Narco News '02
February 26th with..
(See New Exchange
Below 1st Letter and Response)
after 2 Years
Asks Narco News:
Would You Damn a Friend?"
From: Bob Weiner, former
White House Office on Drug Policy
Al -- HI! In browsing
the net, I JUST saw your strange report of over
a year ago (sixth item)
when you attacked me (?) for not only my "silencing"
two reporters during my then ongoing stint at the White House
but my strategies in my congressional campaign...????!!!! First
of all, what am I missing here -- you and I were/are liberals
fighting for just about all the same causes, and were then. Second,
why didn't you just call me up at that very number you printed
(which I am of course no longer at -- now I'm at 202-361-0611).
It would have been great to hear from you -- AND I would have
given you a lot more substance from your (and my) point of view
than you mysteriously printed without, for some reason, even
calling me up! What was that all about and why didn't you call?
I had no objection to Forbes and Massing by the way other than
their refusal to include in their quotes anything persuasive
that didn't make their case -- in Forbes case, what our real
objectives were and how they complied with Congress; in Massing's
case, he ignored everything already being done about treatment
and made it seem like he invented the concept. It was a case
of bad and biased reporting, in my view -- but the "Silencing"
comment is bizarre. I talked with them all the time, on the record
-- hardly a "silencing" strategy. The "silence"
was more theirs in what they chose to print.
Concerning my congressional
campaign, I did what I thought right: I had two witnesses who
signed legal papers saying Conte had given bribes. I didn't make
these up -- the former Hampshire County DA was in the room with
me, the FBI, and these guys' statements after they made and signed
them. The only reason Conte got away with it is that the 7-year
statute of limitations had passed so the legal authorities issued
statements saying they had "no foundation" on which
to proceed. Nothing depressed me more than that I didn't have
the funds to further verify their allegations. In any case, you
remember I ran a very respectable and important campaign on issues.
A number of papers endorsed me, including the Valley Advocate,
which I think you even wrote for (or were in all the time anyway?)
at the time.
But all this is just detail
-- the real question is why would you damn a friend from years
past without even talking to him first. I don't quite believe
I became an untouchable enemy! I still believe in my constant
philosophy -- to go as far left as you can but win within the
system. That does differ from the fringes but it's my way of
moving the system.
By the way, since I left
the White House (after six years there) I've formed a public
affairs and issue strategies company (Robert Weiner Associates/Public
Affairs and Issue Strategies).
Regards, Bob Weiner
Mr. Weiner's letter arrives
almost two years after the
report in question.
And we thank him for his readership: better late than never.
Mr. Weiner confirms
the facts we cited in our April 2000 criticism of his
official behavior. He takes issue, instead, with his perception
that Narco News would "damn a friend."
Mr. Weiner makes so many
errant or demonstrably false statements in this letter that we
feel compelled to respond on five points.
1. On April 18, 2000, our first day of publication,
Narco News reported that Mr. Weiner was the "hidden hand"
behind what we called "attacks" against journalists.
"The drug czar General
Barry McCaffrey and his functionaries have recently launched
public ad hominum attacks against two internet journalists who
criticized US drug policy...
"They have gone a
little batty at the drug czar's bunker. First they attacked journalist
Michael Massing for an article in Salon that was critical of
the military aid package to Colómbia. They accused him
of being a "drug legalizer" when Massing has, in fact,
been a real pain in the neck to anti-prohibitionists (see "Beyond
Legalization," a special edition of The Nation edited by
Massing in 1999).
"Then they attacked
Salon -- again! -- for running an article by Daniel Forbes that
severely embarrassed the drug czar's media campaign and some
major national magazines: he exposed that the latters -- from
Newsweek to Sports Illustrated -- accepted money from the drug
czar's budget in exchange for publishing "favorable"
articles about the war on drugs.
"Unable to dispute
the facts on Daniel Forbes' exposé, the White House attacked
Forbes as 'biased' because his articles are among the 35,000
published by an internet news service, Media Awareness Project, which, informs General McCaffrey,
links to a recipe on how to manufacture the designer drug 'ecstasy.'
In fact, the Media Awareness Project publishes links to other
dubious information: They have published 28 articles written
by the very same General McCaffrey (as opposed only seven by
Daniel Forbes). This, we learned from a story on the NewsWatch
web site (click
here). Thus by
the White House's own logic, the US drug czar is a collaborator
with 'the enemy.'
