Monday, January 16, 2017

Would Buzzfeed Have Published the Martin Luther King Sex Tape?

Kompromat--the term for the acquistion and exploitation of compromising material, often of an embarrassing sexual nature--is very much in the news today, thanks to the allegation that Russian security services have dirt on Donald Trump and are blackmailing him to follow Kremlin policies.

On Martin Luther King Day, we can remember a great American--and one who was subjected to the most notorious kompromat exploit in US history--Martin Luther King Jr.

I'm re-upping a post I did last year on the FBI sextape/suicide campaign against King.

I'd also like to point out that the most successful kompromat dossier assembled on a US president was Monica Lewinsky's blue dress.

You know, the dress spotted with Bill Clinton's semen that she put at the back of her closet and forgot to take to the cleaners?

The blackmail element, though denied and ignored by loyal liberals by myself and softpedaled during the impeachment hearings, was there as well.  If you think it was a matter of disinterested benevolence that caused President Clinton to set up a job interview for Monica Lewinsky with Vernon Jordan, well...

A president yielding to sexual blackmail and lying about it was stone impeachable.  Didn't happen, though.

The best we got was Peggy Noonan enriching the vocabulary of American political ratf*ckery with her allegation that Castro was blackmailing Clinton with tapes of his phone sex sessions with Lewinsky, justified by the statement--which seems to be the lodestar for current discourse-- "Is it irresponsible to speculate?  It would be irresponsible not to."

Presidential semen, one might think, is the best kompromat there is but, as readers of thrillers such as Primal Fear and Gone Girl will tell you, there are ways even to mess with that!

Once the security services get involved, we're all the way down the rabbit hole.

As an illustration, consider this:

There is plausible speculation that the US government forged a typewriter to convict Alger Hiss.  The typewriter was in question was convincingly identified as Hiss's (he'd gotten rid of it but the FBI tracked it down) and shown to be the same machine that produced the notorious "pumpkin papers" produced by Whitaker Chambers.

But the scuttlebutt (including an alleged statement by Richard Nixon that "we built [a typewriter] on the Hiss case") is that the FBI couldn't find the Hiss typewriter; instead, a similar model was obtained and modified so it could reproduce the "fingerprint" of the original machine that typed the pumpkin papers.  Wikipedia has an excellent account of the case and the typewriter controversy.

Bad FBI!

But this rumor is layered on top of the conclusion that the FBI had identified Hiss as a Soviet agent thanks to the Venona intercepts, whose existence it did not want to reveal in open court as the price of nailing Hiss.


As someone once commented in the case of the TV show "Making of a Murderer" sometimes the cops frame guilty people...

...or people they think are guilty...

...or people they hope are guilty.

Something to remember!

As in don't let the IC push a particular political agenda, maybe.

So shoulda woulda Buzzfeed published the MLK sextapes?    Remember, it published the Trump dossier not because it could vouch for the accuracy of the allegations; release was justified by the fact that the dossier was circulating throughout official Washington and the media and the public had a right to know, even if was the last to know.

Apparently, lots of people in Washington got a listen to the MLK tapes, just as multitudes pored over the Trump dossier. The authenticity of the events on the Martin Luther King tapes--if not the sexually heroic composite generated by the FBI--is, as far as I can tell, challenged by no-one.

As for the public interest/puppet of Moscow angle, the proximate justification for surveilling King and trying to destroy him with sex tape was Hoover's conviction--never successfully documented by the FBI, at least in the public realm-- that a key King adviser was a Soviet agent.

Gosh, should the American public have a right to judge for itself as to whether America's top civil rights leader was vulnerable to Soviet manipulation by listening to a mixtape of his alleged sexual exploits provided by an intelligence service?

The assumption is, however, that all copies of the King tapes were destroyed when Hoover died, sparing Buzzfeed the heartburn of a genuine, real-life choice.

But we can appreciate the bizarre spectacle of Donald Trump appearing as Martin Luther King's 21st century doppelganger if only in the matter of deep state sexually-tinged kompromat campaigns.

 Here's a reup of my original post, trimmed a touch, with a couple grafs added from another Hoover post of mine, “Everybody Wants Their Own Stasi.”

