Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Charges Seen as Unlikely for Lawyers Over Interrogations: And Here Comes The White Wash For The Manure Pile:

Charges Seen as Unlikely for Lawyers Over Interrogations: And Here Comes The White Wash For The Manure Pile:


All Things Considered, May 5, 2009 · A Justice Department inquiry into the conduct of lawyers involved in writing the "torture" memos is nearly complete. A draft of the report, according to more than one source, will conclude that the attorneys will be referred for possible disciplinary action to bar associations.


What are  witnessing are Bush “mole” appointees making their move to minimize the torture issue in a damage control scenario that holds out the “Possibility” of disbarment of a couple of the culprits. Every move is a step down the ladder and away from the scaffold.  The media is already buying into this proposition.


Former Bush Officials Work to Soften Ethics Report on Interrogations


Former Bush Officials Work to Soften Ethics Report on Interrogations

By Carrie Johnson

Washington Post Staff Writer 
Tuesday, May 5, 2009; 5:35 PM

Former Bush administration officials are launching a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign to urge Justice Department leaders to soften an ethics report criticizing lawyers who blessed harsh detainee interrogation tactics, according to two sources familiar with the efforts.

THIS STORY : Former Bush Officials Work to Soften Ethics Report on Interrogations

In recent days, attorneys for the subjects of the ethics probe have encouraged senior Bush administration appointees to write and phone Justice Department officials, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is not complete.

A draft report of more than 200 pages, prepared in January before Bush's departure, recommends disciplinary action by state bar associations, rather than criminal prosecution, against two former department attorneys in the Office of Legal Counsel who might have committed misconduct in preparing and signing the so-called torture memos. State bar associations have the power to suspend a lawyer's license to practice or impose other penalties.http://rt.displaymarketplace.com/audmeasure.gif?liveconclientid=3212636096912&EventType=Impression&CreativeID=1533134&PlacementID=842933

The memos offered support for waterboarding, slamming prisoners against a wall and other techniques that critics have likened to torture. The documents were drafted between 2002 and 2005.

The sweeping investigation, now in its fifth year, could shed new light on the origins of the memos. Investigators rely in part on e-mail exchanges between Justice Department lawyers and lawyers at the CIA who sought advice about the legality of interrogation practices that have since been abandoned by the Obama administration.

Two of the authors, Jay S. Bybee, now a federal court judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, and John C. Yoo, now a law professor in Southern California, faced a deadline of yesterday to respond to investigators.

Attorneys for both men did not immediately return phone calls or e-mail messages seeking comment on the reports. An e-mail to Yoo and to a court representative for Bybee also received no response. The attorneys for the men, Maureen Mahoney and Miguel Estrada, had been trying to garner support for their clients by contacting former senior Justice Department officials to prevail upon their successors in the Obama administration, sources said.

The legal analysis on interrogation prepared by a third former chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, Steven G. Bradbury, also was a subject of the ethics probe. But in an early draft, investigators did not make disciplinary recommendations about Bradbury. Before they left office this year, then-Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and then-Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip wrote a 14-page letter to counterbalance the draft report. They described the context surrounding the origins of the memos, which were written at a time when government officials feared another terrorist strike on American soil.

Both Mukasey and Filip were dissatisfied with the quality of the legal analysis in the wide-ranging draft report, sources said. Among other things, the draft report cited lengthy passages from a 2004 CIA inspector general investigation and cast doubt on the effectiveness of the questioning techniques, which sources characterized as far afield from the narrow legal questions surrounding the lawyers' activities. The letter from Mukasey and Filip has not been publicly released, but it may emerge when the investigative report is issued.

Interest groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have sued to gain access to the CIA inspector general report and other documents dealing with detainee treatment.

Late Monday evening, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote senior congressional Democrats to offer an update about the status of the ethics investigation, which is being conducted by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility. Weich told  Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and  Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden "will have access to whatever information they need to evaluate the final report and make determinations about appropriate next steps."

In an interview this afternoon, Durbin said, "It's time to get to the bottom of the conduct of some of the key players. . . . It's a question of responsibility. In this chain of command, how far up did it go?"

Durbin said it was premature to call for a special prosecutor or the impeachment of Bybee.

Authorities did not signal in the letter when or in what form the report would be released. They have shared their findings with the CIA and asked for the agency's comments, the letter said. The biggest holdup to release has been the fact that the content of the interrogation memos had been classified, but the documents were released last month by the Justice Department. Sources said the highly anticipated report could emerge as soon as this summer.

Any disciplinary findings about the former Justice Department attorneys are likely to add fuel to calls within Congress and among left-leaning interest groups for criminal prosecutions of Bush administration officials who authorized the interrogations and for an independent congressional inquiry into the origins of the practices.

Legal experts on both sides of the political aisle have cast doubt on the likelihood of wide-scale criminal probes, but neither President Obama nor Holder has ruled out investigations of those who might have gone beyond the Justice Department's legal advice.

The Office of Professional Responsibility, which has been conducting the investigation, itself has been a focus of criticism from defense lawyers and judges, who say it moves slowly and operates with too much secrecy. Last month Attorney General Holder transferred its longtime leader, H. Marshall Jarrett, to another senior post and replaced him with federal prosecutor Mary Patrice Brown. The report on Yoo, Bybee and Bradbury is now in her court, department sources said.


The OPR Report Gets Closer Atlantic Online


The NYT has a basic outline of what the Justice Department report into the legal quality of the memos ordered up by Bush and Cheney to provide legal cover for illegal acts of torture. But it is not exactly earth-shattering news that the report itself does not allegedly recommend criminal prosecution. The report will be studied closely for what it reveals and there are some tantalizing hints at future revelations:

The draft report is described as very detailed, tracing e-mail messages between Justice Department lawyers and officials at the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency.

If those emails can be interpreted reasonably as the stitch-up many of us suspect - in effect instructing the lawyers how to craft memos making what was illegal "legal" - then the focus will rightly go back to the White House. Anyone even without a legal training can see that the OLC Memos are, as Kinsley elegantly put it, "fatuous". But the report is apparently damning:

The report by the Office of Professional Responsibility, an internal ethics unit within the Justice Department, is also likely to ask that state bar associations consider possible disciplinary action, including reprimands or even disbarment, for some of the lawyers involved in writing the legal opinions, the officials said.

The reason this is vital is that it gets to the core of the question of good faith in authorizing the elaborate torture program that Bush and Cheney constructed as their central weapon in the war against Jhadist terrorism. If we can see that the memos were transparent attempts not to explicate the law in good faith to guide the executive branch - but were emanations of the executive branch to provide phony and flawed legal cover for already-decided illegal acts, then we have a conspiracy to commit war crimes.

That's what's at stake here.

It is the mother lode. And we don't yet know what's in the report. But if it contains a judgment that the legal analysis is so shoddy that it should lead to professional disbarment for its authors, then the critical question becomes even more pressing: was this deliberate shoddiness to give the Decider what he had already decided to authorize?

I know, given the full extent of the torture program, its systematic nature, its plain illegality, and its obvious contempt for the spirit and intent of the prohibition on torture, what I suspect. And if this report finds gross misconduct by the government lawyers doing the president's bidding, then the case is not closed. Far from it, it has just begun. And the real war criminals - Bush and Cheney - are getting closer and closer to justice.


Charges Seen as Unlikely for Lawyers Over Interrogations



Published: May 5, 2009

WASHINGTON — An internal Justice Department inquiry into the conduct of Bush administration lawyers who wrote secret memorandums authorizing brutal interrogations has concluded that the authors committed serious lapses of judgment but should not be criminally prosecuted, according to government officials briefed on a draft of the findings.                                                     

2002 and 2005 Justice Department Memos


The Caucus                                     

The report by the Office of Professional Responsibility, an internal ethics unit within the Justice Department, is also likely to ask that state bar associations consider possible disciplinary action, including reprimands or even disbarment, for some of the lawyers involved in writing the legal opinions, the officials said.       

The conclusions of the 220-page draft report are not final and have not yet been approved by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. The officials said it is possible the final report might be subject to revision, but they did not expect major alterations in its main findings or recommendations.                      

The draft report is described as very detailed, tracing e-mail messages between Justice Department lawyers and officials at the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency. Among the questions it is expected to consider is whether the memos reflected the lawyers’ independent judgments of the limits of the federal anti-torture statute or were skewed deliberately to justify what the C.I.A. proposed.                                                                         

At issue are whether the Justice Department lawyers acted ethically in writing a series of legal opinions from 2002 to 2007. The main targets of criticism are John Yoo, Jay S. Bybee, and Steven G. Bradbury, who as senior officials in the department’s Office of Legal Counsel were the principal authors of the memos.           

The opinions permitted the C.I.A. to use a number of interrogation methods that human rights groups have condemned as torture, including waterboarding, wall-slamming, head-slapping and other techniques. The opinions allowed many of these practices to be used repeatedly and in combination.

Several legal scholars have remarked that in approving waterboarding — the near-drowning method that President Obama and his aides have described as torture — the Justice Department lawyers did not cite cases in which the United States government had prosecuted American law enforcement officials and Japanese interrogators in World War II for using the procedure.

In a letter made public on Monday, the Justice Department advised two Democratic senators on the Judiciary committee, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, that the former department lawyers who wrote the opinions had until Sunday to submit written appeals to the findings.

