The Open Dimension

Commentary on social issues; politics; religion and spirituality

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Location: Laguna Hills, California, United States

I am a semi-retired psychotherapist/psychiatric social worker and certified hypnotherapist. Originally a practicing attorney, I changed careers during the 1980's. My interests include history, constitutional law, Hindustani classical music, yoga, meditation and spirituality.

Friday, August 22, 2014

August 21, 2014, OpEdNews

Turning America Into a War Zone, Where 'We the People' Are the Enemy
By John Whitehead

Life in the American police state is fast becoming an endless series of don'ts delivered at the end of a loaded gun.
From Peace Officers/ militarized police
"If you don't want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you."--Sunil Dutta, an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department for 17 years
For those who resist, who dare to act independently, think for themselves, march to the beat of a different drummer, the consequences are invariably a one-way trip to the local jail or death.
What Americans must understand, what we have chosen to ignore, what we have fearfully turned a blind eye to lest the reality prove too jarring is the fact that we no longer live in the "city on the hill," a beacon of freedom for all the world.
Far from being a shining example of democracy at work, we have become a lesson for the world in how quickly freedom turns to tyranny, how slippery the slope by which a once-freedom-loving people can be branded, shackled and fooled into believing that their prisons walls are, in fact, for their own protection.
Having spent more than half a century exporting war to foreign lands, profiting from war, and creating a national economy seemingly dependent on the spoils of war, we failed to protest when the war hawks turned their profit-driven appetites on us, bringing home the spoils of war--the military tanks, grenade launchers, Kevlar helmets, assault rifles, gas masks, ammunition, battering rams, night vision binoculars, etc.--to be distributed for free to local police agencies and used to secure the homeland against "we the people."
Is it any wonder that we now find ourselves in the midst of a war zone?
We live in a state of undeclared martial law. We have become the enemy.
In a war zone, there are no police--only soldiers. Thus, there is no more Posse Comitatus prohibiting the government from using the military in a law enforcement capacity. Not when the local police have, for all intents and purposes, already become the military.
In a war zone, the soldiers shoot to kill, as American police have now been trained to do. Whether the perceived "threat" is armed or unarmed no longer matters when police are authorized to shoot first and ask questions later.
In a war zone, even the youngest members of the community learn at an early age to accept and fear the soldier in their midst. Thanks to funding from the Obama administration, more schools are hiring armed police officers--some equipped with semi-automatic AR-15 rifles--to "secure" their campuses.
In a war zone, you have no rights. When you are staring down the end of a police rifle, there can be no free speech. When you're being held at bay by a militarized, weaponized mine-resistant tank, there can be no freedom of assembly. When you're being surveilled with thermal imaging devices, facial recognition software and full-body scanners and the like, there can be no privacy. When you're charged with disorderly conduct simply for daring to question or photograph or document the injustices you see, with the blessing of the courts no less, there can be no freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
And when you're a prisoner in your own town, unable to move freely, kept off the streets, issued a curfew at night, there can be no mistaking the prison walls closing in.
This is not just happening in Ferguson, Missouri. As I show in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, it's happening and will happen anywhere and everywhere else in this country where law enforcement officials are given carte blanche to do what they like, when they like, how they like, with immunity from their superiors, the legislatures, and the courts.
You see, what Americans have failed to comprehend, living as they do in a TV-induced, drug-like haze of fabricated realities, narcissistic denial, and partisan politics, is that we've not only brought the military equipment used in Iraq and Afghanistan home to be used against the American people. We've also brought the very spirit of the war home.
This is what it feels like to be a conquered people. This is what it feels like to be an occupied nation. This is what it feels like to live in fear of armed men crashing through your door in the middle of the night, or to be accused of doing something you never even knew was a crime, or to be watched all the time, your movements tracked, your motives questioned.
This is what it's like to be a citizen of the American police state. This is what it's like to be an enemy combatant in your own country.
So if you don't want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, by all means, stand down. Cower in the face of the police, turn your eyes away from injustice, find any excuse to suggest that the so-called victims of the police state deserved what they got.
But remember, when that rifle finally gets pointed in your direction--and it will--when there's no one left to stand up for you or speak up for you, remember that you were warned.

