Monday, June 22, 2009

Nygaard Notes #429 & #‏ 430

Nygaard Notes
Independent Periodic News and Analysis
Number 429, June 3, 2009

On the Web at


This Week: Reversing the Roles, and... Read the Business Section!

1. “Quote” of the Week
2. UN Economic Crisis Conference Update
3. Reversing the Roles: The Right of Return
4. Buried in the “Business” Section



This issue is a little o’ this, a little o’ that. I have a bit of a backlog of short pieces that I don’t want to totally forget, so I will spend an issue or two or three catching up on some of these things before I recycle the roughly 700 pounds of newspapers that I’ve saved over the past few months. Nygaard Notes World Headquarters is a crowded place.

Thanks to all of you who have commented on my recent series “On Freedom.” That piece must have hit a nerve, as I am still hearing about it, even though it ran back in March. Thanks for all the feedback!

Some of you have asked how the Nygaard Notes book is coming along. After a short period of semi-neglect in April (due to a heavy workload in the other parts of my life) the project is back on track. I am doing a lot of re-writing, especially of the second section on how Propaganda works. Summer is usually a somewhat slow time for me, so I hope to get the manuscript ready to submit to publishers before the State Fair in August. The other parts of my life (the earning-a-living parts, that is) keep intruding in rude and time-consuming ways. But it shouldn’t be long now, thanks to the support of so many of you, financial and otherwise!

See you next week,



“Quote” of the Week

The theme of the June 2009 issue of U.S. News and World Report is a “Progress Report” on the Obama presidency, and the article on his foreign policy begins with these words:

“The few ‘Yankee Go Home’ signs that greet him abroad seem almost an afterthought, and when he enters a room of world leaders, he is the most sought-after man for a photo op and a handshake.”

Really, now. How a reporter for a U.S. newsweekly would determine what is a “thought” and what is an “afterthought” in the minds of protesters around the world is a complete mystery to me. But what this “Quote” illustrates is that journalists often see what they want to see, like the rest of us. Apparently what this reporter wants to see is a U.S. president who is loved around the world. The article, after all, appeared in a section called “A New Era,” with this headline: “A Bright Star on the World Stage: Obama Aims to Reset the Global Image of America.”


UN Economic Crisis Conference Update

In the last issue of Nygaard Notes I wrote extensively about “The UN Conference at the Highest Level on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development.” Here are a couple of important follow-up points on that conference.

POINT #1: A few days after the last issue of the Notes it was announced that the conference—for reasons that are not entirely clear to me—has been postponed until June 24-26. No doubt it has something to do with the reality reported by the Global Policy Forum on May 14: “In the dire conditions of last December, the richest and most powerful countries actually agreed to the [Global Conference]. But now the big guys are having second thoughts and trying mightily to scuttle the process—either by preventing it from taking place at all, or by blocking any serious outcome. There is clearly a hope, strongest in Washington and London, that the pre-crisis economic order can be revived with minimal changes, so that everything can go on as before, with smiles again on Wall Street and in the City of London.”

And, sure enough, on May 26th the London Independent reported that “UN officials have told Reuters on condition of anonymity that no heads of state from developed countries were planning to attend...”

I’m guessing that the Conference has been delayed in order to allow for frantic negotiations to allow the voices of the poor to be heard in the centers of power that, so far, have turned their backs on the process. The world IS changing, and to observe the politics of this Conference is to get a glimpse of how much and how fast. Too bad the U.S. media isn’t helping people to observe it.

POINT #2: In relation to Point #1, I encourage readers to sign a petition entitled “An Urgent Call to G-20 Countries: Treat the UN G-192 Economic Crisis Summit Seriously.” The petition will put you on record as saying, in part, that “I join in calling upon all countries and especially the richest and most powerful countries that are members of G-20, to lend their full support to it and wherever possible to send their heads of government to attend” the UN Conference.

The petition was put together by the International Action Center. No matter what you think of the IAC, this petition is a good one, and you can edit the message as you like. (The text of the petition still refers to the original dates of the Conference, but I think it will still be meaningful.” You can find the petition on the web at

I wish I had more resources to offer, but since virtually nobody (except Nygaard Notes readers!) has heard of this conference it doesn’t surprise me that so few appear to be organizing to support it.


