GAP Edwards

Every year, many of us gather here at the Press Club for the Ridenhour Awards.  These are the prizes given in memory of Ron Ridenhour to journalists and whistleblowers for acts of extraordinary courage in telling the truth – publicly.  Some people in this room this morning have received that award.  Ron Ridenhour, of course, was the infantryman who exposed a massacre during the Viet Nam War at the hands of US troops.  He was the only person, at the time, to write truthfully and publicly about what happened on March 16, 1968 at My Lai.

He was a whistleblower.  He was later a journalist. When we come here each April to honor another journalist and another whistleblower, we’re observing a kind of victory.  We’re at the end of the story.  The truth is out.  The disclosure is validated and the whistleblower celebrated.

But we’re here today at a different point in a different story:  Edward Snowden vs. the National Security Agency.  Snowden is still marooned, stateless, in the Moscow airport, not yet vindicated.  We’re still in the middle of his story about State Surveillance, and for that reason, it is important that we support him now.  Before we move to the panel, I wanted to respond to two of the basic attacks on him. They are, in some ways, attacks on all whistleblowers and the journalists they speak to.

First, many in government and in academe ask “Who is this one man to make a decision about what should be public information?  What gives him the authority to do this, when the whole of the US government has determined that these practices – this surveillance – should be secret?”

At G.A.P., we’ve protected and defended whistleblowers for over 35 years, and I can tell you this is exactly where nearly every whistleblower case starts. The same charges of grandiosity are leveled. The same unseemly details about someone’s personal life are publicized.  In the beginning, the whistleblower is always one person who takes this one step at tremendous personal cost, and changes the world for the rest of us forever.  

Because of a whistleblower, we know that cigarettes are addictive and carcinogenic.  

Because of a whistleblower we know that Vioxx not only kills your pain, it can kill you. We know that the nuclear energy industry cut corners when it built new power plants and we made construction stop.
We know about My Lai and Abu Gharaib. And now we know that the NSA has every one of us under some form of surveillance all the time.

If it weren’t for the remarkable individual courage of the each person who exposed each of these things, we might not know any of them.

Secondly, the op-editorialists are arguing, if Snowden can do this without penalty, anyone can reveal anything.  Where do you draw the line?”

This seems to be is a reasonable question.  But, in fact, the premise is false.  The question assumes that there is a "You" – a fair-minded, third party monitoring government and drawing lines about what’s constitutional and what isn’t. In fact, though, there is no "You."  There is no such party.  THAT is precisely what Snowden exposed.  Right now, no one is drawing a line – anywhere.

No one in power is making decisions in the public interest on this front. No one is even consulting the public to determine what that interest is.

Quite the opposite, in fact.  The public is being deceived. Consider the first document disclosed by Mr. Snowden: a FISA court order directing Verizon to continue supplying metadata to the NSA on domestic phonecalls.

The court order revealed a crucial fact of life in 21st century America: Our government lies to us about decisions that really matter.  Not only is domestic surveillance pervasive and real, but the government lied about it – to Congress and to the public. Senator Ron Wyden, speaking at the Center for American Progress on Tuesday, took issue with the administration and intelligence officials about this.

When did it become all right for government officials' public statements and private statements to differ so fundamentally?" Wyden asked.

The answer to this question is obvious. It became all right when no one objected. When there was no whistleblower. No leaker.

The NSA is not apologizing for lying. James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, excused his own deceptive public statements by saying that he told Congress the “least untruthful” thing he could.  

This is what I mean by saying there is no "You." There is no conscientious constitutional expert dispassionately deciding how far the Surveillance State can go. These programs are in the hands of leaders who either don’t understand them or don’t know what they can do –– or who have no ethical problem deceiving the public about what they’ve authorized.

This is the dilemma a whistleblower always confronts.  All the responsible parties are gone, and lies of great consequence are told.  Someone is cooking the history books.  There is no regulator, no advocate for the truth – or even for reality. So some brave soul blows a whistle – and then, given the current climate in the United States, God help him.

The first thing corrupt institutions and officials do when they’re threatened by the truth is distract attention from the message by shooting the messenger.  This is easy.  With enough information about each of us, any one of us can be discredited by some past indiscretion: the nastiness exposed in a divorce or a custody battle.  There may be a foreclosure in your past, a bankruptcy, a trip to rehab, an embarrassing relative.  Think of how every mistake you ever made could look and sound on CNN’s Situation Room.  

Make no mistake: everyone in this room is potentially a target of character assassination.   Both whistleblowers and journalists are entrusted with truths that are most easily undermined using misdirection and distortion.  And the more important the truth, the more vicious the reprisal.

When Mr. Snowden first made his disclosures, many Americans shrugged and said, “I’m not a terrorist, so why should I care?”  I don’t think there are many in this room who would ask that question.  We know why we care.  We need whistleblowers and sources.  We learn from what they tell us.  If they stop calling because they know they’ll be identified, there is no longer a free press.  Only officially approved versions of the truth will see the light of day.
Is this the future for the United States?  Blanket surveillance can and will have that effect.  The phones will go silent for those of us who represent whistleblowers. For journalists who depend on sources, information will dry up. 

Witnesses, whistleblowers and sources will shut down.  Those who insist upon calling and won’t learn will be sent to jail together with those who try to protect them.
This is where we’re headed – to the war within: the war on free speech, on whistleblowers  and reporters.  

Today, our wars in the Middle East are winding down, and so we find ourselves in the unique position of manufacturing a new war -- cyberwar.  We wage this war on all enemies, foreign and domestic. This is the endless war – the forever war.  The war within.  The war of weaponized data.

This war is invisible and silent, run by secret judges and secret courts that make secret rulings. We don’t know who the victims or the aggressors are. In fact, if you are one of the 100+ million customers of Verizon, you are already a defendant in these secret proceedings. You just didn’t know it.

In a democracy we must maintain a the right of the public to know.  The people should know more about their government than their government knows about them. This is how the United States was built – on the freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.  We are now learning that these freedoms are being taken from us secretly.

In the coming days and weeks we expect to learn much, much more.   

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) will be hosting a conference focusing on the embattled partnership between whistleblowers and journalists in an age of pervasive surveillance. The event will be held at the National Press Club from 8:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. and will be moderated by New York Times reporter James Risen and syndicated columnist David Sirota. Panelists include Cato Institute Research Fellow Julian Sanchez, GAP National Security and Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack, EPIC Domestic Surveillance Project Director Amie Stepanovich, former NSA Technical Director William Binney, former NSA Senior Executive Thomas Drake, former NSA Senior Analyst J. Kirk Wiebe, and Telecom Whistleblower Babak Pasdar. "The war on whistleblowers is also a war on journalists," stated GAP Executive Director Bea Edwards. "These are fundamental challenges to the US Constitution and the civil liberties we enjoy as Americans. We welcome this debate." The event will be open to the public and will be held in the Holeman Lounge at the National Press Club, located at 529 14th Street, NW in Washington, DC.

The Government Accountability Project is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP's mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.
 

 

 

Justice Integrity Project, Plot Exposed Against Bloggers, Rights Advocates, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 11, 2011. A secretive hacker’s group has exposed what appears to be a shocking plan by a well-connected security company to defame and otherwise harm human rights advocates, unions and bloggers who have offended powerful companies. A security contractor developed the plan to sell to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce via one of its law firms, Hunton and Williams. The hacker group Anonymous exposed the scandal, described below.

Telegraph, Guardian/Observer pulls front-page NSA story after source turns out to be a fruitloop who thinks Obama is gay, Damian Thompson, June 30, 2013. The Guardian/Observer website has just pulled an exclusive front-page report about "secret European deals to hand over private data to America" – prompting cries of "Wow! MASSIVE FAIL by The Guardian" on Twitter. Why was the story pulled after publication? Because its highly unreliable source is Wayne Madsen, an unusual gentleman who (the Guardian/Observer now realises too late) has in the past jumped on the Birther bandwagon – and also suggested that Barack Obama is gay (which he isn't).

The Obama Justice Department announced as last weekend neared that it would not assert spy charges against reporters during leak investigations except in special circumstances.

The statement by Attorney Gen. Eric Holder, right, on July 12 reduces the conflict after revelations this spring that the DOJ had claimed in court papers that Fox News reporter James Rosen was suspected of espionage for seeking confidential information regarding North Korea from a State Department contractor.

Meanwhile, however, certain mainstream media reporters working for corporations with close ties to the intelligence community have published fierce attacks on those who leak and report upon government surveillance of the public. Two targets are former NSA employee Edward Snowden and the Guardian columnist, Glenn Greenwald, who took the lead in breaking Snodden's disclosures last month.

But another target has surfaced in former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst Wayne Madsen, who is now an investigative reporter, author, and broadcast columnist who has been exposing NSA and other secrets for year.

The Guardian's sister newspaper in London, the Observer, featured him June 30 in a front-page story based on declassified NSA documents he provided the paper at its reporter's request. But the paper removed references to him for unexplained reasons in later editions. That removal promptly became the basis of a campaign on both sides of the Atlantic to vilify Madsen in the media, based in part on fabricated claims against him.

Most prominent in the United States were attacks by the Daily Beast/Newsweek website, NSA Nutjob: Anatomy of a Fake ‘Observer’ Story by Michael Moynihan on July 1, 2013.. CNN's "Reliable Sources" weekly show then featured Moynihan and two Daily Beast Newsweek staffers denouncing Madsen, left. Neither Madsen nor any independent voice was invited to the show.

A former British ambassador is among those who have protested as unfounded the attacks on Madsen, with no correction or other sign of regret by CNN or Daily Beast Newsweek (two affiliated news websites). In further response, Madsen published on July 15 a column alleging on the basis of intelligence sources that Britain's premier intelligence agency threatened the London Observer and the affiliated Guardian, and then initiated the campaign using friendly and reliable sources in UK and US media.

Daily Beast / Newsweek, NSA Nutjob: Anatomy of a Fake ‘Observer’ Story, Michael Moynihan, July 1, 2013. Not only did The Guardian’s sister publication base a cover story—later pulled—on a single paranoid conspiracist, the reporter failed even to speak with him. But the story’s still percolating online, says Michael Moynihan. For those desiccated journalists old enough to remember, the scandal-plagued presidency of Bill Clinton was the golden age of enterprising conspiracists, imaginative cranks, and swivel-eyed charlatans. Back then, before the Internet allowed for the easy dissemination, repetition, and debunking of sinister nonsense, a certain amount of skill was required to spread conspiracy theories. For Clinton’s tormentors, the most reliable route for dodgy information was the sympathetic foreign reporter. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the Washington correspondent for Britain’s august, right-leaning broadsheet The Daily Telegraph, dutifully “raised questions” about the suicide of former White House staffer Vince Foster and the president’s supposed involvement in a cocaine-smuggling ring. The stories were then laundered back into the mainstream American news media (”According to a report in London’s Daily Telegraph...”).

