Why U.S. Reporters Are Always Pro-War

5 Reasons that Both Mainstream Media – and Gatekeeper “Alternative” Websites – Are Pro-War

There are five reasons that the mainstream media and the largest alternative media websites are always pro-war.

1. Self-Censorship by Journalists

Initially, there is tremendous self-censorship by journalists.

A survey by the Pew Research Center and the Columbia Journalism Review in 2000 found:

Self-censorship is commonplace in the news media today …. About one-quarter of the local and national journalists say they have purposely avoided newsworthy stories, while nearly as many acknowledge they have softened the tone of stories to benefit the interests of their news organizations. Fully four-in-ten (41%) admit they have engaged in either or both of these practices.

Similarly, a 2003 survey reveals that 35% of reporters and news executives themselves admitted that journalists avoid newsworthy stories if “the story would be embarrassing or damaging to the financial interests of a news organization’s owners or parent company.”

Several months after 9/11, Dan Rather told the BBC that American reporters were practicing “a form of self-censorship”:

There was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming tires around peoples’ necks if they dissented. And in some ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck. Now it is that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions…. And again, I am humbled to say, I do not except myself from this criticism.

What we are talking about here – whether one wants to recognise it or not, or call it by its proper name or not – is a form of self-censorship.

Rather said in 2008:

One of the most pernicious ways in which we do this is through self-censorship, which may be the worst censorship of all. We have seen too much self-censorship in the news in recent years, and as I say this please know that I do not except myself from this criticism.

As Mark Twain once said, “We write frankly and freely but then we ‘modify’ before we print.” Why do we modify the free and frank expression of journalistic truth? We do it out of fear: Fear for our jobs. Fear that we’ll catch hell for it. Fear that someone will seek to hang a sign around our neck that says, in essence, “Unpatriotic.”

We modify with euphemisms such as “collateral damage” or “less than truthful statements.” We modify with passive-voice constructions such as “mistakes were made.” We modify with false equivalencies that provide for bad behavior the ready-made excuse that “everybody’s doing it.” And sometimes we modify with an eraser—simply removing offending and inconvenient truths from our reporting.”

Keith Olbermann agreed that there is self-censorship in the American media, and that:

You can rock the boat, but you can never say that the entire ocean is in trouble …. You cannot say: By the way, there’s something wrong with our …. system.

Former Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin wrote in 2006:

Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do. . . .

There’s the intense pressure to maintain access to insider sources, even as those sources become ridiculously unrevealing and oversensitive. There’s the fear of being labeled partisan if one’s bullshit-calling isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political spectrum.

If mainstream-media political journalists don’t start calling bullshit more often, then we do risk losing our primacy — if not to the comedians then to the bloggers.

I still believe that no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bullshit-calling than a well-informed beat reporter – whatever their beat. We just need to get the editors, or the corporate culture, or the self-censorship – or whatever it is – out of the way.

The Washington Post noted in 2008:

CBS anchor Katie Couric, who was at NBC during the run-up to war, told “The Early Show” last week that this was “one of the most embarrassing chapters in American journalism. . . . There was a sense, a pressure from the corporations who own where we work, and from government itself to really squash any kind of dissent.”

Self-censorship obviously occurs on the web as well as in old media. As Wikipedia notes:

Self-censorship is the act of censoring or classifying one’s own work (blog, book(s), film(s), or other means of expression) …

While you might assume that self-censorship has declined more than a decade after 9/11 – and long after Bush and Cheney left office – it has actually skyrocketed … because reporters are justifiably concerned that the NSA is spying on them. This is true of journalists all over the world.

2. Censorship by Higher-Ups

If journalists do want to speak out about an issue, they also are subject to tremendous pressure by their editors or producers to kill the story.

The 2000 Pew and Columbia Journalism Review survey notes:

Fully half of [the investigative journalists surveyed] say newsworthy stories are often or sometimes ignored because they conflict with a news organization’s economic interests. More than six-in-ten (61%) believe that corporate owners exert at least a fair amount of influence on decisions about which stories to cover….

The Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who uncovered the Iraq prison torture scandal and the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam, Seymour Hersh, said:

“All of the institutions we thought would protect us — particularly the press, but also the military, the bureaucracy, the Congress — they have failed. The courts . . . the jury’s not in yet on the courts. So all the things that we expect would normally carry us through didn’t. The biggest failure, I would argue, is the press, because that’s the most glaring….

Q: What can be done to fix the (media) situation?

[Long pause] You’d have to fire or execute ninety percent of the editors and executives. You’d actually have to start promoting people from the newsrooms to be editors who you didn’t think you could control. And they’re not going to do that.”

In fact many journalists are warning that the true story is not being reported. And see this announcement.

A series of interviews with award-winning journalists also documents censorship of certain stories by media editors and owners (and see these samples).

Successful journalists who don’t go along with pro-war hysteria are severely punished … no matter how popular they are.

On the other hand, war-hypers are promoted to the top echelons of the news business … where they make huge amounts of money.

It’s not just the mainstream media. The large “alternative” media websites censor as well. For example:

Every year Project Censored [which Walter Cronkite and other ] puts together a list of the top 25 stories censored and ignored by the mainstream media.

How many of these stories were you aware of? Even regular consumers of alternative, independent media may be surprised to learn about some of these stories ….

There are many reasons for censorship by media higher-ups.

One is money.

The media has a strong monetary interest to avoid controversial topics in general. It has always been true that advertisers discourage stories which challenge corporate power. In 1969, Federal Communications Commission commissioner Nicholas Johnson noted that tv networks go to great lengths to please their sponsors.

Some media companies make a lot of money from the government, and so don’t want to rock the boat. For example, Glenn Greenwald notes:

Because these schools [owned by the Washington P0st’s parent company, whose profits subsidize the Post] target low-income students, the vast majority of their income is derived from federal loans. Because there have been so many deceptive practices and defaults, the Federal Government has become much more aggressive about regulating these schools and now play a vital role in determining which ones can thrive and which ones fail.

Put another way, the company that owns The Washington Post is almost entirely at the mercy of the Federal Government and the Obama administration — the entities which its newspaper ostensibly checks and holds accountable. “By the end of 2010, more than 90 percent of revenue at Kaplan’s biggest division and nearly a third of The Post Co.’s revenue overall came from the U.S. government.” The Post Co.’s reliance on the Federal Government extends beyond the source of its revenue; because the industry is so heavily regulated, any animosity from the Government could single-handedly doom the Post Co.’s business — a reality of which they are well aware:

The Post Co. realized there were risks attached to being dependent on federal dollars for revenue — and that it could lose access to that money if it exceeded federal regulatory limits.

It was understood that if you fell out of grace [with the Education Department], your business might go away,” said Tom Might, who as chief executive of Cable One, a cable service provider that is owned by The Post Co., sat in at company-wide board meetings.

Beyond being reliant on federal money and not alienating federal regulators, the Post Co. desperately needs favorable treatment from members of Congress, and has been willing to use its newspaper to obtain it:

Graham has taken part in a fierce lobbying campaign by the for-profit education industry. He has visited key members of Congress, written an op-ed article for the Wall Street Journal and hired for The Post Co. high-powered lobbying firms including Akin Gump and Elmendorf Ryan, at a cost of $810,000 in 2010. The Post has also published an editorial opposing the new federal rules, while disclosing the interests of its parent company.

The Post is hardly alone among major media outlets in being owned by an entity which relies on the Federal Government for its continued profitability. NBC News and MSNBC were long owned by GE, and now by Comcast, both of which desperately need good relations with government officials for their profits. The same is true of CBS (owned by Viacom), ABC (owned by Disney), and CNN (owned by TimeWarner). For each of these large corporations, alienating federal government officials is about the worst possible move it could make — something of which all of its employees, including its media division employees, are well aware. But the Post Co.’s dependence is even more overwhelming than most.

How can a company which is almost wholly dependent upon staying in the good graces of the U.S. Government possibly be expected to serve as a journalistic “watchdog” over that same Government? The very idea is absurd.

In addition, the government has allowed tremendous consolidation in ownership of the airwaves during the past decade.

(The Post has subsequently been purchased by Jeff Bezos, whose company is working with the CIA.)

6 companies now own 90% of the American media.