"MAP offered its
own articulate reply to the White House (click
here) and Mark
Jurkowitz, told the whole story of the corrupting of the US press
in the Boston Globe (click
here). The Media
Awareness Project, like Narco News, doesn't pay anyone
a devalued peso for these articles. It's an archive of English-language
drug policy stories, much larger than our own Narco News.
And if the White House says its wrong, it must be right about
-- from Issue
# 1 of The Narco News Bulletin
Mr. Weiner's letter does
not deny any of these facts reported by Narco News. He,
instead, protests that we should not have reported the facts.
That is, of course, an absurd suggestion to authentic journalists.
2. Mr. Weiner alleges that Narco News did
not call him for comment. In fact, we did leave a message on
his voice mail at the White House prior to publishing the story,
seeking his comment. This is documented by our telephone bill
for April 2000. Weiner did not respond at the time.
3. Mr. Weiner admits to his efforts, exactly as we
reported in Narco News, to defame his opponent during
a 1986 congressional campaign in which he was a candidate. But
he tries to place his own spin on events, saying, "Nothing depressed me more
than that I didn't have the funds to further verify their allegations."
That statement confirms
one of the key critiques we made of Mr. Weiner's official behavior:
The McCarthyist penchant for attacking political adversaries
with unverified allegations. As Narco News demonstrates
every day, one does not need "funds" to verify allegations;
just hard work combined with the necessity that the allegations
be true and factual.
Narco News was not the first or only publication
to explore Mr. Weiner's behavior in his 1988 congressional campaign.
The Almanac of American Politics of 1988 reported
on pages 548 and 549:
"He (U.S. Rep. Silvio
Conte) is reelected easily. His 1986 Democratic opponent, Robert
Weiner, a former Claude Pepper aide, peppered Conte with criticism.
But his campaign was undercut at the end when he forwarded some
charges against Conte to the FBI and the Democratic state chairman,
5th District Representative Chester Atkins, wrote him a letter
calling on him to stop. Conte won with 78% of the vote."
4. Mr. Weiner's letter states "you and I were/are liberals fighting for
just about all the same causes... the real question is why would
you damn a friend from years past without even talking to him
first. I don't quite believe I became an untouchable enemy! I
still believe in my constant philosophy -- to go as far left
as you can but win within the system. That does differ from the
fringes but it's my way of moving the system."
This may be a small point
to others, but I find his claim of friendship to be as exaggerated
as his claims to common cause. A friend is someone who we spend
time with, who we invite into our homes, who we visit in their
homes... friends do things together in social settings. Years
ago, I would bump into Mr. Weiner only at public political events,
but I have never "hung out" with Mr. Weiner. I have
never been to his home, nor invited him to mine. If Mr. Weiner
was smoking doobies with me at a Grateful Dead show years ago,
I have no memory of that. Does Mr. Weiner?
Perhaps inside the Washington
DC beltway -- where true friends can be few -- there is a different
definition of "friend" than we have somewhere in a
country called América.
But really, when it comes
to the behavior of public officials, even if we had been somebody's
"friend," should that provide immunity from journalistic
scrutiny? Of course not! We do admit to having friends in Washington,
including members of Congress, some of whom we have criticized
sharply over the years for their official behavior. The big boys
and girls in public office understand that our criticism is not
personal; it is a necessity of the healthy adversarial relationship
between journalists and politicians. The idea forwarded by Mr.
Weiner here that official actions should be immune to scrutiny
if "friends" are involved is dangerous to a free society.
In contrast to Mr. Weiner's
absurd claim of "moving the system" on behalf of "liberal"
or "left" causes, his official six-year record at the
drug czar's office is one of promoting authoritarianism and unjustified
human misery on a massive scale. Under the McCaffrey-Weiner watch,
the U.S. prison population soared as never before because of
their policy of locking more nonviolent drug offenders and addicts
behind bars. Specifically, Mr. Weiner's actions constantly trampled
upon vital liberties like press freedom, like the right of clinically
ill patients to use marijuana for medicine, like the right of
states to democratically establish their own policies without
meddling interference and imposition from the bureaucrats of
a centralized State. To the extent that Mr. Weiner feels he has
"moved the system" it has been in the direction of
tyranny, certainly not on behalf of any shared goals of this
online newspaper or its publisher.