In essence, the DOJ investigations of against mainstream reporters and what has clearly been a media smear against freelancers like Madsen (regardless of who may have initiated it) illustrates a common theme that adds up to bad news for the public. Here is what's going on aside from rhetoric about free press, fairness, national security, and rule of law: The Obama administration does not want to confront head-on the corporate-owned media with all of their incestous ties to the nation's power structure and to the Obama administration itself. White House Deputy National Security Advisor Benjamin Rhodes, for example, has two siblings prominent in network television news, including CBS News President Andrew Rhodes.

So Obama's Justice Department backed off a bit last week on applying to them the inflammatory term "espionage" to the major media, except in as-yet unknown special circumstances. But the DOJ retains the right, as currently, to continue to spy on reporters and prosecute on spy charges news sources who leak information.

The major news organizations deserve a mixed report card at best. They rose up to fight for free press rights this spring when they realized their organizations had been specifically targeted in secret by spy charges and unexpected surveillance, which included federal monitoring of 20 phone lines used by more than 100 Associated Press reporters. But the media giants have largely failed for the most part a decade to report aggressively the federal spying on innocent Americans encompassing virtually all phone calls, emails, and social media.

The DOJ's new protections appear to be aimed at protecting employees of the corporate-owned media, as liberal analyst Marcy Wheeler and conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds wrote separately last week. The DOJ apparently hopes that Congress will define journalism in a way that includes only employees of corporations, as Illinois Senate Demorate Dick Durbin recently advocated.

Yet the Constitutional provisions protecting "the press" were designed to protect the function of information dissemination, not large media organizations, Reynolds aptly argued this week. He is a University of Tennessee law professor and former classmate of mine at Yale Law School who writes the widely read blog, Instapundit.

I explore these matters below with hot links to the relevant columns.

At the outset, it's useful to summarize the challenge for watchdog institutions to report about the CIA, NSA, and the nation's dozens of other intelligence bodies. The 1976 experience of Washington Post reporter Scott Armstrong illustrates the difficulties an aggressive reporter can encounter even at a powerful newspaper at the height of its renown.

To pursue a story about a major murder mystery in Washington, Armstrong sought to question James J. Angleton, left, the recently retired former CIA chief of counterintelligence from 1954 to until 1975. Armstrong wanted to follow up on the 1976 revelation by a whistleblower that Newsweek's Washington Bureau Chief Benjamin Bradlee had given Angleton in 1964 the diary of Mary Pinchot Meyer, Bradlee's sister-in-law, shortly after her brutal and unsolved murder while she was walking on a canal path in Georgetown.

Meyer had been a well-regarded artist and, in private circles, an articulate advocate for peace. Also a striking beauty, she had married after World War II the best-selling author and world-famous peace advocate Cord Meyer. But she divorced him in the 1950s while he pursued his secret work as the top executive within the CIA as the agency's top executive responsible for trying to influence stories in the news media on sensitive CIA matters. Several years later, she became the lover in the White House of President John F. Kennedy, who had first flirted her when she was at boarding school.

Mary Meyer's sister, Toni Bradlee, was married to Bradlee, a friend of Kennedy. Bradlee gave his friend Angleton Mary Meyer's diary after her murder to help keep secret the Kennedy-Meyer romance. In 1965, Bradlee became a top editor of Newsweek's parent company, the Washington Post.

Not until 1991 did Bradlee retire as the Post's executive editor. Bradlee had been a CIA asset himself early in his career when he was a former State Department staffer in Paris, according to a document in a book about Mary Meyer, Mary's Mosaic, published in 2012 by Peter Janney, based on his decades of research about the murdered mother of his best friend in childhood. Bradlee had denied a CIA connection years previously. Bradlee no longer gives interviews because of his advanced age.

Uncontested is that Bradlee had a close, mutually supportive relationship with the paper's publisher, Katharine Graham. Bradlee and Graham are reliably reported also in Graham's memoir, Personal History, to have had other close CIA contacts for many years. Author Thomas Allen's amplified Graham's memoir in his The Imperial Post by stating that Graham enjoyed weekly dinners in a quartet that included her husband, Phillip; Frank Wisner, the CIA's most powerful covert operations leader; and Wisner's wife, Polly.

In sum, Armstrong was taking a professional risk because of such connections when he visited the Angleton's Virginia home one evening without an appointment in hopes of an interview. Here's what happened next, according to Armstrong's account to author Nina Burleigh for her 1998 book about Mary Meyer's murder, A Very Private Woman.

Angleton spotted Armstrong near his greenhouse. He invited the reporter inside his home, and lavished upon Armstrong many hard drinks and wild stories about confidential CIA lore. The reporter, overjoyed at his good fortune in unlocking secrets from one of America's most experienced and powerful master spies, tried his best to remember highlights by writing notes in ink on his bare leg when Angleton turned his back to fix more drinks.

Amstrong, his head buzzing, finally excused himself and returned to his office. But Angleton had called Graham to warn that a drunken reporter had intruded upon Angleton home while he was gardening, and had tried to obtain confirmation of wild, crazy stories about the CIA. Armstgrong was barely able to save his job after being thus discredited. But he went on to a succesful career at the Post, as an author, and as longtime director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University before retirement.

If that's what life can be like as a reporter trying to cover secujrity agencies at a major news organization imagine the difficulties of a reporter at a smaller paper or the lonely road of a freelancer. Former CBS TV reporter Kristina Borjesson collected 19 such accounts for her award-winning book Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press. In one summarized by the publisher, "CBS's Dan Rather describes in chilling terms how pressure tgo patriotic compelled him and other journalists to censor themselves." 

My book published this month, Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters, contains similar unpublished tales. Also, it reveals how the private sector titans that President Eisenhower called "The Military Industrial Complex" control in hidden ways many officials, candidates, public policies, and news media agendas. The same puppet masters who choose and bankroll politicians and guide their selections to lead intelligence agencies, in other words, also bankroll leading media outlets. For my book, Madsen generously offered me assistance in learning how to obtain declassified CIA documents from the National Archives. Therefore, I have an interest in following the smear campaign against him.

Taking a step back to the broader picture, most reporters covering national security, defense, law enforcement, or the White House are going to find their jobs vastly easier if they just accept what is disclosed about sensitive topics for the most part. That way they can hope to be included in the invitation-only, not-for-quotation briefings where top officials disclose to a few favorite reporters the kinds of news tidbits that will help "insider" reporters keep their jobs.

These briefings, which sometimes disclose previously secret information on a background basis, are a staple for Washington journalism and the control methods that officials exert over reporters. The attempt by Fox News, AP, and Wayne Madsen to go beyond that kind of hand-out led to the reprisals described below.  We begin in chronological fashion.

Government Caught Attacking Mainstream Media

AP

Rosen

Goodale

Pruitt

Snowden Case

 

Madsen Caper

him he campaign against Madsen appeared to be part of a coordinated effort by political activists within news organizations and right-wing political centers to marginalize or purge from the media independent investigative journalists. Such pressure persuaded the Observer, an affiliate of the Guardian, to spike from its June 30 edition a front-page story based on declassified NSA documents the paper had requested from Madsen describing NSA surveillance of private communications in Europe.

Daily Beast reporter Michael Moynihan vilified Madsen as an "NSA Nut Job" in a July 1 column that Moynihan based largely on his personal dislike for Madsen and two false factual assertions Moynihan concocted to support his attack. In his column, Moynihan purported to know that London's Observer, which quoted Madsen in a front-page story June 30, had not actually interviewed him. Further, Moynihan claimed with no supporting evidence that the Observer did not know of Madsen's previous work that Moynihan disliked.

Madsen left a reader comment on the Daily Beast Newsweek site that unsuccessfully demanded corrections. Also, Madsen insulted Moynihan and his publisher, Tina Brown, and argued that the Daily Beast Newsweek attacks were part of a coordinated defamatory assault by right-wing media operatives working to gain favor with government security forces.

Daily Beast Newsweek responded by guest-hosting CNN's "Reliable Sources" nationally cablecast show on July 7. The show featured three Daily Beast Newweek staffers denouncing Madsen. Guest host John Avlon and Moynihan took the lead. Their colleague Josh Rogan joined more briefly to concur. Neither Madsen nor any guest independent of Daily Beast's attacks appeared on the segment. Yet Craig Murray, a former United Kingdom ambassador and university rector, had written a forceful column defending Madsen. Others prominent in the field of national security reporting and privacy law left reader comments supporting Madsen on the CNN and Daily Beast Newsweek websites. Neither the attack reporters nor their supervisors responded on the site or to me for this column regarding claims that their coverage was based on clear-cut factual errors.

The smear campaign thereby illustrated yet again the shortcomings of the supposed experts on journalism fairness.

CNN's "Reliable Sources" show is the most prominent news show analyzing the media. But host Howard Kurtz, a longtime Washington Post reporter and then the Daily Beast Newsweek Washington bureau chief until this spring, resigned also from CNN in June after 15 years hosting "Reliable Sources." Insiders applauded him and the show, but others criticized the show's unfairness and conflicts of interest. Madsen, for example, for years has published "journalism-government incest chart" featuring Kurtz at the top of the list because of his wife's work as a Republican public relations consultant. The chart features many others in journalism whose spouses or other close relatives are prominent in government, with little or no disclosure to the public of the conflicts that are well understood and often emulated by Washingon insiders.

Summing Up

Daily Beast/Newsweek Publisher Tina Brown then promoted Avlon to become Daily Beast executive editor, firing his predecessor.

Moynihan then amplified his attacks on Madsen during the July 7 edition of the weekly CNN cable network show "Reliable Sources," guest-hosted by John Avlon, Moynihan's Daily Beast colleague. Rather than correct or challenge Moynihan or note why CNN had not invited a more varied perspective on the reporter Madsen, Avlon agreed with his colleague's assessment that the Observer had embarrassed itself and rightfully pulled its story under pressure. Then Avlon sought the opinion of a third Daily Beast/Newsweek staffer on the segment, Josh Rogan, who concurred also that the attacks against Madsen were merited.

Neither Madsen nor any independent analyst was invited to the nationally cablecast show. Neither Daily Beast Newsweek nor CNN have corrected to their errors or responded to my inquiries for comment in this column. Avlon has since been promoted to executive editor of Daily Beast, with his predecessor fired. The prominence and vehmence of the attack in coordination by a Twitter campaign by Navy War College Professor John Schindler and a right-wing website that claimed credit for the CBS news ouster of Anchor Dan Rather in 2004 kept


CNN Reliable Sources, The Crash of Flight 214; Social Media Explodes in Crash Aftermath; Reporters Under Fire Transcripts, July 7, 2013. http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1307/07/rs.01.html

AVLON: Thank you, Shahira, and Ben, thank you for joining us on RELIABLE SOURCES. Now, we are waiting on an NTSB press conference. But ahead on RELIABLE SOURCES, Britain's "Observer" publishes an alleged scoop about the NSA that went viral before it had to be retracted. So, here's the question, why did the paper base its report on single unreliable source?

