By nature, I am a cheerful pessimist. As one of the editors bringing WhoWhatWhy to you week after week, I recently found myself looking back at some of the stories from 2013, and found plenty of reason to remain a pessimist. And yet, within this harvest of horrors, I also found reason for hope.
At first, I was overwhelmed by a sense of gloom and doom: what fools, charlatans and dupes we humans be! But then I recalled that knowledge, no matter how disturbing, can lead to understanding and even, occasionally, wisdom.
So, how to make lemonade out of this lemon of a world? When it seems impossible, I comfort myself with the dark humor of people like Mark Twain, who said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect,” but wished his compatriots well nonetheless, and H.L. Mencken, who asserted that “People are no damn good”—but undoubtedly approved of someone at some time.
Like them, I remain grateful that the malefactors are not able to do their dastardly deeds unimpeded, that there are people devoted to exposing wrongs in the hopes of correcting them.
In that spirit, we at WhoWhatWhy have put together a short list of astonishing stories from 2013 containing revelations that will undoubtedly continue to astonish us in the months ahead as more details unfold.
So…Read the summaries and links to stories below that we think you must see: not because they prove people are no damn good but because facing the truth may help us make things better.
[Click on the hyperlinked story titles below to read the full article]
THE 9/11 MYSTERY
By Russ Baker
Two congressmen are asking Obama to declassify the congressional report on 9/11, which the Bush administration heavily redacted. After seeing the redacted parts, the congressmen were “absolutely shocked.” This is apparently major connect-the-dots stuff that documents actual financial and logistical support of terrorism against the United States by its ally, the Saudi government.
As shown in the following stories, the 9/11 tragedy has given the US Corporate-Military-Intelligence Complex a gift that keeps on giving.
THE FEDS: THEY SHOOT PEOPLE, DON’T THEY?
By Douglas Lucas
A powerful example of how the 9/11 tragedy opened a Pandora’s Box of dicey military adventures. These hair-raising quotes from leaked emails tell the story:
“If the DEA can specifically locate the Sinaloa boss El Chapo, he will be assassinated.
A decision memo has been authorized to take him out, as a national security threat.”
“DEA had a window of opportunity to render El Chapo but the WH would not let them do it.”
“DEA’s first mistake was asking permission.”
“One of the scenarios discussed to kill El Chapo…was a 1000 yard head shot by a U.S. shooter, to plant the seed of paranoia in the minds of the narcos as to who pulled the trigger.”
“CIA ‘Ground Branch’ assets and/or DEA SO have stated they have the ability and intelligence to pull it off without getting caught.”
“The CIA has gone to bed with the DEA to screw the FBI.”
By Dave Lindorff
Would you be shocked to learn that the FBI apparently knew that some organization, perhaps even a law enforcement agency or private security outfit, had contingency plans to assassinate peaceful protestors in a major American city? Would you be surprised to learn that this intelligence comes not from a shadowy whistle-blower but from the FBI itself? And what, if anything, did the FBI do to intervene?
By Dave Lindorff, Russ Baker, and Milicent Cranor
The FBI has been accused of relentlessly intimidating, punishing, deporting–and, in one case, killing—persons connected, sometimes only tangentially, with the alleged Boston Marathon bombers.
Ibragim Todashev, unarmed, friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was reportedly shot at seven times, after hours of interrogation. Unnamed FBI sources have offered wildly contradictory stories on various aspects of the circumstances of Todashev’s killing—the number of hours he was interrogated, the number of agents in the room at the time he was shot, what happened just before and during the shooting.
First, they said that Todashev, whose knee was still recovering from surgery, lunged at the agent with a knife. No mention of how Todashev could have had a knife, since they presumably frisk potentially dangerous suspects.
Next, they said he had upended a table, possibly injuring the agent.
Then, they said he had attempted to grab a sword. This later morphed into a metal pole, and then into a broom handle.
There is even stranger variation in the accounts of what happened just before Todashev allegedly lunged:
After two hours, Todashev asked to take a break, went to “get a cigarette or something and then he goes off the deep end… and goes after the agent.” In this account, there were at least three law enforcement officials in the room.
