ROCKWELL: Well, good morning. This is the Lew Rockwell Show. And it’s great to have as our guest this morning, Mr. Russ Baker. Russ is an award-winning investigative reporter. I mean, an actual investigative reporter. I think that’s, unfortunately, a dying breed. He’s written for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Village Voice, Esquire, and many, many others publications. To me, most importantly, he’s the author of a great book called Family of Secrets:
The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces that Put It in the White House and What Their Influence Means for America, and an updated paperback under the title of Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years. Russ has his own site, of course, RussBaker.com, also WhoWhatWhy.com, which continues his investigative reporting outside of the mainstream media.
Russ, with all this sort of the reaction of the government and the press in the Boston bombing, I’m reminded also, the same with all these leak investigations, that the purpose of government classification is to keep things secret from the American people, not the Russkies or whoever is the demonized foreigner of the moment. And is anybody, but you, from a reputable and experienced journalistic standpoint, questioning the information shutdown that’s taken place in Boston? I mean, we know they shut down Boston and the suburbs in an outrageous use of power, but also there’s been no information. I mean, first of all, some of the stuff they told us turned out to be lies or mistakes. But everything has been shut down for alleged national security reasons but I’m assuming to keep embarrassing information secret from Americans. Family of Secrets Best Price: $1.93 Buy New $8.85 (as of 05:45 EST - Details)
BAKER: Yeah, there’s a long history of that. Throughout my journalism career, I’ve seen repeatedly how attempts to prevent the public or it’s representatives in the press from obtaining information has turned out to be, as you say, to basically protect themselves. Almost never do I see evidence that this would have actually damaged national security. And, of course, the term “national security” itself is rarely examined as to what it means and so we just take all of this stuff for granted.
Now, in the Boston bombing story, as you know, I devote most of my time; but I’m not writing books like Family of Secrets. I devote almost all of my time to WhoWhatWhy.com, also WhoWhatWhy.org. We’re a non-profit investigative news site. And as you know, Lew, I started that some years ago because I felt like we weren’t getting the story from the corporate media, but we also weren’t getting the story from the so-called alternative media, which seemed to operate with such an agenda that you could kind of always predict where the stories are going to come down.
One of our readers said, “My god, you’re talking about a pure journalism play.” In other words, we are not going into these stories trying to persuade you that we know everything, that our viewpoint is right. We’re actually interested in information. And so we’re really interested in knowing what happened at the Boston bombing. It’s not that we believe that the authorities are telling the truth or that they’re not telling the truth. We are looking at the actual facts of the case. And in the information that has come out, we’re seeing tremendous anomalies, inconsistencies, out-right falsehoods, reversals by these agencies, and we are troubled by them. And we think that that’s all the basis for reporting. And so I and other members of our team have been working this story now for more than a month, and we’re going to stay at it for a few more months. We’re hoping that the public will support us so we’re able to cover the costs for doing this. As a non-profit, that’s very important to us. But nevertheless, we’re going to continue looking at these things.
Certainly, what you’re talking about with the information clamp down, this is very, very disturbing because we’ve seen all kinds of clamp downs. We saw the clamp down on the freedom of movement. We’ve seen the increasing encroachment of military troops into our American cities. We see the public getting softened up and being made to become more and more comfortable with living in kind of a military state almost. And I think that that’s one of the larger themes of many, many themes that need to be addressed in investigating the Boston bombing.
ROCKWELL: Now, you’ve actually been on the ground in Boston?
BAKER: Well, that’s right. I spent the last two weeks there. I’ll be going back again. I can’t stay there full time. I’m based in New York now, not in Boston. But I did spend two weeks there, and it was very, very instructive and I got a sense of a bunch of things. I met with and even drove around with journalists from major newspapers and radio shows; some good people, but I could see the limitations. There really is almost nobody there digging deeply into these problematical issues. And when I say problematical issues, what I mean is it is the job of the media to just find out what happened. It is not our job to pass along what somebody else says happened. That’s not our job. And the media there, the major newspapers, the TV and the radio, by and large, just said what the authorities told them. In a few cases, places like “The Boston Globe,” they do more than that, a little bit more than that; they’ve tried to talk to people. But I can tell you from my own experience that a lot of this stuff is being controlled.
