Monterey Sunset II

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By Marcel Fürstenau

Deutsche Welle, November 11, 2012

How much influence did former Nazis wield in establishing and operating Germany’s postwar democracy? That’s what parliament debated. But tackling the issue was not easy, since many files still remain classified.

It almost seems a bit antiquated. More than six decades after the end of the murderous Hitler regime, members of the German parliament debated to what extent federal ministries and public offices in the country have dealt with their Nazi past. It comes after the opposition Left Party’s parliamentary group submitted a formal request to the government for information about the post-war era.

The parliamentary debate coincided with a separate event – prosecutors bringing formal charges against supporters and the sole surviving member of a neo-Nazi cell suspected of committing ten murders between 2000 and 2007.

The revelations about the neo-Nazi gang, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), are a hugely pressing and current issue. By comparison, the debate about postwar Germany’s Nazi past seems so outdated. But the past is constantly catching up with Germany as it struggles to find out how the neo-Nazi cell could have evaded authorities for more than a decade.

The charges against NSU member Beate Zschäpe mark a decisive phase in long-running efforts to shed light on the group’s suspected racially-motivated killing spree.

By contrast, the question of just how far West German authorities were riddled with former Nazi party members seems nowhere near resolution.

That impression is strengthened by the government’s 85-page response to the Left Party’s request about old Nazis in the halls of power. It’s an interim summary of ongoing research conducted by historians in the archives of many ministries and federal agencies.

Shredding files not new

The debate in the German parliament was marked by constant references to the current neo-Nazi scandal that has rocked the country.

Since the NSU’s discovery, Germany’s national security apparatus has come under intense scrutiny for its failure to connect the dots and apprehend the suspects. Earlier this year, it was discovered that intelligence files on right-wing extremists had been destroyed the same month the NSU was discovered on the orders of an official in the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s domestic intelligence service.

The shredding of important files pertaining to far-right extremism has sparked outrage and shock, raising suspicions that incriminating information was covered up and that the perpetrators may even have been protected.

But it’s not the first time it has happened. In the late 1990s, files on mass murderer Alois Brunner, a high-ranking SS officer, disappeared. The German intelligence service (BND) was said to have destroyed files containing conflicting information as to whether Brunner had worked for the BND at some point.

Adolf Eichmann lived undercover in Argentina for several years.

Brunner was a close aide and confidante of Adolf Eichmann who organized the Holocaust from his desk in Berlin. He was sentenced to death in 1961 in Jerusalem. Though the BND knew Eichmann’s location, he lived undetected in Argentina for several years.

The BND is also believed to have protected war crimes criminal Klaus Barbie who was responsible for sending hundreds of Jews in France to their death. Just like Eichmann, Barbie went underground in South America. He even worked as an agent for the BND in the mid 1960s.

Opposition calls for change

The fact that files on Barbie, Eichmann and others responsible for war crimes still remain classified has sparked anger among several German politicians and led to heated exchanges in parliament.

Wolfgang Thierse, president of the German parliament, has appealed to members of the ruling parties – the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) – to stop blocking the opening of the files.

Volker Beck, head of the parliamentary group of the opposition Green Party, said it could not be in the public’s interest to block publishing files with references to the Nazi past in order to “protect the work of our intelligence agencies.” And especially not in light of the current debate about right-wing extremism in Germany, Beck added.

Jan Korte, from the opposition Left Party, spoke of a “second guilt” of Germans, a reference to a book of that name written by Ralph Giordano, a German writer and publicist. It focuses on the denial and suppression of Germany’s Nazi past.

But not everyone sees things that way. Armin Schuster, a member of the CDU, said Korte was too one-sided in his criticism of West Germany’s Nazi past. Former communist East Germany, too, had several ex-Nazis in leading positions, Schuster added.

Foreign ministry investigation a model

The one thing that politicians across party lines agreed on, however, was that an increasing number of ministries and federal agencies have been willing to commission investigations to investigate their Nazi pasts.

One of the most high-profile efforts was undertaken last year by historians Eckart Conze and Norbert Frei who looked into Nazi involvement at the foreign ministry. The no-holds-barred report was commissioned in 2005 by then-Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.

The controversial study on Nazi involvement at the foreign ministry was marketed as a bestseller.

Several ministries and agencies have followed the foreign ministry’s example and initiated research projects to dig around in their past. That includes the BND, the Federal Crime Office (BKA), as well as the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).

The German government, by its own admission, says it “wholeheartedly” supports such research projects. It is important that “the results of such work lead to a critical discourse in the public sphere,” it said.

But critics, such as the Left Party’s Jan Korte, have raised doubts about the independence of the scientists and researchers commissioned for the investigations.

