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Top Censored Press Stories of 2008

Project Censored specializes in covering the top stories which were subjected to press censorship either by being ignored or downplayed by the mainstream media each year. Project Censored is a research team composed of more than 200 university faculty, students, and community experts who annually review between 700 and 1,000 news story submissions for coverage, content, reliability of sources, and national significance. The top 25 stories selected are submitted to a distinguished panel of judges who then rank them in order of importance. The results are published each year in an excellent book available for purchase at their website, amazon.com, and most major book stores.

A summary of last year's top 25 media censorship stories provided below proves quite revealing and most informative. After the headline of each news story is a link for those who want to read the entire article. For whatever reason the major media won't report these major stories. Thanks to the Internet and wonderful, committed groups like Project Censored, the news is getting out to those who want to know. By revealing these examples of media censorship, we can stop the excessive secrecy and work together to build a brighter future. Please help to spread the word, and have a great day!

Note: Thanks to the San Francisco Bay Guardian and Amanda Witherell for use of their summaries.


Top 25 Stories of 2008 Subjected to Press Censorship


1. Over One Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by US Occupation? (For full story, click here)

Nobody knows exactly how many lives the Iraq War has claimed. But even more astounding is that so few journalists have mentioned the issue or cited the top estimate: 1.2 million. During August and September 2007, a British polling group surveyed 2,414 adults in 15 of 18 Iraqi provinces and found that more than 20 percent had experienced at least one war-related death since March 2003. Using common statistical study methods, it determined that as many as 1.2 million people had been killed since the war began. Estimates range wildly and are based on a variety of sources. In October 2006, the British medical journal Lancet published a Johns Hopkins University study vetted by four independent sources that counted 655,000 dead. In January 2008, the World Health Organization and the Iraqi government did door-to-door surveys of nearly 10,000 households and put the number of dead at 151,000. The 1.2 million figure is out there, too, which is higher than the Rwandan genocide death toll and closing in on the 1.7 million who perished in Cambodia's killing fields. It raises questions about the real number of deaths from US aerial bombings and house raids, and challenges the common assumption that this is a war in which Iraqis are killing Iraqis. The Brookings Institute has reported that US troops have, over the past four years, conducted about 100 house raids a day. Brutality during these house searches has been documented (See #9 below). The aggressive "element of surprise" tactics employed by soldiers is likely resulting in several thousands of deaths a day that either go unreported or are categorized as insurgent casualties.

Sources: "Is the United States killing 10,000 Iraqis every month? Or is it more?" Michael Schwartz, After DowningStreet.org, July 6, 2007; "Iraq death toll rivals Rwanda Genocide, Cambodian killing fields," Joshua Holland, AlterNet, Sept. 17, 2007; "Iraq conflict has killed a million: survey," Luke Baker, Reuters, Jan. 30, 2008; "Iraq: Not our country to return to," Maki al-Nazzal and Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service, March 3, 2008.


2. Security and Prosperity Partnership: Militarized NAFTA (For full story, click here)

Coupling the perennial issue of security with Wall Street's measures of prosperity, the leaders of the three North American nations convened the Security and Prosperity Partnership. The White House-led initiative — launched at a March 23, 2005, meeting of President Bush, Mexico's then-president Vicente Fox, and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin — joins beefed-up commerce with coordinated military operations to promote what it calls "borderless unity." Critics call it "NAFTA on steroids." However, unlike NAFTA, the SPP was formed in secret, without public input. "The SPP is not a law, or a treaty, or even a signed agreement," Laura Carlsen wrote in a report for the Center for International Policy. "All these would require public debate and participation of Congress, both of which the SPP has scrupulously avoided." Instead the SPP has a special workgroup: the North American Competitiveness Council [NACC]. It's a coalition of private companies that are, according to the SPP website, "adding high-level business input [that] will assist governments in enhancing North America's competitive position and engage the private sector as partners in finding solutions." The NACC includes the Chevron Corporation, Ford Motor Company, General Electric, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Merck, Procter & Gamble Co., and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. A look at NAFTA's unpopularity among citizens in all three nations is evidence of why its expansion would need to be disguised. "It's a scheme to create a borderless North American Union under US control without barriers to trade and capital flows for corporate giants, mainly US ones," wrote Steven Lendman in Global Research.

Sources: "Deep Integration," Laura Carlsen, Center for International Policy, May 30, 2007; "The Militarization and Annexation of North America," Stephen Lendman, Global Research, July 19, 2007; "The North American Union," Constance Fogal, Global Research, Aug. 2, 2007.


