Saturday, September 1, 2007

COUNTERPOINT: Friends of Leonard Peltier respond to Tim Giago

COUNTERPOINT: Friends of Leonard Peltier to Tim Giago

From the Friends of Leonard Peltier
August 31, 2007
Response to "What is the Truth About the Murder of Anna Mae?" by Tim Giago

A response to What is the Truth About the Murder of Anna Mae?

Tim Giago, The Huffington Post, August 30, 2007:“If, Giago is a lover of ‘fact’ and ‘objective’ journalism, as he claims, perhaps he will take the time to actually read and study the thousands of documents produced by [the] FBI... If that isn't enough, Tim Giago can watch reruns of interviews with judges, ex-GOONs describing their FBI support, [and] victims of GOONs’ terror... All of these... are available for anyone truly interested in facts.” -- Leonard Peltier (Letter to the Editor, May 1991 Edition of News From Indian Country)As several of his fellow columnists/editors have noted over the years, Tim Giago and AIM are old adversaries. Giago has often been critical of AIM leaders and during the campaign for clemency during Bill Clinton's presidency, Giago (founder and former editor of Indian Country Today) published an ad against an award of clemency to Leonard Peltier -- one financed by the FBI Agents Association and the Society of Former Agents of the FBI and that contained a bare minimum of 33 factual errors.As has happened since his 1976 arrest, the U.S. government isn’t above manipulating the media to destroy public confidence in Leonard Peltier.A 1993 FBI memorandum shows that the government developed a media plan by which former and active agents of the FBI made scurrilous claims in print and on radio and television programs throughout the United States with the intent of preventing Peltier’s release through an award of Executive Clemency.This is by no means a new weapon in the FBI’s arsenal. Further evidence of such media activity can be found in the "Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities," (United States Senate, 94th Congress, 2nd Session, 1976), most notably against the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.Media manipulation also was a key element of the FBI’s public relations activities surrounding the prosecutions of other members of the American Indian Movement during the 1970s.For example, prior to the 1976 trial of Peltier’s codefendants, Bob Robideau and Dino Butler, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the FBI warned local police that carloads of AIM "terrorists" were descending on the town.On May 11, 1976, U.S. marshals visited every office in the Federal Building (where the trial was to be held), telling folks to prepare for shooting incidents and the seizure of hostages and advising them that marshals on the roof would be on the lookout for marauding Indians.Elsewhere, rumors about alleged renegade activity ran rampant. A report allegedly emanating from Connecticut police intelligence, for example, stated that a "terrorist" group affiliated with AIM had hatched a plan "to kill a cop a day."The report failed to mention that the organization referenced was defunct.On June 22, the FBI released a teletype that was distributed to law enforcement agencies throughout the country. It claimed that 2,000 AIM "Dog Soldiers" trained in "the Northwest Territory" would fan out across South Dakota and would kidnap, bomb, burn, and kill... all, it was alleged, to disrupt the Bicentennial Celebration.When the 2,000 "Dog Soldiers" didn't show up in South Dakota and the rest of the FBI's scare campaign was shown to be a lie, the Cedar Rapids community began to look at AIM members, who had peaceably assembled there for the trial, with a fresh eye and view the government's machinations with skepticism.Butler and Robideau were acquitted on grounds of self-defense.Such media activity on the part of the FBI necessitates gaining newspaper editors’ and journalists' confidence and support in disseminating media reports favorable to the FBI and damaging to their targets while, at the same time, thwarting efforts of such targets to publicly defend themselves. Giago has been a willing participant in the FBI's disinformation campaign against AIM and Leonard Peltier for many years now.Today, Giago parrots the language of former Special Agent in Charge of the Minneapolis Division of the FBI Joseph H. Trimbach who claims authorship of a forthcoming book, “American Indian Mafia, An FBI Agent’s True Story About Wounded Knee, Leonard Peltier, and the American Indian Movement (AIM)”.It’s interesting that Trimbach would compare AIM with the Mafia with which the FBI has a checkered past. Take the Deegan case, for example.In 1968, four men were convicted of the slayng of Edward “Teddy” Deegan. Thirty-nine years later, on July 26, 2007, U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner found that the FBI withheld evidence that the men had been framed, as Peter Limone and Joseph Salvati grew old during their three decades in prison, and Louis Greco and Henry Tameleo died behind bars.Secret FBI files that were never turned over during the men's 1968 trial show that the FBI knew that the key witness in the case, notorious hitman Joseph "The Animal" Barboza, falsely implicated the four men, while protecting one of Deegan's true killers, Vincent "Jimmy" Flemmi, who was an FBI informant."It took 30 years to uncover this injustice," Gertner said. "This case is about intentional conduct ... the framing of innocent men." (See't it also interesting that the book (and Web site) that Trimbach claimed would be published and released on June 26th of this year have failed to materialize?Trimbach nevertheless has taken