This is documented by the following must-see charts prepared by:

And check out this list of interlocking directorates of big media companies from Fairness and Accuracy in Media, and this resource from the Columbia Journalism Review to research a particular company.

This image gives a sense of the decline in diversity in media ownership over the last couple of decades:

The large media players stand to gain billions of dollars in profits if the Obama administration continues to allow monopoly ownership of the airwaves by a handful of players. The media giants know who butters their bread. So there is a spoken or tacit agreement: if the media cover the administration in a favorable light, the MSM will continue to be the receiver of the government’s goodies.

The large alternative media websites also censor news which are too passionately anti-war.

The biggest social media websites censor the hardest-hitting anti-war stories. And see this.

Huffington Post – the largest liberal website – is owned by media giant AOL Time Warner, and censors any implication that a Democratic administration could be waging war for the wrong reasons. So HuffPost may criticize poor prosecution of the war, but would never say that the entire “War on Terror” as currently waged by the Obama administration is a stupid idea.

Similarly, Drudge Report – the largest conservative website – never questions whether the government’s engagement in offensive military action around the world is strengthening or weakening our national security.

The largest “alternative” websites may weakly criticize minor details of the overall war effort, but would never say that more or less worldwide war-fighting is counterproductive. They may whine about a specific aspect of the war-fighting … but never look at the larger geopolitical factors involved.

They all seem to follow Keith Olbermann’s advice:

You can rock the boat, but you can never say that the entire ocean is in trouble …. You cannot say: By the way, there’s something wrong with our …. system.

3. Drumming Up Support for War

 War Is Sold Just Like Soda or Toothpaste

Anthony Freda: www.AnthonyFreda.com

In addition, the owners of American media companies have long actively played a part in drumming up support for war.

It is painfully obvious that the large news outlets studiously avoided any real criticism of the government’s claims in the run up to the Iraq war. It is painfully obvious that the large American media companies acted as lapdogs and stenographers for the government’s war agenda.

Veteran reporter Bill Moyers criticized the corporate media for parroting the obviously false link between 9/11 and Iraq (and the false claims that Iraq possessed WMDs) which the administration made in the run up to the Iraq war, and concluded that the false information was not challenged because:

The [mainstream] media had been cheerleaders for the White House from the beginning and were simply continuing to rally the public behind the President — no questions asked.

As NBC News’ David Gregory (later promoted to host Meet the Press) said:

I think there are a lot of critics who think that . . . . if we did not stand up [in the run-up to the war] and say ‘this is bogus, and you’re a liar, and why are you doing this,’ that we didn’t do our job. I respectfully disagree. It’s not our role.

Even after all of the mea culpas for their horribe Iraq coverage – by the New York Times (and here), Washington Post, MSNBC and others – the media is doing the exact same thing again.

Believe it or not, media coverage of the wars in Syria and Ukraine are arguably WORSE than coverage of Iraq.

But this is nothing new. In fact, the large media companies have drummed up support for all previous wars.

For example, Hearst helped drum up support for the Spanish-American War.

And an official summary of America’s overthrow of the democratically-elected president of Iran in the 1950′s states, “In cooperation with the Department of State, CIA had several articles planted in major American newspapers and magazines which, when reproduced in Iran, had the desired psychological effect in Iran and contributed to the war of nerves against Mossadeq.” (page x)

The mainstream media also may have played footsie with the U.S. government right before Pearl Harbor. Specifically, a highly-praised historian (Bob Stineet) argues that the Army’s Chief of Staff informed the Washington bureau chiefs of the major newspapers and magazines of the impending Pearl Harbor attack BEFORE IT OCCURRED, and swore them to an oath of secrecy, which the media honored (page 361) .

And the military-media alliance has continued without a break (as a highly-respected journalist says, “viewers may be taken aback to see the grotesque extent to which US presidents and American news media have jointly shouldered key propaganda chores for war launches during the last five decades.”)

As the mainstream British paper, the Independent, writes:

There is a concerted strategy to manipulate global perception. And the mass media are operating as its compliant assistants, failing both to resist it and to expose it. The sheer ease with which this machinery has been able to do its work reflects a creeping structural weakness which now afflicts the production of our news.