Korte has pointed to the conditions laid down by the government for investigating the Nazi past at the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, including a ban on researchers making any public statements during the project phase. Each statement also must be discussed beforehand with the head of the project at the BfV. “That is censorship and not befitting of what’s at stake here,” Korte maintained.

http://www.dw.de/parliament-holds-heated-debate-on-nazi-past/a-16368238

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” … The underlying aspect through all of it was that they were obtaining explosives and explosives expertise, and they intended to use them to kill people in the United States. … “

RT, August 1, 2012

Authorities in Florida dismantled two white supremacist gangs this year that they say were havens for domestic terrorists readying for a race war. In both instances, agents infiltrated and even helped establish the groups before bringing them down.

In two separate cases publicized only this week, agents working out of the Sunshine State penetrated rings of racist, neo-Nazis motorcyclists who regularly constructed homemade weapons and allegedly plotted hate crimes against minorities. Investigators first began establishing a case against the white supremacists all the way back in 2007, and documentation detailing their probe has been given to the Orlando Sentinel, which they say stretches all the way through this past May.

In their original report of the investigations, the Sentinel says that agents targeted two separate sects of white supremacists and racist bikers in Central Florida, but that the FBI made their own motorcycle gang to get to the heart of their community of hate.

Through adopting a false name and alias, an unnamed officer from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department assumed the identity of a hate mongering neo-Nazi that made his way to the top ranks of the Aryan Nations, even becoming close with the organization’s leader, August Kreis III. From there the agent helped establish a phony biker gang — the 1st SS Kavallerie Brigade Motorcycle Division — that would eventually operate out of St. Cloud, Florida and attract new recruits from across the state. Not before the FBI could install their own undercover agents, though, to further infiltrate the community and assist in the investigation.

The Sentinel reports that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force began monitoring the Kavallerie Brigade and the happenings inside of their clubhouse with the help of “enough hidden microphones and cameras . . . to stage a reality-TV show.” By watching closely, they say they were able to tie key white supremacists close to the Aryan Nations with criminal activity conducted in coordination with the phony group.

“The underlying aspect through all of it was that they were obtaining explosives and explosives expertise, and they intended to use them to kill people in the United States,” Orange-Osceola State Attorney Lawson Lamar tells the Sentinel. “We have a duty to stop what they were doing.”

In a completely seperate instance, the FBI once more got to the heart of another alleged hate group, but this time relied on only a convicted drug dealer to act as an undercover informant. In nearby Osceola County, the Joint Terrorism Task Force installed a mole within the neo-Nazis group American Front and had him file daily reports on the organization’s activities. This past May, however, the informant became concerned for his safety and told the FBI he didn’t think he could last much longer.

“If I find out any of you are informants, I will (expletive) kill you,” the mole says he recalls suspected American Front higher-up Marcus Faella warning others.

The agency began making arrests on May 4, 2012 and by June and arrested 20 individuals total from both groups.

http://rt.com/usa/news/race-war-white-fbi-526/

By Carey Vanderborg

International Business Times, July 9, 2012

ImageNina Rhodes-Hughes, a key witness to the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, has agreed to testify for Sirhan Sirhan’s new defense team.

Rhodes told CNN earlier this year that she believed Sirhan Sirhan did not act alone in the assassination of the former U.S. senator.

“What has to come out is that there was another shooter to my right,” Rhodes-Hughes told CNN in an exclusive interview published online in April. “The truth has got to be told. No more cover-ups.”

Rhodes-Hughes, 78, who now lives in Vancouver, said she has been contacted by Sirhan’s lead lawyer, William Pepper, of New York. “He asked me if indeed I would testify that there was another shooter and I said yes, I would.”    

Rhodes-Hughes, a long-overlooked witness to the murder, has reportedly long said that she heard two guns firing during the 1968 shooting and that authorities altered her account of the crime.

“There were more than eight shots, and it’s interesting that you read whatever the FBI issued, everybody else said eight shots,” Rhodes-Hughes said.

Rhodes-Hughes, who was serving as a volunteer fundraiser for Kennedy’s campaign when he was fatally shot in a kitchen pantry at the Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968, is an American-born television actress and local theatre enthusiast.

Forty-four years after the shooting, Rhodes-Hughes has brought one of the great American tragedies back in to the news spotlight, as she told CNN in an exclusive interview that she heard at least 12 shots that day — not eight as argued by the California prosecutors who convicted Sirhan as the lone gunman.

In the 1969 trial of Sirhan Sirhan, the defense at no point made an attempt to challenge the prosecution’s case that he was the one and only shooter in Kennedy’s assassination.

Sirhan went on to testify that he had killed Kennedy “with 20 years of malice aforethought,” and was convicted and sentenced to death, which was eventually reduced to life in prison in 1972.

It was only after the trial that Sirhan then recanted his courtroom confession.

Despite the recent court filings by Sirhan, state prosecutors argue that even if Rhode-Hughes’ testimony was confirmed, Sirhan would still be guilty of murder under California‘s vicarious liability law.

Nonetheless, Sirhan’s new legal team has chosen to dispute the assertion about the statute and will call Rhodes as a witness.

