Who Is John Podesta?

John Podesta Gets a Hug from Hillary at a 2011 CAP forum in Washington, DC

John Podesta Gets a Hug from Hillary at a 2011 CAP forum in Washington, DC

First published at Judicial Watch’s Investigative Bulletin.

By Micah Morrison

“They [the White House] need to focus on executive action given that they are facing a second term against a cult worthy of Jonestown in charge of one of the houses of Congress.”

So spoke John Podesta in an interview last fall with Politico, shortly before being named White House counselor. Podesta quickly apologized for the Jonestown jibe and his return to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where he previously served President Clinton, was greeted with deferential nods from the press. “Well respected in political circles both as a strategist and policy thinker,” noted the AP. “One of the Democratic Party’s most seasoned political and policy operatives,” declared the Washington Post.

In 2003, Podesta founded the Center for American Progress. By all accounts, it has been a roaring success, serving as a left-wing answer to the Heritage Foundation and a government-in-waiting during the Bush darkness. According to recent data, CAP’s assets top $44 million; its advocacy unit, the CAP Action Fund, holds about $6 million. Podesta also is a co-founder with his brother, Tony, of the lobbying firm now known as the Podesta Group; started in 1988, the Podesta Group in 20l3 reported over $27 million in lobbying fees.

In 2005, the New York Times noted that Podesta was one of a “tight-knit group of advisers” forming Hillary Clinton’s inner circle as she pondered a presidential run. He supported Mrs. Clinton in the 2008 primary season, but soon was on board with Barack Obama, directing his presidential transition team. In 2011, Podesta resigned as president of CAP and was replaced by Neera Tanden, a longtime Hillary Clinton aide. According to the Post, Podesta remains “an influential voice in the Clinton political orbit, informally advising Hillary Rodham Clinton in the year since she stepped down as secretary of state.” In his current White House position, Podesta is reported to be focusing on environmental issues, particularly climate change, and particularly policies that can be put in place by executive action, without Congressional approval.

The Podesta biography also includes a long history of scandal-management and cover-up for the Clintons. Podesta now says he will serve only a year as counselor to President Obama, but if the going gets tough, expect an extended tenure. Slamming House Republicans as “a cult worthy of Jonestown” is a signal that Podesta will not go quietly into the night.

Podesta played a role in managing many of the scandals that surrounded the Clintons, including Mrs. Clinton’s amazing profits trading cattle futures, Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky, impeachment, and perhaps most tellingly, the Travel Office affair. In May 1993, a senior administration official, David Watkins, fired all seven members of the White House Travel Office to make way for Arkansas cronies of the Clintons. A picaresque enterprise with lucrative connections to the airline charter business, the Travel Office handled travel arrangements for the White House press corps—it operated literally on the fly and ran its business in much the same way.

President Clinton simply could have asked for the resignations of the Travel Office employees. Instead, in actions directed in part by Mrs. Clinton, the employees were driven from office, cashiered as crooks and lowlifes. Travel Office Director Billy Dale’s experience was especially harrowing: indicted on embezzlement charges, he faced up to 20 years in prison. His career in ruins, he twisted in the wind for more than two years until a jury cleared him of all charges, returning a verdict after deliberating less than two hours.

White House officials had unleashed “the full powers of the federal government against the seven former workers,” the Republican-led House Government Reform and Oversight Committee concluded after a lengthy inquiry. “The extraordinary might of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice—not to mention the prestige of the White House itself—were brought to bear.” In a detailed final report, the committee rebuked the White House for conducting “an enormous and elaborate cover-up” of the Travel Office affair.

In 1993, Podesta served as Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary. As concerns over abuse of power in the Travel Office affair mounted and the White House fought a public-relations nightmare, Podesta was appointed to conduct an internal inquiry that became known as the White House Management Review. Podesta’s report would become the White House’s first line of defense in the Travel Office affair. It depicted Mrs. Clinton as little more than a bystander in the Travel Office events.

Others had a different view. “The much-heralded White House Management Review proved to be nothing more than a whitewash,” noted the Oversight Committee. It “minimized Mrs. Clinton’s role in the Travel Office firings and omitted testimony of witnesses indicating a larger role by Mrs. Clinton. It also failed to note that senior White House aides had initially withheld information about Mrs. Clinton’s involvement in the firings.”

The Oversight Committee reported that a “pattern developed throughout the course of the review: information unflattering to the Travel Office employees was included in the report, exculpatory information was not.

Podesta went digging for dirt in confidential personnel files. “In seeking derogatory information on the Travel Office employees, Podesta reviewed their personnel files,” the Oversight Committee reported. The files “circulated around the White House for several weeks” until a senior official in the personnel office “made an urgent call for them to be returned.”

