"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one." - Charles Mackay
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Lord Jamar: The Greatest Story Never Told
Stemming back to Eric B & Rakim classics like “In the Ghetto,” the Nation of Gods and Earths, otherwise known as Five Percenters, have been some of the most successful MCs and producers to date. From Busta to Raekwon to J-Live, this powerful belief system changed the Hip-Hop vernacular from using words like “God,” “Third eye,” and “Cipher.” This rarely discussed history comes alive in the extensive book that accompanies Lord Jamar’s debut, The 5% Album. The music, which features Raekwon, Sadat X, Grand Puba and others, also teaches the wisdom behind these words.

The last Brand Nubian MC to release a solo album, Jamar uses his platform to celebrate his own while educating others. Having spent over two decades affiliated with the NGE, the New Rochelle veteran speaks about some of the issues that his album unveils. Read a discussion on the Five Percent Nation, in search of better understanding a rarely told fabric in our Hip-Hop heritage.

AllHipHop.com: Most know Clarence X started the Nation of the Gods and the Earths [NGE] around 1963, but not much else about the organization...can you tell us some history?

Lord Jamar: Basically,The Nation of Gods and Earths was started by Clarence 13X, who we [NGE] know as the Father Allah. He also belonged to the Nation of Islam and through studying the lessons of the NOI, he came to realize that the “God” they were talking about was the black man. Not just one black man, but all black men and he began to teach that. He was exiled around the same time Malcolm X was silenced by the NOI since they opposed what he taught. He went to the streets of Harlem and began spreading his teachings. He called his nation the “Five-Percent Nation,” meaning that there are five percent who know the truth about the world and have knowledge of themselves. 85 percent have no knowledge of themselves and are just ignorant of what’s going on in the world and then there’s ten percent who have knowledge but withhold it from that 85 percent to capitalize and oppress them. That’s where the terminology comes from.

AllHipHop.com: How and at what age were you introduced to the Nation of the Gods and the Earths? What attracted you?

Lord Jamar: Just the knowledge. Words have energy and that vibration of truth attracted me. What was taught to me about religion just didn’t make sense and once I was exposed to NGE, a light came on. I was about 13 [years old] when someone gave me “Lessons of the Black Man” and that started me on the road to self-knowledge. I became part of NGE around 14, 15 years old.

AllHipHop.com: What is the difference between the Nation of the Gods and the Earths and orthodox Muslims?

Lord Jamar: Orthodox Muslims see themselves as being one who submits to the will of Allah, whereas we see ourselves as Allah himself. We show and prove that we are the Gods of our own universe. Also, NGE is a culture, a way of life, not a religion. We don’t pray or believe in a hereafter; Heaven and Hell is right here on Earth, it’s a state of mind.

AllHipHop.com: How are Hip-Hop artists who belong to NGE, like yourself, spreading the message outside of music?

Lord Jamar: Basically, you live by example. It’s the way I teach my children and go about my everyday life. I don’t necessarily teach Five Percent classes but I do things in my personal life to add on because you are supposed to build. I don’t have an NGE class, per se; my NGE classes are my albums. But I’ve done presentations at my son’s school on the elements on Hip-Hop.

AllHipHop.com: NGE's states "each man is his own universe, each man governs himself"...that leaves room for no uniformity. What rules does one follow to uphold the beliefs of NGE if everyone is operating under their own rules? Doesn't that leave room for inconsistency and possible self-destructive behavior?

Lord Jamar: I’m sure for certain individuals, it does. But as a whole it allows for the movement to never dissolve even though our leader was taken away from us. We’re all taught to be leaders so the movement doesn’t dissolve in the event that the leader dissolves. But it requires self-discipline and following basic things, such as don’t eat swine, don’t commit crimes - just live a decent life. But like in any culture people can still misconstrue and exploit principles and take them for what they want to use them for. But as a whole, I think that insulates us from the movement being stopped as a result of one person being removed.

AllHipHop.com: George Clinton once blamed sexism in rap on the fact that Five Percenters bring "customs...from another [Arab] culture" to the traditional black "b*tch, ho" mentality, which by itself, was "just fun and games." Mixed together, they produce misogyny. Any thoughts on this? With today's Hip-Hop being some of the most misogynistic ever, how do feel about a statement like this?

Lord Jamar: [Laughs] Come on man, can we really take anything he says seriously? How can he say that we in the Five-Percent Nation promote misogyny when we refer the black woman as the “Queen of the Earth?” She represents the planet Earth, which is what we live on and what we need to live. We don’t represent misogyny. It’s all said in ignorance; he may not even know what a Five Percenter is, you know? Or he may have met someone who called themselves a Five Percenter but his whole belief system was other than that, which is possible. But in any religion that can happen…How many Christians do you meet that call themselves Christians but don’t represent Christianity. Does that person represent all Christians? No.

AllHipHop.com: What is a woman's role in NGE? Why can a man achieve a level of perfection of seven, while a woman can only achieve a six?

Lord Jamar: Well it starts with America. Living here in America, we’ve internalized European traditions and outlooks. When it comes to explaining this part of NGE, it’s based on the fact that men and women are different. And that’s just real. We are not the same. For example, women can a have a baby once every nine months while a man can have one baby every month for nine months if he chose, because he doesn’t have that limitation. Now, that is not saying that the woman is below the man, it’s just something that makes women different. It’s just how nature was created. Instead of lying to people and saying, “you can go as high as you wanna,” be honest because you can’t. We also say “the woman is necessary but secondary” and women feel like offended by that. I understand that a lot of women feel like we are trying to put them down or hold them back, and we’re not. Everyone just has to play their part and know their position. We have to learn that as a people. And the women’s role in the Nation is to teach the babies, which is very important. She is the mother of civilization. They say when a black woman teaches, she teaches a whole civilization. To complete your cipher, you need knowledge, wisdom and understanding which is the man, woman and child.