We’ve done four pieces. We have another one coming up in a few days. That’s going to be about this carjacking victim, which is a very, very important piece of this story that has not been investigated by the media. Another one we just did recently is about the shooting of an MIT police officer named Sean Collier. That story was treated — it was not examined, Lew, in the context of what that story was. That story was actually a kind of a propagandistic moment. And those of us who study and read history remember that back in the Nazi era, there was the killing of a police officer, a Horst Wessel, and they even created a song for the Nazi movement, the “Horst Wessel” song. Killings of police officers that are magnified like this — and if you go to WhoWhatWhy.com and read that article, there’s a photo of all of these baseball players at a stadium standing with their hats off and their heads bent in a giant projection of this one police officer. And what is that for? Because, tragically, police officers are killed in the line of duty all the time. Why all of the focus on this one police officer? I have never, Lew, seen a news organization ask that question. Why are we focusing on this police officer? And more importantly, what actually happened with this police officer that would make us interested in him?
ROCKWELL: Well, of course, it’s clearly become an unexamined assumption that police are worth more than regular people. So the killing of a cop is far worse than the killing of an old lady or a young father or whatever else, which happens all the time. And in fact, there actually are not that many police killed in the line of duty. You can actually find out that figure. It’s far more dangerous to be a commercial fisherman or a logger or a farmer or many other occupations than to be a cop. So it’s not actually true that they’re always being killed.
But absolutely, it’s made into a huge political deal, as Will Grigg puts it, with a Brezhnev-style funeral any time a cop is killed, whereas, if some poor store owner or whatever is killed in the line of duty, his family cares and that’s about it.
BAKER: I agree with you, that’s true. I guess what my point was that even in agreeing with you that there are not that many police officers killed, there still are nationally probably some.
ROCKWELL: Oh, sure. Actually, about 40 to 50, which is terrible.
BAKER: But what interests me here is this particular police officer.
By the way, I mean, there were two police officers shot; one died and one almost died. And they’re both very strange cases. And so, first of all, I was struck by the fact that they wanted to make it a big deal about this police officer’s death. Biden flew in and addressed his funeral. It’s literally said that thousands of law enforcement people came from all over the country to attend the funeral of this man they didn’t know. Now, it is logical to ask, “Why would people attend a funeral of a person they didn’t know?” It’s for some reason. And what it really comes down to is it’s propagandistic. And what this is, is this is focusing the public and it’s very strongly sending out a message that the system is taking care of you and you have to honor the system. “This person died for you.”
And what’s very interesting was, if you go into that article and you read all the detail of what I investigated — and we’ll be doing more on this — first of all, when Officer Collier was killed, we were essentially told either explicitly or implicitly that he had been killed by these two brothers. Now what’s very interesting is, at the time that he was killed, all we knew was that these two brothers, whose names were not even public yet, were pictures out a video, wearing backpacks, walking along with dozens, hundreds of other people wearing backpacks and walking. And so it was the death of this police officer that set everything into motion.
And as soon as I heard about the death of this police officer, I thought, OK, when an officer is down, when that is announced, I can tell you this — and I know a lot of police officers and many of them are very, very fine people, but they act with a kind of a pack mentality — and it suddenly turbo charges. You know, there’s a whole tradition, the Blue Wall of Silence and all this, and when anything happens to a police officer in any instance, immediately, all the other police respond in a very, very aggressive way. And so what you saw was, the second he had been shot, boy, whatever the police officers were doing, they were all going to get whoever did this. And so this became the justification for that shootout on the street in Watertown; later, going after the younger brother, the Tsarnaev brother, and peppering that boat with gunshots when he wasn’t even armed. This was essentially a kind of retribution for their fellow officer. Except for one thing, and that is that about a week later, when they were doing this whole big memorial service with Biden and everything, they rather quietly announced that, oh, you know what, actually, the original story that he had maybe tried to stop these brothers and they had killed him was not right. It turns out, they don’t know who shot this man. He didn’t confront anybody. And he was assassinated. And do you know where he was assassinated, Lew? He was sitting in his patrol car. Just sitting there. Somebody came up behind him for no apparent reason and killed him in cold blood. We have no evidence right now that those brothers even did it. But that was the precipitating event that then unleashed all of this fire power.
The next thing that happened is this carjacking. And an unknown person, whose name is still not public, has said that he was carjacked by these brothers and that they told him, “We planted the bomb and we killed that cop.” Now, those are two things that there is no hard evidence that they did either of them, but now you’ve got killed the cop and then you have a carjacking with an unnamed person saying these guys told me they did it. And then one of them is killed; the other one, I believe, they attempted to murder him. So what you would have had, Lew, is you would have had a situation where both of these suspects would be dead, an unknown witness would connect them to both of the things, the whole thing would be over; and that military, that huge military police response would have been accepted, and we would be used to the idea that there will be more of these things.
