DisInfoWars with Tom Secker- The Ethics of Private Investigation

This week I talk to Ed Opperman, a private investigator, author and the host of the radio show The Opperman Report. We discuss the moral challenges of investigation, asking whether private investigators are any more ethical than regular police. Ed shares some stories from his decades working in this field, before we move on and discuss how this applies to the alternative and web-based research subculture.

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  1. speaking to the ‘Beginning with conclusion’ or a priori : ” March 2003: Zelikow and 9/11 Commission Consultant Complete Outline of Final Report BEFORE Staff Start Writing It: oops.
    http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=a0303outline#a0303outline
    [para] “9/11 Commission Executive Director Philip Zelikow and Ernest May, a long-time associate of Zelikow and consultant to the commission, complete an outline of the commission’s final report, although the commission has barely began its work and will not report for another 16 months. The outline is detailed and contains chapter headings, subheadings, and sub-subheadings. “Kept Secret – Zelikow shows the report to Commission Chairman Tom Kean and Vice-chairman Lee Hamilton and they like it, but think it could be seen as evidence that they have pre-determined the outcome [no kidding?] Therefore, they all decide it should be kept secret from the commission’s staff. According to May it is “treated as if it were the most classified document the commission possessed.” “Staff Alarmed – When the staff find out about it and are given copies over a year later, they are alarmed. some staffers begin circulating a parody entitled “The Warren Commission Report—Preemptive Outline.” One of the parody’s chapter headings is “Single Bullet: We Haven’t Seen the Evidence Yet. But Really. We’re Sure.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004; Shenon, 2008, pp. 388-389]”
    Or, in case of 9/11 and the magic bolt of WTC7 Free Fall : “The speed of deceit.”

    • Right…
      “Well aside from the molten steel we could see burning in the distance, which we weren’t allowed to view up close, there seemed to be nothing peculiar that we could find at the WTC site, so we just filled out the check box which confirmed that we agreed with the preliminary evaluation…” 😉

    • No doubt the 9/11 Commission is one of the most terrible examples of a fake investigation, i.e. one that had decided what it would find even before it started looking. In their book Kean and Hamilton basically admit as much, and the part about deciding not to prosecute the military when they knew they were lying to them about the air defences that morning is something that angered me then and still angers me now.

  2. Nice, I enjoyed that. I think there is something to be said for what, at times, could best be described as either a lack of professionalism or ethical consideration, or perhaps both. I’m thinking back in particular to right after the Boston Marathon bombing when those two guys had to go into some sort of protective custody because people were accusing them as being the bombers. That said, wft was the point of enlisting the help of the public in the first place? Isn’t that what those jackassess are supposed to get paid for? Another diversion tactic though I’m sure is what best covers it. Still pisses me off though…

    • Don’t forget the Sunil Tripathi mess as well – he was identified on Reddit as one of the suspects and this was picked up by some of the sections of the alt media that I can only describe as immoral. Accusations flew around, his sister got harassed, then Sunil himself is found dead.

      I did not see a single apology or retraction, let alone one proportional to the degree of accusations that were made. I don’t mean to always be down on the alt media, but almost everything that the alt media did in the wake of Boston made me sick. It showed that they were exploiting this event just as much as the mainstream were. Not quite as much as the security state exploited it, but still. They are just as capable of baseless witch-hunts as the tabloid mainstream media are.

      • It actually just occurred to me that, beyond being morally reprehensible, the sort of alt-media witch hunt mentality we’re talking about could be the perfect pretext for cracking down on independent/open source journalism. Also, it could serve as the basis for some sort of iPatriot Act rationale for requiring people to use their real names and so forth online… “well, if people were required to use their real names, they would be more careful about what they say online and we could track them down more easily if their irresponsible internet activities lead to tragic outcomes” – most people nodding their heads approvingly without pointing out how absurd this is when the feds have access to enough information to tell how many times you flush the toilet in a day, nevermind who’s behind some sort of screen name.

        • All the more reason to be open minded when investigating, and careful about what you publish in public.

          We saw this with 7/7 – one guy who claims he’s Jesus went around harassing the bereaved telling them all sorts of nonsense, and this gave the mainstream media an easy target with which to smear anyone investigating those bombings. And yet when this guy was brought up in court for trying to interfere with a trial, most of the alt media heroised him while conveniently avoiding the fact he’s a nutcase who thinks he is the messiah.