AllHipHop.com: What is NGE's role in the black community, as far as outreach to the youth and poor?

Lord Jamar: You have Gods that you wouldn’t even know they were Gods and they are very active in the community as well as everyday people. You may never know that, but say if another God is around, that person may reveal themselves to them. Since the beginning, NGE has always done outreach and programs within the community. We have Allah schools in different cities where you can build plus they have GED classes and computer classes. But it’s a combination; you have individuals doing things and collectives doing things as well.

AllHipHop.com: How do Gods recognize other Gods?

Lord Jamar: You can just observe somebody by how they act, speak or talk. But if we were just on the street, sometimes you can recognize Gods when they wear the universal flag [a small pin] but most times “mind detects mind,” which is where your third eye comes in and if you’re really in tune, you’ll know.

AllHipHop.com: You play a Five Percenter on HBO's Oz. The character was very authentic, how involved were you in the development of the character? How do you feel about the impact this character has on people who are unfamiliar with NGE?

Lord Jamar: I was involved with the character as far as who he was and what his background was. I gave them the idea, the name and even the crime of the character and they took it from there. I know Supreme Allah was a bad dude and some people might say, “We don’t want the Gods to be seen like that,” but I’m keeping it real. There are plenty of Gods that are locked up but that’s not everybody; those are individuals. Just like this character is an individual. I felt like it was important for people to see us in any capacity because we weren’t being seen at all. The show is authentic but I felt my character lent even more authenticity to the show. At one point, NGE was being called a jail religion. Although it’s not a jail religion, how are you going to have a show about jail without showing how NGE is a part of that culture?

AllHipHop.com: Explain the connection between jail and NGE. Does it put a black-eye on the organization?

Lord Jamar: Yeah, it is a negative connotation. Because it’s not a religion and it’s not something you have to go to jail to be a part of. In fact, I remember growing up and thinking to myself, “I want to be swift and knowledgeable without going to jail.” I didn’t learn it in jail; I learned it out here in the world. In the penal system, we get characterized as a gang, which is not what we are. Prisoners sometimes get isolated and are treated unfairly because of their beliefs in NGE. We are not a gang and these people don’t need to be persecuted for gang activity when our collective does not control any turf nor organize any crime.

AllHipHop.com: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about NGE?

Lord Jamar: That we hate white people and that we’re a religion or that we’re a gang.

AllHipHop.com: Does division exist between rappers who belong to NGE and Muslim rappers or even rappers who belong to NGE and rappers who don't?

Lord Jamar: Absolutely. One of the basic things we learn is supreme mathematics and if all people knew supreme mathematics and followed what it meant, we’d be a lot better off. To do the knowledge before the wisdom. You can’t do two [wisdom] before one [knowledge] or you are going to get a bad three [understanding]. A lot of people act before they think and it produces a misunderstanding. Mathematics is the language of the universe; this whole world can be understood through mathematics. If we were taught supreme mathematics, that would be helpful, no matter what your background or beliefs.

AllHipHop.com: Based on your beliefs and the positive messages you put forth in your music, are you disappointed with Hip-Hop music today?

Lord Jamar: Yeah, I’m kind of am disappointed in rap music. But everything happens for a reason and maybe we need for music to be like this in order to appreciate something good. I think the times we live in helped change the music too. This is a more politically-charged time in the world so the music changes with it.

For more information, visit www.5percent.org
posted by R J Noriega at 2:30 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
The Subtle Racism of Latin America
Carlos Moore sees a disguised racism permeating Latin American society, invented by Arabs in the Iberian Peninsula.

By Anson Musselman

While many believe that Arab and Latin American societies have a better track record in regard to race than the United States, Dr. Carlos Moore, resident scholar at Brazil's Universidade do Estado da Bahia, contends that this impression is wrong. Moore, a black man raised in pre-Castro Cuba, believes that while these societies may look color blind on the surface, race actually dominates every aspect of social and political life. Moore is best known for his book Castro, the Blacks, and Africa (CAAS, 1989), and African Presence in the Americas, co-edited with Shawna Moore and Tanya R. Sanders (Africa World Press, 1996).

This lecture took place in UCLA's Haynes Hall May 19 and was sponsored by the African Studies Center, the Ralph Bunche Center for African American Studies, and the UCLA Department of Political Science.

The Arab Model

Moore in his youth set out to find what historical events led to the establishment of a racial hierarchy in Latin America, where race mixing is the norm, yet lightness and darkness of skin still matters. His findings led him to believe that the paradigms of race in Latin America are directly descended from the time when Arabs controlled the Iberian Peninsula, the homeland of Spanish and Portuguese colonialism in the Americas.

Arabs successfully invaded the Iberian Peninsula (today Spain and Portugal) in 711 CE. The Moorish culture that was established was known as Andalusia. By the late 1200s Christian armies had expelled the majority of Muslims from Iberia.

"I have had the privilege to have lived in Arab countries," Moore said, "and to be shocked by the extraordinary similarities to Latin America of structures of race in countries like Egypt. It was familiar ground. I was twenty-one, had just left Cuba. I lived in Egypt for a year. I was surprised to see how it was as though I had not left Cuba except for the fact that they spoke Arabic and adhered to the Muslim religion. From then on I began to study the structures of race relations in the Arab countries in a comparative way with relations in the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America. That became my focus."

Arab Slavery on the Iberian Peninsula

“Through the Sahara alone," Moore said, "four million blacks were brought over to the Arab Iberian Peninsula. The Arab world was a world in which slavery was essential." Some scholars are skeptical of the size of the numbers Moore cites.