3. InfraGard: The FBI Deputizes Business (For full story, click here)

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have effectively deputized 23,000 members of the business community, asking them to tip off the feds in exchange for preferential treatment in the event of a crisis. "The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does — and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials," Matthew Rothschild wrote in the March 2008 issue of The Progressive. InfraGard was created in 1996. Membership now includes 350 of the nation's Fortune 500 companies. The group's 86 chapters coordinate with 56 FBI field offices nationwide. While FBI Director Robert Mueller has said he considers this segment of the private sector "the first line of defense," the American Civil Liberties Union issued a grave warning about the potential for abuse. "There is evidence that InfraGard may be closer to a corporate TIPS program, turning private-sector corporations ... into surrogate eyes and ears for the FBI. The FBI should not be creating a privileged class of Americans who get special treatment," stated Jay Stanley, public education director of the ACLU's technology and liberty program. And they are privileged: a DHS spokesperson told Rothschild that InfraGard members receive special training and readiness exercises. They're also privy to protected information that is usually shielded from disclosure under the trade secrets provision of the Freedom of Information Act. The information they have may be of critical importance to the general public, but first it goes to the privileged membership

Source: "The FBI deputizes business," Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive, Feb. 7, 2008.


4. ILEA: Is the US Restarting Dirty Wars in Latin America? (For full story, click here)

The School of the Americas [SOA] earned an unsavory reputation in Latin America after many graduates of the Fort Benning, Ga., facility turned into counterinsurgency death squad leaders. The International Law Enforcement Academy recently installed by the Unites States in El Salvador — which looks, acts, and smells like the SOA — is also drawing scorn. The school is funded with $3.6 million from the US Treasury and staffed with instructors from the DEA, ICE, and FBI. It's tasked with training 1,500 police officers, judges, prosecutors, and other law enforcement agents in counterterrorism techniques per year. It's stated purpose is to make Latin America "safe for foreign investment" by "providing regional security and economic stability and combating crime." ILEAs aren't new, but past schools located in Hungary, Thailand, Botswana, and Roswell, N.M., haven't been terribly controversial. Salvadoran human rights organizers take issue with the fact that, in true SOA fashion, the ILEA releases neither information about its curriculum nor a list of students and graduates. Additionally, the way the school slipped into existence without public oversight has raised ire. As Wes Enzinna noted in a North American Congress on Latin America report, "Members of the US Congress were not briefed about the academy, nor was the main opposition party in El Salvador." Now, after more than three years in operation, critics point out that Salvadoran police, who account for 25 percent of the graduates, have become more violent. A May 2007 report by Tutela Legal implicated Salvadoran National Police (PNC) officers in eight death squad–style assassinations in 2006.

Sources: "Exporting US 'Criminal Justice' to Latin America," "Community in Solidarity with the people of El Salvador,"Upside Down World, June 14, 2007; "Another SOA?" Wes Enzinna, NACLA Report on the Americas, March/April 2008; "ILEA funding approved by Salvadoran right wing legislators,"CISPES, March 15, 2007; "Is George Bush restarting Latin America's 'dirty wars?'" Benjamin Dangl, AlterNet, Aug. 31, 2007.


5. Seizing War Protesters’ Assets (For full story, click here)

Protesting war could get you into big trouble, according to a critical read of two executive orders recently signed by President Bush. The first, issued July 17, 2007, and titled, "Blocking property of certain persons who threaten stabilization efforts in Iraq," allows the feds to seize assets from anyone who "directly or indirectly" poses a risk to the US war in Iraq. And, citing the modern technological ease of transferring funds and assets, the order states that no prior notice is necessary before the raid. On Aug. 1, Bush signed another order, similar but directed toward anyone undermining the "sovereignty of Lebanon or its democratic processes and institutions." In this case, the Secretary of the Treasury can seize the assets of anyone perceived as posing a risk of violence, as well as the assets of their spouses and dependents, and bans them from receiving any humanitarian aid. Critics say the orders bypass the right to due process and the vague language makes manipulation and abuse possible. Protesting the war could be perceived as undermining or threatening US efforts in Iraq. "This is so sweeping, it's staggering," said Bruce Fein, a former Reagan administration official in the Justice Department who editorialized against it in the Washington Times. "It expands beyond terrorism, beyond seeking to use violence or the threat of violence to cower or intimidate a population."

