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“In another home run for Project Censored, Censored 2013 shows how the American public has been bamboozled, snookered, and dumbed down by the corporate media. It is chock-full of ‘ah-ha’ moments where we understand just how we’ve been fleeced by banksters, stripped of our civil liberties, and blindly led down a path of never-ending war.” –Medea Benjamin, author of Drone Warfare, cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK.
“Project Censored shines a spotlight on news that an informed public must have . . . a vital contribution to our democratic process.” —Rhoda H. Karpatkin, president, Consumer’s Union
“Most journalists in the United States believe the press here is free. That grand illusion only helps obscure the fact that, by and large, the US corporate press does not report what’s really going on, while tuning out, or laughing off, all those who try to do just that. Americans–now more than ever–need those outlets that do labor to report some truth. Project Censored is not just among the bravest, smartest, and most rigorous of those outlets, but the only one that’s wholly focused on those stories that the corporate press ignores, downplays, and/or distorts. This latest book is therefore a must read for anyone who cares about this country, its tottering economy, and–most important– what’s now left of its democracy.” –Mark Crispin Miller, author, professor of media ecology, New York University.
“One of the most significant media research projects in the country.” —I. F. Stone
“The staff of Project Censored presents their annual compilation of the previous year’s 25 stories most overlooked by the mainstream media along with essays about censorship and its consequences. The stories include an 813% rise in hate and anti-government groups since 2008, human rights violations by the US Border Patrol, and Israeli doctors injecting Ethiopian immigrants with birth control without their consent. Other stories focus on the environment, like the effects of fracking and Monsantos GMO seeds. The writers point out misinformation and outright deception in the media, including CNN relegating factual accounts to the “opinion” section and the whitewashing of Margaret Thatcher’s career following her death in 2013, unlike Hugo Chavez, who was routinely disparaged in the coverage following his death. One essay deals with the proliferation of “Junk Food News,” in which “CNN and Fox News devoted more time to ‘Gangnam Style’ than the renewal of Uganda’s ‘Kill the Gays’ law.” Another explains common media manipulation tactics and outlines practices to becoming a more engaged, free-thinking news consumer or even citizen journalist. Rob Williams remarks on Hollywood’s “deep and abiding role as a popular propaganda provider” via Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. An expose on working conditions in Chinese Apple factories is brutal yet essential reading. This book is evident of Project Censored’s profoundly important work in educating readers on current events and the skills needed to be a critical thinker.” -Publisher’s Weekly said about Censored 2014 (Oct.)
“Project Censored brings to light some of the most important stories of the year that you never saw or heard about. This is your chance to find out what got buried.” –Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System.
“Censored 2014 is a clarion call for truth telling. Not only does this volume highlight fearless speech in fateful times, it connect the dots between the key issues we face, lauds our whistleblowers and amplifies their voices, and shines light in the dark places of our government that most need exposure.” –Daniel Ellsberg, The Pentagon Papers
“Activist groups like Project Censored . . . are helping to build the media democracy movement. We have to challenge the powers that be and rebuild media from the bottom up.” —Amy Goodman
“At a time when the need for independent journalism and for media outlets unaffiliated with and untainted by the government and corporate sponsors is greater than ever, Project Censored has created a context for reporting the complete truths in all matters that matter. . . . It is therefore left to us to find sources for information we can trust. . . . It is in this task that we are fortunate to have an ally like Project Cen-sored.” —Dahr Jamail
“[Censored] should be affixed to the bulletin boards in every newsroom in America. And, perhaps read aloud to a few publishers and television executives.” —Ralph Nader
“Hot news, cold truths, utterly uncensored.” —Greg Palast
“[Censored] offers devastating evidence of the dumbing-down of main-stream news in America. . . . Required reading for broadcasters, journalists, and well-informed citizens.” —Los Angeles Times
“Project Censored is one of the organizations that we should listen to, to be assured that our newspapers and our broadcasting outlets are practicing thorough and ethical journalism.” —Walter Cronkite
Buy it, read it, act on it. Our future depends on the knowledge this col-lection of suppressed stories allows us.” —San Diego Review
“Project Censored interrogates the present in the same way that Oliver Stone and I tried to interrogate the past in our Untold History of the United States. It not only shines a penetrating light on the American Empire and all its deadly, destructive, and deceitful actions, it does so at a time when the Obama administration is mounting a fierce effort to silence truth-tellers and whistleblowers. Project Censored provides the kind of fearless and honest journalism we so desperately need in these dangerous times.” —Peter Kuznick, professor of history, American University, and coauthor, with Oliver Stone, of The Untold History of the United States
“Those who read and support Project Censored are in the know.” —Cynthia McKinney
“Project Censored continues to be an invaluable resource in exposing and highlighting shocking stories that are routinely minimized or ignored by the corporate media. The vital nature of this work is underscored by this year’s NSA leaks. The world needs more brave whistle blowers and independent journalists in the service of reclaiming democracy and challenging the abuse of power. Project Censored stands out for its commitment to such work.” —Deepa Kumar, author of Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire and associate professor of Media Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University
“For ages, I’ve dreamed of a United States where Project Censored isn’t necessary, where these crucial stories and defining issues are on the front page of the New York Times, the cover of Time, and in heavy rotation on CNN. That world still doesn’t exist, but we always have Project Censored’s yearly book to pull together the most important things the corporate media ignored, missed, or botched.” –Russ Kick, author of You Are Being Lied To, Everything You Know Is Wrong, and the New York Times bestselling series The Graphic Canon.