Moore sees the export of Arab-model slavery and race relations to the New World by the Spanish and Portuguese, who had absorbed it during the Muslim occupation of Iberia. "The conquest of America begins when the Arabs are expelled from this part of the world by Europeans." Moore added that the Reconquista was accomplished by south Europeans who had already had long experience of intermarriage or less formal sexual relations with Arab and African peoples and who "are perfectly accustomed to a situation of familiarity of race relations between black and white in a situation of superiority and inferiority."

Moore sees two alternate models of racial rule. The one more familiar in the Northern Hemisphere is the Anglo-American one, where power relations and socio-political structures were based on two distinct groups: the Northern European and African prototypes. "We have a stable racial social order achieved and perpetuated through enforcement of an inflexible two-track system whereby extreme racial polarization is involved between two opposing somatic prototypes: The proto-Nordic types with blonde hair, pale white skin, and sharp facial features, and the proto-African type, with crispy hair, very black skin, voluptuous facial features."

Interracial Sex and Commingling

The Arab-Spanish-Latin American pattern was far more permissive of interracial sex and incorporating racial differences, but, Moore adds, not without its own light-skinned hierarchy. Moore asserts that racial mixing was a very normal occurrence in the Arab world; socially acceptable racial mixing, however, only goes in one direction. Moore postulates the existence in Latin America of a "racial philosophy of eugenics" that encourages a "unilateral … sexual commingling between white [or light skinned] males and the females of the physically conquered and socially inferior race."

Like the classification of "colored" in the former Apartheid South Africa, which was ranked as a higher class than the pure African, Moore sees the mixed race "mulatto" in Arab and Latin American society as a higher class than the purebred African or Indian. "The mulatto has a particular rank in society. In Arab societies there are all sorts of ranks. There are infidels, those who are believers, and the mulatto category which is viewed as a ladder for ascension."

The racial mixing that took place in Latin America that was socially acceptable, Moore said, was only between white males and the black or American Indian females.

According to Moore, the possibility of a black or American Indian man having sex with a white woman would have been destabilizing to the state because the black or American Indian penetrating the female would have been viewed as flipping the established racial hierarchy on its head.

Mixed race children from white fathers and dark mothers were totally accepted into society, according to Moore. In each generation males are expected or permitted to marry females of their own skin color or darker. "The production of a stable intermediary swarthy white type is very important to the Latin-Arab model of race relations. It is so important that the state encourages it." Moore views this as "the sexual enslavement of black women by the conquering white males."

The First Slaves in the Americas Were Imported from Spain

The system developed in Iberia under Arab rule was exported to the Americas as part of the Spanish and Portuguese conquest in the sixteenth century. Moore says that the Portuguese and Spanish added American Indians to their already-enslaved black populations brought from Iberia. “The first black slaves that came to the Americas were not slaves from Africa, but black slaves that came from the Iberian Peninsula, who spoke Portuguese and Spanish."

Moore told the audience that the Northern Europeans, “inventors of Apartheid," have traditionally feared the black person, while Europeans from the Iberian Peninsula, as well as their descendants in Latin America, have no such fear. As he put it, "in the U.S. one drop of black blood makes someone black. In Latin America one drop of white blood makes you white."

When Spain and Portugal conquered vast parts of Latin America, Moore said, they established a black slave trade, continued the mixing of the races with white Europeans at the top of the social ladder and American Indian and African descendants at the bottom. Whites lived in close physical proximity to black and American Indian populations, however those of a white European ancestry (Spanish and Portuguese) had the political and economic power. The lightness or darkness of one’s skin strongly affected one’s social rank.

The Rules of the Subtle Race Game

Moore recalled that Hollywood wanted to make a film about Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. They had cast an African American in the role, only to have to pull the plug on the project when Sadat objected to a black man portraying him. Sadat, being the leader of Egypt, considered himself white, according to Moore. Moore said there are black-looking Arabs and Latin Americans who consider themselves white because they have some distant white ancestry. “The only problem is when they go to New York."

Moore expressed some concern about the implications for race relations in the United States posed by the increasing immigration from Mexico and Latin America. While he clearly regarded the often overt racism of the North as perhaps even more objectionable than the Arab-Spanish form in the South, he saw a particular problem in the general Latin American denial of race as an issue. This has made it socially disreputable to raise demands for reform in Latin America around race issues.

Moore concluded by expressing the hope that these new Latin American immigrants will not import their Arab-Latin American model of race relations, as with it comes a false color blindness. To Moore, the U.S. model of dealing with race, while far from ideal, enables groups to make demands on society, and to be able to work for change.

African Studies Center
posted by R J Noriega at 2:23 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Letter From Bill Keller on The Times's Banking Records Report
The following is a letter Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, has sent to readers who have written to him about The Times's publication of information about the government's examination of international banking records:

I don't always have time to answer my mail as fully as etiquette demands, but our story about the government's surveillance of international banking records has generated some questions and concerns that I take very seriously. As the editor responsible for the difficult decision to publish that story, I'd like to offer a personal response.

Some of the incoming mail quotes the angry words of conservative bloggers and TV or radio pundits who say that drawing attention to the government's anti-terror measures is unpatriotic and dangerous. (I could ask, if that's the case, why they are drawing so much attention to the story themselves by yelling about it on the airwaves and the Internet.) Some comes from readers who have considered the story in question and wonder whether publishing such material is wise. And some comes from readers who are grateful for the information and think it is valuable to have a public debate about the lengths to which our government has gone in combatting the threat of terror.

It's an unusual and powerful thing, this freedom that our founders gave to the press. Who are the editors of The New York Times (or the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and other publications that also ran the banking story) to disregard the wishes of the President and his appointees? And yet the people who invented this country saw an aggressive, independent press as a protective measure against the abuse of power in a democracy, and an essential ingredient for self-government. They rejected the idea that it is wise, or patriotic, to always take the President at his word, or to surrender to the government important decisions about what to publish.

