Via America’s Lawyer: Mike Papantonio and Trial Magazine Executive Editor Farron Cousins, discuss how the FBI and other intelligence agencies believe that activists are a dangerous threat in this country by secretly tracking and spying on them. Then, legal Journalist Mollye Barrows joins Mike Papantonio to talk about a bill that would extend benefits to thousands of ailing U.S. veteran’s hit a last-second snag in the Senate.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:                          US intelligence agencies for decades have been spying on ordinary citizens in an attempt to control civil unrest. We learned many years ago through the Frank Church hearings that government agencies like the FBI and the NSA and the CIA had been tracking and spying on American citizens without any warrants just because they believed those people posed a threat to the powerful elite in DC and to corporate America. The domestic spying programs continue to this day and the latest targets are the environmental activists who actually want to keep the planet from burning up for the next generation.

Joining me to talk about this story and as well as other top legal news is Farron Cousins. He’s the executive editor of the Trial Lawyer Magazine. This is like a blast from the past. This story is, there’s really no surprises here. We’ve all suspected it. You know, we’ve all known that they’re using social media to learn everything they can about it. But this report, when I look at this coming out of the FBI’s own files, this looks like a real, just exactly what the Frank Church hearings were supposed to stop. What is your take on this story?

Farron Cousins:                   Well you know, I think a lot of people actually thought, you know, after the Church hearings, you know, at least back in the day that, okay, well they’ve exposed this, this ended, and then we knew during the Bush administration, oh, domestic spying, it’s back suddenly. Truth is, it never went away. It didn’t go away under Bush, it didn’t go away under Obama and it continues to this day. And in fact, what we found out from the Guardian is that a lot of this with the environmental activists being spied on, happened while Obama was president, the FBI decided to classify some of these people from these break free from fossil fuel events that took place over six continents. Some of them up in Iowa, they thought maybe some of these folks are terrorists. So we’re using that to justify spying on them, violating civil liberties left and right, because we want to make sure we know what these environmentalists are doing and what kind of profits they’re threatening. That’s what’s really…

Mike Papantonio:                          Those darn people in Iowa, you know, there’s such troublemakers. So it, okay, so the FBI had, they’ve denied this for time after time and now we find it, it’s in their own file cabinet. This is documents right out of their own file cabinets. Should they be embarrassed? Well, no, they’re really not embarrassed. They really don’t care because the secret’s out. It’s been going on for an awful long time. But you talked about the Frank Church hearings and I think it’s extremely important. The Frank Church hearings took place in 1975 and they took place because they found out that the FBI and the NSA had been spying at just without any controls on American citizens. They were reading their, any type of a messaging that took place. They were reading any, listening to telephone conversations.

They were spying, but there’s people they were spying on were Martin Luther King, Mohammed Ali, Seymour Hersh. Of course, one of the most famous journalist of his time. Why were they doing that with Seymour Hersh? Seymour Hersh had uncovered the My Lai Massacre. He had done a story on that. He was very critical of Vietnam War. He had done a story that and several other stories. The Allende murder that Henry Kissinger engineered, the little thug Henry Kissinger engineered the murder of Allende so Pinochet could be put in office. So Seymour Hersh covered that story. It wasn’t that they were just spying on him. They were actually intimidating him. They were following him around, the big black car parked outside his house, making his life miserable because that was the power of the NSA and the FBI. We thought we did something about it, didn’t we?

Farron Cousins:                   Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:                          Not so right?

Farron Cousins:                   No, absolutely not and what we found out during the Church hearings was that this actually started in 1947. That’s when the government itself started spying on people in this country without a warrant. And then when Truman got popped for that, he said, okay, well I’m going to create this new agency, the NSA. We’re going to create these FISA courts. They’re going to kind of work in unison so we can get around this without a warrant issue, but we’re still doing the domestic spying. And then Bush came along, obviously said we’re going to do a work around so we don’t even have to go to FISA, you know, they were doing it on the anti-war activists and then, you know, it increased at the time to the environmental activists, which increased.

