Mojo - May 2012

On Bin Laden Killing, Ex-CIA Torture Chief Contradicted by…CIA

| Wed May 2, 2012 3:48 PM EDT

Former CIA clandestine service chief Jose Rodriguez's torture tour was in full swing on Wednesday, with an op-ed in the Washington Post asserting that the name of the courier who unknowingly led the CIA to Osama bin Laden's hideout was pried from the tattered mind of a black site detainee through the use of Bush-era torturous interrogation:

In 2004, an al-Qaeda terrorist was captured trying to communicate with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the terror organization’s operations in Iraq. That captured terrorist was taken to a secret CIA prison — or "black site" — where, initially, he was uncooperative. After being subjected to some "enhanced interrogation techniques"— techniques authorized by officials at the most senior levels of the U.S. government and that the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel confirmed were consistent with U.S. law — the detainee became compliant. He was not one of the three al-Qaeda operatives who underwent waterboarding, the harshest of the hard measures.

Once this terrorist decided that non-cooperation was a non-starter, he told us many things — including that bin Laden had given up communicating via telephone, radio or Internet, and depended solely on a single courier who went by “Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.”

Case closed, right? According to Rodriguez, torture—which he apparently considers a manly pursuit—works. There's only one problem here: Rodriguez' story directly contradicts what the former head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, has said about how the bin Laden courier's name was discovered.

In May of last year, just after bin Laden was killed, the Washington Post's Greg Sargent obtained a letter sent to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) from then-CIA Director Leon Panetta. The letter clearly states that "we first learned about the facilitator/courier’s nom de guerre from a detainee not in CIA custody in 2002," and that "no detainee in CIA custody revealed the facilitator/courier’s full true name or specific whereabouts." Panetta's version of events is bolstered by a letter released by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) earlier this week, which stated, "The original lead information had no connection to CIA detainees." Feinstein and Levin noted a third detainee in CIA custody did provide information on the courier, but "he did so the day before he was interrogated by the CIA using their coercive interrogation techniques."

This directly contradicts Rodriguez's account, which is that the CIA learned of the courier's identity from a detainee in CIA custody via torture.

For the moment, it comes down to whom you believe: The two Senators and the Obama administration's former intelligence chief or the guy who went out of his way to destroy evidence of CIA torture in direct violation of a judge's order. He has since been rewarded with a book deal and fawning media tour. Fortunately, Feinstein, as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has been leading an inquiry into the use of Bush era so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," which means sooner or later the truth may come out.

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Chris Christie: "Do the Right Thing" and Reelect "Courageous" Scott Walker

| Wed May 2, 2012 1:51 PM EDT
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

It's not just the Republican Party's biggest donors rallying behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the run-up to his June 5 recall election.

On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie swooped in to the Badger State to campaign alongside Walker, calling the embattled governor "courageous" and a principled flag-bearer for the conservative movement, according to Politico. Christie told attendees at a rally in the city of Oak Park to "do the right thing" by re-electing Walker.

"Do you stand behind courageous leaders who stand for their principles or do you walk away from them? Wisconsin's going to answer that question for America," Christie said. "And when you answer that question the right way and you keep Scott Walker in the state house in Madison, believe me—it's going to change America, everybody."

Christie cast Walker's recall as a battle pitting "the people" against "the money [and] special interests from Washington, DC." In Christie's telling, those out-of-state special interests are labor unions, which are spending millions to defeat Walker. The irony, of course, is that Walker has for months flown around the country raking in money for his recall war chest from some of the wealthiest donors in America. Since January he's raised $13.2 million, two-thirds of which came from out-of-state donors. Walker's top donors include Houston-based homebuilding tycoon Bob Perry, who's given $500,000, and Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who's given $250,000.

Christie and the labor unions do agree on one thing: a lot is at stake in Walker's recall fight. A win for Walker would seem to validate his anti-union, deregulatory agenda; a loss would deal him a stunning rebuke, a rejection of the hard-line conservative policies peddled by Walker and fellow GOP governors including Christie, Michigan's Rick Snyder, and Florida's Rick Scott. From now until recall time, Christie said, "Wisconsin is going to be the center of the American political universe."

Here's the video of Christie's appearance, via Politico:

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for May 2, 2012

Wed May 2, 2012 11:50 AM EDT

The Army wheelchair basketball team form a huddle during a team practice for the 2012 Warrior Games, April 23, 2012. The Warrior Games, hosted by the US Olympic Committee, feature service members who are wounded, ill or injured in a variety of sporting events. Photo by Army Sgt. Jerry Griffis, 43rd Public Affairs Detachment.

