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Some Observations on the Non-News

by J. Orlin Grabbe


The most notable feature of the current state of journalism in the U.S. is the total dereliction of duty on the part of national political reporters. More than fifty congresscritters, senators, and state governors have announced their retirements in the past year, after they received packets from a group of hackers called the Fifth Column detailing illegal and unreported income from bribes, kickbacks, payoffs, and whatnot. This story of the wholesale sell-out of the U.S. political process should rank as one of the top stories of the decade. But the national media blandly reports the contrived explanations ("I just want to spend more time with my heretofore neglected family") and speculates on the sad loss of Washington country-club camaraderie that used to keep such fine people in public office forever.

This lack of discernment reflects a level of stupidity that should make unsurprising the general media dismissal of the importance of Whitewater (prior to the recent convictions obtained by Kenneth Starr), the head- in-the-sand stance on the murder of Vince Foster (even though virtually all official Washington knows Foster was murdered), the gullible acceptance of the official story on the downing of Ron Brown's plane (destroyed by a bomb), the lackadaisical acceptance of Bob Dole's claimed reasons for resigning from the Senate (he got a Fifth Column packet two days before the announcement), the air-head discussions of the coming "Clinton-Dole" election battle (as though there is going to be any such thing), and the "smell of roses" interpretation of the putrefying stench arising from almost everything the Clinton administration touches.

To be sure, some journalists have picked up part of the story. But often they have pursued the partial picture with a monomania that has turned their entire effort into a circus sideshow. One example is that of Ambrose Evans- Pritchard and Chis Ruddy who, while still trying to convince who-knows-whom that the death of Vince Foster was not a suicide, managed to acquire a Pet Witness to the disposal of Foster's body at Ft. Marcy Park--a witness whom they paraded forth with fanfare, accompanied by tales of swarthy Middle-Eastern lurkers who scowled fiercely in broad daylight (a staged event effective in impressing naive journalists). When the Special Prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, failed to drop everything he was doing and devote himself to enhancing these journalist's own sense of self-importance, he became, naturally, part of the cover-up. But Starr wisely continued to follow his mandate to untangle Whitewater-related malfeasance on the part of the Clintons, and left the sideshow antics to these misguided journalists who hadn't a clue as to what was going on. Starr, after all, knew what he was doing. (Although, to be sure, it took Starr a while to realize that the FBI was out and about intimidating his own witnesses, a fact Ruddy was to point out.)

The goal of the FBI in all this has been to keep reporters in a state of somnambulism. But last week Louis Freeh suddenly discovered his bread wasn't buttered on the side of Bill Clinton, announcing that the White House request for FBI files on prominent Republicans and others outside the Clinton administration had been totally inappropriate. The White House made a statement that the whole thing was really just the fault of some Clinton underling operating out-of-control as usual. Freeh's statement meanwhile leaves unexplained why the FBI turned over the 400-plus files to the White House in the first place. Freeh's stated 400-plus number of files upped the ante from the White House's admitted 300-plus number. It also illustrates that the FBI can't count, or can't tell the whole truth, since the actual number is 900-plus, as has been verified by anyone who has bothered to download the same set of files from the FBI computer, such as that other government agency that is looking into the matter. Maybe Bernie Nussbaum took the rest of the files home, just to make sure the wrong people didn't read them.

Freeh of course is coming off the PR high of having ended the Freemen siege without bloodshed. But his problems in Montana aren't over. There is the little matter of Montana FBI agents involved in drug dealing.

The Canadian-Montana border is now the principal point of entry of illegal drugs coming into the U.S. Montana is awash in them. A series of clandestine airfields stretches across the state. Naturally the journalists covering the Freemen picked up none of this bigger story right under their noses. Big names are involved in the drug operation, including the soon-to-be-indicted Governor of Montana. Another name that surfaces in the Montana operation is that of ex-President George Bush.

Bush's indiscretions are beginning to catch up with him. This past week he took a trip to Bern, Switzerland, together with Colin Powell, who is not running for President. It seems that an arms deal between the two of them went sour when a relevant account at the local bank turned up missing $75 million dollars. In panic mode they flew over to try to patch things up. Hope you two boys remembered to smile a lot: You were on candid camera. Maybe you should try something legal for a change?

Others are more overt in their criminality. Jackson Stephens, Don Tyson, and Richard Mellon Scaife recently pooled their pocket change and put out a $100,000 contract on the Angel of Death. They farmed it out to the New Orleans Syndicate. The breakdown is reportedly $50,000 by Stephens, and $25,000 each by Tyson and Scaife. This makes the second time the lying Jackson Stephens has hired an assassin this year ("I've learned my lesson," he said, after the first one, Pablo, was put on a plane back home). But I hear the CIA, which has never really had anything against the corrupt politicians targeted by the Angel of Death--after all they're much easier to manipulate than the honest kind--has finally decided to get on the right side of things. Say, Jack, what about that dead body found lying in your backyard last week? You don't suppose it was the chickenshit coming home to roost, do you? As they say, payback is hell.

As if it weren't enough dealing with the criminals, there are also the forces of law 'n order (if you want to call them that) to worry about. Janet Reno sends word that the Justice Dept. will leave the Angel of Death alone if he will leave the Justice Dept. alone. It's an interesting proposition: sort of like that of a pugilist who walks down the street and punches a random passerby in the face, then immediately announces, "Let's call a truce."

Ms. Reno, as one Harvard graduate to another I take your word Justice didn't have anything to do with destroying my private email and Usenet postings of Hackers versus Politicians, Part II. You blamed the X2 division of NSA. Well, what about the actions of X2? This is apparently the new Standard of Excellence at Justice: As long as we don't commit any crimes ourselves, we're doing okay.

One consolation is that X2 found those little TCP/IP packets formed from Hackers versus Politicians extremely toxic. Secret contents created a cancer in the NSA computers that devoured them. Some NSA computers were fried from mysterious voltage surges. Others caught fire in thermite-like reactions. NSA attributed these problems to an Act of God. This in itself shows where NSA stands in the Divine Hierarchy.

One cannot say X2's instincts were wrong. The Fifth Column has been supplying information to the Special Prosecutor from the beginning. But after Hackers versus Politicians appeared, hundreds of surprisingly professional hackers began pouring relevant information into the hands of Kenneth Starr and others. Their efforts have greatly supplemented the work of the Fifth Column.

And all along Kenneth Starr has been quietly building his cases brick by brick, preparing indictments and sitting on them until the proper time, mapping out court trials, sifting through evidence, not plea bargaining when it is not necessary. In short, doing his job in a masterful manner. But you will find few journalists on the left or the right who will admit this, admit they were wrong, even after the total success of the first Whitewater trial. One assumes they will hold firm, even after Bill Clinton resigns. Being a journalist, after all, means never having to say you are sorry.

June 17, 1996