Category Archives: Media

New York Times runs Michael Hayden pro-drone op-ed; fails to disclose ties to drone manufacturers

In its Sunday Review section on February 21, 2016, the New York Times ran a column titled “To Keep America Safe, Embrace Drone Warfare.” The article’s thesis is summarized in its second-last sentence: “Civilians have died, but in my firm opinion, the death toll from terrorist attacks would have been much higher if we had not taken action;” and it was written by Michael V Hayden, who directed first the National Security Agency and then the Central Intelligence Agency under George W Bush. Hayden currently serves on the board of several defense industry corporations, including drone manufacturers.

Though the Times identified Hayden’s past government positions at the end of the article, the newspaper failed to disclose Hayden’s present role on the board of Motorola Solutions, a military and defense contractor that recently made an investment in CyPhy Works, which produces unmanned aerial vehicles – drones. Motorola Solutions paid Hayden $240,125 for his service on its board in 2015.

The Times also did not mention that Hayden served, until last year, on the board of Alion Sciences, a information technology firm that serves the US military. Hayden joined Alion’s board in 2010 in a term that ended in 2015. In 2012, Alion was awarded a $24 million contract to develop the US Navy’s unmanned and automatic weapons systems. From Alion’s press release:

Alion’s NSWC PCD work includes technical engineering to increase unmanned and automated weapon systems capabilities for such tasks as the implementation of unmanned systems payloads on “commercial off the shelf” or existing non-developmental unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) with limited modifications. Under the contract, this work can include UUVs, unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

In 2014, Alion issued a notice that it was suspending its filings with the SEC because it had fewer than 300 security holders, so Hayden’s compensation from that firm is not available.

It is also noteworthy that Hayden is a principal at the Chertoff Group, a consulting firm that advises defense industry clients on how to obtain government contracts, another detail that went unmentioned in the Times.

Hayden’s positions on the boards of the defense contractors whose business he advocated for in the Times can be seen in the map below:

The Times’s failure to disclose Hayden’s ties to the industry he was advocating in its pages is the latest example of a trend of media outlets running commentary by defense experts that also have a financial stake in perpetuating warfare. PAI reported on this phenomenon – and Hayden’s involvement – in 2013 with respect to President Obama’s proposed war in Syria.

Senators speak out for LNG exports, bring in big bucks from oil and gas industry

As the west scrambles for a geopolitical response to Russia’s play for the Crimean peninsula, advocates for the oil and gas industry have used the situation to redouble the push to export liquefied natural gas (LNG). Framing the issue as a matter of protecting a fledgling democracy and ensuring security for United States allies, oil- and gas-affiliated pundits, lobbyists, and politicians have begun banging the drum to increase gas exports as a way for the United States to win this standoff with its Cold War rival. However, approving more LNG export facilities is unlikely to have any effect on the current crisis as construction of terminals will take years and billions of dollars and there is no way to ensure that gas will go to Ukraine or any European country when it fetches a higher price in Asia.

Though increased gas exports would not likely score the US a geopolitical win in Crimea, it would help the oil and gas industry to increase their bottom line by selling natural gas, which is currently barely profitable to drill for, to high-priced Asian markets.

As Republic Report’s Lee Fang showed, many in the commentariat calling for exports as a solution have ties to oil and gas lobbying groups and Koch-funded think tanks. We wrote last week on former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who penned an op-ed arguing to use LNG to “[secure] regional independence from Russia,” without disclosing that his employer had been employed as recently as December as a consultant to Ukraine on an LNG project.

Members of Congress have also been speaking out on the issue and have introduced several bills in the House and Senate to expedite Department of Energy approval of LNG export permits. We found that some of the legislators most vocal about LNG and Ukraine have been the recipients of large amounts of campaign cash from the oil and gas industry – the five profiled below have brought in more than $1.5 million since 2009.

Continue reading Senators speak out for LNG exports, bring in big bucks from oil and gas industry

For Tomahawk missiles, image is everything

Last week PAI released a new report detailing the defense industry ties of analysts and think tanks who commented on military intervention in Syria. The report profiled 22 commentators and seven think tanks, paying special attention to Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser to George W. Bush, who now serves as a director for Raytheon, the weapons manufacturer that makes the Tomahawk cruise missiles that were widely cited as a weapon of choice in a potential strike in Syria.

Through the seemingly endless and redundant debates around intervention in Syria the Tomahawk cruise missile enjoyed a level of media attention that would strike envy in the heart of any high-profile Washington hawk.

Continue reading For Tomahawk missiles, image is everything

Bay Area Research Project News Clips

I’m going to start posting a locality-specific version of the NameWire (let’s call it SFNewsWire) in order to shed light on recent activity and happenings affecting the Bay Area organizations we’re researching with Spot.us.

  • AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah partners with IBM for Green Data Center (Routers.com)
  • Lloyd Dean, CEO of Catholic Healthcare West, expressed optimism about upcoming healthcare reform. According to Dean, the mostly favorable reception from business, the buy-ins on access and costs from insurance and drug companies are among the “evolutionary” forces that have come to outweigh the “minority opinions” – dissenting voices from the GOP and elsewhere. “Look how far we’ve gotten,” he said. (SFGate.com)
  • San Francisco’s Sunday Streets program is now a permanent weekly event, Mayor Newsom pronounced. (Twitter.com/andrewross)
  • Chevron backs ‘Energy Citizens’, an oil industry movement aimed at derailing climate-change legislation. (SFGate)
  • Robert Lloyd, most likely successor to Cisco CEO John Chambers goads channel partners to wallop HP ProCurve (NetworkWorld – thanks to JZukfor the link)

Sen. Carl Levin Issues Subpoena to Goldman Sachs

After an extended period of blog lethargy, I’m making my debut on Eyes on the Ties today in order to announce a LittleSis research project: we’re working to develop a comprehensive list of all the connections between Goldman Sachs executives and influential government officials and lobbyists.

Serendipitously (or perhaps not), Senator Carl Levin has also made an announcement today: namely, that the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has subpoenaed Goldman Sachs in order to comb for evidence of fraud during last year’s mortgage-market meltdown. The Daily Kos blog team was the first to pick up the story: Continue reading Sen. Carl Levin Issues Subpoena to Goldman Sachs

Where’s PPIP?

For several weeks beginning in late March, Tim Geithner and others on the Rubin wing of the White House expended significant political capital convincing the listless business press and the broader electorate that PPIP, the taxpayer-subsidized toxic asset removal program, was the only way forward.

Two months later, and without any PPIP toxic transfers, Geithner assured critics last week that the program would be activated in July.

During the original PPIP news cycle, Geithner argued that removing substantial toxicity from bank balance sheets was the last, best hope for restoring global confidence in the American financial system, and that the enormous social risks created by the program were preferable to the chaos that might result from a permanently contaminated banking system.

Continue reading Where’s PPIP?

Beltway buzz

LittleSis for Washington insiders, in this week’s National Journal:

The biggest value LittleSis offers is not so much the details it provides but the ties it highlights. “In a city like Washington that functions off of connections … having an online Rolodexing system to figure out these connections is a valuable tool,” said Scott Goodstein, who served as the external online director for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

It’s interesting to see the site presented to an inside-the-beltway audience. I’m glad the article informed them that:

  1. LittleSis is watching.
  2. This will prove useful to insiders-looking-in.

The magazine is subscription-only, but the article is available here from Sunlight Foundation.

“Le facebook inversé”

LittleSis has crossed the pond: Le Monde’s blog Bonne Nouvelle plugged the site today, and France’s first couple showed up soon after. Bonne Nouvelle is big into optimism, and we’re happy the site was presented in that context; LittleSis is all about political hope for our ailing democracy.

An excerpt from the post (translation thanks to Mike S):

CV’s, personal relations, financial scandals — everything is published here by vigilant citizens, who can then share information. The *incestuous relations between business and politics* are clearly innumerable! Take, for example, the Little Sis page of the much disliked George Bush, or even that of Steve Jobs. With facebook, people put their private lives on display with no taboos. But with this type of community initiative, they force the powerful to do the same. *Transparency is the same for all.*

For the record, we should note that LittleSis is not about the private lives of powerful citizens, but about their public lives; all of the data on the site is a matter of public record. Analysts are required to submit working reference links when making edits, and all modifications are logged and displayed, to ensure a transparent editing process.

The site continues to attract a lot of attention at home, too. Tim O’Reilly had this to say over Twitter yesterday:

In that vein, LittleSis.org is an “involuntary facebook of powerful Americans…profiling the powers that be.” Fascinating project!

Kottke liked the name and saw some parallels to a well-known social networking site:

Like Facebook, the site has a particular emphasis on how all these people are connected: politically, financially, socially. The best way to see what it’s all about is to check out some profiles: Barack Obama, Michael Bloomberg, and the list of the 400 richest Americans.

And Dirt Diggers Digest observed that the site could be very useful for grassroots organizing campaigns:

LittleSis is an exciting project that reinvigorates the tradition of power-elite research pursued in the pre-internet era by authors such as Gabriel Kolko and William Domhoff. It also builds on previous online efforts such as TheyRule. It could become an invaluable tool to help us understand the powers that be and pursue campaigns that make them less powerful.

Thanks for all the interest and feedback. Keep it coming!

The buzz is building…

All done with being cooped up in alpha land, LittleSis has been making appearances all over the internet today. We’ve been thrilled with the response. It all started with Sunlight’s post, followed by OpenCongress’s piece yesterday. Today Craig Newmark gave the site a shout out on his blog (cross-posted at Huffington Post). The Institute for the Future of the Book posted an extended entry yesterday, and today techPresident speculated: what happens when the powers that be find out they’re being followed?

And lo and behold, the microsphere is a-twitter.

The response from the Sunlight community has been impressive, and we’re very happy to see so many new analysts sign up to keep watch on the powers that be. In the next few weeks we’ll be posting tips and tricks for making edits, and pointing out profile pages that are looking good, and others that need some TLC. In the meantime, drop us a line if you’ve got questions or suggestions for the site. We’d love to hear from you.

The citizens’ intelligence community is growing by leaps and bounds. Let’s keep it up!