Sources: "Bush executive order: Criminalizing the antiwar movement," Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, July 2007; "Bush's executive order even worse than the one on Iraq," Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive, August 2007.


6. The Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act (For full story, click here)

On Oct. 23, 2007, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed — by a vote of 404-6 — the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act," designed to root out the causes of radicalization in Americans. With an estimated four-year cost of $22 million, the act establishes a 10-member National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism. The bill's author, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Los Angeles) said, "Free speech, espousing even very radical beliefs, is protected by our Constitution. But violent behavior is not." In a later press release Harman stated: "the National Commission [will] propose to both Congress and [DHS Secretary Michael] Chertoff initiatives to intercede before radicalized individuals turn violent." Which could be when they're speaking, writing, and organizing in ways that are protected by the First Amendment. This redefines civil disobedience as terrorism, say civil rights experts, and the wording is too vague. "What is an extremist belief system? Who defines this? These are broad definitions that encompass so much. It is criminalizing thought and ideology," said Alejandro Queral, executive director of the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center in Portland, Ore. The story didn't make it onto the CNN ticker, but enough independent sources reported on it that the equivalent Senate Bill 1959 has since stalled. After introducing the bill, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.), later joined forces with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on a report criticizing the Internet as a tool for violent Islamic extremism.

Sources: "Bringing the war on terrorism home," Jessica Lee, Indypendent, Nov. 16, 2007; "Examining the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act," Lindsay Beyerstein, In These Times, Nov. 2007; "The Violent Radicalization Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007," Matt Renner, Truthout, Nov. 20, 2007.


7. Guest Workers Inc.: Fraud and Human Trafficking (For full story, click here)

Every year, about 121,000 people legally enter the United States to work with H-2 visas, a program legislators are touting as part of future immigration reform. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) called this guest worker program "the closest thing I've ever seen to slavery." The Southern Poverty Law Center likened it to "modern day indentured servitude." They interviewed thousands of guest workers and reviewed legal cases for a report released in March 2007, which concluded "Unlike US citizens, guest workers do not enjoy the most fundamental protection of a competitive labor market — the ability to change jobs if they are mistreated. If guest workers complain about abuses, they face deportation, blacklisting, or other retaliation." When visas expire, workers must leave the country, hardly making this the path to permanent citizenship legislators are looking for. Still, Mexicans are literally lining up for H-2B status, the stark details of which were reported by Felicia Mello in The Nation. Furthermore, thousands of illegal immigrants are employed throughout the country, providing cheap, unprotected labor and further undermining the scant provisions of the laws. Labor contractors who connect immigrants with employers are stuffing their pockets with cash, while the workers return home with very little money. The Southern Poverty Law Center outlined a list of comprehensive changes needed in the program, concluding, "For too long, our country has benefited from the labor provided by guest workers but has failed to provide a fair system that respects their human rights and upholds the most basic values of our democracy. The time has come for Congress to overhaul our shamefully abusive guest worker system."

Sources: "Close to Slavery," Mary Bauer and Sarah Reynolds, Southern Poverty Law Center, March 2007; "Coming to America," Felicia Mello, The Nation, June 25, 2007; "Trafficking racket," Chidanand Rajghatta, Times of India, March 10, 2008.


8. Executive Orders Can Be Changed Secretly (For full story, click here)

The Bush administration's Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice has been issuing classified legal opinions about surveillance for years. As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) had access to the DOJ opinions on presidential power and had three declassified to show how the judicial branch has, in a bizarre and chilling way, assisted President Bush in circumventing its own power. According to the three memos: "There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order"; "The President, exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, can determine whether an action is a lawful exercise of the President's authority under Article II"; and "The Department of Justice is bound by the President's legal determinations." As Whitehouse rephrased in a Dec. 7, 2007, Senate speech: "I don't have to follow my own rules, and I don't have to tell you when I'm breaking them. I get to determine what my own powers are. The Department of Justice doesn't tell me what the law is. I tell the Department of Justice what the law is." The issue arose within the context of the Protect America Act, which expands government surveillance powers and gives telecom companies legal immunity for helping. Whitehouse, a former US Attorney, legal counsel to Rhode Island's governor, and Rhode Island Attorney General who took office in 2006, went on to point out that Marbury vs. Madison, written by Chief Justice John Marshall in 1803, established that it is "emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is."