the opportunity of the alleged publication of this book to conduct interviews, write blog postings, and otherwise promote his views. Trimbach, continuing as an FBI propagandist, has been very busy spreading a fictional tale, although one consistent with the FBI's long position on Wounded Knee and Leonard Peltier.Aided by men such as these, the FBI seeks to condemn all AIM members for the actions of the few, vilify men and women who had the courage to stand for freedom, and rewrite history about what most of them hoped to (and arguably did) accomplish, i.e., the demand of Indigenous Peoples for their human and constitutional rights, and defense of their cultural heritage.Regardless of mistakes made during that time or the personalities involved, there is no doubt that the men and women of AIM raised the consciousness of Indigenous Peoples, sparked cultural pride, and engendered the Native activism seen today (from which Tim Giago and others of his ilk have benefited).One must ask oneself... if the government’s cause is righteous, why then are such machinations even necessary?Without question, the 1975 murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash was brutal. Without question, her killers must be brought to justice.But there also must be scrupulous respect for due process and fair trial proceedings. This is essential to ensure full public accounting of what happened and to address ongoing concerns about political interference in the course of justice.In recent months, the politicization of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has been "exposed" and hotly debated. That debate has focused on the firings of U.S. Attorneys for political reasons, almost exclusively. The DOJ's politically motivated prosecutions over the years have been and continue to be ignored by the media and the public at large, however -- as has the simultaneous, unbridled official misconduct that is known to have occurred and has been acknowledged by Congress and the courts in the case of Leonard Peltier, as well as cases of other AIM members prosecuted by the DOJ.The Peltier Legal Team has discovered proof in the form of the FBI’s own documents that the government knew who was responsible for Anna Mae’s murder all along. Why has the FBI waited so long -- decades -- to prosecute?Theories abound.On one thing, Mr. Giago, we agree -- Those that knew about Anna Mae’s murder and failed to prevent it or report it should be prosecuted -- but we have to ask: Does this include the agents and their supervisors in the Bureau who obstructed justice in this case?Giago knows, or should know, that there was no evidence entered or witness testimony given at the Looking Cloud trial that indicated Leonard Peltier was involved in the murder of Anna Mae Aquash. This is merely a conclusion that the U.S. government hoped the media, and the American public, would reach.Peltier adamantly denies Giago's and others' claims. And why wouldn’t he? He never believed Aquash was an informant. More than that, he had nothing to fear from any of the FBI’s numerous informants. Why? For one very good reason: Peltier is an innocent man.We now know that the FBI, despite its claim to the contrary, could and did conduct a firing pin test on the Wichita AR-15, the weapon attributed to Peltier and which was alleged to have caused Agents Williams’ and Coler’s fatal injuries. That test proved conclusively that the shell casing offered into evidence at Peltier’s 1977 trial was not fired by the Wichita AR-15. This means only one thing… Peltier did not shoot the agents. (View the FBI's own documents which clearly show that the shell casing did not match the Wichita AR-15.)And what’s the lesson to be learned? To understand the Aquash prosecutions, one must also familiarize oneself with the specifics of the Peltier case.Giago relies heavily on the uncorroborated testimony of Kamook Nichols Banks at the Looking Cloud trial. He fails, however, to address the legitimate complaints about that uncorroborated testimony.At issue is Kamook’s romantic relationship with Robert Ecoffey, an investigator in the Peltier and Aquash cases -- nd one of a number of investigators who have staked their reputations on the same.Such relationships are deemed inappropriate and are generally forbidden for the duration of a criminal investigation expressly because they can and often do raise reasonable doubt about the truthfulness of a witness’ testimony.Why was this relationship not revealed at the Looking Cloud trial?Presumably, this was done intentionally to avert questions as to the influence Ecoffey may have exerted over Kamook’s uncorroborated testimony on behalf of the prosecution. This would have been an appropriate path of inquiry, however, and a legitimate issue to place before the jury. Note: Kamook Nichols Banks married Robert Ecoffey soon after the end of the trial.What is of most concern to many people, however, is the fact that Kamook Nichols Banks is a paid informant. The fact is that Kamook Nichols Banks is known to have been paid $42,000 (U.S. dollars) by the FBI for "moving expenses". Given the history of the FBI vis-à-vis information on informants, the public simply has no way of knowing for certain that Kamook Nichols Banks did not receive much more by way of remuneration. The question that always arises when a witness is in the "employ" of investigators is whether or not an informant has provided accurate information or merely provided tall tales in sufficient quantity, frequency, and detail to satisfy investigators’ theory of a crime so as to secure the promised rewards.But there’s far more at issue in this particular case.Read the