WhoWhatWhy Groundbreaking Investigative Journalism 2014-09-20T15:49:36Z http://whowhatwhy.com/feed/atom/ James Huang <![CDATA[US Intel Harms Palestinians, Amazing Leader Dude, Beer Monopoly—and More Headlines]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=11102 2014-09-19T17:46:50Z 2014-09-19T17:41:21Z
• World’s most idealistic president

• Crying in your beer: Busch-Miller consolidation

And more headlines… ]]>
The world’s most idealistic—and/or radical—president?

The world’s most idealistic—and/or radical—president?

  • -  Is American intelligence data being used to persecute Palestinians? (New York Times)

 

 

  • -  Americans criticize Obama for giving them ISIS policy they want (Slate)

 

  • -  Bettors more accurate predictors than pollsters (New York Times)

 

  • -  NRA no-commenter: Man shoots daughter, six grandchildren (New York Times)

 

  • -  World’s most idealistic president? Or radical? Or both? (Guardian)

 

 

  • -  Fed chair solution for poor: just save more money (Buzzflash)
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Ryan McNamara <![CDATA[Occupy’s $4M Shot Across the Bow of Student Lenders]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=11055 2014-09-18T00:02:05Z 2014-09-17T23:37:55Z Occupy’s Debt Resistance Movement

Occupy’s Debt Resistance Movement

If you were counting the Occupy Wall Street movement out of the game of tackling America’s moneyed interests, there are 2,671 people today who can tell you otherwise.

That’s the number of people whose higher education debt just disappeared, thanks to a program by an Occupy offshoot called Rolling Jubilee. The group bought up nearly $3.8 million in defaulted student loans from creditors.

Instead of trying to recover the money, Rolling Jubilee just forgave the debts and announced it to coincide with the third anniversary of the Occupy movement.

The amount Rolling Jubilee abolished is dwarfed by the $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loans, but it’s a symbolic gesture in keeping with the Occupy movement’s tenets of fighting the system. And it’s designed to shed light on what could be yet another economic bubble waiting to burst.

***

The incredible availability of loans guaranteed by the federal government allows colleges to continually increase tuition at a rate significantly higher than inflation. Mix this with the increasing necessity of a college degree to earn a living wage, and you have a pretty volatile brew.

It’s not the first kind of debt Rolling Jubilee has tackled. Last year, it targeted medical debt and wiped out about $15 million of it. Rolling Jubilee is a project of the Occupy movement’s Strike Debt offshoot.

When dealing with medical debt, the Rolling Jubilee was able to take advantage of the shadowy world of secondary debt markets and buy large amounts for pennies on the dollar.

Here’s how the system normally works: the original lenders sell off debt owed to them. The buyers pay for it at a discounted rate based on how likely the debt is to be paid back. The new owners then try to collect the full amount.

Pennies to Freedom

Ordinary debt collectors profit when they collect more than they paid for the debt. But Rolling Jubilee looks at the low cost of the debt as an opportunity to annul millions on the cheap.

Student debt, however, is a different story. Most of it is guaranteed by the federal government and therefore not available on the secondary market. So instead, the Rolling Jubilee bought debts owed to for-profit colleges.

In this case, it was the debt of students at Everest College, part of Corinthian Colleges, Inc.

The company, which runs a nationwide network of for-profit colleges, is facing a host of investigations from state and federal authorities, as well as lawsuits. The allegations include, among other things, the use of deceptive marketing tactics to bait unemployed and poor people to enroll and sign up for the maximum amount of federal student loans.

What’s the catch? There is very little thought given to how such students will be able to pay their loans back.

Recruiting Debtors

Alarmed by predatory trends in for-profit colleges, Senator Tom Harkin led an investigation on Corinthian Colleges and others. His report states that at Corinthian Colleges, “recruiters are trained to discourage and deflect questions about cost from students.”

Here’s part of a recruiter’s script excerpted in the report:

“John, the cost of the program will vary depending on several factors. Is your question really how much is it going to cost you in out-of-pocket dollars? (Response). In order for me to answer the question, first we would have to determine the right program for you. Second, we would have to determine what time-frame you expect to complete the program (only true if credit hour charging is used); and finally, the Student Finance office would determine the types of financial assistance you may be eligible for. Could you tell me why you are asking about the cost?” (Proceed with phone script).”

