WhoWhatWhy Groundbreaking Investigative Journalism 2014-07-30T23:36:52Z http://whowhatwhy.com/feed/atom/ James Huang <![CDATA[How Fantasy Obama Impeachment Benefits Both Parties—and more headlines]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=10536 2014-07-29T23:22:44Z 2014-07-29T23:22:44Z
• Toughest bill yet offered vs. NSA telephone record collection

• Big money available for candidates who…oppose big money

And more headlines…]]>
123• The pundits who were wrong on Libya (The Atlantic)

• Banks cash in on mergers intended to elude taxes (New York Times)

• How both parties are making hay from fantasy impeachment scenario (Washington Post)

• Group to spend big for candidates who oppose money in politics (New York Times)

• US has lost tens of thousands of AK-47s in Afghanistan (Quartz)

• Study finds military intelligence analyst predictions usually right…though these were Canadian (Economist)

• Dem senator offers toughest bill yet on NSA phone record collection (Reuters)

• Topless activist to keep exposing breasts to show what boobs “open carry” gun advocates are (Talking Points Memo)

Russ Baker http://www.russbaker.com <![CDATA[Here’s Why Libya Is Burning—Again]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=10514 2014-07-28T19:28:18Z 2014-07-28T00:52:17Z Libya Burning

Libya Burning

NEWSFLASH: The U.S. has evacuated its embassy in Tripoli, Libya, because of ongoing violence, U.S. officials tell CNN’s Barbara Starr.

Have you been following events in Libya closely? No, of course you haven’t. Since the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi, we’ve scarcely discussed Libya except in the context of a predictable partisan effort to affix blame for a single if tragic event: the deaths of the American ambassador and several others in Benghazi nearly two years ago.

Since then, the country the West purportedly rescued has slid into chaos with barely any consequences for those in Washington, Paris, London and elsewhere who supported the removal of Qaddafi.

Sadly, the public was duped once again. Those advocating military intervention against the Libyan leader were not competent to predict a successful outcome or an outpouring of love from the Libyan people any more than Dick Cheney was to promise that the people would welcome American troops in Iraq with bouquets.

Just as bad, no acknowledgment has ever come from the establishment, including the media, that what was tantamount to an invasion by the West in 2011 was never about protecting the Libyan people from an ogre. That’s what the public was constantly led to believe. Rather, it was about protecting opportunities for Western companies. And now, as Libya continues to unravel, even those are in doubt.

At WhoWhatWhy, we investigated what was happening in Libya from the beginning. We believe good public policy and good journalism require constantly reviewing where we’ve been to understand where we are, and where we’re going.

If you’d like to understand the true motives that were (and are) in play, here are some of the articles we ran:

The Libya Secret: How West Cooked Up “People’s Uprising”

Libya: Connect the Dots—You Get a Giant Dollar Sign

Benghazi: Cover-up by Both Parties?

The CIA’s Man in Libya?

Did Qaddafi Really Order Mass Rapes? Or Is the West Falling Victim to a Viagra-Strength Scam?

Kerry and McCain United Behind the Mysteriously Urgent Libya Mission

Quick, Quick: Why Are We in Libya? A New Candor Prevails, Sort of …

WhoWhatWhy’s Libya Primer: The (Still) Untold Backstory to Qaddafi’s Demise

Al-Jazeera’s Failures on Libya—and What They Tell Us About the Network

Burying the “Lockerbie Bomber”—and the Truth

Libya Update: Featuring Media and Congress as Daffy Duck

Libya Rape Charge: View With Caution

Where Congress Won’t Tread in Benghazi Hearings




WhoWhatWhy plans to continue doing this kind of groundbreaking original reporting. You can count on us. Can we count on you? What we do is only possible with your support.

Please click here to donate; it’s tax deductible. And it packs a punch.