He started to write a statement while sitting across from the agent and one of the detectives “when the agent briefly looked away….Todashev picked up the table.”
“After one of the detectives left the room, the other noticed Todashev was acting odd, and he texted that sense to the FBI agent with him… Suddenly, Todashev knocked over a table…”
The FBI said Todashev had implicated himself and Tsarnaev in the 2011 murder of three drug dealers in Waltham, Massachusetts. Yet, the Bureau has produced no recording of this alleged confession.
Todashev’s girlfriend, Tatyana Gruzdeva, was deported because she refused to confirm what she considered wild accusations by the FBI. And Todashev’s former wife announced that he could not possibly have been involved in the crime because bank records show he was in Atlanta, Georgia, at the time. Soon after, her bank closed her account.
BOSTON BOMBING INVESTIGATION
Officer Collier Shooting “Rosebud” Moment of the Boston Bombing? The Contradictions Keep Coming
By Russ Baker
If there is one thing that seemed to cement the guilt of the Tsarnaev brothers in the Boston Marathon bombing, it was the killing of MIT police officer Sean Collier.
To students of history, this had a familiar ring. Half a century ago, another traumatic event took place: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The big break in that case came when a police officer was shot and killed. Soon after, Lee Harvey Oswald, was connected to both events. Like Tamerlan Tsarnaev, he had recently spent time in Russia. Like Tamerlan Tsarnaev, he had been under scrutiny by the FBI before the crime.
In both cases, it was the killing of a police officer that convinced the public the police had the right man.
By Peter Dale Scott
If Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a double agent, he would be one of thousands to have been coerced by the FBI into a dangerous career as an informant. The Bureau has a long history of recruiting vulnerable individuals and, in some cases, encouraging them to commit violent acts. One example: the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, with an FBI undercover informant at the core of the plot.
Tsarnaev did seem to have been a provocateur playing a role. While in Russia, he attracted attention walking around in flashy clothes, and made it rather too clear that he wanted to join a jihadist group. Back in the US, he ostentatiously picked fights in a mosque with those presumably not radical enough for him. He appears to have been trying to earn the label “terrorist”— just as Lee Harvey Oswald picked fights with anti-Castro Cubans possibly to earn the label “Marxist.”
Yet, sleeper terrorists are trained to blend in, to be as inconspicuous as possible. There are many questions still to be answered.
THE MASTER MANIPULATORS
By Christian Stork
Barrett Brown faces federal charges that could put him away for over a hundred years for making leaked e-mails accessible to the public—documents that shine a light on the world of intelligence contracting in the post-9/11 era. Among the revelations:
A program to manipulate perception, conduct data mining, infiltrate social organizations by deploying fake online personas—known as Sock Puppets, a phalanx of Facebook marionettes controlled en masse by a human operator–to sway public opinion. A single operator can control up to fifty online personas, aided by software that assists in “maintaining situational integrity.”
A conspiracy by lobbying and cybersecurity firms to engage in a disinformation and sabotage campaign against critics of the Chamber of Commerce and Bank of America.
An operational mass surveillance and data-mining program targeting the Arab world.
The employment of American PR firms to discredit and sabotage dissidents from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain
For the next chapter on Barrett Brown, go here.
By Christian Stork
At the time of his death in a mysterious one-car crash and explosion, journalist Michael Hastings was researching a story that threatened to expose powerful entities and government-connected figures. That story intersected with the work of two controversial government critics—the hacktivist Barrett Brown (see above) and the on-the-run surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden.
For Hastings, Brown was clearly a confidential source. On January 24, 2013, Hastings tweeted that he was finally beginning to work on the Brown story, telling his interlocutors to “get ready for your mind to be blown.”
By Michael Krikorian and David J. Krajicek
Michael Krikorian, an essayist and former Los Angeles Times crime reporter, happened upon the scene a few hours after journalist Michael Hastings’s speeding car slammed into a palm tree and burst into a fireball. Krikorian has seen his share of fatal car wrecks. But this one was different. As he put it, “This demands a closer examination.” In accident-investigation parlance, it was a roadway departure–a non-intersection crash in which a vehicle leaves the traveled way for some reason.
But how and why did Hastings’s Mercedes depart the traveled way, and why was it traveling so perilously fast? To see the video, go here.