Would you be surprised to know that Corinthian Colleges, Inc.’s student default rates are significantly above the national average?

college

Senator Tom Harkin’s report

Students at Everest College have an even higher rate. In 2008, the default rate was an astronomical 54.5 percent.

Everest College’s extreme example highlights a problem that is plaguing the American higher education system overall. Colleges charge exorbitant tuitions knowing that the students have access to large amounts of credit. The schools get paid, but the students are left in debt, and the government is saddled with the burden of collection.

An equation like this means that tuition increases are unlikely to slow down anytime soon.

***

Although there is now federal and state scrutiny into the problem, the one Congressional bill that could ease some of the burden got blocked for a second time this year. Republican Sen. John Cornyn stopped The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act from coming to a vote. If passed, the bill would allow more than 25 million people to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates.

There is a bigger systemic problem, though.

U.S. universities have access to detailed records of their student’s financial situation in the form of the federal financial aid forms, and can easily see when students will have to take on excessive amounts of debt. Yet there is no incentive for the financial aid offices to turn away potential money, since the costs of debt and default are not felt on their end.

So the question is: are students to be blamed for taking on enormous loans when college looks like their best chance at decent employment?

 

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.

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Victor Kotsev <![CDATA[Russia’s Ukraine Maneuvers May Be a Push Toward … Peace]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=11049 2014-09-17T08:19:39Z 2014-09-17T08:19:39Z Ukraine: Up for Debate.

Ukraine: Up for Debate.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is waging peace his own way in Ukraine, despite a chorus of accusations from the West that he is acting aggressively.

Make no mistake, Russia is still backing Ukraine’s separatist rebels. And fighting, though subdued, still continues in eastern Ukraine between the rebels and government troops. That’s even after Putin and Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko formalized a ceasefire.

But there are concrete steps toward an agreement that will give Russia some of what it wants. For example, Ukraine’s parliament voted to give a three-year period of limited autonomy to the breakaway eastern regions. If the ceasefire holds, Russia may find itself freed from new EU sanctions, which have sent its currency tumbling to a record low.

The worst-case scenario of renewed large-scale violence is receding as a possibility. Yet the danger of a frozen conflict that could turn hot at any point remains. Besides, an energy and trade war with unpredictable results looms unless a comprehensive solution to the crisis is crafted.

This last part may be the key to understanding why Moscow is swinging a big stick while speaking softly about the need for negotiation and the preservation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. It has everything to do with the difference between the Russian idea of making peace and the Western conception of it.

***

The fact that Russia translated the concept of “peacekeeping forces” into its language as “peacemaking forces” is still something of a dark joke in Eastern Europe. There, people not-so-fondly remember how Russian tanks rolled in to “pacify” Hungary in 1956 and then-Czechoslovakia in 1968.

The muscular Russian manner of making peace is on full display now in Ukraine. Despite his denials, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be pushing brinkmanship to the limit, ultimately in the pursuit of an agenda to stake out some of Russia’s old turf.

But Putin’s maneuvers have been matched by the more hawkish elements of Ukraine’s coalition government and their allies in the military forces.

It’s easy for Russia to point an accusing finger at a series of actions that are hard to defend in the name of peace and democracy. Those include the indiscriminate artillery shelling of one’s own cities and the unleashing of heavily armed neo-Nazi gangs on one’s own population, or the trampling of press freedoms.

In this context, the “slow-motion invasion” of Ukraine of which Putin has been accused may well be his best attempt to force Kiev into a lasting ceasefire and an agreement to keep natural gas flowing. That plan has the apparent backing of Germany and possibly others.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

That a bigger deal than the ceasefire is in the works is evident from the muted responses of the U.S. and the EU to elements of the Ukraine conflict that could easily be manipulated into a casus belli. Both have been cool to the Ukrainian government’s pleas for support and allegations that at least 1,000 Russian troops invaded Ukraine, leading to a rebel counter-offensive that forced the Ukrainian army into  chaotic retreat.

Invasion? What Invasion?

There are many signs from the U.S. and EU demonstrating that negotiation is afoot, in spite of the tough talk about Russian aggression.

You couldn’t be blamed for thinking otherwise, though, if you listened to NATO’s pronouncements. The latest is the urging of U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, to reverse a planned reduction of NATO forces in Europe.

On the other side, Moscow has denied every Western allegation about military involvement on Ukrainian soil. That’s despite NATO-provided evidence of Russian artillery emplacements, Russian soldiers returning home in coffins and the presence of at least one T-72 tank variant that’s never been exported. The closest Russia has come to an admission of involvement—since Crimea—is acknowledging that 10 of its paratroopers may have gotten lost and crossed into Ukraine.