James Huang <![CDATA[Obama opens East Coast to oil exploration—and more headlines]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=10501 2014-07-25T00:53:04Z 2014-07-25T00:53:04Z
• Military device used against Detroit protesters

• Pickpocket remembers good old days

And more headlines… ]]>

• Investigation of how FBI uses informants (AlJazeera)

• Obama opens East Coast to oil exploration (Associated Press)

• Military device used against Detroit protesters (Daily Kos)

• Terrorism prosecutions often an illusion (Human Rights Watch)

• Government rulebook for labeling people terrorists (The Intercept)

• America lags in energy efficiency, leads in Climate doubters (EcoWatch)

• The good old days of “honest” theft, before cybercrime predominated (New York Times)

• Seven charts to inspire optimism about economy (Quartz)


Sylvia Todorova <![CDATA[Does the Ukrainian Crisis Revolve Around This Pipeline?]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=10485 2014-07-28T21:58:46Z 2014-07-23T20:55:43Z South Stream pipeline’s planned route through the heart of Europe

South Stream pipeline’s planned route through the heart of Europe

Now that all eyes are on Ukraine and the potential of a bigger war looms, there’s never been a more important time to understand what is at stake.

As WhoWhatWhy readers know, the real reasons surrounding a conflict are often buried under the headlines and rhetoric. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that, behind the scenes, oil and natural gas are driving a big piece of the U.S. response to Russian involvement in Ukraine.

If you want to understand where the rubber meets the geopolitical road in the Ukraine war, you need to learn about the 1,480-mile South Stream natural gas pipeline.

The pipeline is core to the larger battle being fought over Europe between Moscow and Washington. It may even have been a motivation behind Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Why does South Stream matter? It’s a $21.6 billion project to connect Russia’s gas reserves—the world’s largest—to Europe’s markets.  Europe relies on Russia for about 30 percent of its natural gas.

Any delays in finishing the pipeline—scheduled for completion in 2018—can only help Russia’s competitors in the international energy business.  And one player gearing up to challenge Russia in the European energy market is the United States.

This year, the United States became the largest producer of natural gas and oil hydrocarbons in the world, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia. There’s solid evidence that the U.S. is seeking both commercial advantage and political influence by gaining a foothold in Europe’s oil and gas markets.

The evidence comes, in part, from the targets the Obama administration has chosen to punish for Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula. All of this raises the question of how much the confrontation in the Ukraine is about who gets to sell natural gas (and later oil) to one of the world’s biggest energy consumers: Europe.


South Stream pipeline map.

South Stream pipeline map.

South Stream owes much of its existence to the 2005-2010 Russia-Ukraine gas disputes, which left as many as 18 European countries cut off from Russian gas. Gazprom, Russia’s state-run energy company, proposed South Stream as a way to circumvent Ukraine and ensure an uninterrupted, diversified flow to Europe. It found a willing partner in the Italy’s state-controlled oil and gas company, Eni S.p.A., and seven other gas-hungry countries.

To truly understand how intrinsic South Stream is to Russian economic influence over Europe, one only has to look at some of the targets of U.S. sanctions against Russian or Russian-linked companies. Two of them were directly aimed at slowing down or stopping South Stream.

The first South Stream-related company the U.S. targeted was Stroytransgaz, which is building the Bulgarian section. Putin ally and billionaire Gennady Timchenko owns it and he’s already on the sanctions list. So Stroytransgaz had to stop construction or risk exposing other companies on the project to the sanctions.

The second entity in the sanctions crosshairs was a Crimean company called Chernomorneftgaz. After the Russian annexation, the Crimean parliament voted to take over the company, which belonged to the Ukrainian government. And guess what that company owned? The rights to the exclusive maritime economic zone in the Black Sea.

That’s important because Russia routed the pipeline on a longer path through the Black Sea that cut out Ukraine. It avoided the Crimean waters, going instead via Turkey’s.


The European Union attacked South Stream through a non-binding resolution that called for a halt to its construction. EU member states don’t have to pay attention to the resolution, which was mostly designed to put public pressure on Russia.

That’s where split among countries in Europe became evident.

Several that will benefit from the pipeline have spoken out in support of construction or moved ahead with agreements to build it. Italy wants it to proceed, and Austria and Russia signed an agreement to construct a segment, in defiance of the EU’s position that the pipeline may violate anti-competitiveness rules. Germany’s Siemens will supply the instrumentation for the pipeline.

