After more than three years in custody, Pfc. Bradley Manning's trial finally began on June 3. The 25-year old Oklahoma native has already pled guilty to ten charges, but faces prosecution on 12 more relating to the 2010 release of restricted government documents to Wikileaks.
For his ten guilty pleas, Manning can face up to 16 years in prison. But the 12 additional charges could send Manning to jail for the rest of his life. Although he is charged with "aiding the enemy," a capital offense, prosecutors will not seek the death penalty. While Manning's actions were in defiance of U.S. government secrecy, his trial will be almost completely shrouded in it.
Republican lawmakers have squeezed a provision into the Wisconsin budget to reintroduce bail bondsmen (and bounty hunters) to the state, a corruptive practice that has been banned since 1979, faces nearly universal opposition from the state's criminal justice system, and is promoted heavily by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
In the early hours of June 4, after an overnight session of closed door meetings and hours of debate, the Republican-controlled legislature's Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines to approve a package of budget items, from tax breaks for the rich to an expansion of taxpayer-funded private school vouchers -- and in the final motion, a proposal to allow for-profit bail bonding in Wisconsin and four other counties. Read the rest of this item here.
In a series of blockbuster reports published in the Washington Post and in the British newspaper The Guardian, sources reveal that the National Security Agency (NSA) is running a previously undisclosed program called PRISM, which allows federal officials to collect material including "search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats" from an array of internet companies including Google, Skype, YouTube, Facebook, Apple, and more without a court order. Read the rest of this item here.
The Center for Media and Democracy filed suit June 6 against Wisconsin State Senator Leah Vukmir, a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the treasurer of ALEC's national board, over her failure to disclose ALEC-related materials under Wisconsin’s public records law – possibly because ALEC told her to keep the documents secret.
CMD has discovered that ALEC has started stamping its materials with a disclaimer asserting “[b]ecause this is an internal ALEC document, ALEC believes it is not subject to disclosure under any state Freedom of Information or Public Records Act.” There is no provision in Wisconsin law allowing private organizations to declare themselves immune from the state's sunshine-in-government statutes.
The Illinois legislature has passed a fracking regulatory bill, expected to be signed into law by the governor, hailed by some environmental groups as the "toughest in the country." But other groups are highly critical, both of the bill and of the way some big environmental groups worked with legislators and industry to pass it into law.
The Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation Act (SB1715), which passed the Senate on June 1 as one of the final votes of the session, reins in unrestricted fracking to create a legal framework to permit and regulate fracking in the state. Read the rest of this item here.
Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin are fast-tracking a controversial bill to keep political donors secret, enact voter ID, and limit early voting, among other measures, with a vote scheduled for next week. The only public hearing on the bill was held June 4, where a representative of the business lobby made several misleading assertions about the bill's disclosure provisions.
"Our main message today to the committee is to please slow down," Jonathan Becker and Mike Haas of the state Government Accountability Board told the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections.
"[The bill] is being rushed in a way that I feel is going to be detrimental for this state," testified Jay Heck, head of Common Cause-Wisconsin. "You need to slow way down before you rush this through."
Student activists and their allies gathered outside Sallie Mae’s annual shareholder meeting on May 30 to demand increased transparency and accountability from the nation’s largest student loan lender, and to draw attention to the worsening problem of student debt. Allie Gardner, a student at the University of Wisconsin – Madison drove to Delaware from Wisconsin to attend the shareholder meeting and demand a meeting with the CEO; "Sallie Mae doesn’t exist to protect students, and they are not willing to work with students. They exist to profit off of us."
Sallie Mae, formerly known as the Student Loan Marketing Association, is the nation’s largest student loan lender, now based in Delaware. It was founded in 1972 as a government-sponsored enterprise intended to lower the cost and increase the supply of student loans. In 1997 Sallie Mae made the controversial decision to go private, completing the privatization process in 2004. Sallie Mae’s privatization shifted their responsibilities from helping students pay for college to increasing dividends for their shareholders, often mutually exclusive goals.
With immigration reform advancing through Congress, an anti-immigrant network funded by a small group of right-wing foundations is trying to kill reform by pressuring moderate Republicans and appealing to the party's xenophobic wing. The groups could stymie efforts by some Republicans to appeal to the country's growing Latino population by moving to the center on immigration.
