Three Ways To Reform Our Out-of-Control Legal System

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on August 7, 2013

Shocking abuses are occurring throughout the nation's legal system, according to authoritative recent national news reports.

To probe deeper, I joined New Orleans radio station personality Garland Robinette, right, and Louisiana civil rights lawyer Sam Dalton Aug. 6 for an hour-long discussion on WWL AM/FM's late-morning Think Tank show. The column below summarizes these news reports and provides my three-step action guide for reform.

Robinette and his station -- a high-rated broadcaster and with a reach of five states -- have set an outstanding example for aggressive news coverage on law enforcement issues. In that spirit, we addressed the specifics in these recent scandals:

One is a Reuters report that the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has been covering up a secret surveillance program whereby agents and prosecutors would falsify evidence of secret surveillance, thereby deceiving federal judges and defendants. That is momentous. If anyone lies to a federal law enforcement official, much less to a judge, the result in an honest system could bring a felony charge carrying a five-year penalty for each falsehood. It should be big news if the government itself has a secret plan to lie to judges about the potential scope of illegal surveillance. Aside from being wrong, it prevents an effective defense.

The closest thing I've seen so far to a major follow up is, strangely enough, that President Obama appeared Aug. 6 on NBC's Tonight Show.

Among other comments, the relaxed-looking president contradicted reports from recent years that the National Security Agency undertakes massive surveillance of Americans with few warrants aside from those granted en masse by the secret federal surveillance court using non-public law and evidence.

In a softball interview by NBC comedian-host Jay Leno, the president denied the compelling evidence elsewhere that NSA can monitor the content of Americans' emails, phone calls, and social media communications.

As I describe in my new book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters, the president and other government spokespeople are playing word games to deny evidence provided by a number of courageous whistleblowers, including former NSA employee Edward Snowden. The evidence also is summarized in my recent column here, Former NSA Execs Warn Americans Against Loss of Political and Privacy Rights.

In a separate scandal we discussed on WWL, USA Today reported that the FBI granted permission for its informants to commit 5,600 crimes in a single year. That is a troublesome practice, especially in view of the murder conspiracy trial unfolding now in Boston's federal court regarding former FBI informant James "Whitey" Bulger, who is accused of 19 murders.

More than two decades ago, I was law clerk to the Boston federal judge, Mark Wolf, right, who later broke open the case by investigating his suspicions of wrongdoing by awarded the FBI and federal prosecutors. The judge's initiative resulted in murder charges against two successive heads of FBI's Boston office for tolerating crimes by Bulger and his gang. In my view, a certain amount of tolerance for "authorized" crimes is reasonable in order to build cases against bigger criminals. The issue is whether overall process is being rigorously overseen to prevent abuses. 

Finally, Huffington Post headlined The Untouchables: America's Misbehaving Prosecutors, And The System That Protects Them. Columnist Radley Balko showed gross misconduct nationwide. In one case, John Thompson of New Orleans spent 18 years in prison on a murder charge even though prosecutors withheld evidence that could have acquitted him from a robbery charge critical to the conviction.

Excerpts below provide details of those cases. Each illustrates patterns that we have extensively documented here at the Justice Integrity Project during recent years.

The most productive thing at this point, therefore, is for me to suggest three ways for a concerned individual to try to reform the powerful federal-state-local bureaucracies that control the legal system:

First, we each of us should recognize that problems are so serious as to require our personal commitment to reform. This is not comfortable or otherwise easy. It is easy enough to click a "Like" or "ReTweet" button on an investigative report. That is well worth doing. However, authorities can easily withstand that kind of bad publicity, or even sporadic articles by a major paper as USA Today. Authorities at all levels maintain powerful group loyalties and a code of silence to prevent real accountability. Also, they have an array of seemingly viable complaint procedures such as the Justice Department's Office of Professional Reasonability that sap the energies of critics -- but seldom deliver results.

That leads to my second recommendation: to recognize the high-stakes of these problems and take the career and otherwise personal risk of expanding public understanding of these problems. The problems affect not just "victims" but everyone. Without a predictable and fair legal system, everything we do or hope to do is at risk whether in careers, savings, health or other personal issues, not just criminal problems.

Garland Robinette and his WWL colleagues such as Tommy Tucker have undertaken courageous and insightful outreach on these topics for years, in part because their beautiful, joyous city has been unduly wracked by storms, crime, and other corruption -- including overzealous law enforcers. Their work is an inspiration for others outside of the region. WWL is a 50,000-watt general interest talk radio programming on a major station that could easily focus on more benign topics than reports that undoubtedly perturb the power structure at times. Most news outlets around the nation steer clear of these topics. Even the famous Washington Post does not live up to its Watergate image in practice -- as I observe on a routine basis and as Esquire noted in a column Aug. 7, An Open Letter To Jeff Bezos and Gene Weingarten.