Sources: "In FISA Speech, Whitehouse sharply criticizes Bush Administration's assertion of executive power," Sheldon Whitehouse, Dec. 7, 2007; "Down the Rabbit Hole," Marcy Wheeler, The Guardian (UK), Dec. 26, 2007.


9. Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Testify (For full story, click here)

Hearing soldiers recount their war experiences is the closest many people come to understanding the real horror, pain, and confusion of combat. One would think that might make compelling copy or powerful footage for a news outlet. But in March, when more than 300 veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan convened for four days of public testimony on the war, they were largely ignored by the media. Winter Soldier was designed to give soldiers a public forum to air some of the atrocities they witnessed. Winter Soldier was originally convened by Vietnam Vets Against the War in January 1971 when more than 100 Vietnam veterans described their war experiences, including rapes, torture, brutalities, and killing of non-combatants. The testimony was entered into the Congressional Record and shown at the Cannes Film Festival. Iraq Veterans Against the War hosted the 2008 reprise of the 1971 hearings. Former Marine Cpl. Jason Washburn said, "his commanders encouraged lawless behavior. 'We were encouraged to bring 'drop weapons.' In case we accidentally shot a civilian, we could drop the weapon on the body and pretend they were an insurgent.'" Interviews with 50 Iraq war veterans also revealed a general disregard for the traditional rules of war. Though most major news outlets sent staff to cover New York's Fashion Week, few made it to the Winter Soldier hearings. Fortunately, KPFA and Pacifica Radio broadcast the testimonies live. They were "deluged with phone calls, e-mails, and blog posts from service members, veterans, and military families thanking us for breaking a cultural norm of silence about the reality of war." Testimonies can be heard at http://www.ivaw.org/.

Sources: "Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan eyewitness accounts of the occupation,"Iraq Veterans Against the War, March 13-16, 2008; "War comes home," Aaron Glantz, Aimee Allison, and Esther Manilla, Pacifica Radio, March 14-16, 2008; "US Soldiers testify about war crimes," Aaron Glantz, One World, March 19, 2008; "The Other War," Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian, The Nation, July 30, 2007.


10. American Psychological Association Complicit in CIA Torture (Full story here)

Psychologists have been assisting the CIA and US military with interrogation and torture of Guantánamo detainees — which the American Psychological Association [APA] has said is fine, despite objections from many of its 148,000 members. A 10-member APA task force was convened on the divisive issue in July 2005 and found that assistance from psychologists was making the interrogations safe. The task force was criticized by APA members for deliberating in secret, and later it was revealed that six of the 10 participants had ties to the armed services. Not only that, but as Katherine Eban reported in Vanity Fair, "Psychologists, working in secrecy, had actually designed the tactics and trained interrogators in them while on contract to the CIA." In particular, psychologists honed a classified military training program known as SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape] that teaches soldiers how to tough out torture if captured by enemies. Eban's story outlined how SERE tactics were spun as "science" despite a lack of data and the critique that building rapport works better than blows to the head. It's been misreported that CIA torture techniques got Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah to talk, when it was actually FBI rapport-building. In spite of this, SERE techniques became standards in interrogation manuals that eventually made their way to US officers guarding Abu Ghraib. Ongoing uproar within the APA resulted in a petition to make an official policy limiting psychologists' involvement in interrogations.

Sources: "The CIA's torture teachers," Mark Benjamin, Salon, June 21, 2007; "Rorschach and awe," Katherine Eban, Vanity Fair, July 17, 2007. [Note that a highly revealing essay by a leading psychiatrist details how many psychiatrists and even the former president of the APA were involved in government mind control programs.]


Other Stories in the Top 25

11. El Salvador's Water Privatization and the Global War on Terror (For full story, click here)

El Salvador's new Anti-terrorism Law – based on the USA PATRIOT Act – criminalizes political expression and social protest. Close range shooting of rubber bullets and tear gas was used against community members for protesting the rising cost, and diminishing access and quality, of local water under privatization. Fourteen were arrested and charged with terrorism, a charge that can hold a 60-year prison sentence under the new Anti-Terrorism Law.

12. Bush Profiteers Collect Billions from No Child Left Behind (For full story, click here)

No Child Left Behind has consistently proven disastrous in the realm of education. Yet the architect, President Bush's first senior education advisor Sandy Kress, has turned the program into a huge success in the realm of corporate profiteering.