Narco News stands behind our story and its
criticism of Mr. Weiner's official behavior. We still agree with
what we said about Mr. Weiner on April 18, 2000:
"When the White House
hired Bob Weiner, it tapped someone who had already demonstrated
his penchant for false and personal accusations; a petty little
wound-up Joe McCarthy doll to carry on the unholy crusade of
the drug war. It was Weiner who fracased the attack on Salon,
Dan Forbes and Media Awareness Project."
And although Mr. Weiner's
letter arrived almost two years after publication of the story
that provokes his complaint, we thank him for the opportunity
to repeat it.
5. We also take this opportunity to provide some
links that additionally document Mr. Weiner's modus operandi
of abusing official taxpayer resources to launch McCarthy-style
attacks on the press and political opponents.
In 1998, Mr. Weiner, described
by the press as "an obscure White House aide," was
subpoeanaed to testify about his use of official taxpayer resources
to allegedly intimidate a witness to official wrongdoing:
In the year 2000, Mr.
Weiner, during a debate with Brian Gralnick of Students for Sensible
Drug Policy, maliciously and falsely accused Gralnick of illegal
acts, saying "You're probably on drugs right now."
Mr. Gralnick, as reported by DRCNet's
The Week Online,
was later able to call Mr. Weiner out onto the carpet during
a session of Bill Maher's Politically Correct program. Read all
about it at this link:
Also in the year 2000,
according to Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, Mr. Weiner
abused public resources in an attempt to silence witnesses (note
the pattern of behavior by Mr. Weiner in each of these incidents)
to alleged war crimes by his boss, General Barry McCaffrey, during
the Gulf War in Iraq. Weiner sought to keep the witnesses from
speaking with the legendary journalist Seymour Hersh of The
New Yorker magazine. This was a particular abuse of public
funds and powers -- because the wrongdoing in question preceded
McCaffrey's tenure as drug czar and therefore the office had
no business involving itself in the matter at all, much less
attempting to use official power to gag witnesses. We turn your
attention to Kurtz' report in the Washington Post:
I spoke, this morning,
with authentic journalist Sy Hersh in Washington, DC, who chuckled
at the mention of Mr. Weiner's name, asking "What's he doing
Hersh, who is currently
investigating the events of September 11, 2001 for The New
Yorker, told Narco News: "That war is over. McCaffrey's
out of public life, that's enough for me." Asked about Weiner,
Hersh said, "Who gives a fuck?"
We thank Mr. Weiner for
his readership, for his letter to the editor, for confirming
the accuracy of our original report, and for the opportunity
to expand upon it.
From somewhere in a country
Al Giordano, Publisher
Second Letter from Bob
Ex-White House drug office
Strange response to mine,
Al. But that's how you want to function. Your call. Again,
you did not bother to call -- and re the last supposed call message,
is that your idea of efficiency, one voice message and you claim
you reached out to someone? I make a point of really talking
to someone. Your piece is similarly inaccurate but guess will
have to leave it at that. When you want to make a point, I guess
you in your case just do regardless of the variables -- like
drug courts providing treatment instead of prison going from
12 to 800 in the Clinton years, or establishing a medical model
rather than a bureaucratic one for methadone treatment for heroin,
or pressing other alternatives for THC delivery so people get
the medical benefits without the hallucinogenic high or cancerous
dangers of the hot smoke of marijuana -- the merits won't matter
to you, and apparently you don't even want to have the benefit
of a verbal discussion to understand what people are really trying
to do. And by the way, re the Almanac of American Politics, nothing
inaccurate in their report -- but you might learn from them:
they actually read me an earlier draft saying some stuff like
you now do, and they dropped it when I pointed out the facts
to them -- as I said, you could learn from their professionalism.
You're free to print this response -- and to have a phone call
if you ever were serious about wanting to understand the issues
instead of babbling from a lack of knowledge. Oh, and by the
way, yes we did go to a number of political parties together
and hang out and speak on panels together and even had philosophical
discussions about anti-war activities and left side politics
in Massachusetts and nationally. I learned from you and enjoyed
these conversations. Am sorry you forgot, but your memory is
your choice. Maybe what I'm forgetting is you might have been
a Conte ally through all this -- I like to look past that and
I don't remember that part, since that was a reality for so many
In this second letter,
former White House drug office press secretary Robert Weiner
Here, we offer response
on four points:
1. Mr. Weiner complains that we "did not bother
to call" but in the same sentence refers to "the last
supposed message" I had left on his White House voice mail
in April 2000. That fact was fully explained in my prior response.