The draft report on the interrogation opinions was completed in December and has provoked controversy within counterterrorism circles, which has intensified since last month when the Obama administration disclosed four previously secret opinions written from 2002 and 2005, which for the first time detailed the approved procedures.


Democrats Seek More Interrogation Documents


By Carrie Johnson

Washington Post Staff Writer 
Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fallout from the Bush administration's detainee interrogation practices persisted yesterday, with House Democrats requesting documents that reportedly challenged the decision to use methods critics have likened to torture.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman  John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman  Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.) asked officials at the State Department and the National Archives to produce a May 2005 memo that contested the legality of waterboarding and other measures.

The memo's author, former State Department counselor Philip D. Zelikow, wrote on a Foreign Affairs blog last month that he dissented from conclusions by the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel four years ago that the methods were legal. Additionally, he wrote that unnamed White House officials at the time "attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo."

At the same time, Bush administration lawyers are facing a deadline to respond to a Justice Department ethics investigation into their support for the rough interrogation tactics.

Investigators are evaluating whether former Office of Legal Counsel lawyers John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury followed professional standards when they drafted memos in 2002 and 2005 that gave a green light to simulated drowning and wall slamming of prisoners.

Sources told The Washington Post earlier this year that an earlier draft of the investigators' report recommended disciplinary referrals to local bar associations for two of the men: Yoo, now a law professor in California, and Bybee, now a federal appeals court judge based in Nevada. The report requires the approval of new Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., and findings could be released as early as this summer, according to two sources familiar with the process.

Meanwhile, a Senate Judiciary panel will hold a hearing May 13 on the origins and legal analysis of the Justice Department's interrogation memos, as well as whether the harsh techniques proved effective in securing useful information that prevented terrorist strikes, a Democratic aide said. Among the witnesses at the hearing will be Zelikow and former FBI agent Ali Soufan, who has been critical of the CIA interrogation program.


Confronting the Past  Across the Aisle


Confronting the Past

by Edwina Chin and John Eden | May 5th, 2009 | Email This Article

Earlier this month, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the release of four Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinions, detailing the legal justifications for the Bush administration’s use of torture between 2002 and 2005.  Although the DOJ was careful to emphasise that the OLC torture memos (as they are now widely known) “no longer represent the views of the Office of Legal Counsel”, the release of the memos was accompanied by one enormous caveat: the DOJ would under no circumstances prosecute any intelligence official who acted reasonably and relied in good faith on the memos.

The question then arises: if we can’t go after the CIA, can we go after the legal advisers who crafted the memos in the first place?  Precedents certainly exist for the prosecution of lawyers who negligently or purposefully authorise serious violations of international law.  As Kevin Jon Heller points out, these include the successful prosecution of the Nazi government’s key legal advisers, for failing to alert the government to the illegality of forced deportations of Jewish people to concentration camps during the Second World War.  (If Nazi Germany seems inappropriate as a point of reference, just keep in mind that the issue is not whether the U.S. Government in the wake of September 11th is to be viewed as morally equivalent of the Nazi regime. 

Of course it isn’t.  The issue is whether legal advisers can be prosecuted for knowingly and deliberately violating international law.)  And there is certainty no lack of public sentiment baying for the blood of the relevant Bush-era lawyers, including Steven Bradbury, Jay Bybee and John Yoo.  Indeed, both Bybee and Yoo (along with David Addington and others) are currently the subject of a criminal prosecution in Spain for authorizing torture and other war crimes carried out at Guantanamo Bay.

Assuming that we can prosecute the lawyers, the question remains whether, as a matter of policy, we should.  There are, of course, convincing moral arguments in favour of punishing those who came up with the shifty legal apparatus and euphemisms that allowed such “interrogation techniques” to be seen as permissible.  However, our main concern here is whether prosecuting the OLC would serve a meaningful regulatory purpose, even where convictions are unlikely.

It is possible that punishing the architects of the torture program would bear little fruit.  Waterboarding, for instance, is sometimes used to train U.S. military personnel, so it might be difficult to impose criminal penalties of any kind the OLC lawyers, men who will undoubtedly contend that they were acting in good faith to protect their beloved country.  Moreover, because Bybee, Yoo, Addington, and the rest of the gang are no longer at the OLC, criminal prosecutions are unlikely to directly have a positive impact on terrorism policy going forward.  One would expect the indirect effects, however, to be quite positive.  The trustworthiness and moral standing of the U.S. would certainly improve, leading its friends around the world to more readily share information and resources with it in the fight against terrorism.  But despite these advantages, some - including our Commander in Chief - maintain that looking forward is the best use of our energies and resources.

Notwithstanding the high costs of digging up the past, the need to go after these lawyers is compelling.  We know that the memos were not written in good faith.  In particular, we know three circumstantial facts that point toward bad faith and a lack of independent legal assessment, the hallmark of negligent lawyering.  First, the torture memos were written by the OLC in response to the CIA’s request for an evaluation of well-defined aggressive, coercive interrogation techniques.  Second, the memos not only endorsed the CIA’s proposed techniques, they did so by offering a very gruesome factual justification:  the techniques on offer did not impose “severe suffering” of the type prohibited by the U.S. anti-torture law because those techniques never caused actual organ failure.  Oh, I see.  No organ failure, thus no severe suffering, and hence no violation of domestic law. 

Read that last sentence again.  And third, the torture memos make a big deal out of the fact that medical personnel would be present during interrogations.  Why does the presence of doctors matter?  Well, it’s only unlawful to impose severe suffering intentionally.  The CIA assumed, and the OLC endorsed in the torture memos, the view that having doctors hanging around during interrogations somehow undermines any implication that pain was deliberately inflicted by the CIA.  (This is a puzzling argument if you reflect on it just a bit.  Doesn’t my decision to have a doctor around reinforce - not undermine - the inference that I intended all along to impose severe physical pain on a detainee?  After all, the presence of a licensed physician assumes that physical pain will be forthcoming, and that the condition causing the pain, which I have intentionally visited upon the detainee, may require treatment to prevent him from expiring.  How dumb are these guys?)

At the end of the day, the CIA told the OLC what they wanted to do, and the OLC constructed a legal justification tailor made for the task.  This does not sound like fair and dispassionate lawyering, does it?  Indeed, it seems more like the kind of thing that happens in banana republics, where public servants and legal officials routinely ignore the law (if there is any law), which they regard as a nettlesome impediment, so that they can undertake whatever morally bankrupt and legally dubious tasks they’ve been assigned by their “superiors.”  In such regimes, fidelity to power comes before a commitment to morality and law.

If the U.S. wants to retain its identity as a constitutional democracy, then yes, we should prosecute Bybee and the boys.  Doing so would serve an important symbolic purpose, (1) demonstrating the Obama administration’s genuine (as opposed to merely rhetorical) commitment to international law and (2) signaling a clean break with the legally dubious and enormously unpopular legacy of the Bush administration’s war on terror.  Indicting these folks would also serve as a sharp and well-timed reminder to lawyers in positions of power that their misdeeds in such matters may be met with serious legal consequences, in addition to any moral and political fallout. 

In particular, for government lawyers, the indictment of the OLC lawyers should underscore the fundamental distinction between the roles of legal adviser and policy-maker, and provide a stiff warning to those all too keen to wish the law away when it chafes against the government’s dark designs.

Make no mistake, prosecuting the OLC lawyers would be costly, cumbersome, and painful.  But if chaps like Bybee and Yoo go without rebuke, there will be one less distinguishing feature setting the United States apart from the banana republics and petty dictatorships it’s so fond of heckling.


Sources: Interrogation Probe Almost Complete NPR


All Things Considered, May 5, 2009 · A Justice Department inquiry into the conduct of lawyers involved in writing the "torture" memos is nearly complete. A draft of the report, according to more than one source, will conclude that the attorneys will be referred for possible disciplinary action to bar associations.

Legal Affairs

Torture Memo Probe May Lead To Disbarments

by Ari Shapiro

The Justice Department has nearly completed its investigation into lawyers who wrote the "torture" memos authorizing harsh interrogations.

According to two sources familiar with the investigation, the report will refer people to bar associations for possible disciplinary action. Criminal prosecution, however, seems increasingly unlikely.

The investigation focuses on three attorneys who worked in the Office of Legal Counsel during the Bush administration. John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury each played a significant role in writing the torture memos. The Office of Professional Responsibility has been investigating whether their role in crafting the memos violated legal ethics.

According to sources familiar with the investigation's findings, the report will provide a detailed play-by-play of how the memos were produced. It will contain e-mails sent from one Justice Department employee to another and from Justice Department employees to other government officials.

The sources say the report includes referrals to bar associations for possible disciplinary action. That means once-prominent government lawyers could be barred from ever working as attorneys again. However, legal analysts say a recommendation of a criminal investigation seems unlikely.

"You'd have to have some sort of information that those three guys understood that the memo was in itself just garbage," says former U.S. Attorney Roscoe Howard. "I'd be looking for something that shows they understood what they wrote was just unsupportable, but they decided they were going to write it anyway." Legal analysts say that is a high bar to prove any criminal wrongdoing.

It has been four years since the inquiry began, and the Justice Department says this is the final phase of the process.

Assistant Attorney General Ron Weich sent a letter to Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) saying Yoo, Bybee and Bradbury had until May 4 "to provide their comments on the draft report," which was finished in December.