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall

In the case of Martin Luther King, America's deep state intersected with politics and civil rights and Thurgood Marshall's strategy for African American legal equality in some ugly and dangerous ways.

And they intersect at a most unpleasant and unhappy point, one that is largely ignored when putting an optimistic, feel-good gloss over Dr. King's struggle for civil rights: the infamous MLK sex tape gambit cooked up by the FBI.

The most uncomfortable issue raised by the existence of tapes is not the matter of Dr. King's human appetites and deficiencies in the area of marital fidelity.  It is the potential for blackmail, the leverage that the FBI and the US government could have brought to bear against Dr. King and his direction of the civil rights movement by exploiting the tapes.

And the case of the tapes also shines an awkward light on the relationship between America's deep state and another African-American civil rights giant: Thurgood Marshall.  

For background, I highly recommend Gilbert King’s Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America.  Reading it in the context of Ferguson, Garner, etc. this book really f*cked me up, as they say nowadays.  Based on my experience, I’d recommend just picking up the book and reading it, without googling “Groveland Boys” or looking at some reviews of the book.  All I can say is that, despite that determinedly sunny subtitle, it will take you into some very dark places.

Actually, what I will say is that the book also offers some more fascinating insights into the relationship between J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, the political civil rights movement served by Dr. King, and the "lawfare" civil rights legal battle fought with similar dedication and personal courage by Thurgood Marshall.  

As I wrote in a previous post, “Everybody Wants Their Own Stasi,” Hoover disliked and distrusted Martin Luther King as a troublemaker and, possibly, a communist asset.  

One of the most interesting chapters in Hoover’s history is the lethal dance that the Kennedy brothers led with Hoover over the issue of Martin Luther King and, in particular, the purported Communist ties of King’s white advisor, Stanley Levison.  Levison had apparently broken with communism as an ideology in 1956 over Hungary, before he started working with King.

Cognizant of the epic sh*train that would descend on anybody who irresponsibly alleged that King was acting on the advice of a Soviet agent, today everybody is extremely cautious and circumspect in their verbiage concerning this issue.  [Here is an excellent, judicious parsing of the Levison matter, albeit from 2002, by David Garrow in The Atlantic.  CH, 1/14/15]  But not Hoover and the FBI in the 1960s.  Hoover was determined to establish Levison’s current communist ties in order to discredit King and the movement, and Robert Kennedy as AG greenlit Hoover to blackbag, wiretap, and bug King, Levison and his associates to the nth degree in an attempt to establish the link.  The smoking gun never emerged (Levison did get hauled before a secret session of a Congressional committee, where he denied “now or ever having been” and then took the 5th on all other queries), and the Kennedys did not allow themselves to get buffaloed into turning against King by Hoover and the non-stop stream of anti-King tittle-tattle that the FBI funneled into the Oval Office, and to their allies in Congress and the media.

Well, not completely.  Hoover’s campaign had made Levison toxic enough that the Kennedys prevailed on King to break overt ties with him as a condition of White House support for King’s efforts.  Levison continued to work with King through a cutout.

And thanks to the Kennedys’ desire to hedge their security and political bets, the FBI did collect enough tapes of King’s bedroom activities in order to produce one of the seamiest COINTELPRO crimes: the attempt to drive King to suicide by sending the tapes and a jeering letter to his home urging him to commit suicide (not at the behest of the Kennedys, I might point out).

Remarkably, the relationship between Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King, two civil rights icons, does not seem to have been any closer or sympathetic than the ties between Marshall and J. Edgar Hoover, judging by Marshall's attitude toward the sex tape compiled by Hoover.

Readers can judge for themselves, with this excerpt from interviews recorded by Marshall’s biographer, Juan Williams:

Q: Did (Hoover) fear that King was a communist?
A: He just had an absolute blur on communism. It's unbelievable. I don't know what happened to him, I don't know what happened but something happened.

