Donald Trump is on his version of a staycation, chilling at his golf course resort in New Jersey and watching FOX News or tweeting nonstop — when he’s not golfing or threatening nuclear war. This week on Intercepted: As Erik Prince peddles his plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan on major news networks, Jeremy gives an update on the aftermath of Blackwater’s 2007 massacre of Iraqi civilians at Nisour Square in Baghdad. Intercept reporter Lee Fang lays out how a network of libertarian think tanks called the Atlas Network is insidiously shaping ideological and political infrastructure across the world, especially in Latin America. As the Trump administration has ratcheted up its hostile rhetoric toward Venezuela, we speak with attorney and former Hugo Chavez adviser Eva Golinger about the country’s political turmoil. And we hear Claudia Lizardo of the Caracas-based band, La Pequeña Revancha, talk about her music and hopes for Venezuela.
[Super President Theme Song]
Super president! Super president!
Jerry: Sir, I’ve got the missile command.
Super President: No, Jerry, we can’t risk it. No man can be so brazen. Unless his finger was actually on the trigger.
Donald J. Trump: North Korea, best not make any more threats to the United States.
John Goodman as Walter Sobchak [The Big Lebowski]: Donny, please.
DJT: They will be met with fire and fury.
WS: Shut the fuck up, Donny.
DJT: Like the world has never seen.
WS: Shut the fuck up, Donny.
DJT: He has been very threatening beyond a normal state.
WS: Shut the fuck up, Donny!
DJT: And, as I said they will be met with fire, fury, and frankly power.
WS: Donny, you’re out of your element!
DJT: The likes of which this world has never seen before.
[The Walker Brothers – “Fury And The Fire”]
We are all real
In the fury and the fire
We are all real
In the fury and the fire
Jeremy Scahill: This is Intercepted.
JS: I’m Jeremy Scahill, coming to you from The Intercept, and this is episode 26 of Intercepted.
DJT: Everyone having a good time?
Wedding guests: Yeah, good time. Thanks for having us.
JS: Donald Trump is on his version of a staycation. Chillin’ at his golf course resort in New Jersey, poppin’ by New York to check on Trump Tower. It would be easy to be confused over what’s actually different about Trump’s official vacation, given that he seems to be either watching Fox News or tweeting nonstop, when he’s not golfing during his presidency when he is not officially on vacation.
Now I believe firmly in workers taking time off. But if any of us spent nearly as much time on golf courses as Trump, we would have to be competing on the PGA circuit.
DJT: I love golf, I think it’s one of the greats, but I don’t have time — 250 rounds, that’s more than the guy who plays on the PGA Tour plays. He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods. No think of it! We don’t have time for this. We don’t have time for it. We have to work. We have to work.
JS: On today’s show we’re going to dive deep into the unfolding crisis in Venezuela and also look at a new investigative report just published by The Intercept. And it details the right-wing agenda in Latin America being pushed by a network of think tanks with deep connections to powerful conservative institutions and funders in the United States.
But first I wanted to share an update with listeners who have been following the story of the various iterations of the mercenary company formerly known as Blackwater and its billionaire, radical, right-wing founder Erik Prince.
Now, before Donald Trump was elected, Erik Prince was almost never seen in public in the U.S. He had set up a new mercenary company, registered it in Hong Kong — he was in business with powerful Chinese businessmen with deep connections to China’s Communist Party. On occasion, Prince would give interviews from an undisclosed location to Steve Bannon when Bannon was running Breitbart News. But, in general, Erik Prince was out of the public spotlight.
Now, Prince has come out from the cold and he seems to be everywhere. He’s been on Fox News. He was just on CNN. He’s written op-eds in The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times. And what Erik Prince is openly pushing now is a plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan — a plan to use his private air force.
And Erik Prince would presumably service some sort of mercenary viceroy over these operations.
CNN’s Erin Burnett: So when you talk about H.R. McMaster, national security adviser, and Steve Bannon, are you still talking to them about these ideas?
Erik Prince: The — I would say Gen. McMaster does not like this idea because he is a is a three-star conventional army general, and he is wedded to that idea that the U.S. Army is going to solve this. But I think, for the president, he’s got to say after sixteen years, when do we, when do we try something different?
JS: As we’ve reported previously on the show Steve Bannon tried to get Defense Secretary James Mattis to take Prince’s proposal seriously. We understand from reporting in The New York Times that Mattis politely declined. But Erik Prince continues to push publicly for the mercenary option.
EP: Here’s the thing, the U.S. isn’t doing anything below a core level. Right? That’s the highest unit of movement of the Afghan Army, they’re not doing anything at the ground level of the Afghan Army, so this can operate there, operate effectively, and create the off-ramp for the rest of the U.S. forces to leave. Let’s be done.
JS: In addition to all of this: A panel of federal judges ruled last week that a former Blackwater operative who was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the Nisour Square massacre, in Baghdad, in September of 2007 should get a new trial. That incident, where at least 14 Iraqi civilians were killed, that was the most deadly incident we know of where private military contractors killed Iraqi civilians. They opened fire on cars that were stuck in a crowded traffic circle, and they killed more than a dozen people, including women and children.
This federal court also ruled, and the language of this is just astonishing to me, that the 30-year prison sentences that were given to three other Blackwater shooters that participated in the massacre that day, that they represented “cruel and unusual punishment.” The 30-year prison sentences given to these guys who gunned down a bunch of Iraqi civilians was considered cruel and unusual punishment.
Now I think 30 years in prison is cruel and unusual punishment. This would not be the case that I would use to make that point. All of those men are scheduled to be resentenced and they may actually walk free depending on what court they get.
Now I covered the Nisour Square massacre extensively, particularly the life and death that day of the youngest victim at Nisour Square, a 9-year-old boy named Ali Kinani, his had to pick parts of his dying son’s brain from the pavement after he was hit by gunfire fired by Blackwater operatives.
Jeremy Scahill’s “Blackwater’s Youngest Victim”: Before September 16, 2007, Mohammed had never heard of Blackwater. Now he thinks of them and that day every waking moment. He remembers that Ali was not supposed to be in his car that day. Mohammed had just pulled away from his family’s home on his way to pick up his sister Jenan and her children for a visit. Ali came running out of the house.
