Saturday, August 4, 2012

Firm of federal judge in former Alabama governor's case trained lead 9/11 hijacker

Wayne Madsen Report
August 3, 2012 (update)
Republished with permission.

U.S. Judge for the the Middle District of Alabama Mark Fuller, scheduled to re-sentence former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman on August 3 in Montgomery, was the previous owner of a firm that trained accused 9/11 lead hijacker Mohammed Atta. The information on Fuller's links to the 9/11 attack were uncovered by a former Republican Party campaign aid in Alabama who spoke to WMR on background.

WMR previously reported on Fuller's financial dealings with Doss Aviation, which, among other government business, had the contract to re-fuel Air Force One. Having had trained Atta, as well as Saudi, Iranian, and other Egyptian pilots to fly aircraft, the Colorado Springs, Colorado-based Doss Aviation was in a position to help carry out threats against Air Force One that were received by the presidential airplane's pilot on 9/11, specifically "Angel is next." Angel was the classified code word used at the time to denote Air Force One.

Ironically, as we reported earlier: "
It is also noteworthy that the Doss Aviation active contract web page has a photo of the World Trade Center shaded in the colors of the U.S. flag. Fuller's firm has seen a growth in contracts and profits since the 9/11 attacks and U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan."

On July 25, 2007, WMR reported: "
Information culled from Internet web archives of previous Doss Aviation web pages indicate that the firm was involved in training Saudi and Iranian pilots. Both Newsweek and Knight Ridder reported that three to five of the 9/11 hijackers had attended military training courses in the United States. They included Mohamed Atta who attended the International Officers' School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama." WMR can now report that one of the pilots Doss trained was Atta. The Egyptian-born pilot and accused Al Qaeda terrorist cell leader was often seen at the officer's club at Maxwell Air Force Base, where he was known as "Lieutenant Colonel" or merely "Colonel" Mohammed Atta of the Egyptian Air Force.

In 2002, Air Force Lt. Col Steve Butler, vice chancellor for student affairs at the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey, California, stated in a letter to the Monterey County Herald that "Bush knew about the impending attacks." Butler was disciplined by the Air Force for his remarks. However, the Air Force appears to have had a good reason to silence anyone who was in a position to shine the light on Air Force culpability in 9/11 and Siegelman, a former Alabama Attorney General and later governor during the 9/11 attack was worrisome to the 9/11 plotters.

Saeed Alghamdi, one of the Saudi 9/11 hijackers, had reportedly attended classes at DLI.

On July 27, 2007, WMR reported, "Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Feaga, the lead prosecutor in the [Siegelman/(former HealthSouth CEO Richard) Scrushy] case, is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and is an assistant to Staff Judge Advocate Brig. Gen. Richard C. Harding at Langley Air Force Base, the principal legal adviser to the Air Combat Staff. Feaga and his boss Harding have jurisdiction over all legal matters at Langley, including contracts awarded to Doss Aviation.
Federal Judge Mark Fuller, who tried and convicted Siegelman and Scrushy, is a current principal of Doss Aviation, a major conflict of interest for a sitting federal judge."

The Justice Department case against Siegelman and Scrushy was not staged out of the Federal building in Montgomery but in a 40,000 square foot building at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base outside of Montgomery. The use of a military base to carry out a civil prosecution, especially against a former governor, was highly unusual and virtually unprecedented and represented an ominous incursion of the military into civilian law enforcement and the justice system.
However, when Fuller's links to Doss and that firm's training of at least one of the accused 9/11 hijackers is considered, the use of Maxwell, Atta's one-time duty station, was not unusual and represented an attempt by Fuller and top Justice Department officials to cover-up the Pentagon's role in 9/11.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Elena Kagan, while Solicitor General under Attorney General Eric Holder, did nothing to vacate or alleviate the politically-motivated charges against Siegelman. In Holder and President Obama kept in place as U.S. Attorney in Montgomery Leura Canary, the wife of Alabama GOP grand mufti Bill Canary, a friend of Karl Rove.
It was only after Fuller's wife, Lisa Boyd Fuller, became aware of an on-going affair between Fuller and one of his deputy clerks, Kelli Gregg, that the judge's links to Doss became a problem. Some five months before Mrs. Fuller filed divorce papers against Fuller on May 10, 2012, Doss Aviation was sold to J.F. Lehman & Company, which is owned by former Navy Secretary and 9/11 Commission member John Lehman. The law firm that worked out the details of the sale was Jones Day, a firm with close ties to the Republican Party and the Central Intelligence Agency. By divesting himself of Doss's assets, Fuller could escape his wife's claims on Doss profits as shared marriage assets. Te sale of Doss to Lehman would also protect the U.S. government's foreknowledge of the events of 9/11.

Siegelman and his lawyers will argue for leniency before Fuller in Montgomery. It is a mark of our corrupt judicial system that it is Siegelman who is on trial and Fuller who is the presiding judge. In a more perfect world and in a more perfect union, it would be Judge Siegelman deciding the fate of Mr. Fuller, a corrupt former Republican Party operative and aider and abettor of terrorism.

UPDATE 1X. On August 3, Judge Mark Fuller sentenced Siegelman to 78 months in prison, showing no mercy after pleas for leniency from the widow of a famous African-American civil rights leader and dozens of state Attorneys General, Democrat and Republican. Fuller, perhaps showing that he is more of a sociopath than many of his critics would contemplate, ordered Siegelman to report to federal prison on September 11, 2012. Considering Fuller's former firm trained one of the alleged 9/11 "suicide" pilots, the symbolism stands starkly in a nation where the "rule of law" is an utter joke.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why We Must Occupy: Chris Hedges' Reasons Are All Our Reasons

What too few of the activists who have been protesting against BP during the past year and a half have realized is that it doesn't matter how much they complain about the destruction of the Gulf ecosystem and the human illness caused by the oil and chemical dispersants. BP doesn't care. It will stonewall as long as possible, and will pay as little damages as possible. Our federal and state governments don't care either, because the executive, legislative, and judicial branches have been almost thoroughly captured by corporate interests, of which BP is a major player.

Every decision BP made, even before the Deepwater Horizon exploded in April 2010, was based on cost-benefit analysis. As the marine biologist Chris Pincetich, whose professor was on the advisory panel BP and the Coast Guard on the use of dispersants in the Gulf, including on its shores, said last summer that the decisions on the use of these toxic chemical dispersants, which exacerbated the ecocide of the Gulf, were based entirely on cost-benefit analysis, and not at all on the damage to the environment and on its effect on wildlife and human health. BP shareholders demand profit, no matter how much death and destruction necessary to accomplish maximum profits. BP's actions, and inaction, over the past year and a half reflect the worst of human nature, and are the result of decades of administrations and congresses controlled by both major parties who are in fact controlled by the campaign contributors and lobbyists who shower them with cash and other bribes.

