of an American police state. It is not an effective way of apprehending criminals.

For the most part, the media completely ignored FALCON. In fact, these extraordinary police-state sweeps did not elicit even one editorial or one column-inch of commentary from any journalist in the country. Following the government’s version of events, the story was simply brushed aside as trivial. For those who care to explore the media’s true role in undermining the fundamental rights of Americans; FALCON is probably a good place to begin. It illustrates how the media deliberately obscures facts that do not serve the overall interests of the state.

With the aid of the corporate media and an alliance of far-right organizations, Bush has successfully removed all the traditional obstacles to absolute power. The groundwork has been laid for an American dictatorship. FALCON is just one small part of that much larger plan.

Update by Artificial Intelligence

A more recent and less publicized sweep was made March 7, 2007, in Baltimore, with the arrest of about two hundred fugitives. The rationale for this sweep is more puzzling, perhaps, as it was the only city involved. This sweep received only local media attention.

Numerous questions, as stated in the Operation FALCON article, remain unanswered. The mainstream press does not appear to be interested in exploring beyond the initial sweep events. Both House and Senate committees on the judiciary and government oversight are digging into DoJ operations due to the US attorney firings and politicization of the Department, with all roads leading to the White House. It is not unreasonable to expect that these sweeps may eventually come under investigation as well.

The mainstream press, to my knowledge, has not responded at all to my SourceWatch coverage of this story. The press coverage that Operation FALCON received appears to be limited to DoJ and USMS news releases with the addition of an occasional local interest story. Information on the fate of the 30,000 plus who were arrested is conspicuous by its absence.

Additional information on this story should be available from both the DoJ and USMS. In reality, it most likely will not be, as neither has provided any updates. The SourceWatch article will continue to be updated when or if additional information becomes available.

#7 Behind Blackwater Inc.

Source:
Democracy Now! January 26, 2007
Title: “Our Mercenaries in Iraq: Blackwater Inc and Bush’s Undeclared Surge”
Author: Jeremy Scahill
http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/01/26/1559232

The company that most embodies the privatization of the military industrial complex — a primary part of the Project for a New American Century and the neo-conservative revolution is the private security firm Blackwater.

Blackwater is the most powerful mercenary firm in the world, with 20,000 soldiers, the world’s largest private military base, a fleet of twenty aircraft, including helicopter gunships, and a private intelligence division. The firm is also manufacturing its own surveillance blimps and target systems.

Blackwater is headed by a very right-wing Christian supremacist and ex-Navy Seal named Erik Prince, whose family has had deep neo-conservative connections. Bush’s latest call for voluntary civilian military corps to accommodate the “surge” will add to over half a billion dollars in federal contracts with Blackwater, allowing Prince to create a private army to defend Christendom around the world against Muslims and others.

One of the last things Dick Cheney did before leaving office as Defense Secretary under George H. W. Bush was to commission a Halliburton study on how to privatize the military bureaucracy. That study effectively created the groundwork for a continuing war profiteer bonanza.

Private contractors currently constitute the second-largest “force” in Iraq. At last count, there were about 100,000 contractors in Iraq, 48,000 of which work as private soldiers, according to a Government Accountability Office report. These soldiers have operated with almost no oversight or effective legal constraints and are politically expedient, as contractor deaths go uncounted in the official toll. With Prince calling for the creation of a “contractor brigade” before military audiences, the Bush administration has found a back door for engaging in an undeclared expansion of occupation.

Blackwater currently has about 2,300 personnel actively deployed in nine countries and is aggressively expanding its presence inside US borders.

Blackwater’s connections are impressive. Joseph Schmitz, the former Pentagon Inspector General, whose job was to police the war contractor bonanza, has moved on to become the vice chairman of the Prince Group, Blackwater’s parent company, and the general counsel for Blackwater.

Bush hired Fred Fielding, Blackwater’s former lawyer, to replace Harriet Miers as his top lawyer; and Ken Starr, the former Whitewater prosecutor who led the impeachment charge against President Clinton, is now Blackwater’s counsel of record and has filed briefs with Supreme Court to fight wrongful death lawsuits brought against Blackwater.

