The Day the Lights Went Out in Georgia: The Courageous Life and Political Death of Cynthia McKinney
October 11, 2002

Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. A post-election analysis now indicates that McKinney's defeat came after tens of thousands of Republicans "crossed over" to vote for her Democratic opponent. McKinney is considering registering as a member of the Green Party or as an Independent. Her future plans may involve a run for the US Senate. Credit:
Cynthia Ann McKinney may have been the first domestic political victim of George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism.” The outspoken five-term Democratic Congresswoman from Georgia became the largest thorn in George Bush’s notoriously thin hide when she publicly began accusing the White House of a cover-up in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Although she was savaged by the right-wing media and spurned by many members of her own party, she was vindicated within a matter of weeks when investigators discovered reams of documentation showing that Bush & Co. had been repeatedly briefed about Al Qaeda attack plans — including plans to fly hijacked planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

In a just world, Rep. McKinney would have been selected to replace the discredited George Tenet as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Instead, Cynthia McKinney is going to be looking for a job.

McKinney will be leaving her post as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, as a key player on the International Relations Committee, and as Ranking Member on the House International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee.

Ironically, McKinney’s fate was sealed not by White House Republicans but by members of her own party, who encouraged a mid-term primary challenge by a well-funded Democrat named Denise Majette.

Former LA Police Department investigator and CIA critic Michael Ruppert ( has hailed McKinney as “a symbol of integrity, courage, strength and vision.” Ruppert calls Majette “someone who could care less about answering the important questions about 9/11, challenging globalization or questioning US military operations that benefit only the nation’s wealthiest interests.”

The Baltimore Sun was one of many newspapers that attacked McKinney as “sharp-tongued” — a “loose cannon” and a “flamethrower” (odd words to use against an avowed “peacenik”) whose anti-Bush rhetoric marked her as belonging to the “far extremes of American politics.” The Sun hailed McKinney’s defeat as “another sign of the new political style” signaling George W. Bush’s bellicose ascendancy.

What the Baltimore Sun didn’t report, however, was the role of the Israeli Lobby in McKinney’s defeat. Writing in the Baltimore Iconoclast, an alternative weekly, William Hughes observed: “The Israeli lobby’s interference in [McKinney’s] local congressional election is the real ‘sign of the new political style’ and that spells trouble for participatory democracy.”

McKinney’s father, retired Georgia State Representative Billy McKinney, complained that his daughter had been targeted for removal because of her expressions of support for the rights of the Palestinian people and for drawing attention to Israel’s failure to abide by numerous UN Security Council Resolutions for resolving the dispute over the Occupied Territories.

Majette’s campaign outspent McKinney’s by $500,000 — an unprecedented amount of money for a primary race. The Washington Times confirmed Billy McKinney’s accusation when it reported on August 22 that “Jewish money both national and local flowed into the campaign” of McKinney’s rival.

One of McKinney’s major supporters, Joshua Ruebner, the executive director of Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel, echoed this concern over the political clout of the Israeli Lobby. “This is a dangerous dynamic,” Ruebner told the Washington Times. He feared that this “undue meddling... is doing irreparable harm to relations with African-Americans.”

Even in her concession speech, McKinney refused to tone down her passion. “Somewhere tonight,” she thundered, “men in powerful positions are taking the first steps toward sending our country into war. Somewhere tonight, powerful interests are working to silence those that are a threat to their power. Every day in Congress, I kept those images in mind. Images of real people with real problems. And real abuses of real power. Today, even in defeat, I have been lifted. Lifted upon the shoulders of the people of Georgia.”

During her nine years in Congress, Cynthia McKinney did more that earn a reputation for fearlessness. She was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Progressive Caucus and was the first freshman representative to head the Women’s Caucus Task Force on Children, Youth and Families. For the past five years, McKinney was the House sponsor of the Arms Transfers Code of Conduct, which was designed to halt the sales of US weapons to dictatorial regimes. McKinney was also a leading advocate for developing stronger economic and diplomatic ties with African nations.

