Threats to Democracy
Reading Time: 5 minutesWhat do Sense About Science, the Science Media Center, the Center for Food Integrity and the International Food Information Council have in common?They were all groups paid by Monsanto to undermine investigations into the safety of its pesticides.
Reading Time: 11 minutesWe begin our story with a small collection of quotes that captures the right-wing, evangelical attitude in the US toward women who choose to have abortions, and toward the people who make them possible.
Reading Time: 7 minutesFormer FBI general counsel James Baker said he is “tremendously worried” about Russian attempts to disrupt the 2020 election, adding that “our systems are highly vulnerable” to such interference. Baker argued that the diverse and “not well-connected” 8,800 jurisdictions “that conduct voting every presidential election [are] a lot of attack surface for the bad guys to go after.”
When he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1, Attorney General William Barr likely was comforted by one fact: it appears that most Americans have not read the actual Mueller report.
For whistleblowers, it’s the Emmys, the Grammys, and the Oscars rolled into one. The Ridenhour Prizes mark the one time each year that they and their supporters are celebrated for their important and often dangerous work.The ceremony, founded in 2003 and held in Washington at the National Press Club, also honors journalists — but is rarely covered by the media.
Manhattan is the kind of place where you can find just about anything. But it seems like the most improbable location in the world for a KGB Espionage Museum. Yet such a place has opened in a storefront at 245 West 14th Street, Manhattan — right in the heart of former enemy territory. (At least I hope it’s “former.”)
The rule of Big Brother has begun, and we are all enabling this new authoritative regime, critics charge. We are empowering “surveillance capitalists” by revealing our every thought, word, and deed through our networked devices — our cars, cell phones, laptops, notepads, sensors, and voice-activated speakers (which do as much listening as speaking) such as Google’s Alexa and Amazon’s Echo.
Announced over the public address system in a suburban Philadelphia middle school: The school is now on lockdown. This is just a drill. Run! Immediately search for a way out, any way out. Run through the classroom door. Climb out the window. Sprint through the football field. Run in a zig-zag or swirly line — a shooter is more likely to hit you when you run in a straight line. Hide in a neighbor’s garage until you know you’re safe. Hide!
It was National Freedom of Information Day in Washington on Friday, but the members of Congress, journalists, and transparency advocates who gathered at the Newseum seemed well aware of the irony of celebrating openness in the era of Trump.The passage in 2016 of a bipartisan law strengthening the 1967 FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) was a victory for transparency activis
The United States is more corrupt than it used to be. The country has sunk to No. 22 on the list of least corrupt countries in a global study that looks at the health of democratic institutions. The US now ranks below Estonia, Ireland, Japan, and France — and just above the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Barbados, and Bhutan. The United States joined the Czech Republic and Brazil as “countries to watch.”The US fell from No.
Climate change is so impossibly, depressingly big, so out of control, that most of us feel powerless to do anything about it. Thus we turn away and do nothing. That’s human nature. Fortunately, there are people who are willing to step up and speak out for the tough choices that must be made…now.
A common trope from baby boomers is that young people today live entirely online. That social media has created an apathetic generation more interested in sharing memes than contributing to the real world.
Sixty prominent Americans have signed a letter calling on Congress to reopen the investigations into the 1960s assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The letter, signed by historians, journalists, lawyers, and other experts on the four political murders, is an effort to create a national truth and reconciliation commission to begin a reversal of disastrous social and cultural divisions fueled by decades of government sanctioned lies.
After five decades, the mysteries behind the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X may finally get the scrutiny they deserve. A group consisting of relatives of the Kennedy and King families, as well as their confidantes and other prominent voices, is calling for a Truth and Reconciliation Committee to get to the bottom of these tragic murders.
Everyday we look at unfolding news and events through the lens of politics. Suppose we tried to understand it all instead through the lens of psychology? Suppose we got beyond the zero-sum political construct, and into how we have been and are still being manipulated.What if we realized that President Donald Trump is just a symptom of the deeper crumbling psychological infrastructure of our country? One that makes us so vulnerable to divisive political tactics?
As the partial government shutdown lurches into its fourth week, there is a lot of collateral damage to go around, affecting everyone from communities waiting for cleanups of toxic Superfund sites, to new parents buying baby toys and even some victims of sexual assault.