The article in the Independent discusses the use of “black propaganda” by the U.S. government, which is then parroted by the media without analysis; for example, the government forged a letter from al Zarqawi to the “inner circle” of al-Qa’ida’s leadership, urging them to accept that the best way to beat US forces in Iraq was effectively to start a civil war, which was then publicized without question by the media.

So why has the American press has consistently served the elites in disseminating their false justifications for war?

One of of the reasons is because the large media companies are owned by those who support the militarist agenda or even directly profit from war and terror (for example, NBC was owned by General Electric, one of the largest defense contractors in the world … which directly profits from war, terrorism and chaos. NBC was subsequently sold to Comcast).

Another seems to be an unspoken rule that the media will not criticize the government’s imperial war agenda.

And the media support isn’t just for war: it is also for various other shenanigans by the powerful. For example, a BBC documentary proves:

There was “a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by a group of right-wing American businessmen . . . . The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression.”

Moreover, “the tycoons told the general who they asked to carry out the coup that the American people would accept the new government because they controlled all the newspapers.“

See also this book.

Have you ever heard of this scheme before? It was certainly a very large one. And if the conspirators controlled the newspapers then, how much worse is it today with media consolidation?

(Kevin Dutton – research psychologist at the University of Cambridge – whose research has been featured in Scientific American Mind, New Scientist, The Guardian, Psychology Today and USA Today – also notes that media personalities and journalists – especially when combined in the same persons – are likely to be psychopaths. Some 12 million Americans are psychopaths or sociopaths, and psychopaths tend to rub each others’ backs.)

4. Access

Dan Froomkin, Brett Arends and many other mainstream reporters have noted that “access” is the most prized thing for mainstream journalists … and that they will keep fawning over those in power so that they will keep their prized access.

But there is another dynamic related to access at play: direct cash-for-access payments to the media.

For example, a 3-time Emmy Award winning CNN journalist says that CNN takes money from foreign dictators to run flattering propaganda.

Politico reveals:

For $25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post has offered lobbyists and association executives off-the-record, nonconfrontational access to “those powerful few”: Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and — at first — even the paper’s own reporters and editors…

The offer — which essentially turns a news organization into a facilitator for private lobbyist-official encounters — was a new sign of the lengths to which news organizations will go to find revenue at a time when most newspapers are struggling for survival.

That may be one reason that the mainstream news commentators hate bloggers so much. The more people who get their news from blogs instead of mainstream news sources, the smaller their audience, and the less the MSM can charge for the kind of “nonconfrontational access” which leads to puff pieces for the big boys.

5. Censorship by the Government

Finally, as if the media’s own interest in promoting war is not strong enough, the government has exerted tremendous pressure on the media to report things a certain way.

If reporters criticize those in power, they may be smeared by the government and targeted for arrest (and see this).

Indeed, the government treats real reporters as terrorists. Because the core things which reporters do could be considered terrorism, in modern America, journalists are sometimes targeted under counter-terrorism laws.

The government spies on reporters.

Not only has the government thrown media owners and reporters in jail if they’ve been too critical, it also claims the power to indefinitely detain journalists without trial or access to an attorney which chills chills free speech.

After Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, journalist Naomi Wolf, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and others sued the government to enjoin the NDAA’s allowance of the indefinite detention of Americans – the judge asked the government attorneys 5 times whether journalists like Hedges could be indefinitely detained simply for interviewing and then writing about bad guys. The government refused to promise that journalists like Hedges won’t be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of their lives without any right to talk to a judge.

An al-Jazeera journalist – in no way connected to any terrorist group – was held at Guantánamo for six years … mainly to be interrogated about the Arabic news network. And see this.

Wikileaks’ head Julian Assange could face the death penalty for his heinous crime of leaking whistleblower information which make those in power uncomfortable … i.e. being a reporter.

As constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald notes:

It seems clear that the US military now deems any leaks of classified information to constitute the capital offense of “aiding the enemy” or “communicating with the enemy” even if no information is passed directly to the “enemy” and there is no intent to aid or communicate with them. Merely informing the public about classified government activities now constitutes this capital crime because it “indirectly” informs the enemy.