Mike Papantonio:                          Well, Martin Luther King, the whole civil rights. They were all under the eye and it wasn’t just the eye of the government. The government had done more than just, they were outwardly intimidating these people. They set, they set in motion the fact that Martin Luther King had an affair with several women to try to destroy his marriage. But that was the FBI at work and we know that story now. And we, and this Frank Church hearings, told us that story and it gave us an idea of how dangerous it is when we allow government to do these things without any kind of… You know, what I thought was interesting about this Farron is, you know, here you’ve got the FBI, they want to spy on environmental activists. They want to spy on things like Greenpeace and people who might be objecting to the fact that we’ve got environmental problems in this country.

We have racial issues, whatever. They want to spy on those people. At the same time, the FBI allows HSBC to fund terrorism. Literally to fund terrorism and they don’t prosecute anybody with HSBC. This is after HSBC and other banks signed off and said, yes, we did this. Yes, we knew we were funding terrorism by washing the money. Washing money. Yes we knew American lives were endangered and Americans were killed, and oh, by the way, we’ll pay a billion dollars. Will you let us go? FBI did nothing about that. So the, Howard Zinn wrote about this a lot, as you know he’s a great writer, and what he used to, he used to equate the FBI and the NSA is to the modern Pinkertons. You know, that’s where corporations would hire these investigative thugs to break up unions and they would get involved, but it was paid for by the government.

I mean, they’re actually involved indirectly with the government. And it kinda gives you the ugly underbelly of Capitalism gone wrong. When government is so tied to corporations that they’re more tied to Exxon, they’re more tied to DuPont than they are protecting the citizens of this country. This is a deplorable story and I just think the more of these documents that come out, even though typically you don’t have corporate media really dealing with this, even though they say this is an important story, I can assure you it’s an important story and we’re going to see this story develop more and more. I really do believe that the more we get out of those file cabinets, the uglier this story is going to…

Farron Cousins:                   Well, let me just add to your point here, because when you bring up HSBC, they got fined. They admitted we washed money for terrorists. The reason the FBI didn’t want to spy on them or go after them is because when they get those fines, the DOJ, that becomes FBI fund money.

Mike Papantonio:                          Yeah.

Farron Cousins:                   They get to go spend it.

Mike Papantonio:                          Nobody goes to jail. But we got to, you got to pay big money to stay out of jail.

Farron Cousins:                   Right.

Mike Papantonio:                          Can’t do that with average citizens.

Mike Papantonio:                          In a last ditch effort to gain a vote before Congress adjourns for this session, next week, Veteran groups have urged President Trump to persuade senators to vote on a bill that would make tens of thousands of ailing Veterans who have served on ships and territorial waters off Vietnam, eligible for VA disability compensation and healthcare. Joining us to talk about that is Mollye Barrows. Mollye this story, the thing, this is infuriating on so many levels because you have one Senator. Was it House of Representative or Senator?

Mollye Barrows:                   It was a Senator.

Mike Papantonio:                          Senator that says, no, we want to delay this now. Okay, let’s put this in perspective. We’re talking about was about $5 million dollars that they’d have to spend here. Some people say it could be as little as $1 million.

Mollye Barrows:                  Right, two different government offices.

Mike Papantonio:                          Okay, talk, lay it out for us a little bit and tell us what this story, where it develops.

Mollye Barrows:                   Basically yes. And you’re more familiar with most with what Agent Orange is. As you know, it’s an herbicide that the US government used in Vietnam during the war to basically destroy crops and forests so that they could see the enemy.

Mike Papantonio:                          And it destroyed human beings too.

Mollye Barrows:                   As well.

Mike Papantonio:                          Our soldiers, it destroyed their lives too, but go ahead.