A critic of the legal system can easily violate the social graces by raising concerns even about documented abuses. I attend many alumni and professional gatherings in the nation's capital and elsewhere as a graduate of two law schools and as a member of the country's two leading press clubs, the National Press Club and the Overseas Press Club. In my experience, busy professionals typically express only mild interest in hearing about systematic abuses of the kind raised in this column and its appendices. Most people tune out such stories of abuses as incredible, atypical, or not otherwise relevant to their careers or other agendas.

Even when a professional works in watchdog position, as in the case of a Congressional staffer or a Justice Department lawyer, horror stories about law enforcement may be received more as a personal affront or career threat than as an opportunity for reform. To be sure, many dedicated and effective reformers exist in such posts -- but not quite so many as the aggrieved might expect.

Better to let the good times roll, sometimes literally, as in the case of those of us who have enjoyed the music of Harry Connick, Sr., left, New Orleans District Attorney from 1973 to 2003. He is father of the noted jazz-pop singer of the same name, and has been a featured performer on the New Orleans jazz scene during his off hours. For years, I would try to catch one of his twice-a-week performances in the French Quarter on any trip I took to the city. It was great fun to see such a high-stature law enforcement official croon in an engaging manner with a heavily local audience at Maxwell's, a low-key cabaret on Toulouse Street. Aside from the entertaining music, Connick seemed like a nice guy who balanced work responsibilities in an impressive fashion with his private passion for music.

Deeper inquiries, however, have revealed many scandals in New Orleans law enforcement under Connick's supervision and that of his federal counterparts. John Thompson, the murder defendant noted above, won a $14 million jury award because of his ordeal inflicted by Connick's staffers. In 2011, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 along party and ideological lines to void the award in Connick v. Thompson, thereby absolving the prosecutor's office. Yet many other controversies have arisen. Longtime New Orleans U.S. Attorney Jim Letten resigned last fall following revelations that at least two of his senior prosecutors were trying to shape public opinion on cases by writing anonymous "sockpuppet reader comments on the NOLO.com website of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. 

My final recommendation is to become active in your community, career, and advocacy groups. Decision-makers in Congress, in most major media, and elsewhere do not listen to individuals for the most part, despite their rhetoric welcoming input. Courts and lawyers are too expensive and unpredictable for most individuals.Therefore, we must work through organizations.

What to do after joining an organization would require a column or even a book in itself. I try to boil it down this way in a 50-second video that illustrates the dangers we face as a nation and the slogan KEY: Knowledge Empowers You.

Over coming weeks, I shall recommend on this site more specific practical steps for reformers. The goal should be to volunteer in good faith to learn if the organization's goals align with a more just society. If so, as likely, volunteer efforts to focus policy, events, and communications committees on relevant issues are usually very welcome.

The stakes are extremely high. We need reform not for the sake of "victims" but to preserve the eroding rule of law that helped enable the nation our ancestors left to us.

Bruce Fein, a conservative lawyer from the Nixon and Reagan Justice Department, has been eloquently describing for several years, as in the long lecture here, American Empire, why Bush and Obama transgressions against the Constitution to build an empire and reduce American freedoms are far worse for Americans than Nixon's impeachable acts. Former State Department analyst and author Peter Van Buren, another friend of mine, just published a similar cry from the heart, Welcome to Post-Constitution America.

I plan to go on the road to engage in similar dialogues as soon as the hardcover edition of Puppetry comes out. The first projected stop is in Huntsville, Alabama on Aug. 22.

My focus there will be the inside story of the federal prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, right, who is imprisoned in Louisiana after being framed by federal authorities on corruption charges. Siegelman asked a businessman in 1999 to donate to the non-profit Alabama Education Association in an incident that authorities used to destroy his career, family finances, and much of the statewide viability of the Alabama Democratic Party. For the first time in public, I shall describe the hidden motives behind the prosecution, the parallels nationwide that resulted in Puppetry' research, and a recommended course of action.

I would be thrilled and honored to air these themes and revelations elsewhere either in person or by long-distance interviews or other formats. Please contact me to discuss if interested via Andrew [at] gmail.com.

But, in reality, of us are really needed in your community on these issues. You are.

 

Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment
 
 

 

Related News Coverage

Breakdown of Due Process In the United States

Reuters via Huffington Post, DEA Special Operations Division Covers Up Surveillance Used To Investigate Americans: Report, John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke, Aug. 5, 2013. A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans. Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin -- not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges. The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence -- information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses. "I have never heard of anything like this at all," said Nancy Gertner, right, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers. "It is one thing to create special rules for national security," Gertner said. "Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations." The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred.

