THE FIGHT AGAINST ALEC HEATS UP: Just over a month after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a broad coalition of groups, including the National Urban League, the NAACP, ColorOfChange, the AFL-CIO and SEIU, the National Council of Churches, Common Cause, People For the American Way and more, stood together in Washington. They were gathered at the headquarters of the American Legislative Exchange Council to deliver a letter calling on ALEC “to fully disclose” all NRA funding and “pledge to desist from supporting and promoting lethal ‘Shoot First’ legislation.” The protesters’ message was blunt. Signs read: Don’t Shoot Me—I’m a Student Don’t Shoot Me—I’m a Grandfather Don’t Shoot Me—I’m a Pastor
The rally was organized in alliance with the Center for Media and Democracy, which last year worked with The Nation on a groundbreaking project, ALEC Exposed, that revealed the behind-the-scenes machinations of the corporate-sponsored “bill mill.” It’s this machinery that has put variations of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law on the books of states across the country. The Florida law, which blocks prosecution of gunmen who shoot people they imagine to be threatening, has been one of the barriers to justice in the Trayvon Martin case. As former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, head of the Urban League, said at the rally, it “should give everyone pause when an inside-the-Beltway group can write and promote laws around the country that give a free pass to criminal behavior and trample on our civil rights.”
The Trayvon Martin tragedy has sparked new clarity about the need to push back against ALEC and its corporate sponsors. This has invigorated a civil rights coalition that will be crucial if there is to be any hope for breaking the grip of one-size-fits-all lawmaking and renewing democracy and sound governance in the states. JOHN NICHOLS
WikiLeaking Covert Ops?: Leaked internal e-mails from the private intelligence company Stratfor suggest that the US government enlisted the services of James Smith, a former CIA operative and ex–Blackwater executive, to support Syrian opposition forces fighting to topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The e-mails were released by WikiLeaks in February. Smith confirmed to The Nation that he has been in Syria recently.
According to one e-mail, Smith and Walid Phares, a top campaign official for Mitt Romney, received “air cover from [Republican] Congresswoman [Sue] Myrick to engage Syrian opposition in Turkey…on a fact finding mission for Congress.” The e-mail adds: “The true mission is how they can help in regime change.” Smith confirms that his communications were hacked but says that Stratfor’s description of his mission was “inaccurate.”
Smith says he provides personal security for high-risk clients abroad and trains local forces, including those of the opposition in Syria and Libya. “I’ve been traveling in and out of northern Iraq and Syria a lot since December,” he says. In Libya, according to an e-mail he sent to a Stratfor executive, he was working “at the request of a usg [US government] committee and the rebs [rebels].” A few news reports on the hacked e-mails claim they show that Smith was present at Muammar el-Qaddafi’s execution. While Smith did provide Stratfor with information on Qaddafi’s death, he wrote to The Nation, “I was in the country a number of times last year but I was not there to kill Moammar Gadhafi. Lol!” JEREMY SCAHILL