Translation: a press secretary
who was in public office says, in essence, that he required more
than one phone call -- and from Mexico! -- to do his job, which,
after all, is to answer inquiries from reporters. This is a common
strategy among the press secretaries who flak for Power to try
and exhaust the financial and temporal resources of truly independent
We have long experience
with government and corporate press secretaries who play this
"access game," who only respond promptly to reporters
who they consider to be corrupted enough to be controlled, or
who work for commercial news entities that can be relied upon
to protect the status quo.
As a journalist, I don't
play the "access game" with Weiner or anyone. Government
and corporate press secretaries get one phone call, period. If
they don't respond, I state, as we did in April 2000, that the
official did not respond to our inquiry.
Mr. Weiner knows the ground
rules, but prefers to invent new ones when his own irresponsibility
has caught up with him. Is it any wonder that the White House
drug office failed on every front during the McCaffrey-Weiner
2. Mr. Weiner states: "Your piece is similarly inaccurate but guess
will have to leave it at that." As such, he reveals that even as he protests of
not having been given enough phone calls to provoke his response
while in power, he shows that he truly has no response on the
Ponder the absurdity of
this exchange: An ex-White House press secretary now has had
two uncensored, unedited opportunities to respond to Narco News
on a report of his abhorrent official behavior.
Twice now Mr. Weiner has
responded in a non-responsive manner. He claims our story was
"inaccurate" but fails to state a single inaccuracy.
(As with our response, below, to professor Eduardo Gamarra, we
scrupulously correct ourselves when we have been in error; but
Mr. Weiner has not, for all his effort in two letters now, cited
a single inaccurate fact or error in our report.)
Thus, there is a surreal
nature to his complaint that he did not have the chance to correct
an "inaccurate" story two years ago: Fact is, he has
had two unabridged chances to do so on this page, twice been
given uncensored access to our readers, but still has not substantiated
his accusation with a single fact. Are we to believe that he
would have been able to do so two years ago if he cannot vindicate
himself even after two attempts now?
3. Mr. Weiner writes of the Almanac of American Politics:
"you might learn
from them: they actually read me an earlier draft saying some
stuff like you now do, and they dropped it when I pointed out
the facts to them."
If that is true -- and,
again, consider the source -- Mr. Weiner has just pointed out
an unethical activity by the Almanac in question. Authentic journalists
do not show public officials or candidates drafts of articles
before publication. A reporter at any serious publication would
be fired for doing that. But Weiner, who has never been an authentic
journalist, perhaps doesn't wish to understand that what he calls
"professionalism" is, in fact, a form of corruption.
Mr. Weiner thus inadvertently
offers Narco News readers a glimpse into how White House
and government press secretaries manipulate press coverage, and
the collusion of some publications in that corrupting process.
Essentially, he is complaining that our standards are not as
low as those of some others.
4. The most bizarre part of this exchange has been
Mr. Weiner's continued insistence on his claim of friendship
with your publisher, rotundly corrected in my prior response.
Now it is based upon his claim that to "hang out" at
"political parties" and unspecified "panels together"
constitutes membership in some kind of good old boy network.
Ahem. I have been on panels and attended political functions
with DEA agents, judges, prosecutors, corporate flaks and politicians
of every party and stripe, including political conventions of
the Democratic and Republican parties that were attended by virtually
every political player in the United States. Mostly, I attended
such functions as a requirement of my work as a journalist.
Imagine, for a moment,
kind reader, the type of planet that Mr. Weiner wishes us to
live on: One in which having attended such functions constitutes
an unspoken agreement to corrupt the journalistic process and
give special unethical treatment to power brokers on the basis
that they have attended the same political event.
This may, in fact, reflect
the reality of Washington DC today. If so, it would explain why
the public is left in the dark on so many important public matters.
We thank Mr. Weiner for
both of his letters and for, however inadvertently, exposing
how the system really works for some and against most citizens.
And, of course, we continue to welcome more correspondence from
him. It's been two wonderful looks into the corrupted mindset
of too many current and former government officials.
Al Giordano, Publisher
From Eduardo A. Gamarra,
Director, Latin American and Caribbean Center
Professor of Political Science
Florida International University
While I generally find
something interesting and often useful in your reports, I must
ask you to check simple facts before making bold assertions such
as the ones contained in today's
message. You have
sent previous messages with similar errors so forgive me for
taking on what might appear to be trivial matters. Having worked
on Bolivian politics for over two decades, I have a little more
than a simple birdseye view of the issues facing the country.