On the other hand, there are many environmental and social justice activists involved in responding to the BP and government oil and chemical dispersant catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico and the region who recognized from the beginning that it's our corrupt political and predatory economic system that has enabled this ecocide  and that has allowed those responsible for its perpetration and perpetuation to remain free from criminal charges, free to resist restoring the environment and compensating the injured for decades to come. These environmental and social justice activists have joined the Occupation Together movement taking place New York, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and throughout the Gulf Coast states, from Florida to Texas. They can be found organizing and participating in the occupation of their town's public spaces, because they know that, as Chris Hedges said when he announced that he would be in Washington D.C. with the Stop The Machine occupation of that city, that "civil disobedience is the only weapon we have left to save not only the ecosystem that sustains life, but the nation itself." They know, better than many in this country, that Barack Obama failed the people on the Gulf Coast in providing them relief and that he is, as Ralph Nader pointed out during his the 2008 presidential campaign, that he was nothing more than a corporatist, and that all branches of the federal and state governmentexecutive, legislative, and judicialhave been captured by corporate interests. The EPA, under Administrator Lisa Jackson, allowed BP to apply unprecedented amounts of chemical dispersants to the Gulf waters and shores so that BP could hide the oil so it could keep its monetary penalties to a minimum, and thus protect its shareholder profits.

Anyone who has been a victim of the BP oil disaster or has worked to mitigate that disaster during the past year and a half, have witnessed no better example of how a corporation and the state have merged to serve the corporation to the peril of the public, whom the government is supposed to serve. People who live on the coast have been witnessing and experiencing the "system of death" that BP merged with the state continues to be. They also know that their shouts for justice have been carried off by the Gulf breezes, drowned out by the poisoned surf, and ignored by the corporate media, which has blithely dismissed reports of human illness from the oil and dispersants as nothing more than anecdotal evidence.

Everyone in the Gulf region should be participating in our town occupation, or organizing one if it is not yet taking place; everyone should be joining his or her voice with the occupiers to demand change; everyone should participate in an alternative, sustainable community being developed now in towns throughout the U.S., everyone should prepare to participate in the civil disobedience necessary to force the changes that must occur if we, our children, and our children's children are to have a life worth living. Chris Hedges explained in the video below why he would be in Washington D.C. on October 6:

"We are the last thin line of defense between the disintegration of our country, between corporate forces, which in theological terms are systems of death, who will snuff out any possibility of a livable and sustainable future for our children. It is only by standing up, using our bodies in acts of civil disobedience, that we have any hope of thwarting the freight train of destruction that is now barreling towards us, driven by the engine of corporatism."

Chris Hedges has described better than anyone why we should all be involved in the occupations, and why it is urgent that we do. Please watch this video, and that of his address to the crowd in D.C. on October 6, read the transcripts, and forward them to your family and friends. Get inspired, and get involved. His reasons should bethey must beall of our reasons.


My name is Chris Hedges, and I'm going to Washington, D.C., on October 6, 2011, because civil disobedience is the only weapon we have left to save not only the ecosystem that sustains life, but the nation itself.  Corporate forces--unregulated, unfettered, corporate forces--exploit everything--human beings,. the natural world--until exhaustion, or collapse

Karl Marx was right: unregulated, unfettered capitalism is a revolutionary force. And it is the radicals who have seized control, and know no limits.The only word corporations know is more. And they have seized all of the formal, traditional mechanisms of power: the legislative branch, the judicial branch, the executive branch, as well as the attendant institutions that once made participatory democracy possible: including the press; including a destruction of labor; a diminishing and degradation of a public education system that once made it possible for citizens to discern and articulate their own interests. It is imperative that all of us now stand up, because we have very little time left. The ecosystem itself is being ravaged at a rate that was not even predicted a few years ago by the best climate scientists.

We don't have much time left. The internal reconfiguration of the United States into a form of neo-feudalism, a world of masters and serfs, a world where two-thirds of the country will live at a level of subsistence, where they will struggle to provide enough food for their families to eat, is the inevitable result of the corporate state and globalization. It is imperative upon all of us to begin to realize that the institutions that we once trusted, including the Democratic Party, to watch out for our interests have become nothing more than puppets, appendages of the corporate state.

We are the last thin line of defense between the disintegration of our country, between corporate forces, which in theological terms are systems of death, who will snuff out any possibility of a livable and sustainable future for our children. It is only by standing up, using our bodies in acts of civil disobedience, that we have any hope of thwarting the freight train of destruction that is now barreling towards us, driven by the engine of corporatism.

And so, I call upon all of you, please, it's not about us anymore, it's about our kid's, it's about our kid's kids, it's about our failure to stand up and protect the earth and protect the nation from forces that will inevitably, if we do not stop them, make life for millions and millions of people a nightmare.


There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolt taking place here tonight on Wall Street and in financial districts of other cities across the country, or you stand on the wrong side of history. Either you obstruct in the only form left to us, which is through civil disobedience, the plundering by the criminal class on Wall Street, an accelerated destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species, or you become a passive enabler of a monstrous evil. Either you taste, feel, and smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt, or sink into the miasma of despair and apathy. Either you are a rebel or a slave.

To be declared innocent in a country where the rule of law means nothing—where we have undergone a corporate coup; where the poor and working men and women are reduced to joblessness and hunger; where war, financial speculation, and internal surveillance are the only real business of the state; where even habeas corpus no longer exists, for you as a citizen are nothing more than a commodity to corporate systems of power, one to be used and discarded—is to be complicit in this radical evil. To stand on the sidelines and say, “I am innocent,” is to bear the mark of Cain; it is to do nothing to reach out to help the weak, the oppressed, and the suffering to save the planet. To be innocent in times like these is to be a criminal. Ask the environmental activist Tim Dechristopher, now in prison.

Choose; but choose fast! The state and the corporate forces are determined to crush this. They’re not going to wait for you. They are terrified this will spread, as it is spreading. They have their long phalanxes of police on motorcycles, their rows of white paddy wagons, their foot soldiers hunting for you on the streets with pepper spray and orange plastic nets. They have their metal barricades set up on every single street leading into the financial district in New York, where the Mandarins in Brooks Brothers suits use your money—money they stole from you—to gamble and speculate and gorge themselves, while one in four children outside those barricades depend on food stamps to eat.

Speculation in the seventeenth century was a crime; speculators were hanged. Today they run the state, and financial markets. They disseminate the lies that pollute our airwaves. They know, even better than you or I, how pervasive the corruption and theft has become, how gamed the system is against you, how corporations have cemented into place a thin oligarchic class, an obsequious cadrĂ© of politicians—including Barack Obama, judges, and journalists—who live in their little gated Versailles, while six million Americans are thrown out of their homes, a number soon to rise to 10 million; where a million people a year go bankrupt because they cannot pay their medical bills, and 45,000 die from lack of proper care; where real joblessness is spiraling to over 20%; where the citizenry, including students, spend lives toiling in debt peonage, working dead-end jobs, when they have a job, a world devoid of hope, a world of masters and serfs.