Concerns over the Podesta-led inquiry protecting Mrs. Clinton were not entirely a partisan matter. Podesta’s own deputy, Todd Stern, wrote in notes later obtained by investigators, “if you give answers that aren’t fully honest (e.g., nothing re HRC) you risk hugely compounding the problem by getting caught in half-truths. You run risk of turning this into a ‘cover-up.’”

Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster, a close Clinton associate and former law firm partner of Mrs. Clinton, was deeply involved in the Travel Office affair. His goal: protect the First Lady. “Defend management decision, thereby defend HRC role whatever it is, was in fact or might have been misperceived to be,” Foster wrote in a note to himself shortly before he committed suicide, pitching the White House into another crisis.

Numerous reports have detailed Foster’s mounting concerns over Whitewater and the Travel Office. “At the time of his death,” noted the final report of the Senate Special Committee on Whitewater, “Vincent Foster was intimately involved in two brewing scandals—Travelgate and Whitewater—touching on President and Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Foster played a central role in both the firing of the Travel Office staff and subsequent attempts to conceal Mrs. Clinton’s true role in the firings.”

Mrs. Clinton denied playing a role in the Travel Office firings. In a sworn statement, she told the Government Accountability Office that she “did not know the origin of the decision to remove the White House Travel Office employees” and that she had “no role in the decision to terminate the employees.” She repeated the denials in testimony before Congress and an independent counsel inquiry.

In 1996, the case took a new twist when a self-described “soul cleansing” draft memo surfaced from Arkansas insider David Watkins, the White House official who had fired the Travel Office employees. The memo, not dated and marked “Confidential,” apparently was written for then-White House Chief of Staff Thomas “Mack” McLarty. It noted that Foster “regularly informed me that the First Lady was concerned and desired action—the action desired was the firing of the Travel Office staff.”

Watkins—who himself was dismissed from his White House post in 1994 for improper use of a government helicopter—wrote that he had directly spoken to Mrs. Clinton about the Travel Office. She expressed “her desire for swift and clear action to resolve the situation,” Watkins noted in the memo.

“We both knew that there would be hell to pay,” Watkins wrote, if “we failed to take swift and decisive action in conformity with the First Lady’s wishes.”

With the Watkins memo, the ante went up on the Travel Office affair. Had Mrs. Clinton lied under oath?

In 2000, a report by Independent Counsel Robert Ray concluded that Mrs. Clinton had given “factually false” testimony about the Travel Office firings. In other words, she had lied. Contrary to her statements, and contrary to the Podesta review, she had played a central role in the Travel Office firings. But Ray declined prosecution, saying that the evidence did not prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Mrs. Clinton’s statements had been made with the requisite criminal intent.

Questioned by congressional investigators about the Clintons’ role in the Travel Office firings, Podesta suffered a severe bout of memory loss. The Oversight Committee report noted that “Mr. Podesta recalls nothing of the interview with the President, whether he discussed the President’s knowledge of the firings, or whether he asked about the President’s complicity.” The report cited 264 instances when Podesta “had difficulty recalling key events under oath.”

The cover-up had succeeded. For Podesta, it was a defining moment. Before, he was just another obscure White House aide. After, he was a made man in Clintonland: he had upheld the omerta surrounding the Clintons, protected the First Lady, fended off Congress and the press.

Soon he would be given an even more important task: Whitewater. Congress, the press and prosecutors were digging into the Clintons’ Arkansas land deals amid allegations of widespread fraud, corruption and cover-up. According to a December 1994 memo known as the White House “Task List,” Podesta would be assigned a key role in Whitewater. Under the heading “White House Whitewater response effort,” is the notation, “Podesta damage control effort.”

In 1997, Podesta was promoted to White House deputy chief of staff. In 1998, he was appointed chief of staff. He presided over the tumultuous final years of the Clinton presidency, a tenure marked by the Lewinsky debacle, impeachment, and a scandal over presidential pardons. Back in the White House now, Podesta is a bellwether for the final Obama years, a political street fighter steeped in scandal management and a loyalist serving two masters—the man who is president, and the woman who would succeed him.

Say You Want a Revolution: “Political Prisoner”–and Three-Time Cop Killer–Seeks Parole

First published at Judicial Watch’s Investigative Bulletin

By Micah Morrison

It was a savage crime in a savage time.

On May 21, 1971, two New York City police officers—one white, one black—were lured to a Harlem housing project by a fake 911 call. Waiting in ambush were three members of the Black Liberation Army, an ultra-violent offshoot of the Black Panther Party. The BLA was unleashing a wave of mayhem and murder across the country. It was not alone. The terrorist Weather Underground had issued a “Declaration of War” against the United States, protests against the Vietnam War were rocking the nation, and a tidal wave of drugs and crime was sweeping the inner cities.

