Each year, Sonoma State University's Project Censored produces a list of the most "important national news stories that are underreported, ignored, misrepresented, or censored by the U.S. corporate media," according to its Web site (ProjectCensored.org).
Below is the list of the most-recent choices, with selected excerpts. The full summaries, including sources, are available at (ProjectCensored.org/top-stories/category/y-2009).
1. More Than 1 Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by U.S. Occupation
More than 1 million Iraqis have met violent deaths as a result of the 2003 invasion, according to a study conducted by the prestigious British polling group Opinion Research Business (ORB). These numbers suggest that the invasion and occupation of Iraq rivals the mass killings of the last century - the human toll exceeds the 800,000 to 900,000 believed killed in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and is approaching the number (1.7 million) who died in Cambodia's infamous "Killing Fields" during the Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s.
ORB's research covered 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces. Those not covered include two of Iraq's more volatile regions - Kerbala and Anbar - and the northern province of Arbil, where local authorities refused them a permit to work. In face-to-face interviews with 2,414 adults, the poll found that more than one in five respondents had had at least one death in their household as a result of the conflict, as opposed to natural cause.
Authors Joshua Holland and Michael Schwartz point out that the dominant narrative on Iraq - that most of the violence against Iraqis is being perpetrated by Iraqis themselves and is not our responsibility - is ill-conceived. Interviewers from the Lancet report of October 2006 asked Iraqi respondents how their loved ones died. Of deaths for which families were certain of the perpetrator, 56 percent were attributable to U.S. forces or their allies.
2. Security and Prosperity Partnership: Militarized NAFTA
Leaders of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico have been meeting to secretly expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with "deep integration" of a more militarized tri-national Homeland Security force. Taking shape under the radar of the respective governments and without public knowledge or consideration, the Security & Prosperity Partnership (SPP) - headquartered in Washington - aims to integrate the three nations into a single political, economic, and security bloc.
The SPP was launched at a meeting of Presidents George W. Bush and Vicente Fox, and Prime Minister Paul Martin, in Waco, Texas, on March 31, 2005. The official U.S. Web page describes the SPP as "a White House-led initiative among the United States and Canada and Mexico to increase security and to enhance prosperity." The SPP is not a law, or a treaty, or even a signed agreement. All these would require public debate and participation of Congress.
The SPP was born in the "war on terror" era and reflects an inordinate emphasis on U.S. security as interpreted by the Department of Homeland Security. Its accords mandate border actions, military and police training, modernization of equipment, and adoption of new technologies, all under the logic of the U.S. counter-terrorism campaign.
3. InfraGard: The FBI Deputizes Business
More than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to collect and provide information on fellow Americans. In return, members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public, and at times before elected officials. "There is evidence that InfraGard may be closer to a corporate Total Information Awareness program, turning private-sector corporations - some of which may be in a position to observe the activities of millions of individual customers - into surrogate eyes and ears for the FBI," according to an ACLU report titled "The Surveillance-Industrial Complex: How the American Government Is Conscripting Businesses & Individuals in the Construction of a Surveillance Society."
InfraGard, with members from 350 companies of the Fortune 500, started in Cleveland back in 1996, when the private sector there cooperated with the FBI to investigate cyber threats. "Then the FBI cloned it," says Phyllis Schneck, chair of the board of directors of the InfraGard National Members Alliance, and the prime mover behind the growth of InfraGard over the past several years.
FBI Director Robert Mueller addressed an InfraGard convention on August 9, 2005: "To date, there are more than 11,000 members of InfraGard. ... From our perspective, that amounts to 11,000 contacts ... and 11,000 partners in our mission to protect America." He added a little later, "Those of you in the private sector are the first line of defense."
On May 9, 2007, George W. Bush issued National Security Presidential Directive 51 titled "National Continuity Policy." In it, he instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security to coordinate with "private-sector owners and operators of critical infrastructure, as appropriate, in order to provide for the delivery of essential services during an emergency."
4. ILEA: Is the U.S. Restarting Dirty Wars in Latin America?
A resurgence of U.S.-backed militarism threatens peace and democracy in Latin America. By 2005, U.S. military aid to Latin America had increased by 34 times the amount spent in 2000. In a marked shift in U.S. military strategy, secretive training of Latin America military and police personnel that used to just take place at the notorious School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia - including torture and execution techniques - is now decentralized. The 2008 U.S. federal budget includes $16.5 million to fund an International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in El Salvador, with satellite operations in Peru. With provision of immunity from charges of crimes against humanity, each academy will train an average of 1,500 police officers, judges, prosecutors, and other law-enforcement officials throughout Latin America per year in "counterterrorism techniques."
