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Archive for February, 2008

question everythingquestion everything

Today’s DemocracyNow! broadcast featured a intense discussion with Philip Zelikow (executive director of the 9/11 Commission), Robert Wendrum (NBC investigative reporter), and Michael Rathner (Center for Constitutional Rights) discussing allegations made by Philip Shenon in his book “The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation” that roughly 25% of the 9/11 Commission Report’s footnotes where taken from information obtained by tortured detainees.

From the getgo the DNow! team went after Zelikow in asking if anyone on the 9/11 commission, during their multiple meetings with high-level officials (i.e. George Tenant, then head of the C.I.A.), asked, out right, if questioned detainees were tortured. Zelikow admitted he did not ask but quickly stated that he wasn’t the person pushing the issue with Tenant (it was his bosses). “Did they ask Tenant were the people tortured?,” Goodwin replied. To his knowledge he did’nt know. He admited the commission did have serious concerns on how information was obtained but did not press the issue.

Since the report’s release at least four ‘combatants’ have come forward claiming they were tortured not, as the CIA calls it, participants in “high level interrogation techniques.” So again we have public records tainted by false or forced testimonies.

The interview then waded into murkier areas of the commission’s activities. Shenon claims Zelikow had a conversation with his secretary in which he told her not to keep phone logs of his White House calls. She blew the whistle. Goodman-Gonzalez also addressed concerns that Zelikow pressured his staff to “whitewash” any negative information that could come out about Condoleezza Rice (an old friend of Zelikow’s) and President Bush (who was then running for re-election). Zelikow stiff armed the allegations but didn’t flat out deny them, h’mm. After several more pointed questions Zelikow became defensive stating that while on the commission he was battering ram for the right (Safire attacked him frequently in the Times) and now feels “attacked” by the other side.

Good.

This sort of reporting is exactly what’s needed in order to root out constant inconsistencies, biases, contradictions, and flat out falsities prepackaged and presented to the public on a regular basis. It is sad to see such an important issue such as this played out on a small stage: page six of newspapers, on public assess radio, or in the “blogasphere.” Why not in the national media? Least we forget that the 9/11 Commission Report was a national best seller in 2004? (Where’s that Frey outrage?)

Higher-level officials—who we should never forget are public servants—must be consistently subjected to direct and probing questions in order to root out the truth and to prevent “spin.” The media’s soft-balling has inevitably created an imaginary line that delineates what should and shouldn’t be addressed publicly or ever.

This issue about the 9/11 commission report reaches far beyond footnotes to the very core of American morally and how we conduct our business. Some of these same detainees the CIA have now admitted to torturing (or “legally” waterboarding) and then destroyed the evidence tapes.

waterboarding

Rarely does the mainstream media cross this imaginary line which can be chalked up to self-censorship. Where are the real images of war? What are the exact budgets of our military and CIA spending? Where are the rest of the torture photos? What about our secret gulags?

As heated as the presidential primaries are getting much of the public, the media, and the “major” candidates are functioning in a dream world. Real issues are not being addressed because real questions are rarely asked.

I’d like to hear a candidate speak directly to the enormous loss of innocent Iraqi/Afghan lives. Or what seriously needs to be done to reduce our dependence on foreign oil? Which should be a multifaceted answer that encompasses not only foreign policy but also a revisioning our national infrastructure.

Why do we considered ourselves a benevolent country when it comes to nuclear armament/use and not others? (Who dropped the only “bombs” in human existence?) As we move further into the 21st century functioning in this quixotic never-never land can only lead us down a dangerous path. Reality must be faced.

I commend Amy Goodman & Juan Gonzalez for consistently asking the right questions.

goodman Gonzales

To be fair: Zelikow did state that “we have given the public all the information we can so people can write the stories today asking these questions. And we laid it all out for people to examine, including our citations and our concerns.” The CIA’s failure to answer many of the commission’s questions is now the subject of criminal investigation.

Watch or listen the interview here.

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