Category Archives: Books

Roots of the surveillance state lie in imperialism

In this fascinating look back through history, Alfred J. McCoy [previously] traces the rise of the modern snooper state to the nation’s first overseas colonial war, the brutal suppression of Philippine rebels following the Spanish-American War. He also plied his trades against Cubans unhappy with Americans lording it over their island in the wake of the same war.

McCoy, who first documented the corrupt ties between Southeast Asian heroin barons and the Central Intelligence Agency, is an expert on the history of the American surveillance state.

Latter-day viewers might be surprised to hear McCoy’s account of the first great struggle against federal domestic spies came not from the left but from conservative Republicans in the 1920s, who forced a radical reduction in homeland [to use the modern term] espionage .

The massive spying efforts which today vacuum up our phone calls, emails, and countless other facts about each of us have their roots in military intelligence. Today’s massive data bases were born in the military’s collection of intelligence on Filipino citizens, which included, for example, separate files on the majority of Manila residents.

After the end of World War I, Ralph Van Deman, the creator of the military intelligence program, targeted radicals, African American activists, the Industrial Workers of the World, and other allegedly “subversive” individuals and organizations.

An old source of esnl‘s said that after Van Deman’s retirement to San Diego, he eagerly provided extensive information to police department “red squads” in California and other states, much of it assembled in the course of his military career. J. Edger Hoover was another beneficiary of Van Deman’s generosity.

Another legacy of that long-ago war is targeted assassination, which Barack Obama’s bunch has taken to a new low by authorizing the extra-judicial murders of American citizens.

Obama’s move was foreshadowed, McCoy reveals, by Sen. John Kerry during his failed 2004 presidential bid, when the Democrats abandoned any stance on torture because focus group reports showed that American’s were tired of hearing about those murderous misdeeds committed in their name.

McCoy also touches however briefly on another theme of deep concern to esnl: the coming “war over water.”

It’s a fascinating talk by an expert — he’s on the University of Wisconsin faculty — who has been charting the troublesome course of America’s spies and spymasters for 40 years. A review of his latest book, which focuses on the subject of his talk, is here.

Surveillance State: Philippine Pacification & the Making of the U.S. Internal Security Apparatus, 23 April 2010, 1:16:44

A deadly stew of acronyms: When CIA meets LSD

Investigative writer H.P. “Hank” Albarelli Jr., an, attorney, and former Carter administration official, has written a devastating expose of Central Intelligence Agency drug experiments, with his focus on the death of intelligence and chemical and biological warfare  scientist Frank Olson, killed in a fall from the 13th floor of the Statler Hotel in New York City in 1953.

The official explanation for Olson’s death was the claim he’d acted out of depression following he was covertly dosed with LSD by CIA officers, but Albarelli officers evidence that Olson may have been murdered out of fears he would blow the whistle on secret experiments, including the secret dosing of a French village with a powerful psychedelic [previously].

esnl heartily recommends Olson’s opus, A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments, a compelling, well-documented, and convincing account of one of the darkest sides of America’s intelligence world.

Albarelli talked about his discoveries May 10 in a Manhattan bookstore. He’s introduced by Mark Crispin Miller, media studies prof at New York University and creator of the blog News From Underground.

Albarelli also offers interesting insights into the connections between CIA scientists and the eugenics movement, the agency’s long involvement with heroin producers, and the Iran/Contra/Coca connection. In another interview posted here, he contends CIA covert drug ops are continuing.

Hank Albarelli—A Terrible Mistake 64:11

Economic crisis worsens, KBR scoops up loot

Obama’s embracing his inner Dubya

From “The Poetry of Death: Patterns of State Terror,” an essay by Chris Floyd on the Obama administration’s continuities with and expansions of some of Dubya’s most dubious dirty deeds. Found at Floyd’s website, Empire Burlesque.

Where Bush was content with smirks and hints about his assassination program, Obama is bold, sending his security chief to declare openly before Congress that the president now has the unrestricted right and power to murder anyone, Americans included, in cold blood, by the simple expedient of declaring his victim a suspected terrorist of some vague description. Whereas Bush and Cheney usually resorted to backroom bureaucratic knife-twisting or bombastic but empty public threats to try to silence and cow officials who expose high crimes of state, the Obama Administration brazenly brings down the draconian power of federal prosecution against whistleblowers. Our progressives-in-power will not just take away your government job or bluster at your editors if you give your fellow citizens a glimpse of the blood-soaked sausage-making that goes on behind the imperial curtain; no, they will put you in the penitentiary, to rot away with murderers and child abusers, which is where they rank all such treacherous tellers of truth.

Doug Thompson has a similarly disturbing post at Capitol Hill Blue.

Recovery? We don’t got no stinkin’ recovery.

The housing implosion continues, as documented by Calculated Risk, one of the best indicators sites around.

The combined REO (Real Estate Owned) inventory for Fannie, Freddie and the FHA increased by 22% in Q1 2010 from Q4 2009. The REO inventory (foreclosed homes) increased 59% compared to Q1 2009 (year-over-year comparison).


Even with all the delays in foreclosure, the REO inventory has increased sharply over the last three quarters, from 135,868 at the end of Q2 2009, to 153,007 in Q3 2009, 172,357 at the end of Q4 2009 and now 209,500 at the end of Q4 2010.

These are new records for all three agencies.

Remember this is just a portion of the total REO inventory. Private label securities and banks and thrifts hold an even larger number of REOs.

Further evidence of the ongoing debacle, also from Calculated Risk: One home in four still ‘underwater’

CoreLogic reported today that more than 11.2 million, or 24

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LSD, the CIA, and the rise of the counterculture

The greatest event that never happened?

esnl’s pick would be the time a timely intervention by a senior spook spiked subordinates’ plans to spike the punch at The Company’s annual Christmas party with a generous dose of lysergic acid diethylamide.

Imagine being a fly on the wall at that party!

While the Central Intelligence Agency and LSD might seem an incongruous mix, there’s good reason for arguing that the CIA was directly responsible for the psychedelic drug explosion of the 1960’s and the rise of the drug counterculture.

The rise of the counterculture, while hailed as an event that threatened the existing political structure, may have instead blunted the edge of a radical movement that united large numbers of folks of all ages and backgrounds in a demand for a profound transformation of American society.

What can be stated with certainty is that many of the seminal figures of the counterculture were first introduced to LSD and other mind-altering drugs by scientists and physicians who were conducting CIA-funded research and attending conferences funded by CIA-front foundations.

esnl interviewed many of the researchers while working as a reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, later as associate editor of Psychology Today magazine, then while writing his second book, Deadly Blessings.

I met the Menlo Park researcher who gave Ken Kesey his first dose of acid and the Los Angeles psychiatrists who gave the drug to Henry and Claire Booth Luce, Anais Nin, Alan Watts, Cary Grant, and a host of other luminaries. All were part of the CIA-enabled network.

It may seem strange to describe rock-ribbed old school publishing magnate Henry Luce as a seminal countercultural figure, but it was his Life magazine that first shone spotlight—brightly flattering—onto the realm of psychedelic drugs.

Sidney Cohen, a shrink at the Westwood Veterans Administration hospital in LA’s Westwood neighborhood, administered the then-legal drug to the Luces at their ranch home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Cohen told me he suddenly

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The Pentagon’s media spinners

While it’s common knowledge that the corporate lobbyists and political hucksters are adept at spinning the media—especially in these days of a radically downsized press corps—it’s a different matter when agencies of government do it.

Especially agencies devoted to death.

The Pentagon runs one of the world’s most sophisticated media-twisting operations, as witnessed during the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the coverage by “embedded” reporters.

But there’s another Pentagon campaign, one even more insidious—but it’s not aimed at journalists and editors. These “liaisons” are aimed at the entertainment media, producers of Americans films and television shows.

They offer a powerful incentive: Access to military equipment, bases, and even explosives. Producers who swallow the bait are asked only one thing in return: access to their scripts, so soldiers can take out their blue pencils to make certain there’s nothing depicted that could portray the American military as anything other than the incarnation of virtue and righteousness. Even if the events depicted happen to be true.

Two remarkable documentaries detail the spinning operations: Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon shapes and censors the movies [2004] and Hollywood and the Pentagon: A Dangerous Liaison, made a year earlier.

The first film, based on the book of the same title by David L. Robb, is based on tens of thousands of Pentagon documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Robb said his curiosity was tweaked by reports he’d heard during his decades of covering the film industry as a labor, legal, and investigative reporter.

As Robb discovered, even shows as seemingly innocuous as the venerable early television series Lassie were forced to change their scripts in exchange for use of stock footage controlled by the military. The problem with one Lassie episode was a plot device in which the canine star howled before the crash of a military plane, sensing a high frequency sound traced back to a defectively manufactured wing.

No defective equipment allowed, said the Pentagon. Because the military wanted to create a favorable impression among the very young to entice them into enlisting later on, the script was changed. Since no changes would mean no footage, the producers complied.

And movies do make an impact on potential recruits, with the Air Force-idolizing Top Gun leading directly to a surge of enlistments.

To win military cooperation for the film Windtalkers, which detailed the use of Navajo-speaking “code-talkers” in the Pacific Island campaign against the Japanese in World Wart II, producers were forced to cut a scene in which a

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Naomi Wolf on ‘The End of America’

A November 18, 2007 interview with Naomi Wolf, author of  The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, describing the parallels between developments in the United States and the rise of European fascist states. From the A-Infos Radio Project. A longer talk in lecture form is available here.

Hedges on the fate of journalism

Chris Hedges, who has appeared on these pages several times recently, casts his eyes on the future of American journalism in this review of The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again, a recently published book by Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols.

While the authors of the book propose a $35 billion government subsidy program to support the dying craft, “paid for by new taxes on consumer electronics, advertising, and smartphones, among other things,” Hedges is much less optimistic, as is esnl.

Here’s some excerpts from Hedges’s review:

We are shedding, with the decline and death of many newspapers, thousands of reporters and editors, based in the culture of researched and verifiable fact, who monitored city councils, police departments, mayor’s offices, courts and state legislators to prevent egregious abuse and corruption. And we are also, even more ominously, losing the meticulous skills of reporting, editing, fact-checking and investigating that make daily information trustworthy. The decline of print has severed a connection with a reality-based culture, one in which we attempt to make fact the foundation for opinion and debate, and replaced it with a culture in which facts, opinions, lies and

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