If someone can be charged with “aiding” or “communicating with the enemy” by virtue of leaking to WikiLeaks, then why wouldn’t that same crime be committed by someone leaking classified information to any outlet: the New York Times, the Guardian, ABC News or anyone else?


International Law Professor Kevin Jon Heller made a similar point when the charges against Manning were first revealed:

“[I]f Manning has aided the enemy, so has any media organization that published the information he allegedly stole. Nothing in Article 104 requires proof that the defendant illegally acquired the information that aided the enemy. As a result, if the mere act of ensuring that harmful information is published on the internet qualifies either as indirectly ‘giving intelligence to the enemy’ (if the military can prove an enemy actually accessed the information) or as indirectly ‘communicating with the enemy’ (because any reasonable person knows that enemies can access information on the internet), there is no relevant factual difference between [Bradley] Manning and a media organization that published the relevant information.”


It is always worth underscoring that the New York Times has published far more government secrets than WikiLeaks ever has, and more importantly, has published far more sensitive secrets than WikiLeaks has (unlike WikiLeaks, which has never published anything that was designated “Top Secret”, the New York Times has repeatedly done so: the Pentagon Papers, the Bush NSA wiretapping program, the SWIFT banking surveillance system, and the cyberwarfare program aimed at Iran were all “Top Secret” when the newspaper revealed them, as was the network of CIA secret prisons exposed by the Washington Post). There is simply no way to convert basic leaks to WikiLeaks into capital offenses – as the Obama administration is plainly doing – without sweeping up all leaks into that attack.


The same [Obama] administration that has prosecuted whistleblowers under espionage charges that threatened to send them to prison for life without any evidence of harm to national security, and has brought double the number of such prosecutions as all prior administrations combined. Converting all leaks into capital offenses would be perfectly consistent with the unprecedented secrecy fixation on the part of the Most Transparent Administration Ever™.

The irony from these developments is glaring. The real “enemies” of American “society” are not those who seek to inform the American people about the bad acts engaged in by their government in secret. As Democrats once recognized prior to the age of Obama – in the age of Daniel Ellsberg – people who do that are more aptly referred to as “heroes”. The actual “enemies” are those who abuse secrecy powers to conceal government actions and to threaten with life imprisonment or even execution those who blow the whistle on high-level wrongdoing.

Former attorney general Mukasey said the U.S. should prosecute Assange because it’s “easier” than prosecuting the New York Times. But now Congress is considering a bill which would make even mainstream reporters liable for publishing leaked information (part of an all-out war on whistleblowing).

As such, the media companies have felt great pressure from the government to kill any real questioning of the endless wars.

For example, Dan Rather said, regarding American media, “What you have is a miniature version of what you have in totalitarian states”.

Tom Brokaw said “all wars are based on propaganda.

And the head of CNN said:

There was ‘almost a patriotism police’ after 9/11 and when the network showed [things critical of the administration’s policies] it would get phone calls from advertisers and the administration and “big people in corporations were calling up and saying, ‘You’re being anti-American here.’

Indeed, former military analyst and famed Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg said that the government has ordered the media not to cover 9/11:

Ellsberg seemed hardly surprised that today’s American mainstream broadcast media has so far failed to take [former FBI translator and 9/11 whistleblower Sibel] Edmonds up on her offer, despite the blockbuster nature of her allegations [which Ellsberg calls “far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers”].

As Edmonds has also alluded, Ellsberg pointed to the New York Times, who “sat on the NSA spying story for over a year” when they “could have put it out before the 2004 election, which might have changed the outcome.”

“There will be phone calls going out to the media saying ‘don’t even think of touching it, you will be prosecuted for violating national security,’” he told us.

* * *

“I am confident that there is conversation inside the Government as to ‘How do we deal with Sibel?’” contends Ellsberg. “The first line of defense is to ensure that she doesn’t get into the media. I think any outlet that thought of using her materials would go to to the government and they would be told ‘don’t touch this . . . .‘”

Of course, if the stick approach doesn’t work, the government can always just pay off reporters to spread disinformation.

It is well-documented that the CIA has bought and paid for many well-known journalists.

Indeed, in the final analysis, the main reason today that the media giants will not cover the real stories or question the government’s actions or policies in any meaningful way is that the American government and mainstream media been somewhat blended together.