As police officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones approached the housing project, the three BLA assassins came up behind them and started firing. Officer Jones died immediately with four shots to the head. Officer Piagentini took longer. According to court records, he lay on the sidewalk pleading for his life, saying he had a wife and two daughters at home. The killers put twenty-two bullets in him.

Three months later, BLA members walked into a San Francisco police station and shot dead the desk sergeant, John Victor Young. Three months after that, Officer James Greene was shot and killed in his patrol van at a gas station in Georgia. In June 1972, two more New York City police officers, Gregory Foster and Rocco Laurie, were gunned down at an East Village street corner. More BLA murders, robberies and hijackings followed.

Eventually, the law caught up with the BLA. Three men were convicted in murders of Piagentini and Jones. One of them died in prison. Another, Anthony Bottom, will be up for parole in June. The third man, Herman Bell, has been in prison for the crime since 1973. He appears before a New York parole board next week.

Will New York free a cop killer? Bell has a good case for parole. He’s reported to have been a model prisoner during his long incarceration. His attorney commissioned a psychological evaluation that, though not released publicly, has been submitted in support of his release. He has plans for work and a place to live lined up. Friends and family members have submitted letters. One influential supporter is Officer Jones’ son, Waverly Jones Jr., who wrote to the parole board in support of freedom for Bell and Bottom. Mr. Jones noted that he has “forgiven these men” and considers them “victims…of a much larger scheme which got them incarcerated to this day.”

Websites such as FreeHermanBell.org and theJerichoMovement.com have mounted campaigns to free Bell, Bottom and other “political prisoners” in the U.S. The Jericho Movement grew out of 1998 rally in support of Bell’s co-conspirator, Anthony Bottom, and defines itself as a national movement with the goal of “gaining recognition of the fact that Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War exist inside of the United States” and “winning amnesty and freedom” for them. The prisoners supported by the Jericho Movement are drawn from a gallery of hard-Left organizations, including the Black Panther Party, La Raza, the FALN, Los Macheteros, the American Indian Movement, the May 19 Communist Organization, and the BLA.

The Jericho Movement calls Bell “part of the brilliant liberation movement of the 1960s and early 1970s” and a victim of the FBI’s notorious COINTELPRO counter-intelligence program.

To Bell’s supporters on the hard Left, this is not ancient history. COINTELPRO, the Jericho Movement claims, “has morphed into Homeland Security’s Joint Terrorism Task Force,” an organization of “domestic witch-hunters.” Bell and other jailed members of radical political groups are “peace-loving activists.” Today, “the black liberation movement, the Puerto Rican independence movement, and environmentalists are all in the government’s sights.”

Leading the opposition to the killers of Piagentini and Jones is the powerful New York Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. At a January press conference, PBA President Pat Lynch declared “there is not now, nor will there ever be any justification for granting Bell and Bottom parole,” calling them “convicted cop killers who will say and do anything to get out of prison.”

Officer Joseph Piagentini’s widow, Diane, also appeared at the PBA press conference. Bell and Bottom “have denied our two daughters a loving father, our two grandchildren have been denied the love and warmth of their granddad, and I have been denied a husband,” she said. “There should be no parole for these cold-blooded murderers.”

In 2010, after denying his role in the New York murders for nearly forty years, Bell admitted he shot Officer Piagentini. In a separate legal move in California, Bell also pleaded guilty to playing a role in the murder of the San Francisco police sergeant, John Victor Young.

The PBA assailed the admission to the New York crimes as “a transparent bid to win parole.” According to a transcript of Bell’s March 2012 parole hearing obtained by Judicial Watch, the parole board was skeptical, too.

At the 2012 hearing, a parole commissioner noted that four years earlier, in 2006, Bell was still denying his participation in the shooting of Piagentini and Jones. In 2006, the commissioner notes, “you denied pulling the trigger, and you said you did not kill any of these men, meaning the two New York City police officers. You denied that you actually pulled the trigger at that point and killing the police officer at that time.”

The parole commissioner suggested that Bell’s admission only came after the legal appeals process was exhausted. “I see at your Parole Board hearing in 2010, you did at that time admit to pulling the trigger. You did not deny it at that time…. But up until 2010, were you in denial of the fact that you had actually pulled the trigger on one of the officers? Or, was there a reason you were not coming forward with that? And also, when did your actual appeal process end in terms of your appeals being exhausted?”

Bell’s reply is uncertain, evasive. “It’s such a long time ago,” he says.

The parole commissioner presses him: “Why did it take you to 2010 that you actually did this?”

“I began to see things in a way that I wanted to come clean,” Bell replied. “I wanted to accept the fact that I committed this offense, I wanted to show remorse, but I really didn’t know how to express that to the board.”

In fact, Bell has shown little remorse for his crimes. His few published remarks on the issue are largely exercises in equivocation. In a posting on the Jericho Movement site, for example, Bell notes that “during the 1960s and 1970s, people were killed on both sides. To the degree that my humanity compels me to value and feel remorse for the loss of all life, human and otherwise, I feel remorse that people were killed and families and lives were destroyed.”