In addition to her work in Congress, McKinney is also completing her dissertation in international relations at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Fortunately, this country has not heard the last from Cynthia Ann McKinney. There already is talk of a run for a Senate seat from Georgia. Congresswoman McKinney’s website is

When a jury in Oakland, California determined that the FBI had violated the rights of two environmental activists who were targets of a political assassination, the story was largely ignored by mainstream America. Rep. Cynthia McKinney was one of the few members of Congress who took notice. Here is her statement.

Darryl Cherny, a survivor of US-style police-state repression. Credit:
The Judi Bari bombing — Lessons for Today
by the Hon. Cynthia McKinney

On Tuesday, June 11, 2002, a California jury returned a verdict in the court case of two environmental activists who had sued FBI and Oakland Police Department officers. In 1990, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, Earth First! members who had fought the cutting of old growth redwood trees, were severely injured when a bomb detonated in their car.

Rather than seeking the perpetrators of the bombing, possibly the authors of death threats to Bari, the FBI and Oakland Police Department blamed the bomb on the victims themselves. Bari and Cherney were subsequently accused, investigated, had their homes searched and were arrested. After their release for lack of evidence, Bari and Cherney filed suit against the OPD and FBI officers, claiming violations of their civil rights.

After 11 years, the jury determined that 6 law enforcement officers, 3 each from OPD and FBI, violated their civil rights, and awarded Bari's estate (Bari died of breast cancer in 1997) $2.9 million, and Darryl Cherney $1.5 million.

While this case reminds our law enforcement agencies that they are not above the law, this case has historical and political significance that should give us pause. An essential component of the case against the FBI and OPD was their pre-bombing covert surveillance of Bari and Cherney.

Further, the refusal to investigate other suspects and the speed with which Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were accused implied that the FBI and OPD sought to smear them and the environmental community as violent criminals. This effort to discredit and disrupt the environmental organizing of Bari and Cherney is eerily reminiscent of the FBI's covert COINTELPRO.

Unchecked in their power, the FBI spied on citizens' organizations and acted to discredit their leaders, disrupt their activities, and encourage illegal forays among civil rights, anti-war, Native American, and religious and ethnic groups in the United States.

Notable leaders like Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. were tarnished in the media, threatened with physical harm to themselves and their families, had their offices searched and ransacked, and were generally harassed by the very agencies chartered to protect the rights of Americans - the FBI and the CIA.

Only after the death of autocratic FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and the ensuing congressional investigations initiated by Senator Frank Church were the activities of the FBI curtailed and safeguards established to prevent political aggression against American citizens.

Unfortunately, yesterday's ruling proves that these nefarious activities of the FBI may never have stopped. Instead, the environmental movement was added to the list of “subversive” organizations, and too was subjected to FBI espionage and disruption. In the process, someone got away with viciously bombing Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney.

Despite the fact that the FBI and the Oakland Police Department officers who violated Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney's constitutional rights have now been brought to justice, the FBI is returning to their old ways with renewed vigor.

Following the revelations that the FBI and the CIA had knowledge of terrorists and terrorist organizations within our nation prior to the September 11th attacks, the response of the Justice Department was to give the FBI wider latitude to investigate and survey potential terrorists and political activity. While in the current environment these new regulations may appear useful to some, we must look into the future to consider the potential for abuse, and into the past to understand the abuses committed by the same agency we are again giving free reign with no accountability.

Though the court decision is commendable and undoubtedly a source of long-awaited joy for Cherney, Bari's family and the environmental community that has supported them, I fear that their victory, and the knowledge of governmental abuse it uncovered, will be lost in the rush to hand power to the FBI and CIA in the name of terrorism preparedness.

That rush ignores the past, and ensures that the FBI will commit the same invasive abuses again. Instead, the constitutional abuses at the foundation of Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney's court case should serve as the backdrop to the ongoing debate on terrorism. If our rights are open to abuse by the government in the name of terrorism prevention, what sort of nation will we have protected?

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