All posts by Eoin Higgins

After US Senator Asks Public to ‘Imagine’ CIA Interfering in Foreign Elections, Historians Are Like… Uhhh

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Comments from Sen. Mark Warner responding to reports that Attorney General Bill Barr asked a number of world governments for help in refuting the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 U.S. election were met with ridicule Friday as observers mocked the suggestion that the CIA would never do such a thing.

Warner, a Virginia Democrat, made the remarks to NBC in an interview over the latest revelations in the still-unfolding whistleblower scandal that has triggered an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. News that Barr reached out to intelligence agencies in Australia, Italy and the United Kingdom for help in probing the Russian investigation has added to the fire.

"Can you imagine if the CIA was asked to provide damaging evidence on a political opponent in Australia?" Warner said. "There would be outrage in our political establishment."

There's just one problem with Warner's example of the CIA becoming involved in Australian politics—as one Twitter user observed, the CIA "literally did that" in 1975, covertly taking down the pro-independence government of then-Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. Whitlam had proposed shutting down Pine Gap, the U.S. satellite intelligence gathering center in central Australia, and exposing U.S. intelligence operations in the country, a move that sent the CIA into panic mode.

In other words, as Grayzone journalist Anya Parampil tweeted, Warner's hypothetical was "almost as outrageous as the CIA carrying out a coup against Australia’s democratically elected leftist leader who stood up to the agency, which it actually did."

As John Pilger recounted at The Guardian in 2014:
The Americans and British worked together. In 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain's MI6 was operating against his government. "The Brits were actually decoding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office," he said later. One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told me, "We knew MI6 was bugging cabinet meetings for the Americans." In the 1980s, senior CIA officers revealed that the “Whitlam problem" had been discussed “with urgency" by the CIA's director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield. A deputy director of the CIA said: "[governor-general of Australia, Sir John Kerr] did what he was told to do."

[...]

On 11 November—the day Whitlam was to inform parliament about the secret CIA presence in Australia—he was summoned by Kerr. Invoking archaic vice-regal "reserve powers," Kerr sacked the democratically elected prime minister. The "Whitlam problem" was solved, and Australian politics never recovered, nor the nation its true independence.
Australia, of course, is not the only country whose politics the U.S. has meddled in since the creation of the CIA in 1947. Among the other countries are China, East Germany, Iran, Costa Rica, Egypt, Indonesia, British Guiana, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Congo, France, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Bolivia, Indonesia, Ghana, Chile, Greece, Rica, Bolivia, Angola, Zaire, Portugal, Jamaica, the Seychelles, Chad, Grenada, Suriname, Fiji, Nicaragua, Panama, Bulgaria, Albania, Yugoslavia, Ecuador, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Iraq, Haiti, Somalia, Libya, and Syria.

The above is an incomplete list.

Reprinted with permission from Common Dreams.

‘Weak Journalism’: NYT Fails to Disclose Op-Ed Writer’s Close Family Ties to Venezuelan Opposition Leader

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A recent video opinion piece published by The New York Times intended to drum up support for US involvement in Venezuela failed to disclose the author's ties to the opposition government, leading to criticism from progressives of the paper's coverage. 

Joanna Hausmann, a comedian who posts highly viewed articles on Venezuela on YouTube, delivered a five minute, thirteen second opinion piece at the Times Monday in which she claims that the country's leader, President Nicolas Maduro, is a dictator and that the American left are his patsies. 

"This movement is dangerously glorifying a brutal dictator and promoting inaction," Hausmann says in the video as quirky music plays behind her. "That is the worst combination for ordinary Venezuelans."

Hausmann also claims that the country's economic problems are the fault of decades of socialist rule and that the path forward is a future without Maduro—it's implied, though never outright stated, that the answer is for opposition leader Juan Guaidó to take power. 

What the video and the Times did not reveal is that Hausmann's father, Harvard University economics professor Ricardo Hausmann, currently serves as Guaidó's envoy to the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). It's a position that, if Guaidó became president, would wield immense political and economic power.

That omission was a focus of criticism from progressives. The elder Hausmann's place in the Venezuelan shadow government is a conflict that should have been made clear in his daughter's opinion video implicitly arguing for American intervention to remove Maduro. 

"[Very] cool of the NYT to not mention, you know, the fact that Joanna Hausmann's dad is an economic adviser for Guaidó," tweeted Think Progress reporter Rebekah Entralgo Fernández. 
Ricardo Hausmann's past in Venezuela should give Americans serious pause before taking him seriously, Anya Parampil argued in an early March article for Mint Press News. 

Ricardo Hausmann is much more than a prominent pundit. He is one of the West’s leading neoliberal economists, who played an unsavory role during the 1980s and ’90s in devising policies that enabled the looting of Venezuela’s economy by international capital and provoked devastating social turmoil.

That translates to his daughter's latest video, Parampil said on Twitter. 

"She's not an independent voice but rather the failchild of Guaidó advisor Ricardo Hausmann, a man who neoliberalized and destroyed [Venezuela's] economy once before and wants to do it all over again," Parampil said

Parampil also had some choice words for the Times:
In a response to critics, Times video producer Adam Ellick implied that because Joanna Hausmann has a sizable social media and YouTube following, disclosing her father's close ties to the Venezuelan opposition was unnecessary. 

"We were aware of her father's biography before publication," Ellick said, "but Ms. Hausmann is an independent adult woman who has built a popular following on her own, by producing a portfolio of argued videos about Venezuela via her own YouTube channel."

Observers on social media were quick to cite the Times' codes of conduct to Ellick in response. 
As of the this writing, Hausmann's video remains up at the Times with no mention of her family connection to the opposition movement she's promoting.

Reprinted with permission from Common Dreams.