The power that has been given us is not something to be taken lightly. The responsibility of it weighs most heavily on us when an issue involves national security, and especially national security in times of war. I've only participated in a few such cases, but they are among the most agonizing decisions I've faced as an editor.

The press and the government generally start out from opposite corners in such cases. The government would like us to publish only the official line, and some of our elected leaders tend to view anything else as harmful to the national interest. For example, some members of the Administration have argued over the past three years that when our reporters describe sectarian violence and insurgency in Iraq, we risk demoralizing the nation and giving comfort to the enemy. Editors start from the premise that citizens can be entrusted with unpleasant and complicated news, and that the more they know the better they will be able to make their views known to their elected officials. Our default position — our job — is to publish information if we are convinced it is fair and accurate, and our biggest failures have generally been when we failed to dig deep enough or to report fully enough. After The Times played down its advance knowledge of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President Kennedy reportedly said he wished we had published what we knew and perhaps prevented a fiasco. Some of the reporting in The Times and elsewhere prior to the war in Iraq was criticized for not being skeptical enough of the Administration's claims about the Iraqi threat. The question we start with as journalists is not "why publish?" but "why would we withhold information of significance?" We have sometimes done so, holding stories or editing out details that could serve those hostile to the U.S. But we need a compelling reason to do so.

Forgive me, I know this is pretty elementary stuff — but it's the kind of elementary context that sometimes gets lost in the heat of strong disagreements.

Since September 11, 2001, our government has launched broad and secret anti-terror monitoring programs without seeking authorizing legislation and without fully briefing the Congress. Most Americans seem to support extraordinary measures in defense against this extraordinary threat, but some officials who have been involved in these programs have spoken to the Times about their discomfort over the legality of the government's actions and over the adequacy of oversight. We believe The Times and others in the press have served the public interest by accurately reporting on these programs so that the public can have an informed view of them.

Our decision to publish the story of the Administration's penetration of the international banking system followed weeks of discussion between Administration officials and The Times, not only the reporters who wrote the story but senior editors, including me. We listened patiently and attentively. We discussed the matter extensively within the paper. We spoke to others — national security experts not serving in the Administration — for their counsel. It's worth mentioning that the reporters and editors responsible for this story live in two places — New York and the Washington area — that are tragically established targets for terrorist violence. The question of preventing terror is not abstract to us.

The Administration case for holding the story had two parts, roughly speaking: first that the program is good — that it is legal, that there are safeguards against abuse of privacy, and that it has been valuable in deterring and prosecuting terrorists. And, second, that exposing this program would put its usefulness at risk.

It's not our job to pass judgment on whether this program is legal or effective, but the story cites strong arguments from proponents that this is the case. While some experts familiar with the program have doubts about its legality, which has never been tested in the courts, and while some bank officials worry that a temporary program has taken on an air of permanence, we cited considerable evidence that the program helps catch and prosecute financers of terror, and we have not identified any serious abuses of privacy so far. A reasonable person, informed about this program, might well decide to applaud it. That said, we hesitate to preempt the role of legislators and courts, and ultimately the electorate, which cannot consider a program if they don't know about it.

We weighed most heavily the Administration's concern that describing this program would endanger it. The central argument we heard from officials at senior levels was that international bankers would stop cooperating, would resist, if this program saw the light of day. We don't know what the banking consortium will do, but we found this argument puzzling. First, the bankers provide this information under the authority of a subpoena, which imposes a legal obligation. Second, if, as the Administration says, the program is legal, highly effective, and well protected against invasion of privacy, the bankers should have little trouble defending it. The Bush Administration and America itself may be unpopular in Europe these days, but policing the byways of international terror seems to have pretty strong support everywhere. And while it is too early to tell, the initial signs are that our article is not generating a banker backlash against the program.

By the way, we heard similar arguments against publishing last year's reporting on the NSA eavesdropping program. We were told then that our article would mean the death of that program. We were told that telecommunications companies would — if the public knew what they were doing — withdraw their cooperation. To the best of my knowledge, that has not happened. While our coverage has led to much public debate and new congressional oversight, to the best of our knowledge the eavesdropping program continues to operate much as it did before. Members of Congress have proposed to amend the law to put the eavesdropping program on a firm legal footing. And the man who presided over it and defended it was handily confirmed for promotion as the head of the CIA.

A secondary argument against publishing the banking story was that publication would lead terrorists to change tactics. But that argument was made in a half-hearted way. It has been widely reported — indeed, trumpeted by the Treasury Department — that the U.S. makes every effort to track international financing of terror. Terror financiers know this, which is why they have already moved as much as they can to cruder methods. But they also continue to use the international banking system, because it is immeasurably more efficient than toting suitcases of cash.

I can appreciate that other conscientious people could have gone through the process I've outlined above and come to a different conclusion. But nobody should think that we made this decision casually, with any animus toward the current Administration, or without fully weighing the issues.

Thanks for writing.

Bill Keller
posted by R J Noriega at 1:59 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Chilling the Press

Last December Gabriel Schoenfeld, senior editor of Commentary, sat down to review James Risen's book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, a portion of which had just appeared, to much acclaim and controversy, on page one of the New York Times and would later garner Risen and Eric Lichtblau a Pulitzer Prize. As he read the book Schoenfeld wondered, "Is it legal to publish this kind of stuff?" Risen's explosive revelations about the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program enraged Schoenfeld, who decided to abandon his review and embark instead on a more ambitious essay about espionage and leaks. In recent months that essay--"Has The New York Times Violated the Espionage Act?," which appeared in the March issue of Commentary--has taken on a life of its own and has brought its author a certain degree of fame and notoriety. His influence may expand as the Times and other newspapers endure Republican fury and calls for prosecution as a result of their June 22 decision to publish a story revealing a secret government financial tracking program.