Submitters Bio:

John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead’s aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and accomplishments, including the Hungarian Medal of Freedom. His concern for the persecuted and oppressed led him, in 1982, to establish The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organization in Charlottesville, Va. Whitehead serves as the Institute’s president and spokesperson. His thought-provoking commentaries call people to action and address a wide range of contemporary issues from faith to politics and television to constitutional rights. He is also a frequent commentator on a variety of issues in the national media, as well as the editor of the award-winning pop culture magazine, Gadfly. Whitehead's book A Government of Wolves will be published in June 2013. Please visit On Target to view Whitehead's weekly video commentaries. He also blogs daily about the emerging police state at

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August 20, 2014, OpEdNews
Supremacy: A Social Order of Division, Control and Enslavement
By Kali Ma
To varying degrees, most socio-economic systems in the world today are hierarchical. In a system of hierarchy, individuals occupy social ranks based on their levels of income and wealth, which significantly affect their access to vital resources such as food, shelter, healthcare, and education. In all hierarchies there is a ruling class on top that holds significant social, political, and economic power...
From Hierarchy: Image from page 190 of .The world: historical and actual. (1886)
Reprinted from
"It seemed like Mrs. Elliott was taking our best friends away from us."
These are the words of a third-grader from Riceville, Iowa. Her schoolteacher, Jane Elliott, had just put her class through an exercise that showcased the viciousness and injustice of white supremacy in the late 1960s. Jane Elliott has since replicated this exercise countless times, but her original lesson remains a groundbreaking insight into the mechanisms of supremacy as depicted in the documentary A Class Divided. By labeling the blue-eyed students in her class smarter and better, and giving them more privileges than the brown-eyed students, Jane Elliott instantly creates division and hostility between the two groups. She constantly reinforces the superiority of her blue-eyed students who suddenly feel more confident and perform better at tasks than their now demoralized and dejected brown-eyed classmates. This division creates conflict between the students, which greatly upsets them and even leads to physical fights. Jane Elliott is stunned by the results of her exercise, saying: "I watched what had been marvelous, cooperative, wonderful, thoughtful children turn into nasty, vicious, discriminating little third-graders in a space of fifteen minutes."
Jane Elliott's exercise clearly illustrates how simple it is to ignite conflict between people once a group of individuals is elevated above another. It also demonstrates how supremacy creates powerlessness in the "inferior" group and that the loss of personal power eventually leads to hostility and violence. This is the system we live under today - a hierarchy that ranks people based on their "worth" and socio-economic status.
Hierarchy - A Tool of Supremacy
To varying degrees, most socio-economic systems in the world today are hierarchical.[1] In a system of hierarchy, individuals occupy social ranks based on their levels of income and wealth, which significantly affect their access to vital resources such as food, shelter, healthcare, and education. In all hierarchies there is a ruling class on top that holds significant social, political, and economic power and whose interests are in direct opposition to those of the masses. A hierarchical structure is, in essence, about power - the ability to control and shape outcomes that further the interests of the ruling class. Since money is the way to greater freedom, most people intend to move up the hierarchy andbuy their way into a new reality. After all, those at the top have the freedom to act in ways most people cannot: they make the rules and break them with impunity; they have access to resources, people and capital that allows them to easily perpetuate their wealth; and their occupations often include those of "socialite," "philanthropist," and some even get paid to party.
As an economic system, a hierarchical structure is inefficient and creates unnecessary scarcity because it allows the ruling class to hoard wealth and resources while the majority fights it out over "leftovers." Additionally, because its structure grants disproportionate power and privilege to those on top, it creates a system that is only beneficial to a wealthy minority. Economic inequality is particularly insidious in a hierarchical social order in which wealth determines social status. Such systems create extreme inequality where the gap between the rich and poor is great and social mobility is particularly difficult.