Reversing the Roles: The Right of Return

One of the tricks to media empowerment that I have talked about over the years is what I call the “Reversing the Headline Trick.” It goes beyond headlines, actually, but the idea is simple: Take a news report that involves two actors (individuals, countries, parties to a conflict, whatever) and simply reverse the roles of the two and see if the story still makes any sense. It sounds simple—and it IS simple—but it’s surprising how often it yields important insights into the propaganda of the day.

A clear example appeared in the January 31st edition of the New York Times. The report began, “An Israeli leftist advocacy group said Friday that it was starting a campaign to help Palestinians sue the state of Israel for its use of their privately owned lands for Jewish settlement in the West Bank.”

The truly remarkable paragraph in this story was the eighth one, which gave “both sides” of an important controversy, and read like this:

“Much of the world views all Israeli construction in the territories that were conquered in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war as a violation of international law. Israel argues that the settlement enterprise does not violate the law against transferring populations into occupied territories, but that it represents a voluntary return of individuals to places where they or their ancestors used to live.”

I discussed that idea of “much of the world” in Nygaard Notes #293 (“Legal or Illegal? Who Says?”), but it’s that other part, the part about the right of people to return “to places where they or their ancestors used to live” that caught my attention here. The Times claims that “Israel argues” that, if people return voluntarily “to places where they or their ancestors used to live,” then it is not illegal, no matter what the world says. OK. What happens if we reverse the roles in this case?

The Times statement refers to Israelis returning to such places that are located on “privately owned lands” belonging to Palestinians. Switching it around, we come up with the idea of Palestinians returning to “places where they or their ancestors used to live” that are owned or controlled by Israelis.

If “Israel argues” that such returns are legal, then it would seem that Israel would have to also argue that it would be legal for Palestinians to voluntarily return to their ancestral homes in Israel. There are a lot of such “ancestral homes,” since an estimated 700,000 Palestinians were displaced from what is now Israeli territory when the Israeli state was founded in 1948. (It’s a little misleading to call them “ancestral homes,” since a number of people who were displaced are still living, so they would return to their own homes, if still standing.)

If we add in the descendants of the original 700,000 displaced Palestinians, the number of people with places in Israel “where they or their ancestors used to live” now are estimated to number perhaps five million. The population of Israel is currently about 7.4 million, of which about 1.5 million are non-Jewish. If the Times is right that Israeli authorities believe in the right to a “voluntary return of individuals to places where they or their ancestors used to live,” that has serious implications for the future of the Jewish state. So serious, in fact, that it is extremely doubtful that any authority in Israel really argues such a point. Or, if they do argue it, it’s doubtful that they are sincere.

If the Times had applied the “Reversing the Headline Trick” to this page-10 article, something would have been different about this story. If some authoritative Israeli source actually made the argument that the Times reporter says they did, then the story might have become a Front Page story. If no such source could be found, it may have led the Times editors to do their jobs and keep such propaganda out of the newspaper.


Buried in the “Business” Section

I never tire of telling my non-corporate friends to be sure to read the Business pages of the newspaper, as so many important things are reported there that may or may not have anything to do with “business.” By consigning them to the section that many people think is just for the investor and managerial classes, lots of important news fails to reach into the non-Business world where most of us live. Here are three recent stories that make the point.

Story #1: Corporate Corruption of the Environment

“Crop Scientists Say Biotechnology Seed Companies Are Thwarting Research” That was the headline of a lengthy article on Page 3 of the Business section of the New York Times on February 20th. The article reported on “an unusual complaint” filed with the Environmental Protection Agency by a group of 26 corn-insect specialists, charging that “biotechnology companies are keeping university scientists from fully researching the effectiveness and environmental impact of the industry's genetically modified crops.”