Of course, any allegation by an interested party, be it Russia or a Western government, should be treated with proper skepticism. And that’s all the more important in a situation that reeks of propaganda and disinformation.

So it pays to read between the lines very carefully.

***

Western officials have carefully avoided calling the event an invasion, but rather an incursion. That designation carries lesser weight in international law, and frees Europe from having to act more forcefully. Still, the EU imposed a new round of sanctions on Russia after the ceasefire. At the same time, it offered the possibility of cancelation in October if the truce holds.

The delicacy of the diplomatic efforts also explains why Ukraine failed in its quest for NATO membership at the alliance’s summit this month.

Parts of the agreement that Russia and Germany worked out are materializing. Those include the truce and some form of autonomy for the eastern regions, which is being dubbed decentralization. (There has been a debate about the precise term to use among Germany’s leadership.)

What’s left is a comprehensive gas deal that would help stabilize the devastated Ukrainian economy and allay European fears of disruptions in their supply from Russia, a source about a third of it. (For an analysis of the gas politics behind the conflict, please click here)

A Cash Conundrum

Though a compromise, the deal would be a considerable accomplishment for Russia and Putin. It would allow him to claim victory (federalization of Ukraine was the original demand of the rebels). And it would spell the end of sanctions, relieving economic pressure at home.

It could also go a long way toward causing a split between Germany and the U.S. Prying those allies apart has been a long-standing Russian strategic objective. Germany was trying to massage the reluctant Ukrainian government into accepting the draft agreement since before the ceasefire. At the same time, the U.S. ramped up its rhetoric for a more robust NATO and was considering granting Ukraine the status of a major non-NATO ally.

The European Union, for its part, seems to be primarily concerned about money. Estimates of the EU’s cost for the sanctions are in the tens of billions. Several Eastern European countries have already started campaigning against them.

Then there is the approximately $19 billion that it will cost to prop up Ukraine’s economy for a couple of years. Russia, eager to preserve its traditional influence in Ukraine and faced with far greater financial losses should Western sanctions continue or worsen, could well be forthcoming with financial aid.

So a peace deal with Russia is proving to be more and more essential to Europe.

That’s why the Ukraine and the EU ratified a free trade deal but allowed Kiev to delay its reciprocal tariff reductions for a year. Russia, fearing that its markets would be flooded with cheap European goods, had threatened to retaliate.

Tellingly, a joint statement from the EU, Ukraine and Russia said the trade deal “needs to be part and parcel of a comprehensive peace process in Ukraine, respecting the right of Ukraine to decide on its destiny as well as its territorial integrity.”

Waiting for Winter

Putin has undoubtedly gambled by apparently sending troops into Ukraine. There is still a chance that he bet wrong, and will end up with a protracted ground war with international repercussions and considerable financial pain to both Russia and the EU.

The situation could still spiral out of control. Two possible aggravating factors: if the extreme right in Ukraine makes significant gains in parliamentary elections next month, or if the trade war escalates. Britain, for example, has called for blocking Russia from the SWIFT interbank system, something that experts have dubbed a “financial nuclear option.”

Russia meanwhile has warned that the recent round of sanctions could endanger the fragile peace between the unruly militias on both sides in eastern Ukraine.

Still, Putin has no shortage of levers to push forward his muscular brand of peacemaking. As the winter approaches—a time when gas demand in Ukraine and the EU soars—he is likely to gain even more.

“The goal of the rebels is to hold out for just two more months,” said Vesselin Avraamov, an independent analyst in Bulgaria who focuses closely on Russia. “Once winter approaches, Ukraine will be dead without Russian oil and gas.”

 

Photo Credits:

THUMBNAIL

MAP

 

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.