 (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 AVLON: We are awaiting an NTSB news conference on the crash of Flight 214. CNN will bring that to you live as soon as it happens. These are photographs from KPIX.

 But now, where in the world is Edward Snowden? That parlor game kept the attention of news outlets this week as several nations considered Snowden's request for asylum, including Venezuela, Nicaragua and now Bolivia. Britain's "Guardian" newspaper broke the original Snowden story, but things took an odd turn this past week when its sister paper "The Observer," ran a front-page story that claimed European officials reached a secret deal with the NSA to turn over private data to the USA.

 That sure sounds scandalous, but here's the thing. The article based its claims on a single, very unreliable source, conspiracy theorist named Wayne Madsen, whom reporter Jamie Dower never even spoke with. Not surprisingly, the article was eventually retracted, but now not before it made the rounds on the internet, even receiving a Drudge Report link.

 So what does it say that a paper as reputable as "The Observer" would base its scoop on such a shaky source? Joining me from Los Angeles, Michael Moynihan, columnist for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast," who helped debunk this story. Michael, tell us a little bit about what drew your attention when you saw Michael Madsen being the sole source in this story?

 MICHAEL MOYNIHAN, COLUMNIST, "NEWSWEEK/DAILY BEAST": Well, you know, I have come across Wayne Madsen in the past. I mean, he pops up on these television networks affiliated with government propaganda, ministries like Iranian press TV and Russia today. So, when I saw that name, I did a double, probably a triple take to wonder if "The Guardian/Observer" was actually using the source that I've come across so many times.

 Now, keep in mind that Wayne Madsen is not just a journalist with sort of strange or extreme views. I mean, these are very extreme views. I mean, he's a 9/11 truther. He believes that the attacks in Norway, the terrorist attacks of Anders Breivik, were carried out by Israel. That the "USS Cole" was bombed by Israel, he has strange views about president Obama, et cetera. So, when I saw that, I started reading the piece and said, good God, this is the only source in this piece. Do they not know who he is or did they not use Google?

 AVLON: Well, it sounds like the definition of an unreliable source. What was "The Observer's" response when they retracted it? I understand "Salon" did a reposting and that's who got the Drudge link, and they were reluctant to take the piece down entirely. Why?

 MOYNIHAN: Yes, yes. I mean, essentially what happens is "The Guardian Observer" pulled the piece fairly quickly. I mean, this was -- you talked a lot about social media on the show today. This was a social media response. I was one of the ones leading the charge, this kind of filters back to "The Observer." They pulled the piece, you know, but here's the thing that should also be mentioned is they're a print newspaper. So, that had actually gone to the printer.

 The people that read "The Observer" or the Sunday edition of "The Guardian" got their print edition, the first printing of that, with a big picture of Wayne Madsen on the front, so they were already done. "Salon," who sort of cannibalized the story, because a lot is aggregating other people's scoops, had posted this, got that coveted drudge link, which you know, provides enormous amounts of traffic, and didn't take the story down.

 But did post a note that said, well, you know, "The Observer" is looking into the source here, but we're keeping this up. And at the time, the only thing I can imagine is that you get all this traffic and that's what people are after.

 AVLON: And that's the larger cost here. Briefly, as we do the autopsy of a conspiracy theory that gets mains mainstream, what are the costs and incentives that may be out of whack for people reposting this?

 MOYNIHAN: The incentives are, of course, that "The Guardian" had this cover story revealed, it was a revelation. Now, even if you looked at the story and trusted what this guy was saying it was based on publicly available documents. Nothing was revealed here. But in the sort of sweepstakes of trying to get clicks and get involved in this NSA story, you know, people are putting out stuff that might not be true, might have to be walked back. But the problem is, is this sort of seeps into the groundwater.

 And we've seen this with Madsen in the past, who has made a claim that "The Guardian" picked up in 2002 about Venezuela and about the coup against Chavez that's made its way into academic books. I wrote a piece about this and traced how this infected actual journalism, because people say they don't see Wayne Madsen later.

 They say "The Guardian," who is a very reputable newspaper, a very good newspaper and "The Observer" is also. So, that is ultimately the problem here is you get these people who are trolling for clicks and hits and viewers, and ultimately, it gets the stamp of quality of a real newspaper, and then you know it filters out.

 AVLON: I want to bring in our panel here on this conversation, because one of the real problems of our time is policing hyperpartisan media or looking at the ways that conspiracy theories get mainstream and seep into the groundwater, as Michael said. I mean, what are the cautionary tales about some of the re-postings we see and what we know as journalists largely working in digital, that there is an incentive sometimes to post the salacious, the fundamentally untrue because of confirmation biased rather than selling something a bit more sober? Let's start with Errol.

 ERROL LOUIS, HOST OF "ROAD TO CITY HALL" ON NY1: Look, this is journalism school first semester 101. If you don't have two independent sources, you don't have a story. And the reality is, I think what we don't do enough of is really teach people what goes on in a newsroom, when there is a lot of competitiveness, when there is a lot of energy running through the room, there is a desire to break something big.

 People's emotions take over and they throw all of their training to the side. And unless there's an editor or a publisher or somebody there, you know, senior newsroom leadership is what we call it to say, wait a minute, don't do this, you know? It's better to be right than to be first sometimes. If you can't do that, you're not really running a newsroom.

 AVLON: I mean, it is basic, but one thing about the rise of partisan media, Jackie, is that confirmation bias can slide towards conspiracy theories and that can go around the world before the truth gets out.

 JACKIE KUCINICH, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Again, that's why due diligence is so important. That is why -- I mean, I know we can say, it's so fast, there's too much information. End of the day, due diligence matters. People don't remember -- people remember your big scoops. They remember them more if they're wrong.

 AVLON: Yes, very quickly, Josh.

 JOSH ROGIN, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, "NEWSWEEK/DAILY BEAST": I would put a silver lining on this and say that the up side is that now the news business is self-correcting. This story only lasted a day and you had sharp guys like Mike Moynihan out there pointing out where the story went wrong. So, they get out fast, but they get solved faster and allow reporters to operate a newsroom that is high- pressure. AVLON: And again, social media leads the charge. It ends up being, there is a crowd source correction as well, but only if people pick up on it and the danger is that there are enough dupes out there that these things do end up getting put in the history books and treated as official documents as Michael Moynihan pointed out.

 I want to thank, Michael, for joining us from Los Angeles. We are still awaiting a news conference on the crash of Flight 214. CNN will bring you that live as soon as it happens. But first, let's go to CNN's Rene Marsh. We're going to go to break right now, awaiting that NTSB press conference momentarily.

In addition, periodic pressure campaigns against such independent voices as Dan Rather, his CBS investigative team and many others. Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, who last month brought the surveillance scandal into the public limelight, by publishing revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, has been the target of many hostile treatments initiated by other journalists. Those reporters who operate independently of military and intelliegence command structures undermine the credibility of those reporters who rely primarily on hand-outs and official briefings.

Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment
 
 

 

Justice Department Changes

Washington Post, Justice Dept. tightens rules on subpoenaing records of journalists, Sari Horwitz, June 12, 2013.  Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday announced tighter controls over the ability of prosecutors to subpoena the phone and other records of journalists after criticism that the Justice Department’s aggressive pursuit of leak investigations was infringing on press freedom. Under new guidelines, a reporter must be the target of a criminal investigation before Justice Department officials can obtain a search warrant for the journalist’s e-mails and other records.

Huffington Post, Justice Department Revises Media Guidelines In Leak Investigations, Michael Calderone and Ryan J. Reilly, July 12, 2013. The Justice Department will be restricted from labeling a journalist as a criminal co-conspirator in seeking a search warrant to gain access to reporting materials under new media guidelines issued on Friday. “The Department of Justice is firmly committed to ensuring our nation’s security, and protecting the American people, while at the same time safeguarding the freedom of the press," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. Holder also indicated the administration's ongoing support for media shield legislation, indicating there were "additional protections that only Congress can provide." The Justice Department came under fire in mid-May for secretly obtaining the emails of Fox News reporter James Rosen in 2009. Prosecutors implied they were investigating Rosen, allowing federal authorities to obtain his emails without his knowledge. Holder, right, signed off on treating Rosen as a co-conspirator in the case, but he later expressed regret for that action. The Associated Press revealed in May that the DOJ had obtained phone records for 20 lines used by editors and reporters there, during an investigation that followed a 2012 story describing a CIA-thwarted terrorist plot in Yemen. Under the new policy, news organizations will be given advance notice when investigators seek access to news-gathering materials, except in situations where the attorney general determines that "for compelling reasons, advance notice and negotiations would pose a clear and substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation, risk grave harm to national security, or present an imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm."

Emptywheel / FireDogLake, In Bid to Placate Legacy Media, DOJ Moves Closer to Instituting Official Press, Marcy Wheeler, July 12, 2013. The First Amendment was written, in part, to eliminate the kind of official press that parrots only the King’s sanctioned views. But with its revised “News Media Policies,” DOJ gets us closer to having just that, an official press. That’s because all the changes laid out in the new policy (some of which are good, some of which are obviously flawed) apply only to “members of the news media.” They repeat over and over and over and over, “news media.” I’m not sure they once utter the word “journalist” or “reporter.” And according to DOJ’s Domestic Investigation and Operations Guide, a whole slew of journalists are not included in their definition of “news media.” The definition does not, however, include a person or entity who posts information or opinion on the Internet in blogs, chat rooms or social networking sites, such as YouTube, Facebook, or MySpace, unless that person or entity falls within the definition of a member of the media or a news organization under the other provisions within this section (e.g., a national news reporter who posts on his/her personal blog). Then it goes onto lay out what I will call the “WikiLeaks exception.” As the term is used in the DIOG, “news media” is not intended to include persons and entities that simply make information available. Instead, it is intended to apply to a person or entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the general public, uses editorial skills to turn raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience, as a journalism professional. The definition does warn that if there is any doubt, the person should be treated as media. Nevertheless, the definition seems to exclude a whole bunch of people (including, probably, me), who are engaged in journalism.