123One country that’s trying to avoid getting trampled as the giants fight is Bulgaria. It still has close ties to Russia but is subject to pressure from the U.S.

Both have taken aim at its section of South Stream, which is where the pipeline will come ashore from Russia via the Black Sea. The European Union warned the Bulgarian government that its construction tender broke EU rules. The U.S. sanctioned the company that won the tender, Stroytransgaz.

Bulgaria is arguing to the EU that its position is legally sound, and that its economic stability is at risk without South Stream. Bulgaria has no other secure gas supply so “the national interest must be protected,” Economy and Energy Minister Dragomir Stoynev said.

In the meantime, Bulgaria is hard at work finding a way around the U.S. sanctions. The government may hand the construction job to a subsidiary of Gazprom that’s building the Serbian section. And here’s a neat trick: the Bulgarian government approved an $835 million loan from Gazprom to pay for it, secured by future revenue from the pipeline.


According to Vladimir Putin, South Stream is just a business venture facing ordinary commercial setbacks that have nothing to do with Ukraine. Washington is interfering, Putin said after meeting with his Austrian counterpart in June, because the United States wants to supply the gas to Europe. “It is an ordinary competitive struggle. In the course of this competition, political tools are being used,” he said, referring to the U.S. sanctions.

Undoubtedly, the United States has a massive commercial interest in selling natural gas to Europe. Thanks to the abundant supply created by the domestic shale-gas boom, the U.S. may be able to export liquefied natural gas to European buyers in the near future. Already, Washington has licensed seven export facilities; about 30 more are awaiting approval. The first exports could start by the end of this year.

Pipeline Work

Pipeline Work

But since all the infrastructure to ship liquefied gas is not yet in place, Serbian Prime Minister Alexander Vucic, a South Stream proponent, has ridiculed the idea of U.S. gas exports to Europe in a year or two as “fairy tales.” Meanwhile, Putin has pointedly said that piped gas will always be cheaper than the liquid form, and Moscow has consistently claimed that Europe’s gas bill will rise if it chooses alternatives besides Russian natural gas.

However, there’s more than natural gas at play in Europe’s energy future. The Obama Administration is negotiating a free trade agreement with Europe that could legalize American oil exports for the first time since 1975. This would bring U.S. exporters in direct competition with Russia, which sells 84 percent of its oil exports to Europe today.

At the moment the South Stream pipeline is projected to generate approximately $20 billion a year in income.  With that much money at stake, the politics behind the armed confrontation in eastern Ukraine takes on a new dimension: Is the shooting war there part of larger, longer-term conflict—a continuing battle between the United States and Russia for global energy dominance?



WhoWhatWhy plans to continue doing this kind of groundbreaking original reporting. You can count on us. Can we count on you? What we do is only possible with your support.

Please click here to donate; it’s tax deductible. And it packs a punch.

Russ Baker http://www.russbaker.com <![CDATA[Classic WHO: FBI Knew About Saudi 9/11 hijacker Ties, But Lied to Protect “National Security”]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=10467 2014-07-20T20:53:55Z 2014-07-20T20:53:55Z Here’s one of our most popular—and explosive—pieces of original reporting, which we first ran in June 2013.

AndyBushThe FBI apparently has known for a decade about links between powerful Saudi interests and the alleged 9/11 hijackers, and has been forced to tacitly admit that it lied about it for all of these years.

In case the import is not clear, let us state emphatically: this is a huge development.


In court filings seeking to stave off a media Freedom of Information request, the FBI has stated that releasing documents relating to this issue will harm “national security.”  As proof of the sensitivity of the matter, the FBI gave the judge a document dated April 4, 2002, in which the FBI states that its own inquiries “revealed many connections” between a well-connected Saudi family with a house in South Florida and “individuals associated with the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.”

The Sarasota Affair

The Freedom of Information request that prompted these reluctant admissions was filed by the Broward Bulldog, a South Florida nonprofit investigative site which first covered the Saudi connection in 2011.