Rhodes-Hughes’ recent recollection, which has never been argued before a judge, is one of the main pieces of evidence being brought forward by Sirhan’s new lawyers.

http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/361011/20120709/nina-rhodes-hughes-sirhan-rfk-photo.htm

In his battle against Barack Obama, the incoming Speaker of the House of Representatives faces Democratic attacks over his closeness to Washington’s power brokers

Paul Harris (Excerpt)

The Observer | November 7, 2010

(Submitted by Lyle Courtsal)

John Boehner 006 John Boehner’s Links to Lobbyists could be the Chink in his Political ArmorJohn Boehner fights back tears as as he recalls his rise from humble beginnings during the American midterm elections count. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

John Boehner, who is set to be the new Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, is one of the most lobby-friendly politicians in Washington, located at the centre of a web of corporate cash and influence. …

“It will become a tough issue for him. If the focus of the public goes on him and all the lobbyists around him, it could get very difficult,” said Professor Bruce Gronbeck, a political scientist at the University of Iowa and a specialist in the politics of scandal.

There is certainly a lot for Democrats and Boehner’s other political enemies to work with. His reputation in Washington circles is almost that of a Hollywood movie sterotype of the glad-handing politician with close ties to the capital’s lobbyists akin to a Hollywood movie sterotype. Several nicknames seem to sum up his style. The first is GTL, standing for “golf, tan and lobbyists”. The second is Boehnerland, a term used to describe the enormous network of powerful influence peddlers close to him who have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaigns and have taken him on dozens of corporate-funded private trips around the country.

Boehner makes no secret of his lobbyist links. He once organised a regular meeting of politicians and lobbyists called the Thursday Group – now disbanded – at which both sides discussed a shared agenda of reducing taxes and regulations on business. His close circle of lobbyist allies consists of some of the best known names in Washington power-broking circles. One important figure is Bruce Gates, the top individual donor during Boehner’s career giving more than $70,000 to his campaigns. Gates’s wife, Joyce, spent two years as Boehner’s chief of staff and Gates himself has served as treasurer for one of Boehner’s fund-raising vehicles, the Freedom Project. He has a long list of big business clients including steel companies and is now in charge of government relations for the huge tobacco firm Altria, the parent group of Philip Morris.

Another senior lobbyist with close ties to Boehner is Henry Gandy who has lobbied for healthcare firms and financial giants such as Goldman Sachs. Other financial firms, such as Bank of America, have been represented by Marc Lampkin, once Boehner’s general counsel and now a lobbyist. Lampkin, like several other former Boehner staffers, has enjoyed the fruits of the “revolving door” between working for politicians and then working for lobbying firms. He continues to enjoy a close relationship with Boehner. The list goes on, including Sam Baptista who plays golf with Boehner and is a lobbyist representing Goldman Sachs and Discover Financial. “Many politicians have received significant money from lobbyists, but John Boehner does receive a lot of support from this industry,” said Dave Levinthal, a director at the Centre for Responsive Politics, which monitors lobbyist cash flows in Washington. “There is no indication that he is going to change his mode of operation.”

john boehner 300x180 John Boehner’s Links to Lobbyists could be the Chink in his Political ArmorOf course, every politician in Washington has links to lobbyists representing anything from banks to unions. But the scale and closeness of Boehner’s links has raised many eyebrows. Critics point to an infamous incident in 1995 when Boehner handed out cheques from the tobacco industry to politicians on the floor of Congress. He later apologised.

Watchdogs and Democrats point out that Boehner has a long record of resisting efforts to reform the lobbyist influence in Washington and has supported the agenda of big businesses. They point out that Boehner voted on measures that benefited health insurance companies and has taken large amounts of cash from the health insurance industry.He was one of only 19 congressman to vote to protect an anti-trust exemption that helped out the insurance industry, which has given him many thousands of dollars.

He has attacked regulation on steel companies at the same time as he takes money from them. He has lobbied the Environmental Protection Agency to drop a lawsuit against a steel company that supports him. While there is no proof of a direct link between donations to Boehner and specific actions, anti-lobbyist groups protest that the huge donations to politicians are not simply good will and philanthropy. One way or another, they want something back. “A lobbyist’s goal is to exact a result for a client and they are paid handsomely to do so,” said Levinthal.

Boehner and his allies dismiss such criticism as Democratic anger over their recent political defeats. They say Boehner’s actions are nothing to do with lobbyist cash and everything to do with a genuine political commitment to promoting business growth and his conservative pro-free market principles.

But anti-lobbying groups point to the huge flows of cash now flooding into the US electoral system – often via lobbyists – in the wake of a recent supreme court decision that scrapped many campaign finance reform restrictions.

Levinthal said that in the wake of that decision last week’s midterm elections had been among the most lavishly funded in US history. He said people were concerned that the sheer power of lobbyist donations could overwhelm the influence of ordinary voters. “We see that lobbyists as an industry are paid $3.5bn a year to influence lawmakers. They will have a greater opportunity to get their narrow special interests across than average Americans,” he said.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/07/john-boehner-links-lobbyists-washington