The anti-immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and others are using shoddy research methods to claim that immigration is at fault for a whole host of problems in America, from crime to income inequality. ProEnglish, a lobbying organization that advocates for "official English," has released a video attacking Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for his work on the immigration bill. The Center for Immigration Studies has testified in Congress against reform, claiming "virtually all illegal aliens are guilty of multiple felonies." All of these organizations are connected to John Tanton, a nativist who has formed a network of radical anti-immigration groups, all of which receive a significant portion of their funding from foundations tied to the Scaife family.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker got a boost last week from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in its annual Rich States, Poor States report. Despite Bureau of Labor Statistics data putting Wisconsin in 44th place for private-sector job creation, ALEC placed the state as 15th in the country in its ranking of economic outlook, giving Walker -- a former ALEC member -- a boost as he lays the groundwork for a re-election campaign and a possible Presidential bid.
The ALEC report ranks the states by "economic outlook," based on factors including the existence of "right to work" anti-union laws, and the rates at which personal and corporate taxes are levied by the state. Wisconsin gains points in the ALEC assessment for having no inheritance tax, the lowest possible minimum wage, and for having a lower than average number of public employees. But ALEC also docks points because, despite Walkers' infamous attack on the right of public-sector workers to organize in Wisconsin, the state has not passed a private-sector "right to work" law.
A Wisconsin legislator has managed to bundle nearly all of the excesses associated with dirty elections into a single bill that good government advocates are describing as a "sweeping assault on democracy:" the legislation would try reinstating restrictive voter ID requirements, make it easier for donors to secretly influence elections, expand lobbyist influence, restrict early voting, and make it harder to register, among other measures. The legislation is "so huge, covers so much ground, and has so many independently controversial parts of it," that it appears "intended to cut-out any public input or to render [that input] meaningless," says Andrea Kaminski, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.
You can read any SourceWatch article without registering, but if you would like to improve our articles or add new ones, you need to register here. You will be asked to provide an email address to verify that you are a real person and not a computer spamming links to other sites, but your email address will not be shown publicly on your user page. You will also be asked to create a user name, which can be your own name or a pen name. And, if you'd like, you can edit your user page to let readers know more about yourself, your work on SourceWatch, and your research interests -- but that is not required. Once you are registered, you will also be able to contact other editors through their user pages. If you do not wish to register but do want to contact us, you can use the addresses at the bottom of this page.
You can search for existing articles to improve using the search box, but please note that the search feature differentiates words and phrases with capital letters from those that are lower case. Please also visit the pages on our purpose, our tips on editing and citing authoritative sources, and our FAQs for help.
Thank you, in advance, for helping to make SourceWatch even stronger!
DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy today released the results of a year-long investigation: "Dissent or Terror: How the Nation's Counter Terrorism Apparatus, In Partnership With Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street.” The report, a distillation of thousands of pages of records obtained from counter terrorism/law enforcement agencies, details how state/regional "fusion center" personnel monitored the Occupy Wall Street movement over the course of 2011 and 2012.
The report also examines how fusion centers and other counter terrorism entities that have emerged since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 have worked to benefit numerous corporations engaged in public-private intelligence sharing partnerships. While the report examines many instances of fusion center monitoring of Occupy Wall Street activists nationwide, the bulk of the report details how counter terrorism personnel engaged in the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC, commonly known as the "Arizona fusion center") monitored and otherwise surveilled citizens active in Occupy Phoenix, and how this surveillance benefited a number of corporations and banks that were subjects of Occupy Phoenix protest activity.
While small glimpses into the governmental monitoring of the Occupy Wall Street movement have emerged in the past, there has not been any reporting-- until now-- that details the breadth and depth with which the nation's post-September 11, 2001 counter terrorism apparatus has been applied to politically engaged citizens exercising their Constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights.
Sourcewatch.org is an interactive wiki website that is constantly in motion with new articles being created and old ones being updated. If you want to help us grow Sourcewatch and become a volunteer editor click here for more information and check out two new articles below. Key to Sourcewatch’s success is clear concise material, fully documented and footnoted.