“The problem, the scientists say, is that farmers and other buyers of genetically engineered seeds have to sign an agreement meant to ensure that growers honor company patent rights and environmental regulations. But the agreements also prohibit growing the crops for research purposes. So while university scientists can freely buy pesticides or conventional seeds for their research, they cannot do that with genetically engineered seeds. Instead, they must seek permission from the seed companies. And sometimes that permission is denied or the company insists on reviewing any findings before they can be published, they say.”

One scientist noted that “financing for agricultural research had gradually shifted from the public sector to the private sector. That makes many scientists at universities dependent on financing or technical cooperation from the big seed companies.” So dependent, in fact, that the scientists “withheld their names because they feared being cut off from research by the companies.” As one scientist put it, “People are afraid of being blacklisted.”

Why was this important story relegated to Page 3 of the Business section?

Story #2: Doctors on Health Care

USAmericans tell opinion pollsters that the top domestic policy concern they have (after the economy) is health care. That’s why I am a bit puzzled as to why the following story appeared on the front page of the Business Section in the Star Trib of May 20. (At least it was the front page of the section.) The headline read: “Health Care Skimping; Patients Trying to Save Money Are Getting Sicker Before They Seek Care, Family Doctors Say.”

The story is that a national survey of family doctors was released on May 19th by the American Academy of Family Physicians. According to the AAFP press release, “The national poll of AAFP members shows that nearly 90 percent of the family physicians surveyed reported their ‘patients have expressed concerns recently over their ability to pay for their health care needs.’ 58 percent said they had ‘seen an increase in appointment cancellations.’ Furthermore, 60 percent reported they had ‘seen more health problems caused by their patients forgoing needed preventive care.’”

The Star Trib didn’t report most of the results of the survey in its article, for some reason. For instance, the AAFP says that “nearly 90 percent (87 percent) reported they had seen a significant increase in patients with major stress symptoms since the beginning of the recession.” Still, kudos to my local paper for at least covering this report; it wasn’t covered anywhere else, as far as I can see.

Story #3: Bailing Out Tax Evaders

Back on January 16th the federal Government Accountability Office released a report about corporations and taxes. Here are three paragraphs from the Washington Post Business Section:

“Most of America's largest publicly traded corporations—including several that are receiving billions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers to finance their recovery—have set up offshore operations that could help them avoid paying U.S. taxes on their profits, a government study released yesterday found.

“Of the 100 largest public companies, 83 do business in tax-haven hotspots like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands, where they can move their income into tax-free accounts.

“It is all legal, but it could come to an end, given the dire condition of the U.S. economy and President-elect Barack Obama's campaign pledge to close this popular business tax loophole. The Treasury estimates that it loses $100 billion a year in tax revenue as a result of companies shipping their income off shore, and congressional leaders are vowing to introduce legislation forcing big companies to pay full freight.”

In this case I can understand why both the Washington Post and the New York Times put this in the Business section (pages 1 and 2, respectively) since it had to do with corporate behavior. Still, this story was of interest to the general public—especially in a time of huge budget deficits that might be expected to put tax evasion in the spotlight—and should have been more prominently placed in the main section of the paper. I, myself, would have placed it on the front page.


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Nygaard Notes

Nygaard Notes
Independent Periodic News and Analysis
Number 430, June 17, 2009

On the Web at


This Week: Investigating Some Investigations (or, Trying To)

1. “Quote” of the Week
2. The Saga of the Pentagon Pundits
3. The Case of the Missing Report
4. Pentagon Investigates Itself Again. The Result? You’ll Never Guess



This week is a Double Issue of Nygaard Notes, and that’s partly because next week I hope to launch the much-belated Spring 2009 Nygaard Notes Pledge Drive. (Hey, it’s still officially spring in Minnesota!) Thanks to all of you who have already renewed your 2009 Pledge (I was pretty late in getting your renewal notices out; my apologies.)

As for this week’s Notes, the longest piece you’ll see takes the form of a saga, of sorts. That is, it is a long, detailed account of a story that I have been following for over a year. I wanted to wait until there was some resolution before I wrote about it, but it doesn’t seem to be approaching a resolution, so why wait any longer? And anyway, it’s already a long saga – I don’t want to write a book about it! (I’m already writing a book, as readers of the Notes are aware, and one book is enough, believe me.)

