Thursday Reads: MKULTRA, Offshore Tax Havens, Mitt Romney’s WH Lunch, and a Tom Ricks Update

Good Morning!!

The CIA keeps hoping that their cold war mind control programs (of which there were many back in the 1950s and 1960s), usually referred to by the umbrella term Project MKultra, will disappear down the memory hole; but occasionally it still rears its ugly head.

Yesterday was one of those occasions. The New York Times published an article by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist James Risen about a new lawsuit by Eric and Nils Olson that accuses the CIA of covering up the real causes of their father Frank Olson’s death.

First, a little background. Frank Olson was a scientist who worked at Ft. Dietrich in Maryland on top-secret research related to Project MKultra. From Wikipedia:

Frank Olson was a senior U.S. microbiologist at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland.[1] He was recruited from the University of Wisconsin, where his departmental advisor was Ira Baldwin, the civilian scientist who, along with industrial partners like George W. Merck and the U.S. military, established the U.S. bioweapons program in 1943, a time when interest in applying modern technology to warfare was at an all-time high.

His specific research work at Fort Detrick’s Special Operations Division has never been revealed, but he was clearly involved in biological weapons research. He had been assigned as a contact with the CIA’s Technical Services Staff, run by Dr. Sidney Gottlieb and his deputy Robert Lashbruck regarding experiments with bioweapons, toxins, and mind control drugs. This was the MKNAOMI – MKULTRA program, previously known as Project Artichoke and earlier, Project Bluebird, and justified based on claimed Soviet efforts to create a “Manchurian Candidate.” In 1953, as Deputy Acting Head of Special Operations for the CIA, Olson associated with Dr. William Sargant, investigating the use of psychoactive drugs at Britain’s Biological Warfare Centre at Porton Down. Hence, he was privy to the innermost secrets of the CIA interrogation and biowarfare programs.

In 1953, Olson was dosed with LSD without his knowledge at a retreat with his coworkers. Not surprisingly, he freaked out and became “paranoid.” A week later, he tried to resign his position, but his superiors sent him to New York City to see a psychiatrist involved with the CIA’s research, Harold Abramson. That night Olson supposedly committed suicide by jumping out of his 10th floor hotel room. Robert Lashbrook was in the room at the time, but claimed to have no idea how it happened.

Olson’s family had no idea what he had been working on or the details of his “accident.” All this came out after Congress began investigating the CIA’s insane mind control programs in the 1970s.

According to the the Risen article,

Eric and Nils Olson…said they plan to file a lawsuit in United States District Court here on Wednesday accusing the C.I.A. of covering up the truth about Mr. Olson’s death in 1953, one of the most infamous cases in the agency’s history.

During the intelligence reforms in the 1970s, the government gave the Olson family a financial settlement after the C.I.A. was forced to acknowledge that Mr. Olson had been given the hallucinogenic drug nine days before his death. President Gerald R. Ford met with the Olson family at the White House and apologized.

At the time, the government said Mr. Olson had killed himself by jumping out of a hotel window in Manhattan. But the Olsons came to believe that he had been murdered to keep him from talking about disturbing C.I.A. operations that he had uncovered.

Mr. Olson’s sons said that their past efforts to persuade the agency to open its files and provide them with more information had failed, and that a court challenge is the only way to find out the truth.

“The evidence points to a murder, and not a drug-induced suicide,” said Eric Olson, Frank Olson’s older son, who has devoted much of his life to investigating his father’s death. When the government told his family that his father had committed suicide, “one set of lies was replaced with another set of lies,” he said.

The Olson brothers claim that

In 1953, Mr. Olson traveled to Europe and visited biological and chemical weapons research facilities. The Olson family lawsuit alleges that during that trip, Mr. Olson witnessed extreme interrogations, some resulting in deaths, in which the C.I.A. experimented with biological agents that he had helped develop. Intelligence officials became suspicious of him when he seemed to have misgivings about what he had seen, the lawsuit contends. Eric Olson said Frank Olson also appeared to have deep misgivings about the use of biological weapons that was alleged in the Korean War.

According to Risen, it was after Olson expressed his “misgivings” that he was dosed with LSD. The lawsuit was filed yesterday afternoon.

Of course the CIA has never stopped developing methods of torture and mind control, as we learned during the Bush administration when the Abu Ghraib story broke and we began learning about the torture methods that were used on suspected terrorists and the CIA black sites in torture-friendly countries around the world.

I doubt if anything will come of this lawsuit, but I’m happy that Olson’s story and MKultra are back in the news. Perhaps a few people will read about it and wake up to the terrible things our government has been doing for decades and continues to do today.

In other news, the UK Guardian in cooperation with BBC Panorama and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) are in the process of publishing their research on Great Britain’s network of offshore tax havens. From the Guardian: Offshore secrets revealed: the shadowy side of a booming industry.