ROCKWELL: Well, that’s right. And of course, then we had the younger brother writing out his confession on the side of the boat in the dark.
BAKER: Well, in the dark, but this guy was basically gravely injured.
BAKER: According to the story, which is a little bit strange, of the man who owned that boat, when he went out to check, I mean, he saw blood there. I mean, this guy was already in a pool of blood before they called the cops. Because we know he’s gravely injured in the hospital. So the likelihood that he was in any shape, you know, to sort of heroically prop himself up and go to these incredible lengths to scrawl out a confession virtually with his dying breath is a little bit hard to believe.
At the end, I think the notion was that they thought this guy was going to die. With those shots that they fired, given the fact that he hadn’t fired a single shot at them, you have to assume that at least one person in that group, whether it was local police or it was the FBI people on the scene, was shooting to kill. That was the intent, it seems. And so this confession, if it’s even real — and we haven’t seen that in that confession. And other thing we’ve been reporting is that that confession was reported to us by John Miller, a senior correspondent at CBS News. It’s very, very important to remember that John Miller’s last major job was that he was a top official of the FBI. He was a lead spokesman for the FBI. He loves the FBI. He’s very, very close with them. And this is the man who is now back in journalism telling us this story. He also has been a key figure throughout. He got one of those so-called exclusive interviews with the unknown carjacking victim. So in other words, this entire narrative is being constructed essentially by the FBI or its allies.
ROCKWELL: I always think of the FBI as the American secret police. And if you called them that, then when you see this sort of thing going on, it seems to me you ought to take things with maybe not a grain of salt but a cup of salt.
BAKER: You know, I’ve reported all over the world. I was one of the first reporters into East Germany before the wall came down; Romania when Ceausescu was overthrown. I’ve been in so many societies where there was totalitarianism or authoritarianism. And these kinds of organizations — you do need police, you do need investigative agencies but, unfortunately, the abuses are just rampant. And anybody who is listening to this who thinks that that is unfair, I invite you to read any of dozens, maybe scores of books about J. Edgar Hoover, who ran the FBI for half a century, and to see that he ran it like a personal fiefdom, basically, like a mobster, and everybody in the agency was terrified of him. There were constant cover-ups in there. You understood you could lose your job in a second if you asked any questions at all. Some of these books are by scholars. Others are by people who worked in the FBI itself.
And so I have to agree with you. I mean, in some respect, of course, one wants an agency like the FBI to be there, but that doesn’t mean we have to apologize for the grave structural, philosophical and other problems with it. The FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service, local police, all of these institutions are absolutely riddled with problems. And, you know, my attitude as a journalist is many institutions are riddled with problems, many aspects of the federal government, but also private industry, big corporations, riddled with problems, abuses and so forth. And it is not our job as journalists, and I don’t think it’s our jobs as citizens, to just accept what anybody tells us and to just blindly trust when they say, whether it’s the FBI or it’s your bank, “Hey, we care about you.” Baloney! I mean, they’re in business for themselves.
ROCKWELL: Well, I would say this goes back in some sense to the New Deal, but America was a corporatist system, what Mussolini would have called a Fascist system, a combination of big government and big business against the rest of us. And so, yeah, there are plenty of problems.
But I must say I’m always struck by the subservience of the American people, with the exception of a few of us. And maybe it’s just my imagination. Maybe people are actually boiling with upset and dissidence against what’s going on. But it seems like, whether in my former territory of Boston or other places, people seem to accept this militarism and really what was a temporary totalitarian state in Boston, even the ridiculous notion of soldiers going around in desert camouflage in Boston. What is the point of that except, of course, for militaristic propaganda?
BAKER: That’s right. And it’s also to sort of get people used to these ideas.
I think it’s important to understand that not everybody shares the same benign notion about the rest of us. You know, when I go out and I walk down the street, I try to feel, even if I’m in a bad mood, positively disposed. And I look out and I say, “These are my people,” I mean, whoever it is walking down the sidewalk, whether they’re black or they’re white or they’re rich or they’re poor. And that really is supposed to be the spirit of this country. They tell us all the time we’re in this together. That’s why we have these big things at stadiums that the sports are about and everything else, is to make us feel like we’re part of something, to be committed to this kind of togetherness. But unfortunately, not everybody shares that. And the truth of the matter is that if you talk to a lot of people in the military and plenty of people in the police privately, they will tell you that they don’t like democracy. They don’t like the majority making decisions. They’re not happy with that. They are worried about who is going to attain power. And if you are a big industrialist or banker or something else, your primary concerns are not increasing freedom of speech and increasing the democracy and transparency, because those don’t serve you. If you’re already at the top — this is why these kinds of people tend to have what you were referring to, sort of Fascistic inclinations, because really what they want is that kind of corporative situation where the organs of power are primarily there to defend their enterprise, to go in and bust up the efforts by workers to organize, to try to stop consumer advocates or anyone who wants to look into conditions or circumstance or the quality of the products or the services that they’re purveying.