No, it was personal. He bugged everything King had. Everything. And the guy that did it was a friend of a private detective in New York who's a good friend of mine, Buck Owens.  He called up and said, Buck, do you know Martin Luther King? And he said, no. He said do you know anybody that goes? He said yes. He said well you please tell him, don't use my name but I'm in the group that's bugging everything he's got. Even when he goes to the toilet. I mean we've bugged everything and I think it's a dirty damn trick and he ought to know about it.
So Buck called me and I called Brother King. He was in Atlanta then. And I told him about it and he said, oh forget it, nothing to it. Just didn't interest him. That's what he said. He didn't care, no. 
Q: How do you interpret that?
A: I don't and I've never been able to. That he wasn't doing anything wrong. Well they ain't nobody who can say that. Right. Right. And when I called him up and told him that his house was bugged and all, he said so what? Doesn't bother me. That's what he said.

Q: Did you guys know about all this sex stuff that they talk about these days?
A: I knew that the stories were out. And I knew who was putting them out.

Q: Mr. Hoover?
A: No, it was a private police business. They used to settle strikes and everything. [Pinkertons] I'm not saying whether, I don't know, I don't know whether he was right or Hoover was right. I don't know which one was right.

Q: What did you think about the fact that he didn't care about being bugged?
A: Well, the answer was simple. I don't know if a man can humanly do all the things. Five and six times a night with five and six different women. We add it all up, I mean he just couldn't be all them places at the same time. I don't believe in it personally. But I don't know, when I was solicitor general, a lot of things came by, arguments between the attorney general and the director of the FBI and I, by internal rules, had to get copies of all of it. And we had to have a special safe and I know that of all the things that I listened to and read, I never found Mr. Hoover to have lied once. Not once. I don't know, I'm not saying he always told the truth -

Q: You never found him to have lied?
A: That's right. I mean he was never proved to be a liar. He always came up with the right stuff, usually it would be a taped thing. You can tell by the tape. I don't know. But that's between him and, I think the only way to do it would be him and King and put 'em in the same room. And it's too late to do that.

Marshall’s remarks support Tim Weiner’s portrait of Hoover in Enemies as an unnervingly astute and capable bureaucrat who effectively performed his impossible mission—navigating between the conflicting demands of the Constitution for civil liberties and the Executive Branch for universal intelligence—with marked success for five decades…

…perhaps as astutely and capably as Marshall shrank the grey areas between the Constitution, state law, and justice in his epic struggle for civil rights.

Contrast with Marshall’s dismissive attitude toward King and Jesse Jackson:

Who made Jesse Jackson? The press. Who made Martin Luther King? The press, they do it. Because it writes good, it writes well. And you know Martin Luther King didn't have a publicity person. No sir. The press did it all. The press did it all.

Reading Marshall’s account of his awkward exchange with King over the surveillance issue, I find it hard to believe that King’s reaction to the intense surveillance was really “oh forget it, nothing to it. Just didn't interest him...He didn't care, no.”

I have a feeling King didn’t really feel that way.  Maybe what he was thinking, “Marshall, he’s close to Hoover.  I’m not going to let it get back to Hoover that I’m upset or afraid.  That’s what he wants.”

David Garrow’s biography of King, Bearing the Cross, tells us of the actual aftermath of the letter:

The FBI’s frightening threat sent King into an even worse state of mind.  He became so nervous and upset he could not sleep…”They are out to break me,” he told one close friend over a wiretapped phone line.  “They are out to get me, harass me, break my spirit.”…King…had decided that something must be done about the FBI’s threat.  He had tried resting at a private hideaway known to just two other people, only to have Atlanta fire trucks turn up at the door in response to a false alarm that King correctly surmised had been turned in by the FBI so as to upset him further…As a deeply depressed King...discussed the FBI situation [the Bureau had bugged King’s hotel room in New York]…The conversation revealed how greatly disturbed King was…King [characterized] the mailing of the tape as, “God’s out to get you,” and as a warning from God that King had not been living up to his responsibilities…When King was in Baltimore, [Andrew] Young and [Ralph] Abernathy met in Washington with [the FBI’s Deke] DeLoach [who denied] that the FBI had any interest in…King’s private life.  Young and Abernathy knew that DeLoach’s assertions were false…Its one value, Young explained later, was to show him how FBI executives like DeLoach had “almost a kind of fascist mentality.  It really kind of scared me”…DeLoach gloated to his superiors that he had tried to make the talk as unpleasant and embarrassing as possible…Meanwhile the Bureau kept its campaign on full throttle.  Assistant Director Sullivan tried to derail a dinner honoring King…and two prominent Georgia newsmen…were contacted to offer them tidbits on King’s personal life…” [pp. 373-77]

