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CCR President Emeritus Michael Ratner and NSA whistleblowers J. Kirk Wiebe and Bill Binney examine the relationship between the NSA and U.S. global dominance, the stance of Democrats and Republicans towards surveillance, and mainstream media coverage of these issues

Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: There is a kind of immediate issue. And the U.S. foreign policy–and I think most observers would agree–not all–have a heck of a lot to do with the creation of a terrorist threat that comes specifically from al-Qaeda type organizations. And to a large extent this is an expression of opposition to the U.S. role in the area. It has its own fanatical interest, it has ties with Saudi oil interest, Qatari oil interest, but all within the umbrella of U.S. foreign policy.

That being said, there is a real problem, is there not? There is a threat. I mean, 9/11 did happen. There have been many other attempts to have terrorist attacks. So while the longer-term real security of Americans is not going to be found in just intelligence gathering, is there not an actual short-term issue? And if there is, how should it be addressed?

MICHAEL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: You know, you guys have been sort of addressing, more or less, I think, the security issue. And, you know, I’m addressing something broader than that. I’m saying that [incompr.] you started with the hegemony issue. And I think the two go hand-in-hand.

And I don’t–and your coupling of, you know, terrorism or al-Qaeda or whatever with the surveillance issue, I actually think it’s a false equation. I think that’s–yes, it’s used as the means by which they’re shoving this down Americans’ throat, but I don’t think that’s what’s really going on.

I think, you know, it’s the much broader issues of economic hegemony, oil, our strategic place in the Middle East. If you look at our role vis-à-vis Russia, you go from, you know, Georgia to Ukraine to Afghanistan, surrounding Russia with what I would call the front-line states to push it back, getting ourselves into China, the surveillance and privacy issues are all related to that.

So I don’t take that equation, Paul.

And I also think that if you look at what’s happened over the last years, Dirty Wars, Jeremy Scahill’s, you know, film and book, al-Qaeda may have been maybe–you know, people know this better than I, but, you know, 400 or so members when it started or people. It’s now 10,000, spreading all the way across Africa. Well, what’s that about? If we’re doing all this surveillance, it certainly hasn’t done anything about that. So something else is going on. And if you look at even the reasons for the 9/11 attack, it’s something else is going on about, you know, U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, and that’s about oil . It’s about Palestine. And it’s about a lot else [incompr.] U.S. hegemony than there’s just this terrorism out there. So I don’t accept sort of your looking at it that way.

JAY: No, I didn’t say I was linking it to surveillance. What I was saying is there is a actual short-term issue of there is the possibility of terrorist attacks. I mean, if you’re asking me personally, I don’t think surveillance is the obvious solution. The obvious solution is get the hell out of the Middle East, which links to the issue of global hegemony.

But, Kirk, you’re nodding your head here.

J. KIRK WIEBE, NSA WHISTLEBLOWER: Well, I’m agreeing with what the professor is saying. It goes deeper. It goes deeper. And I’ll call it global ethics. You can call it hegemony. You can call it whatever you want to, imperialism. What do we want to be as a nation? What do we demand to be as a nation?

And I can begin with the Constitution. Do we want to be a nation of laws as the founders saw it? Or are we going to be a nation of men and play it along as we run into issues and obstacles? And I choose the first. I think we need to respect the Constitution. I think it’s a magnificent document. But corrupt people can’t live underneath it.

We’ve got to fix our own society so that we get people into government who think ethically, and not always the need to be on top, on top in every aspect, controlling everything that goes on in the world, which goes counter to the humanity of the world, really. People seek liberty and freedom of choice.

JAY: Michael.

RATNER: You know that one of the problems with the way you phrase it, Paul, is, you know, it reminds me of, you know, would I have fought in the Second World War. And here we go ahead and we want to use Germany against the Soviet Union, and we allow arms sales to go to Germany, because we want them ultimately to go against the Soviet Union and destroy that. And then, after the fact, in 1941, you ask me to go serve there when [incompr.] screwed it up all the way along.

So if you’re looking now at, quote, terrorism and you’re looking across the Middle East and you see Obama’s new plan wanting to arm all these–you know, bring the U.S. in there and these terrorist forces and we arm all the people in, you know, Syria, etc., or at least support groups that, you know, ultimately are going to turn against us and you look at–as much as I love Carter as a president ’cause he wasn’t making the kind of wars that had been made up till 1976, you know, they did arm the jihadists in Afghanistan. And that’s–Brzezinski takes credit for that. And then you come to after the fact [incompr.] well, now what do we do about terrorism? It has to go back to what you said. You’ve got to stop the U.S. taking other people’s oil, other people’s land, and trying to dominate the world. That’s–I mean, in the end, that’s what you’ve got to do.

You can’t face me with something and say, hey, Michael, now that we armed all these guys, you know, who we put up against Afghanistan and were put against Syria, now you’ve got to go in and stop them or you’ve got to surveil them or you’ve got to do what, and it’s not a fair question. It’s not going to what the real core is.

JAY: Right.

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Gentlemen, I want to turn the corner a little bit and I want to talk about something that John Kerry, Secretary of State John Kerry said this week after Edward Snowden’s interview, calling him a coward and saying let him come back to the United States and face trial and things of that nature. And Paul had asked this earlier: do you feel like surveillance is worse under Democratic leadership or Republican leadership? Is there any difference, first of all? I’ll ask the question to Bill first.