Today, much of the SOD's work is classified, and officials asked that its precise location in Virginia not be revealed. The documents reviewed by Reuters are marked "Law Enforcement Sensitive," a government categorization that is meant to keep them confidential. "Remember that the utilization of SOD cannot be revealed or discussed in any investigative function," a document presented to agents reads. The document specifically directs agents to omit the SOD's involvement from investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and courtroom testimony. Agents are instructed to then use "normal investigative techniques to recreate the information provided by SOD." A spokesman with the Department of Justice, which oversees the DEA, declined to comment. But two senior DEA officials defended the program, and said trying to "recreate" an investigative trail is not only legal but a technique that is used almost daily.

USA TODAY, Exclusive: FBI allowed informants to commit 5,600 crimes, Brad Heath, Aug. 4, 2013. The FBI gave its informants permission to break the law at least 5,658 times in a single year, according to newly disclosed Whitey Bulgerdocuments that show just how often the nation's top law enforcement agency enlists criminals to help it battle crime. The U.S. Justice Department ordered the FBI to begin tracking crimes by its informants more than a decade ago, after the agency admitted that its agents had allowed Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger, left, to operate a brutal crime ring in exchange for information about the Mafia. The FBI submits that tally to top Justice Department officials each year, but has never before made it public. Agents authorized 15 crimes a day, on average, including everything from buying and selling illegal drugs to bribing government officials and plotting robberies. FBI officials have said in the past that permitting their informants — who are often criminals themselves — to break the law is an indispensable, if sometimes distasteful, part of investigating criminal organizations. "It sounds like a lot, but you have to keep it in context," said Shawn Henry, who supervised criminal investigations for the FBI until he retired last year. "This is not done in a vacuum. It's not done randomly. It's not taken lightly." USA TODAY obtained a copy of the FBI's 2011 report under the Freedom of Information Act. The report does not spell out what types of crimes its agents authorized, or how serious they were. It also did not include any information about crimes the bureau's sources were known to have committed without the government's permission.

Huffington Post, The Untouchables: America's Misbehaving Prosecutors, And The System That Protects Them, Radley Balko, Aug. 1, 2013. The last year or so, a number of high-profile stories have fostered discussion and analysis of prosecutorial power, discretion and accountability: the prosecution and subsequent suicide of Internet activist Aaron Swartz; the Obama administration's unprecedented prosecution of whistleblowers; the related Department of Justice investigations into the sources of leaks that have raised First Amendment concerns; and aggressive prosecutions that look politically motivated, such as the pursuit of medical marijuana offenders in states where the drug has been legalized for that purpose. In May, an 82-year-old nun and two other peace activists were convicted of "sabotage" and other "crimes of violence" for breaking into a nuclear weapons plant to unfurl banners, spray paint and sing hymns. Even many on the political right, traditionally a source of law-and-order-minded support for prosecutors, have raised concerns about "over-criminalization" and the corresponding power the trend has given prosecutors.

The Think Tank with Garland Robinette, left, Prosecutors entrapping defendants, Guests: Andrew Kreig and Sam Dalton, Aug. 6, 2013. News reports say the federal government is training drug enforcement agents to conceal information that would help defense attorneys defend their clients…information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses. Do you see Big Brother?

The Think Tank with Garland Robinette, Concealed Information, Guest: Brad Heath of USA Today, Aug. 7, 2013. Garland talks to Brad Heath (Investigative reporter for USA Today) about news reports saying the federal government is training drug enforcement agents to conceal information that would help defense attorneys defend their clients.

Litchfield County Register-Citizen, Cool Justice: Cop got $5K payout to resign; his alleged rape victim got criticized, Andy Thibault, Aug. 19, 2013. Connecticut's newest federal judge, Michael Shea, got off to a bad start. Shea ran smack into a huge pile of "deliberate indifference" and "inadequate supervision" and blew it off.

Ben SwannTV, Politicians Given “Invisible” License Plates That Make Them Immune To Traffic Laws, Ben Swann, Aug. 7, 2013. Although politicians are “public servants,” they often think they are above the law. And in Colorado, they actually are above the law. Colorado lawmakers do not have to follow traffic laws, as they are exempt from speeding and parking tickets. The legislators are issued special license plates that are “invisible” to both traffic cams and traffic tickets. Their specially-issued plates do not show up in the DMV database. As reported by CBS Denver, “The plates issued to the 100 state lawmakers and representatives elected to serve Colorado are preventing them not only from receiving photo radar tickets but also collection notices from past due parking tickets. The legislative plates are not entered into the Colorado DMV database, so when photo radar cameras catch these drivers speeding, they never received tickets. That’s because of a loophole that doesn’t allow the City of Denver to electronically cross-reference those plates with a home address.”

