In Men in Black Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith make use of a device that erases memory as they save the USA and the whole collateral world from aliens. In real life the memory-erasing function is performed by the corporate media and the incessantly twittering culture. “The United States of Amnesia” is what Gore Vidal called us, and he wasn’t just whistling Dixie.
Who recalls that Martha Mitchell, the wife of Attorney General John Mitchell, broke the news of Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate break-in when she told a sympathetic female reporter, Helen Thomas, that her husband should not take the rap for The White House? John Mitchell, loyal to Nixon, called his wife a drunken loud-mouthed dame and had her hauled off to a locked facility. Months later Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein reported that Nixon knew about the break-in in advance, and to this day they’re credited with breaking the story.
Martha Mitchell’s blunt revelation and the way it got ignored comes to mind as we await the follow-up to Paula Broadwell’s assertion that two prisoners were being held at the CIA “annex” near the consulate in Benghazi at the time of the assault that left Ambassador Christopher Stephens and three other Americans dead.
Broadwell was speaking on October 26 at the University of Denver alumni symposium, promoting All In, her biography of Gen. David Petraeus. Proceeds were going to a program that helps wounded veterans hone their physical fitness. In addition to almost 7,000 deaths, some 45,000 Americans have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan —”amputees, multiple amputees,” Broadwell reminded the Denver alums— and 450,000 troopers have returned with post-traumatic stress, brain damage, and other disorders not readily apparent.
Broadwell went to college at West Point, then did a tour of active duty that included two years in Denver where she worked with an FBI task force countering “terrorism.” In 2004 she got a master’s degree in international relations at the university. She said it “changed the course of my career, much of which has yet to be written.” She had no idea that the next chapter would make the front page of the Enquirer.
Broadwell was frank about her striving. Her goal, she said, was to be the U.S. national security advisor. She had talked at length that morning to the provost, she confided, because Condoleeza Rice had once been a university provost and she, Paula, thought it might be an appropriate step on her own march to power.
In All In, Broadwell reports that when Petraeus was informed by Secretary of Defense Gates that the president would not name him chairman of the joint chiefs of staff (supposedly fearing that the principled and revered general might resist orders), Petraeus suggested that he be named CIA director instead, and Obama granted his wish. Gates reassured Petraeus that he had done as great job in Afghanistan as he had in Iraq. Broadwell, of course, agreed. “We saw a lot of metrics showing that the situation in Afghanistan was improving,” she said in Denver. But things had since “gone south,” she acknowledged.
Broadwell’s bombshell came in response to a question from the audience concerning Benghazi: “I don’t know if a lot you have heard this, but The CIA annex had actually taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner and they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to get those prisoners back. That’s still being vetted.”
The startling comment was not ignored by Jennifer Griffin of Fox News, who has provided by far the most informative coverage of the Benghazi nightmare. In a piece on the Fox website Nov. 12 Griffin and Adam Housley reported:
“Biographer Paula Broadwell could be facing questions about whether she revealed classified information about the Libya attack that she was privy to due to her relationship with then-CIA Director David Petraeus…
A well-placed Washington source confirms to Fox News that there were Libyan militiamen being held at the CIA annex in Benghazi and that their presence was being looked at as a possible motive for the staged attack on the consulate and annex that night.
According to multiple intelligence sources who have served in Benghazi, there were more than just Libyan militia members who were held and interrogated by CIA contractors at the CIA annex in the days prior to the attack. Other prisoners from additional countries in Africa and the Middle East were brought to this location.
The Libya annex was the largest CIA station in North Africa, and two weeks prior to the attack, the CIA was preparing to shut it down. Most prisoners, according to British and American intelligence sources, had been moved two weeks earlier.
The CIA, though, categorically denied these allegations, saying: ‘The CIA has not had detention authority since January 2009, when Executive Order 13491 was issued. Any suggestion that the agency is still in the detention business is uninformed and baseless.’
One of Alexander Cockburn’s sharpest observations about American culture is that a story doesn’t achieve “critical mass” until the New York Times plays it up big. And if that doesn’t happen, if the story only gets reported on cable TV, the Anderson Valley Advertiser, and a few websites where the powerless communicate to the alone, the story has no impact. Trivial stories keep breaking like waves every minute —the latest search for the missing girl, the lines for the new Apple product… It’s not that important stories don’t ever get reported, it’s that they get ignored. And then forgotten.
Thanks to Fox News we know that the “annex” near the consulate in Benghazi was actually the largest CIA station in North Africa (you’d think the largest would be in Egypt) and that the CIA was hurriedly relocating prisoners prior to the attack on September 11. Many of the Libyan rebels whom the U.S. government had aided against Qaddafi (at the urging of Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power, among others) turned out to hate “us.”
Given that the CIA was holding prisoners in Benghazi, the goal of the Sept. 11 action at the consulate may have been an effort to free them, or payback for their detention. And everybody involved in that detention, including CIA Director David Petraeus, was committing a crime.
Unfortunately for Jennifer Griffin of Fox News, the rightwing politicians who are looking for ammunition against Obama can’t make use of her Benghazi reporting because it exposes their 4-star hero (who never saw combat or commanded a division) as a perjurer, and the CIA as a rogue agency. After initial calls for an investigation —even a special commission, a la Watergate— they realize they mustn’t “go there.” By way of consolation, we are awarding Griffin the first-ever Helen Thomas Prize for taking seriously the comments of a loudmouthed dame.