In his research into the 1917 Espionage Act and subsequent espionage statutes, Schoenfeld discovered Section 798 of the US Criminal Code, enacted by Congress in 1950, which reads, "Whoever knowingly and willingly communicates, furnishes, transmits or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes...any classified information...concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States...shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both." (His italics.) This, Schoenfeld believed, was the "completely unambiguous" smoking gun he needed against Risen and the Times--both of whom, he felt, had "damaged critical intelligence capabilities" and undermined national security with the NSA story. Schoenfeld knew when he wrote the essay that no journalist had ever been prosecuted under Section 798, but his purpose was to stiffen the spine of the Justice Department. "The laws governing what the Times has done are perfectly clear," he concluded. "Will they be enforced?"

Schoenfeld's essay caught the eye of a producer at The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, who invited him on the show on April 25. "The rest is history," Schoenfeld says. He was subsequently invited to testify twice before Congress: In May and June he appeared before the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he more or less summarized the Commentary essay. Schoenfeld, who has written half a dozen pieces for the Times since 1990, also appeared on MSNBC's The Abrams Report and was granted space on the op-ed page of the Los Angeles Times.

Some press critics were quick to contest Schoenfeld's arguments. Writing in Slate, Jack Shafer noted that under the logic employed by Commentary, many leading national security reporters could be prosecuted under Section 798, including Bill Gertz of the Washington Times (for a 2000 story titled "Russian Merchant Ships Used in Spying" that relied on CIA and NSA documents), James Bamford (for a 2006 story in The Atlantic on the successful efforts of the NSA to target Islamic militants in Yemen), Bob Woodward (for divulging in his book Plan of Attack that Iraq had "the kind of old-line Soviet coding equipment that NSA knew well and could crack") and Seymour Hersh (who drew heavily on NSA documents for a 2001 story in The New Yorker on the machinations of the Saudi royal family). Shafer cited a dozen other reporters who could conceivably be jailed, including Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard.

Other Schoenfeld critics leaped into the fray with a series of letters that appear in the June Commentary. In one letter Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists takes aim at the sweeping nature of the law and notes that he recently obtained a historical document regarding the NSA budget for 1972--a figure that remains classified. "Should I therefore be prosecuted? Should Commentary be penalized for publishing the information in this letter? That would be absurd." "My view," proclaims Morton Halperin of the Open Society Institute in another letter, is that the Times "may have violated a criminal statute but that its conduct was far from shameful." Thunders Ohio University professor Joe Bernt: "If letting the public know that we have a law-violating President who needs to be impeached violates the law, I only hope the New York Times continues to violate the laws of tyrants."

Is the Times vulnerable to prosecution? On May 21 US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales declared that there is "a possibility" that journalists can be prosecuted for publishing classified information. Most experts doubt that the government would attempt such a maneuver. Says Geoffrey Stone, professor of law at the University of Chicago and author of Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime, "The fact is that the US government, in 215 years, has never once prosecuted the press for publishing government secrets." In Stone's view the 1950 law is "clearly unconstitutional. It includes no reference whatever to clear and present danger or any other level of harm to the national security."

Others agree. "While in theory the Times might be vulnerable," notes Boston defense attorney Harvey Silverglate, "there are arguable defenses. And besides, where is the Department of Justice going to get a twelve-citizen jury to unanimously buy the government's view that the Times is a criminal but the Bush Administration is not?" Schoenfeld says he cannot imagine a government prosecution: "Before my essay came out, I would say the chance was zero percent. After the article came out, the odds have risen to .05 percent." Then what did he achieve with the essay? "I hope," he says, "that I set in motion a 'chilling effect,' however slight, when it comes to the publication of sensitive and highly classified counterterrorism programs, the illegal disclosure of which may make it easier for radical Islamists to strike us again."

In recent months Schoenfeld's essay certainly appears to have provided intellectual ammunition for those who would censor and punish the press. His arguments have already been reproduced in the Wall Street Journal, National Review and The New Criterion; by Accuracy in Media; and by pundits like Michael Barone. Fortunately, some top newspaper editors seem to be waking up to the dangers. "I'm not sure journalists fully appreciate the threat confronting us," Times executive editor Bill Keller recently told National Journal, citing "the Times in the eavesdropping case, the Post for its CIA prison stories and everyone else who has tried to look behind the 'war on terror.'"

Critics of the Times will no doubt brandish the Schoenfeld essay in their current offensive against the paper for printing the Swift database story, also by Risen and Lichtblau. What are Keller's thoughts on the piece? "I like to think the American electorate," Keller told The Nation before the Swift controversy erupted, "would not look kindly on the federal government seeking to lock up journalists as spies. Even if you accept at face value the polls on media credibility, I think Americans are proud of having a free press and would find an espionage prosecution to be a chilling governmental overreach."
posted by R J Noriega at 1:53 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
7 men arrested in Miami to act as media decoys
Seven men were arrested in Miami last week on charges of conspiring to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and FBI buildings in five cities. It appears the entire case rests on conversations between the group's supposed ringleader and an FBI informant posed as representative of Al-Qaida. We go to Miami to speak with a defense attorney and a community advocate.

On Thursday evening, government officials raided a warehouse in the Liberty City section of Miami and arrested seven men, charging them with conspiring to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and FBI buildings in five cities. The men are Narseal Batiste, Patrick Abraham, Stanley Phanor, Naudimar Herrera, Burson Augustin, Lyglenson Lemorin, and Rotschild Augustine. They range in age from 22 to 32 and were indicted by a federal grand jury in Miami on Friday.
Five of the men are U.S. citizens, one is a legal immigrant from Haiti and the last is an undocumented immigrant originally from Haiti. The men are charged with two counts of conspiring to support a foreign terrorist organization, one count of conspiring to destroy buildings by use of explosives and one count of conspiring to wage war against the government. Each faces a maximum sentence of 70 years.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced the details of the case at a press conference on Friday.