The only word these corporations know is more. They are disemboweling every last social service program funded by taxpayers—from education to social security—because they want that money for themselves.

Let the sick die; let the poor go hungry; let families be tossed into the street, let the unemployed rot, let children in  the inner cities or rural wastelands learn nothing, and live in misery and fear; let students finish school with no jobs and no prospects of jobs; let the prison system, the largest in the industrialized world, expand to swallow up all potential dissenters; let torture continue; let teachers, police, fire fighters, postal employees, and social workers join the ranks of the unemployed; let our imperial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our proxy wars in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia bankrupt the state and leave hundreds of thousands of innocents maimed and dead; let the roads, bridges, dams, levees, power grids, rail lines, subways, bus services, schools, and libraries crumble or close; let the rising temperatures of the planet, the freak weather patterns, the hurricanes, the droughts, the flooding, the tornadoes, the melting polar ice caps, the poisoned water systems, the polluted air increase until the species dies.

Who the hell cares, if the stocks of Exxon-Mobil or the coal industry or Goldman Sachs are high? Life is good. “Profit, profit, profit”: this is what they chant behind those metal barricades in the financial district. They have their fangs deep into your necks. And if you  do not shake them off very, very soon, they will kill you, and they will kill the ecosystem,  dooming your children and your children’s children. And they are too stupid and too blind to see that they will perish with the rest of us.

So, either you rise up and supplant them, either you dismantle the corporate state for a world of sanity, a world where we no longer kneel before the absurd idea that the demands of financial markets should govern human behavior, or watch as we are frog-marched toward self-annihilation. Those on the streets around Wall Street and here tonight are the physical embodiment of hope.

You know that hope has a cost, that it is not easy or comfortable, that it requires self-sacrifice and discomfort, and finally faith. And those who hope sleep on cement every night, and their clothes are soiled, and they have eaten more bagels and peanut butter than they ever thought possible. And they have tasted fear, been beaten, gone to jail, been blinded by pepper spray, cried, hugged each other, laughed, sung, talked too long in General Assemblies, seen their chants drift upwards to the office towers above them, and wondered if it is worth it, if anyone cares, if they will win.

But as long as we remain steadfast, we can see our way out of the corporate labyrinth. This is what it means to be alive, and you tonight and those in New York and Philadelphia and Los Angeles and Boston, and dozens of other cities across this country, are the best among us! 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The 99% Occupy Nola

On Sunday, October 2, the first General Assembly of Occupy New Orleans was held in Washington Square (between Frenchmen St. and Esplanade Ave.), piggy-backing on an anarchist picnic, which had been announced weeks earlier. It was decided that Duncan Plaza, in front of Town Hall and near the main public library, would be occupied, beginning on October 6, after a march from the criminal court house on Tulane at Broad to Lafayette Square. New Orleans was added to maps of U.S. cities being occupied by the "99%," in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and the October 2011 occupation of Washington, D.C., beginning October 6. 

Hundreds of people began converging at noon on Thursday, October 6, at the criminal courthouse on Tulane Avenue at Broad Street. Local media were there filming, and so was a NYPD policewoman. "Are you videoing to identify us?" I asked. "No," she responded. "This is for training purposes, so we can see how we can do better."  The police state is all about training. Only a few people wore masks. I covered my nose and mouth briefly with my red Zapatista bandanna I wore around my neck.

I walked up the steps of the courthouse to take some photographs from the steps, where several policemen were viewing the scene below and taking shots of the crowd with their cell phones. "I sure hope y'all are gonna be nicer to us than the NYPD has been to Occupy Wall Street protesters." They laughed and said, "We're always nice," which is pretty funny, considering the sentences were being handed down in that very courthouse to police officers who had shot dead and maimed unarmed New Orleans citizens who were fleeing the flooded New Orleans East after the levees failed during Hurricane Katrina. I told them it would be a shame if New Orleans police abused the occupiers, because that would hurt the city's reputation. I told them I canceled a leisure trip in protest of the police brutality there, and I expect people would do the same if they saw photographs of peaceful protesters being abused. That would hurt tourism. They agreed that they're part of the 99% as well. 

Loyola University student Emily Posner geared up the crowd with call-and-response chants before the "parade," as the Times Picayune called it, began. It was a permitted march. Any movement of people on a city street that interferes with vehicle traffic requires a permit. A permit is also required, a sergeant at the Department's events office recently told me, in the blocked sections of the French Quarter--at Jackson Square and on Royal and Bourbon Streets--if a band or music is moving people on a street, which makes it a "parade." There were a few brass instruments being played at the rear of the marchers, and bongo players at the front, which at times gave the feel of a second-line parade, depending on how close you were to the rhythm and horn sections, but most people responded to the chants shouted through the bullhorn, which was passed along. "This is what democracy looks like!" and "We are/you are the 99%" were the more frequent chants. 

The route from Broad passed along the blighted Tulane Avenue, past the historic Dixie Brewing Company, building, still shuttered since the Corps of Engineers' levees flooded the city during and after Hurricane Katrina, and past St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, near the intersection of Claiborne, the only surviving historic structure within several squares leveled for the footprint of the controversial medical complex, which includes a replacement of Charity Hospital, also still shuttered since the Great Flood of 2005. 

As we passed the medical district, medical students and medics cheered us on and snapped photographs. We turned onto Loyola at the public library, where a number of people, including several who were apparently homeless, looked on in puzzlement. The woman accompanying another woman in a gas mask told me she thinks the New Orleans police will behave themselves much better than those in New York, because they're much better at managing crowds, because of Carnival. The police were certainly witnesses to the broad support marchers received from passersby, most of whom honked their horns. The Arab taxi drivers looked the proudest, knowing this part of the American Autumn sweeping through New Orleans is inspired by the Arab Spring.

What might otherwise have seemed a long urban hike seemed short with all the company in the mild fall weather. Before we knew it we were passing frowning men in suits capturing images on cell phones, turning at One Shell Square (named after Shell Oil, of course), onto St. Charles, and then pouring into Lafayette Square, across from Gallier Hall, the former Town Hall. Lafayette Square was the site of numerous political rallies during the nineteenth through the med-twentieth century. On October 6, fiery speeches were once again delivered to a crowd in Lafayette Square, this time about Wall Street and the corportists in Congress, the 1% and their representatives, whose ruinous practices and policies have destroyed the global economy, and who will, if their greed is left unchecked, will make slaves of the 99%. For well over an hour, people took turns with the bull horn to deliver their personal viewpoints and the way forward. Among them was Sharon Jasper, who has been a lightening rod for criticism, particularly in recent years since Katrina, due to her activism to save public housing complexes of New Orleans and her work on the "Right of Return" of New Orleanians to their homes in public or Section 8 housing. 