President Donald Trump, who hates being constrained by pesky things like laws, the separation of powers, or the Constitution, seems poised to invoke a national emergency to get his taxpayer-funded wall built along the southern border. To save face after triggering a government shutdown over this issue, it is believed that Trump would use this move to seize land along the border and reallocate funds designated for real emergencies to deal with this made-up crisis.
This past weekend marked a new escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine — from a surprising quarter. As much of the Eastern Orthodox world celebrated Christmas, the world head of the Orthodox Church officially recognized the independence of the Ukrainian church from Russia. And Russia is not happy about it.
The Syrian government, having perpetrated numerous war crimes over the past six years of civil war, is likely the biggest winner of President Donald Trump’s sudden decision to pull US troops out of Syria.
Do you live near a hate group? Would you know it if you did? To find out more, click on this amazing Hate Map, and you will discover a wide variety of fascist hate groups all over the country — whom they hate, what they’ve been up to, and where they are. There’s one for nearly every taste.
While the twin breaking news of Paul Manafort’s guilty verdict and Michael Cohen’s guilty plea made for great television, neither outcome was particularly shocking. When you are palling around with dubious international political figures or when your job description is “fixer” for a shady real estate mogul, then chances are you have done some things that weren’t entirely on the up and up.
Reality Winner, an Air Force veteran and former NSA contractor, was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison Thursday after pleading guilty to violating the Espionage Act of 1917.Whistleblower advocates condemned the sentence and its length as “shameful,” while President Donald Trump used the case to take a swipe at his political rival, Hillary Clinton, and Attorney
Talking tough about military action and being tough are not one and the same. That’s worth remembering in the Trump era, when potential conflicts always seem just a tweet away. While many politicians, including President Donald Trump, have been quick to threaten military action, few have seen the horrors of war up close.
WhoWhatWhy was recently hit by a major spambot attack that we have traced back to a network operating from Russia. The fact that they went after us is not particularly surprising — that comes with the territory of covering politics in the US these days.
Relations between the US and Turkey — a key American ally and home to NATO’s second-largest army — hit a new low on Friday, with the presidents of both countries rhetorically declaring economic war on each other.
Seventy-five years ago in Harlem, an argument started over a dollar bill. It ended up in a riot costing the lives of six people (five shot by police), 495 injured, over 500 arrested, and an estimated five million dollars ($75 million in 2018 dollars) in damages to property — white-owned property.
In our interconnected world, nothing happens in a vacuum — certainly not in the backyard of the United States. So while the eyes of the world are on the Trump administration’s inhumane policies regarding migrants and their children, it is worth taking a step back to figure out why so many people from Central American countries are risking their lives to seek refuge and a better future in the US.
Over the past 15 months, hundreds of news stories have tracked the steps the Trump administration has taken to weaken federal agencies, defer to industry interests on a variety of issues, and undo or delay more than 1,500 rules in the rulemaking pipeline.
Orwellian technology, capable of monitoring your every message and conversation, may be coming to your office soon.In keeping with the management adage, “What you can’t measure, you can’t manage,” new employee monitoring methods called talent analytics (or workforce analytics) are hitting the corporate market.From small startups to global giants such as IBM, tech vendors are offering employers the promise of q
Nearly 55 years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the drama and mystery surrounding that dark day in Dallas is still unfolding — in large part because the government has for many years refused to release all relevant documents. That was supposed to change last year. The John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 gave the US government 25 years to release most of the documents that had either not been seen by the public or had been heavily redacted. The original deadline was October 26, 2017.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be grilled this week by members of Congress about his company’s failure to ensure the privacy of Facebook users. While experts debate the details, people who log onto Facebook want to know what can be done to keep their personal information secure.
That news outfits are mere conveyors of unbiased information is a conceit almost no one entertains, particularly with regard to developments in Washington. But still, it’s rare to see such an orchestrated endorsement of a president’s message from a network other than Fox News.The Sinclair Broadcast Group, the owner of 193 television stations, has managed to operate in relative anonymity until last Saturday, when a 90-second clip revealed that news anchors were told to recite a series of scripted promos lambasting what they considered the biased, fake news-touting liberal media.