JS: This ruling from the federal court is a grim symbol of the resurrection of Erik Prince and Blackwater under Donald Trump. It sends a message that impunity is the law of the land. That, coupled with Erik Prince’s recent embrace by major media outlets and his coziness with the White House, should be cause for grave concern among everyone who cares about principles of democracy, liberty, and accountability.
Erik Prince should be held accountable for the actions of his mercenary force and not interviewed like he’s just a businessman discussing his latest offerings of widgets. Shame on any news network that interviews Erik Prince and does not confront him with the crimes committed by his private armies. Now, on with the rest of the show.
JS: We begin today with an incredible story reported by my colleague, Lee Fang, an investigative reporter for The Intercept, and that story details the activities of a network of right-wing think tanks in Latin America. It’s known as the Atlas Network. The name is an obvious tip of the hat to the right-wing libertarian Ayn Rand’s novel, “Atlas Shrugged.”
The Atlas Network’s aim is to implement neoliberal, so-called free market economic policies throughout Latin America. But it’s also aimed at undermining populist progressive movements.
“Welcome to The Atlas Network”: Atlas freedom champions are knocking down barriers to wealth creation, fighting corruption, and fostering free enterprise by reducing the role of government and protecting individual liberty. While politicians operate within the confines of what they consider politically possible, Atlas and our global partners think it’s more cost effective in the long term to change what is considered politically possible.
JS: The Atlas network has played a key role in what many call a coup against Brazil’s former president, Dilma Rousseff. The network is deeply immersed in the ongoing crisis in Venezuela. It’s played a pivotal role in the chaos in Argentina. The Atlas network has received funding from the infamous Koch brothers in the United States and it has also sponsored training sessions with the right-wing provocateur, pretend journalist, James O’Keefe.
In many ways, the Atlas network appears to be a sort of modern day analogue to what the U.S. has long done in Latin America with the Central Intelligence Agency and powerful multinational corporations. Lee Fang has spent months on this investigation, and he joins us now. Lee, welcome to Intercepted.
Lee Fang: Hey, thanks for having me.
JS: Let’s begin just by laying out what the Atlas Network is.
LF: Yeah, so, you know, this is the kind of the very first big look at an organization that played a pivotal role in ideological formation and developing political infrastructure all across the world. The Atlas Network is a relatively small foundation and think tank in Washington D.C. that is basically designed to take the very successful political strategies that have helped shape the modern conservative right in the U.K. and in the U.S. and to duplicate those political infrastructure strategies in country and after country all across the world.
It’s very familiar to anyone who kind of follows the Republican Party or the post-Reagan conservative movement to see that, you know, there’s an array of foundations and think tanks and media organizations that kind of work in tandem to advance a similar policy agenda — a very kind of libertarian, economic, hard right idea of, you know, tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, privatization, and kind of attacks on organized labor.
But what the Atlas Network does — they take this model and they train young libertarians and business leaders in country after country on how to duplicate this model in their home country. They fly them in the U.S., they provide training seminars, they teach them fundraising, they teach them political management strategies and they provide seed financing to get these kind of think tanks that are based on the American model or the U.K. model set up, whether it’s in in Poland or Brazil.
Our piece focuses on the development of these political strategies in Latin America and how they’re really reshaping the political landscape across the continent.
JS: And I feel like the Atlas Network, in a way, is akin to basically what the U.S. Army School of the Americas was for death squads, where you had officers from various Central Latin American countries brought to the United States, trained in torture techniques, paramilitary techniques, guerrilla war techniques, and then sent back to slaughter their political opponents. This, of course, does not involve you know military slaughtering people, but in that parallel universe of electoral interference it seems like a similar model to what used to be called the U.S. Army School of the Americas.
LF: Yeah and I think our piece touches on this dynamic. The National Endowment for Democracy, which was created in the early 80s, under the Reagan administration, to be an arm of American soft power, to basically take money from the State Department and USAID and to finance American friendly nonprofits and NGO groups that would train politicians, that would help shape the media, help shape kind of the political dynamics in the developing world to be more friendly to U.S. foreign policy goals. And this was borne out in the midst of the Cold War, but it’s, you know, continued since then.
In Argentina, the Atlas Network has worked with a whole network of think tanks that train political leaders. They’re very consciously duplicating the model of the Heritage Foundation or the Manhattan Institute, these very famous American conservative think tanks. And, in fact, not only do they draw upon local billionaires and wealthy kind of industrial conglomerates for money, they also receive financing from the National Endowment for Democracy, this arm of U.S. foreign policy. So, you know, for these think tanks that are part of the Atlas Network that have been pivotal in shaping the political climate in these countries, there is a connection to U.S. foreign policy because they’re receiving taxpayer money.
But, also, that they play a similar role that we’ve seen attempted as the U.S. has tried to kind of mettle in the local politics for much of the post-World War II era.
JS: Now you went down to Argentina and you’ve spent a lot of time obviously investigating the Atlas Network. I want you to talk about Alejandro Chafuen, and what he told you.
I’m going to let you take the stage on this, but I can’t help but think that some of the people that you interviewed just reinforced the basic thesis of Naomi Klein’s seminal work, “The Shock Doctrine.”
LF: Alejandro Chafuen, goes by Alex Chafuen, is Argentine American. He grew up kind of in the Argentine elite in the very turbulent 60s and 70s. You had a lot of attempts and successful military coups during that era with the hard right in Argentina cracking down violently on leftists and suspected leftists. And this was the kind of atmosphere that Chafuen grew up in.
He gravitated to libertarian, economic ideas. He was a teenage devotee of Ayn Rand. He went and studied at Grove City College, a very Christian-right College in Pennsylvania, and came back to Argentina very excited about these emerging libertarian ideas that he gleaned from the West. He was brought in was very young to work at the Atlas Network, and after the founder of the Atlas Network, Anthony Fisher, passed away, Chafuen took the reins and he’s really focused the energy of the Atlas Network into developing an American-style network of libertarian think tanks and countries all across South and Central America, with this special focus in places like Chile, Argentina, Brazil.
And what Chafuen has done in places like Brazil, he’s helped set up a network of over 13 different Atlas-backed think tanks. Some of them focused on training young people to embrace libertarian ideas. Students For Liberty, the libertarian youth group, was very new to Brazil only a few years ago, but now has the largest chapter in the world in Brazil. They set up organizations to basically take Catholic theology and Christian theology and apply them to libertarianism, to make the religious case for these policies.
