I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The AEI, Iran and a Free Press

The American Enterprise Institute sits in the innermost belly of the neoconservative beast, boasting a list of resident "Scholars and Fellows" that includes Richard Perle, David Frum, Michael Ledeen, John Yoo, and Laurie Mylorie (who "has theorized that al Qaeda is an agency of Iraqi intelligence, that Saddam Hussein was behind the first bombing of the World Trade Center, and that Iraqi intelligence was linked to Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols"). Paul Wolfowitz and Irving Kristol, among many other similar Middle East warmongering types, are former AEI "resident scholars," and Lynne Cheney is still an active "Fellow."

Every top administration official, including the President, has appeared before the AEI several times. The long time editor of its magazine, Karl Zinsmeister, recently became the President's Domestic Policy Advisor. The AEI played as significant a role as any other single entity in creating the justification for the invasion of Iraq, and it is currently agitating -- hard -- for a military attack on Iran.

Its featured publication currently is this war cry from Resident Fellow (and NRO Cornerite) Michael Rubin, which argues that diplomacy with Iran is pointless. It is devoted to this conclusion: "Tehran may still conduct diplomacy to fish for incentive and reward . . . but, at its core, Iranian diplomacy is insincere. The Iranian leadership will say anything and do anything to buy the time necessary to acquire nuclear capability." Another featured article is by Richard Perle, lambasting the President for "dithering," "blinking" and "beat[ing] an ignominious retreat" in the face of the mortal Iranian threat. Still another, by Reuel Marc Gerecht, urges the Bush administration to stop being so "overwhelmed and deflated" by the war in Iraq and get on with bombing Iranian facilities in "Natanz, Isfahan, Arak, Tehran, and Bushehr."

The Washington Monthly noted previously that of all the lobbying and special interest groups, the AEI "is in a different league, because of the influence its scholars wield in Washington and their consequent power to turn research into government policy." The AEI is incredibly well-funded; last year alone, it had revenues of $ 24.6 million, and it spent $19.9 million of it, with the rest padding a growing surplus. Its Board of Trustees is composed of numerous Chairmen of the world's largest corporations along with some of America's wealthiest individuals. It is a very serious and influential organization and its positions typically either reflect imminent government actions or cause those actions.

This upcoming Thursday, at 11:00 a.m., the AEI is hosting a panel discussion called "National Security and Freedom of the Press." This is the premise of the discussion:

Increasingly in the past year, the news media have published classified information that exposed sensitive national security programs. In light of these revelations, concerns have been raised over the extent to which the publication of classified material affects American national security.

Those grave mattres have led to the need to answer some "pressing questions":

Is the First Amendment an absolute right, or are there circumstances in which our freedoms must be limited? Does freedom of the press constitute a license to publish any and all classified material, or can such publication be treated as a crime? If there are limitations on the freedom to publish, who should impose such limits?

The AEI panel to examine the criminalization of investigative journalism will include Andrew McCarthy, former federal prosecutor, current NRO Cornerite and advocate of criminal prosecutions against both the NYT's Jim Risen and the Post's Dana Priest (as he says: "The New York Times was presented with a simple choice: help protect American national security or help al Qaeda. Yet again, it sided with al Qaeda"); former CIA Director James Woosley ("we are in World War IV, World War III having been the Cold War"); and one of the most crazed neoconservative warrior anywhere, Michael Ledeen. Also on the panel are journalists Stuart Taylor (who opposes press prosecutions), along with Newsweek's Mike Isikoff, who (apparently) does so as well.

[If there is anyone in the Washington area who is interested in attending this event in order to report on what is discussed (as a guest post here or otherwise), or better still, tape recording it if that is permitted so a transcript can be generated, the contact information for doing that is here. Please contact me by e-mail if you are interested in doing that].

There are no more elections left for the Bush administration after the one which will be held in 68 days. Over the past five years, one would have been able very reliably to predict the actions and positions to be taken by the Bush administration by monitoring the publications and positions promoted by the AEI.

The AEI's current wish list features, at the very top, a military attack on Iran, followed by such subsidiary enabling measures as prosecuting journalists, strengthening domestic surveillance programs still further, and a reflexive defense of Israel as the highest imperative. To know what the last two, election-free years of a Bush administration would bring to this country in the absence of any Congressional checks, one should listen to the truly extremist desires of the AEI.

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