Back in a January 2017 article, we asked: “Did the Feds Indict the Wife of Orlando Shooter for Sins of Her Husband?” It turns out the answer to that question is: probably. It’s either that or the FBI is trying to silence her. Either way, the case against Noor Salman, wife of Pulse nightclub shooter, Omar Mateen, is falling apart due to prosecutorial misconduct.
And the winner of the 2018 Black Hole Award is … the Trump White House. Since 2011, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) has yearly bestowed what it terms its “dishonor” on a government agency or institution that shows “outright contempt for the public’s right to know.” This is the first time a president and his administration have received the award.
A strike that could blaze a trail for a new labor movement ended in West Virginia last week. The teachers went back to work after the state legislature agreed to give all state employees a five percent raise and set up a task force to recommend changes to their health insurance program. With organized labor facing a crucial Supreme Court decision later this year, the successful tactics used by the West Virginia teachers could point the way for a comeback by labor nationwide.
The United States spends a staggering amount of money each year on a military unrivaled in history. But twice already during this century, its enemies — with apparent ease and tiny budgets — have succeeded in showing that the US is much more fragile and vulnerable than people think. And that should worry Americans and their allies alike.
The FBI is one of the few institutions that, no matter how often it screws up in major ways, no matter that there is something deeply wrong with the place, never seems to be held accountable. WhoWhatWhy often covers situations where the FBI knew something in advance before heinous crimes were committed — and then apparently did nothing. Many of those are so extremely weird that no one knows what to make of the phenomenon, and, frankly, people just don’t want to contemplate whether we are looking at gross incompetence, misplaced priorities, or something worse.
The US, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Israel are all on a collision course with each other in Syria as each maneuvers aggressively to get the most from the endgame of the brutal Syrian civil war, now approaching its seventh anniversary. The danger of a big-power conflict starting by accident rather than intention has not been so high in decades.All five regional and global powers, except the US, have had an aircraft shot down inside (or from inside) Syria in the space of about a week.
The budget drama has become a long-running soap opera. Since last October, when the 2018 federal fiscal year began, federal agencies have been like heroines tied to the railroad tracks, waiting for deliverance from Congress before the money runs out and shuts them down. Each time, at the brink, lawmakers have gotten together to stop the train. However, they never resolve the problem, and instead agree to short-term measures, called Continuing Resolutions (CR), to keep the money running for a few more days or weeks.
Editor’s Note: Part II of this in-depth, technical piece by a former IRS investigator raises more questions than it answers. But WhoWhatWhy believes this is a very useful service, particularly in relation to a complex topic of considerable public import — one that may be a key component for special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Trump-Russia investigation. We hope in the coming weeks to explore many more of these questions in greater depth. And we welcome reader comments. Martin J. Sheil is a retired branch chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation division.
Was President Donald Trump’s controversial “election integrity” commission shut down because its secret inner workings and true purpose were about to be exposed? In an exclusive interview with WhoWhatWhy, Matt Dunlap, one of the few Democrats on the commission and the man who successfully sued for internal documents to be released, says he believes the answer is “yes.”
Editor’s Note: We publish this lengthy, in-depth, technical piece by a former IRS investigator, knowing it raises more questions than it provides answers. But we believe that is a very useful service, particularly in relation to a complex topic of considerable public import — one that may be a key component for special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Trump-Russia investigation. We hope in the coming weeks to explore many of these questions in greater depth. And we welcome reader comments. Martin J. Sheil is a retired branch chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation division.
It’s been a tough stretch for people who like democracy. Not only is the right to vote in the United States under continuous assault from within, but the regime of Vladimir Putin also successfully interfered in both the 2016 US presidential election and the Brexit vote in the UK, in an effort to undermine the West.
There probably isn’t a topic that we focused on more in 2017 than election integrity. With good reason. There are forces at work in the US and abroad that are working to undermine democracy. That’s bad enough. What’s even worse is that they are succeeding. We at WhoWhatWhy believe strongly that any eligible voter who wants to cast a ballot should be able to do so. Unfortunately, a lot of powerful people in the United States don’t feel this way and we will continue to hold them to account next year.