Can We Win the Battle Against Censorship?

We cannot just leave governance to our “leaders”, as “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance” (Jefferson). Similarly, we cannot leave news to the corporate media. We need to “be the media” ourselves.

“To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men.”
– Abraham Lincoln

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Powerlessness and silence go together. We…should use our privileged positions not as a shelter from the world’s reality, but as a platform from which to speak. A voice is a gift. It should be cherished and used.”
– Margaret Atwood

“There is no act too small, no act too bold. The history of social change is the history of millions of actions, small and large, coming together at points in history and creating a power that governments cannot suppress.”
– Howard Zinn (historian)

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent”
– Thomas Jefferson

This entry was posted in Politics / World News. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Nick Smegg

    But George – even your own reporters get it wrong. Eric Zuesse has wrongly smeared Steven F Cohen as being pro-war. His attack on Cohen (on your blog) only make sense if one assumes that he has misidentified Steven Walt with Steven F Cohen. The latter has been as critical of Obama policy as you can get, but Zuesse has smeared him as being pro-war. Are you going to recognise this or just ignore it?

    • cettel

      This is Eric Zuesse, and you’re full of hot air. If only you had clicked onto the links in my two articles about Stephen F. Cohen’s writings, you would know that I was accurately representing them. I wasn’t talking about writing by Steven Walt or anybody else. I was saying that (to boil it down) Stephen F. Cohen soft-pedals and even distorts the truth to be less-opposite to the Establishment’s position than it actually is. It’s like being a defense lawyer who understates and in some aspects ignores crucial exculpatory evidence for his definitely innocent client in order to retain as much as possible of his own acceptability to, and participation in, the existing power-structure. But you don’t see these things, and most people don’t; what is worse about you, however, is that you misrepresent my writngs in order to continue retaining your existing fantasy and to persuade others to retain a similar fantasy.

      • the silenced masses

        Another great article Eric. What’s interesting is that they don’t mention much about this in journalism school…

  • cettel

    This is the best single article ever published about the corruptness of ‘journalism’ in America. ‘George Washington,’ as he so often does, outdoes everything else by everybody else, by one-upping the all-time best journalist, who is himself. He is my model.

  • Bev

    Important article: http://markcrispinmiller.com/2015/02/how-the-cia-made-google/

    How the CIA made Google
    by Nafeez Ahmed

    INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a new crowd-funded investigative journalism project, breaks the exclusive story of how the United States intelligence community funded, nurtured and incubated Google as part of a drive to dominate the world through control of information. Seed-funded by the NSA and CIA, Google was merely the first among a plethora of private sector start-ups co-opted by US intelligence to retain ‘information superiority.’

    The origins of this ingenious strategy trace back to a secret Pentagon-sponsored group, that for the last two decades has functioned as a bridge between the US government and elites across the business, industry, finance, corporate, and media sectors. The group has allowed some of the most powerful special interests in corporate America to systematically circumvent democratic accountability and the rule of law to influence government policies, as well as public opinion in the US and around the world. The results have been catastrophic: NSA mass surveillance, a permanent state of global war, and a new initiative to transform the US military into Skynet.

    How the CIA made Google
    Inside the secret network behind mass surveillance, endless war, and Skynet—

    US and European politicians have called to protect NSA-style snooping, and to advance the capacity to intrude on internet privacy by outlawing encryption. One idea is to establish a telecoms partnership that would unilaterally delete content deemed to “fuel hatred and violence” in situations considered “appropriate.” Heated discussions are going on at government and parliamentary level to explore cracking down on lawyer-client confidentiality.

    What any of this would have done to prevent the Charlie Hebdo attacks remains a mystery, especially given that we already know the terrorists were on the radar of French intelligence for up to a decade.

    There is little new in this story. The 9/11 atrocity was the first of many terrorist attacks, each succeeded by the dramatic extension of draconian state powers at the expense of civil liberties, backed up with the projection of military force in regions identified as hotspots harbouring terrorists. Yet there is little indication that this tried and tested formula has done anything to reduce the danger. If anything, we appear to be locked into a deepening cycle of violence with no clear end in sight.