BILL BINNEY, NSA WHISTLEBLOWER: Okay. Well, from my perspective, there basically is no difference between the parties. Absolutely nothing. The only thing the Democrats have done since they’ve taken over is increase the spying, level of spying. They built Bluffdale for storing [incompr.] kinds of content that they’re collecting. So it’s only increasing. That’s all ballooning, in terms of spying on everybody–not just in the United States now; it’s around the world.

But, I mean, I wanted to add one point here, that the driver behind the military-industrial-intelligence complex is money. It’s the same thing with wars. It’s the same thing with all of it. In order to start it, start getting back at the–stopping it and turning it around, you have to start addressing the lies they’re using to dupe people into following them. And that’s why I was addressing the lies that they were talking about for surveillance. That’s the start of it. You have to address their lying to you. And that’s what they’ve been doing, not just on the surveillance front, but on every front.

JAY: I’m sorry. We’re getting a message here from our studio, and we have no clue what they’re saying, so we’re just going to ask you: what is it they’re trying to tell us here?

DESVARIEUX: No, I heard. So we’re switching our guest, just for our studio performance. Sorry. Sorry, Bill. Just that last part again.

BINNEY: Yeah. Well, I think the point is the military-industrial-surveillance program that have been instituted by both Republicans and Democrats takes an awful lot of money. And that’s what’s motivating everybody is this money. And just like wars, that creates a lot of money for people. They make a lot of money because of it.

So, I mean, my point was, in order to stop it and start turning it around, you have to address the lies openly in public that they’re using to dupe people to follow them down this path.

JAY: And to do that, you know, we do what we can at The Real News, but we’re not on television and millions of houses. What do you make of how mainstream news is covering this whole issue?

BINNEY: Very poorly.

WIEBE: Very poorly. Bill and I were talking on the way up here to the studio that there seems to be a hidden force somewhere that is pushing onto the major news media to be selective in the stories that they present as news. I call it censorship by omission, choosing not to cover a major story. Choosing not to feature it in prime time but to push it off somewhere else, in a video on YouTube, for example, is a subtle way.

We need to have absolute honesty and bravery in journalism again. And that’s why I’m hopeful The Real News Network’s going to do that.

DESVARIEUX: We love the plug.

RATNER: Good plug. Good plug.

JAY: Michael, what do make of mainstream news? And, I mean, how often do you get on mainstream news, Michael?

RATNER: Not often. I mean, [snip] very rarely [snip] for a while, I think, before 9/11 [incompr.] actually, post-9/11 they put me on to kill me on Guantanamo, mainly, but that’s the main time, occasionally for Snowden or WikiLeaks, but very rare, actually.

But the narrative is awful. When I read the narrative on Syria, it was awful. The attacks on Snowden and the so-called “man up” comment by Kerry, which was covered, they’re trying to find any weaknesses and trying to smear Snowden. You know, it hasn’t stuck very well because I think [incompr.] remarkable interview. But, of course, they did stick better with my client Julian Assange and they’ve stuck better with some of the other whistleblowers. But I think the dominant narrative in this country, in the mainline press, which reflects that, is awful. And you just want to wrap fish with the newspapers.

And, of course, it does [incompr.] Bill or Kirk [incompr.] who said–gave a plug for Real News. It’s why when I hear you guys give something on the Ukraine, it makes me sit up, because you can read a million papers [incompr.] Russia’s the aggressor, Russia’s this, Russia’s that. Now, Russia may be whatever it is, but the U.S. and the E.U. have a big hand in the Ukraine, and that should be brought up.

JAY: Well, we’re at a very important moment at The Real News right now. So I’m going to segue now into another pitch.

There’s something happened that when we started talking about The Real News in 2003 and in 2004 we started developing our business plan, we said convergence is coming. It isn’t going to be long until you can develop programming on the internet but watch it on your big screen at home. And we thought that was going to come and that was going to come sooner. And then the crash came in ’08, and I think perhaps that slowed it all down, but it’s here. Convergence is here. You can now watch The Real News on a big screen on Roku. Very soon we’re going to be on-demand in 8 million houses up and down the northeast of the United States. There’s things like Apple TV, and there’s Chrome TV and smart TV. So convergence has come, convergence meaning you can now, through the ethernet, through your internet, watch, essentially, television and we’re going to be there.

So you combine the building and our ability now to produce at a professional level studio shows, convergence, we can now get on televisions and houses across not just the United States, but across Canada and, frankly, across the world. To take advantage of this moment, to deal with the issue of breaking through, breaking the monopoly on daily video news, we’ve got to get to scale. We can’t just be operating at the level we’re at. So what we’re doing today is just the beginning of a campaign to get tens of thousands of people donating $5, $10 a month, we hope hundreds of people donating $50 and $100 a month, and we’d like a few hundred donating tens of thousands a month.

So if there’s any billionaires out there, and if you’ve read Ralph Nader’s book about how billionaires should come and help us, here, nice, just go to the Donate button. But don’t do $1 billion over the internet, because we don’t want to give the credit card such a big fee. Just give us a call and we’ll work it out.

We need lots of people to donate small amounts. That’s what gives us our independence, and that’s what makes Real News. So please help make Real News.

And thank you, Michael Ratner, for joining us–.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Michael Ratner is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York and Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is currently a legal adviser to Wikileaks and Julian Assange. He and CCR brought the first case challenging the Guantanamo detentions and continue in their efforts to close Guantanamo. He taught at Yale Law School, and Columbia Law School, and was President of the National Lawyers Guild. His current books include Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in the Twenty-First Century America, and Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder.

NOTE: Mr. Ratner speaks on his own behalf and not for any organization with which he is affiliated.