I know that you and I differ somewhat on some of these issues, but I think that we agree on the notion that the principles of democracy and freedom and speech are important ones and that there are a lot of people who aren’t for that. And unfortunately, because of the influence of money in our society, those people dominate things. They can influence who gets elected president. And then the president chooses the attorney general, has a kind of say in who becomes the FBI director, and even more importantly, who are those career people at the FBI or at the Justice Department who are in there for the long haul. And when they leave, finally, they take very, very wealthy jobs, of course, in the corporate world. And so they understood all along who it was that they needed to be pleasing.
ROCKWELL: Yeah. Of course, I must say, my own position is the president is just sort of a smiley face on the lapel of the oligarchy. I mean, he represents a huge, huge business and state Military Industrial Complex, Security Industrial Complex, interests. He’s not really an independent actor. If he were an independent actor, they’d kill him, like Kennedy.
Speaking of Kennedy, before I talk to you about the very, very important book that you’re working on now, tell us what happened in the alleged fire or bomb or whatever the heck it was at the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.
BAKER: You know, that’s a strange one, because we were told that that happened almost at the same time of the marathon bombing, within a short time of that, on the same day. We still haven’t gotten a straight answer on what happened. I’ve been doing a little bit in the way of inquiries and, I have to say, I have questions about that. I don’t think that the authorities are being forthcoming. And even more disturbing than the bombing itself, the potential damage there or attempted damage to priceless research materials that people like I need to continue to investigate what happened to John F. Kennedy, what happened to American 50 years ago, and how it’s impacting us today, which I believe it is. The past certainly is prologued. But not only am I concerned about that but, you know, there was no coverage. I mean, after we were assured, oh, no, it’s just a coincidence and someone was smoking or something —
— the media dropped it. There were no more stories. Go and Google this thing, you’ll see zero, almost. I mean, nothing from the local Boston media or the national media. I mean, WhoWhatWhy is a little, tiny non-profit and we’re looking into it. And these giant news organizations have nobody asking these questions.
I find the Boston bombing story absolutely rife with weird messaging. And it could all be coincidental; it may be coincidental; probably a lot of it is. I’ll give you an example. The shooting of Officer Collier was almost a dead ringer for the shooting of Officer Tippet in the Lee Harvey Oswald/John F. Kennedy saga. Lee Harvey Oswald wouldn’t even have been a real suspect in the Kennedy assassination had not a police officer been shot shortly after Kennedy was killed, because Oswald was just one of many people who worked in that building. Nobody said that they saw him with a rifle. He only became really a suspect when this police officer was shot and then the description of the man who shot him matched Oswald. So here you see a very, very similar thing where it’s a police officer goes down right after this other event and plays a role essentially in tying them, making these non-suspects suspects, and making them very, very guilty. So that was one thing.
The second thing is this thing at the library on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. There are many, many disturbing parallels. You’ve got, in both of those stories, the suspects had recently been in Russia. Remember that? They both had been in Russia.
Strange families. Both the Tsarnaevs and Lee Harvey Oswald had been being monitored by the FBI. Both of them had relatives, or other people they were associated, with ties to the CIA. I mean, is this all coincidental? Does somebody have a particularly sophisticated and sick sense of humor? I mean, what are we looking at here? Of course, you’re not even allowed to ask these questions.
Another story going up probably today is how The New York Times, instead of investigating any of these things, they quickly have somebody roll out a story talking about conspiracy theorists and how anybody who has questions about things basically is sort of mentally ill, which is a very, very important contradiction. If you ask any questions and you don’t accept the conventional narrative that everything is just fine, there is something really, really wrong with you.
ROCKWELL: Sort of the KGB line, right? Maybe you need to be put in a special hospital and injected with special drugs because you’re crazy to be a dissident.
BAKER: Well, you know, Lew, there’s an incredible parallel about that. As you know, in my book, Family of Secrets — and you were talking about how presidents are puppets — Family of Secrets, which I spent five years on, is a pretty definitive investigation of, as Gore Vidal said, sort of a half of a century of a story that we don’t know about presidents and how they’re created and who’s behind them. And it’s all documented. It’s footnoted, you know, a thousand footnotes.