The Justice Department has been trying not to make the investigation seem like a witch hunt. Some congressional staffers complain that the effort has gone too far. They are especially critical of the decision to allow Bradbury to participate in the inquiry as acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel.

"How they could have made the decision to let him be part of the official review, not as a target, but as acting head of OLC, boggles the mind," one Judiciary Committee staffer said.

In the letter to Congress, the Justice Department said because of the "significant congressional and public interest" in the investigation, the attorney general decided it was appropriate to give the subjects of the inquiry an "opportunity for review and comment" on the draft report.

The final version of the investigation could be released late this month, according to sources familiar with the Justice Department's plans.



Senator Chris Dodd: We Tried Nazis For War Crimes, So Why Not Bush?


Rep. Wexler Announces Legislation for Select Committee to Investigate Bush Abuses—A Real Investigation or a Waste of Time?

by Richard C. Cook / May 4th, 2009

In a letter to voters, Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) has announced his introduction of House Resolution 383 to establish “a bi-partisan Select Committee tasked with making comprehensive recommendations on our national security policy - including those covering laws on torture, FISA law violations, wiretapping, civil liberties protections, among others. This committee would have all of the power of a standing committee, including subpoena power.” Co-sponsors are Barbara Lee (D-CA) and John Conyers (D-MI). Conyers is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Wexler’s statement continued by stating that, “The committee will investigate many of the outrageous policies of the Bush Administration to unearth and expose what happened during the past eight years…. We must take a hard look at what went wrong in the last eight years. We must continue to peel back the veil of secrecy that the previous Administration used as cover to undermine our system of checks and balances, and establish a clear line between what is necessary for our security and what is unlawful government intrusion and a violation of our civil liberties.”

Wexler is not the only member of Congress to announce his attention to call out the Bush administration on its abuses. Senator Patrick Leahy wants to set up a “Truth Commission,” whose mission, as described in Time, would be “to investigate the politicization of prosecution in the Justice Department under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; the wiretapping of U.S. Citizens; the flawed intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq; and the use of torture at Guantanamo and so-called black sites abroad. Leahy’s commission is to be modeled after one that investigated the apartheid regime in South Africa.”

The trouble is that congressional investigating committees rarely amount to anything. An example was the 1976 House Select Committee on Assassinations, set up to investigate the killings of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The committee met largely in secret, withheld much of its evidence from the public, and, while it said both assassinations likely involved conspiracies, stated no government agencies were parties to them. The latter point has been disputed by independent researchers both before and since.

Another example was the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States, a.k.a, the 9/11 Commission. While the commission concluded that failures of the CIA and FBI allowed the attacks to occur, it failed to look at any possibility of complicity by those agencies or the Bush administration. Members of the commission later said government officials lied to them and impeded the investigation.

It’s possible, of course, that any committees set up to investigate Bush, Cheney, at.al., will have better luck, but will they examine the questions that really matter? Neither Wexler nor Leahy mention reopening the 9/11 case. And neither mentions the event that may be just as momentous—this is the “financial 9/11”; i.e., the 2008 collapse of the U.S. financial system.

I’d like to find out, for instance, how the 9/11 terrorist attacks were connected with the extraordinary movement of massive amounts of funds within and outside the Federal Reserve and U.S. banking system that led to a huge growth in the M3 monetary supply before the Federal Reserve stopped reporting M3 data in 2006. Such a link has been suggested in some internet reports.

I’d also like to know how and why Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan colluded with the Bush White House to suddenly start pumping massive amounts of credit into the housing bubble from 2001-2005 and what instructions went out to Comptroller of the Currency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and other federal regulators to prevent the abuses in the subprime mortgage market from being investigated.

Then I’d like to know why the Bush Administration, including Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, claimed no one foresaw the crash of the financial system in October 2008, why the demand was suddenly made to Congress for over $700 billion in bank bailouts, and what the role of Paulson and the host of other former Goldman-Sachs executives working for the Bush administration had in setting the stage for the crash and profiting from it. And why is current Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner doing virtually the same as Paulson did in throwing money at the banks while the economy sinks deeper in recession?

Of course neither Wexler nor Leahy intends to examine any of these issues. Which is why their calls for investigations make good political theater, may put a few minor players on the hot seat, but, in the big picture, will be a complete waste of time. A better course would be a Special Prosecutor. But the Obama administration has given no indication of doing this either.

Richard C. Cook is the author of We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary Reform, scheduled to appear by September 2007. A retired federal analyst, his career included service with the U.S. Civil Service Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Carter White House, and NASA, followed by twenty-one years with the U.S. Treasury Department. He is also author of Challenger Revealed: An Insider’s Account of How the Reagan Administration Caused the Greatest Tragedy of the Space AgeRead other articles by Richard, or visit Richard's website.


Ruthless yet Humane: Why Obama cited Churchill on torture.

By Christopher HitchensPosted Monday, May 4, 2009,

He didn't get the attention he deserved for it, but President Obama was very cleverly fusing liberal principles with an appeal to the basic conservative values of "Old Europe" when, in his 100th-day press conference, he used Winston Churchill to justify his opposition to water-boarding and other "enhanced methods." He told his audience that, even at a time when London was being "bombed to smithereens" and the British government held hundreds of Nazi agents in an internment center, there was a prime-ministerial view that torture was never permissible.

It would be reassuring to think that somebody close to Obama had handed him a copy of a little-known book called Camp 020: MI5 and the Nazi Spies. This was published by the British Public Record Office in 2000 and describes the workings of Latchmere House, an extraordinary British prison on Ham Common in the London suburb of Richmond, which housed as many as 400 of Hitler's operatives during World War II. Its commanding officer was a man named Col. Robin Stephens, and though he wore a monocle and presented every aspect of a frigid military martinet (and was known and feared by the nickname "Tin-Eye"), he was a dedicated advocate of the nonviolent approach to his long-term guests. To phrase it crisply—as he did—his view was and remained: "Violence is taboo, for not only does it produce answers to please, but it lowers the standard of information."

To give you some of the flavor of this prohibition, I ask you to consider the case of the German agent codenamed "TATE," who was parachuted into England in September 1940, at a time when almost all of continental Europe was under Hitler's control and when neither the United States nor the Soviet Union had entered the war. Taken to Camp 020, TATE stubbornly maintained that he was a Danish refugee. An external interrogator unused to the rules of Ham Common was exasperated by this initial stubbornness and "followed TATE to his cell at the close of that first interrogation and, in flagrant violation of the Commandant's rigid rule that no physical violence should ever be used at Ham, struck the agent on the head. The incident led, on immediate representations by the Commandant, to the instant recall of [the offending officer] from the camp." One blow to the head at a time when undefended British cities were being blitzed every night, and the brute was out of there for good.


Presidents Don't Prosecute Their Predecessors

By David Shribman

When Thomas Jefferson succeeded John Adams, a contest that put America on such a different footing that it is remembered today as the Revolution of 1800, he did not seek to put members of the Adams administration on trial. When Warren G. Harding followed Woodrow Wilson in the White House in 1921, he did not put Edith Galt Wilson on trial for usurping the office of the presidency after Wilson's stroke. When Bill Clinton ended a dozen years of Republican rule in 1993, he did not try to prosecute Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush for deceiving the Congress over the Iran-Contra affair.

In the span of 220 years there have been 43 changes of presidents, and always this rule, never written but never broken, has prevailed: Presidents let their predecessors be judged by the merciless jury of history, not by the temporal verdicts of courts.

Commentators and historians often apply a facile shorthand to describe the fundamental principle (and surpassing greatness) of the American political system: Here the transfer of power from one party to another, or from one president to another, is accomplished by ballots, not bullets. That shorthand has an unspoken corollary: Here presidents and parties do not criminalize the policies of their predecessors.

That is why the nascent effort to investigate and perhaps prosecute members of the Bush administration is a dramatic departure from American tradition. It may be true that the Bush administration supported anti-terrorism policies that were deplorable, immoral -- and ultimately ineffective. But is the writing of legal briefs on highly controversial, contestable and, even now, unresolved questions of law criminal?

This is no defense of torture nor of the tactics the Bush administration may have used in recent years; press accounts of those episodes that emerged late last month were shocking. But far below the surface of the noisy Washington and cable-television conversation is a quieter but very serious debate, sparked by the circulation in elite legal circles in recent days of an Internet version of a forthcoming article in the Yale Law Journal that argues that "all interrogation methods allegedly authorized since 9/11, with the possible exception of waterboarding, have been authorized before."

This article, by William Ranney Levi, is significant as much for its intellectual provenance as it is for its contents. Levi, part of one of the most distinguished legal families in the nation, exposed his argument to the rigorous review of several leading legal minds, conservative and liberal, some of whom doubtlessly disagree with him.

He cites consultations with Jack L. Goldsmith, the conservative Harvard law professor who resigned from the Bush Justice Department and later expressed qualms over the Bush anti-terrorism legal rationale; Harold H. Koh, the dean of the Yale Law School and a leading human rights activist who has been nominated by Obama to be legal adviser to the State Department; Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, a Stanford law professor in the Obama inner ring; and Martin S. Lederman, a Georgetown law professor and fierce Bush critic who is the president's choice for a leadership position in the powerful and prestigious Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department.

The meaning of all of this is not that the Bush policies were smart, prudent, moral or effective. They may not have been any of those things. The meaning, however, is that the Bush policies were legally plausible.