Allred is All Right
Scott Shane, who has been covering (up) the situation in Benghazi for the New York Times, ignored Paula Broadwell’s reference to prisoners at the CIA station. On Nov. 20 he wrote a long piece of mockery: “The sex-and-e-mail affair that forced out the CIA director and embroiled the top American commander in Afghanistan has now ripened to the image management stage…”
As you know if you’ve been following the fall of Gen. Petraeus, Broadwell set a scandal in motion by anonymously sending threatening emails to a woman in Tampa, Florida, named Jill Kelley. She accused Kelley of having played footsie under the table with Petraeus at a dinner party. Kelley asked an acquaintance in the FBI to find out who was threatening her, and he discovered that Kelley herself had been exchanging voluminous emails with Gen. John R. Allen, the NATO commander in Afghanistan. Among the favors Kelley had asked and gotten from Allen and Petraeus were letters in support of her twin sister, Natalie Khawam, who had lost a bitter child-custody fight.
Shane of the Times wrote: “Even a peripheral character has retained a spokeswoman. Natalie Khawam —Ms. Kelley’s twin sister, whose main connection to the scandal is the reference letter Mr. Petraeus wrote for her in a messy child custody case— hired the celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred. Ms. Allred held a news conference at Washington’s Ritz-Carlton on Tuesday to ‘correct misconceptions’ about her client…
“About Ms. Kelley and the F.B.I. investigation she set off, neither she nor Ms. Khawam could offer any comment, said Ms. Allred, last seen representing one of the women who accused Herman Cain, the Republican presidential candidate, of sexual harassment.”
The disrespect for Allred in the “news” section of the Times was annoying but not surprising —she’s a lighting rod for woman haters everywhere. When I got to the op-ed page I was glad to see that Maureen Dowd had written on the same subject, and expected a different slant. But Dowd, too, was making what Cockburn used to call “rich sport” of Allred:
“The tears and lip gloss started flowing Tuesday at a news conference featuring a distraught twin, a befuddled press corps and Gloria Allred, the feminist avenger last seen tormenting Herman Cain over sexual harassment charges.
The news conference with Allred and her latest curvy client, Natalie Khawam, Jill Kelley’s identical saturnine twin, was so weird… The two women called a press conference to not comment on the scandal that is the only reason anyone turned up at the press conference.
Natalie had a cameo role, voguing with the generals and their wives and persuading “King David” Petraeus and Allen, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, to write letters in a bruising custody case as she fought her ex-husband —a honcho in the Iraq occupation— over their baby son.
Reporters, trying to fathom why they were there, asked Khawam and Allred a plethora of questions. But it seems that Natalie, who gingerly entered arm-in-arm with Gloria, just wanted everyone to know that she has filed an appeal to try to reverse a decision giving sole custody to her ex, after a D.C. judge deemed that Natalie had lodged “sensational accusations” against her former husband and was “a psychologically unstable person.”
The judge’s derogatory comments about Khawam had been widely reported in the media. There’s nothing “so weird” about hiring the best lawyer you can afford to restore your reputation and try to get more access to your kid.
Like Scott Shane, Dodd characterizes Allred’s representation of a woman filing sexual harassment charges as “tormenting” Herman Cain (who tormented us all for months as the leading Republican candidate for president). An editor should have told her to use quotation marks or come up with another word for what Allred was doing to Herman Cain. Maybe “suing.”
Dowd calling Gloria Allred “feminist avenger” is like Shane defining the fall of Petraeus as “a sex-and-email affair.”
It’s so incomplete as to be misleading. Allred has spent more than 40 years fighting for employee rights, civil rights, and civil liberties. Even as Paula Broadwell’s revelation about the CIA is being ignored, Allred’s history-making role in the 2010 election is being actively erased from memory.
As of September, 2010, an eBay billionaire named Meg Whitman was well on her way to becoming the governor of California. Her fellow Republican, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley was poised to become attorney general. Whitman was strongly anti-union, Cooley wanted to outlaw medical marijuana dispensaries. They were both ahead in the polls, Whitman very comfortably so, and would be in power today had not Gloria Allred called a press conference to introduce Nicky Diaz Santillan, an undocumented immigrant who had been employed by the Whitmans as a housekeeper and nanny from 2000 through 2009. Meg Whitman had fired her at the outset of her campaign, telling Diaz, “You don’t know me and I don’t know you.”
After Diaz told her tale, Whitman claimed that she hadn’t known about her immigration status. But Allred produced letters from the Social Security Administration notifying the Whitmans that Diaz’s supposed social security number belonged to someone else. Whitman then said the letters from the government had never been received. But Allred had a copy of one on which Whitman’s husband had written a comment. Thus she exposed not just Whitman’s personal disloyalty, miserliness, and cruelty, but her executive stupidity. Instead of telling Diaz to get lost, Whitman could have hired a good immigration lawyer to straighten out her status, and she could have given her ample severance pay to make ends meet until she could find another employer. But no…
Thanks to Gloria Allred, Meg Whitman’s lead in the polls dissolved and California wound up with Jerry Brown —no friend of the working class, but not a Whitman-type ogre. And not a moron, either. After blowing $144 million of her own money on her run for governor, Whitman became the CEO Hewlett-Packard, which is currently in the news for spending $11 billion on a British software company that isn’t worth 11 cents. Brown’s margin of victory was sufficient to carry the #2 Democrat on the ticket, Kamala Harris, to a very narrow win over Cooley, and we now have a smart, decent attorney general in Sacramento who is not encouraging or helping the four U.S. attorneys to close down marijuana dispensaries. Thanks entirely to Nicky Diaz and her lawyer, Gloria Allred.