The limitation of all these changes to the “news media” is most obvious when it treats the Privacy Protection Act — which should have prevented DOJ from treating James Rosen as a  suspect. They say, The Privacy Protection Act of 1980 (PPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000aa, generally prohibits the search or seizure of work product and documentary materials held by individuals who have a purpose to disseminate information to the public. The PPA, however, contains a number of exceptions to its general prohibition, including the “suspect exception” which applies when there is “probable cause to believe that the person possessing such materials has committed or is committing a criminal offense to which the materials relate,” including the “receipt, possession, or communication of information relating to the national defense, classified information, or restricted data “under enumerated provisions. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000aa(a)(1) and (b)(1). Under current Department policy, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General may authorize an application for a search warrant that is covered by the PPA, and no higher level reviews or approvals are required. First, the Department will modify its policy concerning search warrants covered by the PPA involving members of the news media to provide that work product materials and other documents may be sought under the “suspect exception” of the PPA only when the member of the news media is the focus of a criminal investigation for conduct not connected to ordinary newsgathering activities. Under the reviews policy, the Department would not seek search warrants under the PPA’s suspect exception if the sole purpose is the investigation of a person other than the member of the news media.  Second, the Department would revise current policy to elevate the current approval requirements and require the approval of the Attorney General for all search warrants and court orders issued pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2703(d) directed at members of the news media. [my emphasis]
The PPA, however, applies to all persons “reasonably believed to have a purpose to disseminate to the public a newspaper, book, broadcast, or other similar form of public communication.” Notwithstanding any other law, it shall be unlawful for a government officer or employee, in connection with the investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense, to search for or seize any work product materials possessed by a person reasonably believed to have a purpose to disseminate to the public a newspaper, book, broadcast, or other similar form of public communication, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce; I’m clearly covered by the PPA. But the FBI could easily decide to exclude me from this “news media” protection so as to be able to snoop into my work product. Congratulations to the “members of the news media” who have been deemed the President’s official press. I hope you use your privileges wisely. Update: I’ve learned that the issue of whom this applied to did come up in background meetings at DOJ; in fact, DOJ raised the issue. The problem is, there is no credentialing system that could define who gets this protection and DOJ didn’t want to lay it out (and most of the people invited have never been anything but a member of the news media, making it hard for them to understand how to differentiate a journalist).  Ultimately, I think DOJ is so anxious for Congress to pass a shield law (which they say elsewhere in their report) because it’ll mean Congress will do the dirty work of defining who is and who is not a journalist.
- See more at: http://www.emptywheel.net/2013/07/12/in-bid-to-placate-legacy-media-doj-moves-closer-to-instituting-official-press/#sthash.lDBbst1c.dpuf

Government Probes of Mainstream Journalists

National Press Club, AP CEO calls for new Justice Department guidelines to protect journalists, Robert Webb, June 19, 2013. The Department of Justice's seizure of Associated Press phone records has made it tougher for reporters to do their jobs, AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said Wednesday, June 19 at a National Press Club luncheon. Pruitt, shown in a photo courtesy of Noel St. John, called for new Justice Department guidelines that include protections for journalists' email and text messages, and a federal shield law "with teeth." The Justice Department's seizure unsettled sources and chilled reporting, he said. "Some longtime trusted sources have become nervous and anxious about talking with us -- even on stories unrelated to national security," Pruitt said. "Others are reluctant to meet in person. In one instance, our journalists could not get a law enforcement official to confirm a detail that had been reported elsewhere." AP is not the only media to suffer, he said. "Journalists from other news organizations have personally told me that has intimidated both official and non-official sources speaking to them as well," Pruitt said.

National Press Club, Club Talks With Attorney General Holder on Press Freedom Matters, Angela Greiling Keane, June 19, 2013. The National Press Club participated in the most recent small-group meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss our concerns about the Justice Department's recent subpoenas and search warrants issued against journalists.

FireDogLake, State Dept. Whistleblower Peter Van Buren: Edward Snowden is One Of Us, Peter Van Buren, right,July 12, 2013. Edward Snowden today made clear both his own bona fides as a whistleblower, and the hypocrisy of the United States in its manhunt for him. Whistleblower? Snowden’s remarks reinforce the basic tenet of whistleblowing, that is an act of conscience. He made clear what he gave up– home, family, perhaps even his liberty and life– and what we gained, learning what a government which claims to be “of the people” is doing to the people. Snowden still loves America, if not its government and its intelligence services. He reinforced that idea that one courageous act of conscience might make a difference in a nation gone astray. Hypocrisy? Of the countries that offered to help Edward Snowden, the U.S. itself has accepted 3,103 of their own asylees, 1,222 from Russia and 1,762 from Venezuela. The U.S. took those people in without a hint of regard for anyone’s opposition. This is in fact how the asylum system, codified by various UN treaties the U.S. has signed, should work.

Emptywheel, In Bid to Placate Legacy Media, DOJ Moves Closer to Instituting Official Press, Marcy Wheeler, July 12, 2013. The First Amendment was written, in part, to eliminate the kind of official press that parrots only the King’s sanctioned views. But with its revised “News Media Policies,” DOJ gets us closer to having just that, an official press. That’s because all the changes laid out in the new policy (some of which are good, some of which are obviously flawed) apply only to “members of the news media.” And according to DOJ’s Domestic Investigation and Operations Guide, a whole slew of journalists are not included in their definition of “news media.” The definition does not, however, include a person or entity who posts information or opinion on the Internet in blogs, chat rooms or social networking sites, such as YouTube, Facebook, or MySpace, unless that person or entity falls within the definition of a member of the media or a news organization under the other provisions within this section (e.g., a national news reporter who posts on his/her personal blog). Then it goes onto lay out what I will call the “WikiLeaks exception.” As the term is used in the DIOG, “news media” is not intended to include persons and entities that simply make information available. Instead, it is intended to apply to a person or entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the general public, uses editorial skills to turn raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience, as a journalism professional. The definition does warn that if there is any doubt, the person should be treated as media. Nevertheless, the definition seems to exclude a whole bunch of people (including, probably, me), who are engaged in journalism.

New York Times, Hunger Games, U.S.A., Paul Krugman, July 14, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/15/opinion/krugman-hunger-games-usa.html?ref=paulkrugman&_r=0   We’ve gone beyond bad economic doctrine. We’ve even gone beyond selfishness and special interests. At this point we’re talking about a state of mind that takes positive glee in inflicting further suffering on the already miserable.  The occasion for these observations is, as you may have guessed, the monstrous farm bill the House passed last week.  

WMR, UK D-Notice resulted in web attack on WMR editor, Wayne Madsen, July 15, 2013.  http://www.waynemadsenreport.com/articles/20130715
 
British intelligence sources have informed WMR that a British Defense Ministry "D-Notice" issued on June 7 to British media organizations, including The Guardian and The Observer, both owned by the same company, served as a pretext to conduct the smear attack on WMR's editor on both sides of the Atlantic. A Confidential D-Notice was issued to the media organizations as a "DA-Notice 03," which was issued pursuant to media reports on "ciphers and secure communications" operations of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain's National Security Agency partner. The DA-3 Notice was authorized by Foreign Secretary William Hague, who has responsibility for GCHQ and Britain's MI-6 foreign intelligence service.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hague
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DA-Notice

Andrew Kreig

June 25, 2013 on La Noche, the evening newscast of NTN24-TV, which broadcasts in the United States and Latin America from its base in Colombia and bureaus in Washington and elsewhere.

WhoWhatWhy, The Michael Hastings Wreck -- Video Evidence Only Deepens The Mystery, Michael Krikorian and David J. Krajicek, July 14, 2013.  A veteran Los Angeles crime reporter takes a gimlet-eyed look at the curious accident that killed muckraker Michael Hastings. New video evidence from a security camera near the scene offers a glimpse at the last moments of the journalist's life-and gives a few clues about the seemingly inexplicable crash on a straight-as-a-laser city street.

Justice Integrity Project, Plot Exposed Against Bloggers, Rights Advocates, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 11, 2011. A secretive hacker’s group has exposed what appears to be a shocking plan by a well-connected security company to defame and otherwise harm human rights advocates, unions and bloggers who have offended powerful companies. A security contractor developed the plan to sell to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce via one of its law firms, Hunton and Williams. The hacker group Anonymous exposed the scandal, described below.

Journalist Attacks on Journalists

Guardian, Distractions about my past and personal life have emerged – an inevitable side effect for those who challenge the US government, Glenn Greenwald, June 26, 2013. When I made the choice to report aggressively on top-secret NSA programs, I knew that I would inevitably be the target of all sorts of personal attacks and smears. You don't challenge the most powerful state on earth and expect to do so without being attacked. As a superb Guardian editorial noted today: "Those who leak official information will often be denounced, prosecuted or smeared. The more serious the leak, the fiercer the pursuit and the greater the punishment."The recent journalist-led "debate" about whether I should be prosecuted for my reporting on these stories was precisely the sort of thing I knew was coming. As a result, I was not particularly surprised when I received an email last night from a reporter at the New York Daily News informing me that he had been "reviewing some old lawsuits" in which I was involved – "old" as in: more than a decade ago – and that "the paper wants to do a story on this for tomorrow." He asked that I call him right away to discuss this, apologizing for the very small window he gave me to comment.

Daily Howler, Howard Kurtz leaves CNN with a bang! Bob Somerby, July 1, 2013. Yesterday morning, Howard Kurtz hosted his final edition on CNN’s Reliable Sources, the program “where we turn a critical lens on the media.” . Each Sunday, he has asked a group of mainstream pundits to come on TV and pretend to critique their own guild. Now, he’s been hired away by Fox. We were struck, for the ten millionth time, by the clownish way the pundit corps actually works, especially when it pretends to be critiquing itself. We refer to the treatment by Kurtz’s panel of the Paula Deen flap. Remember: Reliable Sources is supposed to be the show where they “turn a critical lens” on the media—not on the various people the media have been flaying.

Daily Howler, At CNN, Howard Kurtz will call it a day! Bob Somerby, June 24, 2013. One of the strangest shows ever. Next Sunday, Howard Kurtz will end a 15-year run as host of the weekly CNN program, Reliable Sources. Kurtz will be going over to Fox, where he will st

facts mean nothing to The Daily Beast's polemicist Michael Moynihan who, in a screed worthy of being shouted from the drunken lips of any ne'er-do-well on Speakers' Corner in London's Hyde Park, decided that The Observer merely lifted the information provided to them  from Mr. Davies's web site without ever contacting me directly. So, Moynihan got some very simple facts wrong. Is The Daily Beast now going to take down Moynihan's fact-free screed "pending an investigation?" For a website that bought Newsweek, from The Washington Post company for one dollar, I seriously doubt it cares about journalistic integrity. The Daily Beast's/Newsweek's editor is Tina Brown, a doyenne of the chardonnay-swilling Fleet Street, London and Manhattan publishing world that largely consists of pasty-faced, slack-jawed, and boring, albeit wealthy, poltroons. The Daily Beast features a Royals page as if anyone who works for a living really cares about what Britain's highest-paid unemployed family does during the course of a day. The Daily Beast's royal watchers will likely soon read about how the British royals, like the Chinese eunuchs who served the infant emperor, flocked around the crib of William's and Kate's newborn heir to sniff the "royal poo" to ensure the future monarch is healthy and fit for the throne. Now that we've established the ethical worth of The Daily Beast, let's look at the value of Mr. Moynihan. Moynihan has a history with the corporate-funded libertarian magazine Reason. But Moynihan could never really establish himself in American journalism, so he went where every struggling enterprising journalist goes to make a name for himself: Stockholm. In Stockholm, Moynihan worked for the Swedish "free-market" think tank Timbro, which is associated with the neo-conservative government of Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Reinfeldt's American mentor, one Karl Rove. Now that we've established that Moynihan is a right-wing political hack and far from a journalist, let's look at his other sordid activities in Sweden. Moynihan was part of Sweden's "Everyone Draw Mohammed Day," an attempt to inflame Sweden's and Europe's Muslims who believe that any caricature of the Prophet Mohammed serves to blaspheme their faith. Such childish antics are worthy of any acolyte of Karl Rove. But Moynihan, after getting his start in Europe, now fancies himself as some sort of Russell Baker for the snot-nosed punk generation who believes that coverage of Bill Clinton's transgressions are only the fodder for a "golden age" of conspiracy-minded people. But, hey, as Boxcar Willie and Slim Whitman discovered, Americans like Moynihan can makeover their careers in Europe after being abject failures in their initial careers in the United States.