Supremacy is the hallmark of hierarchy where being a "winner" depends on someone else being a "loser" and where wealth is created at the expense of other people and the environment without concern for the collective good. Hierarchies are inherently coercive because they grant dominant groups the authority to impose their rules and ideology on those below them. It is thus a system of dominance, commanding its full power, authority and coercive nature against "weaker" subjects (i.e. the "have-nots" or "inferiors"). However, it is by no means a "natural" arrangement or, as many would say, "just the way things are." A hierarchical social system is closely linked to the systemic subjugation of women under patriarchy, which emerged as a dominant structure in the last 5,000 years of modern human history and helped spur on the agricultural revolution. [2] In effect, humans have lived in hierarchical systems for a fraction of our existence; yet during this new time period we have exhausted much of the world's resources and are quickly heading for a collision course with nature itself.
The purpose of hierarchy in a socio-economic system is not to create opportunities but to protect the supremacy of the ruling elite by controlling people's autonomy and dividing the working class amongst one another through social and economic stratification.
'Divide and Conquer'
While a hierarchical structure places the ruling class on top, it also divides the working people into various "levels" of socio-economic status, with money determining the place in the pecking order. Because there are various "levels" of social status with millions of people competing for the few spots on top, solidarity and cooperation between the people becomes virtually impossible. As a result of this stratification, the lower classes compete against each other and become divided along social, political, and economic lines. In other words, a hierarchical structure breeds competition, division, and outright hostility amongst the various members in society.
Social Conflict within the Working Class
In addition to fostering general class conflict and powerlessness in "inferior" groups, supremacy also creates a hierarchy of worthiness that is directly linked to how closely each of us resembles the '"supreme" image. This "supreme" ideal has traditionally been white, wealthy and male. If we do not meet that profile, then we can at least strive to behave and speak like them, think and believe as they do, or shape our personas in countless ways to appear acceptable to them or as close to the "supreme" image as possible. Economic worth and, in turn our ranking in the hierarchy, are directly linked to how closely we resemble the "supreme" image of white, male privilege. Those who least reflect this "supreme" ideal are deemed "inferior" and labeled as the "other." Because we internalize the "supreme" image early on in our lives, we grow up judging ourselves and others based on that standard. We are effectively pit against one another and through our judgments dehumanize, disrespect, marginalize, and deem unworthy individuals who do not meet the "supreme" standard and who occupy a lower rung on the hierarchy. This dehumanization and "otherness" of individuals who are different from the "supreme" standard is inherent in a hierarchical structure and is at the root of sexism (male supremacy), racism (white supremacy), classism (class supremacy), homophobia (heterosexual supremacy), ethnocentrism (cultural supremacy) and all other social and political divisions under the sun. Victim-blaming and general hostility towards those who are "different" or "inferior" becomes a staple of hierarchical society.
Of course there are exceptions and a privileged upbringing can cancel out many "inferior" traits. However, exceptions are just that: rare occurrences that do not reflect the rule and the reality that happens every day, all day, everywhere. In fact, exceptions are often used to distract us and falsely convince us that society has overcome classism, racism, sexism, or homophobia. In reality, society has gotten much better at hiding its inequities by commercializing, fetishizing, and pop- culturulizing the lives of individuals who are subject to real, everyday discrimination. It is privilege and supremacy we must challenge in all their forms, which are still deeply rooted in white, male, privilege and power.