In his 2012 interview with the parole board, Bell indicates that the murders of Piagentini, Jones and Young were nothing personal. Just politics. Revolutionary politics.

“It wasn’t the case of these three particular officers attacking the black community,” Bell explained. “It was the case of the institution that was part of the oppression of the black community and this was our response to that repression.” The purpose of the killings, Bell said, was “to start a revolution.”

“Sir,” a parole commissioner asked, “do you consider yourself to be a political prisoner, or a prisoner of war?”

“I consider myself to be a political prisoner,” Bell replied, “but not a prisoner of war.”

“So at the current time, you still consider yourself to be a political prisoner?”

“That’s a two-part question I would like to respond to,” Bell said. “One the one hand, my crime is a political act. On the other hand, as I am today, I don’t see myself as part of that process.”

In 2012, Bell’s arguments did not sway the parole commission. It denied him parole. It condemned “the extreme violence and brutality” of the murders. “Officer Jones was shot multiple times in the back of the head and Officer Piagentini was also shot multiple times,” the parole board noted. “This heinous crime was part of a criminal lifestyle that includes armed bank robbery and the voluntary manslaughter of another police officer in the state of California.” The actions demonstrated “a callous disregard for the life of the victims, who were doing nothing other than serving and protecting their community.”

Next week, at the new parole board interview, Bell gets to try again.

There are no do-overs for Joseph Piagentini, Waverly Jones, and John Victor Young.

Investigative Reporter, Clinton Expert, Joins Judicial Watch

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch is pleased to announce its newest team member, investigative journalist Micah Morrison. As a senior writer and, later, chief investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal editorial page from 1993 to 2002, Morrison led the investigations of the Clinton administration. He also reported on union corruption, Indian casino gaming, and the Bank of Credit & Commerce International (BCCI). He was co-editor, with Journal Editor Robert L. Bartley, of the six volume series, Whitewater: A Wall Street Journal Briefing. The newspaper nominated him four times for the Pulitzer Prize.

Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton issued the following statement on Morrison’s hiring:

“We are delighted to bring veteran journalist Micah Morrison onto the Judicial Watch team as we make a major push into investigative reporting. The media world we live in today presents many new opportunities for influential reporting to hold politicians and public officials accountable. Micah is well known for his integrity, fairness and enthusiasm for great stories. As Judicial Watch’s chief investigative reporter, he will work closely with our team of investigators and lawyers to get more of the truth of what our government is up to.”

Micah Morrison added:

“I’m thrilled to be joining the Judicial Watch team. For nearly two decades, Judicial Watch has been the leading Freedom of Information Act requestor and litigator, holding government accountable and making it more transparent. Judicial Watch’s team of FOIA-focused investigators and lawyers is unmatched by any newsroom in America. Our new world of digital journalism, the Internet and social media, in addition to the legacy media, presents many opportunities for our reporting. I look forward to working with Judicial Watch to make the most of these opportunities in pursuit of great journalism.”

Morrison’s work has appeared in many publications, including The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, New York Post, Daily News, American Spectator and Parade Magazine. From 2007 to 2011, he was a consultant to Fox News for investigative projects, leading the reporting and writing for the Fox News special, “Iran’s Nuclear Secrets,” and contributing to FoxNews.com and the Fox Business Network. A graduate of Bennington College, he is the author of Fire in Paradise: The Yellowstone Fires and the Politics of Environmentalism (HarperCollins).

Founded in 1994, Judicial Watch Inc. is a constitutionally conservative, nonpartisan educational foundation that promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

What’s Past is Prologue: Hassan Rohani’s Nuclear Legacy

In June, Iran passed an important nuclear milestone. Exactly ten years earlier, Iranian scientists inserted a gas known as “hex”—uranium hexafluoride, or UF6—into a lone centrifuge at the Natanz enrichment facility. It marked the beginning of a decade of uranium enrichment that has brought Iran to the threshold of nuclear weapons. No single act has had more consequence in Iran’s brazen and often brilliant campaign for the bomb. One of the leaders of that campaign is Iran’s new president, Hassan Rohani.

Mr. Rohani is the ultimate insider, with long experience in Iran’s national security establishment. He led Iran’s Supreme National Security Council from 1989 to 2005. From 2003 to 2005, he also served as the country’s top nuclear negotiator in talks with the European Union and International Atomic Energy Agency, until outmaneuvered by then-incoming president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

And he’s sticking with his story. In an interview with the Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat the week before the Iranian presidential election, Mr. Rohani insisted that “Iran has an exclusively peaceful nuclear program.” Such a bald-faced lie would be laughable, except that Iran keeps getting away with it.