 

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Wei Tung <![CDATA[Germany Leads On Alt-Energy; Car Texting Block; Most Embarrassing Interview—And More Headlines]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=11045 2014-09-16T01:57:05Z 2014-09-16T01:57:05Z
• Technology blocks texting while driving

• Most awkward political interview ever

And more headlines… ]]>
123• Germany proves alternative energy is viable (New York Times)

• New technology stops texts and calls while driving (New York Times)

• MSM reporter cleared stories with CIA (The Intercept)

• Look who pays the pro-war pundits (The Nation)

• 12 most competitive Senate races (Washington Post)

• Beheadings not all treated equally; OpEd (OpEdNews)

• Outspoken liberal may seek presidency (Slate)

• The most awkward political interview ever? (National Memo)

 

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James Huang <![CDATA[COMING UP: Russ Baker Speaking at Warren Commission Conferences]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=11041 2014-09-14T23:23:26Z 2014-09-14T22:22:57Z jfkWhoWhatWhy Editor-in Chief Russ Baker will be presenting at two Washington-area conferences on the 50th anniversary of the Warren Commission Report. Both appearances will be on Saturday, Sept. 27.

Even 50 years later, the widely discredited official report on the assassination of John F. Kennedy still draws tremendous scrutiny precisely because it failed to solve America’s greatest whodunit convincingly. In fact, more questions and revelations have risen in the half-century since the report purported to give the exhaustive story.

Baker’s own investigations turned up new connections and intrigues, which he wrote about in his best-selling Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years. (You can read a 10-part series of excerpts starting here.)

Here is Baker’s schedule and more details on the conferences:

From 10:30-11:30 a.m., he will speak at the Crowne Plaza Old Town Hotel in Alexandria, VA

From 2:45-3:30 p.m., he will join a panel on “Why Won’t the Media Cover the Story?” at the Hyatt Regency, Bethesda, MD

From 4:15-5, he will speak again at the Hyatt Regency on the role of Warren Commission staff in the cover-up.

For information on The Warren Report and the JFK Assassination: Five Decades of Significant Disclosures (Bethesda), click here

For information on The Warren Report 50 Years Later: A Critical Examination (Alexandria), click here

 

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.

 

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Sylvia Todorova <![CDATA[US, Ukraine or Middle East? Ferguson Images Made It Hard to Tell]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=11030 2014-09-18T16:50:02Z 2014-09-12T21:13:47Z Ferguson, Missouri, or Kiev, Ukraine?

Ferguson, Missouri, or Kiev, Ukraine?

The images out of Ferguson, Missouri, looked more like what one sees in Middle Eastern hot spots than in a Midwestern town: peaceful protesters from an alienated minority brutally dispered by law enforcers armed with military-grade weapons.

To many Americans, the disregard for fundamental constitutional rights shown by Ferguson cops laid bare a deep-seated racism in at least one community in the U.S. heartland. But many observers around the world saw an even more disturbing dynamic at work.

In their eyes, Americans were exposed as hypocrites on human rights—promoters of a strict standard of behavior abroad while harboring the most egregious violations at home.

Countries with their own histories of human-rights abuses are now pointing at the treatment of blacks and protesters of all races in the U.S as proof of a self-righteous double standard. Even though the story is fading from the headlines, it is likely to have much longer-playing impact on foreign perceptions of the U.S.—and a profound role in the propaganda wars. (For our earlier coverage of Ferguson, please click here and here.)

Criticism From Hostile Governments

IRAN: The U.S. has frequently denounced Iran’s violent suppression of dissent. After Ferguson, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei wasted no time in putting this on a Twitter account attributed to him:

 

RUSSIA: The Russian government, which rarely misses an opportunity to criticize the U.S., has said nothing official so far about the Ferguson unrest, but the Kremlin-backed TV network RT has covered the protests closely. “We’re currently in Ferguson, where tensions have been flying high ever since Saturday when 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by multiple shots by police officers.” (Ironically,opposition figures in Russia worry that the police response in Ferguson will give Vladimir Putin—who often uses Western precedents to justify his own actions—an excuse to crack down on dissidents when it suits him.)       

CHINA: China’s official Xinhua news agency said that Ferguson is an example of how America’s “racial divide still remains a deeply-rooted chronic disease that keeps tearing U.S. society apart.” It added: “The Ferguson incident once again demonstrates that even if a country that has for years tried to play the role of an international human rights judge and defender, there is still much room for improvement at home.”

EGYPT: The U.S. has criticized this country for its brutal response to the Arab Spring, and the persecution of minority sects. Now its government is asking the U.S. to show “restraint and respect for the right of assembly and peaceful expression of opinion”

Criticism From Allies

Criticism from the world’s most democratic countries and institutions is harder to dismiss than the predictable gloatings and tut-tuttings of Iran, Russia, China, and Egypt.

Media coverage from Britain—America’s staunchest ally, which suffered race riots after the shooting of a black teen by the London police in 2011—grew increasingly critical about events in Ferguson.