They have kind of Heritage Foundation style think tanks now in Brazil that sponsor a blogger known as the Breitbart of Brazil, someone who kind of uses very conspiracy laden ideas to kind of ridicule anyone on the left or anyone associated with the Workers’ Party, the PT party.
And, you know, when I talked to Chafuen in Argentina at the Atlas Network Latin America Forum earlier this year, he explained it very clearly that some of these ideas that he’s developing are at the margins of society, that they aren’t popular. You know, mass privatization, cracking down on labor unions, cutting taxes for the rich, it’s not something that comes intrinsically to a lot of these countries he’s operating in. They are popular ideas.
But if you’re developing a stable of young political leaders, if you’re developing a foothold at universities, and developing policy papers and concrete plans for when you take power — that when an opportunity arises and in Brazil that’s a combination of two major factors, you know, decreasing commodity prices, basically sinking the Brazilian economy which once was red hot, and a mix of political and corruption scandals that have plagued all of the major political parties — this has given a ripe opportunity for the Atlas Network backed think tanks to seize the crisis and push their narrow set of ideas. And that’s exactly what they’ve done.
The libertarian youth groups organize some of the largest protests in the world against Dilma. Hundreds of thousands, in some cases millions of people taking to the street, to protest Dilma. Folks connected to the network basically making the legal case to push the impeachment effort. Folks working with the major media outlets to try to channel outrage solely on the Workers Party. You know that they’ve got a crew creating YouTube videos, they have columnists at the major newspapers, they have pundits on television, they channel this outrage at political corruption and center it only on the Workers’ Party, saying it’s only their fault.
So this has been an incredibly successful strategy and I think Chafuen has acknowledged it. That, you know, you can develop this political infrastructure and so it’s ready to strike when there is a legitimate crisis, that you can seize upon it and then implement your ideas.
JS: You also talked to a guy named Fernando Schüler who is an academic at something called the Instituto Millennium which is another Atlas think tank in Brazil, and he really railed against the unions in Brazil. Is that also part of what we’re seeing here, the same attempt to undermine organized labor in the United States? Is that part of the core of what we’re seeing with these Atlas Network think tanks?
LF: Fernando Schüler, who’s a Columbia University-trained academic, someone who’s very prominent in these libertarian circles in Brazil, he’s prominent in the Atlas Network, he’s helped build this political infrastructure. When I interviewed him earlier this year, he really made the point that he’d like to focus on the institutional hurdles for, you know, his agenda and the biggest institutional hurdle that he identified were labor unions.
Yeah, you know, this is kind of a fascinating dynamic of the story. I covered the Republican wave in 2010, which was followed by an orchestrated effort to attack the power of organized labor in the United States, with this new wave of Republican governors and Republican legislators, particularly in the Midwest, particularly in states like Wisconsin, they took this new political power and the very first thing they did was weaken their ideological and political opponents. They went after organized labor. They essentially weakened collective bargaining for public sector unions. They implemented right to work laws from, you know, Michigan, Wisconsin, they attempted in Ohio, and Indiana. And the Atlas Network has carefully studied the way that the strategy advanced and what they say is that a network of newly empowered think tanks in the Midwest and in Wisconsin had developed the strategy and pushed it. And when unions and activists had protested they were there for kind of a rapid-response strategy of ridiculing teachers’ unions, of outmaneuvering them in the media.
And the same kind of individuals at the think tanks like the MacIver Institute in Wisconsin have given training seminars to the Latin American leaders that are operating in places like Brazil and Argentina. You know, there are folks like James O’Keefe, a very kind of well-known provocateur who uses these undercover videos to undermine labor unions and other kind of institutions on the left.
He’s also given talks to Atlas Network to teach them in his ways. So the Atlas Network think tanks not only want to implement big, libertarian policies — you know, in Brazil they’re talking about privatizing prisons, privatizing education. You know, these ideas that became popular in the United States in the early 90s, they’re now taking root in Brazil. But they’re not only doing that. They’re also thinking very concretely about how to change the structural dynamics in their country and the very focal point for that is weakening organized labor. They see that as the biggest kind of institutional hurdle. That’s the model that’s been showcased in the U.S., but that’s something that we can duplicate in places like Brazil.
JS: If you were to tell a narrative about the investigative reporting you’ve done since Trump, sort of walk people through it and the kinds of issues in stories that you’ve written. Give us an overview of the of the investigative reporting you’ve done under Trump.
LF: Towards the end of the political campaign last year, I was talking to some of the editors and some other reporters and, you know, if you look at the Obama Administration, one of the best predictors of public policy on the kind of issue-based level was just personnel. Personnel is policy, if you looked at the Department of Justice and who came in in Obama’s first term, a lot of the bank-friendly folks, I mean that was a great predictor of Obama not prosecuting the banks responsible for the financial crisis.
JS: You’re just saying that because you hate Democrats, Lee.
LF: Clearly. Clearly. But, you know, we made the very conscious decision that whether it’s Hillary Clinton or Trump, we would have a laser-like focus on the personnel. These folks play such an outsized role, whether it’s on climate change, or taxes, or an environmental policy and health care policy.
So we’ve carefully taken apart who was appointed to the transition. We’ve conducted Freedom of Information Act requests to get lists of the political appointments at every single agency. You know, when a new administration comes in they have something like 4,000 political appointments. Below the cabinet level there’s very little focus on who these people are and what their agenda is — who they’re meeting with. And you know they have just such broad powers on any given issue.
So we’ve done almost weekly stories on who the Trump Administration is appointing at the EPA, you know we’ve done a number of stories just showing that the folks handling chemical safety issues, they’re former chemical lobbyists. The people kind of working on congressional outreach, they previously worked at trade group that represents some of the highest polluting power plants in the country. We’re just taking a look and cataloguing these conflicts of interest, because I think it’s important for the public interest for people to know who these people are and to provide some accountability to let the administration know that we’re monitoring what they’re doing and we’re keeping track of who they appoint.
JS: If you had to sort of sketch out who is benefiting most from the seven months or eight months of Donald Trump’s presidency, what would you say?
LF: The biggest winner, so far, has been the fossil fuel lobby. There’s the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord. There was these appointments, folks like Scott Pruitt at the EPA, you know this former attorney general who has been basically a handmaiden into the oil and gas and coal industry, to a lower level folks who were all oil and gas or coal lobbyists throughout the Department of Interior and the EPA and the Department of Energy. So Trump’s been very friendly there. These are basically decisions that are in his hands, you know. He’s been known to bypass the filibuster, do it all through administrative action.
