Russ Baker is an investigative journalist. His work has been published in the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Nation, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Village Voice and Esquire.
According to his own website: "Russ Baker is an old-fashioned muckraking journalist and pamphleteer using the newest technologies. In his reporting and writing he brings the best of mainstream methods (balance and rigor) to the alternative media, and the best of the alternative media (passion for the truth and the larger story) to the mainstream. He focuses on getting past the rhetoric to expose the hidden levers and machinations that shape our world. Baker’s investigative reporting, analysis pieces, features, and essays on politics, power, and perceptions have appeared in many of the world’s finest publications."
Russ Baker is the founder of the Real News Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit investigative news organization. Other writers involved in the project include: Mark Dowie, Robert Dreyfuss, Daniel Ellsberg, Margaret Engel, Todd Gitlin, Mark Hertsgaard, Robert W. McChesney, Morton Mintz, Frances Moore Lappe, Jonathan Rowe, Cody Shearer and Steve Weinberg.
Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty was published in 2009. The book covers the careers of Prescott Bush, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. Baker's deep background profile of the family reveals their ongoing connections to the shadow world of intelligence, utilizing the dark arts of the trade to achieve their positions at the pinnacle of America's political elite. The book also looks at the activities of people such as George de Mohrenschildt, Jack Alston Crichton, David Harold Byrd, Robert Kerr, Everette DeGolyer, Thomas J. Devine, Alfred Ulmer and Clint Murchison.
Two years before the September 11 attacks, presidential candidate George W. Bush was already talking privately about the political benefits of attacking Iraq, according to his former ghost writer, who held many conversations with then-Texas Governor Bush in preparation for a planned autobiography.
"He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999," said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. "It was on his mind. He said to me: 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.' And he said, 'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He said, 'If I have a chance to invade·.if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency." Herskowitz said that Bush expressed frustration at a lifetime as an underachiever in the shadow of an accomplished father. In aggressive military action, he saw the opportunity to emerge from his father's shadow. The moment, Herskowitz said, came in the wake of the September 11 attacks. "Suddenly, he's at 91 percent in the polls, and he'd barely crawled out of the bunker."
That President Bush and his advisers had Iraq on their minds long before weapons inspectors had finished their work - and long before alleged Iraqi ties with terrorists became a central rationale for war - has been raised elsewhere, including in a book based on recollections of former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. However, Herskowitz was in a unique position to hear Bush's unguarded and unfiltered views on Iraq, war and other matters - well before he became president.
Whatever Bob Woodward did or didn’t do, should or shouldn’t have done, knew or didn’t know, several lessons can be drawn from this latest of media scandals—and none of them speak well of journalism as it is practiced at elite levels today.
For one thing, the very definition of an "investigative reporter," as Woodward is labeled these days ad nauseum , is a pretty elastic one. Meeting a source in a parking garage as a way of identifying abuses and high crimes by powerful insiders is one thing. Dining off that for the next three decades while chumming it up with well-placed insiders for their “exclusive accounts” is another.
In my book (and in most journalism textbooks), investigative reporting—as distinguished from other journalism—involves self-propelled inquiry into secrets that need to be uncovered. True investigative reporters struggle to obtain confidential or hard-to-obtain documents; elicit whistleblower testimony from those who could get in trouble for talking; track down elusive and obscure sources of valuable information; and undertake painstaking, time-consuming efforts to construct elaborate charts and timelines based on hundreds or thousands of disparate elements. It is exhausting, often unglamorous work, not usually carried out within easy reach of champagne or $100 meals.
Investigative journalism rarely involves asking powerful people what they think or how they would like to characterize their actions. And that’s really what Bob Woodward has been doing for a long time: he has the fame and manner to gain access to sovereign and court jester alike, he gets them talking, and then he sells books full of what they have to say. Whether they are telling the truth, we have no way of knowing, because analysis and perspective are not Woodward’s strong suits. And reporters who produce a book a year can’t be doing a whole lot of investigating.
Bush has long denied allegations that he had connections to the intelligence community prior to 1976, when he became Central Intelligence Agency director under President Gerald Ford. At the time, he described his appointment as a 'real shocker.'
But the freshly uncovered memos contend that Bush maintained a close personal and business relationship for decades with a CIA staff employee who, according to those CIA documents, was instrumental in the establishment of Bush's oil venture, Zapata, in the early 1950s, and who would later accompany Bush to Vietnam as a “cleared and witting commercial asset” of the agency.
According to a CIA internal memo dated November 29, 1975, Bush's original oil company, Zapata Petroleum, began in 1953 through joint efforts with Thomas J. Devine, a CIA staffer who had resigned his agency position that same year to go into private business. The '75 memo describes Devine as an “oil wild-catting associate of Mr. Bush.” The memo is attached to an earlier memo written in 1968, which lays out how Devine resumed work for the secret agency under commercial cover beginning in 1963.
“Their joint activities culminated in the establishment of Zapata Oil,” the memo reads. In fact, early Zapata corporate filings do not seem to reflect Devine's role in the company, suggesting that it may have been covert. Yet other documents do show Thomas Devine on the board of an affiliated Bush company, Zapata Offshore, in January, 1965, more than a year after he had resumed work for the spy agency.
It was while Devine was in his new CIA capacity as a commercial cover officer that he accompanied Bush to Vietnam the day after Christmas in 1967, remaining in the country with the newly elected congressman from Texas until January 11, 1968. Whatever information the duo was seeking, they left just in the nick of time. Only three weeks after the two men departed Saigon, the North Vietnamese and their Communist allies launched the Tet offensive with seventy thousand troops pre-positioned in more than 100 cities and towns.
While the elder Bush was in Vietnam with Devine, George W. Bush was making contact with representatives of the Texas Air National Guard, using his father's connections to join up with an elite, Houston-based Guard unit - thus avoiding overseas combat service in a war that the Bushes strongly supported.