New Orleans Background

Jim Letten

WWL-AM/FM, (New Orleans), Letten resigns, Jay Vise, Dec. 6, 2012. Jim Letten, right, today announced his resignation as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Letten stepped down as the investigation of misconduct by two of his two top prosecutors continues. Andrew Kreig Editor's Note: WWL host Tommy Tucker invited this editor to return to the show to comment on the resignation.

Agonist, We are the enemy Manning and Snowden aided, Michael Collins, left, July 31, 2013. What do Manning and Snowden have in common? I asked that question and came up nothing at first. Manning gave specific information on the content of U.S. intelligence. Edward Snowden exposed the structure and targets of a massive spying operation without exposing specific content. However, there is a common element to both cases – aiding the enemy. And, who are the enemies? The enemies are we the people, the citizens of the United States. Since our allies are partners in the NSA spying programs, the fact we spied on them should have been no big surprise. The citizens of the United States, however, were not aware of the vast array of information collected concerning their communication patterns. Snowden, like Manning, had a main target for their whistleblowing — the citizens of the United States.

President Denies Surveillance on Americans

Politico, Obama defends NSA surveillance, Edward-Isaac Doverre, Aug. 6, 2013. Obama chats with Leno -- and middle America.  Pressed by Jay Leno about the surveillance operations revealed by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, President Barack Obama expressed frustration that the programs had gone public, but said he has every confidence that they are being used properly. “We don’t have a domestic spying program. What we do have is some mechanisms that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack,” Obama told Leno on Tuesday night.

The Hill, Obama tells Leno: ‘We don’t have a domestic spying program,’ Jonathan Easley, Aug. 6, 2013. President Obama on Tuesday defended the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs in a wide-ranging interview on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," arguing that the agency doesn’t target U.S. civilians. “We don’t have a domestic spying program,” Obama said, according to the media pool report. “What we do have is some mechanisms that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack. ... That information is useful.”

FireDogLake, Obama Lies to Jay Leno: ‘We Don’t Have A Domestic Spying Program,’  DSWright, Aug. 7, 2013. The American people seem to be the government’s enemy as President Barack Obama decided to double down on dishonesty when responding to questions from Tonight Show host Jay Leno (Aug. 6 in a video above). When asked about the revelations brought to light by whistleblower Edward Snowden the president amazingly claimed there was no domestic spying program. He claimed instead, after blaming Bush for setting the programs up, that information could only be tracked “that is connected to a terrorist attack.” President Obama on Tuesday defended the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs in a wide-ranging interview on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” arguing that the agency doesn’t target U.S. civilians. “We don’t have a domestic spying program,” Obama said, according to the media pool report. “What we do have is some mechanisms that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack…That information is useful.”

As we all know that is in no way accurate. The mechanisms exist completely independent of a terrorist attack and may be accessed for a variety of reasons. Obama is putting out disinformation. Obama called the surveillance programs “a critical component to counterterrorism,” but acknowledged that they’ve “raised a lot of questions for people.” Then Obama went on to falsely claim that the whistleblowing system works and Snowden should have used that if he had concerns about those non-existent domestic spying programs. All of this comes from a president going to war on whistle-blowers. The performance, if anything, demonstrates that the government cannot be trusted to be honest about civil liberties violations. It’s no surprise that President Obama chose a late night comedy show throwing softball questions to address his gross violations of the Constitution. If you were hoping for change from the George W. Bush you didn’t get it. Sun Tzu once said all warfare is deception in which case the American people seem to be the government’s enemy as President Barack Obama decided to double down on dishonesty when responding to questions from Tonight Show host Jay Leno. When asked about the revelations brought to light by whistleblower Edward Snowden the president amazingly claimed there was no domestic spying program. He claimed instead, after blaming Bush for setting the programs up, that information could only be tracked “that is connected to a terrorist attack.”

Tom Dispatch, Welcome to Post-Constitution America, Peter Van Buren, right, July 30, 2013. What If Your Country Begins to Change and No One Notices? On July 30, 1778, the Continental Congress created the first whistleblower protection law, stating “that it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds, or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states.” Two hundred thirty-five years later, on July 30, 2013, Bradley Manning was found guilty on 20 of the 22 charges for which he was prosecuted, specifically for “espionage” and for videos of war atrocities he released, but not for “aiding the enemy.” Days after the verdict, with sentencing hearings in which Manning could receive 136 years of prison time ongoing, the pundits have had their say. The problem is that they missed the most chilling aspect of the Manning case: the way it ushered us, almost unnoticed, into post-Constitutional America. Even before the Manning trial began, the emerging look of that new America was coming into view.  In recent years, weapons, tactics, and techniques developed in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in the war on terror have begun arriving in “the homeland.” Consider, for instance, the rise of the warrior cop, of increasingly up-armored police departments across the country often filled with former military personnel encouraged to use the sort of rough tactics they once wielded in combat zones. Supporting them are the kinds of weaponry that once would have been inconceivable in police departments, including armored vehicles, typically bought with Department of Homeland Security grants.