But, you know, they’re not the only winners. You know we did a story recently looking at basically all the top political appointments at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Our attorneys who formerly worked for Goldman Sachs who were to provide some legal services for Goldman Sachs and other major banks. It’s very likely that we see the rules and kind of restrictions on big banks like capital requirements or the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We’re likely to see some of the changes coming up, they haven’t happened yet, but just given the personnel is policy, the tealeaves, looks like Trump is moving that direction. But in terms of one industry winner, its fossil fuels.
JS: You’ve done some stories about powerful Democratic lobbyists just laughing off the idea of single payer. What’s going on with the Democrats and health care, particularly on the issue of single payer?
LF: There’s complete disarray in the Republican Party in terms of the policy, that they don’t know what to repeal and replace Obamacare with because Obamacare is based on the 2006 Massachusetts law signed by Mitt Romney, which is based on the Heritage Foundation plan that’s very friendly to the private sector. You know, that basically maintains a for-profit system of health care.
But the Democrats are completely unclear on how to move the ball forward. One very popular idea is single payer, basically having the government act as your insurance company, the government taking care of all of your premiums and deductibles and you basically taking that card to a provider of your choice. This is really taking on a lot of steam recently within the Democratic base, but it’s not clear where this is going. You know, for-profit health care interests still have a tremendous level of power within the Democratic elite, within the Democratic Party. Health insurance and hospital and medical device and pharmaceutical lobbyists are the biggest fundraisers for the Democratic Party. They have board seats at the largest Democratic Party apparatus organizations, you know, the big think tanks and foundations.
You reference a story we did recently, Dick Gephardt, the former Democratic House Leader, now kind of like, he’s been a super delegate and a DNC member, I mean he is also on the board of a health insurance company, Centene. We obtained audio from the recent Centene Annual Investor event, and he’s at a ritzy kind of hotel and one of the health insurance executives at this event had asked Gephardt to come and basically give his point of view on where the Democrats stand on health care, and they said, “Is there any threat of single payer happening because that’s basically an existential threat to our industry, it would replace us?” Dick Gephardt just laughed this off and said:
Dick Gephardt: There is no way you could pass single payer in any intermediate future. This is the greatest health care system in the world, bar none. If you look around the world where they have single payer, I think you will find, yeah it covers more people, but they do not have the quality and they do not have the innovation that we get because of the involvement of the private sector in our healthcare system. And I think that will defeat single payer approaches now and in the future.
Male Voice: Here here! Put me down as agreeing with Leader Gephardt!
LF: Centene pays Dick Gephardt a lot, and just like a lot of these for-profit health care insurers, all of which have the potential to lose profits, if not be completely replaced by a single payer-type system, have a lot of skin in the game. So they’ve used their apparatus to influence the debate.
And I think for anyone interested in this question of where the Democrats stand on single payer, you have to look at a, I believe it’s a 2006 or 2007 document that was leaked by a whistle blower at a health insurance company. After the movie Sicko, from Michael Moore, came out kind of criticizing the American health care system and calling for a single payer, you know, single provider-type plan the health insurance industry, through its main trade group, AHIP, America’s Health Insurance Plans, tapped a P.R. firm and said, “You know, how do we prevent America from moving toward single payer?”
This is, you know, back in 2007, or so. And they said, “Well here’s what you do. You know you can use Republicans to go after, after the ideas, you know, call it communism, call it socialism, demonize it but you also have to work equally aggressively within the Democratic Party. What you need to do is you need to work with a centrist, third way-style, think tanks, get people on TV saying that this would divide the party, this is too dangerous, this would alienate moderates and suburban voters. You need to tap former Democrat politicians, get them to write op-eds and disparage the idea. You need to shift the public debate. And then you need to offer for-profit health care as a proactive player to basically co-opt the debate.”
That’s an old document now, 10 years old, but that’s essentially what we’re seeing on, at least publicly what’s going on. Even though there’s a demand from the grassroots and from some of the left-wing labor unions to move toward single payer, there’s a very hasty effort to smother any momentum before it kind of breaks out and takes on a role of its own.
JS: Who do you see emerging as the Democrats’ preferred candidates for the 2020 election. It’s interesting, Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post, when I talked to her recently, she predicted that Kirsten Gillibrand was going to get the nomination for the Democrats.
LF: I think that’s a very interesting proposition. Gillibrand has roots as a centrist Democrat who promoted, like the N.R.A. and these type of institutions that are now anathema to the Democratic Party. But she’s moved steadily to the left. She said nice things about single payer, kind of tipping her hat to this new movement. She’s also voted against almost all of Trump’s nominees. I think positioning herself as an opponent of the Trump Administration.
But you know folks like Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, these are folks that I think the center of power within the party are taking a hard look at. But, you know, also folks like Senator Amy Klobuchar in Minnesota, Governor Hickenlooper in Colorado. But the party is very hesitant to embrace any kind of Bernie Sanders or Keith Ellison-style candidate. They’ve kind of deployed their proxies to smear any attempt to position these type of politicians for 2020.
But, you know, it is kind of absurd that we’re here in 2017, already having this debate, when there’s so much else at stake and there’s so many other big elections this year next that will come before all of this.
JS: Yeah, of course, and the 2018 elections are going to be really interesting. Particularly, I mean, if Trump thinks it’s bad now, if there is an actual adversarial relationship with the Senate, it will change the game at least in some measure in Washington.
LF: Yeah, can you imagine, like you’ve already seen the Trump freak-out over Robert Mueller and that investigation. If Democrats control either chamber of Congress after the midterms and have their own subpoena power, you know, that’s going to be kind of endless political battles.
But the question is: Will Democrats use that to just narrowly focused on Russia or do they subpoena all these sprawling conflicts of interest, when it’s clear that private industry, oil and gas industry, are in the driver’s seat. If Democrats take back power in Congress will they start investigating that side of Trump corruption as well.
JS: All right. Lee, we’re going to leave it there. Lee Fang, investigative reporter for The Intercept, thanks for being with us on Intercepted.
LF: Thanks for having me.
JS: Lee Fang is an investigative reporter for The Intercept and, in my opinion, one of the most dogged investigative journalists of his generation.
You are listening to Intercepted. When we come back we’re going to dig deep into the crisis in Venezuela. We’re going to take a look at how things have deteriorated so badly in this oil-rich country. Stay with us.