The dimensions of the illicit Iranian effort are staggering. Consider that single centrifuge at Natanz in June 2003, when Mr. Rohani was about to take over Iran’s international nuclear negotiations. It was based on designs and components provided by Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan, the nuclear arms merchant who earlier had stolen centrifuge plans from his employer, the European enrichment consortium URENCO. Iranian agents had scoured the global black market for nuclear technology and uranium. China was approached for assistance, then Russia. A clandestine facility in Tehran, operating under the name Kalaye Electric Company, began enriching small amounts of uranium, and testing and developing centrifuges. Uranium ore mining and refinement operations began. The vast Natanz complex was built in complete secrecy. A second possible path to bomb fuel, using plutonium, was opened with construction beginning on the Arak nuclear reactor. All this occurred on Mr. Rohani’s national security watch.

By August 2003, Iran had begun testing at Natanz a “cascade” of ten-interlinked centrifuges. The goal? Enrich uranium hexafluoride to the point it contained 5% of the isotope U-235. In sufficient quantities, hex enriched to 5% U-235 will fuel nuclear power reactors. In sufficient quantities, hex enriched to 20% U-235 is one fast enrichment step up to 90% U-235—bomb fuel.

Mr. Rohani was a key player in this. In a remarkable 2004 speech to Iran’s top leaders, first reported by nuclear researcher Chen Kane, Mr. Rohani championed the enrichment effort. It was not just about nuclear power, he suggested, it was about the bomb. “A country that can enrich uranium to about 3.5% will also have the ability to enrich it to about 90%,” he said.

20% U-235 is the key to the Iranian bomb. While the technical challenges in building the actual explosive device and delivery system are formidable—and the evidence is considerable that Iran is pursuing both—nothing is more difficult than creating the fuel for the bomb.

In 2003, Iran still faced enormous challenges getting to sufficient quantities of 20% U-235. The cascades would have to be bigger and more efficient. Large quantities of low-enriched hex, containing about 5% U-235, would have to be created and further enriched to 20%. The world powers were beginning to take note, calling on Tehran to suspend enrichment activities and moving to cut off international supply routes. Perhaps most consequential, Iran found the United States on its doorstep, toppling regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. Saddam Hussein was on the run. Would the mullahs be next?

Mr. Rohani took control of the negotiating process, looking to buy time for Tehran. In November 2003, Iran informed the IAEA that it would suspend all enrichment activities and sign the agency’s “Additional Protocol” allowing for enhanced inspections. Over the next two years, Iran adhered to its no-enrichment pledge.

But Tehran kept busy on other fronts, including sorting out technical problems at a key uranium conversion facility in Isfahan. “While we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran,” Mr. Rohani noted in his 2004 speech, “we were installing equipment in parts of the facility in Isfahan.”
In February 2006, with the threat of U.S. military action receding, Iran announced that it would not, in fact, abide by the Additional Protocol. The centrifuges quickly started up at Natanz. By June, Iran was running hex into its first 164-centrifuge cascade, reporting to the IAEA an enrichment rate of 5% U-235.

By August 2007, 1,968 centrifuges were operating at Natanz. By August 2008, 3,820 centrifuges were at work. 480 kilos of low-enriched uranium had been produced.

By February 2009, with 3,936 centrifuges at work and another 1,400 installed but not yet operational, Iran had produced over 1,000 kilos of low-enriched uranium. U.S. officials concluded that Iran now had enough low-enriched uranium to fuel a nuclear weapon, should it decide to enrich further.

Which is precisely what it did. In February 2010, Iran began feeding low-enriched uranium into a single 164-centrifuge cascade in Natanz for the purpose of developing 20% U-235. Iran informed the IAEA it wanted the highly enriched uranium for a research reactor in Tehran.

By then, news had emerged of another enrichment site: Fordow. Buried under a mountain on a military base near the holy city of Qum, the heavily fortified Fordow plant is thought to be impervious to air strikes. Like Natanz, Fordow had been built in complete secrecy. Like Natanz, when Fordow was exposed, Tehran simply shrugged and moved on.

By February 2012, two cascades at Fordow, containing a total of 696 centrifuges, had produced thirteen kilos of 20% U-235. At Natanz, production of the highly enriched uranium reached 73 kilos. The production of highly enriched uranium at both facilities continues to this day, with Tehran careful not to produce amounts that would cross U.S. or Israeli red lines.

Mr. Rohani’s nuclear vision had been achieved: the fuel cycle has been mastered. “If one day we are able to complete the fuel cycle and the world sees that it has no choice—that we do possess the technology—then the situation will be different,” he said in 2004. “The world did not want Pakistan to have an atomic bomb or Brazil to have the fuel cycle, but Pakistan built its bomb and Brazil has its fuel cycle, and the world started to work with them.”

Iran now has its fuel cycle. The situation is indeed different.