A complicating element of the situation that King had been previously aware of Hoover’s hostility, and that the FBI was building a file on his sexual activities.  At first, in November 1964, King tried to go on the offensive against Hoover.  King critiqued Hoover’s alleged shortcomings in investigating civil rights cases and went the extra mile in denouncing Hoover (in calls wiretapped by the FBI) as “too old and broken down” and “getting senile.”  Then King proposed, in Garrow’s words, that Hoover “should be ‘hit from all sides’ with criticism in a concerted effort to get President Johnson to censure him.” [p. 361].  As one might expect, this gambit failed to sway Johnson.

Instead, King was in the unhappy situation of realizing he had mortally offended a supremely ruthless, capable, and vindictive national security bureaucrat, one who also had documented evidence of details of King’s personal life that could destroy him.

King’s efforts to backtrack and reconcile with Hoover in a meeting arranged by Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach were, if not doomed from the start, too little too late, and King spent the next weeks under a pall of anxiety that even overshadowed his triumphal appearance to receive his Nobel Peace Prize at Stockholm.

Then the FBI dropped the hammer in January 1965, sending the tape and suicide letter.   His wife, Coretta, heard the tape; King gathered his advisers to deal with the imminent threat of humiliation, disgrace, and failure.

King, bearing this unimaginable mental and emotional burden, descended into the vortex of Selma…

…and that is, apparently, where the saga of the King sex tape ends.

The next reference to Hoover in Garrow’s biography occurs in May of 1965, after King’s triumph at Selma and Montgomery, Alabama and LBJ’s endorsement of federal voting rights protections for African-Americans:

King knew the FBI still had an active interest in his personal life, and he worried greatly about a public revelation of the Bureau’s embarrassing tapes.  He asked a longtime family friend, Chicago’s Rev. Archibald J. Carey, Jr., to speak with his friends in the FBI hierarchy.  Cassey did so, reporting back to King that it would be wise to keep up his public commendations of FBI accomplishments. [425]

Hmmm.  That’s all?  Recall that Hoover bore an intense personal dislike for King, had information that could destroy King’s reputation and public standing and, indeed, had already played the sex tapes for much of official and unofficial Washington.  Judging by the FBI’s machinations, Hoover would have been glad to see King commit suicide.  For King, suppressing the tapes had been a matter of desperate, existential importance and endless worry.

After all this, all the lethal J. Edgar Hoover wanted was just a few generous public attaboys from Martin Luther King?

Don’t think so.

I can only draw the inference that LBJ, the only individual with the necessary stroke and personal relationship with Hoover to channel and modify the Director’s actions, convinced Hoover that the tapes should stay in the safe.  

And Hoover, perhaps, stayed his hand because LBJ convinced him that there were plenty more radical and scary African-American leaders out there to destroy and King, in contrast, was actually a manageable, moderating force.  

And perhaps, with the sex tapes in his safe--and serving as a sword of Damocles over King's head--Hoover believed he could regard King as something of a beholden asset that could be accessed, guided, cajoled, bullied, and if need be publicly discredited in the course of the Bureau's operations involving the African American civil rights movement.

 King was the idealist who advocated for America "as it could be".

Hoover and Marshall were two insiders “present at the creation”, their exalted status and power the result of a hard-won, superior understanding of the contradictions and potentialities of American government "as it is".

Their lives--and services to the state--followed different paths.

At the time of the King surveillance, Marshall was serving as an appellate court judge; the next year LBJ appointed him Solicitor General and, in 1967 nominated Marshall for a seat on the Supreme Court.  Hoover served as director of the FBI until his death in 1972.  Martin Luther King, of course, was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968.

Maybe declaring April 4 as "Martin Luther King Day" would be a more meaningful recognition of Dr. King's suffering, struggle, and sacrifice.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Is Obama Behind the Hit on Trump? How the Deep State Game is Played

It's now publicly accepted that the CIA, factions in the CIA, whatever, object to Trump and are making life difficult for him.

The interesting question is, is President Obama just a passenger on the runaway Deep State train, thoughtlessly rattling through his hollow valedictories, or is he the conductor?  or the engineer?

