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July 13, 2010

Scholar's libel suit proceeds against Southern Poverty Law Center

Guenter Lewy's very interesting libel case against the Southern Poverty Law Center can proceed in the District of Columbia, a trial judge ruled Tuesday.

This one is worth watching.

Lewy is an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts. A survivor of German violence against Jews during World War II, Prof. Lewy has written numerous books and articles about the history of persecuted peoples. In 2005, the University of Utah Press published his book, "The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide."

As Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly noted: Prof. Lewy ultimately concludes in the book that the current, reliable evidence of genocide is unpersuasive or inconclusive.

The Southern Poverty Law Center subsequently issued a report, in which it stated that "Lewy is one of the most active members of a network of American scholars, influence peddlers and website operators, financed by hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the government of Turkey, who promote the denial of the Armenian genocide."

Lewy sued, and the first decision for Judge Kollar-Kotelly was whether the Southern Poverty Law Center was sufficiently connected to Washington, D.C. for her court to have jurisdiction. On Tuesday, she said yes with respect to the organization. The libel suit can proceed.


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David Boyajian

I know that Mr. Doyle covers some Armenian issues for McClatchy papers, though interestingly he has long seemeed to ignore known facts about the Armenian genocide in a way he would never do for, say, the Holocaust. I would not be surprised to see Mr. Doyle pull the same shannanigans regarding the Lewy lawsuit against the SPLC.

It is also interesting that, as far as I know, Mr. Doyle has had little or nothing to say about the huge clash between Armenian Americans and the Anti-Defamation League over the latter's support of Turkey's genocide denials. Funny, it made national and international news, but Mr. Doyle did not seem interested. Now, why do you suppose that is?
Look at the coverage the issue got - hundreds of articles: www.NoPlaceForDenial.com.

Maybe Mr. Doyle can use that as a case study in the "journalism" class he teaches at GWU.


Contrary to Mr. Boyajian's comment, the ADL does not support denial of the Armenian genocide, and if he looked at the ADL website, he'd read this:

"We have never negated but have always described the painful events of 1915-1918 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians as massacres and atrocities. On reflection, we have come to share the view of Henry Morgenthau, Sr. that the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide. If the word genocide had existed then, they would have called it genocide."

kay sieverding

Look at this National Public Radio link with detention and genocide papers from the Nazi holocaust

Then read 5 USC Section 552a(u) the part about mandatory reporting and 552b the part about how no one can be hurt by procedures not published in the Federal Register.

We have an opportunity at this time to attack genocide by limiting computer records and computer systems.

kay sieverding

I want you to know that it is 11 p.m. and I got out of bed and walked down two flights of stairs to post the missing links. One part is

Sec. 552. Public information; agency rules, opinions, orders,

records, and proceedings

(a) Each agency shall make available to the public information as


(1) Each agency shall separately state and currently publish in

the Federal Register for the guidance of the public -

(A) descriptions of its central and field organization and the

established places at which, the employees (and in the case of a

uniformed service, the members) from whom, and the methods

whereby, the public may obtain information, make submittals or

requests, or obtain decisions;

(B) statements of the general course and method by which its

functions are channeled and determined, including the nature and

requirements of all formal and informal procedures available;

(C) rules of procedure, descriptions of forms available or the

places at which forms may be obtained, and instructions as to the

scope and contents of all papers, reports, or examinations;

(D) substantive rules of general applicability adopted as

authorized by law, and statements of general policy or

interpretations of general applicability formulated and adopted

by the agency; and

(E) each amendment, revision, or repeal of the foregoing.

Except to the extent that a person has actual and timely notice of

the terms thereof, a person may not in any manner be required to

resort to, or be adversely affected by, a matter required to be

published in the Federal Register and not so published.


kay sieverding

Here's another part


(3) the term “maintain” includes maintain, collect, use, or disseminate;
(4) the term “record” means any item, collection, or grouping of information about an individual that is maintained by an agency, including, but not limited to, his education, financial transactions, medical history, and criminal or employment history and that contains his name, or the identifying number, symbol, or other identifying particular assigned to the individual, such as a finger or voice print or a photograph;
(5) the term “system of records” means a group of any records under the control of any agency from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifying number, symbol, or other identifying particular assigned to the individual;