          If the alt media does not confront these sorts of things then it just becomes a platform for nonsense, which does more harm than good.

  3. kariflack says:

    i like Ed. he seems to approach his interviews like he’s doing an investigation along with his guest, so i feel he doesn’t have an agenda going in like with some people who do similar shows. with all the ops in the media running faster than ever, it is definitely helpful to get a grasp on the history of how similar have worked in the past and use those avenues to our advantage if we as citizens dedicate ourselves to that sort of investigation without the resources the agencies have. ethics are necessary; i liked your inclusion, Tom, of why we don’t need to spill someone’s very personal info in order to prove how their actions are probably to aid in controlling opposition just by looking at patterns and probabilities to form our own conclusions.

    i understand hesitancy and criticism of labeling things as this or that off the bat, however, people who are pushing for further investigation before conclusions are made regarding the latest tragedy in american headlines, the AME church shooting in South Carolina, are already being painted as “truthers”. it’s ridiculous. the theme many “leftists” and liberals are running with is already case closed because the shooter is white supremacist, and that is that — an overarching culture put a gun into his hand. so while i share the same frustrations with crisis actor/it didn’t even happen!! youtubers messing up a lot more serious investigation, there is another front that is very adamant about discrediting anyone who relies on historical precedent.

    • I am not for one moment denying that the labels cast on people like us are an attempt to discredit us and the sorts of questions we’re asking or theories we’re exploring. They absolutely are. I just don’t think we should particularly care. I was called all kinds of things for spending 5 years investigating the 7/7 bombings, but what kept me going was knowing that the work needed doing and that I was equipped to do it well. By not particularly engaging in a struggle with the mainstream media-political bullshit I was free to do a lot of lateral thinking, which is how I figured out a lot of things that most other 7/7 investigators completely missed.

      Not to blow my own horn, just to use my own experience as an example. I don’t particularly care about the labels people use for me, because people who are convinced by such labels are never going to have the patience to listen to a real argument. Thus, I’m never going to convince those people, there is no point even trying. So it is probably best to avoid engaging with that sort of dialogue and discussion (as much as is possible, anyway). That’s my thinking and approach, I admit my behaviour doesn’t always live up to it.

      • kariflack says:

        haha yes, i really find the slinging against myself personally sort of funny at times, and i don’t typically engage people like that. i guess there is something nagging at me with regard to strategy in how we can reach others who are on similar tracks but who sort of add to the chorus against “truthers” when such smears are going to be used against them in time for investigating past the “official stories” that never stay intact anyhow. i don’t know how to articulate that so well right now, it’s just something i see more and more of lately.

        • I agree, both about it being a bit funny: “why would the government lie about something like this”, and that there is a nagging sense when you encounter this, that just shrugging it off often feels insufficient, but still how one goes about just beginning to engage someone often remains frustratingly elusive. I think it’s worth making an effort here to think about how we can at least start engaging people to dip their toes in the truth without throwing them in the swimming pool.

          I keep coming back to the Boston Marathon bombing and one of the major problems I have is the fact that it’s not difficult to expose the ways in which the official narrative is a steaming pile of horse sh!t, but I don’t have a very clear explanation of why the deep state fed the horses the laxatives to begin with. The motives for 9/11 were pretty easy to point out, but with Boston this just doesn’t seem to be the case. I think the Police State element was central, but I know from my own personal experience, my appreciation of the role of the Police State in the globalist agenda, was something that evolved over the years since 9/11. Even the term “globalist agenda” is something I probably would’ve laughed off at one point. I use it here and there though, because I don’t know how else better to refer to it.

          I think all of us at some point run into situations where we’re having conversations with, what I might refer to as “civilians”, where you’re saying something and as you hear yourself saying it you have some sort of realization or general sense that you sound like “one of those crazy conspiracy theorists”. That doesn’t stop me, but I still find it remarkable from time to time how successfully the deep state has managed stigmatise language to marginalize and insulate itself from critique. Probably before, but certainly after JFK’s assassination, the deep state quite successfully managed to brand the terms “conspiracy” and “conspiracy theory” in the same way which one might define someone who talks about UFOs. Come to think of it, the idea of UFOs isn’t even that outlandish in and of itself, yet it’s still been successfully branded in a way which attaches itself to a set of fringe concepts which drag down that which is perfectly reasonable into the black lagoon of conspiracy theories.