JS: Ok. We are back here on Intercepted. And Donald Trump, as everyone knows, loves to hate the New York Times. He’s obsessed with that newspaper, constantly deriding it as a financially failing purveyor of fake news. The Times, in recent days, responded to some of Trump’s attacks using a language that Trump clearly loves. The New York Times pointing out that its stock is up fifty percent this year.
But despite this public catfight, The Times and Trump seem to be on the same page when it comes to the crisis in Venezuela. Last week, the Trump Administration announced that it had designated President Nicolas Maduro and other Venezuelan officials, meaning that they’re freezing their U.S. assets and also barring Americans from doing business with them personally. The Times called that the best way to confront the Venezuelan government.
The New York Times, though, went a step further calling on European and other nations to join what it called “a quarantine” — that was the word that they used — a quarantine of Maduro. That’s an interesting word choice. That was also the term used back in the 1960s for the beginning stages of the U.S. economic blockade against Cuba, which, of course, lasted for decades.
Interestingly none of these players — Trump or the New York Times — are calling for a boycott Venezuelan oil, which the U.S. buys a lot of. U.S. hostile posturing towards Venezuela is nothing new. Washington under both Democrats and Republicans loathed the late Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian Revolution. Chavez also enjoyed sticking it to Washington and he viewed each attack against him as a badge of honor in his struggle against Yankee imperialism.
Hugo Chavez: [translated from Spanish We — Piece of shit Yankees, know this! We are resolved to be free, whatever may happen, and no matter the cost. Enough, enough, of your shit, Yankees. Enough —
JS:Hugo Chavez’s successor, Maduro, does not have nearly the charisma or credibility of Chavez. And Maduro’s recent actions have been disturbing even to some of Chavez’s closest allies. On July 30th, the Venezuelan government held an election for a constituent assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution. For many seasoned observers, this whole affair reeks of an effort to consolidate power.
The vote for this constituent assembly was boycotted by many Venezuelans, and when the official results were announced, it was pretty clear that the tally had been tampered with. To discuss this complex, unfolding situation, I’m joined now by attorney Eva Golinger. She was one of Hugo Chavez’s most prominent supporters. She was very close to the late president. She knows many of the players in Venezuela personally, including its current president, Nicolas Maduro. Eva is also the author of several books including “The Chavez Code,” which is based on documents that she obtained that detail the U.S. interference in Venezuela, including the brief coup against Chavez during the Bush administration. Eva, welcome to Intercepted.
Eva Golinger: Thanks for having me, Jeremy.
JS: Your response to what’s coming out of this administration and from the New York Times about the situation in Venezuela.
EG: There’s been an ongoing escalation coming out of the United States government against the Venezuelan government, since Hugo Chavez was in power. And we’ve seen an increase over the years as the Venezuelan government has sort of dug in deeper with their ideological model, leaning more towards this anti-imperialist alliance internationally, the more they’ve opened themselves up to countries like Russia, and China, and Iran, and then taken a position that is adversarial to the U.S. So it’s nothing new, it’s just that it’s — it’s more direct.
I mean it was President Obama who declared Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the United States” and put the first sort of sanctions on Venezuela, officially. I mean from the time Chavez first was elected in ’98, those initial years when he didn’t comply with what the U.S. was looking for, and always had in Venezuela as a client state, that’s when the U.S. backed a coup against Chavez in 2002, and subsequently that sort of aggression just began increasing over the years.
Ari Fleischer: Let me share with you the Administration’s thoughts about what is taking place in Venezuela. We know the action encouraged by the Chavez government provoked this crisis. The Chavez government suppressed peaceful demonstration, fired on unarmed peaceful protesters, resulting in 10 killed and 100 wounded. That is what took place and a transitional, civilian government has been installed.
EG: Venezuela is one of the principal suppliers of oil to the U.S. I mean it’s a commercial relationship. They’re interdependent. And there’s a lot of rhetoric back and forth. And, yes, there’s definitely an escalation of it now under Trump because the people sort of, pushing this this particular escalation, right now, that have Trump’s ear, are the more reactionary sectors of the Republican Party. You know, Marco Rubio, for example.
Marco Rubio: I think the Administration is handling this very well, very calibrated. For every step that Maduro has taken, there’s a response from this administration.
EG: They’ve been looking for a way to, you know, push regime change in Venezuela. But it really has nothing to do with a change in policy. It’s been a state policy of the United States towards Venezuela since the Chavez government.
JS: What did you make of Jeremy Corbyn’s statement this week, where he said he condemns violence on all sides?
EG: That’s a giant piece of the narrative that’s been missing on what’s been taking place in Venezuela. You see a lot, I mean particularly here in the U.S., in the New York Times, in The Washington Post, in The Wall Street Journal, other media: CNN, you know, NBC. You hear a lot about you know these opposition protests being repressed by the government, but you’re not getting a full picture because while there is, you know, a state reaction taking place, there is repression with tear gas and rubber bullets, you’re not seeing the other side of it which is that those are not exactly peaceful democratic protests.
You know, there are smaller factions. I mean there are parts of the opposition in Venezuela that act within a democratic framework, but there is a very violent faction that’s gotten out of control. It’s anarchical. I mean they, where they’re using Molotov cocktails, homemade bombs and weapons, and they’re using them against the state security forces.
So I mean so it’s really an equal number of deaths on both sides. And overall, I mean, the opposition leadership, the anti-government leadership in Venezuela, have been reluctant to come out and fully condemn you know those types of violent protests. In, fact they’ve been encouraging them. Because they’ve seen it as sort of this way to, you know, heat up the streets to pressure the government to — I mean, overall, what they’ve been looking for is for Maduro to resign, for regime change, which they’ve been unsuccessful.
JS: I want to just ask you directly if you believe that this recent voting for a national constituent assembly — do you believe that that was a legitimate, free, fair vote, and that the tallies announced by the government are accurate?
EG: There’s a lot of indication that it wasn’t a free and fair vote. That the tallies are not accurate but, in the end it didn’t matter, because they pushed forward with this election of delegates to a constituent assembly to rewrite a constitution that was already one of the most lauded constitutions in the world, that had been done and written by a very participatory open process, that was led in fact by Hugo Chavez in 1999.
So there was a lot of questioning, including from myself, as to why would this be the answer to Venezuela’s problems, now, when we already had a constitution there?
JS: Well, so why did they do it?