Economic Conflict within the Working Class
The hierarchy of worthiness also plays out in our economic system. In a hierarchical economic structure, the lower classes are the foundation upon which the successes of others are built. For instance, professionals such as doctors and engineers occupy higher socio-economic standings than Wal-Mart cashiers who ring up their groceries or janitors who clean and maintain their offices. Of course, not everyone possesses the skills and talents to be a doctor or engineer, or for that matter, a cashier or janitor. But when more privileged individuals blame others for being poor, "unaccomplished," "unsuccessful," or unemployed, they do not take into account that the reason they are in a superior position is because someone else is in an inferior, lower position. This is how hierarchy works - someone has to rank at the bottom in order for those on top to be recognized as the "winners." Without such ranking, everyone would be equal. Moreover, society absolutely depends on workers to clean, maintain, repair and service various sectors of society, including private property and public commons. These individuals provide an extremely valuable service that allows society to function yet the system gives them no credit and, in fact, looks down on them and blames them for being in that position. Just imagine a society without sanitation workers to haul off your waste and keep the streets clean, or maintenance workers to keep your buildings running and the AC flowing when it's 100 degrees outside, or grocery clerks who stock your food and water so you can conveniently pick it up and feed your family. Without them, doctors, lawyers, engineers and other members of the professional class could not go about their business. But society has little respect for these individuals who are often paid minimum wage with no benefits; yet they are the very people who make society function.
The "winner" in this unequal arrangement is always the wealthy ruling class who owns the factories, corporations, businesses, and most other institutions and profits from the labor of the working class. The "owners" of society, essentially, sit back and watch their profits soar while the working class slaves over increasingly lower wages and deteriorating working conditions imposed on them by the same people their labor enriches. Individuals of privilege occupy "leadership" positions in all areas of society, from corporations, government and non-profit organizations to the medical, legal, and academic fields. The privileged play both villain and superhero, terrorizing and rescuing the lower classes who are simply pawns in the ruling elite's game of interest and intrigue. The supremacy of the ruling class is legitimized by the meritocracy myth that the most intelligent individuals in society naturally succeeded. The truth, however, is that the wealthy and privileged always end up on top in a system that is created by them to protect their own interests and power.
The meritocratic rationalization for why the wealthy have so much wealth - namely that they are smart and worked hard - is simply ridiculous. Janitors, secretaries, sanitation workers, and plenty of other people are smart and work hard - sometimes at 2 or 3 different jobs - yet their incomes can be as much as 1,795 times lower than that of the "owners." The excuse that elites are smarter is equally absurd seen as how the education system is set up to favor individuals of privilege and serves to protect the power of the ruling class. But for the sake of argument, if indeed they are rewarded by wealth because of their hard work and intelligence, when does the time of rewards come to hard-working lower class people? Shouldn't they be rewarded for their invaluable work that keeps society and the world functioning? And what about the fact that the "superior" ruling elite has completely failed at leading society on all levels, pretty much driving us off the cliff into global suicide? The truth, of course, is that in a system based on domination, the few on top who make the rules can do no wrong regardless of their incompetence. All that matters is the supremacy of their position, which is attained through wealth that has, for the most part, been passed down through generations.
Controlling our Bodies