Guardian, New NSA leaks show how US is bugging its European allies; Exclusive: Edward Snowden papers reveal 38 targets including EU, France and Italy, Ewen MacAskill and Julian Borger, June 30, 2013. Berlin accuses Washington of cold war tactics. US intelligence services are spying on the European Union mission in New York and its embassy in Washington, according to the latest top secret US National Security Agency documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. One document lists 38 embassies and missions, describing them as "targets". It details an extraordinary range of spying methods used against each target, from bugs implanted in electronic communications gear to taps into cables to the collection of transmissions with specialised antennae. Along with traditional ideological adversaries and sensitive Middle Eastern countries, the list of targets includes the EU missions and the French, Italian and Greek embassies, as well as a number of other American allies, including Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey. The list in the September 2010 document does not mention the UK, Germany or other western European states. One of the bugging methods mentioned is codenamed Dropmire, which, according to a 2007 document, is "implanted on the Cryptofax at the EU embassy, DC" – an apparent reference to a bug placed in a commercially available encrypted fax machine used at the mission. The NSA documents note the machine is used to send cables back to foreign affairs ministries in European capitals. The documents suggest the aim of the bugging exercise against the EU embassy in central Washington is to gather inside knowledge of policy disagreements on global issues and other rifts between member states.

Der Spiegel, Attacks from America: NSA Spied on European Union Offices, Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach, Fidelius Schmid and Holger Stark, June 29, 2013.America's NSA intelligence service allegedly targeted the European Union with its spying activities. According to Spiegel information, the US placed bugs in the EU representation in Washington and infiltrated its computer network. Cyber attacks were also perpetrated against Brussels in New York and Washington. New York Times, Taking Outsize Role in Syria, Qatar Funnels Arms to Rebels, Mark Mazzetti, C.J. Chivers and Eric Schmitt, June 29, 2013. As an intermittent supply of arms to the Syrian opposition gathered momentum last year, the Obama administration repeatedly implored its Arab allies to keep one type of powerful weapon out of the rebels’ hands: heat-seeking shoulder-fired missiles. The missiles, American officials warned, could one day be used by terrorist groups, some of them affiliated with Al Qaeda, to shoot down civilian aircraft.

Observer, Revealed: secret European deals to hand over private data to America, Jamie Dowden, June 29, 2013. Germany 'among countries offering intelligence' according to new claims by former US defense analyst. At least six European Union countries in addition to Britain have been colluding with the US over the mass harvesting of personal communications data, according to a former contractor to America's National Security Agency, who said the public should not be "kept in the dark." Wayne Madsen, a former US navy lieutenant who first worked for the NSA in 1985, names Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain and Italy as having secret deals with the US. Madsen, at left, said the countries had "formal second and third party status" under signal intelligence (sigint) agreements that compels them to hand over data, including mobile phone and internet information to the NSA if requested. Under international intelligence agreements, confirmed by declassified documents, nations are categorised by the US according to their trust level. The US is first party while the UK, Canada, Australia and  New Zealand enjoy second party relationships. Germany and France have third party relationships. In an interview published last night on the PrivacySurgeon.org blog, Madsen, who has been attacked for holding controversial views on espionage issues, said he had decided to speak out after becoming concerned about the "half story" told by EU politicians regarding the extent of the NSA's activities in Europe. He said that under the agreements, which were drawn up after the second world war, the "NSA gets the lion's share" of the sigint "take." In return, the third parties to the NSA agreements received "highly sanitised intelligence."

Editor's Note: The Observer pulled this front page story from its website June 30 pending what it's brief notice called further investigation. Sources indicated that the concern was that Madsen had reported on other controversial topics. The topics included alleged sex scandals by prominent political leaders in both parties in the United States and alleged foreign intelligence operations in the United States involving allies. Before becoming a reporter and blogger, Madsen as a Navy investigator probed, among other matters, both sexual scandal and, separatly, the Jonathan Pollard spy case and the impact of Pollard's disclosures on U.S. security.

WMR, Firing back, Wayne Madsen, July 1, 2013, First, after a very stormy weekend, this should be perfectly clear to those who would practice amateur psychiatry while, at the same time, purporting to be "journalists." I do not suffer fools easily. I'll start with the events that led up to The Observer of Britain and its sister paper The Guardian dropping the story on my not-so-new revelations concerning the National Security Agency's use of "Third Parties" like Germany and France, now up in arms about NSA-British GCHQ spying on their citizens, to conduct mass eavesdropping on satellite and undersea cable communications. The Observer, which ran a front page story in its Sunday June 30 edition featuring yours truly's picture on the front page, was responding to my interview with Simon Davies, the former director general of Privacy International and now the editor of The Privacy Surgeon.

Against Wayne Madsen

Daily Beast / Newsweek, NSA Nutjob: Anatomy of a Fake ‘Observer’ Story, Michael Moynihan, July 1, 2013. Not only did The Guardian’s sister publication base a cover story—later pulled—on a single paranoid conspiracist, the reporter failed even to speak with him. But the story’s still percolating online, says Michael Moynihan. For those desiccated journalists old enough to remember, the scandal-plagued presidency of Bill Clinton was the golden age of enterprising conspiracists, imaginative cranks, and swivel-eyed charlatans. Back then, before the Internet allowed for the easy dissemination, repetition, and debunking of sinister nonsense, a certain amount of skill was required to spread conspiracy theories. For Clinton’s tormentors, the most reliable route for dodgy information was the sympathetic foreign reporter. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the Washington correspondent for Britain’s august, right-leaning broadsheet The Daily Telegraph, dutifully “raised questions” about the suicide of former White House staffer Vince Foster and the president’s supposed involvement in a cocaine-smuggling ring. The stories were then laundered back into the mainstream American news media (”According to a report in London’s Daily Telegraph...”).

Privacy Surgeon, The withdrawal of an NSA story – and an ethical quagmire for the Observer, Simon Davies, July 8, 2013. There are many inspiring stories of heroic actions by journalists and editors – tenacious tales from the front-line in pursuit of truth. Unfortunately for one British Sunday newspaper – the Observer – inclusion in that noble circle may have to wait until the paper conducts a deep dive into its principles. Circumstances surrounding the hasty removal of a story have raised some uncomfortable questions about the Observer‘s editorial processes and its ethical compass. Over the past few days circumstances surrounding the paper’s hasty removal of a front page story on NSA spying within Europe have raised some uncomfortable questions about the Observer’s editorial processes and its ethical compass (the Observer is the sister publication of the Guardian newspaper).  It seems that at the heart of the paper’s decision to expunge this story was a torrent of condemnation from the hard-core US Liberal media over the credibility of a former NSA contractor, Wayne Madsen, who had featured in the article. By way of background, Madsen has never been on friendly terms with the Liberal media, and the two have been like acid and water for the past ten years. A mini Twitter-storm in the two hours following publication persuaded the Observer to withdraw the story. A barrage of subsequent hostile reviews persuaded the paper to keep it withdrawn.

In this case though I suspect the Observer was afraid of the barrage. From all the evidence I’ve been able to gather they panicked, canned the story, made up a plausible excuse and then when they discovered that the article was factually correct, tried to bury it. Now I’m guessing they just want the whole affair to go away – but it’s too important to be dismissed that lightly.

The validity of the article’s assertions was not in doubt. Indeed the Guardian itself later confirmed that the story was factually sound. Instead, editorial staff had anguished over the sustainability of featuring a central character who held unconventional, contentious and sometimes bizarre views – even though these views were unrelated to the ambit of the expunged story. It’s a little like withdrawing an exposé on maladministration of public funds because the informant had expressed a belief in the conspiracy of One World Government.

This is not an unusual dilemma for media. The perceived credibility of informants is important to public trust in an article – which goes some way to explaining the popularity of cloaking devices such as “informed source”. However it’s critically important for “Great” newspapers (among which the Observer is often counted) to avoid making such judgments in the manner by which contestants are voted off the Big Brother household. Sadly, the Observer appears to have capitulated to insider lobbying at the expense of its ethical obligation to publish.

Staff anguished over the sustainability of featuring a central character who held unconventional, contentious and sometimes bizarre views

As I’ll explain in more detail later, there are some troubling differences between this and previous instances where the sustainability of a source is under examination. I’m curious to explore whether the Observer made a pragmatically sound decision for the wrong reasons.

The phenomenon of heroism

Being heroic means taking a risk both to defend integrity in reporting and the pursuit of truth – in other words, placing the public’s right to know above all else. In some respects the recent Observer episode is a sort of anti-hero scenario – timid, self-preserving, inwardly focused and steered by a pragmatic editorial policy.

By retracting and then “disappearing” a prominent story that was factually correct, the paper opens some difficult questions about media self censorship. To take such an action through genuine concern for factual integrity is appropriate. But to do so because of intimidation by – at least partially – irrelevant and groundless media criticism raises questions about the paper’s confidence and maturity. Sadly, the two motives are evident in equal measure in this episode.

The Observer’s decision to kill the Madsen story is as important as the erased material itself. Consider the following text from the abandoned Observer piece:

I’m hoping that the Observer can shed more light on this episode – though most media organisations accused of ducking for cover this way have responded like a pugnacious street-boy, leaning against the garage wall and growling “I weren’t afraid of nuthin’.”

In more recent times William Binney, Thomas Drake, Adrienne Kinne, Mike Frost, Russell Tice, Mark Klein and Wayne Madsen have all defied their secrecy agreements to speak out publicly about the extent of NSA surveillance. Yes, Wayne Madsen.  It’s understandable to sing praise to well-known media outlets for publishing such disclosures. Those organisations sometimes risk humiliation if the stories don’t stand up – and prosecution if they do. However most mainstream media groups have historically been incapable or unwilling to conduct true investigative work on national security issues – and many have instinctively resisted publishing the output of other media organisations.