Gingrich Wins! (An Alternative History)

| Wed May 2, 2012 9:34 AM EDT
Artist's rendering

On Wednesday, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich will formally suspended his presidential campaign, crushing the dreams of the dozens of supporters who hoped he'd follow through on his pledge to fight all the way to Tampa, Florida.

But for Gingrich, this is merely a shady highway rest area on the larger journey of political ambition. A prolific author, Gingrich specializes in alternative histories, novels based on the premise that (to use a couple of actual examples) Robert E. Lee was victorious at Gettysburg, or that the Germans invaded eastern Tennessee at the end of World War II.

Mother Jones has obtained an exclusive draft of Gingrich's latest, and most ambitious effort: The inside story of how a plucky, brilliant—dashing, even—former speaker of the House stuck it to the doubters to win the Republican presidential nomination. Here's the first chapter. 

Five Minutes to Liftoff: How Newt Gingrich Beat the Weakest Republican Front-Runner Since Leonard Wood in 1920
By Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen
Thomas Dunne Books

1. The Briefcase

Wolf Blitzer blinked, blinked again, and tried, for the fourth time, to read the script in front of him. The news had come across the wire just a few minutes earlier, and it still didn't seem real. More like a magical illusion, like the hologram projector they had unveiled in 2008 and then scrapped a week later. He had really liked that hologram projector.

To hell with it, Wolf thought. Just tell them what you know. He took a long pause and looked into the camera. "We're watching this very closely," he said.

Wasn't everyone? Political pundits had known the 2012 presidential race might pivot on a handful of crises—high gas prices, gridlock, Iran. No one could have predicted that the Nazis would come out of hiding from their top-secret base on the moon, armed with a powerful electro-magnetic pulse that could end civilization as we know it. This was different. No one had prepared for this. No one knew what to do.

Well, almost no one. At his home in McLean, Virginia, Newt Gingrich flicked off the television, took a deep breath, and stared at the briefcase in front of him. He'd been waiting for this moment.

Since entering the Republican presidential race one year earlier, Gingrich had been mocked, scorned, cast aside. Rivals had laughed at his "grandiose ideas"—their term for proposals like a permanent colony in outer space and a fundamental overhaul of our defenses against electronic warfare. Projects they said couldn't work. Projects he said couldn't wait.

No one was laughing now. Those innovations just might be America's last hope.

Over the last 10 months, Gingrich had racked up enormous debts—$4.5 million, according to the most recent published reports. It was hard to keep track. Combat-ready robots don't build themselves. At least not yet, anyway. For years, he'd argued that racking up such debt was acceptable only in times of war. What was this, then, if not war?

He fidgeted with the briefcase and picked up his phone. Two missed calls.

Adelson.

If only he could see me now, Gingrich thought. For the first time in more than a month, he smiled.

Gingrich could hear the engineers making their final preparations on the other side of the bookshelf. It functioned as a trap door; he had had it installed in his home at a cost of $75,000 (for "catering," he told the FEC). He flipped open the briefcase: 100 percent charged. The rocket was almost ready. Callista was already onboard.

He flicked the switch and waited for the red button to light up, then turned the key. The lights flickered and the room went dark. The penguin in the corner let out a squawk. He had forgotten it was there. "Patience, Pericles," Gingrich said.

The ship shot out of the earth with a roar, leaving a vast plume in its wake as the land beneath faded from view; after 30 seconds, they were out of the atmosphere. In another half hour they'd be on the moon.

Out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia, Gingrich had emerged.  

Corn on MSNBC: GOP Hypocrisy on Politicizing Death of Bin Laden

Wed May 2, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

David Corn joined Al Sharpton on MSNBC's PoliticsNation to discuss the GOP's hypocritical criticism of the Obama campaign's spiking of the bin Laden football.

He also joined Martin Bashir to discuss the poltiics on the bin Laden killing, one year later.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

Occupy May Day: Photos From the Oakland March

| Wed May 2, 2012 4:02 AM EDT

We snapped a few photos before things turned violent in Oakland yesterday. These protesters were part of the Occupy Oakland anti-capitalist march on banks in the downtown Oakland area.


Protesters write the numbers of the National Lawyers Guild and medical help on their arms in case of a confrontation with police.


Occupy Oakland protesters, Iraq vet Scott Olsen among them, target a Wells Fargo branch in downtown Oakland.

Wells Fargo bank security locks doors to a branch in downtown Oakland as Occupy Oakland protesters marched on the bank.








Respectful of construction workers laying new pavement, protesters march around a construction area in downtown Oakland.