Slavery is the ultimate control of people's bodies for economic exploitation. A slave has no autonomy, because his actions depend on the permission of another who "owns" him. Within our society today, slavery is not as obvious as it used to be when blacks were "owned" by white slave masters. Today, the control of our bodies takes on many different forms: the use of our bodies and labor as economic goods to be traded on the market in exchange for security in the form of monetary compensation; the steady supply of mostly poor minorities into the private prison system whose bodies are used as slave labor for the benefit of corporations; the control of women's bodies through legislation under the guise of "protecting" the woman and the "unborn" which deprives women of their fundamental choice to make decisions about their bodies; regulation of homosexual conduct and relationships which deprives consenting adults of making decisions about how to use their bodies in a sexual way; the vindication of the George Zimmermans of the world who - with the full backing of a systemic and cultural ideology of white supremacy that views black bodies as worth less - internalize these poisonous values and believe in their inherent right to decide the fates of innocent black people and deprive them of their right to exist as dignified human beings without being stalked, marked, harassed, and murdered with impunity. And even those of us who are victims of oppression in some other way, nonetheless, often become agents of the system, internalizing its values and beliefs and turning on those below us in the hierarchy who are deemed "inferior" or "less than." In this way, hierarchy not only controls our bodies, but also our minds.
Working Toward a New Paradigm
A hierarchical system that facilitates social and economic relationships is extremely harmful because it creates relationships of power that are based on coercion in which freedom cannot exist. Power and freedom are essentially opposites: power seeks to control and dominate while freedom is about autonomy and self-determination that yearns to determine its own path of expression. While there are varying degrees of freedom that can be bought by moving up the system of hierarchy, no one is truly free - not even the ruling class because its supremacy solely depends on the subjugation of the masses.
Our goal then is not to move up the hierarchy because this only legitimizes and perpetuates a dysfunctional system of inequality and oppression; the goal is to completely abolish hierarchy, which only the people can do. We cannot look to those in power who depend on the system for their privilege to make things better for the majority of people. Logically, the ruling class will not threaten its own interests and power. Our immediate short-term goal must be to stop further inequality by building mass movements of solidarity with one another. It is important to note, however, that not every person must get out into the streets to protest; rather, each person can contribute to this movement in different ways, even if it means just standing up for truth instead of "going along to get along." Awareness is key, but we also need to take action. What that action is, each person must determine for themselves.
A violent uprising against the most technologically sophisticated military in history is certain to fail and will do little to improve relations between various social groups. Because the system of supremacy has - through its divisive nature - literally "taken our best friends away from us" and discriminated against many of them, we must confront our own shadows and acknowledge all the ways we personally perpetuate the system's ideology and judge ourselves and others based on its oppressive values. As a result of the division, there is much distrust between various social groups and if we wish to move forward in solidarity, we must work to repair those social bonds. Likewise, we must also confront the internalized fear and desire for acceptance that pushes us to sacrifice truth in favor of comfort and privilege. In other words, we have to reach into the depths of our souls and take our individual power back. A power that is not dependent on the approval of the system, but rooted in self-acceptance and self-awareness. It is truly a radical process that seeks to transform human consciousness by bringing about a revolution from the inside out. We certainly have our work cut out for us; but, at this point, evolving into a new consciousness is our only hope.
[1] The system we live under is often described as capitalism, oligarchy, corporatocracy, or plutocracy. Regardless of the label, all of these structures are extremely hierarchical where most benefits flow to the ruling class at the top at the expense of the majority of people. While hierarchies occur in all systems - even socialism and communism - in those structures inequality between the different classes is much less pronounced and resources are much more evenly distributed.
[2] Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy, (Oxford University Press: 1987)