That almost isn't the point. The pre-eminent point here is that in the United States, sitting presidents and winning political parties don't sit in legal judgment of their predecessors. If they do not like their policies, and many times they do not, they change policies. They do not sue their predecessors nor seek to punish them legally. This custom has prevailed in times of severe crisis as much as in serene times.

There are myriad examples. Jimmy Carter did not seek to prosecute Henry A. Kissinger for complicity in the invasion of Cambodia and involvement in Chile, two actions that might be regarded as peculiarly subject to legal review. Richard M. Nixon did not seek to prosecute Lyndon B. Johnson for the illegal wiretapping of Martin Luther King's bathroom and bedroom, which King did not know about until Thurgood Marshall informed him in 1964. Nor did Nixon take any action about the illegal taping of White House conversations in the Johnson years.

In the latter two cases the explanations were political, not legal. The wiretapping of King was conducted on the authority of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director whom Nixon dared not alienate. He had to deal with Hoover as well, and he had his own secrets to protect, or soon would. Moreover, a man who was going to conduct his own taping in the White House was not likely to be predisposed to take legal action against taping by his predecessor.

But in this case, politics is not an insubstantial factor, perhaps for the good of the system. If the Obama team, or the Democrats acting separately from the White House, continue down the road of legal review, they will assure that their successors do the same thing once they are out of office. If you think the politics of 2009 are rough, you will shudder when you contemplate the politics of 2013 or 2017.

"You have to be very careful when and how and what you do in this arena," Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, who was separated from the presidency in 2004 by the electoral votes of only Ohio, said in a conversation the other day.

The American system already has a set of checks and balances. It does not need another one. Nor does a president who has vowed a new bipartisanship need a legal inquisition to detract attention from his real priorities, which are his national-security challenges, the economic downturn, education, health care and climate change.

The greatest wisdom on this subject comes from an honorary American. "If the present tries to sit in judgment of the past," Winston Churchill wrote, "it will lose the future."

My guess is that Obama will call a halt to this or let the natural state of Washington prevail by sitting back and watching while the passions cool and nothing happens. About six weeks ago George W. Bush said that he would refrain from criticizing his successor because Obama "deserves my silence." Perhaps Obama, for the good of his own presidency and for the good of the presidency itself, will return the favor.



Gonzales Says US Should Be Open To Torturing Again


In an interview posted Monday, former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said that because use of torture “may be necessary” in the future, the Obama administration erred in disclosing the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation” techniques.

Gonzales was taking part in an interview by MSNBC’s Dan Abrams along with former Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft. The session was conducted at American Jewish University Apr. 27. The full transcript is available here.

Abrams repeatedly asked Gonzales if the techniques the Bush administration approved amounted to torture, and whether President Barack Obama was correct in releasing them. Gonzales said he disagreed with Obama’s decision.

“It does provide, in my judgment, important information to the enemy,” Gonzales quipped. Then he provided a more notable remark.

“And then secondly, to say that we have now discontinued these techniques,” he continued, “they may be necessary in the future. And by disclosing it, means you take them off the table and they can never be used again.”

Asked if the techniques the CIA used on detainees — which included partial drowning, keeping detainees up for days and hurling them against plywood walls — were torture, Gonzales demurred.

“I think that the U.S. government provided advice to CIA interrogators based upon the best legal reasoning by the lawyers in the Department of Justice,” the former AG replied. “Was it torture, when that advice was given? No. Were the interrogations harsh? Yes. Did they save lives? Absolutely.”

Still, Gonzales hedged when asked if he thought the techniques were still considered legal.

“Dan, when I served in the administration, the position of the administration was that under certain conditions and circumstances, this technique would be lawful,” he said.

But, he added later, “now, my understanding of the legal positions of the department has now been changed. So we can spend all evening debating the merits of a legal opinion of the Department of Justice, which by the way, opinions get changed—I don’t want to say all the time—but it’s not unusual to have opinions change and be modified as conditions change, as administrations change, as the Supreme Court renders a decision, opinions change.”

Gonzales also appeared to lightly snub Vice President Dick Cheney. Questioned about Cheney’s remarks last month that Obama is “making some choices that in my mind will in fact raise the risk to the American people of another attack,” Gonzales seemed to disagree.

“You know,” he said, “I’m a lot more interested in the assessments by the intelligence professionals, quite frankly.”


Sibel Edmonds: In Congress We Trust...Not

The former FBI translator and whistleblower suggests blackmail may be at the heart of Congressional refusal to bring accountability and oversight to its own members - such as both Hastert and Harman - in matters of espionage and national security

Exclusive to The BRAD BLOG...

Guest Editorial by Sibel Edmonds

I have been known to quote long-dead men in my past writings. Whether eloquently expressed thoughts by our founding fathers, or those artfully expressed by ancient Greek thinkers, these quotes have always done a better job starting or ending my thoughts - that tend to be expressed in long winding sentences. For this piece I am going to break with tradition and start with an appropriate quote from a living current senator, John Kerry:"It's a sad day when you have members of Congress who are literally criminals go undisciplined by their colleagues. No wonder people look at Washington and know this city is broken."

The people do indeed look at Washington and know that this city is 'badly' broken, Senator Kerry. The public confidence in our Congress has been declining drastically. Recent poll results highlight how the American people's trust in their Congress has hit rock bottom. A survey of progressive blogs easily confirms the rage rightfully directed at our Congress for abdicating its role of oversight and accountability. Activists scream about promised hearings that never took place - without explanation. They express outrage when investigations are dropped without any justification. And they genuinely wonder out loud why, especially after they helped secure a major victory for the Democrats. The same Democrats who had for years pointed fingers at their big bad Republican majority colleagues as the main impediment preventing them from fulfilling what was expected of them.

The recent stunning but not unexpected revelations regarding Jane Harman (D-CA) by the Congressional Quarterly provide us with a little glimpse into one of the main reasons behind the steady decline in the integrity of Congress. But the story is almost dead - ready to bite the dust, thanks to our mainstream media's insistence on burying 'real' issues or stories that delve deep into the causes of our nation's continuous downward slide. In this particular case, the 'thank you' should also be extended to certain blogosphere propagandists who, blinded by their partisanship, myopic in their assessments, and ignorant in their knowledge of the inner workings of our late Congress and intelligence agencies, helped in the post-burial cremation of this case.

Ironically but understandably, the Harman case has become one of rare unequivocal bipartisanship, when no one from either side of the partisan aisle utters a word. How many House or Senate Republicans have you heard screaming, or even better, calling for an investigation? The right wing remains silent. Some may have their hand, directly or indirectly, in the same AIPAC cookie jar. Others may still feel the heavy baggage of their own party's tainted colleagues; after all, they have had their share of Abramoffs, Hasterts and the like, silently lurking in the background, albeit dimmer every day. Some on the left, after an initial silence that easily could have been mistaken for shock, are jumping from one foot to the other, like a cat on a hot tin roof, making one excuse after another; playing the 'victims of Executive Branch eavesdropping' card, the same very 'evil doing' they happened to support vehemently. Some have been dialing their trusted guardian angels within the mainstream media and certain fairly visible alternative outlets. They need no longer worry, since these guardian angels seem to have blacked out the story, and have done so without the apparent need for much arm twisting...

Hastert Redux

I am going to rewind and take you back to September 2005, when Vanity Fai rpublished an article, which, in addition to my case and the plight of National Security Whistleblowers, exposed the dark side of the then Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert (R-IL), and the corroborated allegations of his illegal activities involving foreign agents and interests.

Vanity Fair printed the story only after they made certain they were on sure footing in the face of any possible libel by lining up more than five credible sources, and after triple pit-bull style fact-checking. They were vindicated; Hastert did not dare go after them, nor did he ever issue any true denial. Moreover, further vindication occurred only a month ago. On April 10, 2009, The Hill reported that the Former Speaker of the House was contracted to lobby for Turkey. The Justice Department record on this deal indicates that Hastert will now be "principally involved" on a $35,000-a-month contract providing representation for Turkish interests. That seems to be the current arrangement for those serving foreign interests while on the job in Congress --- to be paid at a later date, collecting on their IOU's when they secure their positions with 'the foreign lobby.'

In a recent article for American Conservative Magazine, Philip Giraldi, former CIA officer stationed in Turkey, made the following point: "Edmonds's claims have never been pursued, presumably because there are so many skeletons in both parties' closets. She has been served with a state-secrets gag order to make sure that what she knows is never revealed, a restriction that the new regime in Washington has not lifted."

And then, he hits the nail on its head: "In Hastert's case, it certainly should be a matter of public concern that a senior elected representative who may have received money from a foreign country is now officially lobbying on its behalf. How many other congressmen might have similar relationships with foreign countries and lobbying groups, providing them with golden parachutes for their retirement?"

Congress went mum on my case after theVanity Fair story, with, of course, the mainstream media making it very easy for them. They turned bipartisan in not pursuing the case, with the same zeal as they have, so far, not pursued the Harman case. Similarly, the mainstream media is happily letting it all disappear.

I was not aware that during the publication of the Hastert story in Vanity Fair, Jane Harman's AIPAC case was already brewing in the background. Moreover, one of the very few people in Congress who was notified about Harman was none other than Hastert --- the man himself. The same Hastert, who in addition to being one of several high-ranking officials targeted by FBI counterintelligence and counterespionage investigations, was also known to be directly involved in several other high profile scandals: from his intimate involvement in the Abramoff scandal, to the Rep. William Jefferson scandal; from his 'Land Deal' scandal - where he cashed in millions off his position while "serving", to the 2006 House Page scandal.