Julian Assange: Excerpt from a longer Sourewatch article on the founder of Wikileaks: “Since June 19, 2012, Assange has been confined to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He came seeking “protective asylum” from Swedish and American officials. On August 15, 2012, Britain threatened to invade the Ecuadorian Embassy to capture Assange. A letter from British officials to the Ecuadorian embassy read “ "We need to reiterate that we consider the continued use of the diplomatic premises in this way incompatible with the Vienna Convention and unsustainable and we have made clear the serious implications that this has for our diplomatic relations." Assange was formally granted asylum by Ecuador on August 16, 2012. The decision of the Ecuadorian government cited the fear that Assange would be executed if he were extradited to Sweden and eventually the United States. The decision was in defiance of British authorities who continue to position policemen outside the embassy. The British Foreign Office released a statement after Ecuador formally granted asylum, which read “we are determined to carry out our legal obligation to see Julian Assange extradited to Sweden. We will not allow Mr. Assange safe passage out of the UK, nor is there any legal basis for us to do so. The UK does not accept the principle of diplomatic asylum. It is far from a universally accepted concept: the United Kingdom is not a party to any legal instruments, which require us to recognize the grant of diplomatic asylum by a foreign embassy in this country.” Ecuador responded by citing many international conventions and treaties, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention, which they believe requires the United Kingdom to respect their extension of asylum.
Wikileaks: Excerpt from a longer Sourcewatch article on Wikileaks controversy and achievements. “Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, said Wikileaks “is serving our democracy and serving our rule of law precisely by challenging the secrecy regulations." Many media outlets and commentators praised the work of Wikileaks in holding the government accountable and standing up for free speech. Glenn Greenwald of Salon commended the work of Wikileaks and attacked its critics by stating “When WikiLeaks critics devote a fraction of their rage to this form of mainstream American thinking — which, unlike anything WikiLeaks has done, has actually resulted in piles upon piles of corpses — then their anti-WikiLeaks protestations should be taken more seriously, but not until then.” An Economist blog post entitled “In Defense of Wikileaks” read “organisations such as WikiLeaks, which are philosophically opposed to state secrecy and which operate as much as is possible outside the global nation-state system, may be the best we can hope for in the way of promoting the climate of transparency and accountability necessary for authentically liberal democracy.” The ACLU expressed gratitude for the work of Wikileaks but expressed regret at the fact that such an organization needs to exist to hold governments accountable in today’s political system, stating “The Wikileaks phenomenon — the existence of an organization devoted to obtaining and publicly releasing large troves of information the U.S. government would prefer to keep secret — illustrates just how broken our secrecy classification system is. While the Obama administration has made some modest improvements to the rules governing classification of government information, both it and the Bush administration have overclassified and kept secret information that should be subject to public scrutiny and debate. As a result, the American public has had to depend on leaks to the news media and whistleblowers to know what the government is up to.”
"A truly impressive project based on cutting edge web technology."
—David Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World and The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community.
"The troublemakers at the Center for Media and Democracy, for example, point to dozens of examples of "greenwashing," which they defined as the "unjustified appropriation of environmental virtue by a company, an industry, a government or even a non-government organization to sell a product, a policy" or rehabilitate an image. In the center's view, many enterprises labeled green don't deserve the name.
—Jack Shafer, "Green Is the New Yellow: On the excesses of 'green' journalism," Slate.
"As a journalist frequently on the receiving end of various PR campaigns, some of them based on disinformation, others front groups for undisclosed interests, [CMD's SourceWatch] is an invaluable resource."
—Michael Pollan, author of The Botany of Desire
"Thanks for all your help. There's no way I could have done my piece on big PR and global warming without CMD [the Center for Media and Democracy] and your fabulous websites."
—Zoe Cormier, journalist, Canada
"The dearth of information on the [U.S.] government [lobbying] disclosure forms about the other business-backed coalitions comes in stark contrast to the data about them culled from media reports, websites, press releases and Internal Revenue Service documents and posted by SourceWatch, a website that tracks advocacy groups."
Sign up for news and updates from the Center for Media and Democracy
Sign up for news and updates from the Center for Media and Democracy!
Disclaimer: SourceWatch is part of the Center for Media and Democracy—email the publisher of SourceWatch, CMD's Executive Director, Lisa Graves, via lisa AT prwatch.org. You can also contact our Editor, Friday Thorn, via friday_thorn AT prwatch.org.
Antispam note: To avoid attracting spam email robots, email addresses on SourceWatch are written with AT in place of the usual symbol, and we have removed "mail to" links. Replace AT with the correct symbol to get a valid address. Read the full disclaimer.