findings of the Church Committee referenced previously or consider the affidavit by former FBI Special Agent John C. Ryan which was filed as Appendix C to the Plaintiffs’ "Motion for Justice" filed in the successful Bari/Cherney civil rights suit against the FBI and the Oakland (California) Police ("…it would come as no surprise that FBI agents in… any case, would distort, exaggerate, misrepresent, falsify or otherwise manipulate information about an informant, or about information supposedly received from an informant, or meetings, or the contents of reports and files, etc., regardless of the untruthfulness or unlawfulness of their actions. Anyone -- supervisors, bureau headquarters, a court or magistrate in a given case, prosecutors, city police officers -- might have been a target (victim) of such fraud and deception regarding informants and informant information in the circumstances and atmosphere I am describing."The FBI has a long history of mishandling informants. For many years, the FBI has not followed its own guidelines as regards the use of confidential informants, including regulations regarding cash payments for information. As late as 2005, despite attempts to remedy this situation, the government found that the FBI continues to mishandle informants (see "FBI violating informant guidelines: Inspector General finds 87 failure rate," Boston Globe, 13 Sep 2005). The continuing concerns over FBI practices are so great that the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives, has touched on the matter just recently -- during a hearing specifically on the use of confidential informants and a subsequent FBI oversight hearing.The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, vital to prevent a justice system from railroading relatively powerless defendants, guarantees any accused the right to a speedy and public trial, assisted by counsel. It guarantees that they shall know the nature of the charges against them and be allowed to subpoena witnesses in their defense. It also says the accused "shall enjoy the right... to be confronted with the witnesses against him." The Sixth Amendment also affords the right to cross-examine witnesses.The burden is on the prosecution to bring witnesses forward at trial, to allow judge and jury to see how they respond to cross-examination. This is not merely some "technicality". Human nature has not changed and the Founders knew full well that false statements -- or statements extracted by an aggressive and "leading" investigator or interviewer -- often crumble in the formality of testimony under oath before a jury.During the Arlo Looking Cloud trial, the federal prosecutor simply circumnavigated this amendment.One must remember that prior to the Looking Cloud trial, federal prosecutors had admitted that they "did not and could not" prove Peltier's guilt in connection with the 1975 shooting deaths of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.Previously, the prosecutors were forced to admit that they didn't know who shot the agents or what role Peltier "may have played" in their deaths. Prosecutors even changed their prosecutorial theory along the way, stating that Peltier wasn't sentenced to two life sentences for homicide, but for aiding and abetting. (Not much different than the recent controversy raised by the planned execution of Texas inmate Kenneth Foster for a murder he didn't commit, is it?)To support a weak prosecutorial theory and the alleged motive for the murder of Anna Mae, testimony in the form of hearsay evidence was presented against Peltier (who wasn't on trial). There was no risk in the prosecutor doing this. After all, Leonard Peltier wasn't able to face his accuser and cross-examine. Icing on the cake from the government's point of view, the suspect testimony of a paid informant with close personal ties to a key investigator is now part of the official court record and the government can (and will) point to the testimony given -- aided, apparently, by Giago and others -- as "proof" of Peltier's guilt.Lo and behold the government's case against Leonard Peltier is rehabilitated! Coincidentally?The hearsay evidence presented by Kamook Nichols Banks exactly matched the government's original prosecutorial theory presented during its opening remarks and summation during Peltier's trial. A tidy package, then.To what purpose? To win a conviction against Looking Cloud, of course. But also to destroy public support for Peltier, they think, and to prevent his release from prison by a grant of clemency or parole.Is the government's campaign against Peltier working?The answer to that question came during the Prez on the Rez forum on August 23, the first event of its kind in Indian Country, when presidential candidate Mike Gravel pledged to free Peltier if elected, bringing the room to its feet in a standing ovation. Those showing their appreciation included members of the Oglala Nation (for whom Giago claims to speak), as well as representatives of many other Indian tribes from throughout the country.

No comments:

Censored News Special Edition

Censored News Blog Radio

Donate to Censored News

. Censored News is free of advertising and has no sponsors.

Censored News Homepage

About Censored News

Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008:
COPYRIGHTS All material is copyrighted by the author or photographer. Please contact each contributor for reprint permission.
Audios may not be sold or used for commercial purposes.

"O FRIEND! In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love, and from the nightingale of affection and desire loosen not thy hold." --Baha'u'llah, Baha'i Faith