13. Tracking Billions of Dollars Lost in Iraq (For full story, click here)

Starting one month after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and continuing for over a year, the United States Federal Reserve shipped a total of $12 billion in U.S. currency to Iraq. The U.S. military delivered the bank notes to the Coalition Provisional Authority to be dispensed for Iraqi reconstruction. At least $9 billion of that amount is unaccounted for due to a complete lack of oversight.

14. Mainstreaming Nuclear Waste (For full story, click here)

Radioactive materials from nuclear weapons production sites are being dumped into regular public landfills and being used as recycled metals. The Nuclear Information and Resource Service has tracked the Department of Energy's (DOE) release of radioactive scrap to unaware and unprepared recipients such as landfills, businesses and recreation areas. Under the current system, the DOE releases contaminated materials directly, sells them at auctions or sends the materials to processors who can release them from radioactive controls.

15. Worldwide Slavery (For full story, click here)

Twenty-seven million slaves exist in the world today, more than at any time in human history. Globalization, poverty, violence and greed facilitate the growth of slavery, not only in the Third World, but in the most developed countries as well. Behind the façade in any major town or city in the world today, one is likely to find a thriving commerce in human beings.

16. Annual Survey on Trade Union Rights (For full story, click here)

The first Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights to be published by the year-old International Trade Union Confederation documents enormous challenges to workers' rights around the world. The 2007 edition of the survey, covering 138 countries, shows an alarming rise in the number of people killed as a result of their trade union activities, from 115 in 2005 to 144 in 2006. Many more trade unionists around the world were abducted or "disappeared."

17. UN's Empty Declaration of Indigenous Rights (For full story, click here)

In September 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The resolution called for recognition of the world's 370 million indigenous peoples' right to self-determination and control over their lands and resources. Three months following the passage of the Universal Declaration, a delegation of indigenous peoples were forcibly barred from entering the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali, despite the fact that the delegation was invited to attend.

18. Cruelty and Death in Juvenile Detention Centers (For full story, click here)

In states across the U.S., child advocates have harshly condemned conditions under which young offenders are housed — conditions that involve sexual abuse, physical abuse and even death. The U.S. Justice Department has filed lawsuits against facilities in 11 states for supervision that is either abusive or harmfully negligent.

19. Indigenous Herders & Small Farmers Fight Livestock Extinction (For full story, click here)

The industrial model of livestock production is causing the worldwide destruction of animal diversity. At least one indigenous livestock breed becomes extinct each month as a result of overreliance on select breeds imported from the United States and Europe.

20. Marijuana Arrests Set New Record (For full story, click here)

For the fourth year in a row, U.S. marijuana arrests set an all-time record, according to 2006 FBI Uniform Crime Reports. Marijuana arrests in 2006 totaled 829,627, an increase from 786,545 in 2005.

21. NATO Considers "First Strike" Nuclear Option (For full story, click here)

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) officials are considering a first strike nuclear option to be used anywhere in the world a threat may arise. The authors of the plan insist "the first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction."

22. CARE Rejects US Food Aid (For full story, click here)

In August 2007, one of the biggest and best-known American charity organizations, CARE, announced it was turning down $45 million a year in food aid from the United States government. CARE claims the way U.S. aid is structured causes rather than reduces hunger in the countries where it is received.

23. FDA Complicit in Pushing Pharmaceutical Drugs (For full story, click here)

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) turns a blind eye, drug companies are making false, unsubstantiated and misleading claims in their advertising, often withholding mandated disclosure of dangerous side effects. Though companies are required to submit their advertisements to the FDA, the agency does not review them before they are released to the public. [For a powerful two-page essay by a top U.S. physician on this key topic, click here]

24. Japan Questions 9/11 and the Global War on Terror (For full story, click here)

Testimony in the Japanese parliament, broadcast live on Japanese television in January 2008, challenged the premise and validity of the Global War on Terror. Parliament member Yukihisa Fujita insisted that an investigation be conducted into the war's origin: the events of 9/11. [Watch a video with English subtitles of Fujita speaking to parliament available here]

25. Bush's Real Problem with Eliot Spitzer (For full story, click here)

The exposure of New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer's tryst with a luxury call girl may have been the result of a planned event. Timing suggests that Spitzer was likely a target of a White House and Wall Street operation to silence one of its most dangerous and vocal critics of their handling of the current financial market crisis. [See the Washington Post article Spitzer wrote just weeks before the accusations against him emerged]

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