To the chagrin of a number of people in the crowd, one woman used her turn at the bullhorn to promote Ron Paul as the savior of the country. One man near me bemoaned her words as serving to discredit the entire rally by endorsing a political candidate. Most people, however, used their time at the bullhorn to stress what everyone has in common in protesting the government and the current corrupt, predatory capitalistic system, under which everyone in the 99% is suffering in some way or another. Representing their personal issues were students--one young woman held alternating signs that said "Unemployed, drowning in college debt" and another, "Student debt = slavery"--and medics--one held a sign that said, "Bail out hospitals, break up banks"--and several people whose grievances were more local, such as "Abolish O.P.P." (Orleans Parish Prison) and "Fire (NOPD Superintendant) Ronald Serpas." A few of the protesters have had recent encounters with Orleans Parish Prison, one of whom was recently arrested during a civil disobedience against BP, who, along with its protectors in Congress and the Obama administration, has committed ecocide in the Gulf of Mexico, and continues to cause many human illnesses in the Gulf region from the oil, which BP has not cleaned up, and the chemical dispersants it has used to sink the oil. The charges were dismissed by a sympathetic judge. As one of the march and occupation organizers, he believes the fewer police present the better, and he added quietly, after someone thanked and praised "the boys and ladies in blue," that "Now, go away!"
I spoke to a couple of "plainclothes" police officers, dressed in khaki slacks and black shirts who seemed to be enjoying themselves. I asked who they were and if they were perhaps Homeland Security or worked for a private security firm, like Blackwater, aka Xe. They showed me their IDs when I expressed skepticism. Why it's necessary for them not to wear a badge if they're not operating undercover, I don't know. Homeland Security agents and Blackwater mercs dressed in the same attire in the days after Katrina. It's little wonder that some people who saw NOPD officers dressed in khaki and black during a recent BP protest thought they were Homeland Security agents. The two officers were friendly, and said that if they had anything to do with it there wouldn't be any arrests. They knew that the occupation would move to Duncan Plaza. "Oh, yeah, we're informed," one of them told me. When I told them there were signs demanding that Ronal Serpas be fired, they laughed and said, "That doesn't bother us!" They, too, agreed that what's going on in this country affects everyone, including them, and that they're supportive of the protest. One of them said, "Don't get me started with my conspiracy theories," to which I told him that's the pejorative that others used to discredit people who do research and realize official stories are big fat lies. "Like 9-11," I said. He didn't respond, but it appeared that it was something he didn't talk about while on the job.

As I left Lafayette Square, I passed another man, short and stocky with short-cropped hair, who was also dressed in khaki slacks and a black shirt, but the latter had a big round patch that said, "Gulf Coast Fugitive Task Force." 

"Gulf Coast Fugitive Task Force?" I said, reading the emblem. Does that mean you're a fugitive, or you're chasing fugitives?" 

"Sometimes I'm a fugitive," he chuckled. But generally we chase fugitives.

"But why in the world are you here?" I asked.

"Well, there are so many federal buildings in this area, we need to keep an eye on things." Lafayette Square is adjacent to federal courthouses, as well as Senator Mary Landrieu's office.

"Oh, God," I said, rolling my eyes. "Here we are, the security state."

"Well, worse things could happen."

The Gulf Coast Fugitive Task Force is part of the Department of Justice. The U.S. Marshalls website describes it as follows: 

"The Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force (GCRFTF) became fully operational in July 2006 and operates out of USMS offices throughout Alabama and Mississippi, with its headquarters office located in Birmingham, Alabama.  The GCRFTF partners with numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies throughout Alabama and Mississippi continues to recruit other agencies to participate in the task force."

The Eastern District of Louisiana of U.S. Marshalls is a participating agency. 

"I don't think so. That's what we're protesting. Government and corporations have merged, and this is fascism, along with a security apparatus." I walked away and chatted with an SUV full of bored police officers. Whoever made the decision to have so much security detail must have been counting on there being some trouble. "We're all working class," I assured them. "We're all in this together. Before you know it, austerity measures are going to dictate reduction of police salaries, the theft of pensions." They look worried. The driver commented about the slanted news stories about Occupation Wall Street. I told him he should watch Al Jazeera English.

It's a good start for Occupy Nola. The organizers have already had several General Assemblies. Those in the region who would like to join Occupation Nola can head to Duncan Plaza, between Loyola and Poydras, just down the street from the Greyhound/Amtrak station. The General Assemblies are what democracy looks like, and Duncan Plaza is now the place of town hall meetings. New Orleans Town Hall fronts on Perdido Street, which runs along one side of Duncan Plaza. Perdido, of course, means lost in Spanish. General Assembly is another term for found voices, even as the human microphone system is being used. Keep up with Occupy New Orleans at its Facebook page here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Troy Davis and 'The Tidal Wave of Justice'

A New Orleans Vigil, the Execution in Georgia

At 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 21, New Orleanians had gathered in front of the Louisiana Supreme Court building, in the French Quarter, for a vigil sponsored by the Louisiana Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (LCADP), an organization co-founded by death penalty abolitionist Sr. Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking. Short of a reprieve by the U.S. Supreme Court, Troy Anthony Davis was the next "dead man walking" to an execution chamber in the United States. Rev.
 William Barnwell led us in prayer. 
Rev. William Barnwell leads New 
Orleanians in a prayer during the Troy 
Davis vigil on September 21.

Well after the execution was scheduled to have taken place, someone discovered on her phone's news feed that Democracy Now! was reporting the Supreme Court had stayed the execution. Rev. Barnwell led the elated, tearful group in singing "Amazing Grace." But the jubilation was short-lived. Democracy Now! had repeated the interpretation of an AP report that the Supreme Court was delaying its decision, not staying the execution, which could move forward at any time in the coming hours. While many interpreted this as a hopeful sign, others were cynical.

"They used to do this in California," commented one of the attendees. They would announce a delay, then wait until after the crowds dispersed and go ahead with the execution." Did it really take more than four hours for the Supreme Court justices to unanimously decide that Troy Davis had to die, despite the overwhelming doubts?

Troy Anthony Davis was executed by the state of Georgia, and declared dead at 11:08 p.m. on September 21, the Autumn Equinox. Justice Clarence Thomas received the appeal; the decision had bee
n unanimous. Ironically, the justice who had during his Senate confirmation hearings accused his detractors of carrying out "a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks," was responsible for what was called "a legal lynching" of another African American, who was more likely to have been innocent of the charges against him than those lodged against Clarence Thomas. There is no more high-tech lynching in the world than US state-ordered executions.

The day prior to his execution, Troy Davis delivered a message to his supporters through a team member of Amnesty International U.S.A.'s Abolish the Death Penalty Campaign: 

The struggle for justice doesn't end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me. I'm in good spirits and I'm prayerful and at peace."

In his final words from the gurney to which he had been strapped, he spoke to relatives of the Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail, whom Davis was convicted of murdering, and reiterated his innocence; he asked his supporters to continue to pursue the truth; he forgave his executioners and asked God to bless them. Shortly after the execution, Laura Moye, director of Amnesty International USA's DPAC, issued a letter in which she said:

"The state of Georgia has proven what we already know. Governments cannot be trusted with the awful power over life and death. Today, Georgia didn't just kill Troy Davis, they killed the faith and confidence that many Georgians, Americans and Troy Davis supporters worldwide used to have in our criminal justice system."