"(2) For purposes of this subsection, the term 'matching program'

has the same meaning provided in section 552a(a)(8) of title 5,

United States Code."
(A) means any computerized comparison of—

(9) the term “recipient agency” means any agency, or contractor thereof, receiving records contained in a system of records from a source agency for use in a matching program;
(10) the term “non-Federal agency” means any State or local government, or agency thereof, which receives records contained in a system of records from a source agency for use in a matching program;
(e) Agency Requirements.— Each agency that maintains a system of rec ords shall—
(1) maintain in its records only such information about an individual as is relevant and necessary to accomplish a purpose of the agency required to be accomplished by statute or by executive order of the President;
(2) collect information to the greatest extent practicable directly from the subject individual when the information may result in adverse determinations about an individual’s rights, benefits, and privileges under Federal programs;
(3) inform each individual whom it asks to supply information, on the form which it uses to collect the information or on a separate form that can be retained by the individual—
(A) the authority (whether granted by statute, or by executive order of the President) which authorizes the solicitation of the information and whether disclosure of such information is mandatory or voluntary;
(B) the principal purpose or purposes for which the information is intended to be used;
(C) the routine uses which may be made of the information, as published pursuant to paragraph (4)(D) of this subsection; and
(D) the effects on him, if any, of not providing all or any part of the requested information;
(u) Data Integrity Boards.—
(1) Every agency conducting or participating in a matching program shall establish a Data Integrity Board to oversee and coordinate among the various components of such agency the agency’s implementation of this section.
(2) Each Data Integrity Board shall consist of senior officials designated by the head of the agency, and shall include any senior official designated by the head of the agency as responsible for implementation of this section, and the inspector general of the agency, if any. The inspector general shall not serve as chairman of the Data Integrity Board.
(3) Each Data Integrity Board—
(A) shall review, approve, and maintain all written agreements for receipt or disclosure of agency records for matching programs to ensure compliance with subsection (o), and all relevant statutes, regulations, and guidelines;...

(D) shall compile an annual report, which shall be submitted to the head of the agency and the Office of Management and Budget and made available to the public on request, describing the matching activities of the agency, including—
(i) matching programs in which the agency has participated as a source agency or recipient agency;
(ii) matching agreements proposed under subsection (o) that were disapproved by the Board;
(iii) any changes in membership or structure of the Board in the preceding year;
(iv) the reasons for any waiver of the requirement in paragraph (4) of this section for completion and submission of a cost-benefit analysis prior to the approval of a matching program;
(v) any violations of matching agreements that have been alleged or identified and any corrective action taken;

DOJ had a Data Integrity Board years ago and there are some articles about it but somehow DOJ decided to opt out. This is one of the issues in my CDC appeal 10-5149

There is an on-line DOJ powerpoint show on the FOIA that says that the FOIA provides records not information. However, this is different because the agency is required to report information i.e. " any violations of matching agreements that have been alleged or identified and any corrective action taken"

kay sieverding


§ 552. Public information; agency rules, opinions, orders, records, and proceedings

Except to the extent that a person has actual and timely notice of the terms thereof, a person may not in any manner be required to resort to, or be adversely affected by, a matter required to be published in the Federal Register and not so published.

Assistant Village Idiot

So, Lewy uses the word "massacres" in his book title, but is excoriated because he won't go so far as "proven genocide?" In my limited knowledge I believe the Armenian massacres were genocidal, but this objection still seems a bit much. I thought I caught a whiff of some resentment against Jews, and so researched Mr. Boyajian a bit. Though he certainly goes after anyone denying the Armenian genocide, he does seem to have a particular resentment against Jews on the issue.

Assistant Village Idiot

Oh, and Francis is spam


Michael: Although the ADL’s statement is designed to give the appearance of recognizing the Armenian Genocide, it has been carefully constructed to actually contravene the international legal definition of genocide.

The phrasing circumvents the "intent" required by the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention by suggesting that Armenians died simply as a "consequence" of World War I conditions and not from a planned program of extermination - which just happens to be Turkey's position. And why call it “tantamount” to genocide, and not “genocide?”

The ADL has been playing a double game, issuing a disingenuous statement while simultaneously advancing the Turkish government's agenda by publically and repeatedly opposing a Congressional resolution formally affirming the Armenian Genocide.