    As our governments push to increase their powers, INSURGE INTELLIGENCE can now reveal the vast extent to which the US intelligence community is implicated in nurturing the web platforms we know today, for the precise purpose of utilizing the technology as a mechanism to fight global ‘information war’ — a war to legitimize the power of the few over the rest of us. The lynchpin of this story is the corporation that in many ways defines the 21st century with its unobtrusive omnipresence: Google.

    Google styles itself as a friendly, funky, user-friendly tech firm that rose to prominence through a combination of skill, luck, and genuine innovation. This is true. But it is a mere fragment of the story. In reality, Google is a smokescreen behind which lurks the US military-industrial complex.

    The inside story of Google’s rise, revealed here for the first time, opens a can of worms that goes far beyond Google, unexpectedly shining a light on the existence of a parasitical network driving the evolution of the US national security apparatus, and profiting obscenely from its operation.
    The shadow network

    For the last two decades, US foreign and intelligence strategies have resulted in a global ‘war on terror’ consisting of prolonged military invasions in the Muslim world and comprehensive surveillance of civilian populations. These strategies have been incubated, if not dictated, by a secret network inside and beyond the Pentagon.

    Established under the Clinton administration, consolidated under Bush, and firmly entrenched under Obama, this bipartisan network of mostly neoconservative ideologues sealed its dominion inside the US Department of Defense (DoD) by the dawn of 2015, through the operation of an obscure corporate entity outside the Pentagon, but run by the Pentagon.

    In 1999, the CIA created its own venture capital investment firm, In-Q-Tel, to fund promising start-ups that might create technologies useful for intelligence agencies. But the inspiration for In-Q-Tel came earlier, when the Pentagon set up its own private sector outfit.

    Known as the ‘Highlands Forum,’ this private network has operated as a bridge between the Pentagon and powerful American elites outside the military since the mid-1990s. Despite changes in civilian administrations, the network around the Highlands Forum has become increasingly successful in dominating US defense policy.

    Giant defense contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton and Science Applications International Corporation are sometimes referred to as the ‘shadow intelligence community’ due to the revolving doors between them and government, and their capacity to simultaneously influence and profit from defense policy. But while these contractors compete for power and money, they also collaborate where it counts. The Highlands Forum has for 20 years provided an off the record space for some of the most prominent members of the shadow intelligence community to convene with senior US government officials, alongside other leaders in relevant industries.

    I first stumbled upon the existence of this network in November 2014, when I reported for VICE’s Motherboard that US defense secretary Chuck Hagel’s newly announced ‘Defense Innovation Initiative’ was really about building Skynet — or something like it, essentially to dominate an emerging era of automated robotic warfare.

    That story was based on a little-known Pentagon-funded ‘white paper’ published two months earlier by the National Defense University (NDU) in Washington DC, a leading US military-run institution that, among other things, generates research to develop US defense policy at the highest levels. The white paper clarified the thinking behind the new initiative, and the revolutionary scientific and technological developments it hoped to capitalize on.
    The Highlands Forum

    The co-author of that NDU white paper is Linton Wells, a 51-year veteran US defense official who served in the Bush administration as the Pentagon’s chief information officer, overseeing the National Security Agency (NSA) and other spy agencies. He still holds active top-secret security clearances, and according to a report by Government Executive magazine in 2006 he chaired the ‘Highlands Forum’, founded by the Pentagon in 1994.

    Linton Wells II (right) former Pentagon chief information officer and assistant secretary of defense for networks, at a recent Pentagon Highlands Forum session. Rosemary Wenchel, a senior official in the US Department of Homeland Security, is sitting next to him

    New Scientist magazine (paywall) has compared the Highlands Forum to elite meetings like “Davos, Ditchley and Aspen,” describing it as “far less well known, yet… arguably just as influential a talking shop.” Regular Forum meetings bring together “innovative people to consider interactions between policy and technology. Its biggest successes have been in the development of high-tech network-based warfare.”

    Given Wells’ role in such a Forum, perhaps it was not surprising that his defense transformation white paper was able to have such a profound impact on actual Pentagon policy. But if that was the case, why had no one noticed?