The existence of an extraordinary global network of sham company directors, most of them British, can be revealed.
The UK government claims such abuses were stamped out long ago, but a worldwide joint investigation by the Guardian, the BBC’s Panorama and the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has uncovered a booming offshore industry that leaves the way open for both tax avoidance and the concealment of assets.

More than 21,500 companies have been identified using this group of 28 so-called nominee directors. The nominees play a key role in keeping secret hundreds of thousands of commercial transactions. They do so by selling their names for use on official company documents, using addresses in obscure locations all over the world.

This is not illegal under UK law, and sometimes nominee directors have a legitimate role. But our evidence suggests this particular group of directors only pretend to control the companies they put their names to.

Another article reveals the real identities behind Britain’s secret property deals. Another article reveals how BBC Panorama filmed undercover in offshore tax havens.

Someone should tell Mitt Romney to turn off Fox News and read the Guardian for the next few days.

Speaking of Mitt Romney, he’ll be having lunch with President Obama at the White House today. The Boston Globe reports:

At some point late on Thursday morning, Mitt Romney will be driven to the steps of the White House. He will get out of the car, be escorted to a room adjacent to the Oval Office, and sit down for lunch.

But rather than arriving as an occupant, the one-time presidential hopeful will be a guest in someone else’s house.

In a meeting that has been weeks in the making, Romney will join President Obama for private lunch at the White House just 23 days after he lost the election. It will be the first time they have met since the election, and it follows several weeks in which Romney has started to contemplate life outside of politics.

I wonder if they’ll discuss the “gifts” that Romney claims Obama gave to the “47 percent” in order to get elected? I’m still waiting for mine.

At the Atlantic, Jen Doll writes about What Obama and Romney’s Lunch Might Look Like — or Should.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are having lunch! Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are having lunch! This is exciting to Americans because we just spent several mortifying days with our several mortifying relatives eating hopefully decent turkey, and now Romney is in our last-week’s shoes, sort of, as he prepares to sit across a table in a strange kind of tradition, breaking bread with a man he not so long ago vowed to defeat. So, yes, that’s slightly uncomfortable, perhaps. Kind of like the opening montage on Project Runway when those people who got kicked off in the first few episodes are all in your face saying how they’re number one and they’re going to win this whole thing, just watch.

This lunch will happen Thursday. Press is not allowed, which seems advisable. The lunch will be held at the White House (Obama’s home turf advantage) Private Dining Room (“next to the Oval Office in the West Wing”), and is the fulfillment of a promise Obama made on election night, as we reminded you earlier, that the president would meet with his former opponent. This is their first meetup since the election, or as the White House statement puts it, “It will be the first opportunity they have had to visit since the election.” Visit, of course, is the euphemism your grandmother uses.

This lunch, between a couple of men who didn’t seem terribly keen on each other just a few weeks ago, brings up a host of modern-day etiquette questions. Here, we do our best to answer them.

Read the rest at the link. It’s very funny.

The Tom Ricks vs. Fox News story continued into a third day. Ricks was invited to appear on MSNBC and said no. According to the WaPo’s Melissa Henneberger, Ricks’ Fox News putdown was

no mere partisan smackdown; it was more subversive than that, and even more bracing. Because as it turns out, Ricks doesn’t want to play on either the red or the blue team, and has no loftier view of Obama-cheering MSNBC than of Obama-jeering Fox.

When I talked to him Tuesday, he said yeah, actually, he had had some other TV invites, but we shouldn’t waste too much time clicking around looking for his next appearance: “MSNBC invited me, but I said, ‘You’re just like Fox, but not as good at it.’ They wrote back and said, ‘Thank you for your candor.’”

Henneberger asked Ricks if he had planned his Fox News smackdown ahead of time.

“It just kind of tumbled out,” he said, after “this fathead comes on and says the pressure is increasing on the White House; no, they’re backing off! Now their spokesman says I apologized; they’re just making stuff up.”

He told the young woman who pre-interviewed him that he felt the whole issue had been exploited for political reasons, “but my impression was she’s new to the game and thought that because I’m pro-military — and I do consider myself pro-military,” he’d naturally agree with the Foxified narrative.

After three years in the archives researching “The Generals,” Ricks said, “I’m blinking my eyes,” in the TV lights, and taken aback at how much a little truth-telling can set a guy apart around here.

Ricks was even more harsh in an interview with HuffPo yesterday.

Ricks hammered the point home when speaking with HuffPost Live’s Ahmed Shihab-Eldin. In response to Clemente’s statement indicating that Ricks “apologized” after the interview, “ignored the anchor’s question,” and doesn’t have “the strength of character to [apologize] publicly,” Ricks had one thing to say: “that’s horseshit.”

He recounted his hallway conversations once again, which included complimenting Fox News host Bret Baier on his weight loss and telling a Fox News staffer he was tired. “It was not an apology for what was said at all,” he added.