The Guardian wrote that despite having a black president in office, “the use of armored vehicles and sniper nests in the height of a Missouri summer has exposed the extent and consequences of segregation in America’s heartland.” Another opinion piece was more explicit, describing Ferguson as a mostly black town “under occupation” by “a militarized police force that killed a black child.”

The Telegraph newspaper sent one of its most experienced war correspondents, Rob Crilly, to cover the riots. For the first time in a career that has taken him to Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya, the Middle East and elsewhere, Crilly was arrested for doing his job—in the middle of the U.S.A.

 

European newspapers displayed the story on their front pages, and were critical of an ally that in years past pointed its finger at their own handling of civil unrest.

Even the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon called on U.S. authorities “to ensure that the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are protected.” He also demanded that law enforcement officials abide by U.S. and international standards for dealing with demonstrators.

Amnesty International, the global human rights organization, sent observers to Ferguson—the first time the group has ever deployed such a team within the United States.

 

Double Standard, Double-Edged Sword

Of course, foreign observers are unlikely to appreciate the nuances of federal vs. local control of police forces under the U.S. Constitution. Just as few Americans are quick to grasp the theological differences between Sunni and Shiite Muslims or the historical twists and turns of the relationship between Ukraine and Russia.

But Americans should have no trouble understanding how media watchers overseas might conclude that the U.S. is in favor of protests only when they happen far away and bring down hostile governments—especially if Washington has had a hand in lighting or fanning the flames of unrest.  

So-called democracy-building campaigns funded by the U.S, have played a bigger role in fomenting anti-government activities around the world than is generally known.The Arab Spring, Syria, Libya and Ukraine all offer master classes in how the West creates “a people’s uprising.”

Understanding how America is viewed from beyond its borders is essential to maintaining credibility in the eyes of friends and adversaries alike.

In a world where military adventures carry demonstrable risks of blowback and out-of-control (even nuclear) escalation, a credible projection of soft power may be the best hope for defending legitimate national interests – not to mention advancing human rights wherever they are threatened.

If media coverage of Ferguson teaches nothing else, it’s that images in the international marketplace are indeed worth the proverbial thousand words. The only way to amend such tell-tale pictures is to get serious about dealing with the reality of unremitting racism that lies behind them.

 

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.

 

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Wei Tung <![CDATA[Fracking Sick, Social Media vs Dissent, JFK Vietnam insight—and More Headlines]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=11024 2014-09-11T15:34:26Z 2014-09-11T15:34:26Z
• Social media actually stifles dissent

• Fracking sickens residents

And more headlines… ]]>
Those living near fracking are sicker, says study

Those living near fracking are sicker, says study

• How Social Media Stifles Dissent (New York Times)

• Iran’s Boots on the Ground in Iraq (Foreign Policy)

• People Near Fracking Wells Sicker (USA Today)

• History: JFK Frustrated at Staffers’ Conflicting Vietnam Assessments (Politico)

• Resistance is Futile: Cost of Challenging Police State (OpEd News)

• Police Could Be Forced to Repay Millions in Grants Used for Military Equipment (Guardian)

• New Exemptions from 50-Year Declassification Rules (Secrecy News)

• Café Bans Laptops and Tablets—Start of a Trend? (Guardian)

 

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Russ Baker http://www.russbaker.com <![CDATA[UPDATE: Louis Freeh’s Curious Car Accident]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=11019 2014-09-10T22:28:03Z 2014-09-10T22:26:45Z Rescuers prepare to fly ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh to the hospital

Rescuers prepare to fly ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh to the hospital

Recently, we reported on an Aug. 25 one-car crash involving the long-time former FBI director, Louis Freeh. Considering Freeh’s prominence and tenure in the national security apparatus, the incident has received surprisingly little media attention and virtually no serious scrutiny.

But we think that journalistic rigor warrants a close look at misfortune befalling people in sensitive positions, even when there is a reasonable possibility that there is nothing more to learn. You can read our first article here.

Now, we’d like to update you on two key points, and then on some other curiosities.

First: local Vermont media are reporting that, just prior to his crash along a relatively straight and flat portion of a rural stretch of Vermont Highway 12, Freeh, 64, nearly took out three motorists, whose evasive actions saved themselves.

Second: a still unidentified FBI agent quickly materialized at the scene of the crash.