The Bulldog’s reporting explained how a family living in an exclusive gated community outside Sarasota, on Florida’s West Coast, had apparently vanished suddenly some 10 days before the 9/11 attacks. Investigators, including a swarm of FBI agents, found that the family’s departure was clearly so sudden that they left almost their entire household intact, down to cars, clothing, and food in the refrigerator. Most significant, though, investigators had established that several of the men publicly identified as among the 9/11 hijackers, including purported ringleader Mohammed Atta, had visited the house and/or been linked to it through a web of telephone communications.

The FBI told none of this to Congress, and it was not mentioned in the original 9/11 Commission report released in 2004.

WhoWhatWhy, in an original investigation, went deeper, and established that the owner of the house was  a prominent Saudi businessman who works directly for the Saudi prince most involved with aviation—including being the first Saudi who trained to fly planes in South Florida.  You can read our complete story here.

The significance of this cannot be stated strongly enough. Although many people think they “already know” about ties between the hijackers and Saudi royals, they confuse these important revelations with reports that prominent Saudis were permitted to leave the country shortly after 9/11, as popularized in Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11.

This new revelation is far more significant. The older story shows possible favoritism toward, or at least concern for, well-connected Saudis on the part of the US government in permitting them to leave. The Sarasota story, however, shows that the US government came upon what may have been a command or control center for the men we are told hijacked the planes.

And with the connections documented by WhoWhatWhy, it is almost impossible not to conclude some kind of awareness, either before or after the act, on the part of Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud and the powerful clique he represents within the royal clan. Again, for more on this, please read the entire story, which continues over three pages on our site.

The FBI Reversal

Kudos to the Bulldog for filing the FOIA request, which unearthed that gem of an FBI submission. It was included in filings by Miami Assistant U.S. Attorney Carole M. Fernandez, and was part of a sworn 33-page declaration from FBI Records Section Chief David M. Hardy. He stated that producing classified information related to the matter “would reveal current specific targets of the FBI’s national security investigations.” The purpose of the filings was to convince U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch not to allow the FOIA suit to succeed.

The April 4 document is significant for three reasons: (1) it demonstrates that the authorities are aware of the Saudi link, (2) it demonstrates that the FBI previously lied when it declared that its inquiries in the matter found no links to the terrorists or the plot, (3) it has the FBI asserting that no more disclosures should be made in order to protect “national security.”

The FBI’s practice of finding evidence tied to Saudi Arabia, then denying it had such evidence, then reluctantly admitting that it did (but only as a way of blocking still more disclosure) is telling. The apparent willingness of the FBI to brazenly lie and then reverse itself—seemingly with no consequences—is now beginning to look like standard operating procedure.

As WhoWhatWhy has demonstrated in articles about the Boston Marathon bombing, the FBI has been guilty of an astonishing array of disinformation, story reversals, unaccountable violence, and general misbehavior just in that one affair alone. See this, this, this, and this.

In the Boston bombing case, the FBI claimed not to know anything about the alleged perpetrators, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, then was forced to admit it had had direct contact with them and their family. It also initially claimed via leaks to mainstream media reporters that one of its officers shot and killed Ibragim Todashev, a figure connected with the Tsarnaevs, because he attacked them with a knife, Since then, the story has changed repeatedly and is now obscured by a thick fog of misdirection. We’ve pointed out many other changing aspects of the FBI’s story.

Hence, when we look back at the granddaddy of all purported terrorist plots, 9/11, and see the FBI’s astonishing actions to block disclosure, we have to ask: Just what is going on in this country? What is the FBI, and does it actually serve democracy and the public interest? And where is the president, purportedly the most powerful person in the country, and the public’s representative? If the president is unable or unwilling to get to the bottom of these bizarre and deeply worrisome developments, what does that say about the health of the system itself?

The Biggest Revelations, Ignored

Fortunately for the FBI, almost the entirety of the media—from the corporate owned “mainstream” to purportedly outsider ”alternative” news outlets and websites—have steered clear of the entire subject.