Alberto Gonzales, attorney general speaking June 23, 2006.

Family and community members have expressed shock at the charges and point out that no weapons or explosives were found nor did investigators document any links to Al-Qaida. It appears that the entire case rests on conversations between Narseal Baptiste, the supposed ringleader of the group and the FBI informant, who was posing as a representative of Al-Qaida. John Pistole, the FBI's deputy director, described the plan on Friday as "aspirational rather than operational."

David O. Markus, Defense Attorney and president of the Miami Chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is founder of David Oscar Markus law firm, which focuses on criminal trials and appeals.
Max Rameau, member of Miami CopWatch which is a project of the Center for Pan-African Development.

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AMY GOODMAN: This is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announcing the details of the case at a news conference Friday.

ALBERTO GONZALES: These individuals wish to wage a, quote, “full ground war against the United States.” That quote is from the investigation of these individuals, who also allegedly stated the desire to, quote, "kill all the devils we can." They hoped for their attacks to be, quote, “just as good or greater than 9/11.”

AMY GOODMAN: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Family and community members have expressed shock at the charges and point out no weapons or explosives were found, nor did investigators document any links to al-Qaeda. It appears the entire case rests on conversations between Narseal Baptiste, the supposed ringleader of the group, and the FBI informant, who was posing as a representative of al-Qaeda. John Pistole, the FBI’s Deputy Director, described the plan on Friday as, quote, “aspirational, rather than operational.”

We’re joined right now in Miami by David Markus and Max Rameau. David Markus is defense attorney and president of the Miami chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He's founder of the David Oscar Markus Law Firm, which focuses on criminal trials and appeals. Max Rameau is with Miami CopWatch, which is a project of the Center for Pan-African Development. We welcome you both to Democracy Now!

David Markus, let's begin with you. Can you explain exactly what went down on Thursday? What are the charges? What has been shown?

DAVID MARKUS: Well, they’ve alleged in a 13-page indictment that these seven individuals have connections to terrorists and were funding terrorists and were going to be involved in blowing up different places. And as you mentioned, there are no weapons, no connection to al-Qaeda. You see a lot of scary words in the indictment, like “jihad” and “loyalty oath” and “Osama bin Laden,” but what we have is the traditional informant going in and talking to a bunch of guys, and what's going to come out in the next couple weeks is actually what was said, and that’s going to be the critical part to the case.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the narrative the government has laid out about exactly what happened? Who was the informant? How did they learn about this group of people?

DAVID MARKUS: We don't know who the informant is yet? We know from reading the indictment that there were a number of meetings in warehouses and so on in Liberty City and that those meetings were recorded. We know from reading the indictment, as well, that there are allegations that there were talks about blowing up the Sears Tower, about the Miami FBI office, about the downtown Justice building. But, again, there was nothing actually done. There was talk. And we've seen in a lot of these cases that talk can sometimes lead to acquittals. So we're going to have to see more than just talk for the government to be able to show their case.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the phrase the government is using, that the plans were “aspirational,” not operational?

DAVID MARKUS: Right. It's interesting, because I think even the government is trying to lower expectations in their case, because they know that nothing was actually done. I think the most that was done were these guys got some boots from the informants, some military boots. They have to be able to prove that they were able to carry this out, that they were going to do something. And based on the mere words, that's going to be difficult to do. We have to hear what was said on the tapes, how far these meetings got. But based on words and the government's talk as aspirational plans, they may have some tough hurdles to get over.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about other cases? Have there been similar ones like this in Miami and Florida?

DAVID MARKUS: There have been. The most recent one, of course, was Professor Al-Arian, who in Tampa got an acquittal for -- what the defense was -- just talking. Now, that case is different in a lot of respects, but I think there are some similarities to be drawn in the way that the professor's defense was this was just talk, there was nothing more than talk. You're allowed to talk about this kind of stuff. And at the end of the day he was acquitted of most of the charges. I think that's going to be part of the defense here, in addition to the entrapment and that this was just fantasy on the part of the seven. There have been some other defenses floated around, like that these guys might have just been bad conmen trying to get $50,000 and some guns from somebody who came around. Who knows whether the defense is going to be entrapment or that they were conned or that this was just talk? But there are potential defenses being talked about that have been successful in the past.

AMY GOODMAN: David Markus is a defense attorney. Max Rameau is with Miami CopWatch, which is a project of the Center for Pan-African Development. Max, you are from Liberty City, where the people who have been arrested are from. Can you talk about what you understand has happened, how this has affected the community, the community that these men come from?

MAX RAMEAU: Well, Liberty City, I live at. It’s about 20 -- I live -- my home is about 20 blocks from where the raid occurred. I have a lot of friends who are right in that area. The community obviously is very shocked, because of the show of force which was there and shocked because of the incredible and overwhelming news coverage of this. However, as things now are starting to calm down, as the dust is settling, we’re taking a closer look at it, and I think a lot of concerns are being raised about the disparate treatment that these men are receiving as compared to what members of other communities receive who might be accused of doing the same thing or might have been planning the same thing or even further along in the plans. So we have a long history of local law enforcement and the FBI, as well, attacking and targeting the Black community and groups in that community, and we're concerned that this is another example of that.

AMY GOODMAN: You say “disparate treatment.” Can you give us examples of people you're talking about?