24. U.S. Nuclear Weapons Controlled by Unstable Personnel

Source: MOTHER JONES, November 1998, Title: “Positive Attitude Toward Nuclear Weapons Duty,” Author: Ken Silverstein

Faculty Evaluator: Lynn Cominsky, Ph.D.
Student Evaluator: Jake Medway

Mentally unstable individuals may be in control of U.S. nuclear devices. A screening process called the Personnel Reliability Program (PRP), set in place after a near-disaster in 1959, is supposed to guarantee that only competent, stable, and dependable individuals have access to America’s nuclear arsenal. In fact, the PRP looks mainly for self-announced kooks and fails to identify less sensational cases. As a result, numerous unstable individuals are in control of, and have access to, our nuclear weapons.

PRP is a two-step process consisting of an initial screening and post-approval monitoring. Investigators look for traits such as good social adjustment, emotional stability, and a positive attitude toward nuclear weapons duty. Screening includes a cursory medical evaluation, a review of the candidate’s personnel file, and a background check of profes-sional, educational, and personal histories. However, no routine psychological testing is done. Between 1990 and 1996, 7,000 people were decertified after passing the PRP screening. These thousands were either temporarily or permanently barred from nuclear weapons duties due to various, sometimes emotional, problems on the job.

Candidates can easily lie about their records with little chance of getting caught. FBI background checks only pick up 5 to 8 percent of people who have had trouble with the law, allowing numerous “bad apples” to receive high security clearance positions. According to the Pentagon’s 1996 annual status report on PRP, 758 people were kicked out of the program that year. Out of those, 169 were expelled due to conviction by a military or a civilian court of a serious offense or a pattern of behavior showing contemptuous attitude towards the law.

In several cases, PRP-certified people have gone on to commit murder or suicide, assault, rape, and other serious crimes, exposing unstable mental conditions in their past and present. In one case, where a naval technician committed a murder of two elderly people, investigators were tipped off to his potential violence through interviews with the officer’s acquaintances from before his recruitment. These interviews revealed a history including such warning signs as suspected murder, wife beating, lying, stealing, and “continuous fantasizing.” A sonar technician who was expelled from PRP for failing a drug test stated that abuses that should be grounds for expulsion are frequently ignored. An expelled PRP Marine claimed that heavy drinking and depression are overlooked. There have even been cases of people drinking while on PRP duty. In certain cases, individuals still had their PRP clearance while in prison for a felony conviction. One Marine explained that manpower demand at special weapons stations far exceeds the number of qualified personnel.

Herbert L. Abrams, PRP expert at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, recom-mends that the Pentagon strengthen PRP by requiring a physician to examine all candidates, have standardized psycho-logical testing, and improve its post-approval monitoring procedures. Others insist that the entire program be subjected to tough independent scrutiny.

UPDATE BY AUTHOR KEN SULVERSTEIN: This story is important because even if the risks of a problem are relatively small, the consequences of any problem could be enormous. What are the risks? It is hard to say for certain, especially given the Pentagon’s refusal to open up its records on the PRP. Still, the fact that a few people involved with the program were willing to talk to me (off the record) about their fears, shows that some key insiders believe the screening system is dangerously inadequate.

No significant new developments have occurred since the story was published, at least that I know of. However, since the Pentagon is generally not eager to disclose problems with the program, it is impossible to know for certain.

There has been no fallout in the mainstream press. I think this is for two reasons. First, it is not exactly the type of story that you can follow up on as, for example, with a campaign finance scandal, where there are always sure to be plenty of emerging developments.

Also, this is the type of story that is unlikely to get a sharp examination until a problem comes to light (in other words, when it is too late). There is no organization that rigorously tracks the PRP. For anyone wanting to do follow-up research, I recommend contacting the sources named in the story. (Or contact me to see about the unnamed sources.)

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