Day One—The First Immolation

Every life is in many days, day after day.
–James Joyce, “Ulysses”

Thupten Ngodup

Thupten Ngodup
April 27, 1998. Delhi, India

He lived in a small, neat hut near a rhododendron forest on the grounds of a monastery in Dharamsala, India. The Tibetan writer Jamyang Norbu noted that “by all accounts, Thupten Ngodup seems to have been a light-hearted person who enjoyed an occasional drink and a game of cards.”

Born in a village in Tibet in 1938, he went into exile following the 1959 Lhasa Uprising against Chinese Communist rule. In 1963, he enlisted in the Special Frontier Force, a covert-action military cadre controlled by Indian intelligence. He saw action in Bangladesh and retired in 1983, moving to Dharmsala and becoming a monastery cook. He was not a particularly religious man but is remembered by friends as “honest, upright and a good companion,” Norbu writes.

Though “not politically inclined,” Norbu notes, “he unfailingly attended all demonstrations, candle-light vigils or meetings for Tibet.” In early April, 1998, he traveled to Delhi to join a Tibetan Youth Congress hunger strike. On April 27, following a second police raid on the strikers, he slipped into a public toilet where he earlier had hidden a plastic container of gasoline. “When he came out,” Norbu writes, “he was, quite literally, an inferno.”

He died two days later, shortly after midnight. Thupten Ngodup was 60.

–Sources: International Campaign for Tibet, Self-Immolation Fact Sheet; Jamyang Norbu, Shadow Tibet blog, “Remembering Thupten Ngodup.”

Collective Punishment in Tibet: “Smash Disorder”

In November, the Chinese Communist Party’s Work Department, Huangnan Prefecture, issued an “urgent notice” of new orders for fighting the wave of self-immolations in Tibet. The notice—translated here by the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy—offers a glimpse into the mindset of Tibet’s rulers, their methods of collective punishment, and what they fear most: disorder. 

According the notification, recent self-immolations in the area are “incidents of instability [that]…cause serious damage to harmony and stability in the whole prefecture and [have] been a negative influence on the province and nation. The incidents are clearly a case of the Dalai group”—that is, followers of the Dalai Lama—“while wearing a cloak of religion, using self-immolation to encourage social grievance and incite unrest among students to create social disturbance in an attempt to split the nation.”

Translation of translation: there is a conspiracy afoot, comrades, a conspiracy against the nation. That is, treason.

The notice adds: “The masses in some areas, both monks and laypeople, are putting about random and nonsensical talk and being taken in by the incitements of the Dalai group through ignorance, believing the self-immolators to be heroes and even going to greet their family members and make voluntary donations to them.” This has created “a problematic scene and upset the normal social order.”

Translation of translation: it’s not just students anymore, it is spreading to the masses. We are worried. 

The solution? “Smash the small number of criminals who despicably manipulate people…smash disorder.”

And when we are worried, pain and suffering follow.

Party operatives are thus directed:

  • “Cancel benefits [such as minimum income support and disaster relief] received by households of self-immolators.”
  • Stop projects “running on state funds in self-immolators’ villages.”
  • Townships with three or more self-immolation incidents will not receive “state-funded projects for the next three years, [and] leading party and government officials in those townships must be replaced.”
  • “Special personnel” must “swiftly put a stop” to “instances of greeting and making contributions to family members of self-immolators”
  • For those who persist in greeting and making contributions, “public security agencies must…smash them.”
  • Monks who “greet and make donations must be given corrective training” and benefits will be “cancelled.”
  • Laypeople and households making contributions to family members of self-immolators will have benefits “cancelled.”
  • Villages and monasteries making collective donations to families of self-immolators will have all benefits “cancelled” and will not “benefit from any state-funded projects for the next three years.” Projects already under way “must be cancelled.”
  • Monks and laypeople who organize to greet family members of self-immolators “must be swiftly investigated and once solid evidence of their activities is gathered, they must face legal proceedings at an early date and be smashed quickly and heavily, according to law.”

Read the full notice here:

 

Iran’s Nuclear Secrets

My Fox News investigative special, “Iran’s Nuclear Secrets, is now available for free here.

Cardillo Murder Mystery: What Does Charlie Rangel Know?

Representative Charles Bernard Rangel has enjoyed a long career serving the residents of the Fifteenth District in Harlem. He was born there in 1930 to a seamstress mother and an absent father. The United States Army was his ticket out of poverty. Awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for valor in the Battle of Kunu-ri in the Korean War, he worked as a federal prosecutor and a member of the State Assembly. In 1971, he defeated a Harlem giant, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., for a seat in the House of Representatives. He’s been there ever since, serving twenty-one terms. A black man who fought his way up in the white man’s world, Charlie Rangel is no pushover. Today, at 81, he’s in the fight of his political life against State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who is seeking to ride the changing demographics of the district into Congress.