And to Assistant Village Idiot: It is important not to conflate “Jews” with national Jewish organizations like the ADL, AJC, B’nai B’rith, AIPAC, etc. that for years lobbied for the Turkish government against U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Many Armenians and Jews, even some within these organizations, resent and are appalled by the unprincipled actions of these groups. The ADL’s fundraising within the Jewish community fell when it became known that they were actively working against acknowledgement of another people’s genocide. Ultimately, a number of Boston-area Jews and Armenians, including several rabbis, formed a coalition in response. See: www.recognizearmeniangenocide.org.

Finally to Mike Doyle: The line that “Prof. Lewy has written numerous books and articles about the history of persecuted peoples” is completely misleading. One might erroneously assume that Lewy actually supports these persecuted people. Rather, Lewy has consistently diminished the crimes perpetrated against them, arguing that the Nazis did not commit genocide against the Gypsies, genocide was not committed against Native Americans, U.S. actions in Vietnam were not overly brutal, and, of course, there was no Armenian Genocide. With the latter assertion, Lewy sets himself against the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the world’s foremost experts on genocide, which voted unanimously in 1997 that the massacres committed against the Armenian people were, indeed, genocide.

David Boyajian

Dear Michael:

You seem to have a habit of ignoring facts. Recall that a few years ago you were writing that the US has never acknowledged the Armenian genocide - despite the clear record that it has. I provided you with that record. You took a long time to grudgingly report the facts.

The US has 5 times acknowledged the Armenian genocide. The US even had a World Court filing in 1951 that acknowledged the Armenian genocide.

Michael, to the best of my knowledge you never reported the ADL/Armenian genocide denial issue even though it was clearly part of your Armenian "beat." Why? I believe it is because you were concerned about breaking the long-standing American media taboo on criticizing and exposing groups such as the ADL, AJC etc.

As far as the ADL, it has never forthrightly acknowledged the Armenian genocide, as correctly stated by another reader above.

The ADL statement of August 2007 that you cite is not an acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide at all. The ADL statement clearly contravenes Article II of the UN Genocide treaty of 1948. For a full explanation, see this statement below from the official site, www.NoPlaceForDenial.com:

'First, the ADL’s statement of August 21, 2007 employed language actually designed to contravene the legal definition of genocide as encoded in Article II of the United Nations Genocide Convention of 1948. This international agreement defines genocide as acting “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

"Intent is the key defining term in determining whether genocide has been committed. In its August 21 statement, the ADL announced, “We have never negated but have always described the painful events of 1915-1918 perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians as massacres and atrocities...the consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide.”"

You see, Michael, consequences is the opposite of intent. The latter is required for a genocide to be genocide.

The other reason, Michael, we know that the ADL did not acknowledge the genocide is that cities and towns in Massachusetts continued to sever ties with the ADL even long after the ADL issued the August 2007 statement you cited. These municipalities saw right through the ADL's verbalistic gymnastics.

Even the Massachusetts Municipal Association, which represents every city and town in the state, severed ties with the ADL *after* the ADL statement you cited.

All of this is well-known to people who covered the ADL/Armenian issue and is all documented on www.NoPlaceForDenial.com.

Too bad you ignore so many facs, Michael. I guess fear of certain journalistic taboos will do that to someone. It's sad.


Guenter Lewy has been compared to Holocaust denier David Irving. Now who do you think is behind Mike Doyle's trying to legitimize Lewy -- and his case -- in the eyes of the public ?

John Smith

SPLC is a defamation operation. Plain and simple. Yellow journalism to drum up sales (contributions) aided and abetted by mass mailings. ITs a fraud. A multimillion dollar budget and they file two or three suits a year. The IRS should revoke their charter.

John Smith

One or two more points.

The Turks are brutal and tough, and they will not be pushed around by a bunch of SPLC types. The SPLC has bit off a nasty bit of trouble here and I hope it goes down hard. For the record, does it really matter whether you call it a genocide or not? Or how many hundreds of thousands died? We all know the Turks went after the Armenians. Anyhow, its an interesting nexus of ethnic-lobbying interests, the SPLC usually being on the side of Jewish interest, yet, often times the Jewish groups want to downplay the Armenian holocaust for fear of losing their monopoly on the Shoah concept. Interesting story thanks.

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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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