Since I decided that this would be a double issue, there turned out to be room for a couple of other, shorter pieces on investigations, in addition to the Saga. Next week I’ll discuss the point of all this talk about investigations, but for now, sit back and enjoy the Saga of the Pentagon Pundits (And Other Stories).

In solidarity,



“Quote” of the Week

Just before he was inaugurated, Barack Obama appeared on ABC’s Sunday talk show “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos. After Obama reiterated his promise “We are going to close Guantanamo,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said to Mr. Obama:

“The most popular question on your own website is related to this. On [Mr. Obama’s transition website], it comes from Bob Fertik of New York City and he asks, ‘Will you appoint a special prosecutor, ideally Patrick Fitzgerald, to independently investigate the greatest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?’”

And Mr. Obama replied, in part:

“Obviously we're going to be looking at past practices and I don't believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

Up to this point, every prosecution known to the human race has involved “looking backwards,” since it is very difficult to prosecute someone for events in the future. So this statement is really a bit of a non sequitur.

If this were only a non sequitur I wouldn’t make it the “Quote” of the Week. But, as you’ll see in this week’s case study of a Pentagon investigation, this type of lip service to the principle of no one being “above the law” while failing to actually examine what people have done in the recent past is all too common. And dangerous.


The Saga of the Pentagon Pundits

Over a year ago The New York Times broke a major story that quickly became known as the “Pentagon Pundits” story. I’ve been following it fairly closely for the past fourteen months, and have talked about it elsewhere, but was surprised when I realized recently that I had never discussed it in the pages of the Notes.

The story is still unfolding, but rather than waiting for the story to come to a resolution (which it may never do) I am going to go into some detail on it right here and right now. I think this little case study has a lot to tell us about what happens when public outcry forces the powers that be to “investigate” some of the shocking, horrifying, and/or scandalous events that occasionally are allowed to see the light of day in the U.S.A. In addition, this saga offers some insights into the nature of accountability, propaganda, investigations, and power.

Finally, besides being informative and loaded with lessons, I think the saga is highly entertaining, as well! I hope you’ll agree. The saga begins back on April 20 2008.

The Pentagon Pundit Story Breaks

On the front page of the Sunday edition of the New York Times of April 20, 2008 ran a story headlined “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand.” The Times reporter, David Barstow, recently was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the story, which “revealed how some retired generals, working as radio and television analysts, had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq,” in the words of the Pulitzer committee. Here is a bit more on the background, in quotations taken directly from the Times article itself:

The article told the story of “a group of retired military officers” who “are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as ‘military analysts’ whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.”

“Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though,” said the Times, “is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance...”

Barstow described “how the Bush administration ... transform[ed] the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse—an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.”

“Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as ‘message force multipliers’ or ‘surrogates’ who could be counted on to deliver administration ‘themes and messages’ to millions of Americans ‘in the form of their own opinions.’ . . . The analysts . . .were framing how viewers ought to interpret events.”

The Pentagon offered the analysts all sorts of special access, briefings, and so forth, and “In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.”

“A few [analysts] expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.”

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Times that “The intent and purpose of this is nothing other than an earnest attempt to inform the American people.” And that “earnest attempt,” reported the Times, “began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day. . .”

May 2, 2008: “Calling for an Investigation”

A couple of weeks after the Times broke the story, on May 2nd 2008, 41 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro, sent a letter to the Department of Defense Inspector General (DoDIG) asking for some action on the scandal. According to the Associated Press, DeLauro “said it was important for the Inspector General to find out how high-ranking officials within the Pentagon were allowed to operate a program aimed at deceiving the American people.” In addition, she said, “we are calling for the Inspector General to launch an investigation to ensure no detail surrounding this program remains hidden.”