I was struck by this possibility while reflecting on David Ignatius' revelation on Thursday that intercepts showed that Trump's security adviser, Michael Flynn, had been on the phone with the Russian ambassador several times on the day President Obama announced the expulsion of the Russian diplos.

Hmmm.  I thought.  With all due respect, David Ignatius doesn't do reporting.  He does top-drawer steno.  He didn't dig this factoid out.  It was fed to him.  Specifically, the fact that Flynn's communications were being intercepted--normally, one would expect, the kind of tittle-tattle kept from the public eye under the rubric of "protecting sources and methods"--was being made part of the public discourse.

The next day, there was follow-up.  Not just followup pundit regurgitation on the leak to Ignatius: followup confirmation by the Obama administration:

The Obama administration is aware of frequent contacts between President-elect Donald Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russia’s ambassador to the United States, including on the day President Barack Obama hit Moscow with sanctions in retaliation for election-related hacking, a senior U.S. official said Friday.

Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador were first reported by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. The official who spoke to The Associated Press was not authorized to confirm the contacts publicly and insisted on anonymity.

So, the story, relying on covert surveillance, that Flynn is canoodling with the Russian ambo is being determinedly and repeatedly fed to the press.

Consider: for eight years the Obama administration has been resolute/overbearing/fanatical, choose your adjective, in plugging leaks.  But now we get this concerted blabberai.

Is Obama just phoning it in while his aides run riot at the end of his administration.


Is Obama condoning and perhaps even directing the hit on Trump--Obama in the library with a candlestick--while making sure his fingerprints aren't on the weapon?

Time to re-up one of my favorite pieces, on the 1954 campaign against Joe McCarthy.  It's a useful corrective for young journos craving their "Murrow moment"--when the press seemingly rises up in spontaneous democratic revulsion to mete justice out on a demagogue.

But it also provides an instructive primer on how the executive branch can use the deep state, dossiers, allies in Congress and--of course!--a cooperative press to do its dirty work.

Spoiler: taking down McCarthy was the result of a carefully planned campaign executed by bureaucrats, spooks, and pols at the order of President Eisenhower and bringing in the press at the last stage to administer the coup de grace.

I wrote this piece a year ago.  But as you can see, it stands up pretty well today, in the last days of the Obama administration and, possibly, the last days of Donald Trump.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Yes, the Press Might Do a Joe McCarthy on Trump; Just Not the Way You Think

I am not particularly impressed with protestations that the Fourth Estate is going to solve our Donald Trump problem by speaking truth to power, exposing his low, dishonest, and inflammatory rhetoric, and the filthy bigotry in which he traffics.

There’s a lot of people—a lot of voters—down in the sewer with Donald Trump.  Apparently the smell doesn’t bother them.

Nor do I hold out hope that elite opinion-makers like Thomas Friedman will lead the stampede of asses that will trample Trump into well-deserved oblivion.

And I do not have much patience with the trope that all the media needs to do is put on its big-boy pants and stick it to Donald Trump in the name of decency just like the press did to Joe McCarthy in the glorious days of Ed Murrow in 1954.

This hagiography is enshrined in George Clooney’s biopic of Murrow, Good Night and Good Luck (excellent film, by the way), which characterizes Murrow as having the courage to step forth and confront McCarthy with a scathing series of televised exposes in March 1954 when nobody else would.

Indeed, Murrow took up the cudgels in 1953 when few others were willing.  Murrow’s producer, Fred Friendly openly characterized the famous See It Now reports as pre-planned advocacy, not reporting.  As quoted in Ralph Engelman’s biography, Friendlyvision: Fred Friendly and the Rise and Fall of Television Journalism, Friendly declared:

I think we were balancing how what we knew how to do well against what he did superbly well, which is to be a demagogue.  And I’m sorry we had to do it that way. But it was the challenge of a lifetime, a desperate moment for the country, and not to have used it because of a series of rules that we would apply to ourselves and that Senator McCarthy would abuse to the ultimate would have made history judge us very harshly. [Engelman, pg. 125]

McCarthy was a world-class creep and demagogue.  He was also an eager bottom-feeder in the murky waters of the American security state, which were lavishly chummed by J. Edgar Hoover with real and faux evidence to ensnare real, faux, potential, and imagined Communists.  Eventually McCarthy got big and intimidating enough to upset a lot of people.  Declaring the Democratic Party the “party of treason” and questioning the patriotism of two-time Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson was a start.  But I think just the start.