MAX RAMEAU: Certainly. Obviously in the war on drugs there’s a lot more tax on the Black community, where less drugs are used than in the White community, particular about the issue of terrorism, in addition to Luis Posada, who is a Cuban who is widely considered to be responsible for the 1976 bombing of an airplane, with killing 73 people. He is in jail now but was in Miami walking around freely for many months before he was in jail. And he’s in jail on immigration charges, not on bombing charges. Orlando Bosch was also a Cuban who held a press conference in April of 2006, essentially confessed on television to his role in that same bombing, killing 73 people, blowing up an airplane. He said that he didn't want to get himself in trouble by saying that he did it, but he essentially confessed to doing it. He lives in Miami right now in a nice big house, and he’s not being bothered by anyone.

On the day of the raids, that same Thursday, the Miami Herald, which is the local paper, put out a front-page article, where a former board member of the Cuban American National Foundation by the name of Jose Antonio Llama came out on the front page and said that the Cuban American National Foundation, which is recognized by the government as a not-for-profit organization, had a subcommittee from their board who was responsible and did buy weapons, bought boats, bought helicopters, for the purpose of attacking a sovereign country, for attacking Cuba. So these guys were actually terrorists, real live terrorists, and they all live right now free in Miami and not getting arrested.

I’m trying to imagine what would happen if a group of Black people got together and came out on TV and said, “We were responsible for blowing up an airplane.” What would happen to them? So it looks like there's really a big difference in the treatment there of some amateur wannabes terrorists here, allegedly, who are now going to get ready to get run over by this train that is Homeland Security, and there's some real live terrorists who are sitting, living, and being unmolested by the police as we speak. This is really unfair treatment.

AMY GOODMAN: Max Rameau, can you talk about the Haitian community in Liberty City and the effect that this has had, Max?

MAX RAMEAU: Yes. Well, I was born in Haiti myself. The Haitian community has been very upset by this. We're really concerned that this is going be used as a justification for the continued discriminatory practices against Haitians. Already, Haitians have a difficult time. Haitians refugees have a difficult time getting into the United States. We're concerned that now the government is going to say, “We told you all along that we shouldn't have Haitians in here, and this is proof of it. We have a bunch of Haitian terrorists running around here.” So we're very concerned that this is going to be used as a justification for discriminatory practices against the Haitian community, both those Haitians trying to come in and it’s going to represent a pretext for cracking down on the Haitian community and the Black community in general, but the Haitian community in particular, who live here in South Florida or perhaps other parts of the country.

So we really have an interest in making sure that these guys get their due process and that we challenge the official government version of events, because there is a history of lying, of planting evidence, of attacks and disparate treatment on behalf of the government against the Black community.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the evidence or lack of evidence that was found?

MAX RAMEAU: Well, a lot of show has been made about the militaristic boots that they had and the gear and the outfits. Well, it turns out these guys didn't have enough money or enough organization to get these things for themselves. The FBI bought them the boots that we’ve heard so much about, bought them the military outfits that we’ve heard so much about. If you look at the indictment, the biggest piece of evidence, it seems to me, that they have is that the group may have taken pictures of a bunch of targets in South Florida. But the guys couldn't afford their own cameras, so the federal government bought them the cameras with which they took the pictures. They couldn't get downtown and all the other places by themselves. The federal government rented them the cars that they needed to get downtown in order to take the pictures. So it looks like they really didn't have too much capacity.

In addition, right now the running joke in Liberty City is, you know, in the indictments -- if you read the indictments, the men provided the FBI informant with a list of things they needed in order to blow up these buildings, but in the list they didn't include any explosives or any materials which could be used to make explosives. So now everyone in Liberty City is joking that the guys were going to kick down the FBI building with their new boots, because they didn't have any devices which could have been used to explode, so this really, really looks pretty thin.

And in addition, we have concerned -- anyone who is an activist and been to community meetings knows that there’s a few people who come into a meeting and make these statements which are a little bit beyond what their capacity is. You know, you go in, you talk about a zoning issue, and some guy comes in and says, “Oh, we'll just take over the City Hall,” when they’re talking about a little small zoning issue, and you know they have no capacity do that. So we're concerned that these guys had no capacity to do anything that they seemed to be talking about, that they were led by the hand by this FBI agent.

I been living in Liberty City. I’m not sure, you know, just judging by Liberty City, in general -- not just Liberty City, but most people there -- I’m not sure these guys knew where the Sears Tower was, much less that it would represent a significant target. So I really wonder who suggested the Sears Tower in the first place, who suggested taking the pictures. It’s just not all that clear that these guys could have come up with these plots and have carried them out, and it really raises questions again about the other real live terrorists who are living here who are not being arrested.

AMY GOODMAN: Max, finally, the issue of when it was first announced, the government said that these were Muslim men. CAIR has been quite vocal over the weekend, the Council on Arab-Islamic Relations saying that they are not from their community.

MAX RAMEAU: Well, first of all, I don't see that as being a major issue, whether they're Muslim or not. I still think that they have a right to a fair trial and they have a right to the presumption of innocence and they have a right not to be arrested for thinking things.

But with that said, it really raises a lot more questions, that the federal government will go out and make these statements that, you know, apparently leaking information that these were a bunch of Muslim men, when apparently they were not Muslim men. It raises several questions. For example, did the government even know if they were Muslim or not? And if they didn't know that these guys were not Muslim, then what else did they not know that they’re including in here.

And it raises questions that they would come out and outright lie. We’ve been very concerned about the media coverage also, which has emphasized very, very minute or seemingly insignificant information, like these guys like to keep to themselves. These guys wore turbans. Well, what does -- you know, I don't understand what the big deal is with some of that, except to the extent that that plays into xenophobic fears and fears about the war on terrorism as framed by the government.

AMY GOODMAN: This story came at just the same time as a huge embarrassment to the government, and that is the story in the New York Times about the monitoring of financial records internationally.