May 22 and 24 2008: Requiring an Investigation (or Two)

On May 22nd the House passed (by a vote of 384-23) the Hodes-DeLauro-DeFazio amendment to the 2009 Defense Authorization Bill. The amendment was intended “to prohibit the Department of Defense (DOD) from engaging in propaganda programs and requiring the GAO [Government Accountability Office] to launch an investigation into the DOD Military Analyst Program.” The amendment “also directs the Inspector General of the Department of Defense and the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study of the Department of Defense in their program designed to indirectly influence media coverage of the War in Iraq through network and cable news media analysts.” The amendment, said co-sponsor Rep. Paul Hodes of New Hampshire “will ... require a report to Congress by both the Defense Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office on whether previous restrictions on propaganda have been violated.”

Sure enough, two days later, on May 24th, the Associated Press published an article saying that both reports were underway. “A Defense spokesman, Lt. Col. Brian Maka, said Saturday the Inspector General's review will look at whether special access to Pentagon leaders ‘may have given the contractors a competitive advantage.” And, reported the AP, the GAO also said it was reviewing the program and whether it violated policies barring use of government money to spread propaganda in the United States.”

Note that, at this point (the end of May 2008), we have two investigations on the way. One by the Department of Defense Inspector General, which is a Pentagon office in charge of investigating the Pentagon. The other by the GAO, which is “an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress.” In other words, one self-investigation and one outside investigation. Got that? Keep both of them in mind as we proceed...

(But, wait a minute. Before we do proceed I just have to tell a little side story. That reliable organ of the business classes, the Investor’s Business Daily, ran an editorial on May 27th 2008 noting the Hodes amendment, which they characterized as “a bill to stifle the good news that we're winning in Iraq.” The unsigned editorial added that “It's not as if the Pentagon brass, as they wage a global war on terrorism, don't have better things to do than sit down and answer foolish questions about public relations operations from a bunch of GAO bean-counters.”)

(Wait another minute! Here’s another side story: The Washington Post was the only US media outlet to say anything about a totally-separate report by the Pentagon Inspector General that came out on December 12. “Pentagon May Have Mixed Propaganda With PR,” read the headline, and the brief Page Two article told us that “The Pentagon's Inspector General said yesterday that the Defense Department's public affairs office may have ‘inappropriately’ merged public affairs and propaganda operations in 2007 and 2008 when it contracted out $1 million in work for a strategic communications plan for use by the military in collaboration with the State Department.”)

January 14 2009: The Pentagon Reports on Itself

On January 14th 2009, the Pentagon reported the results of its self-investigation. Not surprisingly, the Pentagon found itself. . . . innocent!”

Here’s how the Inspector General’s report put it: “We found insufficient evidence to conclude that the briefings and talking points provided to RMAs [Retired Military Analysts] while supportive of DoD operations, rose to the level of puffery or otherwise sought the self-aggrandizement of the agency, its personnel, or activities.”

Added the IG, “We considered the broader issue of whether the RMA outreach activities were designed to misinform the public, unduly influence public opinion, or otherwise constitute an improper effort to build public support for DoD activities.” After “considering” the issue, the watchdog said that “We found insufficient evidence to conclude that [the Pentagon] conceived of or undertook the type of disciplined public relations effort that is suggested by the foregoing question.”

All in all, said the Pentagon, “We determined that [all the things we were asked to look at] were conducted in accordance with DoD policies and regulations.”

The headlines duly reflected the reassuring verdict. “Retired Officers' Media Role Deemed Appropriate,” said the Washington Post. “Inspector General Sees No Misdeeds in Pentagon's Effort to Make Use of TV Analysts,” said the NY Times.

All of this led the amendment’s sponsor, Representative Paul Hodes, to remark “To say there are factual inaccuracies in this report is the understatement of the century. I think it is a whitewash.” We’ll see in a moment how accurate this assessment turned out to be. In the meantime...

The Times article concluded by reminding readers that “Two other inquiries into the program are continuing. One, being conducted by the Government Accountability Office, is scheduled to be completed next month. The other is being done by the Federal Communications Commission, which has regulatory oversight of broadcasters.”

So now we have three investigations to track. The completed one by the Pentagon, one by the GAO, and also an FCC investigation.

May 2009: "Riddled With Flaws, But..."