Cofer Black, thirty-year CIA veteran and former head of CIA’s counterterrorism center, credited with spearheading the extraordinary rendition program after 9/11, is now senior executive at Blackwater and perhaps its most powerful operative.

Prince and other Blackwater executives have been major bankrollers of President Bush, of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and of former Sen. Rick Santorum. Sen. John Warner, the former head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called Blackwater, “our silent partner in the global war on terror.”

#8 KIA: The US Neo-liberal Invasion of India

Sources:
Democracy Now! December 13, 2006
Title: “Vandana Shiva on Farmer Suicides, the US-India Nuclear Deal, Wal-Mart in India”
Author: Vandana Shiva with Amy Goodman
http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/12/13/1451229

Global Research, October 9, 2006
Title: “Genetically Modified Seeds: Women in India Take on Monsanto”
Author: Arun Shrivastava
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=ARU20061009&articleId=3427

SciDev.Net
Title: “Sowing Trouble: India’s ‘Second Green Revolution’”
Author: Suman Sahai
http://www.scidev.net/content/opinions/eng/sowing-trouble-indias-second-green-revolution.cfm

Farmers’ cooperatives in India are defending the nation’s food security and the future of Indian farmers against the neo-liberal invasion of genetically modified (GM) seed. As many as 28,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide over the last decade as a result of debt incurred from failed GM crops and competition with subsidized US crops, yet when India’s Prime Minister Singh met with President Bush in March 2006 to finalize nuclear agreements, they also signed the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (KIA), backed by Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), and Wal-Mart.

The KIA allows for the grab of India’s seed sector by Monsanto, of its trade sector by giant agribusiness ADM and Cargill, and its retail sector by Wal-Mart. Though the contours of KIA have been kept so secret that neither senior Indian politicians nor the scientific community know its details, it is clear that Prime Minister Singh has agreed to sacrifice India’s agriculture sector to pay for US concessions in the nuclear field.

In one of very few public statements by a US government official regarding KIA, Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, states, “While the civilian nuclear initiative has garnered the most attention, our first priority is to continue giving governmental support to the huge growth in business between the Indian and American private sectors.”

At the same time KIA has paved the way for Wal-Mart’s plans to open five hundred stores in India, starting in August 2007, which will compound the outsourcing of India’s food supply and threaten 14 million small family venders with loss of livelihood.

“This is not about ‘free trade,’” Singh’s translator Vandana Shiva explains, “Today’s trade system, especially in agriculture, is dishonest, and dishonesty has become a war against farmers. It’s become a genocide.”

Farmers are, however, organizing to protect themselves against this economic invasion by maintaining traditional seed banks and setting up exemplary systems of community agrarian support.

Update by Arun Shrivastava

A handful of multi-national corporations are patenting seeds. These genetically modified (GM) seeds neither increase yield nor reduce costs nor enhance nutritive content of foods, nor reduce dependence on oil. The seeds of deception have destroyed farmers in India, the US, and elsewhere.

Patenting ensures monopoly control while subverting farmers’ right to save seeds; it is antithetical to natural rights of local communities. The Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture covertly seeks to gain access and control over community-held seeds.

Over six million farmers requested the Supreme Court of India (April 2007) to ban open field trials of GM seeds because of the dangers of irreversible contamination of community-held seeds and adverse impact on health.

The mainstream media is silent. They don’t have space for disseminating information that will save us from disease and starvation. These are unglamorous issues.

Update by Vandana Shiva

The Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture impacts 650 million farmers of India and 40 million small retailers and it is redefining the relationships between people in the two biggest democracies in the world.

A new movement on retail democracy has begun in India that is bringing together small shopkeepers, street hawkers, trade unions and farmers unions. On Aug. 9, 2007, which is Quit India Day, the movement will be organizing actions across the country telling Wal-Mart to leave India.

For more information, visit our website at www.navdanya.org.

#9 Privatization of America’s Infrastructure

Sources:
Mother Jones, February 2007
Title; “The Highwaymen”
Author: Daniel Schulman with James Ridgeway
http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2007/01/highwaymen.html

Human Events, June 12,2006
Title: “Bush Administration Quietly Plans NAFTA Super Highway”
Author: Jerome R. Corsi
http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=15497

We will soon be paying Wall Street investors, Australian bankers, and Spanish contractors for the privilege of driving on American roads, as more than twenty states have enacted legislation allowing public-private partnerships to build and run highways.