We can take it as a given that certain media outlets were determined to stick it to McCarthy.  But in deciding whether the media today has the mission and chops to properly identify an existential demagogic threat to the nation and righteously sh*tcan it, it would help to explore the assertion that CBS and prestige media were able to reach beyond its core audience of disgruntled Democrats and liberals to bring down Tailgunner Joe. 

For a more plausible alternative, try President Eisenhower and his anger at McCarthy’s attack on the Army, which started with a gaudy search for Communists in the Army Signal Corps laboratory at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

Ike apparently no like.

President Eisenhower initiated a secret campaign to nail McCarthy in the beginning of 1954.  The story was first told in the 1980s by Eisenhower staffer William Bragg Ewald in his book Who Killed Joe McCarthy?  It will be told in greater detail in 2016 by David Nichols of Southwestern College, Kansas, in an as yet untitled book based on the Eisenhower archives and other declassified sources.

Here’s what Nichols had to say in an excerpt posted by the National Archives:

Eisenhower carried off his anti-McCarthy operation by means of rigorous delegation to a handful of trusted subordinates; these included Chief of Staff Sherman Adams; Vice President Richard Nixon; Press Secretary James Hagerty; Attorney General Herbert Brownell, Jr., and his deputy, William Rogers; Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., the administration’s representative to the United Nations; and Assistant Secretary of Defense Fred A. Seaton, who collaborated with H. Struve Hensel, the Pentagon’s general counsel. While less intimate with the President, Secretary of the Army Robert Stevens and Army counsel John G. Adams played critical roles. These men were expected, like foot soldiers in war, to put their lives and reputations on the line to protect the President and extinguish the political influence of Joe McCarthy.

Yup, even that devoted anti-Communist Richard Nixon saw which way the wind was blowing and signed on to ratf*ck McCarthy.  And it looks like J. Edgar Hoover helped cut off McCarthy at the knees by repudiating a document McCarthy brandished during the Army hearings.

In January 1954 Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff, Sherman Adams instructed the Army’s Chief Counsel to write up a report describing the harassment of the Army instigated by McCarthy’s pit bull, Roy Cohn, in the matter of fellow staffer David Schine, with whom Cohn appears to have been infatuated.  By February, the job of preparing the report is in the hands of the Assistant Secretary of Defense and the General Counsel of the Army.

And then in early March, per Nichols…

Sherman Adams’s good friend, Vermont’s Republican Senator Ralph W. Flanders, ridiculed McCarthy in a speech on the Senate floor. Flanders words dripped with sarcasm: “He dons his war paint. He goes into his war dance. He emits his war whoops…”

Murrow quoted Flanders’ speech in his famous See It Now broadcast the same night . 

Murrow’s legendary program makes for interesting viewing.  

It was immediately recognized as a high-minded hit piece designed to show McCarthy at his least attractive.  One of the more ham-fisted segments shows an apparently juiced Tailgunner Joe, his comb-over sagging into a bedraggled spitcurl on his forehead, engaged in some dinner-speech blather.  As McCarthy struggles to keep his wits about him and finish his speech, the camera portentously pans to a rather naff mural behind him depicting George Washington in a heroic pose.  Compare and contrast, the message here.

I was struck by a clip he showed of Eisenhower energetically asserting his prerogative to handle executive branch loyalty issues without congressional committees (i.e. McCarthy) butting in.  Incongruously, the famously placid Eisenhower in his physical appearance and temperament strikingly resembled that famous shoe-banger Nikita Khrushchev. 

The worst thing Murrow comes up with is catching McCarthy lying (or as we’d say today, “perhaps intentionally misrepresenting”) the ACLU as a proscribed Communist organization while he bullyrags a State Department boffin for a book he wrote in the 1930s.

The program concludes with Murrow’s justly famous peroration. 