The recent FBI court filings were revealed by a Bulldog article published in conjunction with one mainstream outlet—the Miami Herald. Previous revelations that appeared in The Herald were generally ignored by the rest of the press, and we may reasonably expect the same disturbing indifference to the latest bombshell.

This development leaves us with three significant conclusions:

-The US government knows about, and is concerned about, apparent ties between its allies in the Saudi royal family and the men accused of having hijacked the planes on 9/11 and orchestrated the greatest attack in history on the American mainland.

-The FBI continues to lie and suppress information in other matters of public concern, supposedly all in the interest of our shared “national security.”

-The media continues to demonstrate how weak, compromised and intimidated it is. With the majority of Americans still dependent for their understanding of current events and their world on these same media, the ramifications can be considered alarming.



WhoWhatWhy plans to continue doing this kind of groundbreaking original reporting. You can count on it. But can we count on you? We cannot do our work without your support.

Please click here to donate; it’s tax deductible. And it packs a punch.



GRAPHIC: http://www.truthmove.org/workspace/photos-content/AndyBush.jpg

James Huang <![CDATA[Pitchforks Coming for Us Plutocrats, Says Tycoon—and More Headlines]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=10462 2014-07-18T06:25:55Z 2014-07-18T06:25:55Z
• Max Blumenthal on Israeli right wing

• Snowden says can handle Guantanamo

And more headlines… ]]>
1• Gulf regimes spy on Internet activists (Economist)

• The pitchforks are coming for us plutocrats (Politico)

• Q&A on Gaza with journalist from Israel’s most critical paper (Ha’aretz) written before land invasion began but still relevant

• Max Blumenthal on Israeli right wing (Guernica)

• Snowden says not Russian spy, and can handle Guantanamo (Guardian)

• “Fair Trade” products no such thing, says book (Economist)

• FBI tracked down retired executive because he took a photo (Business Insider)

• 105-year-old woman gets dream wish—meeting with George H.W. Bush (Seacoast Online)

Douglas Lucas <![CDATA[EXCLUSIVE: The Counterinsurgency War on—and Inside—Our Borders]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=10436 2014-07-17T03:14:04Z 2014-07-17T00:36:08Z Blurred Lines: A Mexican military chopper in U.S. airspace, photographed by Texas park rangers. Courtesy of WikiLeaks

Blurred Lines: A Mexican military chopper in U.S. airspace, photographed by Texas park rangers. Courtesy of WikiLeaks

The Mexican police helicopter that flew into Arizona last month and fired shots near U.S. Border Patrol agents was no fluke—such incursions have become so frequent they amount to an internationalized shooting war along our southern border.

It’s not just Mexican police helicopters; Mexican military aircraft entered U.S. territory 49 times from 2010 through 2012. That’s according to a Customs and Border Protection list acquired through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made by WhoWhatWhy.

Along with other documents obtained independently by WikiLeaks, the recent incidents confirm that the U.S. has been taking a full-bore counterinsurgency approach to the border drug war. The possibility that was happening is something we told you about earlier.

Official statements and media reports about the Arizona incident have not come close to explaining the real significance of such cross-border operations. The facts are now clear: the Pentagon’s push to use counterinsurgency tactics against drug traffickers is giving Mexican armed forces the leeway to operate in the airspace above U.S. territory.


Specific Mexican military helicopter incursions and near-incursions are detailed in intelligence reports obtained by WikiLeaks and assessed by WhoWhatWhy. The reports were created by the Border Security Operations Center, an Austin nerve center run by the Texas state police that oversees hundreds of intelligence analysts and manages untold surveillance cameras. The reports came to WikiLeaks after hackers broke into the servers of private intelligence firm Stratfor, which got the documents from its sources.

These revelations about the extent of the cross-border war on drugs are the latest fruit of our investigative partnership with WikiLeaks to carefully assess selected documents from its vast trove. (Take a look at our earlier collaborations with the whistleblower group here and here.)  

The Rio Grande Firefight

As the Pentagon faces sequestration funding cuts and a fighting force exhausted from Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military is relying more and more on foreign armed forces, police and private contractors like Stratfor.