EG: I mean, in the end, that vote was just about choosing the slates of people that had already been nominated by the government’s party to participate in rewriting a constitution. It didn’t matter in the end how many votes they got, the fact that the numbers may have been fudged by the government is absolutely an absurd move on their part, because they were just trying to posture in front of the opposition who had conducted an — also, an unverified and unofficial plebiscite weeks earlier where they say they got, you know, over seven million votes saying that they didn’t want this process to happen.
So, you know, it was really just sort of a back and forth show off between both sides in terms of the numbers. But it wouldn’t have mattered. Had the government gotten four million votes, it still would have gone forward. Why are they doing it —
JS: Well, it matters because you know people who play with votes that is an inherently sort of authoritarian move to fabricate vote tallies. You know, Saddam Hussein used to win by 101 percent of the vote. Now, my guess would be that he because of the nature of the repression in Iraq that he would have probably won anyway in some kind of an election, but, you know, the idea that you would tamper with it at all completely undermines the idea that your forces are the pro-democratic forces. No?
EG: Absolutely. And there’s no question, I mean it seems as though the numbers were fudged by more than a million votes, so it put them over the threshold of what the opposition alleges they got in their unofficial plebiscite. It was just to say, you know, “we have more than you do so then therefore we have a legitimate mandate.”
And, for me, it’s extremely disturbing, because Venezuela since 2004 has had one of the most bulletproof election systems. In this particular election, almost all of those were eliminated. So there is a lot of evidence to show that the vote, definitely the number could have been fudged. And that’s unfortunate because there’s a constituent assembly in place that is a supra-supreme power, that has now declared that they will be in power a minimum, or maybe a maximum, of two years, which is surprising because Hugo Chavez ran on a party platform in 1998 to rewrite the Constitution.
He was elected by a majority based on that as being one of the primary actions he would take. Then it was put to a vote after he was elected, to whether or not people actually wanted to proceed. More than 70 percent of those participating said yes. Then they elected the members. Then it was done in this extremely open, transparent way. And it wasn’t all supreme, that it could be a legislator and an executor and an enforcer, which is what we’re seeing now. So that’s why there’s a lot of concern coming from people like myself, you know, where I’m saying, wait a minute, what happened to sort of our democratic framework that has been so upheld throughout this time period, despite, you know, a lot of cracks in the system along the way. Now we’re seeing a major rupture.
JS: Well and I don’t know anything about Maduro’s family members and their qualifications, but just the idea that you had his son and his wife now part of this constituent assembly, combined with the, what seems to be pretty clear case of manipulating the numbers, albeit, perhaps unnecessarily, as you say, the aesthetic there is really bad for Maduro.
EG: Of course. The optics are terrible. But you have to understand that corruption and nepotism are parts of Venezuelan society. I mean it’s, it’s ironic, because when Hugo Chavez won in 1998, his two principal sort of promises in addition to the Constitution were eradicating poverty and corruption. You know, the governments that were in place before he was elected were extremely corrupt. I mean that’s why people were so disgusted with the sort of two-party system that was in place in Venezuela since the fall of the last dictatorship in 1958, and they wanted to break free with it.
When I first went to Venezuela in 1993, the country was in a complete collapse. There was an economic crisis, the currency was devalued and the inflation was increasing, but I mean many of the things that are happening now, which is why it’s so ironic. And then there was a suspension of constitutional rights. There was a national curfew. There was a forced military draft. Poverty had grown to around 80 percent. You know there was an elite control over the country’s oil wealth and the oil industry despite the fact that it was nationalized in 1976.
So when people voted for Hugo Chavez and this idea of a Bolivarian revolution, they wanted to break free of a corrupt system. So, the fact that now it’s sort of coming full cycle and we’re seeing the nepotism reemerging, the corruption proliferating, the exclusionary tactics taking place, the sort of suppression of dissent, you know, the poverty increasing, the inflation, the economy falling again. I mean, when one looks at it and says, “Well is this just the destiny of a country that has the bittersweet curse of oil?”
JS: And I wanted to ask you about that. One of the critiques has been that there’s been this massive over-reliance on oil revenue and that that’s part of what has fueled the anti-democratic realities that we’re seeing unfold in parts of the situation in Venezuela.
EG: Absolutely. But I mean it’s not — again, it’s nothing new, it’s how the country has been functioning for decades. It’s just that before most of that oil wealth was going into the pockets of an elite. Maduro essentially has tried to continue, ineffectively, the social policies that made Chavez so popular.
You know when oil was reaching $60, $70 a barrel, Venezuela was spending lavishly not just on social programs, but on infrastructure, on all kinds of you know international agreements and buying things. One of the visions that Chavez himself had was to invest those natural resources and strategic resources to use those instead of just exporting them. To be able to have the technology inside the country, to use them to build up the infrastructure in other domestic industries to reduce dependency on oil. You know, something that never happened.
And so the dependency continues. And certainly, I mean it’s a huge cause of the crisis the country is facing today is that over-dependency and reliance on oil. Not just on the part of the government, but also by the people, who have become dependent on it in terms of expecting their piece of it. The overall entitlement that that people feel when they live in a system like that where the state is all-encompassing and provides so many of their basic services.
JS: It does seem that that there is a trend under Maduro that echoes some of what we’ve seen in other governments in the region where all of the crises and all of the problems are essentially blamed on the United States or U.S. intervention. Now, of course, you, you wrote an entire book detailing U.S. dirty tricks and intervention in Venezuela —“The Chavez Code” — where you examined all of this in detail. Clearly the United States is constantly interfering in the affairs of countries around the world, but certainly throughout Central and South America. But it seems that that becomes a little bit too convenient to just constantly say, “Oh, well this is because of the United States. This is because of U.S.-backed groups. This is all a U.S. created opposition.” Am I wrong? I mean it seems like that that is sort of you know answer number one from the pro-Maduro camp.
EG: One of the things that made Chavez so popular initially was when he engaged in a military rebellion or a coup against this corrupt president in 1992 and it failed. Hugo Chavez, this young lieutenant colonel, came out in front of the cameras and took responsibility for the failure.
HC: [Translated from Spanish] Unfortunately, for now, the objectives that we put forth were not achieved in this capital city. What I’m saying is that we, here in Caracas, were unable to control the power —
EG: For Venezuelans it was like a shock and awe moment. I mean here we have someone in a position of leadership who’s actually saying: “I failed and I take responsibility. There will be more, to be continued, the story will be continued,” which it most certainly was. But that was that was sort of a change a shift that you know was very attractive to a lot of people in a country where so many had just you know blamed others for their mistakes or just turned their back on it.