All for One, One for All?

How does it work? How do these people escape the consequences of accountability? Are we talking about the possible use of blackmail by the Executive Branch against Congressional representatives, as if the days of J. Edgar Hoover were never over? Cases such as NSA illegal eavesdropping come to mind, when Congressional members were briefed long before it became public, yet none took any action or even uttered a word; members of both parties. Or is it more likely to be a case of secondhand blackmail, where members of Congress watch out for each other? Or, is it a combination of the above? Regardless, we see this 'all for one, one for all' kind of solidarity in Congress when it comes to criminal conduct and scandals such as those of Hastert and Harman.

Although at an initial glance, based on the wiretapping angle, the Harman case may appear to involve blackmailing --- or a milder version, exploitation of Congress by the Executive Branch --- deeper analysis would suggest even further implications, where Congressional members themselves use the incriminating information against each other to prevent pursuit or investigation of cases that they may be directly or indirectly involved in. Let me give you an example based on the Hastert case mentioned earlier:

In 2004 and 2005 I had several meetings with Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-CA) investigative and legal staff. Two of these meetings took place inside a high-security SCIF, where details and classified information pertaining to my case and those involved could be discussed.

I was told, and at the time I believed it to be the case, that the Republican majority was preventing further action - such as holding a public hearing on my whistleblower revelations. Once the Democrats took over in 2006, that barrier was removed, or so I thought.

In March 2007, I was contacted by one of Rep. Waxman's staff people who felt responsible and conscientious enough to at least let me know that there would never be a hearing into my case by their office, or for that matter, any Democratic office in the House. Based on his/her account, in February 2007 Waxman's office was preparing the necessary ingredients for their promised hearing, but in mid-March the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, called Waxman into a meeting on the case, and after Waxman came out of that twenty-minute meeting, he told his staff 'we are no longer involved in Edmonds' case.' And so they became 'uninvolved.'

What was discussed during that meeting? The facts regarding the FBI's pursuit of Hastert, and certain other representatives, were bound to come out in any Congressional hearing into my case. Now we know that Hastert and Pelosi were both informed of Harman's role in a related case involving counterespionage investigation of AIPAC. Is it possible that Pelosi asked Waxman to lay off my case in order to protect a few of their own in an equally scandalous case? Was there a deal made between the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House to keep this and other related scandals hushed? Will we ever know the answer to these questions? Most likely not, considering the current state of our mainstream media.

And the victims remain the same: The American people who have entrusted their Congress with the role of ensuring oversight and accountability.

This kind of infestation touches everyone in Congress; one need not have a skeleton of his own to get sucked into the swamp of those infested. Does Waxman have to be a sinner to take part in the sin committed by the Hasterts and Harmans of Congress? Certainly not. On the other hand, he and others like him will abide by the un-pledged oath of 'solidarity with your party members' and 'loyalty to your dear colleagues.'

Rotten at its Core

Back to the enablers: How can we explain the continued blackout by the mainstream media, and/or, the logic-free defenses of the Harmans and Hasterts alike by the apologist spinners --- some of whom pass as the 'alternative' media? Some are committing what they rightfully accused the previous administration and their pawns of doing: cherry picking the facts, then, spin, spin, and spin until the real issue becomes blurry and unrecognizable. The conspiracy angle aimed at the timing; Porter Goss' possible beef with Jane Harman; accusing the truth divulgers, CQ sources, of being 'conspirators' with ulterior motives; portraying Harman as an outspoken vigilante on torture. And if those sound too lame to swallow, they throw in a few evil names from the foggy past of Dusty the Foggo man! If the issue and its implications weren't so serious, these spins of reality would certainly make a Pulitzer-worthy satire.

Let's take the issue of timing. First of all, the story was reported, albeit not comprehensively, by TIME magazine years ago. It took a tenacious journalist, more importantly a journalist that could have been trusted by the Intel sources to give it real coverage. It is also possible that the sources who leaked in the Harman case got fed up and disillusioned by the absence of a real investigation and decided to 'really' talk. After all, the AIPAC espionage case was dropped by the Justice Department's prosecutors within two weeks of the Harman revelations.

Same could be said about the Hastert story. At the time, many asked why the story was not told during the earlier stages of my case. It took three years for me and other FBI and DOJ sources to exhaust all channels; Congressional inquiry, IG investigation, and the courts. Those who initially were not willing to come forward and corroborate the details opened up to the Vanity Fair journalist, David Rose, in 2005.

We all can picture one of the President's men in the White House pulling an opposing Congressional member aside and whispering 'if I were you, Congressman, I'd stop pushing. I understand, as we speak, my Justice Department is looking into certain activities you've been engaged in.'

Now let's look at the 'blackmail' and 'Goss Plot' angles. Of course the 'blackmail' scenario is possible; in fact, highly possible. We all can picture one of the President's men in the White House pulling an opposing Congressional member aside and whispering 'if I were you, Congressman, I'd stop pushing. I understand, as we speak, my Justice Department is looking into certain activities you've been engaged in.'

We all can imagine, easily, a high-ranking Justice Department official having a 'discreet' meeting with a member of Congress who's been pushing for a certain investigation of certain department officials for criminal deeds, and saying, 'dear Congresswoman, we are aware of your role in a certain scandal, and are still pondering whether we should turn this into a direct investigation of you and appoint a special prosecutor…'

But, let's not forget, the misuse of incriminating information, for the purpose of blackmail, does not turn the practitioner of the wrongful deed into a victim, nor does it make the wrongful criminal deed less wrong. Instead of spinning the story, taking away attention from the facts in hand, and making Harman a victim, we must focus on this case, on Harman, as an example of a very serious disease that has infected our Congress for far too long. Those who have been entrusted with the oversight and accountability of our government cannot do so if they are vulnerable to such blackmail from the very same people they are overseeing…Period.

Those who have been elected to represent the people and their interests cannot pursue their own greed and ambitions by engaging in criminal or unethical activities against the interests of the same people they've sworn to represent, and then be given a pass.

As for far-reaching ties such as Harman's stand on torture, or a specific beef with former CIA Director Porter Goss, or wild shots from the hip in bringing up mafia-like characters such as Dusty Foggo; please don't make us laugh! Are we talking about the same Hawkish Pro-Secrecy Jane Harman here?! Harman's staunch support of NSA Wiretapping of Americans, the FISA Amendment of 2008, the Patriot ACT, the War on Iraq, and many other activities on the Civil Liberties' No-No list, is widely recognized by almost everyone, apparently, but the authors of the recent apologist spin.

And, let's not forget to add her own long-term cozy relationship with AIPAC, and the large donations she's received from various other AIPAC-related pro-Israeli PACs. To these certain 'wannabe' journalists, driven by far from pure agenda(s), shame on you; as for honor-worthy vigilant activists out there: watch out for these impostors with their newly gained popularity among those tainted in Washington, and take a hard look at whose agendas they are serving as a mouthpiece for.

Despite a certain degree of exposure, cases such as Harman's and Hastert's, involving corruption of public officials, seem to meet the same dead-end. Criminal conduct, by powerful foreign entities, against our national interest, is given a pass, as was recently proven by the abandonment of the AIPAC spy case. The absence of real investigative journalism and the pattern of blackout by our mainstream media seem now to have been almost universally accepted as a fact of life.

Pursuit of cases such as mine, via cosmetically available channels, has been, and continues to be proven futile for whistleblowers.

Therefore, you may want to ask, why in the world am I writing this piece? Because more and more people --- although not nearly enough --- are coming to the realization that our system is rotten at it's core; that in many cases we have been trying to deal with the symptoms rather than the cause.

I, like many others, believed that changing the Congressional majority in 2006 was going to bring about some of the needed changes; the pursuit of accountability being one. We were proven wrong. In 2008, many genuinely bought in to the promise of change, and thus far, they've been let down.

These experiences are disheartening, surely, but they are also eye-opening. I do see many vigilant activists who continue the fight. As long as that's the case, there is hope. More people realize that real change will require not replacing one or two or three, but many more. More people are coming to understand that the road to achieving government of the people passes through a Congress, but not the one currently occupied by the many crusty charlatans who represent only self-interest --- achieved by representing the interests of the few, rather than the majority of the people of this nation. And so I write.

Here I go again, rather than ending this in a long paragraph or two, I will let another long-gone man do it shortly and effectively: "If we have Senators and Congressmen there that can't protect themselves against the evil temptations of lobbyists, we don't need to change our lobbies, we need to change our representatives." - Will Rogers

Sibel Edmonds is a former FBI translator and noted whistleblower who has been under a years-long "gag order", prohibiting her from discussing many details of her allegations of corruption and espionage gleaned during her time at the FBI, due to the continuing "States Secrets privilege" assertions by the Executive Branch. Her own story has been partially documented over the last several years in several different media outlets, including a lead story on CBS' 60 Minutes, a detailed feature in Vanity Fair and, over the years, in a number of exclusive articles here at The BRAD BLOG. She is the Founder and President of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition.


Tea Parties Forever | By PAUL KRUGMAN | Published: April 12, 2009

This is a column about Republicans — and I’m not sure I should even be writing it.

Paul Krugman

Go to Columnist Page »Blog: The Conscience of a Liberal


Readers shared their thoughts on this article.  Read All Comments (414) »

Today’s G.O.P. is, after all, very much a minority party. It retains some limited ability to obstruct the Democrats, but has no ability to make or even significantly shape policy.