Amnesty International's 'Special Call'

On September 23, Moye hosted a "special call," a teleconference of 600 participants to hear Amnesty International USA staff "discuss Troy Davis' life, what your work means for the death penalty abolition movement as a whole, and what further steps will be taken." In his opening comments, AI-USA executive director Larry Cox spoke of the millions of people who had gotten involved in the effort to save Troy Davis's life, many from unexpected quarters, such as reality TV's Kim Kardashian, who was tweeting to her millions of followers how horrific this impending execution was.

"And it brought to my mind a line from the poet Seamus Heaney, whom you might have heard of
he's worked with Amnesty International for years—that says: 'But then, once in a lifetime / the longed for tidal wave / of justice can rise up, / and hope and history rhyme.' All of you are part of that tidal wave of justice—by joining vigils, writing letters to the editor, talking to friends.... All this has communicated a feeling of determination.... "

The lines are from the stanzas recited by the chorus at the end of a long poem entitled, startlingly enough, The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles' Philoctetes. The poet presented a reading of this excerpt in Dublin several months ago:

The Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney is, of course, a brilliant poet, and it's a brilliant allusion by Larry Cox in relation to the death penalty abolition movement, which Troy Davis and his supporters have created a tidal surge now washing over the broken criminal justice system in this country, demanding an end to the barbaric practice that puts the United States in the top five executioners in the world, in the select company of China, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. According to Amnesty International, in 2008 93% of all executions occurred in these top five execution countries. (See Amnesty International's Worldwide Death Penalty Abolition Timeline.) In a September 27 blog post on Amnesty International's website, Brian Evans wrote:

"The same night that Troy Davis and Lawrence Brewer were put to death in the USA, a 17-year-old was hanged in Iran. Two days earlier, a Sudanese man  in Saudi Arabia was publicly beheaded for the crime of “sorcery.” The day after Troy Davis’ execution, Alabama lethally injected Derrick Mason, its 5th execution of the year." 
A week after the state of Georgia executed Troy Davis, Florida executed Manuel Valle, who had also convicted of murdering a police officer and, according to Amnesty International, "received no meaningful clemency process."

Former Law Enforcement Officers Were Given the Power to Deny Troy Davis Clemency and Media Access

While many executions have been conducted in the U.S. with little comment from proponents of capital punishment, the doubt surrounding Troy Davis's case caused many to speak out against his execution, and even to cause them to doubt the justice of the death penalty altogether. The prosecution of Troy Davis was based solely on accounts by eight eyewitnesses, seven of whom later recanted, and one of the other two admitted to having committed the crime. There was no physical evidence linking him to the crime. Georgia's clemency power rests in its State Board of Pardons and Paroles, whose members are appointed by the governor. After the white members of the Board denied clemency for Troy Davis on September 20, all that stood between him and execution was Butt County Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court, each of which denied a stay the following day.
Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles,
which denied clemency for Troy Anthony
Davis: Albert Murray (
Vice Chairman),
Robert E. Keller, L. Gale Buckner,
James E. Donald (Chairman), and
Terry Barnard.

During an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! NAACP president Ben Jealous said the prison warden, Carl Humphrey, had "stonewalled the media from speaking to Troy Davis," and he had prevented CNN from speaking with an incarcerated witness. Jealous said that, while speaking to him, he said, "You know, there's another side to all this," and went on to tell him that he had been in law enforcement when Mark MacPhail was murdered. Jealous said he became aware while speaking with Humphrey that "there was this chilling notion that 'we're gonna get it this time, we're gonna do it this time." (See Democray Now! 6-hour live broadcast from Troy Davis Execution: Did Georgia execute an innocent man?, 297:48). This was the fourth time Troy Davis had received an execution date. According to Jealous, Warden Humphrey intended it to be his last, and for him not to leave his Death Row alive.

A Troy Davis Memorial Service in New Orleans

The funeral for Troy Davis was held in Savannah on Saturday, October 1, which was declared by Amnesty International as the Day of Remembrance for Troy Davis. The Louisiana Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty held an interfaith memorial service in New Orleans at St. Luke's Episcopal Church. As Rosanne Adderly, Tulane Professor of African American history and LCADP member, explained during the planning of the event, the church has the only stained glass window of Martin Luther King, and its Gaudet Hall, Dr. Adderly explained, is named after Mother Frances Joseph Gaudet, an Episcopalian saint  who devoted her life in the early twentieth century to providing education and social services to African American youth of New Orleans, a calling she was compelled to follow after seeing young people "treated as discarded lives in the New Orleans city jail."  

The program began with Peter Nu's playing on the grand piano Billy Taylor's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free." If you're not familiar with this beautiful tune, here's Nina Simone singing it:

Rosanne Adderly gave opening remarks before introducing each speaker, first of which was Rev. Kevin Johnson of St. Luke's, who explained how shortly after Rosanne had told him that he had been called to allow St. Luke's to host the Troy Davis memorial program, he turned on his music player, which unexpectedly and fortuitously began theme (by Elmer Bernstein) from the film To Kill a Mockingbird.

Rev. Johnson compared Troy Davis to Jesus, pointing out parallels that had been evoked for many, although few had dared to give voice to them publicly. Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parole, Butts County Superior Court justices, and the US Supreme Court justices had each in turn condemned Troy Davis, who was, beyond the shadow of a doubt for many and almost to most people, innocent; each had, like Pontius Pilate, washed its hands of the case. But even at the end, Troy Davis, like Jesus in his final hours, comforted his supporters who had become followers of him and his family to end the death penalty. Like Jesus, Troy Davis comforted his supporters and followers, and, if he didn't say the exact words in his forgiveness of his executioners and asking for God's blessings for them, he was in essence saying, "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do."
Minister Willie Mohammed of Nation of Islam New Orleans told the Parable of the Starfish, in which a wise man comes upon a youth on the beach who was throwing starfish, which had been stranded on the sand by the withdrawn tide, back into the surf. "There are thousands of starfish, and only one of you," the wise man told the boy. "What difference can you make?" Undeterred, the youth tossed another starfish into the sea, and said, "I saved that one." The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, Minister Mohammed told us, doesn't understand that life is sacred, and that as awful as it was for one life to be takenthat of Mark MacPhailtaking another life is not justice.