          Language matters. I sound like a broken record restating this, but I think it’s important. If we want to be more successful in our challenges to “official narratives” and lies, I think we have to spend more time reclaiming terminology, crafting our own, and figuring out, as I said before, ways to entice people to dip their toes in the swimming pool without pushing them in. It’s necessary to be able to laugh off ignorance, but we eventually become the jackassess if the only response we have is to make fun of them and splash them from the pool.

          • Benny,

            This is why I try my best not to use terms like ‘truth’ and ‘globalist agenda’ – they have become so loaded with connotations that are useless to me, if not downright counter-productive. I agree, language matters, but some terms cannot be reclaimed. I don’t believe I know the truth about 9/11, so I’m not going to try to convince other people that I do, or that what I believe is what they should also believe.

            I know that isn’t quite what you’re saying, but it is what a lot of 9/11 truthers have said, and I do use the word ‘truther’ because to my mind most of its connotations are pretty accurate.

            For what it is worth, if you are going to try to engage people in this dialogue then I think you should start by asking them if they have any questions about 9/11. Those who have no questions about 9/11 (or whatever topic) are the type who just want to believe a simple story given to them by a perceived authority figure. Even if you manage to convince them that 9/11 is not as advertised, chances are they will simply replace one authority figure with another, one simple story with another.

            But like I say, I’m not really concerned with trying to get other people to believe things. I’m concerned with trying to push areas of research that are important but largely ignored (such as the CIA and Hollywood) as far as they can go, and to make it available for the sorts of people who are naturally sceptical and inquisitive. I don’t try to push things onto people, on the whole.

          • Thanks for your response, Tom. I kind of feel the way you feel about the terms ‘truth’ and “globalist agenda” as you do about “truther”. To me it sounds like an insult and reminds me of “birther”, which I thought was a pretty asinine ‘movement’

            You may be right, that certain terminology reaches a point where it’s been so tarnished that it’s virtually irredeemable. That said, how would you or other BFP members go about describing what I referred to as a ‘globalist agenda’ in a way which doesn’t carry the same stigma?

          • BennyB,

            Good question, and my basic rule of thumb is to stop using shorthands for the sake of convenience. What you might mean by ‘globalist agenda’ and what Alex Jones means by the same term are probably quite different (yours is likely sane, his is likely a load of complete nonsense). So what am I to interpret from such a phrase? What am I to assume you mean by it? Not an easy one for me to answer, to be honest.

            Basically, any term that is so overused that it means nothing – stop using it. Just find some other way, even if it is more clunky, of saying what you’re saying. Otherwise it becomes like Marxists blaming ‘capitalism’ for anything and everything, without ever making it clear what they mean by ‘capitalism’. Or likewise people who blame ‘socialism’ for all the world’s ills, without ever defining the term.

            This is one of Orwell’s lessons from Politics and the English Language – to stop using redundant, overworked phrases. When you reach one of those moments where it’s a choice between struggling for words and blurting out ‘new world order’ or ‘globalist agenda’ or any number of other conspiracy cliches, stop. Don’t let those words pass your lips. Try your best to actually say specifically what it is you’re trying to say. That’s what I try to do, not always successfully.

        • Kariflack,

          Perhaps it is because I live in rural Yorkshire but I’m not all that concerned with engaging other people and trying to get them to think about what I think about. Or perhaps it’s because in the years before 9/11, when I was still at school, I learned the lesson that most people will put up with more or less anything as long as you keep telling them that they are free and happy.

          Moreover, in the several years that I’ve been a public figure, a name and a face, in this arena I have taken a LOT more crap from other ‘truthers’ than I have from the mainstream media. As such, the idea of trying to attract more people into a subculture which has not been particularly kind or respectful to me, is not that high on my agenda.

          My thinking is that there are two sorts of people in this world – people who want to have someone tell them what to believe, and people who don’t. The people who largely believed the official 9/11 story and then were massively shocked when they realised it wasn’t true are the first kind of people. The second kind never believed the official story and therefore didn’t wig out when they learned about ISI General Mahmud Ahmed funding Mohammed Atta. They never tried to build a cult that recruited new members, because having other people believe what they believe is not important to them.

          Those who genuinely thought (and still think) that they know the truth about 9/11 and are simply ‘getting information out there’ are basically no different to scientologists, from my experience. They are just an organised religion with a set of unshakeable doctrine who are looking for new recruits to believe the exact same thing they believe.