Freeh Wheeling

Vermont’s largest newspaper, the Burlington Free Press, provided the following coverage, citing one of the drivers whose quick action saved their lives:

The driver, Van Coleman, gave a written statement to a Windsor County deputy sheriff, who was the first police officer on the scene of the Aug. 25 crash of Freeh’s vehicle. Deputy Sheriff Justin Hoyt said he gave the eyewitness report to state police.

A motorcyclist and two cars needed to swerve into the left lane when Freeh’s vehicle crossed the center line on Vermont 12 in Barnard and headed at the trio at a high rate of speed, Coleman told the Burlington Free Press.

Freeh “was doing about 60 to 65 miles per hour and was on the left side of the road,” Coleman said. The speed limit was 50 mph.

Coleman said the northbound motorcyclist, who was first in line, moved to the left to avoid the SUV coming in the wrong lane. Another car also swerved left before Coleman followed suit in his Honda, he said.

None of this information about Freeh’s behavior has been provided to the public by the government—so we have the local media to thank for its diligence.

The Free Press provides claims by various Vermont officials that they themselves did not have the information to release.

State police were criticized for trying to keep the crash under wraps for 24 hours. A video crew for Fox44/ABC 22 in Colchester and a photographer from a local weekly newspaper in Woodstock were at the scene, but they were told a news release would be issued the following day.

Instead, FBI sources in Washington told NBC News that Freeh had been in a Vermont crash. The Vermont State Police issued a news release more than eight hours after the wreck and only after multiple calls by local and national media.

Mystery G-Man Rushes to Scene

A still unidentified FBI agent was one of the first people to arrive at the accident scene, according to police. He was apparently from out of state. What he was doing there is still not clear. Police believed him to be off-duty, but could not say with certainty.

Students of history will note the many instances in which FBI have shown up at sensitive accident/crash scenes with great haste—sometimes seemingly surmounting formidable obstacles, and sometimes arriving in force that would seem impossible based on actual local staffing.

One of many examples where FBI swarmed a crash scene was the 1972 Chicago plane crash that killed Dorothy Hunt, a former CIA officer and wife of the embattled CIA officer and Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt, while she was cooperating with a journalist on inquiries into Watergate. The FBI took over the investigation, prompting complaints from the National Transportation Safety Board, which has statutory responsibility for such air disaster probes. (A detailed review of the incident can be found in Carl Oglesby’s Yankee and Cowboy War.)

Freeh himself was involved in a similar accident scene takeover, following the downing/crash of TWA flight 800 over Long Island. Freeh commandeered the investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board right after the incident in July 1996. Once the FBI took over, the NTSB was denied access to witnesses (see Aviation Week, Dec. 15, 1997; paywall).  That August, chemists at the FBI crime lab found traces of PETN, a component of bombs and surface-to-air missiles.  Yet, in November 1997, the FBI closed the investigation for good, claiming no evidence of a criminal act had been found.  There has never been a follow-up investigation of this case. (For more, see the documentary by WhoWhatWhy contributor Kristina Borjesson.)

“His Head Was Down”

What happened to Freeh on August 25 when his 2010 SUV left the highway, and hit a tree? Here’s the Free Press again:

“His head was down, so I thought he had fallen asleep,” Coleman, the witness, said as he reflected on what he saw before Freeh crashed.

“I think he was totally out. He made no attempt to stop,” said Coleman, who spoke initially to the News & Citizen newspaper, a weekly in Morristown.

It’s important to remember that this happened shortly after noon, and not terribly far from Freeh’s vacation home, not typical circumstances for a driver to have fallen asleep.

Freeh and his staff have been mum on the whole thing; the FBI has provided no details or explanation. And law enforcement has not appeared to be especially zealous in figuring out what happened. As the Free Press reported on Sept 3:

Earlier state police had said there was no evidence that drugs or alcohol were a factor in the Aug. 25 crash.  That was based on personal observation, no probable cause and a lack of suspicion,” Keefe said in explaining why no test was administered.

And AP reported on Sept 4:

State Police Capt. Ray Keefe said police did not consider if Freeh was using a cellphone before the crash, and did not examine his phone, because the accident was not consistent with one of a distracted driver; no brake or swerve marks were left on the road.

The Vermont State Police said they found no sign that his car had been tampered with. That is also what police said about the one-car crash of national security journalist Michael Hastings. Of course, police see more accidents than most people and rarely say a car has been tampered with. That’s mainly because most cars are not involved in accidents because of tampering.