LCADP member Calvin Duncan, who had been wrongfully incarcerated in Angola, Louisiana State Penitentiary, for over 20 years, explained how difficult it is to fight wrongful conviction, because "the laws are so tight," and the "gatekeepers" maintain a conviction, even if perjured testimonies had been given and the defense was too inadequate to expose it in cross examination. He told the story of how he had been mistakenly identified as the perpetrator of a murder in New Orleans, had an inadequate defense, and spent years in prison because he refused to confess to a crime he had not committed. The laws are so tight, he said, that, unless there is a constitutional issue, evidence of innocence is not enough to have a conviction overturned. The hurdles are so high to prove innocence that it takes a superhuman to make the final hurdle. It was because he came to terms with this realization, and a DA and judges acknowledged his innocence and assisted him, that he made his way out of prison. As a paralegal he had worked with prisoners on Death Row at Angola. "If our legislators would take a tour of Death Row and see who's there," he said, "I feel sure they would be opposed to the death penalty." 
The poet Delia Tomino Nakayama read the chorus at the end of The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles' Philoctetes, by Seamus Heaney to which Larry Cox had alluded a week earlier, as Peter Nu, accompanied her with improvisations on the piano:  

Poet Delia Tomino Nakayama
Human beings suffer. 
They torture one another.
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.
History says, Don't hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.
So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge,
Believe that a farther shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles and healing wells.
Call miracle self-healing,
The utter self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there's fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky
That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime
That justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

Prayers, Meditations, and Action

Earlier on October 1 in Savannah, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! had interviewed Dick Gregory, who had eulogized Troy Davis at his funeral, at which time he announced that he would begin that night a liquid fast that would last through next September 21. He doesn't expect others to fast with him, he said, but he asked for people to pray or meditate with him every day at noon (their time) for the end of the death penalty in the United States. 

Many years ago my favorite Roman Catholic priestan Irish one, in facttold me that the purpose of prayer was to make us aware of what we could do to remedy the subject of our prayer. We might ask ourselves, as we pray and meditate on ending the death penalty in the United States, how we might join and sustain "the longed-for tidal wave of justice," so that it will soon rise up, so that, finally, hope and history rhyme.

Thirty-four US states have the death penalty, and it must be abolished in each state, or at least, according to Ben Jealous, in ten more states to show the Supreme Court that the death penalty is not only cruel, but unusual, punishment.

Those who reside in an abolition state can join a state affiliate of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP). You can look up your state's affiliate here. Louisianians can join the efforts of the Louisiana Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (LCADP). October has been designated by Amnesty International as Death Penalty Awareness Month, and by the Roman Catholic Church as Respect Life Month. LCADP has posted the following events thus far scheduled for this month. Check back at the website for updates, and join LCADP to receive event updates and action alerts.

  • Pax Christi Peace Liturgy — Oct 7, 2011, 6:30 pm
    First Unitarian Universalist Church, 5212 S. Claiborne Ave, New Orleans
    Featuring Sister Helen Prejean.
  • Voices from Death Row — Oct 9, 2011, 5:00 pm
    RAE House, 1212 St Bernard Ave
    Presented by Resurrection After Exoneration.
  • World Day Against the Death Penalty — Oct 10, 2011, 10:00 am
  • Voices from Death Row — Oct 10, 2011, 6:00 pm
    Loyola University, Broadway Activities Center in room 202
    Hosted by the Loyola Public Interest Law Student Group.
  • Screening of Zero Percent — Oct 15, 2011, 1:30 pm
    New Orleans Film Festival, Second Line Stages

Coverage by Democracy Now! of Troy Davis's case, the vigil at the prison on September 21, and the funeral in Savannah on October 1 can be found here. To learn more about the case, see "Where is the justice for me? The Case of Troy Davis, Facing Execution in Georgia."
Delia Labarre
October 5, 2011

New Orleans

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

EPA whistleblower reveals massive cover-up of toxicity of dispersants used on Gulf

-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson should be tarred and feathered, and fired, not necessarily in that order. She is what used to be known as a scalawag, but she's the worst kind, for she has complicity in poisoning millions along the Gulf Coast, including her own kin and fellow citizens of Louisiana.

In this Democracy Now! interview, Hugh Kaufman, a senior policy analyst at the EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, spills the beans about how Lisa Jackson and the EPA has been part of a massive cover-up of what are crimes against humanity: poisoning millions along the Gulf Coast with the highly toxic Corexit dispersants, which, when combined with crude oil, is even more harmful to all life forms. Why? To spare BP from paying $ millions in additional fines for the oil it's responsible for releasing into the Gulf of Mexico.

Kaufman was a leading critic of the decision to use Corexit. His criticisms have been joined by numerous toxicologists, marine scientists, physicians, and activists throughout the world, but, unfortunately, very few members of Congress. Only Rep. Jerrod Nadler (D-New York), Rep. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) have thus far stepped forward with urgency to halt the use of dispersants until scientific studies are conducted on these substances. These are studies that the EPA has failed to do.

God bless the above-mentioned U.S. representatives and senators, Hugh Kaufman, Democracy Now! and the independent journalist Dahr Jamail and the online journal (see "Toxic Dispersants Near Gulf Harm Humans and Wildlife") for exposing the truth about the dangerous toxicity of dispersants. Several working groups in the New Orleans area, along with a Louisiana native in Hawaii and a good doctor in Brazil, have been working tirelessly these past weeks to learn about these dispersants, alert the public, and put a stop to their use.

It's shameful that not one single elected official from Louisiana or any other Gulf coast state has stepped forward to speak the truth about dispersants, to try to halt their use, or to take steps to protect the public from them. The Times-Picayune won a Pulitzer for its coverage of the failed Corps of Engineers levees during and after Hurricane Katrina. Five years later, they've decided to be part of the cover-up. All of them must be held to account in these coming months.


SHARIF ADBEL KOUDDOUS: The Obama administration has given BP the go-ahead to keep its ruptured well sealed for another day despite worries about the well leaking some oil and methane gas. National Incident Commander Thad Allen said the seep was not cause for alarm.

Meanwhile, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has released its analysis of BP’s data on the exposure of cleanup workers to the chemical dispersants being used in the Gulf. OSHA chief David Michaels told the environmental website Greenwire that, quote, "I think you can say exposures are low for workers. Exposures of workers on shore are virtually nonexistent. There are significant exposures near the source, and that’s to be expected given the work being done there. Those workers are given respiratory protection," he said.

But with BP having poured nearly two million gallons of the dispersant known as Corexit into the Gulf, many lawmakers and advocacy groups say the Obama administration is not being candid about the lethal effects of dispersants. At a Senate subcommittee hearing last week, Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski grilled administrators from the EPA about Corexit and said she didn’t want dispersants to be the Agent Orange of this oil spill.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI: I’m concerned because I feel and I believe, and my reading verifies, that we don’t know enough about the impact of dispersants and dispersed oil on people, marine life and water quality. I’m very concerned. And my question is, should we ban them? Should we take a time out from using them? What are the short- and long-term consequences of using them? I don’t want dispersants to be the Agent Orange of this oil spill. And I want to be assured, in behalf of the American people, that this is OK to use and OK to use in the amounts that we’re talking about.

AMY GOODMAN: Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski.