And now we’re seeing that again, I mean that’s been one of my criticisms, is, yes, there’s no question, is the U.S. funding the opposition in Venezuela? Absolutely. They’ve been doing it for years. You know, I mean I’ve thoroughly documented it by using the Freedom of Information Act and uncovering the U.S.’s own documents where they show that they’re funding the opposition.
Are they backing and pushing for regime change? Totally. I mean Mike Pompeo said it the other day in a, you know a public forum.
Mike Pompeo: Any time you have a country as large and with the economic capacity with a country like Venezuela, America has a, a deep interest in making sure that it is stable and as Democratic as possible.
EG: We heard it from Rex Tillerson the other day, the State Department, straight out.
Rex Tillerson: We are evaluating all of our policy options as to what can we do to create a change of conditions, where either Maduro decides he doesn’t have a future, and wants to leave of his own accord, or we can return the government processes back to their constitution.
EG: Are there mistakes and responsibilities on the part of the government? Absolutely. I mean there’s been widespread mismanagement. They’ve made horrific economic decisions in terms of the currency and skyrocketed the inflation in a parallel black market for the dollar. I mean, and then at the same time the contracts that the government has engaged him with companies to supply, you know, food products and all kinds of other consumer products to the countries, they’ve been rife with corruption. You know, there’s, there’s over $300 billion dollars that have been embezzled out of the country over probably the past like four or five years that have been unaccounted for.
The government can’t just say, “Oh we have no role in this.” I mean it’s not always you know the boogeyman’s fault, but the U.S. certainly has a role, an open, notorious role in not only backing an anti-government, undemocratic, in many ways, opposition in Venezuela and promoting regime change.
I mean and that’s the other factor in this, is that the government of course is in power, you know, the Maduro government. So they bear always a larger responsibility for what’s happening in the country than you know those outside of it. But there’s no question that the opposition represents, you know, sort of the old school wealthy elite that control the private enterprises that have, you know, run Venezuela for, for decades.
JS: But certainly you also have a significant swath of Venezuelan society that also is opposed to Maduro that is not on the U.S. payroll.
EG: Absolutely. I mean it would be outrageous to say that they’re all on a payroll, or they’re paid protesters. That reminds me of you know Donald Trump saying that about anyone who protests against him. It’s ridiculous. Chavez was in office from essentially 1999 until he passed away in early 2013 and now Maduro’s been in office ever since. So it’s a complete generation that has grown up only knowing this government. And so, of course, I mean, they blame this government for the problems that they are experiencing in the country. Rightfully so.
They have no reference of how it was before. Things were repressive, when there was real persecution, when there was torture, you know, and when there was no distribution of the oil wealth and when the poverty rates were so high. That for many people today is an unknown past. They only care about what’s happening now.
So there’s a percentage of the population that sticks by this government because they don’t want what they see as the old guard to get back into power, because they fear that things will return to how they were before. They fear that they’ll become invisible again, and marginalized, and excluded, and persecuted. And they’re probably right, in a lot of that. What they say essentially is, “Yeah, we know they’re corrupt, yeah we know things aren’t great, but the alternative is worse.”
JS: Right. And I most certainly agree with your history there about the outside forces that supported that coup and then what the coup masters wanted to do. And, on the one hand, you have certain people within Venezuela, and in the region, who believe that defending the Venezuelan state, even with its flaws, is necessary because it’s an anti-imperialist and popular government. And then you have other groups that are recognizing everything you’re saying about the nature of some of the opposition groups, but are calling Maduro’s government increasingly delegitimized and authoritarian.
And I wanted to ask you, given that you knew Hugo Chavez well, that you wrote this book exposing U.S. interference in Venezuela, based on the United States government’s own documents, do you believe that what Maduro and his allies are doing right now betrays the legacy of Hugo Chavez?
EG: I think in some ways it’s on that path, certainly. There certainly isn’t a conscientious effort to betray Chavez’s legacy, but one of my main issues —
JS: I think it’s a pretty conscientious effort when you cook the books on a referendum.
EG: Well, right, that type of, that type of behavior to me is completely unacceptable and obviously betrays that legacy and not just the legacy of Chavez, but of the whole Venezuelan democratic structure that’s been reinforced, you know, one was hoping, in this sort of more participatory democracy, over the past, or at least up until about 2012, before things started to completely fall apart.
We can criticize the actions of the Maduro government and we can say some of them are betraying Chavez’s legacy, but they’re not the only ones who matter here. And we can also come out against any kind of U.S. intervention or efforts to impose regime change, as would be the same in any country around the world, you know, violating the sovereignty of another nation is unacceptable. But, at the same time, there still are millions of people in grassroots movements who are fighting for their democracy, and they have their issues as well with the people who are in power, but they’re not willing to let go and give up and cede their space to those on the far right-wing who would take power were this present government to lose power.
I mean Venezuela doesn’t have any middle ground at this time. And that’s why I think there’s a lot on the people on the outside, on the left, who are saying let’s just criticize, and speak up against foreign intervention in Venezuela, and say nothing about Maduro. There are those who are saying, “No, no, we need to talk about the increasing authoritarian characteristics of this government. The betrayal maybe of aspects of Chavez’s legacy and all that was achieved under a Bolivarian Revolution that we’re now seeing come unraveled.” And you know there are those saying, “No, we need to stick by Maduro and just back him and keep our mouths shut.”
All of that debate needs to be had. At the same time, you have to look at, what is the role of people who are not directly involved in that movement, and which are the voices and the people who really matter who are in that movement. Is it Maduro himself and the people right around him in the structure of power at the top? Or is it the grassroots, the social movements, the workers, the community organizers, the people who are actually the ones trying, struggling, to hold on to anything that’s left of this movement that they have been building and empowering themselves with now over the past, you know, fifteen years or so.
We hear from the opposition and the U.S. media all the time, we hear from all the critics, but we never hear from people. I’m not saying people who come out and say, “Oh, I love Maduro, I support Maduro.” But people in communities: poorer people and the working class. I mean that’s the majority of people really who comprise the Chavez movement in Venezuela. It’s this elite power structure that’s corrupted at the top.