CNN, Sneak peek at this Sunday's show, Elizabeth Cherneff, July 5, 2013. Guest host John Avlon will analyze the various media angles. Later in the show, we’ll talk to Newsweek/The Daily Beast’s Michael Moynihan about The Observer publishing, then pulling, a poorly-sourced NSA story – but not before several other news organizations picked it up.

CNN Reliable Sources, The Crash of Flight 214; Social Media Explodes in Crash Aftermath; Reporters Under Fire, John Avlon, Host, Transcripts, July 7, 2013. Ahead on Reliable Sources, Britain's "Observer" publishes an alleged scoop about the NSA that went viral before it had to be retracted. So, here's the question, why did the paper base its report on single unreliable source?

Poynter Institute, Observer pulls story about NSA deal based on Wayne Madsen conspiracy theory, Joshua Gillin, July 1, 2013. The U.K.’s Observer raised eyebrows Sunday for publishing a story alleging the United States had been working with European Union countries and Britain to collect personal communications data, based solely on the allegations of conspiracy theorist Wayne Madsen. The paper later pulled the story from its website, but not until after it ran in print — and The Daily Beast’s Michael Moynihan noticed the paper’s Jamie Doward hadn’t even interviewed Madsen. 

For Wayne Madsen

Madsen Report, SPECIAL REPORT. NSA's meta-data email surveillance program exposed, Wayne Madsen, left, Feb. 4, 2009 (Suscription required.) WMR has learned details of one of the most important components of the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program code named "STELLAR WIND." The highly-classified STELLAR WIND program was initiated by the George W. Bush administration with the cooperation of major U.S. telecommunications carriers, including AT&T and Verizon. The system is linked to a number of meta-databases that contain e-mail, faxes, and text messages of hundreds of millions of people around the world and in the United States. Informed sources have revealed to WMR that PINWALE can search these meta-databases using various parameters like date-time group, natural language, IP address, sender and recipients, operating system, and other information embedded in the header. When an NSA analyst is looking for Farsi or Arabic e-mails, the sender and recepients are normally foreign nationals, who are not covered by restrictions on eavesdropping on U.S. "persons" once imposed on NSA by United States Signals Intelligence Directive 18 (USSID 18). However, STELLAR WIND and PINWALE negated both USSID 18 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 by permitting NSA analysts to read the e-mails, faxes, and text messages of U.S. persons when PINWALE search parameters included searches of e-mails in English. When English language text communications are retrieved, analysts read the text message content to determine whether it contains anything to do with terrorism. However, rather than being deleted, the messages are returned to the meta-databases. Text message records in PINWALE, a system developed by NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, are contained in three major meta-databases code-named LIONHEART, LIONROAR, and LIONFUSION. Not only are text communications between U.S. persons in the United States and recipients abroad contained in the PINWALE meta-databases but text messages between U.S. persons within the United States are also held in the databases. WMR reported on May 10, 2005, that Booz Allen is also the major contractor for an NSA database code named "FIRSTFRUITS" that tracked not only the articles of journalists but contained intercepts of their communications, ". . . part of the upkeep of the [FIRSTFRUITS] system has been outsourced to outside contractors such as Booz Allen." The involvement of the telecommunications companies in STELLAR WIND and PINWALE was revealed when former AT&T technician Mark Klein leaked AT&T documents on the program 2006. AT&T's interception entailed NSA snooping equipment being placed within AT&T centers in San Francisco; Bridgeton, Missouri; San Diego; San Jose; Atlanta; Seattle; and Los Angeles.

WMR, Firing back, Wayne Madsen, July 1, 2013, After a very stormy weekend, this should be perfectly clear to those who would practice amateur psychiatry while, at the same time, purporting to be "journalists." I do not suffer fools easily. I'll start with the events that led up to The Observer of Britain and its sister paper, The Guardian, dropping the story on my not-so-new revelations concerning the National Security Agency's use of "Third Parties" like Germany and France, now up in arms about NSA-British GCHQ spying on their citizens, to conduct mass eavesdropping on satellite and undersea cable communications. The Observer, which ran a front page story in its Sunday June 30 edition featuring yours truly's picture on the front page, was responding to my interview with Simon Davies, the former director general of Privacy International and now the editor of The Privacy Surgeon.

Privacy Surgeon, The withdrawal of an NSA newspaper story -- and an ethical quagmire for the Observer, Simon Davies, July 7, 2013. Simon Davies is the Founder and for 22 years was Director-General of the influential watchdog group Privacy International, which has been at the forefront of almost every major sphere of privacy, from CCTV and identity systems to border surveillance and biometrics policy. He is also an academic, consultant, journalist and author. He has been a Visiting Fellow in Law at both the University of Greenwich and the University of Essex, a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at George Washington University and for 14 years until 2011 was appointed to the London School of Economics, where he taught the groundbreaking MSc Masters course in “Privacy & Data Protection” He is also co-director of the LSE’s Policy Engagement Network  and is currently a project director with the LSE.

Wayne Madsen Report, NSA's joint operations with European nations, Wayne Madsen, Updated to July 2, 2013. The Observer of the UK interviewed the editor on the National Security Agency's Second, Third, and Fourth Party agreements with other intelligence services that pointed out that German and French protestations about the NSA and British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) jointly tapping the transatlantic cable in Cornwall not withstanding, the NSA also cooperates with Berlin and Paris in collecting private information on European citizens. On June 29, after The Guardian ran the story prior to The Observer running it on its web site and featuring it as a splash in its June 30 print edition, the story was pulled by The Guardian and The Observer. The second print edition of The Observer also deleted the story but not before the first print run reached London area news agents, as well as those in other British and European cities. The decision appears to have been made after a well-coordinated campaign was launched by a number of web activists, including a Professor John Schindler who identifies himself as a professor with the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Schindler has been particularly critical of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald who broke most of Snowden's revelations on NSA surveillance.

Craig Murray.org, All Law is Gone: Naked Power Remains, Craig Murray, July 3, 2013. Craig Murray, left, is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and Rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. The forcing down of the Bolivian President’s jet was a clear breach of the Vienna Convention by Spain and Portugal, which closed their airspace to this Head of State while on a diplomatic mission. It has never been thought necessary to write down in a Treaty that Heads of State enjoy diplomatic immunity while engaged in diplomacy, as their representatives only enjoy diplomatic immunity as cyphers for their Head of State. But it is a hitherto unchallenged precept of customary international law, indeed arguably the oldest provision of international law. To the US and its allies, international law is no longer of any consequence. I can see no evidence that anyone in an official position has even noted the illegality of repeated Israeli air and missile strikes against Syria. Snowden, Manning and Assange all exposed illegality on a massive scale, and no action whatsoever has been taken against any of the criminals they exposed. Instead they are being hounded out of all meaningful life and ability to function in society. I have repeatedly posted, and have been saying in public speeches for ten years, that under the UK/US intelligence sharing agreements the NSA spies on UK citizens and GCHQ spies on US citizens and they swap the information. As they use a shared technological infrastructure, the division is simply a fiction to get round the law in each country restricting those agencies from spying on their own citizens.

I have also frequently remarked how extraordinary it is that the media keep this “secret,” which they have all known for years. The Guardian published the truth on 29 June: "At least six European Union countries in addition to Britain have been colluding with the US over the mass harvesting of personal communications data, according to a former contractor to America’s National Security Agency, who said the public should not be “kept in the dark.”  This article has been taken down pending an investigation...." Wayne Madsen, a former US navy lieutenant who first worked for the NSA in 1985, names Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain and Italy as having secret deals with the US. I can give, and I would give on oath, an eye witness guarantee that from my direct personal experience of twenty years as a British diplomat the deleted information from Wayne Madsen was true.

Daily Howler, Howard Kurtz leaves CNN with a bang! Bob Somerby, July 1, 2013. Yesterday morning, Howard Kurtz hosted his final edition on CNN’s Reliable Sources, the program “where we turn a critical lens on the media.” . Each Sunday, he has asked a group of mainstream pundits to come on TV and pretend to critique their own guild. Now, he’s been hired away by Fox. We were struck, for the ten millionth time, by the clownish way the pundit corps actually works, especially when it pretends to be critiquing itself. We refer to the treatment by Kurtz’s panel of the Paula Deen flap. Remember: Reliable Sources is supposed to be the show where they “turn a critical lens” on the media—not on the various people the media have been flaying. Whatever you think of Paula Deen, she isn’t part of “the media.” But how odd! Neither Kurtz, nor anyone else, had much to say about the media’s conduct! Instead, everyone seemed to turn a critical lens on Paula Deen herself!  Can we talk? In the past week, major news orgs have made ginormous misstatements about Deen. Deen directly said so in last week's interview with Matt Lauer, though she didn’t name names. Why did the New York Times and Slate, among many others, publish such groaning misstatements last week? Kurtz never mentioned the fact that they did—and neither did anyone else! We are talking about the pundits who sat on Kurtz’s final panel. These people are lazy, dishonest, false. Sunday, they faked one for the Gipper, sending Kurtz off in style.

Daily Howler, At CNN, Howard Kurtz will call it a day! Bob Somerby, June 24, 2013. One of the strangest shows ever. Next Sunday, Howard Kurtz will end a 15-year run as host of the weekly CNN program, Reliable Sources. Kurtz will be going over to Fox, where he will start hosting the weekly program, Fox News Watch.  Kurtz is smarter than most major journalists. Over the years, he has sometimes done good work—and he has hosted one of the strangest programs in cable news history.  The strangeness of Reliable Sources has rarely been mentioned within the guild which is known as the “mainstream press corps.” All your favorite fiery “liberals” have also agreed to stare into air as this program proceeded. What made this long-running program so odd? Just this: On Reliable Sources, Kurtz claimed, week after week, to be conducting a show “which trains a critical lens on the media.” But here’s how CNN did that: First, they hired Kurtz, a member of the upper-end press corps, to host the weekly program. And then, each week, they would assemble a panel of three or four other press corps members to help him conduct his discussions. Could any other industry even dream of presenting a program like this? Can you imagine a weekly show about health care in which a hospital executive served as host, with three or four other hospital executives serving as his panel?  In any other industry, a show like that would be known as an infomercial. We first posted this obvious point in 1999. Have you ever seen even one of your favorite liberals second this obvious point? Your favorite stars want to get on TV. Toward that end, they may not tell you the obvious things they are thinking.

Fifth Estate, Robert S. Finnegan, July 12, 2013.

Publisher, The 5th Estate and former Senior News Editor, The Jakarta Post
Jakarta, Indonesia

WMR, UK D-Notice resulted in web attack on WMR editor, Wayne Madsen, July 15, 2013 (Excerpt. Subscriptioni required.). British intelligence sources have informed WMR that a British Defense Ministry "D-Notice" issued on June 7 to British media organizations, including The Guardian and The Observer, both owned by the same company, served as a pretext to conduct the smear attack on WMR's editor on both sides of the Atlantic. A Confidential D-Notice was issued to the media organizations as a "DA-Notice 03," which was issued pursuant to media reports on "ciphers and secure communications" operations of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain's National Security Agency partner. The DA-3 Notice was authorized by Foreign Secretary William Hague, left, who has responsibility for GCHQ and Britain's MI-6 foreign intelligence service.
 