The close cooperation between U.S. and Mexican forces against drug traffickers follows from modern counterinsurgency strategy, which dictates that police should function like soldiers when necessary to deny funds to whichever rebels—or drug cartels—are out of favor.

This approach is on display in part of a report published by the Austin center on May 6, 2011. The document is marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive.” This means it was intended for law enforcement eyes only, according to intelligence analyst Kendra Miller. She was a contact point for those seeking access to the reports. [Email-ID 1966867, May 9, 2011]

The document describes a firefight about 30 miles from McAllen, Texas, during which a police chopper from that state provided targeting assistance to the Mexican military as an alleged drug smuggler was killed. It includes this photograph of a Mexican Air Force chopper flying above the Rio Grande:

CaptureThis apparent incursion, or near-incursion, was not included on the Customs and Border Protection list we obtained in response to our Freedom of Information request – indicating that Mexican military operations along the U.S. border are even more numerous than the FOIA document suggests.

It’s not clear if that Mexican chopper flew into U.S. airspace. But there’s no doubt the Americans took part in the gun battle, because the Texas state police helicopter guided the Mexican chopper and ground forces to the suspects, including one who was hiding in the brush.

Here’s what happened to him:

BOSA_6May2011_Page60(If you want to read the full account of the pursuit and firefight in the Border Operations report for yourself, take a look here or at the following excerpt, which we’ve annotated for easier understanding.)

USBP [Border Patrol] Agents, assisted by DPS Air 108 [a Texas state police helicopter], pursued a [narco] vehicle near La Grulla[, Texas] that was throwing homemade spikes [caltrops] at the pursuit vehicles traveling against traffic on US-83 before turning south towards the Rio Grande. The vehicle was able to travel to the Rio Grande where bundles [presumably containing illegally trafficked narcotics] were taken from the vehicle and loaded into a jon [flat-bottomed] boat [that] returned to Mexico.

The [Texas police] Aircrew arrived at the river and observed a maroon F-250 [Ford pickup truck], a white pickup and [a] green SUV parked on the Mexican side, with a jon boat on the Mexican side [of] the bank and nearly 40 DTO [Drug Trafficking Organization—cartel] members. USBP advised the Government of Mexico and were notified that they were sending the Military to the area.BOSA_6May2011_Page59

All vehicles left the Mexican side traveling south when Mexican Military attempted to engage and reported [that] caltrops thrown from the vehicles disabled some of the Mexican Military vehicles. The Aircrew returned to the jon boats and observed the boats traveling down river and met the original maroon Ford F-250 pickup. While DPS Air 108 was observing the jon boat, another jon boat arrived at the same location. The first boat left traveling up river and met other suspects.

The Mexican Military in helicopter and ground units were guided to the location as DPS Air 108 advised where the suspects were located. The Mexican Military then engaged the suspects and a gun battle ensued with several suspects struck by Mexican Military fire. One suspect was taken into custody.

DPS Air 108 was able to make radio contact with the Mexican Military Helicopter guiding the helicopter and ground units to the last known location of a suspect hiding in the brush.

Three days before the report was published, Stratfor’s Fred Burton was telling his colleagues a whole lot more about that dead body. His e-mail included three photos that later appeared in the intelligence report, taken from the U.S. side of the border. He described the suspect as “Killed in action.”  [Email-ID 1359232, May 3, 2011] 

Private Spies’ Inside Knowledge

Stratfor analyst Korena Zucha assumed the Mexican military helicopter had flown into American airspace, and asked Burton whether it was normal for Mexican forces to operate in U.S. territory.

“All the time, we fly our birds into (Mexico) and vice versa. Don’t tell Alex Jones or Glenn Beck. The (Customs and Border Patrol) do not fly after dark or weekends,” Burton responded.

The re-imagining of the U.S.-Mexico border drug war as a counter-insurgency operation has proved to be a post-9/11 bonanza for private spies like Stratfor and other contractors.

Stratfor, for much of the period covered by the WikiLeaks cache (2004-2011), was plugged into restricted knowledge from government intelligence entities in Texas, including the Drug Enforcement Administration’s El Paso Intelligence Center and the Austin center.