JS: Now with the exception of designating Maduro, the Trump Administration seems to be essentially continuing, albeit with its own sort of spin, the basic U.S. policy toward Venezuela, at least publicly. What does this mean that Maduro has been designated and that assets have been frozen?
EG: Well it doesn’t mean much inside Venezuela. In fact, it’s seen as a badge of honor. Every time someone has been singled out by the U.S. government in recent years and given one of these sanctions, they have been awarded by Maduro himself, recently, this sword of Bolivar, which is a replica of Simon Bolivar’s sword, the founding father of Venezuela. It seems to kind of backfire because it really rallies the people and the troops around the government in the face of an external threat.
The Western world can come out against Venezuela. First of all, they’re not cutting off the oil supply. Were they to do that, they would harm more U.S. interests probably than Venezuela, practically, since it’s 30 percent of the oil supply to the United States and they have six refineries here in the United States. And Venezuela owns the Citgo gas chain, which has, you know thousands of gas stations throughout the country.
But as long as Venezuela maintains their commercial ties and their strategic alliance with countries like Russia and China they’re not going to back down in the face of an external threat. They’re just going to get stronger in terms of doubling down. And I think that’s something that it seems that to me that the U.S. government or the those who have the ear of whoever’s conducting that particular foreign policy fail to understand.
JS: Well, and if you know Venezuela was producing vegetable oil instead of black gold, I think we’d see a very different situation. What do you think would be the most effective path forward given now that the United States has publicly taken this very hostile position toward Maduro, and that you have an increasing chorus of voices including people that are certainly not on the U.S. payroll, basically saying, “Look, Maduro, you’re tilting toward authoritarianism here.” What should happen going forward in order to resolve this?
EG: Holding elections. The problem now is that because of the fact that the electoral system may have been compromised, most likely was, in this past election, and because of the fact that now there’s a supra-government body in place that could decide whether or not elections take place — or, even, if those elections take place, they’ll still have power above whoever wins office. So, you know, it seems as though there needs to be some negotiating going on in terms of, you know, setting clear lines and a structure for how things are going to evolve. There has to be an electoral way out. There cannot be a regime change, not a coup, not any kind of anarchical, violent protests in the streets to push the country further to a civil war.
Venezuela is a country with a lot of guns and you know it’s grown increasingly violent over the years. People have become more and more sort of radicalized in their positions, and I think all efforts, internationally, as well as those internally should be looking for a negotiated way out that would have to include some kind of truth and justice commission, amnesty for those who have been involved in all the events and developments over the past couple years, because you can’t find a way out of the situation if people feel as though they’re going to be persecuted once they’re out of power. Despite, you know, on both sides there have been crimes. And it’s just an unfortunate reality. So that way at least, you know, there will be a feeling that people can move on and pass this without persecution.
JS: All right. Eva Golinger, we’re going to leave it there. Thank you very much for joining us on Intercepted.
EG: Thanks, Jeremy.
JS: Eva Golinger is an attorney and author of several books. Among them, “The Chavez Code.”
JS: To close today’s show, our producer, Jack D’Isidoro, spoke to Venezuelan singer and songwriter Claudia Lizardo of the band La Pequeña Revancha.
Claudia Lizardo: Hello, I’m Claudia Lizardo. I’m 29 years old. I live in Caracas, Venezuela. I’m a musician and a copywriter, and I have a band that’s named La Pequeña Revancha — “the little revenge.”
[“Apache” by La Pequeña Revancha]
CL: The crisis in the music scene has been very, very harsh because a lot of people have immigrated, so that impacts directly on any plans you can have to develop a band and to have a stable band. I dream that my country goes out of this in a peaceful way, and through elections and through the vote which is, I think the biggest tool and the most powerful tool we democrats have — democrats, I mean people that believe in democracy. So that would be the ideal scenario for me.
The thing is, this country has a history of military action. So I don’t know what’s going to happen. I mean there are a lot of people that think that the way out of this is the most violent, aggressive way. I’m not a politician, I’m not an expert but I do wish that we go out — that we can come out of this peacefully because there have been a lot of people that have died and a lot of people incarcerated.
There’s a lot of fear on the streets. I have a lot of fear. I’m scared, I’m scared to the core, you know, I’m not going to lie to you. I’m the daughter of a very important musician in Venezuela. My father, he had a legendary band, a rock-and-roll band called “La Misma Gente,” which translates to “the same people.”
[“La Misma Gente” musical interlude]
The day that Chavez passed away, that day, I have like a very blurry memory of it, because that same day my father was having a massive stroke. It was very interesting, because my father just stepped, kind of stepped out of the music scene and I finally got the chance to do my thing. You know? And I kind of inherited all of this, all of it all of his guitars, et cetera.
So it was kind of a — yeah it was interesting, that like a switch happened there and this is a song that I wrote about my father. It’s called, “Yo Era El Sol,” Yo era el sol means “I was the son.” As I was telling you, my father suffered a severe stroke, a massive stroke back in 2013, and he was, as I was telling you, a very a legendary musician. He was a very charismatic musician and he was a songwriter and he’s, and he talked a lot and he was very outgoing. And it was very ironic and very sad because the stroke — he didn’t die, he’s very good — the thing the thing is that the stroke eliminated his speech and his and his ability to play his guitar.
So it’s very ironic that life takes away when you need to identify yourself. People that don’t know the story often tell me that the song is about the country because it’s a song about longing and about the nostalgia for something that was — that’s not there anymore. So that — that happens with Venezuela. We don’t recognize ourselves in the mirror anymore. And there’s a lot of melancholy and nostalgia about what we were. So that’s “Yo Era El Sol” and I hope you like it.
[“Yo Era El Sol” by La Pequeña Revancha]
JS: That is “Yo Era El Sol” by Claudia Lizardo, a musical artist from Caracas, Venezuela. She’s part of the band La Pequeña Revancha.
And that does it for this week’s show, and for this second season of Intercepted. We will return again for Season 3 on September 13th. All 26 of our episodes to date are available at theintercept.com/podcasts.
Intercepted is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. We’re distributed by Panoply. Our producer is Jack D’Isidoro and our executive producer is Leital Molad. Rick Kwan mixed the show. Elise Swain is our production assistant and graphic designer. Many thanks to Rino Duni? in Zadar, Croatia for engineering help for this week’s episode. Our music, as always, was composed by DJ Spooky. Until next month, I’m Jeremy Scahill.