The academy in El Salvador is part of a network of ILEAs created in 1995 under President Bill Clinton, who touted the training facilities as a series of U.S. schools "throughout the world to combat international drug-trafficking, criminality, and terrorism through strengthened international cooperation." There are ILEAs in Budapest, Hungary; Bangkok, Thailand; Gaborone, Botswana; and Roswell, New Mexico.
5. Seizing War Protesters' Assets
President George W. Bush signed two executive orders that would allow the U.S. Treasury Department to seize the property of any person perceived to, directly or indirectly, pose a threat to U.S. operations in the Middle East.
6. The Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act
While civil-liberties and religious-freedom groups credit independent journalists and grassroots activists with helping to stall the passage of the Violent Radicalization & Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, some members of Congress continue to push for Internet censorship and racial profiling as necessary to prevent "homegrown terrorism."
Hope Marston, regional organizer with the Bill of Rights Defense Committee warns against the danger of vaguely defined terms in this legislation, which, open to very broad interpretation, mirrors a historical pattern of sweeping government repression.
The House of Representatives approved the Violent Radicalization & Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act in October 2007 by a 404-6 vote, but widespread opposition forced the Senate to shelvr the bill.
7. Guest Workers Inc.: Fraud and Human Trafficking
While the guest-worker program in the United States has been praised and recommended for expansion, and is likely to be considered by Congress as a template for future immigration reform, human-rights advocates warn that the system seriously victimizes immigrant workers. Workers, labor organizers, lawyers, and policymakers say that the program, designed to open up the legal labor market and provide a piece of the American dream to immigrants, has instead locked thousands into a modern-day form of indentured servitude. Congressman Charles Rangel has called the guest worker program "the closest thing I've ever seen to slavery."
8. Executive Orders Can Be Changed Secretly
President George W. Bush's claimed authority to be able to ignore his own executive orders without revising the orders themselves was one of several issues discussed in an April 29, 2008, Senate Judiciary Hearing on "Secret Laws & the Threat to Democratic and Accountable Government."
In that hearing, the Office of Legal Counsel Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Elwood confirmed the proposition that "The activities authorized by the president cannot violate an executive order in any legally meaningful sense." Effectively, the Department of Justice's key advisory lawyers confirmed they believe the president can act contrary to his own executive orders without formally changing those executive orders.
9. Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Testify
Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are coming forward to recount the brutal impact of the ongoing occupations. An investigation by The Nation (July 2007), and the Winter Soldier hearings in Silver Spring, Maryland, in March 2008 - which was organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War and brought together over 300 veterans - have made their experiences public. Soldiers' harrowing testimony of atrocities they witnessed or participated in directly indicate a structural problem in the U.S. military that has created an environment of lawlessness. Some international-law experts say the soldiers' statements show the need for investigations into potential violations of international law by high-ranking officials in the Bush administration and the Pentagon. Though BBC predicted that the Winter Soldier event would dominate headlines around the world that week, there was a near total black-out on this news event by the U.S. corporate media.
10. APA Complicit in CIA Torture
When in 2005 news reports exposed the fact that psychologists were working with the U.S. military and the CIA to develop brutal interrogation methods, American Psychological Association (APA) leaders assembled a task force to examine the issue. After two days of deliberations, the 10-member task force concluded that psychologists were playing a "valuable and ethical role" in assisting the military. A high level of secrecy surrounding the task force prohibited disclosure of the proceedings and of members and attendees. It wasn't until a year later that the membership was finally published on Salon.com, revealing that six of nine voting members were from the military and intelligence agencies with direct connections to interrogations at Guantánamo and CIA black sites that operate outside of Geneva Conventions.
The Rest of the Top 25
11. El Salvador's Water Privatization and the Global War on Terror
12. Bush Profiteers Collect Billions From No Child Left Behind
13. Tracking Billions of Dollars Lost in Iraq
14. Mainstreaming Nuclear Waste
16. Annual Survey on Trade Union Rights
17. UN's Empty Declaration of Indigenous Rights
18. Cruelty and Death in Juvenile Detention Centers
19. Indigenous Herders and Small Farmers Fight Livestock Extinction
20. Marijuana Arrests Set New Record
21. NATO Considers "First Strike" Nuclear Option
22. CARE Rejects U.S. Food Aid
23. FDA Complicit in Pushing Pharmaceutical Drugs
24. Japan Questions 9/11 and the Global War on Terror