The career of Fred Burton, Stratfor’s expert on Mexican drug cartels, exemplifies the revolving door between government security agencies and private security contractors that has become the norm since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002.

Before Stratfor, Burton spent more than a decade at the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, reading floods of cables describing threats against embassies worldwide. And now, he’s getting law enforcement information before a lot of the law enforcement community.

The counterinsurgency campaign is unquestionably erasing the lines between law enforcement and the military—and even countries. With what amounts to a low-level, unacknowledged war being fought on America’s doorstep, sorting out the tangled interests in play—including whether the public truly benefits—seems a high priority.



THUMBNAIL: Mexican Military Helicopter Over U.S. Soil



WhoWhatWhy plans to continue doing this kind of groundbreaking original reporting. You can count on us. Can we count on you? What we do is only possible with your support.

Please click here to donate; it’s tax deductible. And it packs a punch.

Wei Tung <![CDATA[Germans Consider Manual Typewriters to Stump NSA—and more headlines]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=10432 2014-07-16T17:59:29Z 2014-07-16T17:59:29Z
• Earth just finished warmest quarter ever

• GOPer proposes bringing policy “down to a woman’s level”

And more headlines… ]]>
123• Due to NSA spying, German pols consider return to manual typewriters (Guardian)

• Both Israel and Palestine ruled by figures lacking vision and boldness (New York Times)

• Earth just finished its warmest quarter-year ever (Slate)

• Florida GOP won’t repeal ruling against self-serving Congressional redistricting (Guardian)

• Videotaped confessions can be misleading (New York Times)

• Progressives turn from Obama, celebrate Elizabeth Warren (Washington Post)

• EU launches legal action vs UK over pollution (BBC)

• Female GOP legislator urges party to bring policy “down to a woman’s level” (Washington Examiner)

Les Neuhaus <![CDATA[After $40 Billion, America’s Biggest Nuclear Dump Is Still Leaking]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=10410 2014-07-15T05:27:57Z 2014-07-14T19:04:58Z

Washington State Ghost Town—Hanford. Courtesy of photographer, Clane Gessel.

It’s cost $40 billion so far to clean up America’s biggest nuclear waste site—half the size of Rhode Island—and it’s going to take another 40 years and $100 billion to finish the job.

In the meantime, workers from the Hanford nuclear site in Washington State are still getting sick from exposure to any one of 1,400 chemicals identified there, while allegations of mismanagement, negligence and secrecy over what may be life-threatening risks persist.

And delays keep piling up even though at least a third of the aging tanks storing 56 million gallons radioactive waste have leaked or are leaking, pouring some of the world’s most dangerous contaminants into the Columbia River.

Yet the treatment plant to create safe storage for all that waste—which will remain radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years—still isn’t built. It should have been finished three years ago. And the Environmental Protection Agency  is skeptical that the plant’s current completion date of 2022 will be met.

Only Another 40 Years to Go

The plant is a crucial part of a wider remediation job that’s decades from being done, according to Dennis Faulk, the EPA’s program manager for Hanford

“I think we have another 40 years to go,” Faulk told WhoWhatWhy. “And another $100 billion will be needed over that time.” It costs about $2 billion a year to keep cleaning.

The EPA oversees and enforces the cleanup efforts, which are carried out by the Department of Energy and the contractors it hires. Both Congress and the Department of Energy itself have given those efforts a failing grade.

The Department of Energy’s internal watchdog last year blamed the department and the contractor that’s building the plant, Bechtel National Inc., for the delays. The Department of Energy’s oversight lacked focus and Bechtel implemented scores of design changes without subjecting them to the required nuclear safety review, according to a report from the department’s Inspector General.

Congress’ Government Accountability Office was harsher. It recommended shutting down construction until the design work is completed safely, and said the Department of Energy was prematurely awarding millions in performance incentives to Bechtel. Most critical work on the plant has been shut down.

Columbia River, White Bluffs, part of Hanford

Meanwhile, Bechtel and another contractor are fighting whistleblower lawsuits from two former employees, and guess who’s paying for their legal fees? The Department of Energy is.