When asked about his decision to turn down an invitation to appear on MSNBC, Ricks said, “Fox really seems to sell outrage as its product, and MSNBC doesn’t as much. But they both seem to me to be running political campaigns almost more than they are running news networks. So I don’t particularly like either. That said, I’m not a fan of TV news generally. I think it’s a lousy place to get your information from.”

That’s all I have for you today. Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about?


Thursday Reads: Endless War, Quitterella, Fact-Checking Taibbi, and True Crime News

Good Morning!!

Well, last night, President Obama announced his plans to pull troops out of Afghanistan. Here’s the text of his speech. It was very short, less than 15 minutes. There wasn’t much to it. And get this, according to Think Progress: Obama ‘Withdrawal’ Plan Would Leave More Troops In Afghanistan Than When He Began His Presidency

…the troop reduction would not put us much closer to actually ending the war by the end of 2012. Rather this would simply scale back the second surge of 30,000 troops that President Obama announced in December 2009. It would also maintain the first surge of 17,000 troops Obama ordered upon entering office. This comes at a time when a record number of Americans want to end the war in Afghanistan and the costs of which are putting the United States deeper into debt.

They even have graph to demonstrate these findings. Basically this was just another campaign speech for Obama. He had to fudge up something, because Americans are fed up with the wars:

A new survey from the Pew Research Center finds a record number of Americans now want to bring the troops home from Afghanistan, confirming the trends of other recent polls showing majorities now opposed to the nearly decade-long war.

For the first time since Pew Research began asking the question in 2008, a majority (56 percent) now say they want the U.S. to remove American troops from Afghanistan “as soon as possible,” while 39 percent say they they want to leave troops “until the situation has stabilized.” That result represents a reversal since last year, when leaving the troops in place was preferred by a majority of 53 percent to 40 percent.

Not only has Quitterella cancelled her cross country bus tour, but also her trip to Sudan. She says she’s not going to Sudan because of “scheduling reasons,” but it sounds like it had more to do with security concerns, i.e., fear.

She was planning to travel with Franklin Graham, the son of evangelical leader Billy Graham, as well as Fox News personality Greta Van Susteren, to the July 9 independence ceremony of South Sudan, the sources said. Van Susteren also canceled her trip. Graham said on Wednesday that he still plans to go.

[….]

One U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of Palin’s potential political aspirations, said the former governor had gotten so far in the planning process as to secure permission from the government of South Sudan to attend the independence ceremony.

The official said one challenge of the trip was security. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is also tentatively scheduled to attend the ceremony, may not make the trip because of safety concerns in one of the world’s most war-torn countries.

[….]

“There is a genocide taking place,” said Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), a longtime advocate for greater U.S. involvement in Sudan. “The more people [who travel to Sudan] from the West, from the United States, the better. I’ve been urging different people to go. We have a museum on the mall, the Holocaust Museum. It says, ‘Never again.’ What doesn’t the West understand about this? If this was taking place in the south of France, do you think we’d let it go on?”

Matt Taibbi has a new screed on Rolling Stone. It’s about how dangerous Michele Bachmann is. I definitely agree with him that her candidacy is no laughing matter; because as ridiculous as we think she is, Bachmann is a hard worker, a true believer, and a fantastic fund raiser.

Unfortunately Taibbi made a big error in his article. He writes:

Young Michele found Jesus at age 16, not long before she went away to Winona State University and met a doltish, like-minded believer named Marcus Bachmann. After finishing college, the two committed young Christians moved to Oklahoma, where Michele entered one of the most ridiculous learning institutions in the Western Hemisphere, a sort of highway rest area with legal accreditation called the O.W. Coburn School of Law; Michele was a member of its inaugural class in 1979.

Originally a division of Oral Roberts University, this august academy, dedicated to the teaching of “the law from a biblical worldview,” has gone through no fewer than three names — including the Christian Broadcasting Network School of Law. Those familiar with the darker chapters in George W. Bush’s presidency might recognize the school’s current name, the Regent University School of Law. Yes, this was the tiny educational outhouse that, despite being the 136th-ranked law school in the country, where 60 percent of graduates flunked the bar, produced a flood of entrants into the Bush Justice Department.

Regent was unabashed in its desire that its graduates enter government and become “change agents” who would help bring the law more in line with “eternal principles of justice,” i.e., biblical morality. To that end, Bachmann was mentored by a crackpot Christian extremist professor named John Eidsmoe, a frequent contributor to John Birch Society publications who once opined that he could imagine Jesus carrying an M16 and who spent considerable space in one of his books musing about the feasibility of criminalizing blasphemy.

Um…Matt? Regent University School of Law is in Virginia. Bachmann never studied there. Bachman did attend Coburn School of Law, which is in Oklahoma.