Investment firms including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and the Carlyle Group are approaching state politicians with advice to sell off public highway and transportation infrastructure. When advising state officials on the future of this vital public asset, these investment firms fail to mention that their sole purpose is to pick up infrastructure at the lowest price possible in order to maximize returns for their investors. Investors, most often foreign companies, are charging tolls and insisting on “noncompete” clauses that limit governments from expanding or improving nearby roads.

In 1956, President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which called for the federal and state governments to build 41,000 miles of high-quality roads across the nation, over rivers and gorges, swamps and deserts, over and through vast mountain ranges, in what would later be called the “greatest public works project in human history.” Eisenhower considered the interstate highway system so vital to the public interest that he authorized the federal government to assume 90 percent of the massive cost.

Fifty years later, states are selling off our nation’s enormous, and aging, infrastructure to private investors. Proponents are celebrating these transactions as a no-pain, all-gain way to off-load maintenance expenses and increase highway-building funds without raising taxes. Opponents are lambasting these plans as a major turn toward handing the nation’s valuable common asset over to private firms whose fidelity is to stockholders — not to the public transportation system or the people who use it.

Despite public concerns, privatization of US transportation infrastructure has the full backing of the Bush administration. Tyler Duvall, the US Department of Transportation’s assistant secretary for transportation policy, says the DoT has raised the idea with “almost every state” government and is working on sample legislation that states can use for such projects. Across the nation, there is now talk of privatizing the New York Thruway to the Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey turnpikes, as well as of inviting the private sector to build and operate highways and bridges from Alabama to Alaska.

In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry still refuses to release details of a $1.3 billion contract his administration signed with Cintra for a forty-mile toll road from Austin to Seguin, or of an enormous $184 billion proposal to build a 4,000-mile network of toll roads through Texas.

It is known, however, that the Bush administration is quietly advancing the plan to build a huge ten-lane NAFTA Super Highway through the heart of the US along Interstate 35, from the Mexican border at Laredo, Texas to the Canadian border north of Duluth, Minnesota, financed largely through public-private partnerships. The Texas Department of Transportation will oversee the Trans-Texas Corridor as the first leg of the NAFTA Super Highway, which will be leased to the Cintra consortium as a privately operated toll road.

#10 Vulture Funds Threaten Poor Nations’ Debt Relief

Source:
BBC Newsnight, February 14, 2007
Title: “Vulture Fund Threat to Third World”
Author: Greg Palast with Meirion Jones
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article17070.htm

Vulture funds, otherwise known as “distressed-debt investors,” are undermining UN and other global efforts to relieve impoverished Third World nations of the debt that has burdened them for many decades.

Vulture funds are financial organizations that buy up debts that are near default or bankruptcy. The vulture fund will pay the original investor pennies on the dollar for the debt and then approach the debtor to arrange a better repayment on the loan, or will go after the debtor in court.

In the private financial world, these funds, like the birds they are named for, provide a useful function for investors who are unable to follow up on defaulted debts and are themselves facing financial ruin if the debtor reneges entirely.

A problem has arisen in recent years, however, as vulture funds have begun inserting themselves into an increasingly globalized “free market”—where no distinction is made between an irresponsible and defaulted company and a destitute and impoverished nation.

President Bush has the power to block collection of debts by vulture funds, either individual ones or all of them, if he considers it to be at odds with US foreign policy—in this case debt relief for poor countries.2 According to Congressman John Conyers, “It’s our position that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the comity doctrine brought from our constitution allows the president to require the courts defer in individual suits against foreign nations. And so, we’re conducting a couple of things. First of all, we want to know where these practices are going on at the present time, and, two, how we can get this information to President Bush so that he can, as he indicated to us, stop it immediately.”

Chancellor Gordon Brown, now the prime minister of England, calls the vulture funds perverse and immoral. Oxfam and Jubilee have urged the chancellor to use his influence as chair of the International Monetary Fund’s key decision-making committee to make sure that new regulations are devised that prevent private companies from bypassing international debt rules and pursuing debts from very poor countries.

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