Corporate Democrats Persecute Whistleblowers – RAI with Norman Solomon (4/4)
On Reality Asserts Itself, Norman Solomon of the Bernie Delegates Network tells Paul Jay that when it comes to defending the deep state, there’s really no difference between the two parties
PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay, and this is Reality Asserts Itself.
Continuing our discussion with Norman Solomon who joins us again in the studio. Thanks for joining us, Norman.
NORMAN SOLOMON: Thanks, Paul.
PAUL JAY: So, you’ve heard the interview many times, and if you haven’t … In the introduction, if you haven’t, go back and watch the other episodes. But quickly, Norman is the Executive Director of the Institute for Pubic Accuracy and co-founder of the group RootsAction.org.
So we’ve been talking about many things, but the theme that’s been running throughout has been the fight within the Democratic Party, the role of the oligarchy with the … Represents the leadership of the Democratic Party, or the vice-versa, how a section of the leadership of the Democratic Party is essentially an extension of the oligarchy. Whether they want to call themselves Progressive, it doesn’t mean much anymore. The word Progressive doesn’t mean anything.
One of the issues on which one cannot judge the Democratic Party leadership as being progressive is how they treat whistle-blowers. One would think if one was Progressive, you’d be for more transparency. But the Obama Administration, if I understand it correctly, went after more whistle-blowers than any president in history. So, this ties to a lot of your work, so tie the two together for us.
NORMAN SOLOMON: Yeah, the Obama Administration went after more whistle-blowers than every other president since 1917 combined. You know, there’d been three. One of them, Daniel Ellsberg, prosecuted under Nixon. Obama went after nine. There were some of them names we know, like Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, John Kiriakou, Jeffrey Sterling. One of the definitions, really, of democracy is the informed consent of the governed. But when it comes to so-called National Security policy, whether you’re Democrat or Republican in the White House, there’s a real interest in not having the informed consent of the governed. If you don’t have information, if you’re not informed, and you’re governed, then it’s not democracy at all.
So that’s where the goal is, to keep us uninformed. Whistle-blowers screw that up. Whistle-blowers who provide us with information as Dan Ellsberg did, in terms of the Pentagon papers, as Snowden did to disprove the lies about surveillance, as John Kiriakou did at the CIA, in terms of torture. Chelsea Manning, dispelling a lot of lies implicit or explicit about the humane U.S. war effort in Iraq and so forth. Those are dangerous people. They’re dangerous because they fight for the public to be informed.
At the Institute for Public Accuracy, back in early 2003, we took up the cause of Katharine Gun, which unfortunately still a name virtually unknown in the U.S. But she worked for the GCHQ, the equivalent of the NSA in Britain. Just weeks really, before the invasion of Iraq, she came to work, had a cup of coffee, turned on the computer, and she saw a memo from the NSA that showed that the U.S. Intelligence Service and the British one, were going to wire-tap and surveil some of the swing votes on the U.N. Security Council in New York, to find out how to push them to vote for an invasion of Iraq. Here you’ve got a woman, she’s maybe 27 years old, she’s a translator of Mandarin, and all of a sudden she’s confronted with this really diabolical plot. She was supposed to avert her eyes and pretend she didn’t see it. Instead, she leaked, whistle-blew the document to The Observer Newspaper in Britain, and it was huge news around the world, except in the United States.
So, at the Institute for Public Accuracy, we organized, we tried as best as we could to publicize, we got famous people including Sean Penn to write letters in support of her. Eventually, because Tony Blair did not want to have discovery to expose how he ignored advice that his support for the invasion of Iraq was illegal under national law, they eventually dropped her charges. But she could’ve spent a couple years in prison.
For me, personally, that was a real eye-opener. I didn’t meet her until quite a bit later, but the power of whistle-blowing. So, at IPA, we launched the ExposeFacts organization as one of our programs several years ago. We’re directly involved with people who are on an advisory board who we do organizing with. We set up programs and publicity for people like John Kiriakou, Tom Drake, the great whistle-blower from the NSA, both with Daniel Ellsberg as well.
PAUL JAY: Let me add, we’ve had interviews with all of these people on The Real News. So if you check out these names, you’ll see various interviews with just about all the whistle-blowers being mentioned here.
NORMAN SOLOMON: Yeah, and I’m leaving out quite a few names. So, we have had this great experience of being able to befriend and help as best we can whistle-blowers to get their voices out. The really great independent journalist Marcy Wheeler and I, sat for two weeks in the courtroom when the CIA whistle-blower Jeffrey Sterling was on trial. A kangaroo court in the eastern district of Virginia, Federal, the District Court. You can imagine the people out there, they work for the CIA, these military contractors, Pentagon, and they convicted him. He’s finishing up now, three years in prison.
To sit there and see all that, and see how little of that information gets through the mass-media has been very motivating to me at RootsAction.org where I also work. We’ve raised a lot of money for the Sterling family, the Sterling Family Fund, which is on Go Fund Me. We’ve done a lot of fundraising through our Whistle-blower Public Education Campaign for Tom Drake and John Kiriakou.
The net result is that RootsAction.org has good news/bad news been by far the largest online action group in this country to unequivocally support all of these whistle-blowers I mentioned and more. Frankly, and this is sort of what I would summarize, as groups like the ACLU, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, when it comes to whistle-blowers from the CIA and the NSA and other such agencies, they turn tail and run. They don’t want to be tainted with support for those whistle-blowers. At RootsAction.org and ExposeFacts, those whistle-blowers are our heroes, and we welcome them, and we do all we can to support them.
PAUL JAY: Getting back to sort of the theme of the struggle within the Democratic Party, you can really see how the leadership of the Democratic Party, corporate Democrats who want to position themselves as Progressive and almost like against, they won’t use the language, against the oligarchs, as we saw in that Tom Perez/Bernie Sanders side-by-side on the Chris Hayes show. Chris could not get those words out of his mouth.
On the other hand, they want to associate themselves as much as possible with the kind of left populist message when they’re out of power. But when it comes to the farm policy, and you come to see how whistle-blowers are treated, you really see how enmeshed and part of the deep permanent state the Democratic Party leadership is. They know how to wage war, they know how to drop drones, they know how to order the CIA. When it comes to this relationship with this deep state that whistle-blowers expose, there’s really no difference between the two parties. At least when you’re talking about their leaderships.
NORMAN SOLOMON: With whistle-blowers, when push comes to shove, the whistle-blowers are seen by that bi-partisan establishment as screwing up the game. The game is suppression of information of selectively leaking classified info that the people in power want to, then to put the kibosh on any information to the general public that we have a right to know in a democracy. So, it’s very revealing.
While Donald Trump has said publicly that he thinks Edward Snowden should get the death penalty. Many Democrats, when Snowden went forward, and when there was all the first huge uproar, and then later said that he was a traitor. People like Diane Feinstein and Joe Biden, they cannot abide people like Snowden, and Drake, and Kiriakou and others. I think for Progressives and Libertarians on the right, it’s a real clarion call to say, “We stand with those who are beacons of light for information in democracy. We’re unwilling to stand with those who want to suppress information to make democracy possible
PAUL JAY: All right thanks very much for joining us, Norman.
NORMAN SOLOMON: Thank you, Paul.
PAUL JAY: And thank you for joining us on Reality Asserts Itself on The Real News Network.