Then, per Nichols:

Those events set the stage for March 11, 1954. That day, on Eisenhower’s secret orders,Seaton released a 34-page, carefully edited account of the privileges sought for David Schine to key senators, representatives, and the press. The document ignited such a fire-storm of negative publicity that, on March 16, the McCarthy subcommittee agreed to hold televised hearings. McCarthy would temporarily step down as chair…

The hearings were broadcast by the fledgling ABC and DuMont networks with gavel-to-gavel coverage for 36 eye-glazing days.  It will be very interesting if Nichols’ book addresses the hows and whys of the collapse of McCarthy’s poll standing (from the 50s to the 30s) during the hearings for the understanding of modern onlookers.    

Here is a clip of the apparently cathartic “have you no decency?” slam from Judge Welch to the applause of the gallery.  The indecency in question was McCarthy hounding Welch over the issue of a member of his team that Welch had to send packing back to Boston because he had belonged to the National Lawyers Guild, an organization HUAC deemed a Communist front.  After the decency jab, Welch still had to deploy a hissy fit and end his examination in order to deflect McCarthy’s determined efforts to make hay out of the embarrassing incident, so it’s difficult for me to grasp how this was a decisive high-five moment for the anti-McCarthy team.  But apparently so.

Much more effective in my opinion are the cutaways to the mesmerizingly sinister apparition of Roy Cohn, who looks and writhes like a hagfish impatient to swim off and burrow into a welcoming corpse. 

On December 2, 1954, McCarthy was condemned by the Senate by a vote of 67 to 22.  This is usually reported as “censure” but it wasn’t, as the contemporary account in the New York Times made clear.  Richard Nixon presided over the session and finessed the adoption of the resolution.  It took a lot of finessing and some low comedy to deliver a satisfactory outcome in the evenly-split (44 Rs, 44 Ds, 1 Independent) Senate.

The only transgression cited in the resolution was McCarthy acting like an insulting, high-handed jerk toward a number of senators who were investigating him.  Apparently the investigation itself hadn’t produced anything deemed suitably awesome—or maybe it was always intended as just a waystation in the road to Senate condemnation.  In any case, the anti-McCarthy forces simply nailed him for his demeanor.

People who remember Clarence Thomas’ “high tech lynching” stunt before the Senate Judiciary Committee will be amused to learn that one of McCarthy’s main transgressions was characterizing the proceeding against him as “a lynch-party” or “lynch bee.”

All 44 Democrats voted for the resolution.  Twenty-two Republicans also voted in favor and twenty-two against, leading one to believe that Eisenhower-inflected party politics rather than good old small d/Large D/Murrow-fueled democratic indignation was in play.  Senator Flanders, the good buddy of Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff Sherman Adams, introduced the resolution. 

Afterwards, McCarthy faded away and died from hepatitis.  Again, it will be interesting to see what Nichols has to say about any Eisenhower-related maneuverings that may have prevented McCarthy from bouncing back.

Murrow’s producer, Fred Friendly, became very close to Eisenhower, describing Ike after he left office as “a part-time correspondent for CBS News” because of all the TV specials the ex-President did with CBS Reports.  I leave it to the inquisitive to explore when those close relations began, and whether the well-connected Murrow et. al. had any inkling that Eisenhower and his team were maneuvering to drop the hammer on McCarthy as the famous See It Now broadcast was assembled.

One of my favorite journo stories concerns the carefully choreographed leaking of the vital Army report to the press on March 11, two days after Murrow’s famous broadcast.  Press coverage of the allegations created the outrage boomlet that midwived the fatal Army hearings.  The anecdote comes courtesy of Art Spivak, then working for International News Service:

... the Army’s counsel, John G. Adams slipped to some senators and to the Baltimore Sun’s reporter Phil Potter a 34-page single-spaced “chronology” of efforts by Cohn, with McCarthy’s backing, to force the Army to give Roy’s recently-drafted buddy G. David Schine a direct promotion to lieutenant, assign him to serve his military term on the staff of the subcommittee, and enjoy sundry other favors. The bottom line was a charge that Cohn threatened to “wreck the Army” if his wishes were rejected.

Adams, a fellow South Dakotan and long-time friend of Potter’s, knew Potter would make use of the anti-Cohn, anti-McCarthy chronology, Potter, in turn, knew that the chronology was potential dynamite and his unsyndicated story would get nowhere unless other news outlets had it too.