Freeh is, or was, under armed guard at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, a hospital in neighboring New Hampshire that is considered among the top hospitals. It routinely has very tight security, so the reason for the extra precautions is not clear.

There is the possibility that the law enforcement agencies involved with Freeh’s car crash are treating it with kid gloves because Freeh was one of their own. Although it happens less and less nowadays, there is ample history of fellow law officers giving special treatment to cases involving someone else who carries a badge. The fact that Freeh once held the biggest badge in the land could also be playing a factor.

Freeh, with his knowledge of details concerning controversial major security events that have not been, in many people’s minds, satisfactorily explained—including 9/11, TWA Flight 800, Oklahoma City, Ruby Ridge, Waco, investigations of the Clintons and more—is in a sensitive position. If his accident was, in the opinion of the FBI, not an accident, then they would conceivably have a reason to be concerned for his safety.

Ultimately, however, Freeh, a man who headed an agency famous for being tight-lipped, is unlikely to share his thoughts.

 

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.

 

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Russ Baker http://www.russbaker.com <![CDATA[HuffPo National Security Fellow: Conspiracy Theories and Manslaughter. Huh?!?]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=11016 2014-09-09T17:43:04Z 2014-09-09T17:43:04Z Donté Stallworth, HuffPo’s New National Security Correspondent

Donté Stallworth, HuffPo’s New National Security Correspondent

How is the brave new world of online journalism doing? Consider this: The Huffington Post has hired former NFL star Donté Stallworth as a “Reporting Fellow” to cover….National Security.

His experience in the area is limited to tweeting his views on subjects ranging from 9/11 to ISIL. That’s apparently sufficient cred for HuffPo Politics Managing Editor Amanda Terkel, who said there’s been “a national security wonk lurking underneath Donté’s helmet for quite some time, as anyone who follows him on Twitter knows.” And she’s not alone: the website Foreign Policy last year offered him a job (sort of) based on his Twitter stream.

We find two things especially interesting about HuffPo’s new hire.

One is that Huffington Post (with which we are friendly enough and where material of ours very occasionally appears) seems to be congenitally unable to resist bringing aboard people whose main credentials are fame, wealth or connections. But, heck—it’s a business, and it needs money and clicks. So whatever.

The second thing is more problematical: Stallworth’s views tend toward what the HuffPo itself might dismiss as “conspiracy theory.” Anything even remotely identifiable along those lines is routinely removed or blocked by HuffPo editors based on the site’s (unpublished) editorial policy. And they don’t do that just for wild imaginings. Even carefully measured and documented work that questions the conventional interpretation of events doesn’t get ink at Huffpo—including deep digs into the illogical parts of the official narrative about the killing of Osama bin Laden, and the many questions surrounding the Boston Marathon bombing, especially the FBI’s relationship with Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

How hypocritical, then, is it for the site to make the NFL dude a National Security Fellow? Consider these 2009 tweets:

 


And:

 

Oh, there’s one more thing about HuffPo’s new hire:

It cannot be ignored that the same year Stallworth was tweeting the above items, he killed a pedestrian while driving drunk. Stallworth was suspended by the NFL, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, was sentenced to just 30 days in jail (he only served 24 of those) and then had to put in 1,000 hours of community service.

Although it’s not clear just what duties a Huffington Post National Security Fellow is expected to perform, Stallworth’s new gig is not part of that community service.

Or is it? Now that would be a conspiracy theory.

 

Photo Credits:

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James Huang <![CDATA[Hil Loves Henry, Puerto Rico Tax Haven, Military and God—and More Headlines]]> http://whowhatwhy.com/?p=10972 2014-09-08T18:48:08Z 2014-09-08T18:47:03Z
• Rich moving to Puerto Rico for no federal taxes

• Hillary Clinton lovefest with Henry Kissinger

And more headlines… ]]>
hil• How social media stifles dissent (New York Times)

• US investors move to Puerto Rico to avoid income taxes (New York Times)

• California nuclear plant another Fukushima waiting to happen (EcoWatch)

• Climate disasters disproportionally harming US south and African-Americans (OpEd News)

• Civil case—not government—finally targets bankers over mortgage fraud (Salon)

• Hillary Clinton praises Kissinger as “surprisingly idealistic” (Mother Jones)

• Near-extinct blue whales make amazing comeback (NPR)

• Air Force officer denied re-enlistment over refusal to write “so help me God” (American Humanist)

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