Mollye Barrows:                   Led to many, many lawsuits from our own people. Those in Vietnam and it also is, as you know, it’s been connected to any number of diseases and cancers and as well as genetic problems.

Mike Papantonio:                          Dow chemical at its very best.

Mollye Barrows:                   Yes, and causes genetic problems that they’re still continuing to see, and so this bill was going to address some of that. It was going to extend benefits to more Veterans, some of their children, especially if they can be shown as part of research to determine what sort of genetic impacts being exposed to this it had and some of the money was even going to go to Vietnam, victims in Vietnam, whether they needed medical treatment as well as to take a look at the environment, see what, if any, restorative work could be done there. So they had been trying to pass this through the House had passed it through unanimously and they needed, you know, basically unanimous consent for this to move forward for the approval process. And this one particular Senator, Mike Enzi, this Republican from Wyoming said, wait a minute, it’s too much money. It’s going to be five and a half million over 10 years.

Mike Papantonio:                          Let me put that in perspective for you, okay. This year, just in subsidies that we give the oil companies $40 billion dollars worth of subsidies that we’re saying to the oil companies that are making more money than third world countries that, hey, you know what, we need to give you a subsidy so you can stay in business. It’s as low as $40 billion. It’s been as high as $150 billion that we’re giving to all these people as subsidies. Now, we can’t spend a million and a half dollars to say to these Veterans, you know what, you’ve proven it. The dangers of this product has been proven. I mean, it’s not just, it’s not just the first generation of people who were exposed to this, this product that by the way, Dow Chemical clearly understood what the dangers were.

Mollye Barrows:                   Absolutely.

Mike Papantonio:                          Okay, so it wasn’t just first generation, it was second generation and third generation. So the study that this man’s talking about is, we want to see how far removed it is. We don’t want to spend any money, any money here before we know this. I mean, isn’t that it?

Mollye Barrows:                   It is. Well, and it’s interesting, because you see the arguments even among the governmental offices, not just the legislators. You had the VA who’s the one leading the charge with these excuses of cost and basically saying, well, we’re just going to wait for this next study to come in, that the results are due in 2019. And then you have the guide, the Congressional Budget Office. They’re saying, no, no, no, it’s not going to be five and a half million over 10 years. We’re just talking $1.1 million.

Mike Papantonio:                          $1.1 million, now let me add that perspective again. This cat who’s probably signed off on this, I don’t know this, but if we looked at his voting history, we would find that he said it’s okay for a corporation to point, to park $400 billion dollars offshore in a Cayman Bank and not pay taxes on it. It’s okay to do that. But you know, a Vietnam Veteran who gave everything in that war that was already based on really, really questionable, questionable reasons for even being there.

Mollye Barrows:                   Absolutely.

Mike Papantonio:                          Gave everything, gave everything. And so we ask now, all we want, we want a million dollars. We want maybe $5 million dollars. It’s fine for this, if you would give him his name again so people can…

Mollye Barrows:                   Mike Enzi, a Republican from Wyoming.

Mike Papantonio:                          Mike Enzi.

Mollye Barrows:                   He was the lone Senator who managed to block this from moving forward.

Mike Papantonio:                          Somebody, if you’re watching this program, go look at his background and I bet you’re going to find it’s Mike Enzi and corporate America. Mike Enzi and big corporations every time, but where it comes to Mike Enzi and doing the right thing for consumers or certainly Vietnam Veterans in this situation, there’s not going to be a lot of, it’s not going to be a two way street. This doesn’t surprise me. It certainly doesn’t surprise me that’s the lone Republican.

Mollye Barrows:                   Well, they aren’t giving up on it. They’re going to try to, you know, again after the Christmas break, but let’s see. We’ll see how successful.

Mike Papantonio:                          I think it’ll pass, but it’s really, tells the story about this guy. Mollye, thank you for joining us.

Mollye Barrows:                   Absolutely. Thanks Pap.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.