Beyond that, Republicans have become embarrassing to watch. And it doesn’t feel right to make fun of crazy people. Better, perhaps, to focus on the real policy debates, which are all among Democrats.

But here’s the thing: the G.O.P. looked as crazy 10 or 15 years ago as it does now. That didn’t stop Republicans from taking control of both Congress and the White House. And they could return to power if the Democrats stumble. So it behooves us to look closely at the state of what is, after all, one of our nation’s two great political parties.

One way to get a good sense of the current state of the G.O.P., and also to see how little has really changed, is to look at the “tea parties” that have been held in a number of places already, and will be held across the country on Wednesday. These parties — ant taxation demonstrations that are supposed to evoke the memory of the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution — have been the subject of considerable mockery, and rightly so.

But everything that critics mock about these parties has long been standard practice within the Republican Party.

Thus, President Obama is being called a “socialist” who seeks to destroy capitalism. Why? Because he wants to raise the tax rate on the highest-income Americans back to, um, about 10 percentage points less than it was for most of the Reagan administration. Bizarre.

But the charge of socialism is being thrown around only because “liberal” doesn’t seem to carry the punch it used to. And if you go back just a few years, you find top Republican figures making equally bizarre claims about what liberals were up to. Remember when Karl Rove declared that liberals wanted to offer “therapy and understanding” to the 9/11 terrorists?

Then there are the claims made at some recent tea-party events that Mr. Obama wasn’t born in America, which follow on earlier claims that he is a secret Muslim. Crazy stuff — but nowhere near as crazy as the claims, during the last Democratic administration, that the Clintons were murderers, claims that were supported by a campaign of innuendo on the part of big-league conservative media outlets and figures, especially Rush Limbaugh.

Speaking of Mr. Limbaugh: the most impressive thing about his role right now is the fealty he is able to demand from the rest of the right. The abject apologies he has extracted from Republican politicians who briefly dared to criticize him have been right out of Stalinist show trials. But while it’s new to have a talk-radio host in that role, ferocious party discipline has been the norm since the 1990s, when Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, became known as “The Hammer” in part because of the way he took political retribution on opponents.

Going back to those tea parties, Mr. DeLay, a fierce opponent of the theory of evolution — he famously suggested that the teaching of evolution led to the Columbine school massacre — also foreshadowed the denunciations of evolution that have emerged at some of the parties.

Last but not least: it turns out that the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.

But that’s nothing new, and AstroTurf has worked well for Republicans in the past. The most notable example was the “spontaneous” riot back in 2000 — actually orchestrated by G.O.P. strategists — that shut down the presidential vote recount in Florida’s Miami-Dade County.

So what’s the implication of the fact that Republicans are refusing to grow up, the fact that they are still behaving the same way they did when history seemed to be on their side? I’d say that it’s good for Democrats, at least in the short run — but it’s bad for the country.

For now, the Obama administration gains a substantial advantage from the fact that it has no credible opposition, especially on economic policy, where the Republicans seem particularly clueless.

But as I said, the G.O.P. remains one of America’s great parties, and events could still put that party back in power. We can only hope that Republicans have moved on by the time that happens.

She said she meets with congressional leaders regularly through NEA. The Ohio leaders she planned to meet with are Sens. Sherrod Brown, possibly George Voinovich, and Ohio Reps. Dennis Kucinich, Marcy Kaptur and Betty Sutton. "I think it's the coolest thing ever," Mowen said about the proposing of the ... Are you voting in the Portage County elections? Absolutely. It's important to be involved. I would but I'm not registered in this county. No. What election? Submit Vote ...
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40 Million Nonbelievers in America? The Secret Is Almost Out

By Ronald AronsonReligion Dispatches. Posted May 5, 2009.


Secularists have very quietly become one of America’s largest minorities -- how long before they use their power?

As reported recently in the New York Times, a South Carolina chapter of Habitat for Humanity prohibited a group of Secular Humanist volunteers from wearing their “Non-Prophet Organization” T-shirts; a Charleston-area teacher “came out” as a nonbeliever after years of church dinners and demurrals; and Humanist Loretta Haskell struggled over her role as a church musician. While such stories remain commonplace, a related story with a substantial bearing on these anecdotes is one of America’s best-kept secrets. 

A recent Newsweek cover—in a bid to (finally) match the celebrated 1966 “Is God Dead?” cover of Time—read, in the shape of a cross: “The Decline and Fall of Christian America.” Editor Jon Meacham’s story highlights Newsweek’s latest poll results showing that 10% fewer Americans identify as Christian today than twenty years ago. But more importantly, and mentioned only in passing, is the growth among atheists and secularists of all stripes.

According to the latest American Religious Identification Survey(ARIS) of more than 54,000 adults, between 2001 and 2008 the number willing to identify themselves as atheist and agnostic has gone from under 2 million to 3.6 million. Small numbers compared to the whole, of course, but most notably it’s a rise of 85% of those willing to describe themselves as living without God during the years of our most overtly religious presidency!

Even more newsworthy, when the widely-scorned labels “atheist” and “agnostic” are replaced with specifics about beliefs (“There is no such thing” as God, “There is no way to know,” or “I’m not sure,” and added to those who refused to answer) it turns out that over eighteen percent of Americans do not profess belief in a God or a higher power.

According to ARIS, then, there could be as many as 40 million adult nonbelievers in the United States!

Personal God Going the Way of the Dodo?

Consider: If these numbers are correct, nonbelievers amount to more than the highest estimates of African Americans or gays. Secularists are one of America’s largest minorities. It is no longer possible to proclaim, as the Gallup Poll announced fifty years ago: “Nearly all Americans believe in God.” That is today’s most significant change.

So what explains the impressive increase among those willing to identify as atheist or agnostic? For those who think that books and ideas simply don’t matter, it is dramatic tribute to the success of the “new atheist” writers—including Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens. To paraphrase the title of Dennett’s book, their goal has been to “break the spell” of religion—and they have evidently helped more Americans “achieve” that goal.

If a new confidence is in the offing it is also visible in the American Humanist Association’s scandalous Christmastime bus ads in Washington DC (“Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.”). No less striking is the “Out” campaign (“Come Out,” “Reach Out,” “Speak Out,” “Keep Out,” “Stand Out,”) especially among students and young people.

One of the few writers who has paid attention to these phenomena, Konstantin Petrenko, writing for Religion Dispatches, does so in order to dismiss them [see “Godless America? Say Hello to the ‘Apatheists’,” March 19, 2009]. He stresses the discrepancy between those embracing the “atheist” or “agnostic” label and those who describe themselves as not believing in God. “It appears that most of the unaffiliated individuals are not atheistic or anti-religious in any activist sense, but are rather apathetic toward organized religion and reluctant to join any particular denomination or sect.”

True enough, but the same can be said of most religious believers. This is no reason to downplay the fact that so many have clearly fallen away from religion—that is, they live their lives without any sort of God. Nor can we ignore ARIS’s statement that the six percent of Americans who refuse to answer the question about their beliefs “tend to somewhat resemble ‘Nones’ in their social profile and beliefs.” Which means, according to ARIS’s most striking conclusion: “The U.S. population continues to show signs of becoming less religious, with one in five Americans failing to indicate a religious identity in 2008.”

Furthermore, among those who do, over 12% of the total sample describe their belief in ways that ARIS concludes are “deistic (a higher power but no personal God).” One in eight American believers are as religious as... Thomas Paine. Those who continue to believe in a traditional Jewish, Christian, or Muslim personal god have dropped to under seventy percent of the American population. Despite all efforts to ignore or minimize this, it is big news.

Moments of Prayer into Moments of Silence

And the discrepancy between those willing to be public and open about their religious disbelief and those who are not is also big news. Among nonbelievers, judging from my discussions with hundreds of them over the past several months, many are not “new atheists” (militantly doing battle with religion) but are, inPeter Steinfels’ terminology, “new new atheists.” These people are not primarily concerned with arguing against the belief in God, but are trying to find ways of coexisting in a society in which both nonbelievers and believers can expect to be around for a long time to come. They shy away from labels as they seek their own bearings and their own comfort zone in today’s America.

Secularists welcomed President Obama’s shout-out to nonbelievers during his inaugural address, but are painfully aware that when launching his campaign he criticized them for trying to keep religion out of the public square, but not the religious right for its attempts to erase the line between church and state.

They worry, along with Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, that Obama’s renewal of the Bush Faith-Based Initiative in the new Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships has not ruled out proselytizing and discriminatory hiring for religious social service programs that are granted Federal dollars. And they wince when recalling that he subjected himself to the informal religious test of being drilled like a catechism pupil by Rick Warren on his own particular way of believing in Jesus Christ (the same Rick Warren who announced that he would never vote for an atheist for president).

Above all, rather than combating religious belief at every turn, many nonbelievers would cheer if the President initiated a genuinely multicultural approach to both believers and secularists in today’s America. This might entail, as was not done at the Democratic National Convention last August, inviting secularists as well as believers to platforms that normally exclude the irreligious (i.e. the “values and unity” event preceding the Convention that was exclusively for religious believers). It might entail as much political attention being paid to nonbelievers as believers at public events—transforming moments of prayer into moments of silence. In other words, it would mean abandoning the implicit assumption of so much of American public and private life that religious values, norms and practices apply to everyone—and show respect to American’s enormous nonreligious minority.