Against Other Journalists

FireDogLake, The Evolution & State of Journalism Becomes a Key Focus in Bradley Manning’s Trial, Kevin Gosztola, July 11, 2013. The defense in Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial was able to successfully qualify Professor Yochai Benkler of Harvard University as an expert on the “networked Fourth Estate,” who could discuss research he had done on WikiLeaks and how it fit into the “networked Fourth Estate.” What this meant was the defense could present testimony on how WikiLeaks is, in fact, a legitimate journalistic organization and not some kind of criminal enterprise worthy of the wide government investigation, which the United States Justice Department launched into the organization after it released the information Manning is charged with disclosing. It was incredibly significant as it gave the defense the ability to explicitly challenge the charge of “aiding the enemy”—that Manning would have known when he provided information to WikiLeaks that he was giving information to the enemy. The defense was also able to challenge another charge—that he “wantonly “caused “to be published on the internet intelligence belonging to the United States government, having knowledge that intelligence published on the internet is accessible to the enemy.” If WikiLeaks was a legitimate journalistic organization, as Benkler testified in thorough detail, it would not have been “wantonly” to provide information to the organization.

Lawfare, The Snowden Conspiracy (?), Paul Rosenzweig, July 9, 2013. Walter Pincus of the Washington Post has an excellent analysis today in is “Fine Print” column. Though he has been portrayed as a classic “Lone Wolf, it appears likely that Snowden actually had support from an extended group of ideological soul mates.  As Pincus’ analysis shows, Snowden began his coordination with the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, and the Post’s Barton Gellman, and Lauren Poitras in February 2013 – before he actually got a job at Booz Allen in March.  Indeed, as Pincus notes, Snowden, in an unguarded moment, said that he sought the Booz Allen job precisely because it afforded him access to highly classified NSA materials. For me this emphasizes a point that I’ve been concerned about for some time — an effect I call the democratization of conflict.  Cyberspace is an immensely leveling tool that allows individuals and/or small self-organized groups to compete directly with nations.  Seen in this light, the Snowden affair was a highly effective information operation by a small cadre of individuals.  All of which makes me wonder if our obsession with preparation for cyber war against China isn’t a case of refighting the last war in a new domain, instead of understanding the paradigm shift that comes from the capabilities that the new domain enables.

Washington Post, Questions for Snowden, Walter Pincus, July 8, 2013. Did Edward Snowden decide on his own to seek out journalists and then a job at Booz Allen Hamilton’s Hawaii facility as an IT systems administrator to gather classified documents about the National Security Agency’s worldwide surveillance activities? Snowden told the South China Post in June that he took the Booz Allen job in late March or early April because it “granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked.”
 
FireDogLake, CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou, in Letter, Describes Breaking Finger in Prison & Being Denied Treatment, Kevin Gosztola, July 9, 2013. Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who is serving a thirty-month sentence in the federal correctional institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania, has written a third letter from the prison. Kiriakou was the first member of the CIA to publicly acknowledge that torture was official US policy under the administration of President George W. Bush. 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 February 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). This is the third letter to be published byFiredoglake since Kiriakou went to prison. Kiriakou did not directly provide it to Firedoglake. He sent it to his attorney, Jesselyn Radack, of the Government Accountability Project.

Salon, Meet the “Journalists Against Journalism” club! David Sirota, July 2, 2013. The clique of media figures outraged when news outlets challenge power has a new member: Washington Post higher-ups. From David Gregory to Andrew Ross Sorkin to David Brooks, the ranks of Washington’s hottest new club continues to swell. Call it Journalists Against Journalism — a group of reporters and pundits who are outraged that whistle-blowers and news organizations are colluding to expose illegal government surveillance. To this club, the best journalism is not the kind that challenges power or even merely sheds light on the inner workings of government; it is about protecting power and keeping the lights off.

Huffington Post, Media's Edward Snowden Haters Club Keeps Growing, Jack Mirkinson, June 17, 2013. In trashing NSA leaker Edward Snowden on Sunday, CBS's Bob Schieffer joined a fast-growing club of establishment pundits who have derided his actions and questioned his character. It has seemed sometimes that commentators have been trying to compete for who can come up with the most sneering description of Snowden. The Washington Post's Richard Cohen seemed likely to win the contest when he confusingly dubbed Snowden a "cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood." (Huh?) Schieffer might have managed to trump all of those rivals, though, when he lamented that Snowden did not live up to the likes of Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King. While it's definitely true that Snowden will probably not leave a legacy on the same scale as Rosa Parks, it's a bit of a strange test to match him against two of the greatest people in human history. Judged against them, most people would fail. For now, though, Schieffer is in first place in the anti-Snowden contest.

Huffington Post Live, Valerie Plame: Edward Snowden Deserves Thanks, 'Will Be Abused,' Clapper Should Resign (VIDEO), Danny Shea, June 19, 2013. Former CIA agent Valerie Plame said Wednesday that she views NSA leaker Edward Snowden as neither a hero nor a traitor, but that Americans should be grateful that he brought the conversation about liberty and security to the national forefront. "I don't think [Snowden's] a hero, I don't condone what he did. At the same time he's certainly not a traitor as he was called by Dick Cheney," Plame told HuffPost Live host Mike Sacks.

Atlantic, 3 Former NSA Employees Praise Edward Snowden, Corroborate Key Claims, Conor Friedersdorf, June 18, 2013. The men, all whistleblowers, say he succeeded where they failed. USA Today has published an extraordinary interview with three former NSA employees who praise Edward Snowden's leaks, corroborate some of his claims, and warn about unlawful government acts. Thomas Drake, William Binney, and J. Kirk Wiebe each protested the NSA in their own rights. "For years, the three whistle-blowers had told anyone who would listen that the NSA collects huge swaths of communications data from U.S. citizens," the newspaper reports. "They had spent decades in the top ranks of the agency, designing and managing the very data collection systems they say have been turned against Americans. When they became convinced that fundamental constitutional rights were being violated, they complained first to their superiors, then to federal investigators, congressional oversight committees and, finally, to the news media." In other words, they blew the whistle in the way Snowden's critics suggest he should have done. Their method didn't get through to the members of Congress who are saying, in the wake of the Snowden leak, that they had no idea what was going on. But they are nonetheless owed thanks.

Guardian, Distractions about my past and personal life have emerged – an inevitable side effect for those who challenge the US government, Glenn Greenwald, June 26, 2013. When I made the choice to report aggressively on top-secret NSA programs, I knew that I would inevitably be the target of all sorts of personal attacks and smears. You don't challenge the most powerful state on earth and expect to do so without being attacked. As a superb Guardian editorial noted today: "Those who leak official information will often be denounced, prosecuted or smeared. The more serious the leak, the fiercer the pursuit and the greater the punishment."The recent journalist-led "debate" about whether I should be prosecuted for my reporting on these stories was precisely the sort of thing I knew was coming. As a result, I was not particularly surprised when I received an email last night from a reporter at the New York Daily News informing me that he had been "reviewing some old lawsuits" in which I was involved – "old" as in: more than a decade ago – and that "the paper wants to do a story on this for tomorrow." He asked that I call him right away to discuss this, apologizing for the very small window he gave me to comment.

Washington Post, The Guardian: Small British paper makes big impact with NSA stories. Paul Farhi, July 1, 2013. The NSA stories, in particular, raised the Guardian’s profile to an Everest-like peak. Its video interview with Snowden, conducted by its star American columnist Glenn Greenwald, attracted nearly 7 million unique views worldwide in one day. The total was a record for the paper’s Web site, which is already one of the world’s most heavily trafficked news sites with a high of 41 million unique monthly visitors. The NSA and WikiLeaks revelations also raise a question: Why is a London-based news organization revealing so many secrets about the American government?

Lawfare, Justice Department Report on Review of News Media Policies, Benjamin Wittes, July 13, 2013. This report is Attorney General Eric Holder’s response to President Obama’s order of a review of departmental policies with respect to the media. It announces several changes in policy, the first two of which seem the most significant:

NSA Snowden

Washington Post, Snowden made the right call when he fled the U.S., Daniel Ellsberg, July 7, 2013. I was, like Snowden now, a “fugitive from justice.”  Yet when I surrendered to arrest in Boston, having given out my last copies of the papers the night before, I was released on personal recognizance bond the same day. Later, when my charges were increased from the original three counts to 12, carrying a possible 115-year sentence, my bond was increased to $50,000. But for the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war. Helping to end that war was my preeminent concern. I couldn’t have done that abroad, and leaving the country never entered my mind. There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon’s era — and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment — but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to “incapacitate me totally”). I hope Snowden’s revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado.

Washington Post, Snowden says he sees asylum in Russia as short-term fix, Will Englund, June 12, 2013. The former NSA contractor tell guests at airport meeting he hopes to eventually make his way to Latin America.

FireDogLake, The Evolution & State of Journalism Becomes a Key Focus in Bradley Manning’s Trial, Kevin Gosztola, July 11, 2013. The defense in Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial was able to successfully qualify Professor Yochai Benkler of Harvard University as an expert on the “networked Fourth Estate,” who could discuss research he had done on WikiLeaks and how it fit into the “networked Fourth Estate.” What this meant was the defense could present testimony on how WikiLeaks is, in fact, a legitimate journalistic organization and not some kind of criminal enterprise worthy of the wide government investigation, which the United States Justice Department launched into the organization after it released the information Manning is charged with disclosing. It was incredibly significant as it gave the defense the ability to explicitly challenge the charge of “aiding the enemy”—that Manning would have known when he provided information to WikiLeaks that he was giving information to the enemy. The defense was also able to challenge another charge—that he “wantonly “caused “to be published on the internet intelligence belonging to the United States government, having knowledge that intelligence published on the internet is accessible to the enemy.” If WikiLeaks was a legitimate journalistic organization, as Benkler testified in thorough detail, it would not have been “wantonly” to provide information to the organization.