While concerns over the impact of chemical dispersants continue to grow, Gulf Coast residents are outraged by a recent announcement that the $20 billion government-administered claim fund will subtract money cleanup workers earn by working for the cleanup effort from any future claims. Fund administrator Kenneth Feinberg says the ruling will apply to anyone who participates in the Vessels of Opportunity program, which has employed hundreds of Gulf Coast residents left out of work because of the spill. It’s seen as an effort to limit the number of lawsuits against BP.

We’re joined now by two guests on these two issues, on Corexit and the workers. Independent journalist Dahr Jamail is joining us from Tampa, Florida. He’s been reporting from the Gulf Coast for three weeks. His latest article at Truthout is called "BP’s Scheme to Swindle the 'Small People.'" And from Washington, DC, we’re joined by Hugh Kaufman, a senior policy analyst at the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. He’s been a leading critic of the decision to use Corexit.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s begin with Hugh Kaufman. First of all, explain what Corexit is, the company that makes it, what’s in it, and your concerns.

HUGH KAUFMAN: Well, Corexit is one of a number of dispersants, that are toxic, that are used to atomize the oil and force it down the water column so that it’s invisible to the eye. In this case, these dispersants were used in massive quantities, almost two million gallons so far, to hide the magnitude of the spill and save BP money. And the government—both EPA, NOAA, etc.—have been sock puppets for BP in this cover-up. Now, by hiding the amount of spill, BP is saving hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in fines, and so, from day one, there was tremendous economic incentive to use these dispersants to hide the magnitude of the gusher that’s been going on for almost three months.

Congressman Markey and Nadler, as well as Senator Mikulski, have been heroes in this respect. Congressman Markey made the BP and government put a camera down there to show the public the gusher. And when they did that, experts saw that the amount of material, oil being released, is orders of magnitudes greater than what BP and NOAA and EPA were saying. And the cover-up started to evaporate.

But the use of dispersants has not. Consequently, we have people, wildlife—we have dolphins that are hemorrhaging. People who work near it are hemorrhaging internally. And that’s what dispersants are supposed to do. EPA now is taking the position that they really don’t know how dangerous it is, even though if you read the label, it tells you how dangerous it is. And, for example, in the Exxon Valdez case, people who worked with dispersants, most of them are dead now. The average death age is around fifty. It’s very dangerous, and it’s an economic—it’s an economic protector of BP, not an environmental protector of the public.

Now, the one thing that I did want to mention to you, Amy, that’s occurred in most investigations, back even in the Watergate days, people said, "follow the money." And that’s correct. In this case, you’ve got to follow the money. Who saves money by using these toxic dispersants? Well, it’s BP. But then the next question—I’ve only seen one article that describes it—who owns BP? And I think when you look and see who owns BP, you find that it’s the majority ownership, a billion shares, is a company called BlackRock that was created, owned and run by a gentleman named Larry Fink. And Vanity Fair just did recently an article about Mr. Fink and his connections with Mr. Geithner, Mr. Summers and others in the administration. So I think what’s needed, we now know that there’s a cover-up. Dispersants are being used. Congress, at least three Congress folks—Congressman Markey, Congressman Nadler and Senator Mikulski—are on the case. And I think the media now has to follow the money, just as they did in Watergate, and tell the American people who’s getting money for poisoning the millions of people in the Gulf.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Hugh Kaufman, who works at the Environmental Protection Agency. This is an issue we’ve brought up before, but it’s an absolutely critical one, the issue of proprietary information of these companies, in particular, the ingredients of Corexit, even though 1.8 million pounds of it have been dumped into the Gulf. What’s in Corexit? Do you know? What is EPA allowed to know, and what is the company allowed to keep private?

HUGH KAUFMAN: EPA has all the information on what’s in—the ingredients are. The largest ingredient in Corexit is oil. But there are other materials. And when the ingredients are mixed with oil, the combination of Corexit or any dispersant and oil is more toxic than the oil itself. But EPA has all that information. That’s a red herring issue being raised, that we have to somehow know more information. When you look at the label and you look at the toxicity sheets that come with it, the public knows enough to know that it’s very dangerous. The National Academy of Science has done work on it. Toxicologists from Exxon that developed it have published on it. So, we know enough to know that it’s very dangerous, and to say that we just have to know more about it is a red herring issue. We know plenty. It’s very dangerous. And in fact, Congressman Nadler and Senator Lautenberg are working on legislation to ban it.

AMY GOODMAN: And I should correct myself: 1.8 million gallons, I think it is, of Corexit that’s been dumped. Sharif?


HUGH KAUFMAN: Tha’s correct, almost two million gallons of—yes, sir.


HUGH KAUFMAN: I’m sorry, I’m not—

SHARIF ADBEL KOUDDOUS: No, no, go ahead. The dispersant is—

HUGH KAUFMAN: I’m not hearing you, sir.

SHARIF ADBEL KOUDDOUS: These nearly two million gallons have been dispersed not only on the surface of the water, but also 5,000 feet below the water, as well. Can you talk about that?

HUGH KAUFMAN: Well, not only do you have airplanes flying and dropping them on the Gulf region, like Agent Orange in Vietnam, but a large amount of it is being shot into the water column at 5,000 feet to disperse the oil as it gushers out. And so, you have spread, according to the Associated Press, over perhaps over 44,000 square miles, an oil and dispersant mix. And what’s happened is, that makes it impossible to skim the oil out of the water. One of the things that happened is they brought this big boat, Whale, in from Japan to get rid of the oil, and it didn’t work because the majority of the oil is spread throughout the water column over thousands of square miles in the Gulf. And so—and there’s been a lot of work to show the dispersants, which is true, make it more difficult to clean up the mess than if you didn’t use them. The sole purpose in the Gulf for dispersants is to keep a cover-up going for BP to try to hide the volume of oil that has been released and save them hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars of fines. That’s the purpose of using the dispersants, not to protect the public health or environment. Quite the opposite.

AMY GOODMAN: You’ve made comparisons between Corexit, the use of Corexit and hiding BP’s liability, and what happened at Ground Zero after the attacks of September 11th, Hugh Kaufman.

HUGH KAUFMAN: Yeah, I was one of the people who—well, I did. I did the ombudsman investigation on Ground Zero, where EPA made false statements about the safety of the air, which has since, of course, been proven to be false. Consequently, you have the heroes, the workers there, a large percentage of them are sick right now, not even ten years later, and most of them will die early because of respitory problems, cancer, etc., because of EPA’s false statements.

And you’ve got the same thing going on in the Gulf, EPA administrators saying the same thing, that the air is safe and the water is safe. And the administrator misled Senator Mikulski on that issue in the hearings you talked about. And basically, the problem is dispersants mixed with oil and air pollution. EPA, like in 9/11—I did that investigation nine years ago—was not doing adequate and proper testing. Same thing with OSHA with the workers, they’re using mostly BP’s contractor. And BP’s contractor for doing air testing is the company that’s used by companies to prove they don’t have a problem. If you remember the wallboard pollution problem from China, the wallboard from China, this company does that environmental monitoring. It’s a massive cover-up. And so far, luckily, we have two members of Congress and one member of the Senate on the case. Hopefully more will join in.