The weekly news magazine U.S. News and World Report has a column called “Washington Whispers,” in which the following tidbit appeared on May 4 of this year under the headline “Rumsfeld Aides Trash New York Times Pulitzer”:

“Rumsfeld's current spokesman, Keith Urbahn, cites a January 2009 Pentagon Inspector General's report debunking the [NY Times Pentagon Pundit] story: ‘The Times's reporting on DoD’s routine outreach to military experts didn't merit a place in the paper, much less a Pulitzer.” and “Between the New York Times and the Pentagon's Inspector General office, it's pretty clear which is a more credible and non-partisan source.”

Credible, you say? Two days later, on May 6th, the Pentagon’s Inspector General office withdrew their January 14th report because it was “so riddled with flaws and inaccuracies that none of its conclusions could be relied upon.” That’s the New York Times paraphrasing Donald M. Horstman, the Pentagon's deputy Inspector General for policy and oversight, in a memorandum announcing the withdrawal. The Times, the only newspaper to report on this story, ran their brief article on page 21, saying, “In a highly unusual reversal, the Defense Department's Inspector General's office has withdrawn a report it issued in January exonerating a Pentagon public relations program that made extensive use of retired officers who worked as military analysts for television and radio networks.”

“In addition to repudiating its own report,” said the Times, “the Inspector General's office took the additional step of removing the report from its Web site.” (Nygaard Notes was able to find a copy of the original, 85-page report, however. If anyone wants to read it, contact me and I’ll send you a PDF copy.)

The unfortunate part of this retraction is that the DoDIG memo concluded by saying “We have determined that additional investigative work will not be undertaken to reissue the report because the ... program has been terminated and responsible senior officials are no longer employed by the Department.”

Yes, you read that right: The Pentagon officially admits that the investigation they did, mandated by Congress, was worthless. But they’re not going to produce a real report. Let bygones by bygones!

Postscript: The Mystery Continues, and Deepens

Well, that takes care of the Pentagon’s investigation of itself. But what about the other two reports, one by the Government Accountability Office and one by the Federal Communications Commission?

I haven’t been able to find out anything about the FCC report, but if and when they respond to my inquiry (Case Number CIMS00002118116) I’ll be sure to let you know.

The GAO report, in contrast, is an interesting little story-within-a story, which I relate in the next article.


The Case of the Missing Report

In the last article I mentioned that the New York Times, in its January 17th article on the bogus report by the Pentagon’s Inspector General, said that “Two other inquiries into the program are continuing. One, being conducted by the Government Accountability Office, is scheduled to be completed next month.”

As I began working on this story about the Pentagon pundits last month, I thought I would take a look at that report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that the Congress had ordered and that was scheduled to come out in February. After all, I have looked at many GAO reports and usually find them to be quite reliable and informative. So I went to the GAO website, as I have many times, and was surprised to find not a hint of any such report. This was on May 6th, a good three months or more since the report was due to be ready, according to the Times.

So I wrote to the GAO research office, describing the report and saying that I had been unable to locate the report on the GAO website. “Can you help me?” I asked. The following day, May 7th, I received a response that was so succinct I will reprint it here verbatim: “Hello Mr. Nygaard, I have been unable to locate any report on your subject, I didn't even see anything pending. Thanks for Contacting GAO Research services, Anna GAO Research.

Hmmm... I thought. No report. Nothing pending. That’s odd.

A month went by, and I was working on this story again and found myself reading the recently-retracted report by the Pentagon Inspector General. Imagine my surprise when I ran across the following paragraph on page 2 of that document:

“Also, members of Congress requested the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Enforcement Division of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to conduct concurrent inquiries regarding the use of military analysts. The GAO is writing a legal opinion concentrating on issues of fiscal law—specifically, the potential misuse of DoD appropriations for publicity or propaganda purposes... The DoD Inspector General team coordinated their efforts with ... the GAO ... to avoid duplication.” [Emphasis added.]

I knew by this time that the Pentagon report was “riddled with flaws and inaccuracies,” but I didn’t think this reference to the two reports was one of them. So I wrote to my friend Anna at the GAO again, quoting the paragraph above and asking her “Are you sure there is no record of such a report?” She again wrote back very promptly, mentioning only a report from 2005 and adding that “Your inquiry is for something from 2009 and it may be in the works but hasn't hit the database that I'm allowed to use to search for such things.”