How We Know That Christianity Is Not True

Modern textual criticism has shown that no part of the New Testament was written by anyone who actually knew a pre-crucifixion Jesus1—if Jesus ever existed as a human being at all. We know this because of things like basic errors in geography and local customs that would be impossible for anyone that actually traveled where Jesus did to make. We also know that after a period of oral tradition there were many gospels and they were circulated without names. The names the accepted gospels were eventually given were only second century guesses—and of course we can show now that they guessed wrong.


That being said, if we place the works of the New Testament in the order that they were written (for our purposes: the works of Paul, Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John) as opposed to the order in which they were preserved, we can actually see the process of mythologization happening. Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong explores this in the fifth and sixth chapters of his book A New Christianity for a New World. As time goes on we see the resurrection transform from synonymous with the crucifixion and ascension and with no specific mention of a physical resurrection (or an empty tomb) to a distinct event and a definite physical resurrection, Jesus’s conception go from normal to divine, the miracles move from nonexistent to possibly merely symbolic (Spong found that the gospels of Mark and Matthew mapped onto the Jewish liturgical calendar and seemed to have been written to correspond to different celebrations during the year) to actual claims of miracles and then to more elaborate and miraculous claims, and Jesus go from a man to a powerful prophet to a godlike being. Spong concludes that:

“…we can see clearly the progress in the developing supernatural nature of Christ as we follow the evolution of the early Christian scriptures. Paul set the stage for that progress with his movement from his first acclamation that in Christ God was 'reconciling the world to himself' (2 Cor. 5:19) to his later interpretation that God had declared Jesus to be God’s son, by the Spirit of Holiness, at the time of the resurrection (Rom. 1:1-4). Next Mark declared that God had made Jesus God’s son not at the resurrection but at the baptism (Mark1:1-11). Then Matthew and Luke moved the decisive moment when Jesus was recognized as God to the conception (Matt. 1-2; Luke 1-2). Finally the idea of the enfleshment of the preexistent word or Logos emerged as John’s way of portraying the meaning of Jesus’ life. Jesus’ humanity faded with each evolutionary step, while his divinity was heightened. His capture by the prevailing God-definition became increasingly accepted.” (Spong, 109-10)

Jesus’s personality also evolved with each retelling, as Dr. William Abruzzi explains:

“Jesus is portrayed in Mark and Matthew as a prophet primarily to the Jews, while he is presented as a prophet to Jew and Gentile alike in Luke, and as the savior of all mankind in John. (Mark and Matthew were Jews, whereas Luke and John were Gentiles.) It is in the first two gospels, for example, that Jesus refuses to cure a Syrophonecian woman's daughter because the woman is a Gentile (Mark vii:24-30; Matthew xv:21-28), and it is in Matthew (x:5-6) that he explicitly instructs his apostles not to preach among the Samaritans but to preach only among the Jews. In contrast, it is in Luke (ix:55) that Jesus restrains James and John, 'The Sons of Thunder,' from destroying a Samaritan village because its residents refuse to let Jesus preach there. We also see the parable of the 'Good Samaritan' only in Luke (x:30), as well as the story of Jesus curing 10 people in which only the Samaritan returns to thank him (Luke xvii:16-17). And, finally, in John (iv:9-10, 22-23), Jesus shares a cup of water with a Samaritan woman and tells her that she will be with him in heaven. Later, when the woman tells other Samaritans about Jesus, they invite Jesus to stay in their village, which (in direct contradiction to Mark and Matthew) he does for two days. They also immediately believe in Jesus as the messiah, so charismatic is his presence (iv:39-40), again in direct contrast to Mark and Matthew where Jesus's message is rejected by his contemporaries, Jew and Samaritan alike.”


The movie The God Who Wasn’t There has this to say about Paul, the first confirmed Christian writer:

“Paul wrote lots of letters about Christianity. In fact, he wrote eighty thousand words about the Christian religion. These documents represent almost all we have of the history of Christianity during this decades-long gap.2 And here's the interesting thing. If Jesus was a human who had recently lived, nobody told Paul. Paul never heard of Mary, Joseph, Bethlehem, Herod, John the Baptist. He never heard about any of these miracles. He never quotes anything that Jesus is supposed to have said. He never mentions Jesus having a ministry of any kind at all. He doesn't know about any entrance into Jerusalem, he never mentions Pontius Pilate or a Jewish mob or any trials at all. Paul doesn't know any of what we would call the story of Jesus, except for these last three events [crucifixion, resurrection, ascension]. And even these, Paul never places on Earth. Just like the other savior gods of the time, Paul's Christ Jesus died, rose, and ascended all in a mythical realm. Paul doesn't believe that Jesus was ever a human being. He's not even aware of the idea. And he's the link between the time-frame given for the life of Jesus and the appearance of the first Gospel account of that life.”


Scholar Richard Carrier reviews the details of these claims here:


For the better part of two thousand years, the majority of scholars have just assumed that there had to be an historical Jesus at the base of Christianity. Mythicist arguments have been largely laughed out as being absurd instead of actually being treated seriously. Recently, Luigi Cascioli and Earl Doherty have made modern attempts to articulate the mythicist position, and would seem to have paid more careful attention to the details in the evidence than the historicists ever had. I will get to Casioli shortly, but first, Doherty. Earl Doherty wrote a book called The Jesus Puzzle in which he argues that Christianity is more likely to have started without a single founder and that the Jesus character was a later mythical creation. Carrier reviewed Doherty’s book and concluded that Doherty’s theory is at least as coherent with all the data that we have as the historical Jesus theory. Do we know for sure whether or not there was an historical Jesus at Christianity’s founding? No we do not. But what is perhaps more important, and what we do know for sure, is that the Jesus persona that is presented to us through Christianity is so clothed by the philosophy and mythology of others that whether there is a man or a mannequin beneath the costume is practically irrelevant—either way it is only a prop for an imaginary character that we know did not actually exist.


The earliest records we have attesting to an experience of the resurrection are from Paul, and he describes his experience as being on par with those of the other “Christians” (technically the original “Christian” groups did not call themselves Christians and remained observant members of Judaism). Yet Paul’s experience of the resurrection is notably spiritual, and not physical, in nature. He did not sit down to supper with Jesus. He did not talk to Jesus face to face. Rather, he describes seeing a light and hearing a voice. This, by the way, is not an uncommon experience for individuals that suffer from epileptic seizures, as Paul likely did. But even if his experiences were not merely hallucinatory and he actually did make contact with spiritual forces, what are we left with? Paul, essentially, saw a ghost.3 Cross-culturally, reports of this kind of thing happen all the time—across all cultures, and across all eras. There is nothing at all unique about Jesus’s case. This type of experience might be particularly jarring for individuals coming from a Jewish background that traditionally rejected the belief in the existence of a soul independent of a physical body, but the experience itself is relatively common. Reports of physically interacting with a Jesus who had a physically resurrected body (as well as finding an empty tomb) do not come into the tradition until much later, and the later in the tradition we look, the more stories saying that the resurrection had happened physically we are offered. It seems clear that this is just more of the tall tale, “big fish” phenomena that we see occurring with everything else in the Christian story.


Paul never says that Jesus is God. He also never says that Jesus was a man who actually lived. At the time that Christianity became popular, there were many pagan savior religions—some if not all of which predate Christianity by a substantial period of time. Although the concept of a God-Man that dies and restores humanity in some spiritual sense is not found anywhere in Judaism, it is found in abundance in pagan mythology. It arose, like all pagan concepts, out of an appreciation for and observation of nature. The concepts of the seasonal rhythm—the harvest (“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”—John 12:24), the archetypal connection between food from the fields nourishing the body and the body nourishing the fields (And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."—Luke 22:19), the rise and fall of the Nile, the waxing and waning of the moon, and the daylight hours growing longer and shorter—all contribute to this image of a cycle of degeneration followed by regeneration and the idea that through sacrificing something, something else could be restored. This produced the idea of the Son/Sun dying and entering into the Mother/Earth to be restored and reborn. Christianity’s lead rival at the time of its ascension to power was Mithraism. Mithra was a sun god closely tied to Helios and Apollo. He had all sorts of things about his life that made particular sense because he was a sun god. For instance: he was born December 25 (the day of the winter solstice on the old Roman calendar, after which daylight hours begin to lengthen), he had 12 disciples (representing the 12 signs of the zodiac around the sun), his feast day was on Sunday (because he was a sun god), and he ascended to heaven around the time of the spring equinox (at the midpoint of the lengthening of daylight hours). All of these facts later became about Jesus’s life, though they make considerably less sense for him.



