Friday, August 17, 2012

Lawyer: Journalists akin to "paid secret agents"

Martin Garbus.
Photo: SW Law School
The U.S. government paid off "covert journalists" illegally from 1996 to 2001, then hid its actions for purported reasons of national security to ensure the conviction of former Cuban agent Gerardo Hernández, his lawyer claimed in a sworn statement.
Defense lawyer Martin Garbus said the federal government's "international propaganda machine" violated due process and the integrity of Hernández' trial. He called for an investigation into purported "transgressions" that he believes are reminiscent of CIA abuses of the 1970s.
Garbus, a well-known trial attorney whose clients have included Lenny Bruce, Al Pacino and Nelson Mandela, demanded that the Cuban agent's indictment be thrown out immediately. He wrote:
The Government’s successful secret subversion of the Miami print, radio, and television media to pursue a conviction is nearly incomprehensible. It is unprecedented. There should now be an immediate dismissal of the indictment; otherwise, this case will be permanently memorialized in American legal history as a landmark of ghastly and secretive injustice.

Gerardo Hernández. Photo: CubaDebate

In 2001, a Miami jury convicted Hernández of conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the 1996 shoot-down of two civilian aircraft belonging to Brothers to the Rescue, a Cuban exile organization. Four people were killed. Hernández received two life terms.
Garbus claims U.S.-paid journalists "were totally committed to do whatever they could to secure" the spy's conviction. He wrote:
The government paid these propagandists large sums of money, day after day, year after year, because the government believed monies were being successfully used to convince the jury to convict. The six-year propaganda effort, with far more than a thousand articles, television, and radio shows, was relentless.
Garbus said the federal agencies that paid journalists included the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the United States Information Agency, Voice of America, and Radio and TV Martí. He said Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, petitions and lawsuits, along with information from the Federal Procurement Database System and other sources, documented the payments. He cited my website, the Cuba Money Project, as the source of one document showing payments (See "U.S. paid Fidel Castro's daughter more than 20k")

Garbus said he does not pretend to have found records of all government payments to journalists. He wrote:
The layers of secrecy we have uncovered only lead us to believe that there are more layers of secrecy that bury many more essential facts.
Enrique Encinosa.
Source of photo: CubaDebate
Government-paid journalists included Enrique Encinosa, the author of “Cuba, The Unfinished Revolution.” Garbus said Encinosa was interviewed for the 2005 documentary, “638 ways to kill Castro," in which he expressed support for a string of bombings in Havana hotels that killed an Italian tourist in 1997. Encinosa is quoted as saying:
I personally think it’s an acceptable method. It’s a way of damaging the tourist economy. The message that you, one, tries to get across is that Cuba is not a
healthy place for tourists. So, if Cuba is not a healthy place for tourists because there’s a few windows being blown out of hotels, that’s fine.
Garbus contends that some journalists may have worked with the U.S. government to secretly push forward American policy goals. He wrote:
We use the term “journalists” in the same way that Government documents referred to other paid journalists who have covertly worked for the Government. It is an inadequate description. “Paid secret agents” is a more accurate description. It may be that the agents in Miami also functioned as tipsters, community organizers, intentionally interfered with the jury, covertly planted distorted articles, were involved in domestic intelligence, may even have given information to the prosecution investigative team, and done a host of other unconstitutional activity. This is what other “journalist” agents have done both in the past and since then. 
In the mid-'70s, a U.S. Senate committee began investigating whether the U.S. government had carried out any illegal intelligence operations. Sen. Frank Church chaired the committee, which examined many controversial issues, including the U.S. government's efforts to spy on American citizens. (See Church committee's final report) Garbus wrote:
The context for the Church Committee is significant. The Government should appoint a similar investigative inquiry concerning the events in Miami. It is important to note as we look at Miami, in 1996 to 2001, how and why the Church Committee arose and why a fuller investigation is needed in this case. The Church investigation arose out of a history of transgression. Many of those same transgressions are evident here.
The 1976 investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee exposed the Government’s secretive involvement with the press. Those “facts”, and their cover-up and concealment, were a prototype for what was to later occur in Miami.
Garbus wrote that the Congressional Consolidated Appropriations Act says tax dollars can't be used for "publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States" unless Congress authorizes it.
Garbus describes government-financed "domestic propaganda" as "a form of political warfare." He credits the Miami Herald with revealing the first facts about the government's supposed propaganda campaign on Sept. 8, 2006. (See Herald story). At the same time, Garbus blames the Miami Herald and its sister paper, El Nuevo Herald, for publishing 1,111 articles "that would negatively influence the trial" from Nov. 27, 2000, to June 8, 2001.
The lawyer contends that the U.S. government "secretly paid sophisticated propagandists in Miami to weave together all of the disparate strands of the Cold War, its historic parameters, and political devils... as a context for their stories so they could arrive at the conclusion the Government wanted." He wrote:
There is a religiously followed, strident, and inflammatory format for all the articles. They all come out of the same bad cookie cutter.
June 5, 2010: Free the Five committee seeks records on payments to journalists
Reporters for Hire: Records of 18 journalists who received payments

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