By David J. Krajicek
Hastings told a neighbor that he feared that the Mercedes he rented had been tampered with. One night he went to the neighbor’s apartment after midnight and asked to borrow her car. He said he was afraid to drive his own. She declined.
Since publication of this article, we have learned that Hastings could have been the victim of a car cyber attack. Former National Coordinator for Security Richard Clarke said there is reason to believe that intelligence agencies for major powers “know how to remotely seize control of a car” and that “it’s relatively easy to hack your way into the control system of a car…”
WE CAN SEE YOU— BUT YOU CAN’T SEE US
By Russ Baker
President Obama, following several explosive disclosures on NSA domestic spying, said he was all in favor of a vigorous public debate. And as a candidate he promised transparency. But as President he has no choice but to try and keep people complacent, for he is essentially helpless.
From his first moments in office, Obama has been sent plenty of unsubtle messages himself about the need to tread carefully. (See this and this.) Once you read those, please think about why the establishment invests so much effort in persuading us that anyone who dares speculate on these matters, or investigates deeply, is a nut to be shunned, ridiculed, penalized.
By Russ Baker
Washington’s hunger to know everything about its citizens seems to be matched only by its reticence in revealing its own activities. Enter “the mosaic effect.” Government officials are told they must consider this “effect” when deciding what to release and what to withhold:
The mosaic effect occurs when the information in an individual dataset, in isolation, may not pose a risk of identifying an individual (or threatening some other important interest such as security), but when combined with other available information, could pose such risk.
Have you ever seen documents released in redacted form, i.e., with certain names blocked out? Well, under the new rules, someone inside the government could argue that certain documents ought not to be released because someone, using other information, could put two and two together and figure out what was blocked out.
And guess who the Obama administration put in charge of the overall classification process: a CIA person with ties to that agency’s disastrous 9/11 intelligence. Perfect.
MORALISTS CAUGHT, SOME WITH THEIR PANTS UP
By David J.Krajicek
Hypocrisy on parade. It’s always satisfying to see the self-righteous caught practicing what they preach against.
And for comic relief, please get a load of the expression on the faces of these men to see what shame does to the anatomy!
By Sharon Guynup
Two accidents raise questions about the true cost to human health and the environment—and the high cost and difficulty of cleanup. But there are other issues as well, ranging from the political and economic impact to the behavior of the corporations involved to the very nature of the substance itself.
On March 29, 2013, a 22-foot gash opened in ExxonMobil’s 65-year-old Pegasus pipeline. It dumped some 210,000 gallons of tar sands oil into the streets of Mayflower, Arkansas, and into nearby Lake Conway. ExxonMobil falsely claimed it was conventional crude while downplaying the amount and extent of contamination. Corporate flacks also claimed that nearby Lake Conway was oil-free—though internal emails showed that they knew otherwise.
On July 26th, 2010, Enbridge Energy’s “Line B” pipeline ruptured, belching over a million gallons of tar sands oil into a field near Marshall, Michigan. Enbridge contends it spilled a mere 843,000 gallons—although EPA evidence shows far more. The company waited a week to disclose that the spill was not ordinary oil, but instead thick tar sands oil. Some 320 people have reported health problems.
Tar sands oil should not be confused with conventional crude. It is a gelatinous mix of tarry petroleum and sand, known as diluted bitumen or “dilbit.” It’s so thick it can’t flow through a pipeline without being thinned with liquefied natural gas and a range of chemicals, some of which are extremely toxic.
By Anthony Cuthbertson
We published this report in 2012 and again in 2013 because we feel it’s that important: scientists have learned how to use the bacteria E. Coli to produce ethanol from seaweed. Compared to land-based biofuels such as corn and sugar cane, it can produce up to four times as much ethanol per unit. The United States, with its enormous coastline, is in a particularly good position to develop seaweed as a low-carbon fuel alternative.
In the words of Yong-Su Jin of the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois, it’s a “ground-breaking achievement.” But, he warns, “We still face a huge technical gap for large-scale cultivation.” Costs would have to come down five-fold before this process could become commercially competitive with ordinary fossil fuels.
Graphics: Astounding Stories