Rutherford Institute via YouTube, Bruce Fein: The American Empire: Before the Fall, You Tube (1 hour, 53 minutes), June 4, 2012. Bruce Fein, the former associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, speaks on "The American Empire, Before the Fall" as part of the Rutherford Institute's Summer Speaker Series. The Institute's Summer Speaker Series engages leaders from a cross-section of cultural, philosophical and legal backgrounds in stimulating discussions with law students, lawyers, civil liberties activists and community members. This year's lineup of speakers will address issues ranging from civil liberties post-9/11 and criminal justice reform to the dissolution of the print media, religious freedom in America, TSA scanners and threats to the Fourth Amendment, and what Americans can do to guard against attacks on the Constitution.

Huffington Post, Obama Cancels Vladimir Putin Meeting In Moscow After Edward Snowden Granted Asylum, Julie Pace, Aug. 7, 2013. In a rare diplomatic rebuke, President Barack Obama on Wednesday canceled his Moscow summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The decision reflected both U.S. anger over Russia's harboring of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and growing frustration within the Obama administration over what it sees as Moscow's stubbornness on other key issues, including missile defense and human rights. Obama will still attend the Group of 20 economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, but a top White House official said the president has no plans to hold one-on-one talks with Putin while there. Instead of visiting Putin in Moscow, the president will add a stop in Sweden to his early-September travel itinerary.

Washington Post, Obama isn’t as ‘lawless’ as the GOP alleges, Ruth Marcus, Aug. 20, 2013. Let us examine the conservative indictment of Obama by dividing it into three counts: abusing prosecutorial discretion, regulatory flexibility and constitutional power. The most recent example of the Obama administration’s use of prosecutorial discretion involves Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement that the Justice Department would avoid triggering mandatory minimum sentences in low-level drug cases. An even more controversial moment came when the Department of Homeland Security announced that, given limited resources, it would use prosecutorial discretion to delay deportation proceedings for certain illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Scope of NSA Spying

Justice Integrity Project, Former NSA Execs Warn Americans Against Loss of Political and Privacy Rights, Andrew Kreig, July 25, 2013. The NSA operates largely without accountability to other government branches or the public, according several former high-ranking NSA executives speaking July 25 at a forum at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. They said the NSA tries to collect as much phone, email, and social media data as possible from the world's population, including U.S. citizens, for storage and potential retrieval later. The process represents a massive loss of political freedom and privacy that Americans have enjoyed through history until recent years, according to panelists convened by the Government Accountability Project (GAP). GAP Executive Director Bea Edwards opened the forum by describing the pivotal role of whistleblowers to help the public understand when authorities overstep legal bounds.

Leaks

Huffington Post, Senators Trying To 'Narrow' Definition Of Journalist In Media Shield Law, Jack Mirkinson, Aug. 2, 2013. In the wake of the many different scandals surrounding the government's surveillance of journalists, senators are attempting to craft a new federal shield law that would ramp up some of the protections for reporters. But, as McClatchy reported on Thursday night, the politicians have hit a bit of a snag: they can't agree on who is a journalist and who isn't. McClatchy sat in on a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where senators argued about who, exactly, they were trying to help: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Feinstein suggested that the definition comprise only journalists who make salaries, saying it should be applied just to "real reporters." The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was against that idea, since there are bloggers and others in the Internet age who don’t necessarily receive salaries.

FireDogLake, Washington Post Editorial Board: ‘WikiLeaks Differs From Journalism,'' Kevin Gosztola, Aug. 4, 2013. How so? The Washington Post editorial board has determined in an editorial on Manning’s conviction that WikiLeaks “differs from journalism in methods if not goals.” Harvard Professor Yochai Benkler was qualified by the defense in Manning’s trial to testify as an expert on WikiLeaks and its role in the networked Fourth Estate. His testimony should leave no doubt that WikiLeaks engages in journalism.

RT, Germany scraps old surveillance pact with US, Britain over NSA leaks, Staff report, Aug. 2, 2013. Germany has dissolved a fifty-years-old surveillance pact with the United States and Britain in response to a “debate about protecting personal privacy” in the country, which was sparked by revelations of the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The agreement that dated back to the late 1960s gave the US, Britain and France the right to request German authorities carry out surveillance operations so as to protect their troops stationed within the country. “The cancellation of the administrative agreements, which we have pushed for in recent weeks, is a necessary and proper consequence of the recent debate about protecting personal privacy,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement on Friday. At left, German demonstrators against surveillance don Edwart Snowden masks in support of his disclosures. Flickr Photo by Ubiquit23.