I also happen to be Bolivian. Before I explain your errors, let
me tell you that I agree with your assessment that expelling
Morales from Congress was not a good move. We will disagree on
the reasons; suffice it to say that there is now a real reason
for Evo and others to claim that Bolivian democracy does not
allow cocaleros and other campesinos to express their legitimate
concerns within the bounds afforded by the Constitution.
Now on to the factual
errors. Evo Morales was a diputado uninominal, which roughly
translated means that he was elected on the basis of a single
member district (or first past the post) electoral system. He
did obtain 60 percent of the vote in his Chapare district and
was indeed the uninominal elected with the highest percentage.
Fifty percent of the lower house is elected through this single
member district system, the remaining fifty are elected on the
basis of a proportional representation system concocted by party
bosses who produce lists of what might be considered party hacks,
if you will. I note this because it is incorrect to state that
Evo was a federal congressman. Bolivia does not have a federal
system, it has always been a unitary republic. Thus, Evo cannot
be a federal congressman in a unitary republic. In Latin America
only Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil are pure federal systems.
The second factual error
is more controversial. In fact, Evo was expelled by a 2/3 majority
vote as stipulated in the Constitution. As I noted earlier, while
this may not be the wisest move, it was certainly not illegal.
He was charged and his congressional immunity from prosecution
was lifted. This is legal, although I repeat, unwise given the
current situation in the country.
Please exercise more caution
on these trivial issues as the errors detract from your central
message and may lead to a great deal of confusion.
Eduardo A. Gamarra, Ph.D.
Director, Latin American and Caribbean Center
Professor of Political Science
Florida International University
Dear Dr. Gamarra,
Thank you for your letter.
It has alerted us to the need for the following correction:
In our story
of January 25, 2002, we made an error in defining Evo Morales
as a "federal" congressman. Dr. Gamarra is correct
on this point: Bolivia, not being a federal system of government,
has national legislators, but not what can be called federal
legislators. We correct that story by stating: Evo Morales was
a national congressman, not a federal congressman. We regret
However, I would like
to explain why, on your two other points, our story was and is
You write that Evo Morales
"did obtain 60 percent of the vote in his Chapare district."
But according to the Bolivia
Electoral Court, Morales obtained 70.3 percent of the vote in
the 1997 election. Narco News reasserts that Morales won with
"70 percent" and not "60 percent," although
either percentage would be impressive in a multi-candidate field
or even a two candidate race.
On the bigger bone to
pick, you write that the expulsion of Evo Morales from the Bolivian
Congress "was certainly not illegal. He was charged and
his congressional immunity from prosecution was lifted. This
However, as reported additionally
in our story of today, January 31, 2002, Dr. Hector Arce, attorney
for Evo Morales has raised specific examples of the illegality
of Morales' expulsion.
According to today's report by Luis A. Gómez:
In a process unworthy
of representatives of the people, Morales' colleagues accused
him of "abuse of immunity." That is to say, of taking
advantage of his congressional immunity to foment crimes or protect
criminals. In passing this resolution, the members of Congress
based their maneuver on photocopies of newspaper reports! Although
that was not the worst part of it, nor the fact that some of
those who asked for his expulsion also have similar charges pending
The worst was that they violated their own ethics rules: they
prevented him from defending himself. Evo Morales, according
to said regulation (of which we have a copy), had 15 days from
the presentation of the accusation against him to present proofs
exonerating him, but this never occurred. And if it's about noncompliance
with procedure, the stupidity of the congress members has come
to the point of failing to deliver a copy of said resolution,
in which, according to the internal norms and procedures of the
House of Representatives, Morales would still be a member of
Congress, because nobody has formally informed him of his definitive
separation from Congress.
Thus, the process used
by the Bolivian government to expel Morales from Congress was
illegal according to the very rules of the expulsion process.
In fairness, these details
were not published in the first story of January 25th that sparked
his letter. However our headline, caption and subscriber alert,
each of which defined Evo Morales' expulsion from Congress as
"illegal" were not at all inaccurate. They reflected,
as the details show, the actual facts.
We do thank you for your
letter and for spurring us to more thoroughly report the details
of the illegality of the expulsion of Congressman Morales, appreciate
your readership, and invite you, and all our readers, to keep
those cards and letters coming.
From somewhere in a country
to Us At...
more Narco News, click
Journalism for the 21st Century