ROCKWELL: It’s a great book, a great book.
BAKER: Thank you very much.
But, you know, my continuing efforts to look into these giant traumas, what happened to Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and Walter Reuther, you know, union leaders who died in a strange plane crashes and so on, there’s so much of this, and it is disproportionately reformers who get taken out. Very, very few corporate-cozy conservative politicians, who also, by the way, fly in private planes all the time, never seem to have an accident. But this stuff we need to look at.
Now, you were talking about the KGB and putting people into mental hospitals but, you know, that happens in the United States all the time. And just one example is there was an Army sergeant by the name of Dinkin, who was intercepting cables and big top-secret stuff at a military base in 1963, and he divined from his own monitoring of cable traffic that there was an assassination plot against JFK. And he divined that that assassination plot was going to involve right wingers and members of the military and some foreign assassins, and that it was going to take place in Dallas in November of 1963. And when he tried to say what he knew, they put him into a mental hospital and they began injections and they began essentially doing mind-control things with him. And eventually, he was forced to say, oh, no, the reason I said those things — and he gave some other explanation that was totally benign. And that was the only way that this man could get out of basically the gulag. So if you think that these things only go on in the Soviet Union, you’re wrong.
ROCKWELL: Of course, you’re exactly right. Many things go on here as well.
And, Russ, before we go, I want you, to the extent you can, tell us about the book you’re working on now.
BAKER: Well, you know, I generally don’t talk too much about what I’m working on. But I will say this. In terms of subjects and major interests to me, I continue to be very interested in the John F. Kennedy assassination. Would have loved to have something out on the 50th anniversary of his assassination, but that story is so layered and so complicated, some people believe we could never get to the bottom of it. I think we can. I think we can put enough pieces of the things together to figure out what happened. And I think that solving that is absolutely essential for us to understand what kind of society we really live in, to kind of wake up. And you know, people say, though, “This is so depressing, I don’t want to hear about it,” but that is not a way to empower yourself. You empower yourself by educating yourself, by having your eyes open, by understanding how things work. And that is really the beginning to go about and correct these things, because this country has always — and Franklin Roosevelt said this and Woodrow Wilson said it. They always warned us that they didn’t really run the country. Franklin Roosevelt very famously said in a letter to somebody, he said, as you and I both know, the real power in this country resides in the financial circles on Wall Street. And that’s true. And I’m continuing to look at Obama and how people like that get to the top and people like Hillary Clinton, and who are behind them, and why it is that, whether we have a Democrat or a Republican, even though there are real substantive differences, primarily on social issues, when it comes to the big global issues and the big financial issues, essentially, we see very, very similar policies and appointments made. What is really going on in this country? Why is it that we actually seem to live under a kind of a one-party state? And that is what my continuing efforts, my books, and, most importantly, my work at WhoWhatWhy.com, which really is the main focus of my efforts in my life today. It’s to build a meaningful journalistic institution that can train a whole new generation of journalists, funded entirely by the public, with no corporate influence or government influence, asking questions with neither fear, nor favor, and doing what we’re supposed to be doing, really, as journalists.
ROCKWELL: You know, it’s interesting when you mention Roosevelt and Wall Street. I’ve always thought that it was an amazing thing that when you hear at least the mini biographies of FDR, of course, he was the governor and assistant naval secretary, president, and so forth. It was never mentioned that for a long time, he was a bond salesman on Wall Street.
BAKER: Well, that’s right.
ROCKWELL: I mean, he was a key guy on Wall Street.
ROCKWELL: So he came out of that milieu, of course, from the American aristocracy and so forth.
BAKER: It only seems to be people from that class like him and like John F. Kennedy that dare take on their own people.
ROCKWELL: Well, I appreciate very much, Russ, your coming on today, telling us about what you’re doing in Boston and otherwise, and can only cheer you on. As you say, we have some differences about the nature of the state and capitalism and so forth, but we certainly are agreed that this stuff, the bad things going on need to be exposed. There are so few people doing the exposing, and it’s great that you and your staff are doing so, and I can only wish you more success. And I can’t wait for your next book.
BAKER: Well, thank you very much. I’ll take that as an incentive to get moving a little bit faster on it.
ROCKWELL: Thank you, Russ. Bye-bye.
BAKER: Thank you very much, Lew. Bye.
Podcast date, June 4, 2013