Scott Olsen was back out Tuesday. The Iraq War veteran and Occupy activist suffered a head injury after being hit with a police projectile in Oakland in October 2011. He told Mother Jones that it took two and a half weeks before he could speak at all after the injury, and about a month "before I was comfortable speaking."

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Hitler, Obama Both Fond of Slogans

| Tue May 1, 2012 5:37 PM EDT
"Forward!"

Hitler does not have a patent on adverbs.

It all started right after Team Obama debuted their new campaign's slogan: "Forward"—the long-awaited sequel to 2008's "Hope and Change." And in those seven letters, members of the conservative commentariat detected a whiff of totalitarianism.

On Tuesday, ThinkProgress editor Alex Seitz-Wald threw together a primer on the bizarre, petty, and not entirely unexpected freak-out. For example, Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard criticized the president for having signed off on a word so closely linked to Chairman Mao's mass-murder-tastic Great Leap Forward. ("[P]erhaps President Obama might rethink this slightly creepy slogan," Kristol pondered earnestly.) Breitbart.com's Joel Pollak (this guy) wrote about how the seven-letter slogan is further proof that Obama's political heritage belongs to a long line of Communist tyrants. Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit took Forwardgate as his cue to yet again draw the Obama-Hitler connection.

There you have it: The 44th President of the United States and his campaign staff like to use words. Communists and fascists throughout history were also known to have used words.

It's the same kind of bulletproof logic you'd get from Dave Chappelle's "Conspiracy Brother" in Undercover Brother.

Here are some other conclusions that follow the same line of reasoning that begot the Forward backlash. You can apply the formula to anyone, really.

Obama:

The White House/FlickrThe White House/FlickrYou know who else liked dogs, don't you?

German Federal ArchiveGerman Federal ArchiveSupermodels:

You know who else really loved horsies?

Biggie:

WikimediaWikimediaYou know who else knew where Brooklyn at?

I think we're done here.

Occupy May Day: Union Square Is "A Serious Mosh Pit" Right Now

| Tue May 1, 2012 5:17 PM EDT

As New York's weather turned into a classic spring afternoon, groups are converging on Union Square from all parts of the city ahead of a march to Wall Street at 5:30 PM. The park is packed with families, students and demonstrators in colorful costumes. Police helicopters buzz overhead, monitoring the crowd. Strong showing of pro-labor and immigrant support groups advocating immigrant rights and reform.

Obama Administration Backs Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Program

| Tue May 1, 2012 4:04 PM EDT

Thought "abstinence only" education was a thing of the past, at least at the national level? Looks like it's still part of the officially sanctioned curriculum from the US Department of Health and Human Services for teen pregnancy prevention.

The HHS Office of Adolescent Health lists the Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education as one of the 31 "evidence-based programs" that "met the effectiveness criteria" for preventing teenage pregnancy. RH Reality Check flagged its inclusion on Tuesday, noting that the program was quietly added to the list sometime in April. The program is based in South Carolina and focuses on schools in the state.

The Heritage program is aimed at middle and high schoolers and advocates abstaining from sex until marriage. Heritage Community Services, which created the curriculum, describes its programs as "a logic model that addresses the risky behavior of adolescents from the perspective of changing the behavior that is causing the problem rather than dealing with the consequences of the risky actions."

The HHS fact sheet on the program lists five different sections, on topics like "sexual abstinence" and "family formation." The "STD Facts" section "discusses how to refuse sex in different settings." Students are also taught a "four-step plan for resisting sexual activity," and provided with "role-playing exercises to help students practice it." In other words, don't count on learning anything along the lines of what young people should do if they are having sex. There's no talk about condoms or birth control. And if you're gay, forget about it.

The RH Reality Check piece notes that an August 2007 report on the Heritage program prepared for HHS found that it "had little or no impact on sexual abstinence or activity." So it's not exactly clear why it's on a list of "evidence-based programs" that "met the effectiveness criteria" for HHS. 

Yet the Heritge website now proudly boasts that it is "the only authentic abstinence education program in the United States identified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as having demonstrated it's [sic] effectiveness."

 

Occupy May Day: Pictures From Williamsburg Bridge

| Tue May 1, 2012 3:01 PM EDT

On a rainy May Day morning, at least 200 people marched from Brooklyn to Manhattan across the Williamsburg Bridge, and were met by around 100 police in varying degrees of riot uniform. The crowd was mostly local and largely peaceful. There were four arrests reported. Police confiscated a shopping cart filled with riots shields fashioned from traffic barriers. Nearly every MTA train that passed the protest honked loudly in support. Before continuing to follow the crowd, James West compiled this short photo essay.