Prisons

Washington Post, In Afghanistan, a second Guantanamo, Kevin Sieff, Aug. 4, 2013. A shadowy detention facility at Bagram air base is proving difficult to close, complicating U.S. strategy for exiting Afghanistan. Of all the challenges the United States faces as it winds down the Afghanistan war, the most difficult might be closing the prison nicknamed “The Second Guantanamo.” The United States holds 67 non-Afghan prisoners there, including some described as hardened al-Qaeda operatives seized from around the world in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. More than a decade later, they’re still kept in the shadowy facility at Bagram air base outside Kabul.

Justice Integrity Project, New Book, Viral Video Focus on Police, Prosecution, Judicial Abuses, Andrew Kreig, Aug. 2, 2013. A new book on paramilitary police tactics underscores ongoing assaults on American civil liberties. So does a video about a sexual attack in a Nevada courthouse by a court marshal, who arrested the victim while the judge failed to intervene. Rise of the Warrior Cop is the title of a book published in July by Radley Balko a columnist for the Huffington Post. He amplified the book’s themes with two recent columns on “Police Militarization” and “America's Misbehaving Prosecutors.”  A graphic example of the arrogance that some law enforcers possess even in court is a video that went viral this spring after CBS-affiliate KLAS-TV in Las Vegas exposed the treatment of a young mother who was groped and arrested.

FireDogLake, Snowden as ‘Accused’ or ‘Alleged American Spy’ & Whether His Fears of Returning to US Are Justified, Kevin Gosztola, Aug. 8, 2013. Charles B. Pierce of Esquire has been regularly updating on the effect of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing on United States government surveillance programs. A recent update highlights NBC News’ Lester Holt describing Snowden as an “alleged American spy.” Pierce wrote, “That’s an order of magnitude beyond anything that has been said about Snowden even by the administration. A spy is working for someone. A spy has to be spying for someone. Unless you’re counting the American public, Snowden’s revelations didn’t indicate that he was spying for anyone. If that’s the shorthand through which the American mega-media is going to describe him, then the story has changed, and it has gone to a very dark place indeed. NBC should be rather nervous about what it did last night.” He also noted that the conversation had typically been whether Snowden is a leaker or a whistleblower and that referring to him as an “alleged American spy” took the rhetoric against him to a new level. But, Holt is not the first person in the US news media to refer to Snowden with this description. On August 2, during CNN’s “Around the World” program, Suzanne Malveaux said the following: "Well today we know that the accused American spy spent his first night — who actually put him up and what the Russian people think about their newest resident" (emphasis added)."

Huffington Post, Obama Cancels Vladimir Putin Meeting In Moscow After Edward Snowden Granted Asylum, Julie Pace, Aug. 7, 2013. In a rare diplomatic rebuke, President Barack Obama on Wednesday canceled his Moscow summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The decision reflected both U.S. anger over Russia's harboring of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and growing frustration within the Obama administration over what it sees as Moscow's stubbornness on other key issues, including missile defense and human rights. Obama will still attend the Group of 20 economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, but a top White House official said the president has no plans to hold one-on-one talks with Putin while there. Instead of visiting Putin in Moscow, the president will add a stop in Sweden to his early-September travel itinerary.

FireDogLake, Imprisoned CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou: Totality of Punishment Is Not Limited to a Prison Sentence, Kevin Gosztola, Aug. 7, 2013. Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, right, who has served five months of a thirty-month sentence in the federal correctional institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania, has written a fourth letter from the prison. Kiriakou was the first member of the CIA to publicly acknowledge that torture was official US policy under the George W. Bush administration. He was convicted in October of last year of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) when he provided the name of an officer involved in the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program to a reporter and sentenced in January of this year. He reported to prison on Feb. 28 (which was also the day that Pfc. Bradley Manning pled guilty to some offenses and read a statement in military court at Fort Meade). For the past few months, Firedoglake has been publishing Kiriakou’s “Letters from Loretto.” This latest letter being published focuses on a hard lesson Kiriakou has learned since entering prison, which most prisoners learn during their incarceration, “one’s prison sentence is not the totality of his punishment.” Kiriakou describes how his wife received a “sharply-worded letter” from the insurance company, USAA – the United States Assurance Association, which had been providing his family auto and homeowners insurance since 1993. USAA notified his family that they do not “insure felons” and were canceling their insurance immediately.” Editor's Note: Read more of the abusive treatment from a variety of sources.