Mithraism may very well have become the main religion of Europe if it had not been for Constantine. As Paul Tobin points out, Constantine adopted Christianity when it was practically dying out. If you read Crises in European History by Gustav Bang (available free online) you will learn about how economically Rome was faltering at this point and it needed something that would encourage large masses of people to live meagerly and be obedient to authority. Christianity served this purpose well. It was Constantine’s decision to deify Jesus. This took place at the Nicene council, against the will of many of the bishops—though Constantine ordered banishment for any that did not comply. In the whole of the New Testament, Jesus never claims to be God. Not once.4 The closest thing we get to this is in John—the last written and least reliable of the Gospels—in which Jesus is recorded as saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. None come to the father but through me.” Yet while the “I am” suggests a proclamation of some form of divinity, Jesus specifically does not claim to be the incarnation of God. Even where Jesus says “I and the father are one,” again in John, this is ambiguous. One in what sense? Spiritually one? One in terms of action? Yet these are such essential proclamations to Christianity that if Jesus really said them, we would expect them to be found in every version of the Christian story—not just the last. And many pagan saviors said very similar words to these before there ever was a Jesus. In the whole of the New Testament, no one ever claims that Jesus is God. The closest thing to this that we come is, again, John stating that Jesus is God’s “only begotten son,” yet this, again, is not even the equivalent of saying that Jesus is God, and this kind of statement is not found anywhere except John—the last written and least reliable of the Gospels. And why? Why would such an essential aspect of Christian theology as John 3:16 be found only in John if it were really original to the Christian story? If it really were original to the Christian story and not a later theological invention, we would expect to find it everywhere—we don't. John is the only one that says these kinds of things.


Type “Gustav Bang” into Google, and then once you've found the book Crises in European History, search inside for “The Rise of Christianity.”

Of the many pagan savior figures of antiquity, I will provide for brevity’s sake but two more examples. Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome, was considered a God-Man. Scholar Richard Carrier has this to say about Romulus:

“Romulus is another unmistakable example—and one whose pageant of incarnation and ascension was publicly celebrated in Rome in the 1st centuries BC and AD, without any doubt (we have it from Livy, Ovid, Plutarch, etc.). He is a heavenly being who descends, incarnates on earth, establishes an empire, is killed by a conspiracy of leaders, resurrects, and ascends back to heaven. However, unlike Plutarch's "true" Osiris, this is a literal historical event and takes place on earth”


There is also Horus who was worshiped thousands of years before Jesus and the stories of whom were circulated hundreds of years before. The gospel accounts of Jesus share a number of points of similarity with the stories of Horus.


No historian contemporary with Jesus so much as mentions him—even historians that go into painstaking detail to chronicle the would be prophets and messiahs of the time.5 In addition, the name Jesus sends up a bit of a red flag. Jesus (more properly, Yeshua) literally means “Yahweh Saves” and is thus likely to be being used here as a title, though it is also an actual name. Christos, of course, means “anointed one”—the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Mashiach” from which the English messiah comes. And thus the title “Jesus Christ” ties together the idea of a pagan God-Man savior and the Jewish idea of a messiah. The Jewish idea of a messiah is very different from the Christian idea, however, and Jesus fails to fulfill the Jewish criteria for the messiah laid out by the “Old Testament” (see the link to “Jews for Judaism” below for an explanation as to why this is the case).


One of the first Jewish messiahs, and the model for those to come, was the legendary King David, who was said to have arose from humble beginnings, been victorious on the battlefield against great odds, and established the first and greatest Jewish Empire. In the time of the Roman occupation of Israel, some Jewish groups believed that God would send them another militant messiah to destroy the Romans and establish the “Kingdom of God”—not an ethereal kingdom, but the very terrestrial Holy Jewish Empire. This, and nothing besides, is what was meant by messiah and what the Jews had prophecies concerning. At the time surrounding Jesus’s alleged life there were many Jewish warriors who claimed to be the messiah. All of the prophecies concerning messiahs in the “Old Testament” corresponded with actual wars of liberation and real life military messiahs. All the alleged messiahs failed, however. None of them overthrew the Romans or established the Holy Jewish Empire. Jesus, if he existed at all, was most likely another failed military messiah who was tried for inciting a riot (attacking the moneychangers in the temple during Passover, a terrorist action and one of the few events that are recorded in all four of the Gospel stories) and executed by the method reserved for terrorists against Rome—crucifixion. His followers continued in his tradition (or a religious sect created him to sanctify their tradition), lead by his (physical or spiritual) brother James. The original Jewish Christian groups were mostly destroyed along with other rebel groups and the Jewish Temple in 70 CE as the Romans crushed the Jewish rebellion. Those few Jewish Christians that escaped and survived were eventually destroyed by Pauline Christians as heretics—though they, remaining closer to the original tradition, had always considered the Pauline Christians the heretics.


As Cascioli points out, while no historian mentions Jesus, there is a line of messianic figures in history, of which Judas the Gualonite is the most important verified one for our considerations. It is Judas's eldest son, who Cascioli refers to as “John of Gamala” (though his circumcision name has been lost to us), that Cascioli believes to be the historical basis for Jesus. Cascioli asserts that John lived in the same area that Jesus was supposed to have lived, at the same time that Jesus was supposed to have lived, and had disciples with the same names that Jesus was supposed to have had. But “John of Gamala” was no heavenly savior—he was a violent terrorist. Even so, this might not invalidate him as being the historical basis for Jesus as much as some might think, as a good deal of data seems to suggest that Christianity did indeed start off as a war movement and later expunged most of these elements after the hope of a successful Jewish militant revolt against Rome became unfeasible. Were the facts of John of Gamala’s life incorporated into the story of a mythical Christ figure to serve the purposes of a religious cult that wanted their savior to be written into history? Was John of Gamala himself the founder of Christianity and his name changed to hide the group’s wrathful origins? Was some other poor individual, considered too insignificant by his contemporaries to even be mentioned by historians, the heir to both a mythological and historical tradition? It is not clear. However, whereas the messiah had always meant an earthly savior that would bring about an earthly “Kingdom of God”—that is to say, the Holy Jewish Empire—the Christian groups that existed after the fall of the Jewish temple in 70 CE at the hands of a victorious Rome against a defeated Jewish insurgency, whatever their origin, had good reason to make their “messiah” and “kingdom” a peaceful and spiritual one—as well as make themselves look pro-Roman and anti-Jew. Dr. Abruzzi does a good job discussing the evidence for this on his website, the link for which is below. A “mostly harmless” article also discusses this and sites excellent sources. One can also read Marvin Harris’s book Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches in which he discusses the militant messiah issue. Or you can see Monty Python’s The Life of Brian in which they do a fairly good, and entertaining, job of discussing this issue. P.S.—Brian is Jesus.


While both Doherty and Cascioli currently represent minority views in mainstream scholarship, they would appear to have put a great deal of very detailed research together in support of their positions. And again, simply being in the minority does not render a position inaccurate. If anything, the longtime dogmatic insistence on the historicist position, its support traditionally through coercive physical force, and the emotional weight that the position has gained in general from noncritical tradition and popular opinion, should leave us with an open skepticism about the matter. But again, in the end the issue is somewhat moot, because we do know for a fact that the biblical Jesus is a fiction.

The most scholarly attempt that has ever been made to determine the historical origins of Christianity is currently underway. It is called “The Jesus Project,” it has scholars ranging from deeply historicist to deeply mythicist, and it is dedicated to going wherever the evidence leads. Its first conference was held in December 2008. Its meetings are open to the public and will be held roughly every nine months for five years. It will publish the papers presented at its conferences regularly through Prometheus Books. The world eagerly await its conclusions.



1 The reason I say “pre-crucifixion Jesus” is because I won't rule out the possibility of “visions,” but such a methodology—being indistinguishable (at least from the outside) from hallucinations or even one's personal imaginings—places Christianity on equal ground with every other “mythological history” in the world.

2 Jesus’s Alleged Crucifixion: Circa 33 CE. Time frame within which the various gospels were written: Mark: 70-105 CE, Matthew: 90-110 CE, Luke: 95-140 CE, John: 90-140 CE. These ranges represent the best estimates of mainstream scholarship and there is not enough data concerning the gospels for us to narrow these ranges.

3 Then again, even granting these spiritual visions may be allowing too much, because they take Paul’s discussions at face value. Cascioli and Edmund Bordeaux Szekely (who I will discuss more in a later article) argue that all of Paul's letters were literary inventions, first by Marcion and then by others (we know that not all of Paul’s letters were written by the same person: http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/epistles.html). Saul of Taurus was supposedly a persecutor of Christians before he converted and changed his name to Paul—but as Szekely points out, the Church’s traditional chronology has Paul convert less than a year after Christ’s crucifixion—not very long for Christians to establish themselves, let alone for Saul to persecute them. Szekely goes on to argue that Saul never converted, but rather continued till his death fighting the Messianic terrorists that had followed the Christ (messiah) figure “John of Gamala,” who Szekely and Cascioli argue was the historical half of the Jesus-Christ invention.

4 Jesus does say many things that are easily taken out of context—millennia later. The term “Son of Man” was a colloquial expression at the time which meant “I, myself.” The term “Son of God” meant simply a holy man. “Your sins are forgiven you,” was something priests would say, and it meant simply, “I stand witness before God that you have repented”—a practice that should be not at all unfamiliar to anyone who has heard of the sacrament of confession or attended a healing by faith. Are these priests and ministers claiming to be God? No. But they are standing as representatives of God—and the Jesus character saw himself as doing exactly the same. Tobin is indispensable for going over these matters in depth on his website, and thus, as always, making the knowledge of mainline scholarship easily accessible to everyone:

5 All alleged references to Jesus (like those in Josephus) have been shown to be either forgeries or irrelevant (the authors referring to later followers of a Jesus figure and not being in a position to know how the movement actually started). Some Christians have tried to claim that the forgeries are only partially forgeries, but it is generally appreciated by scholars that they are actually total forgeries:http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/sources.html

If you identify with the message of this article, please email it to people, tell your friends, even print out copies to pass around. Together we can raise awareness. Thank you.


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