Submitters Website: http://

Submitters Bio:

Kali Ma is a writer and social justice advocate currently living in the United States. Her interests include the study of society and human behavior, particularly the role of power in individual and group interactions. Her writing focuses on the "big picture" and attempts to connect the dots between dominant ideological perspectives, social policies, and their impact on working class people.


The Beloved Poet, Rumi.

“Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek & find
all the barriers within yourself
that you have built against it.”

~ Rumi

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August 18, 2014, OpEdNews

Game Over for Humanity?
By Michael Byron

Human survival requires a deep and fundamental change of worldview. Nothing else will or can suffice.
"Things that can't go on forever, don't." (1)

War on Nature by Deviant Art
I'll begin with the answer: At best, we are almost out of time. Without dramatic change here and now, extinction due to environmental collapse, sometime in the next century is highly probable. Now, the explanation.

Anatomically modern humans have existed on the planet for at least 200,000 years. Given this reality, there is no inherent reason for humans not to continue to exist indefinitely. However, this is not to say that because some humans can exist, that therefore all humans alive today, and in the near future can exist. It is not to say that industrial civilization, which has allowed humans to exist in such vast numbers can continue into the future. This is because it can't.

Agricultural civilizations have existed for nearly 10,000 years. Clearly, they are cyclically sustainable. Eventually, any such civilization will exhaust its soils, and/or will fall victim to natural changes in climate--particularly rainfall. (2) Invaders then take the opportunity to plunder. After several centuries, the soils, if exhausted, will regenerate, the rains, if absent, will usually return. Civilization can then renew itself. In fact, we have a name for this long term process: history.
Beginning about 500 years ago, humanity took a new course. The world was understood to be inert matter, subject to natural, physical laws. (3) By means of science and reason humans could come to understand and also dominate nature. We were central, nature peripheral.
This worldview underlay the subsequent industrial revolution. It was central to the doctrine of industrial capitalism as laid out by Adam Smith. It was also central to Marxism as articulated by Karl Marx. (4)

The 20th century saw a fierce competition between an American centered variant of industrial capitalism and a Russian version of Marxism. America's victory in the Cold War was capitalism's victory. Yet humanity would have been better served if neither materialistic doctrine had prevailed.
Instead industrial capitalism became supercharged. Russia's demise led to the doctrine of "There Is No Alternative" (TINA), espoused by Reagan, Thatcher, Greenspan and many others. In practice, this became the doctrine of neoliberalism. Pure capitalism in which EVERYTHING is commoditized. The almighty market became the ultimate arbiter of everything.
Globalization is the extension of neoliberalism across the planet. The various so called "free trade" trade agreements are designed to place the short term interests of large multinational corporations above all other human and natural interests. Short term profit uber alles.
Given this reality, I must note that while the various struggles currently underway across the planet to counter this American dominated economic imperialism are just, as people have a right to personal and national freedom, they do nothing significant to avoid humanity's onrushing ecological disaster. This is because at root, all major competing approaches to organizing national and global political economies are materialist. This reality is our species' deep problem.

We have organized ourselves according to a materialist paradigm, predicated upon treating the Earth as an inert source of raw materials. Our lands, waters, and skies are exploited as open sewers for the dumping of often toxic wastes consistent with maximization of profit in the shortest possible time frame. No regard is given to any living creature save with respect to its utility in maximizing short term profits.
Further, such a system inherently dehumanizes people as well. Ever growing concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer, generally ever more sociopathic hands is not only occurring, but is visibly accelerating.
We have blown past numerous planetary limits simply because the inner logic of this system is that there are no limits. As things stand now, it is possible that humanity, even possibly all complex life on Earth is already doomed to extinction. Ecologist Guy McPherson makes just this case at some length on his blog. Is he correct? I do not know. However, I do know that if we simply continue with business as usual, it will not be long before he is.
Likely the most critical failure point for the Earth's continuing ability to sustain human life is the impending sublimation (transitioning directly from an ice to a gas) of methane hydrates currently frozen underneath the Arctic Ocean. For readers who are unfamiliar with this issue see HERE and also HERE.

If this happens, no, given the continuation of business as usual, WHEN it occurs, we go extinct. Period. If somehow, that did not do us in multiple other systemic failures are impending. If the planet had a control panel, all warning lights would be blinking red. All alarms would be noisily wailing.

What must change is NOT just the variant of capitalism the planet runs on, nor is it sufficient to replace "capitalism" with "socialism" and thereby, to reasonably expect a different fate; this because all of these approaches to economics are ultimately just variants of materialism. Rather, what MUST change if our species is to survive this century, is our materialistic outlook.
Humanity is enmeshed in a vast system of systems which in total comprise Nature. So long as our societal organizational methodologies are premised on ourselves, and our economic activities, being above and unaffected by, nature, we are doomed--not in some far off time--but rather in our near term future.

A fundamental change of worldview is required at this time. Evolution is about ADAPTATION. It has nothing to do with being the biggest, the strongest, and so on. It is all about being adaptive to changing circumstances. Our human world is a dinosaur right now. The asteroid is about to impact, metaphorically speaking. We are NOT central. Nothing and no one is. We are simply part of a vast web of interactions upon which we depend for our very existence.

It all comes down to this: change or die. The required change must begin within each one of us. Until and unless a critical mass of people's thinking globally has changed, just tinkering with our politics and our economics will not avail us. Civilization, defined as socially organized complexity can survive only if it is "booted" on a very different, non-materialistic operating system, than neoliberal globalism.
Time, assuming that iT has not run out already, is fast running out. Nature neither bargains, nor takes prisoners. If we lose the "war" we have instigated with it, we die.
So, do we make it or do we perish? It's up to you. Decide.