All this may go some way to explaining the backstory to one of the enduring mysteries of Rangel’s career: precisely what he did and said on the morning of April 14, 1972, in Louis Farrakhan’s Mosque #7 in Harlem, as Patrolman Phillip Cardillo lay dying. The episode is back in the news with a controversy over a modest attempt to honor Cardillo by naming a small street in the precinct he served “Phillip Cardillo Way.” Last week, the website DNAinfo broke the news that the putative deciding body in the matter, Community Board 10, has declined to approve the street naming, saying it might “open old wounds” and that they wanted a letter from local imams approving the move. Never mind that the only “wounds” suffered were the ones inflicted on Cardillo and other cops on the scene. Or that the Harlem imams have already given their tacit approval to the plan. The New York Times, Daily News and Fox followed up.

When CBS reporter Tony Aiello asked Rangel if he supported naming a street for Cardillo, the congressman not only dodged the question but launched a weird denunciation of the newsman, saying “this is an opportunity to show that you’re much smarter than your question.”

“The past is never dead,” Faulkner famously said. “It’s not even past.” Today, the NYPD’s relationship with mosques and Muslims is again news. Forty years ago, Cardillo and three other patrolmen were lured into an apparent ambush in Mosque #7 by a fake “officer in distress” call. In the ensuing melee, all four officers were badly beaten and Cardillo was shot. Rangel–a newly minted congressman for the district–and mosque leader Louis Farrakhan were quickly on the scene. So was Albert Seedman, the legendary NYPD Chief of Detectives.

Outside, a riot was brewing. It was an evil season in New York, a time of Weatherman and the Black Liberation Army, urban terrorists, cop killers and bombers. At the mosque, the police had sixteen suspects in the basement, almost certainly the shooter among them. Seedman encountered Rangel and Farrakhan in the basement. For nearly forty years, Seedman kept silent about the events of that day. Last year, he spoke to writer Peter Hellman.

According to Hellman’s account, Rangel told Seedman that a senior police official “wanted to mosque to be cleared of cops at once.” Hellman reports, “The edict was seconded by Louis Farrakhan.”

Rangel then issued a veiled threat to Seedman. “That crowd upstairs, they know you’re down here,” Seedman remembers Rangel saying, “I don’t know how long it will be before they come down. If you don’t leave now, I can’t guarantee your personal safety.”

Seedman says he struck a deal with Rangel, with Farrakhan standing at their side: he would release the sixteen suspects to Rangel if the congressman promised to deliver them to the 24th Precinct for questioning later that day. Rangel agreed. The NYPD withdrew from the mosque. But Rangel and the suspects never showed up.The result? No crime scene, no witnesses, no case.

Rangel has denied this version of events, but never offered his own. He did not respond to my interview requests. The killer of Phillip Cardillo walked free. To the police rank and file, it is the greatest scandal in NYPD history—a story of murder, betrayal and cover-up.

No wonder Charlie Rangel doesn’t want to talk about it.

Maybe Adriano Espaillat does.

Read the New York Times story here.

Read the Daily News editorial here.

Read the Fox News story here.

Cardillo Cover-up: Seedman Speaks

Al Seedman is a legendary figure in New York City police lore. An elegantly attired, tough talking, cigar chomping Jew, he served in the NYPD from 1942 to 1972, investigating thousands of murders, including the cases of Joe Colombo, Joey Gallo, and Kitty Genovese. He was named Chief of Detectives in 1971. In 1972, he abruptly resigned, retreating to silence and exile from his beloved police department.

New Information on Cardillo shooting from Al Seedman

In 1974, he published with writer Peter Hellman Chief! Classic Cases from the Files of the Chief of Detectives. It’s a classic indeed, full of interesting detective work, but it is largely silent on the true reason for his resignation from a job he loved at the top of his game.

Planning a re-issue of the book as an Authors Guild Backinprint.com edition, Hellman reached out to Seedman, now 92 and living in Florida, for a new introduction. Hellman got plenty. Seedman was finally ready to talk about the true reason for his resignation: the shooting of Police Office Phillip Cardillo in Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam Mosque # 7 in Harlem on April 14, 1972, and the subsequent cover-up. Hellman’s recent New York Post story about Seedman and Cardillo is linked below.

To the police rank and file, the Cardillo killing is the greatest scandal in NYPD history—a story of murder, betrayal and cover-up.

Some of the key figures in the scandal are still with us, namely Representative Charles Rangel, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Seedman told Hellman that cops at the mosque were “betrayed” by top NYPD brass colluding with Rangel and Farrakhan. Rangel and Farrakhan quickly arrived at the mosque after the Cardillo shooting. So did Al Seedman and the NYPD cavalry. Outside, a riot was brewing.