All of those complications are worsened by the fact that the search for waste keeps turning up surprises, like nearly 100 pieces of spent fuel found in Native American burial grounds. So as the Herculean task creeps forward, occasional new contamination findings like that add time to the clock, which means the projected completion dates are really only theoretical.

Hanford wasn’t built with an abundance of forethought. The job of making weapons-grade plutonium came first. Everything else, like planning for the waste and telling people about the release of radioactive materials, came second.

Hanford was one of the country’s primary production centers for nuclear weapons, from the 1943 to the end of the Cold War. Located along the Columbia River, Hanford supplied plutonium for hundreds, if not thousands, of bombs for America’s Cold War stockpile, and for the Manhattan Project, which helped end World War II while ushering in the nuclear age.

The War Department needed secrecy for the Manhattan Project and Hanford’s remoteness afforded that. So in 1943, it evicted the 1,500 or so farmers living in the towns of Hanford and White Bluffs and relocated six Native American tribes who’d lived there for centuries.

Hurry Up With the Nukes, Already

After World War II, the government decided that one reactor at Hanford wasn’t enough and built eight more to ramp up production of plutonium a material with a 24,000-year half-life. Hanford ballooned to 586 square miles in size. To put that in perspective, that’s nearly half the size of Rhode Island. And a bigger site meant there was more nuclear waste to deal with.

“Low Level” Nuclear Waste Disposal, Hanford, 1950. Department of Energy Photo

As much as a million gallons of radioactive waste have leaked from Hanford’s underground tanks—more than all of the leaks from all other nuclear facilities in the U.S. combined, according to Tom Carpenter, an attorney and the executive director of Hanford Challenge. The watchdog group represents Hanford workers and whistleblowers.

In a letter to Washington State Attorney-General Bob Ferguson in April, Hanford Challenge alleged that 38 workers had been exposed to vapors since March and urged the state to act where the Energy Department hasn’t. There are currently about 11,000 workers at the site.

Another 20 Years of Failure

Further, contractors at Hanford have had a string of problems, from corruption to failing to meet deadlines. That kind of performance by the Department of Energy and its contractors is why there’s no end in sight to the cleanup, he said.

“The one common denominator there is the Department of Energy and until you change them out as the manager of the cleanup, we’re going to see another 20 years of failure out there,” Carpenter said.

The delays are mainly due to the discovery of new waste, said Cameron Hardy, spokesman for the Energy Department’s Richland, Washington, office. He said most of the contractors now are “high-performing. There was the potential for a lot of abuse in the early years, but things have changed since then.”

Environmental Group: River Loaded With Contaminants

Contamination levels in and along the Columbia River—an outdoor Mecca for sporting enthusiasts and backpackers—are unsafe for people living and recreating downstream, not to mention a major Chinook salmon spawning point close to Hanford, according to conservationists.

The river is full of some of the most dangerous contaminants in the world, says one environmental monitor. The site’s tanks are leaking into the soil, which ends up in the groundwater and eventually, the river, according to Dan Serres, conservation director with the Oregon-based environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper.

image001“In 25 years we’ve accomplished a lot in the cleanup, but the most difficult challenges lie ahead and the river is loaded with contaminants,” he said.

Part of the challenges ahead included finishing the waste treatment plant, and sealing up the nine reactors so they can be dealt with when the technology exists. Hundreds of support buildings have to be demolished, too.

“Once these reactors get cleaned up, there’s really not much left on the landscape,” the Energy Department’s Hardy said.

What’s on the landscape, however, isn’t the problem. It’s what’s going to be left in it.

Hanford and the Columbia River







IMAGE: Clane Gessel’s Washington State Ghost Town – Hanford

IMAGE: Columbia River, White Bluffs, part of Hanford

IMAGE:  “Low Level” Waste disposal

IMAGE: Hanford and the Columbia River

IMAGE: Sources of Contamination

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James Huang <![CDATA[Meet the Self-Guiding Bullet—and More Headlines]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=10369 2014-07-13T14:53:13Z 2014-07-13T00:37:41Z
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