Huffington Post, Snowden's Common Law Defense, Joe Lauria, right, July 6, 2013. The U.S. Senator who divulged the Pentagon Papers in Congress says Edward Snowden and other citizens with access to classified information should have the same immunity as members of Congress to make public secret documents exposing government wrongdoing. Before Daniel Ellsberg, American's most important whistleblower until Snowden, leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 to The New York Times and The Washington Post, he went to Congress to find a Senator willing to make the Papers public. Several turned him down, including George McGovern, who was worried what it would do to his presidential chances the next year. Eventually a freshman Senator, Mike Gravel of Alaska, agreed to take them. With publication in the Times and Post shut down by the Nixon Justice Department's prior restraint, Gravel read the top secret Papers in a Senate hearing on June 29, 1971. He did so on the basis of a clause in the Constitution granting immunity to members of Congress to legally reveal classified information. But when Gravel went to Beacon Press in Boston to publish the Papers as a book, Nixon sought his indictment. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld Gravel's right to reveal classified information in the Senate. I tell the full story in the book I authored with Senator Gravel, A Political Odyssey, published by Seven Stories Press, with a foreword by Ellsberg. It is relevant today because Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall on the Senate intelligence committee say they had concerns about the National Security Agency surveillance programs but couldn't go public with the classified details. Politicians seek power and businessmen profits, and Snowden is threatening both. That's why they are after him, not because of "national security." Since it is their interests that he is threatening, and not the nation's, the fear of terrorism is trumped up to falsely extend that interest to the entire population.
 

Surveillance Court and Homeland Security

Washington Post, Lawmakers see deceptive pattern on surveillance, Peter Wallsten, July 10, 2013. Members of Congress say oversight of government surveillance has been hurt by officials’ misleading testimony, which suggested spying was narrowly tailored. Lawmakers tasked with overseeing national security policy say a pattern of misleading testimony by senior Obama administration officials has weakened Congress’s ability to rein in government surveillance. Members of Congress say officials have either denied the existence of a broad program that collects data on millions of Americans or, more commonly, made statements that left some lawmakers with the impression that the government was conducting only narrow, targeted surveillance operations.

Washington Post, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stepping down to run UC system, Philip Rucker and Sari Horwitz, June 12, 2013. Janet Napolitano, who as President Obama’s homeland security secretary has one of the broadest and most challenging portfolios of any Cabinet member, announced Friday that she is stepping down to become president of the University of California system. Napolitano has been a central figure in the debates over immigration and counterterrorism policies while also managing the government’s response to tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Huffington Post, General Warrants, NSA Spying, And America's Unappreciated Founding Father, James Otis, Jr., Radley Balko, Jully 4, 2013. Today is a day when we Americans reflect on the people and principles that led to our founding. I'd like to write a bit about one of my favorite founding fathers, an 18th-century Boston lawyer named James Otis, Jr. Because he did most of his important work well before the American Revolution, Otis is often overlooked. But no less than John Adams credited Otis' activism with laying the philosophical foundation for American independence. Moreover, the specific abuses by the British crown that most outraged Otis are particularly relevant given the recent revelations about warrantless NSA spying and data collection.

Washington Post, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stepping down to run UC system, Philip Rucker and Sari Horwitz, June 12, 2013. Janet Napolitano, left, who as President Obama’s homeland security secretary has one of the broadest and most challenging portfolios of any Cabinet member, announced Friday that she is stepping down to become president of the University of California system. Napolitano has been a central figure in the debates over immigration and counterterrorism policies while also managing the government’s response to tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Huffington Post, Reflections on the FISA Court, Geoffrey R. Stone, July 5, 2013. Before 1978, the federal government assumed that agencies like the NSA and the FBI could legally carry out wiretaps and other forms of electronic surveillance against suspected foreign intelligence agents inside the United States without any prior judicial approval. In 1978, as a result of disclosures about Nixon-era abuses uncovered by the Church Committee, Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which, among other things, created the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court. The FISA court today consists of 11 federal district court judges, appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States. Each member of the court has to be approved for a security clearance and each serves a seven year term. Over the past 10 years, the FISA court has reviewed an average of approximately 2,000 requests annually for FISA warrants. Approximately 97 percent of the government's requests are approved on initial submission, and if one includes those cases in which the government comes back to the court with additional material after a request has initially been denied, roughly 99 percent of all requests are approved. There are major deficiencies in the way the FISA court now operates. When the judges on the FISA court review the government's submissions, there is no one on the other side to advocate against the arguments of the government. Third, there is some reason to be concerned about the makeup of the FISA court. Of the 11 judges currently serving on the court, ten were initially appointed to the federal bench by Republican presidents. Only one, Judge Mary McLaughlin, was appointed by a Democratic president -- Bill Clinton. The reason for this seems pretty clear, and it is troubling. Under the FISA Act, the Chief Justice appoints the members of the FISA court. Since 1978, when the FISA court was created, every Chief Justice of the United States -- Warren Burger, William Rehnquist and John Roberts -- was appointed by a Republican president. At present, approximately 50 percent of federal district court judges were appointed by Republican presidents and 50 percent were appointed by Democratic presidents. But on the FISA court, 91 percent were appointed by Republican presidents and only 9 percent were appointed by Democratic presidents. This is quite disturbing in terms of the choices made by Burger, Rehnquist and Roberts, who are not supposed to be influenced by partisan or ideological considerations. Moreover, this matters. Judges appointed by Republican and Democratic presidents differ quite significantly in their judicial approaches. To cite just one example, among Supreme Court justices appointed in the last 30 years, those appointed by Republican presidents support civil liberties claims roughly 34 percent of the time, whereas those appointed by Democratic presidents support such claims approximately 74 percent of the time.

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

New York Times, Israel Airstrike Targeted Advanced Missiles That Russia Sold to Syria, U.S. Says, Michael R. Gordon, July 13, 2013. Israel carried out an air attack in Syria this month that targeted advanced antiship cruise missiles sold to the Syria government by Russia, American officials said Saturday. The officials, who declined to be identified because they were discussing intelligence reports, said the attack occurred July 5 near Latakia, Syria’s principal port city. The target was a type of missile called the Yakhont, they said.
 
Huffington Post, Permit me an impertinent question (or three), Robert Reich, July 11, 2013. Suppose a small group of extremely wealthy people sought to systematically destroy the U.S. government by (1) finding and bankrolling new candidates pledged to shrinking and dismembering it; (2) intimidating or bribing many current senators and representatives to block all proposed legislation, prevent the appointment of presidential nominees, eliminate funds to implement and enforce laws, and threaten to default on the nation's debt; (3) taking over state governments in order to redistrict, gerrymander, require voter IDs, purge voter rolls, and otherwise suppress the votes of the majority in federal elections; (4) running a vast PR campaign designed to convince the American public of certain big lies, such as climate change is a hoax, and (5) buying up the media so the public cannot know the truth. Would you call this treason?  If not, what would you call it?  And what would you do about it?

Huffington Post, Sequestration Pushes Head Start Families To The Precipice, Sam Stein, July 9, 2013. Sequestration went into effect on March 1, 2013, after lawmakers failed to agree on a replacement. In Washington, the conventional wisdom has sometimes held that sequestration's harms were oversold. Dire warnings of massive job loss never came true, while government programs used budget gimmickry to keep operating. Outside the Beltway, the perception of sequestration is sharply, viscerally different. Budget cuts have resulted in fewer meals for seniors, less financial aid for scientific research, poorer natural disaster preparedness and more expensive treatments for cancer patients. The Huffington Post set out to tell the story of another slice of sequestration: the damage being done to Head Start. The 5.27 percent reduction to the $8 billion program is having a devastating effect on families with children in the program, according to interviews with parents across the country. Not everyone has experienced the loss of a child's Head Start slot or a teary living room conversation. But parents have been left fearful and scrambling, worried that the cuts are shredding an already frayed social safety net upon which they depend.

Washington Post, Obama’s feckless Syria policy is likely to fail, Editorial Board, July 11, 2013. It has been a month since the White House informed journalists that President Obama had decided to supply Syrian rebels with light arms. Since then, the regime has launched a bloody new offensive in the city of Homs, using heavy artillery and rockets to attack residential areas held by the rebels. Thousands of people have been killed, adding to a death toll approaching 100,000. President Bashar al-Assad has been boasting of his military successes and of the failure of outside powers to bring down his regime. Meanwhile, the United States has failed to deliver any of the promised munitions to beleaguered rebel forces — “not even a single bullet,” one source told The Post’s David Ignatius. The delay can be attributed in part to congressional resistance: According to reporting by The Post’s Karen DeYoung, the administration’s plan has drawn objections from members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, which are responsible for reviewing covert operations. But the larger problem is an extraordinary failure of leadership by Mr. Obama. While deciding on intervention in a fateful Middle East war, the president has chosen a minimalist option likely to fail while declining to publicly explain or justify his actions.

Al.com, President Obama's former White House counsel visits Don Siegelman, working on his appeal, Mike Cason, July 9, 2013. President Barack Obama's former White House counsel visited Don Siegelman in prison in the last few weeks, and the law firm he works for is taking over part of the former governor's appeal of his bribery conviction. Gregory B. Craig, who was White House counsel from January 2009 to January 2010, visited Siegelman at the federal detention center in Oakdale, La., according to Siegelman's son, Joseph Siegelman, and Peter Sissman, who has worked on the former governor's case for four years. On June 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit granted Sissman's motion to withdraw from the case because of illness. The court also granted Sissman's motion to extend by 60 days a deadline to file a brief and records for Siegelman's appeal. Sissman said the extension was needed to give Siegelman's new lawyers time to prepare.

Washington Post, Shadowy Pentagon ‘psy-ops’ missions becoming entangled on home front, Craig Whitlock, July 7, 2013. A case involving a Somali American shows how other parts of the U.S. government monitor online activity. In the past, psychological operations usually meant dropping leaflets or broadcasting propaganda on the battlefield. Today, the military is more focused on manipulating news and commentary on the Internet, especially social media, by posting material and images without necessarily claiming ownership. Much of the work is carried out by military information support teams that the Special Operations Command has deployed to 22 countries. The command, which is based in Tampa, also operates multilingual news Web sites tailored to specific regions.

Legal Schnauzer, Federal Court Cites Immunity In Granting Dismissal Of $25-Million Lawsuit Against Judge Robert Vance, Roger Shuler, July 8, 2013. A federal court has dismissed a $25-million lawsuit against Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert S. Vance Jr. It appears, however, that U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn ignored binding Eleventh Circuit precedent in issuing the dismissal. The federal complaint grew out of a state case styled styled William B. Cashion and Western Steel Inc. v. Steven Mark Hayden, et al (Case No. CV-2012-209). At the heart of the controversy is William B. Cashion, an 84-year-old businessman who is co-founder of Bessemer-based Western Steel Inc. (WSI) and a shareholder in several other Alabama corporate entities. Vance issued four rulings in the Cashion case, even though the matter was not assigned to him. All four rulings were favorable to Cashion and his attorneys from the Birmingham firm Maynard Cooper & Gale (MCG), which has contributed heavily to Vance's election campaigns. Blackburn likely was grasping at any straw she could find to let a judicial colleague off the hook--and she grabbed a straw that is stunningly weak and contrary to Eleventh Circuit precedent. A serious review of the relevant law leads to only one conclusion: Robert Vance Jr. acted outside his judicial capacity in Cashion, and he therefore is not protected by immunity. That means he is subject to being held accountable for the substantial damages he allegedly caused to the Haydens and the Cashion trust.

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