Submitters Website:

Submitters Bio:

Michael P Byron is the author of The Path Through Infinity's Rainbow: Your Guide to Personal Survival and Spiritual Transformation in a World Gone Mad. This book is a manual for taking effective action to deal with the crises of our age including global climate change, peak oil, and political failure to deal with these and other problems. His previous book is Infinity's Rainbow: The Politics of Energy, Climate and Globalization. Byron-has a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Irvine.--He teaches all aspects of Political Science and Political Economy in local colleges in the San Diego area.- He was the Democratic Party's candidate for United States Congress in California's 49th Congressional District in 2004. In 2002,-he- ran as a write-in candidate upon discovering that the Republican incumbent, Darrell Issa, had no major-party challenger.
Mike lives in Oceanside, CA with his wife, Ramona Byron. Both are Navy veterans.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Lamayuru Gompa Monastery, Ladakh

( Photo: National Geographic )

James Risen calls Obama 'greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation'

• Journalist refuses to reveal source of story about CIA operation
• President’s support for press freedom called ‘hypocritical’
james risen
The New York Times investigative reporter James Risen has exhausted his legal avenues to avoid prison under the Espionage Act. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The New York Times reporter James Risen, who faces jail over his refusal to reveal a source and testify against a former CIA agent accused of leaking secrets, has called President Barack Obama “the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation”.

Speaking to his colleague Maureen Dowd, Risen accused the president of aggressively pursuing journalists, including himself, who report sensitive stories that reflect poorly on the US government.

Risen faces jail over his reporting of a botched intelligence operation that ended up spilling nuclear secrets to Iran. The Justice Department has long been seeking to force him to testify and name the confidential source of the account, which is contained in his 2006 book State of War.

Risen recently failed in an attempt to have the supreme court review an order for him to testify, and acknowledges that he has exhausted all his legal options against the Justice Department’s pursuit of him under the controversial Espionage Act. In the face of incarceration that could come as early as this autumn, he is resorting instead to journalistic defiance.

Risen would be the first journalist to go to prison for failing to divulge sources since 2005, when the former New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed for contempt of court, after refusing to testify about a source before a federal grand jury.

“I was nervous for a long time, but they’ve been after me for six years so now I try to ignore it,” Risen told Dowd.

The pursuit of Risen began under the administration of President George W Bush. The Justice Department tried to prosecute him under the Espionage Act for his 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning scoop about the illegal wiretapping of American citizens after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. It also targeted him for the revelations in State of War.

The Bush administration arrested Jeffrey Sterling, whom Dowd on Sunday referred to as a “disillusioned” former CIA operative, and accused him of being the source of Risen’s leak about Iran. The Obama administration continues to attempt to force Risen to testify against Sterling and name him as his main source.

Risen is furious at statements from the likes of Obama and the attorney general, Eric Holder, about supporting press freedom – including condemnation of the police in Ferguson, Missouri, for this week arresting journalists reporting on riots there.

Obama and Holder said journalists should not be arrested or harassed for doing their jobs and covering “a story that needs to be told”. In May, Holder said of the Sterling case: “No reporter who is doing his job is going to go to jail.” Risen, however, could be behind bars within weeks.

Dowd asked Risen how the Obama administration could use the Espionage Act to imprison reporters and whistleblowers while not acting on the acknowledged use of torture by the CIA on terrorism suspects and the same agency spying on the US Senate.

“It’s hypocritical,” Risen said. “A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin. They don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistleblowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”

Last week, groups campaigning for press freedom handed a petition with more than 100,000 signatures to the Justice Department, urging it to drop the case against Risen.
“It’s surreal to be caught up in a news story instead of writing about one,” he told Dowd.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

City Pillar Shrine, Trat, Thailand