MAX RAMEAU: Yeah. I really think this could be a case of weapons of mass distraction, where you have a big embarrassing issue coming out, and right now people are not talking about that, and they're talking about this. And this is not even seemingly all that significant of an arrest. So it really raises questions, when they didn't have any weapons at the place. It seems to me that if the feds would have even thought this out a little bit, they would have at least planted weapons there, but they didn't even go through the trouble of doing that.

So it seems that this was thrown out there, thrust out there as a way of distracting people or drawing attention away from another really embarrassing situation, which means that these guys are just props, and I am really offended by that, because I know then that if these guys really are just props, that means that there are -- the government is spending all kinds of time and resources on people who don't represent any danger whatsoever to the general society, and there’s other people who represent a significant danger to people in the society who are not being tracked, who are not being followed, who are not being arrested. So this is a real, real concern, not only because these guys have rights, but because this is a misappropriation of government money -- my money and everyone else's money, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Max Rameau, I want to thank you for being with us with Miami CopWatch, project of the Center for Pan-African Development in Miami; and David Markus, head of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
posted by R J Noriega at 1:49 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
A Tale of Two Tragedies

The government figures provided the third week after Pakistan's earthquake are probably a serious underestimate, but they indicate the scale of the catastrophe: 50,000 dead, 74,000 injured and at least 3.3 million--far more than after the tsunami--left homeless, virtually all of them in the mountains, where snow begins to fall in November. The poverty of the overwhelming majority of the victims is only too apparent. Bagh, a town north of Muzaffarabad, has virtually ceased to exist. In Islamabad a relief worker told me that "there is a stench of rotting corpses everywhere. In their midst survivors are searching for food. Local people say that 50,000 have died in this town alone. And more will follow if medicines and food are not equitably distributed."

The continuing shortage of helicopters in Pakistan has meant that the survivors in the more remote mountain villages on the Indo-Pak border in Kashmir remain out of reach. In neighboring Afghanistan, where there is a glut of helicopters, NATO has been reluctant to release too many from the war zone despite the advice of Robert Kaplan in the International Herald Tribune, who had this to say about benevolent US-NATO rescue missions: "The distinctions between war and relief, between domestic and foreign deployments, are breaking down.... hunting down Al Qaeda in its lair will be impossible without the goodwill of the local population. That attitude can be generated by relief work of the kind taking place in Kashmir. It's the classic counterinsurgency model: Winning without firing a shot."

Despite the desperate situation, the Pakistani government declined India's offer of helicopters. National pride or sheer stupidity, it is unforgivable when lives are at stake. The uniformed establishment in Pakistan fears a lasting peace, because it would remove the reason for maintaining a gigantic military-industrial complex. The inability of the army to centralize and distribute relief has meant that local jihadi militias have tended to monopolize the handing out of food and tents. Enforced prayers in these conditions have become part of the problem.

This is by no means the worst disaster to hit the country. When a cyclone ravaged Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in 1970, up to half a million Bengalis perished. The indifference of the predominantly West Pakistani elite undoubtedly helped fan the flames of nationalism, and the country split a year later. The October 8 earthquake can't be ignored so easily because Islamabad itself was struck. There has been an outpouring of support for the victims, but how long will it last? And what will happen when the gaze of the cameras shifts elsewhere?

This latest wound has brought others to the surface. A deeper and darker malaise, barely noticed by the elite but taken for granted by most citizens, has infected the country for decades. The balance sheet tells the tale of corrupt bureaucrats, tainted army officers and polluted politicians, of unending privilege and graft, protected mafias and the bloated profits of the heroin and arms industries. Add to this the brutal hypocrisy of the Islamist parties, and the picture is complete. It is in this context that many ordinary people on the street view the recent disaster. At a state school in Lahore the students collected toys for children who survived the tragedy; when asked whom they'd like to distribute the toys, the students voted unanimously against any politicians, army officers or civilian bureaucrats. They preferred a doctor.

There is much talk in Islamabad of reconstruction, and even civilian prime minister Shaukat "Shortcut" Aziz has spoken of a five-year plan to rebuild the destroyed cities and rehabilitate the victims, but does the military high command have the will to impose such a solution? Even in normal times the poor have limited access to doctors and nurses. The state-of-the-art hospitals in the big cities are exclusively for the wealthy. The shortage of medical staff has been a curse for the past fifty years. No regime, military or civilian, has succeeded in creating a proper social infrastructure, a safety net for less privileged citizens, who are a large majority of the population. At times like this the entire country feels the need, but the elite will soon forget till memories are revived by the next disaster. In a privatized world, where the prescriptions offered by global financial institutions are taken as holy writ by the rulers, the state is not encouraged to buck the system.

Will the rebuilt cities and villages be constructed differently to avoid another calamity? Edward Durrell Stone, one of the architects who built Islamabad in the late 1960s, was unhappy with the site because of the geological fault line and the weak soil. Overruled by the military dictator of the day, he advised that no structure higher than three stories ever be built. He was ignored.

What will happen to the widows and orphans? The Jamaat-i-Islami party has suggested that the orphans be placed under its control so they can be properly looked after, fed and educated in its madrassahs. There are worse fates for the children--the refugee camp in Islamabad has already become a scouting area for child-sex mafias and pimps in search of easy recruits--but the Pakistani government should resist this demand and create a network of state schools and orphanages where the children can be better protected. To leave them to the mercy of the Islamist groups could result in the loss of another generation.

Pakistan's rulers have usually shied away from complex, substantial issues facing the country. I fear this tragedy will not jolt them sufficiently to abandon their complacency. As always, it is the poor who will continue to suffer.
posted by R J Noriega at 10:48 AM | Permalink | 0 comments

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