BenSwannTV, Politicians Given “Invisible” License Plates That Make Them Immune To Traffic Laws, Ben Swann, Aug. 7, 2013. Although politicians are “public servants,” they often think they are above the law. And in Colorado, they actually are above the law. Colorado lawmakers do not have to follow traffic laws, as they are exempt from speeding and parking tickets. The legislators are issued special license plates that are “invisible” to both traffic cams and traffic tickets. Their specially-issued plates do not show up in the DMV database. As reported by CBS Denver, “The plates issued to the 100 state lawmakers and representatives elected to serve Colorado are preventing them not only from receiving photo radar tickets but also collection notices from past due parking tickets. The legislative plates are not entered into the Colorado DMV database, so when photo radar cameras catch these drivers speeding, they never received tickets. That’s because of a loophole that doesn’t allow the City of Denver to electronically cross-reference those plates with a home address.”

Courts

Huffington Post, Supreme Court Ethics Act Proposed In Response To Controversial Behavior By Justices Scalia, Thomas, Nick Wing, Aug. 1, 2013. A group of congressional Democrats introduced legislation Thursday that would apply stricter ethical standards to the Supreme Court, amid concerns that justices have been engaging in questionable behavior. The proposed Supreme Court Ethics Act of 2013 would subject the justices to the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, a set of standards that currently applies to all other federal judges. The controversy over Supreme Court ethics re-emerged late last month, when Mother Jones reported that Ginni Thomas -- a well-connected tea party consultant and wife of Justice Clarence Thomas -- held an integral role in Groundswell, a conservative coalition of journalists and activists that has been meeting privately to coordinate talking points and messaging on key political issues. Thomas is shown at far right along with Justice Antonin Scalia, another frequent target of conflict of interest claims. Currently, the Supreme Court's system for dealing with conflicts of interest, or appearances of conflicts, is to leave it to each justice's own best judgment. The bill introduced Thursday was by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)

Media

FireDogLake, Email Service Snowden Was Reportedly Using Shuts Down, Kevin Gosztola, Aug. 8, 2013. The owner of Lavabit, an email service believed to be better focused on privacy and security for users than Gmail, has decided to shut down the service. It is notable because this is the service that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on US government surveillance programs, was reportedly using. Owner and operator of Lavabit, Ladar Levison posted, “I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.” Lavabit probably received a national security letter (NSL) from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). NSLs are requests by the FBI made for personal and sensitive information of users under investigation. They also are issued with an accompanying gag order to prevent companies from publicly disclosing details on investigations into users. A district court in California in March ruled that such gag orders “significantly infringe upon speech regarding controversial government powers.”

Esquire, An Open Letter To Jeff Bezos and Gene Weingarten, Charles P. Pierce, Aug. 7, 2013. Tout les hacks are buzzing about Gene Weingarten's Letter To HR...er...essay in which Weingarten advises Bezos as to what to do with the listing hulk of a newspaper that Bezos just bought with the change between his sofa cushions.  For more years than I care to count, the Washington Post has been the central salon for Beltway ass-kissing. You give me Watergate, and I'll give you Iran-Contra, on which the Post took a dive because the late, sainted Katherine Graham -- breaker of pressmen's unions -- herself, pondering whether or not the free press had gone too far in inconveniencing her dinner guests. The one obvious effect that its Watergate coverage had was that it scared the Post out of ever doing it again.

New Yorker, Donald Graham’s Choice, David Remnick, Aug. 6, 2013. After talking with the Board of Directors, Donald Graham quietly began looking for a potential buyer around Christmas of 2012. “We were in our seventh consecutive year of declining revenues and there was the question of what could we do?” Graham told me. The company had bought Slate and Foreign Policy (and is holding on to them) and sold Newsweek (which changed hands again this weekend). “Our strategy had been to innovate like hell in digital and other businesses and offset the declines in print revenues. But Katharine said the declines were going to go on, for the eighth and ninth straight years. And so…” The trends were violent and undeniable. Graham and Weymouth saw circulation drop from 832,332 average subscribers, in 1993, to 474,767. The newsroom staff was once over a thousand; it is now around six hundred and forty. Graham, who apprenticed at his family’s paper as a sports editor and as a cop in order to learn the city, was meant to inherit his mother’s mantle—if not as a figurehead of the old Georgetown establishment, then as the custodian of the most authoritative paper in D.C. Instead, especially with the rise of the Internet and the newspaper crisis that came with it, he became a kind of tragic character: decent, generous, fair-minded, ethical, but unable to reorient the Post. I worked at the paper for a decade, and while you might have disagreed fiercely with his editorial page or his political lobbying on behalf of his educational company, or second-guessed his decision to pass on certain investments, like Politico, or not to take a bigger chunk of Facebook from his willing friend, Mark Zuckerberg, you couldn’t doubt his heart. I can’t help thinking this: Donald Graham’s heart is broken. What he could not stand to do was break the Post. On Monday afternoon, he sacrificed his family’s ownership in the hopes of saving the thing itself.