Along the way I also telephoned the offices of Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro and Michigan Congressman John Dingell, both of whom have been pushing for an investigation of the Pentagon Pundits. Their press secretaries staffs were very friendly, but couldn’t find out what was going on with the missing GAO report, either.

While I was at it, I asked DeLauro’s press secretary about the FCC investigation. She told me that the FCC had told her that the investigation “is underway.” These investigations can take as long as 15 months, she said to me, adding that she would keep an eye on it.

Finally, I emailed the New York Times and asked Mr. Barstow what he knew about these things. Never heard back, not surprisingly.

Three investigations. The Pentagon’s investigation was a whitewash, and no followup will be done. The FCC investigation is months away, at best. And the GAO investigation exists in some other dimension, if it exists at all.

I’ll keep following this story.


Pentagon Investigates Itself Again. The Result? You’ll Never Guess

Two days after his inauguration, President Obama issued an Executive Order saying that “The Secretary of Defense shall immediately undertake a review of the conditions of detention at Guantanamo to ensure” that all detainees are being held “in conformity with all applicable laws governing the conditions of such confinement, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.” Obama gave the Pentagon 30 days to report back.

When this new report of a Pentagon self-investigation was released it was about five weeks after the Pentagon exonerated itself in the Pentagon Pundits case. Like the earlier report, this one also ran to 85 pages or so and, like the earlier report, the Pentagon in this case once again found the Pentagon... innocent!

The Guantanamo report was released on Friday, February 20, and the New York Times relegated the report, as did other papers, to the inside pages. Their headline—“Pentagon Finds Guantanamo Follows Geneva Conventions”—was also typical. (The Washington Post: “Review Finds Detainees' Treatment Legal.”) The basic story was well-summarized in the Times’ lede paragraph, which read, “A Pentagon report requested by President Obama on the conditions at the Guantanamo Bay detention center concluded that the prison complies with the humane-treatment requirements of the Geneva Conventions.”

The Times reported that the President’s Executive Order “was widely seen as an effort to defuse accusations that there were widespread abuses at Guantanamo.” I don’t know who “saw” it that way, and as to how yet another self-investigation was supposed to defuse anything, that’s even more mysterious to me.

Amnesty International made a statement in response to the Pentagon report. Amnesty said that “It comes as no surprise that the Pentagon would say Guantanamo meets international human rights standards,” despite the fact that “there have been many well-documented accounts of abuse at Guantanamo over the past few years” and “it's clear the abuse of prisoners continues.”

We’re not done yet. Another report—an independent one—came out just three days after the Pentagon’s second whitewash. On February 23rd the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights released this other report, entitled “Conditions of Confinement at Guantanamo: Still in Violation of the Law.” This report went unnoticed in the U.S. except for a fine report by the Latin America branch of the Inter Press Service (IPS). Their story was headlined “U.S.: Report Contradicts Govt Claims of ‘Humane’ Detention.”

The 19-page CCR report stated that there are “continuing abusive conditions at the prison camp, including conditions of confinement that they say violate U.S. obligations under the Geneva Conventions, the U.S. Constitution and international human rights law.” IPS said that “The report details multiple cases of abuse occurring in the last month and a half.”

On February 24 the Times did note some of this criticism in an article headlined “Administration Draws Fire For Report on Guantanamo.” After noting that “detainees' lawyers and human rights groups ridiculed the 85-page report,” the article failed to clearly explain why they might do so. A media-monitoring group, or a maniac like Nygaard, can find out, but most citizens don’t have the time needed to find it themselves.

Finally, three days after that article, on February 27th, the Washington Post reported that “A United Nations special investigator has concluded in a report scheduled for release Friday that foreign intelligence agents sent to question U.S.-held terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay had violated international human-rights laws.”

I’ll have more to say on investigations and their fates in a hierarchy of power next week in the Notes.


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National Writers Union
Twin Cities Local #13 UAW
Nygaard Notes

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