Oral Roberts University (ORU) established the O. W. Coburn School of Law in 1979. The school was founded to educate Christian lawyers. Initially, there was some question whether the American Bar Association would accredit the school because of its emphasis on Christian values, but accreditation was granted. In 1986 ORU discontinued the law school and gave its law library to CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) University (now Regent University) at Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Giving their law library to an already establish college isn’t the same as *becoming* that college. BTW, CBS is Pat Roberts’ operation, not Oral Roberts’. I realize it’s difficult for yuppies like to to keep the right-wing preachers straight, but don’t they have fact-checkers at Rolling Stone to sort things out for you? Bachmann also attended William & Mary School of Law, and Taibbi doesn’t mention that. I’m not defending Bachmann or Christian law schools, but Taibbi is supposedly telling us not to underestimate Bachmann, while at the same time getting her history wrong. There are more problems with Taibbi’s article, but I won’t bore you any further.

I hope I didn’t put you to sleep with that silly rant. Matt Taibbi tends to get on my nerves.

Shades of the 1960s, the government has been spying on NYT reporter James Risen.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James Risen has been subjected to government surveillance and harassment that began under the Bush administration, according to a 22-page affidavit he filed Tuesday.

“I believe that the efforts to target me have continued under the Obama administration, which has been aggressively investigating whistleblowers and reporters in a way that will have a chilling effect on freedom of the press in the United States,” Risen said.

Early this year, authorities arrested former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling and charged him with six counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and one count of unlawfully keeping national defense information, mail fraud, unauthorized conveyance of government property and obstructing justice.

The U.S. Justice Department subpoenaed Risen in May to testify at the criminal trial of Sterling, who was allegedly cited in Risen’s 2006 book.

The Justice Deparment claimed that Risen should be compelled to provide information “like any other citizen” and that he was not “being harassed in order to disrupt his relationship with confidential news sources.”

Ain’t it great having a Democrat in the White House? Oh wait—-

CNN has a couple of crime stories that are well worth reading. The first is a piece on human trafficking in the U.S.: Sex trafficking victim testifies, then vanishes

Among the strung out addicts with zombie eyes and the beaten down prostitutes loitering by neon-lit entrances to adult video stores, Kelsey Emily Collins would have stuck out.

She was from out of town and too young to be where she was.

As she would later testify to a federal grand jury, a man 20 years older than her drove Kelsey 170 miles down Interstate 5 from Seattle to Portland’s 82nd Ave.

There amidst the strip’s seedy motels and lingerie stores where customers can buy backroom lap dances and more, the plan was simple: sell her to as many men as possible.

After that first night in January 2008 when she made about $1,000, all of which she later told investigators went to her pimp, Kelsey went right back to work as a prostitute.

Kelsey was only 16. Later she was approached by Sgt. Doug Justice, a vice squad officer who wanted her to testify against her pimp. Gradually he got Kelsey to talk to him about what had happened to her. Finally she agreed to testify before the Grand Jury. She did testify, and the pimp was later convicted. Afterward Kelsey’s mother wasn’t able to get her the help she needed to recover. She didn’t have money and there was no program that would take Kelsey. Law enforcement basically used her and threw her away. A month after she testified, Kelsey left home with a new “boyfriend,” and disappeared. Justus believes she was murdered because of her testimony. If you have time, please read the article. These are the kinds of women who are targets for predators and serial killers. It’s heartbreaking.

The second article is quite a serious discussion of whether Casey Anthony should testify in her own defense. Here’s just a short excerpt:

George Parnham, best known for defending Andrea Yates, the mentally ill woman who drowned her five children in the bathtub in 2001, says that opening statement “boxed the defense in.” He says Anthony has to tell her story.

“She needs to get up there and defend herself,” he said. “The jury is going to want to hear from her.”

Anthony, 25, is accused of murder, aggravated child abuse, misleading authorities and other offenses. If convicted of murder, she faces the death penalty. In Florida, only seven jurors have to agree on a death sentence.

Parnham, who successfully used an insanity defense for Yates but did not put her on the stand, said he usually decides in favor of letting a jury get to know his client in death penalty cases. “If you humanize her, that may save her life. You’ve got a woman who, if she is convicted, her life is going to be in jeopardy. She’s going to be on death row.”

I know this is tabloid stuff, but there are actually a lot of interesting issues involved in this case–child abuse, teen pregnancy, the death penalty–plus fascinating new forensic techniques.

Anyway, I agree with Parnham. I think the only chance Anthony has to save her life is to get up there and tell the truth. The only problem is that I’m not sure she is capable of being sincere. I think she should try though. It’s entirely possible that she was sexually abused as a child, and it’s obvious that her mother is incredibly narcissistic and manipulative. That doesn’t justify what she did, of course; but it might convince the jury to not to give her the death penalty.

That’s it for me for today. What are you reading and blogging about?