    Despite being sponsored by the Pentagon, I could find no official page on the DoD website about the Forum. Active and former US military and intelligence sources had never heard of it, and neither did national security journalists. I was baffled.

    The Pentagon’s intellectual capital venture firm

    In the prologue to his 2007 book, A Crowd of One: The Future of Individual Identity, John Clippinger, an MIT scientist of the Media Lab Human Dynamics Group, described how he participated in a “Highlands Forum” gathering, an “invitation-only meeting funded by the Department of Defense and chaired by the assistant for networks and information integration.” This was a senior DoD post overseeing operations and policies for the Pentagon’s most powerful spy agencies including the NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), among others. Starting from 2003, the position was transitioned into what is now the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. The Highlands Forum, Clippinger wrote, was founded by a retired US Navy captain named Dick O’Neill. Delegates include senior US military officials across numerous agencies and divisions — “captains, rear admirals, generals, colonels, majors and commanders” as well as “members of the DoD leadership.”

    What at first appeared to be the Forum’s main website describes Highlands as “an informal cross-disciplinary network sponsored by Federal Government,” focusing on “information, science and technology.” Explanation is sparse, beyond a single ‘Department of Defense’ logo.

    But Highlands also has another website describing itself as an “intellectual capital venture firm” with “extensive experience assisting corporations, organizations, and government leaders.” The firm provides a “wide range of services, including: strategic planning, scenario creation and gaming for expanding global markets,” as well as “working with clients to build strategies for execution.” ‘The Highlands Group Inc.,’ the website says, organizes a whole range of Forums on these issue.

    For instance, in addition to the Highlands Forum, since 9/11 the Group runs the ‘Island Forum,’ an international event held in association with Singapore’s Ministry of Defense, which O’Neill oversees as “lead consultant.” The Singapore Ministry of Defense website describes the Island Forum as “patterned after the Highlands Forum organized for the US Department of Defense.” Documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed that Singapore played a key role in permitting the US and Australia to tap undersea cables to spy on Asian powers like Indonesia and Malaysia.

    The Highlands Group website also reveals that Highlands is partnered with one of the most powerful defense contractors in the United States. Highlands is “supported by a network of companies and independent researchers,” including “our Highlands Forum partners for the past ten years at SAIC; and the vast Highlands network of participants in the Highlands Forum.”

    SAIC stands for the US defense firm, Science Applications International Corporation, which changed its name to Leidos in 2013, operating SAIC as a subsidiary. SAIC/Leidos is among the top 10 largest defense contractors in the US, and works closely with the US intelligence community, especially the NSA. According to investigative journalist Tim Shorrock, the first to disclose the vast extent of the privatization of US intelligence with his seminal book Spies for Hire, SAIC has a “symbiotic relationship with the NSA: the agency is the company’s largest single customer and SAIC is the NSA’s largest contractor.”

    Richard ‘Dick’ Patrick O’Neill, founding president of the Pentagon’s Highlands Forum

    The full name of Captain “Dick” O’Neill, the founding president of the Highlands Forum, is Richard Patrick O’Neill, who after his work in the Navy joined the DoD. He served his last post as deputy for strategy and policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence, before setting up Highlands.

    The Club of Yoda

    much more…go to site

  • Stan

    They always start out pro-war, but if it is a republican president, they slowly start counting body bags, write hit piece articles on his hawkish practices, and question motives and tactics. If they are a democrat, they carry the torch till the end.

  • ChezKiva

    I’m passing this along to my mom’s National (& not so effective) “anti-war group!”

  • “Rainbow in the Dark, Powerful Proof of 911 Nukes” at Veterans Today….

    correct analysis of the controlled demolition of WTC-1, 2 & 7

  • clarioncaller

    All this discussion about media collusion in ‘The War On Terror’ and not ONE mention of UN inspector Scott Ritter, who continually said that Saddam Hussain did NOT have WMD’s. I guess he didn’t meet the standards for western journalism. Some will say, “He turned out to be a pedophile”. To me, that just means he joins a LONG list of other government apparachniks. Semper Fi

  • jadan

    Very fine critique of the state of journalism, complete with a solution to the problem! “We need to “be the media” ourselves.” It’s frightening to consider how democracy is so completely dependent on the internet….