The police had sixteen suspects in the basement of the mosque, almost certainly the shooter among them. In the basement, Seedman encountered Rangel and Farrakhan. According to Hellman’s account, Rangel told Seedman that a senior police official “wanted the mosque to be cleared of cops at once. This edict was seconded by Louis Farrakhan.”

Rangel then issued a veiled threat to Seedman. “That crowd upstairs, they know you’re down here,” Seedman remembers Rangel saying, “I don’t know how long it will be before they come down. If you don’t leave now, I can’t guarantee your personal safety.”

Seedman called NYPD Chief Inspector Michael Codd to request back-up. Codd denied the request. “And he made it clear to me,” Seedman told Hellman, “that we should abandon the mosque to minimize the threat of a possible riot. And then he hung up.”

Seedman felt “betrayed.” But he had been given an order: abandon the mosque.

Seedman says he struck a deal with Rangel, with Farrakhan standing at their side: he would release the sixteen suspects to Rangel if the congressman promised to deliver them to the 24th Precinct for questioning later that day. Rangel agreed. The NYPD abandoned the crime scene and the suspects. Rangel and the suspects never showed up at the 24th Precinct.

Thus began a forty-year ordeal seeking justice for Police Officer Phillip Cardillo and answers to the mosque shooting. Was there a conspiracy to lure police officers into an ambush at the mosque? Cardillo and three others were first on the scene, racing to respond to what turned out to be a false “officer in distress” call. Was the FBI somehow involved in a cover-up, perhaps shielding valuable informants or controversial methods from the NYPD? It’s happened before. Think “Whitey Bulger.”

Ray Kelly? He was a young police sergeant at the time, stationed at the hospital where Phillip Cardillo died six days after the shooting. Thirty-four years later, as police commissioner, Kelly re-opened the case. Six years after that, in March of this year, Kelly’s spokesman in effect closed the case, saying the Major Case Squad had turned up “no new information.”

But sources tell me that the FBI was singularly uncooperative with the NYPD’s Cardillo probe, slow-rolling inquiries and providing only heavily redacted documents. Why would they do that? Well, consider the times. 1972 was an era of violent revolutionary action in the United States: the Weathermen, the Black Liberation Army, Vietnam, Watergate, urban bombings, cop killings. The FBI supposedly ceased its COINTELPRO operations and black bags jobs against domestic dissidents in 1971. And we know that the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X, Farrakhan’s predecessor at Mosque #7, were COINTELPRO targets.

There are other possible lines of inquiry as well. Independent investigators have turned up redacted documents indicating the FBI had five or six informants in or around the mosque in April, 1972. What would the unredacted documents tell us? Forty years later, maybe Charles Rangel and Louis Farrakhan have reconsidered their positions on the case. Have they been interviewed? Al Seedman is in ill health and no longer smokes cigars, Peter Hellman reports. Maybe someone should go down to Florida and get him on the record before he goes off to that great cigar store in the sky.

Murder cases famously are never closed, and that goes double for a cop killing. Ray Kelly’s NYPD is not at fault. But after a six-year investigation, if the NYPD has run out of leads, Kelly should do the right thing and call for a federal probe. Let’s see if the Justice Department and Congress can get to the bottom of this. They should start with the FBI’s relationship with the Nation of Islam.

 

Read Peter Hellman’s New York Post story on Al Seedman here.

Read my Daily News op-ed calling for a federal probe of the Cardillo killing here.

Read my New York Post team report on new evidence in the case here.

They Eat Horses, Don’t They?


It’s been a tough few months for our equine friends. In New York, by the close of Aqueduct Racetrack’s winter meet, nineteen thoroughbreds had broken down—a polite term for suffering a catastrophic racing injury—and were executed by lethal injection. Nineteen. That’s a huge number.

Albany is investigating. Good luck with that.

Over at HBO, the terrific horse racing series, “Luck,” endured a third horse death in two years and was hounded to cancellation by the animal rights crowd. Or were the producers just using PETA as an excuse to bail out in the face of bad ratings?

Now this from the AP: the Valley Meat Co. of Roswell, New Mexico, has applied to the federal government for a permit to open the nation’s only horse slaughterhouse. The horses would be “custom slaughtered” and then “processed for human consumption at the plant,” the AP reports, citing documents obtained by the Albuquerque Journal.

Roswell will be sending the equine meat not to aliens but to Europe and Asia, which to many Americans is pretty much the same thing. They eat horses in Europe and Asia, don’t they?

We’ve been down this road before, a perfect example of the law of unintended consequences. In 2006, responding to an uproar over slaughterhouse killings of the iconic American animal, Congress banned the use of Department of Agriculture funds to inspect the dwindling number of horse meat plants in the U.S. No inspection, no meat. The plants closed.

The result? The state of the American horse worsened: more neglect, abandonment, and illegal trucking of the big critters to chop shops in Canada and Mexico.

Congress reversed the measure in November. Now what?

Read the AP story here.