          9/11 is hardly unique in this respect – take any major event, deep state or otherwise, and you’ll see the same sort of thing, the same sort of dialogue, the same divisions and rival camps being set up.

          • kariflack says:

            yeah those are really good points. thinking about similar has made me wonder about the original dissemination of some of the “airtight” theories. i’ve told Sibel in comments before regarding the “truthers” that their dedication to this with a blind faith is what has turned off a lot of otherwise intelligent people from simply questioning lest they get thrown in with that lot. another group that has actually made me question myself about my own scientific (versus scientologist? haha) dedication, as silly as it seems, are the chemtrail crowd. maybe that’s not fair, maybe they have other ideas that run counter to imperialist hegemony, but i don’t know — those who absolutely believe there are chemicals being sprayed over ALL populations (???) often tell you to just look up in the sky for proof. most reasonable people’s alarm instincts kick in then, i would hope, but most ardent defenders go on to claim you are a sheeple and believe all government lies.

          • Kariflack,

            The chemtrail crowd do my head in, to be honest. It’s like people who believe we never went to the moon – the evidence that they would need to determine things one way or another just isn’t available, so they fill in the gaps with dogma. The centre of that ‘movement’ is a cult – not to say everyone talking about chemtrails is a cult member, but the big figures certainly are.

            Meanwhile, I wonder – if we have been sprayed with chemicals for the last 10, 20, 30 years then what is the effect? Has anyone been able to determine that, or do they just blame the rise in autism diagnosis on some lines in the sky without any logic or evidence filling in the space in between? On the whole, it is the latter. Anything you don’t like, just blame it on the chemtrails. Might as well be blaming God, the weather, or the moon.

  4. kariflack says:

    BennyB, with regard to your points on using globalist/ism: ‘ I kind of feel the way you feel about the terms ‘truth’ and “globalist agenda” as you do about “truther” […] You may be right, that certain terminology reaches a point where it’s been so tarnished that it’s virtually irredeemable. That said, how would you or other BFP members go about describing what I referred to as a ‘globalist agenda’ in a way which doesn’t carry the same stigma?’

    they do do that pretty brilliantly here on the geopolitical scale that goes beyond its sort of right wing fetishization that has worked to mar the real workings of this worldwide network. there seems to be a lot that can be missed when only looking toward US imperialism in a way that has carried over since the 20th century, and i don’t mean that to downplay a regime that has worked toward displacing more people than the world has seen since 1945, it’s quite staggering. the kind of older left understanding of down with US empire lends toward leaving possible theatre we see between nations unanalyzed. i think we need help with that to get the broader picture of how this global domination toward one company with all control really works, along the lines Daniel Estulin speaks to. anyway that is why i am here on BFP. anyway it’s been an ongoing project with the population control constantly working, not as an end game, it is at work right now in all theaters of war. the rightish conspiracy sphere uses this narrative as an end game that keeps people in fear rather than giving them strategy to resist it.

    • kariflack says:

      anyway anyway anyway 🙂 i am not running on full caffeine levels yet but rattled with all the emanating stories coming from the latest shooting a state over, that relate back to the religious fanaticism Tom brought up in regard to the truthers directed by the Loose Change docs and the like.

    • Right, I think “fetishization” is a good way to put it. Overuse of terms like “the Globalists” or “the Illuminati”, renders what the structures of power are into a sort of enigmatic comic book caricature of evil; a group of old white men sitting around a candlelit table with animal masks (Dick Cheney’s probably down though 😉 ). Daniel Estulin does a good job explaining the true nature of power; rings within rings and so forth, playing out on a 3d chess board, while the temporary centers of imperial power are playing on a conventional board, or to use Pepé Escobar’s phrasing, figures like the Obama administration aren’t even playing chess, it’s more like monopoly. Still, how does Estulin for example refer to these interests though for practical purposes? I don’t recall.

      There is a general trajectory, even if it’s decentralized, and it’s not a good one either. The general outcome seems to be collective third world status for the vast majority while the Scrooge McMansions of the world are wiping their asses with a fluffier stack of c-notes. This isn’t an agenda that’s going to happen, it’s a set of agendas which is already happening: tomorrow’s ’c-notes’ are today’s TPP (btw: what the #### are people signing this piece of #### for… sorry). For practical purposes though, if it walks like a duck, what do we call it?

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