SHARIF ADBEL KOUDDOUS: Let’s go to a clip that’s been circulating on the internet. It’s from an investigation from WKRG News 5 into the toxicity levels of water and sand on public beaches around Mobile, Alabamba. One of the water samples collected near a boom at Dauphin Island Marina just exploded when mixed with an organic solvent separating the oil from the water. This is Bob Naman, the chemist who analyzed the sample, explaining why it might have exploded.

BOB NAMAN: We think that it most likely happened due to the presence of either methanol or methane gas or the presence of the dispersant Corexit.

SHARIF ADBEL KOUDDOUS: Hugh Kaufman, can you talk about this video clip?

HUGH KAUFMAN: Well, yes. I saw that when it first came out, I think on Sunday. And what they documented was that the water—you know, when you’re on the sand with your children and they dig, and there’s a little water?—they documented there was over 200 parts per million of oil waste in the water, and it’s not noticeable to the human eye, that the children were playing with on the beach. On top of it, the contamination in one of the samples was so high that when they put the solvent in, as a first step in identifying how much oil may be in the water, the thing blew up, just as he said, probably because there was too much Corexit in that particular sample.

But what’s funny about that is, on Thursday, the administrator of EPA, in answering Senator Mikulski’s question at the hearing that you played the clip on, said that EPA has tested the water up to three miles out and onshore and found that it’s safe. And then, a few days later, the television station in Pensacola and in Mobile document with their own limited testing that that statement was false, misleading and/or inaccurate by the administrator, under oath, to Senator Mikulski in that hearing.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: We want to also bring in Dahr Jamail. He’s an independent journalist who’s been reporting from the Gulf Coast for the past three weeks.

Dahr, you’re joining us from Tampa, Florida, right now. You just drove along the Gulf Coast. But talk about this dispersant, as well. You wrote in article about the effect it had on you personally.

DAHR JAMAIL: Right. About a week and a half ago, my partner and I were down in Barataria talking with shrimpers and fishermen and people affected by the oil disaster. And literally within minutes of driving down there, the air was so chemically laden, you could smell and taste chemicals in the air. And immediately, our eyes began to burn. And everyone that we were talking with there, Tracy Kuhns with the shrimpers’ union, Clint Guidry on the board of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, and their spouses and everyone else that we spoke with down there, everyone was complaining of different kinds of health problems—headaches, which, actually, again, within minutes, I personally was starting to experience that; shortness of breath; nausea—all kinds of different symptoms, which I then went home and started to educate myself on the immediate and then longer-term effects of the two Corexit dispersants being used and realized that myself and everyone that we spoke with down there were basically having onset of these symptoms, and people were suffering from it very much.

And another very disturbing thing that I saw down there was I met a charter fisherman named Gene Hickman, who showed me a video he had taken two days prior to my arrival there. He was outside of his house at night, and he had a video of, literally, crabs crawling out of the water at night onto his bulkhead to escape the water. And Tracy Kuhns, who I was also speaking with, said, “Look, we’ve been watching regularly these huge plumes of dispersant under the surface of the water coming into our canals, sometimes bubbling up to the surface. We’ve seen marine life fleeing from these.” And there have been some reports of this happening throughout the Gulf. But then, I went down to Gene Hickman’s house and then saw, just minutes after watching this video of crabs literally crawling out of the water trying to escape from the water, to see basically crabs floating belly up in the water, dead, all in his canal. There was sheen over the top of it, dead fish. And again, the stench of the chemicals was so intense that our eyes were watering.

AMY GOODMAN: Dahr Jamail, your piece in Truthout is called "BP’s Scheme to Swindle the 'Small People.'" What is that scheme?

DAHR JAMAIL: Right. Well, the scheme is—let’s be really clear, Amy. We all know that context for news reporting is key. And Kenneth Feinberg, who is the Obama-appointed individual in charge of this $20 billion compensation fund for victims of the BP oil disaster, who is he being paid by? He is being paid by BP to do this job. When he was asked recently, just in the last forty-eight hours, how much he’s being paid, he said, "That’s between me and British Petroleum." So let’s be—let’s start right there.

And then, to move forward, this story came up because I was talking with Clint Guidry, who I just mentioned, and he was, like all the other fishermen, outraged by how this fund is being handled. And how it’s being handled is that these people who join this so-called Vessels of Opportunity program, which are basically fishermen who are now completely put out of work, the shrimping and the fishing industry in Louisiana—and this is spreading across the coast along with the oil, as it travels across the coast—is completely shut down, so these people are forced in to do this work, going out skimming, putting out oil boom, other types of recovery efforts for BP, because it’s literally the only way they can make a living now. And so, Feinberg then recently announces, last Friday, as you reported, that, “No, actually now all the money that you’re earning, you folks in the Vessels for Opportunity program, any future compensation claims that you make, this money will be deducted from that claim.”

And so, upon further investigation, it turns out there’s a lawyer in Louisiana named Stephen Herman, and his firm, back on May 2nd, had an email correspondence with a law firm representing BP. And he questioned this very thing, because it had first come up way back at the beginning of this disaster when people were going and looking into joining the Vessels for Opportunity program, but before they could join, they were going to be asked to sign a waiver. Well, this was of course then brought—Stephen Herman brought this to the attention of the BP lawyer, questioned it, challenged it. And then the BP lawyer wrote back and said, “That is not going to happen. We’re going to tear up those claims. We’re not going to do that.”

Stephen Herman also questioned BP’s lawyer as to this very thing that we just saw Feinberg do, which was, "I want to make very clear," said Herman, "that any of this work, any of the payment for the work these folks do, will not later be taken out of claims that they may make for future compensation for loss of livelihood, etc." And he was told at that time in a response on May 3rd by BP’s lawyer, “Absolutely, that will not happen. That is BP’s stated position.” And so, then we have Feinberg come out Monday, and every day since then, acting as basically a BP salesman trying to push this new agenda that you have to file your claim within a year, and then, once you do that, you’ll get paid, and you will not file any further claims. And then, of course, any work that you’ve done in this Vessels for Opportunity program, any of that money will be deducted from any future claims. So this directly contradicts what BP said to Stephen Herman’s law firm in New Orleans back on May 3rd. And again, we have Kenneth Feinberg running around, clearly accountable to BP, clearly working in the interests of BP, and as he’s being accused by Clint Guidry and basically fishermen up and down the Gulf Coast at this point in the Vessels for Opportunity program, is that this a guy who’s doing nothing but working to try to limit BP’s long-term liability for this disaster.

AMY GOODMAN: Dahr Jamail, we want to thank you very much for being with us, independent journalist. His latest piece in Truthout is called "BP’s Scheme to Swindle the 'Small People.'" Special thanks to WEDU, PBS in Tampa. Florida, where he is speaking to us from. And Hugh Kaufman, senior policy analyst at the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, for joining us from Washington, DC. Of course, we will continue to cover the fallout of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico.