Dan is Mother Jones' deputy DC bureau chief. He is the New York Times best-selling author of Sons of Wichita(Grand Central Publishing), a biography of the Koch brothers that is now out in paperback. Email him at dschulman (at) motherjones.com.
In August 2009, weeks after three US citizens (including Mother Jones contributor Shane Bauer) were snatched by Iranian forces while hiking in Kurdistan, near the Iranian border, the US sought advice from France on how to free them. At the time, the French government was working to secure the release of one of its own citizens, Clotilde Reiss, and, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, French officials opened their playbook to State Department official Kathleen H. Allegrone. Summarizing her meetings with two French officials, President Nicolas Sarkozy's strategic affairs advisor Francois Richier and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Middle East director Patrice Paoli, she wrote:
The French approached their hostage situations in Iran by first seeking an immediate, behind-the-scenes resolution before the Iranians brought charges against their captives, and then, once that approach failed, by adopting a two-pronged strategy: (1) relentlessly publicizing the cases with repeated employment of key words chosen carefully to put the Iranians on the defensive, and (2) constant exertion of diplomatic and political pressure, with the help of allies, in the form of regular demarches in Tehran and convocations of Iranian Ambassadors in European and Middle Eastern capitals.
The French officials stressed the importance of enlisting allies that might have Iran's ear, and said they had quickly reached out to Syria after Reiss was detained. Similarly, Richier said the French had made sure to explicitly thank Syria when Iran freed Nazak Afshar, a French embassy employee held briefly by Iran. "Of course we don't know if the Syrians did anything," Richier said, "but we wanted to thank them anyway. It should at least confuse the Iranians."
The French officials told their American counterparts that the Iranians would likely advise the US government, through the Swiss, to "remain calm and quiet" while the Iranian legal process moved forward. The French officials advised the opposite. "Be vocal," Richier said, "even more so if the Iranians ask you not to be." Paoli warned: "They are the masters of stalling tactics."
Ignore this warning, they insisted, because silence will not expedite the process. They argued that USG statements and actions can sway and even mobilize public opinion within Iran. Whether or not we choose to speak out, they warned, the Iranians will energetically disseminate fabricated accusations.
In 2008, Mother Jones blew the lid off corporate black ops against environmental groups. Now one of the targets is fighting back.
James Ridgeway and Daniel SchulmanNov. 29, 2010 3:38 PM
More than two years ago, Mother Jonesexposed a private security firm run by former Secret Service agents that had spied on an array of environmental groups on behalf of corporate clients, in some cases infiltrating unsuspecting organizations with operatives posing as activists. Now, one of the targets of this corporate espionage is fighting back.
On Monday, Greenpeace filed suit in federal district court in Washington, DC, against the Dow Chemical Company and Sasol North America, charging that the two multinational chemical manufacturers sought to thwart its environmental campaigns against genetically engineered foods and chemical pollution through elaborate undercover operations. Also named in the suit are Dezenhall Resources and Ketchum, public relations firms hired by Sasol and Dow respectively, and four ex-employees of that now-defunct security firm, Beckett Brown International (BBI).
The suit charges that between 1998 and 2000 the chemical companies, the PR firms, and BBI "conspired to and did surveil, infiltrate and steal confidential information from Greenpeace with the intention of preempting, blunting or thwarting its environmental campaigns. These unlawful activities included trespassing on the property of Greenpeace, infiltrating its offices, meetings and electronic communications under false pretenses and/or by force, and by these means, stealing confidential documents, data and trade secrets from Greenpeace." Greenpeace is seeking an injunction against further trespass and thefts of trade secrets, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.
Why's an incendiary Dutch journalist on the payroll of the ex-Alaska governor's political action committee? A Mother Jones investigation.
Andy Kroll and Daniel SchulmanNov. 22, 2010 7:00 AM
In recent months, Sarah Palin's political action committee, SarahPAC, has paid thousands of dollars to a mysterious company that's gone to significant lengths to mask its ownership. Addresses linked to the firm lead to mail drops. It has no website. No phone number. Not even the California lawyer who incorporated the company knew who was behind it. But a Mother Jones investigation has found that this firm is run by an unlikely foreign political operative.
Federal Election Commission filings show that SarahPAC has paid the company, Paideia Research LLC, at least $16,000 for its services. The payments to Paideia—which takes its name from the ancient Greek word meaning "education" or "instruction"—are the only research-related expenditures listed on the PAC's latest disclosures.
It's official. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) has launched a bid to become ranking member of the House oversight committee, when the Republicans take over the House in January, a race that will pit him against the panel's current chairman, Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY). The top Democratic slot on the committee will be a key position for the Dems in the next Congress, for the GOP pitbull who will be at the helm of the committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has earned a reputation as Obama's "annoyer-in-chief" and has vowed to initiate multiple investigations of the Obama administration. Issa, as the ranking Republican member of the committee, has already launched politically charged probes of, among other things, a White House job offer made to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.), presumably to persuade him to not challenge Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary. If Issa was a thorn in the side of the administration as a minority House member, when he assumes the chairmanship and obtains subpoena power, he will become a giant pain in the ass for the White House. Think Henry Waxman during the Bush years. Issa has already promised to hold an unheard of 280 hearings during his first year, which are expected to include a probe of climate science. By comparison, Waxman held 203 hearings over two years.
From Kucinich's letter:
Rep. Darrell Issa of California, has already made wild and unsubstantiated charges which threaten to turn the principal oversight committee of the House into a witch hunt.
In just the past week, he has indicated a telling enthusiasm for a broad probe into the $700 billion American Reinvestment and Recovery Act program. He has equated it with "walking around money." As you know, that is political slang for money off the books and under the table. He made this unsubstantiated claim in the context of promising hundreds of investigative hearings into the present Administration, calling President Obama "one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times." I immediately sent Mr. Issa a letter (attached) calling for him to produce the evidence for such charges or to retract his statement.
Mr. Issa, through his eagerness to make unsubstantiated charges and to draw conclusions in advance of evidence, reveals a lack of restraint and basic fairness. This conduct in the Chairman of the Committee will degrade Congress’ oversight credibility and undermine the institution of the House through a lack of restraint in the use of subpoena power.
We cannot simply stand by idly and hope that such a reckless approach to the use of the power of the Chair will not happen, especially since it is not only being promised, but demonstrated by the person who will hold the gavel.
It is a matter of the highest importance that any intemperate use of the power of the Chair be challenged at every turn.
The independent-minded Kucinich (on his website he dubs himself "America's Most Courageous Congressman"), who mounted a long-odds and unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2008, has often challenged the powers that be on both sides of the aisle. There's little doubt that he would throw out every obstacle he can to thwart the more partisan aspects of Issa's agenda. Towns, on the other hand, has largely proven himself unable to keep the California Republican in check. In recent years, Towns' own investigation's have frequently been overshadowed by Issa's.
Recently, Democrats have privately expressed concerns about Towns retaining the senior slot on the committee during the Issa-era, preferring someone with a stronger presence to do battle with Issa. But Kucinich, an ardent progressive who takes pride in adopting buck-the-conventional policies (such as his years-long quest to establish a Department of Peace), may have a tough time convincing fellow Democrats that he ought to be placed in this high-profile position. Additionally, he's currently fifth in seniority on the committee (though Rep. Paul Kajorski, who's second, lost his reelection bid). In challenging Towns, he is leapfrogging several other members. And there's this: if House Democrats back Kucinich—or another committee member—over Towns, that could draw protest from the Congressional Black Caucus, which usually is quick to protect the chairmanship positions of its members.
For the Dems, it's a bit of a catch-22. Towns remaining the top Democrat on the committee poses a problem. So does replacing him with Kucinich or amonther oversight member.
When it comes to prosecuting Blackwater contractors on murder charges, the Justice Department has a pretty weak track record. The government's case against 5 contractors charged in connection with 2007's mass shooting in Baghdad's Nisour Square imploded last January, thrown out by a judge who said prosecutors had relied on tainted interviews. A few weeks ago, the case against two contractors for a Blackwater shell company who were charged with killing Afghan civilians ended in a mistrial. And late Monday came word that federal prosecutors have decided against indicting Andrew Moonen after an investigation that lasted nearly 4 years.
Moonen is the Blackwater contractor who, on Christmas Eve 2006, fatally shot one of the Iraqi vice president's bodyguards following a drunken confrontation in Baghdad's Green Zone. Blackwater whisked Moonen out of the country immediately after the incident. The company—now known as Xe—was subsequently accused of destroying evidence. (Similar allegations have surrounded the Nisour Square shooting, including reports that Blackwater immediately repaired the vehicles its contractors were riding in when the incident occured.)
All three incidents have been highlighted as examples of contractor-related abuses that seriously undermined US war efforts, inflaming anti-American sentiments. It certainly doesn't help local notions of American accountability and justice in the theaters of Iraq or Afghanistan that the DOJ is now 0 for 3 against Blackwater. If concerns about prosecution had anything to do with Blackwater founder Erik Prince's recent relocation to Abu Dhabi, perhaps he needn't have worried.