The way Potter told it to me later, he therefore offered a copy of the Adams chronology to Arkansas Democratic Sen. John L. McClellan, ranking minority member of McCarthy’s subcommittee. McClellan was an arch-conservative and at first didn’t oppose McCarthy, but he grew to despise the Wisconsin Republican’s tactics. And so, with Potter’s guidance, McClellan invited a small group of reporters to his Fairfax Hotel apartment in Washington and leaked the chronology to them. I was one of those invited. Others included reporters for AP, UP, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

There was only one copy of the chronology available at McClellan’s suite, so the four other reporters and I laboriously hand-copied each of the 34 single-spaced pages of the document, passing each page to the other reporter until all were finished copying. We didn’t finish until close to midnight. From the hotel, I phoned a “bulletin” and brief story to the INS news desk in Washington, to catch the wire at the end of what we called the “A.M. cycle” for morning papers.


At the time, and for years afterward, I thought Adams had prepared and leaked his chronology on his own, in retribution for his and his Army colleagues’ treatment by McCarthy and Cohn.

Thirty years later, the full story came out in Ewald’s deceptively titled “Who Killed Joe McCarthy” book. Ewald provided chapter and verse on how Adams was only one player in a broadly mounted but confidential assault on McCarthy and Cohn by the Eisenhower White House, Department of Defense, and Department of the Army. The President himself was described as publicly silent but vitally active in orchestrating the developments that spawned the Army- McCarthy hearings.

Yes.  Faithful steno work and an inability to see the big picture and the guy behind the curtain—Eisenhower.  That’s how the press helped bring down Tailgunner Joe.

And I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how Donald Trump meets his political end, perhaps for some legal or tax entanglement.  That is, if there’s anybody in the political establishment adept as Eisenhower who wants to remove a disruptive, independent-minded demagogue.  If there is, I don’t doubt that the journalists will be ready to hold up their end.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Thank You for Support for Nicholas Wilson Crowdfunder

Thanks to all who contributed, retweeted, shared, and cared during the crowdfunded campaign to pay up HSBC whistleblower Nicholas Wilson's arrears and fees on his home mortgage.

The campaign was a rousing success and provides Mr. Wilson some peace of mind and a few months' respite.

Thank you again and best wishes to readers of China Matters for a happy and healthy 2017.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Please Help HSBC Whistleblower Nicholas Wilson Stay In His Home

In the course of researching an article on five HSBC whistleblowers for CounterPunch magazine, I got to know one of them, Nicholas Wilson from the UK.  Wilson, a lawyer, exposed a sleazy bit of business in which HSBC’s personal finance unit loaded its debt recovery with millions in improper fees.  He lost his job while HSBC, thanks to high levels of support/toleration whatever you want to call it from the government and the British establishment, has evaded publicity, liability, restitution, or any uncomfortable consequences, and simply chugged along.

In addition to the CounterPunch piece, I wrote up Nicholas Wilson in a piece for China Matters in July 2016, Nicholas Wilson and the HSBC Blues.  In it, I wrote:

Wilson is that most rare and precious of whistleblowers: the insider who did the right thing from the git-go, went through channels, and can’t be accused of having a personal stake either in avoiding prosecution or garnering a financial award.

[He] exited his firm in 2006 for a life of frustration and severely straitened circumstances as a whistleblower.  Thirteen years after the original incident, Mr. Wilson is near the end of a long and rather frayed rope.

Well, fast-forward to December 2016 and Mr. Wilson is facing bank repossession of his house for being in arrears on £1800 plus £325 in court costs.  He needs to come up with the money before January 13 to dismiss the action.

I’ve sent Wilson some money and I hope that people interested in justice, protecting whistleblowers, and seeing the good guys win—or at least not get thrown out of their homes—will follow suit.

Here’s the link to Mr. Wilson’s crowdfunding appeal on his Mr. Ethical website, where you can read about his case, get up-to-date on HSBC skullduggery, satisfy yourself concerning Wilson's bona fides, confirm the extremely modest character of his home and the dire nature of his need, and click on the Donate button to make a contribution for any amount by Paypal or whatever.

Do it!  Thank you.