Huffington Post, Washington Post Co.'s Kaplan Bet May Have Cost It The Paper, Chris Kirkham, Aug. 6, 2013.  Even as the Washington Post saw its circulation diminish and its advertising revenues evaporate in recent years, the paper's parent company could draw on a conspicuous center of growth -- a chain of for-profit colleges known collectively as Kaplan Higher Education. So important was Kaplan to the overall health of the business that Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald Graham came to describe his enterprise in new terms. But that projection ultimately collided with the regulatory activities of the Obama administration, which three years ago put forward new rules aimed at cracking down on the aggressive -- and some say predatory -- recruitment practices employed by Kaplan and other for-profit schools. Collectively, such institutions have left many students with crushing debts and meager job prospects. By the end of last year, just as Graham and his company now acknowledge they began seeking a buyer for the Washington Post, operating income at Kaplan's higher education division had plummeted to $27 million from $406 million two years earlier, a drop of 93 percent, according to the company's securities filings. Few can say with certainty what prompted Graham to surrender control of the Washington Post. But the shocking disappearance of the Kaplan money, funds that had masked grave shortfalls at the newspaper, may well have hastened the process.

Washington Post, An era to end as Post is sold, Paul Farhi, Aug. 5, 2013. Graham family to sell flagship paper to Amazon founder, The $250 million deal to buy the paper and some of its affiliate publications will likely be finalized within 60 days.
 
Washington Post, Bezos known for patience, focus on detail in ventures, Peter Whoriskey, Jia Lynn Yang and Cecilia Kang, Jeffrey P. Bezos, right, the Internet retail mogul and relentless business innovator who has agreed to buy The Washington Post, has a ­lesser-known trait that may serve him well amid the tumult of today’s crumbling newspaper business: lots of patience. The willingness to pursue a long-term vision was critical to the rise and persistence of ­Amazon.com, the global company he built from a suburban Seattle garage and through the travails of the dot-com bust and the recession. Some of his private investments, such as his deal for the Post, are marked even more by a fascination with pursuing lofty goals requiring extremes of perseverance.' (Bezos is shown at right at the 2010 Encore Awards in a photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Wall Street Journal, Bezos Buys Washington Post for $250 Million, Deal Doesn't Involve Amazon.com, Staff report, Aug. 5, 2013. Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon.com Inc., is buying the Washington Post Co.'s flagship newspaper and some related publishing assets for $250 million. Mr. Bezos is buying the publishing business as an individual, and not in his capacity as CEO of Amazon, according to the announcement. Washington Post Chairman and CEO Donald E. Graham said the company decided to sell the business "only after years of familiar newspaper-industry challenges made us wonder if there might be another owner who would be better for the Post."

New York Times, Katharine Weymouth Takes Charge at the Washington Post, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Aug. 2, 2013. On the eve of the 2012 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, this city’s annual media-politico-Hollywood love fest, Katharine Weymouth convened the sort of Washington power dinner for which her grandmother, Katharine Graham, the pioneering publisher of the Washington Post, was famous. Around the dining room table in Ms. Weymouth’s airy Craftsman home sat a collection of Kay Graham’s intimates and descendants: Vernon Jordan, the Clinton consigliere; C. Boyden Gray, counsel to the first President Bush; her oldest son Donald, now chief executive of the company that owns the Post; and Lally Weymouth, Mrs. Graham’s daughter and Ms. Weymouth’s mother, a globe-trotting journalist and Manhattan socialite known for both her interviews with Middle East dictators and glitzy Fourth of July Hamptons parties.

Huffington Post, Newsweek Sold To IBT Media, Publishers Of International Business Times, Wires, Aug. 3, 2013. A deal is in place for Newsweek magazine to be sold to IBT Media. IBT Media, the publishers of the International Business Times, stated in a press release that the Newsweek brand and operations of the online publication will be acquired from IAC, but this will not include the Daily Beast.

Poynter Institute, Princeton Review names Cornell Daily Sun the nation’s top college newspaper, Andrew Beaujon, Aug. 6, 2013. The Cornell Daily Sun is the best college newspaper in the U.S., Princeton Review’s annual survey says. (Note: This editor worked at the Cornell student newspaper and regards it as an outstanding formative experience to have worked at the nation's oldest independent student paper. Providing further disclosure and context is a 2010 commentary by a critic of the survey methodology: Innovation in College Media, Princeton Review’s “20 Best College Newspapers” is a joke, Bryan Murley, Aug 5, 2010. Unfortunately, the list is complete and utter bull.)