National Media Spins National Security Scares

Have you noticed anything strange about news stories recently dominating the news? I sure have. Let's compare notes.

The nation's public affairs agenda has been dominated recently by several major and highly dubious news stories about national security. I haven't seen anything like it since 9/11 or the WMD charade before the Iraq invasion. Recent coverage is even more troublesome because there is no obvious new event trigger, as in 9/11.

Most important this week was President Obama's rejection on the Aug. 6 Tonight Show of years of solid evidence that the National Security Agency (NSA) has a massive domestic spy program.

In response to softball questions by the show's affable host, Jay Leno, the president contradicted the evidence developed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden as well as by others who had been high-ranking NSA executives or expert outside commentators, such as author James Bamford, right. Here are the words: 'We Don’t Have A Domestic Spying Program.’

Another strange approach was the terminology by major news outlets that called Snowden an alleged "spy" even though there is no evidence he was working for any outside nation. This spy claim parallels other smears of investigative journalists that suggest an orchestrated plan by intelligence authorities working with friendly reporters.  

The flip side is the appearance of a campaign linked to the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island to pressure media outlets not to quote or pay journalists who criticize the government. Highly active in this effort is War College Professor John Schindler, a former NSA employee whose frenzied campaign on social media and mainstream media has targeted a number of high-profile former NSA executives, commentators and political figures.

We published a three-part series about such smear campaigns last month. New evidence now suggests the Daily Beast website and the U.S. Navy War College are near the center of this campaign to assault journalists who publish unflattering information about the NSA.

The War College President, Rear Admiral Walter E. “Ted” Carter Jr, was announced in the spring and took office July 1.

Schindler's rhetoric, as indicated at right on a public Twitter posting July 31, has gone so far as to mock President Obama as "the Crown" -- and "Frenchie Papists." Although military officers are normally expected to speak respectively of superiors in rank, including the president, the anti-Catholic slur is also odd for a professor teaching in the heavily Roman Catholic state of Rhode Island.

Historically, military officers and those working for such federal agencies as NSA (a unit of the Department of Defense) might be leery of publicly mocking the president and such a large segment of the voting population as Catholics.

Rhode Island's senior U.S. senator, Democrat Jack Reed, left, for example, is a West Point graduate, Roman Catholic, Harvard Law graduate, and a member of powerful appropriations and armed services committees.

However, the Senate and Congress have ceded many of their Constitutional powers to the Executive Branch in recent years, a fact well-known in the government and lobbying community. The reasons are many but two might be especially relevant in this context. One is the Executive Branch's relentless expansion of its war-marking powers even though such Constitutional scholars as Bruce Fein argue that unilateral warmaking was the most important power that Founders wanted to withhold from the presidency.

A second factor that is much harder for the public to assess. These are reports that the Executive Branch's surveillance operations over the public also capture and store for easy retrieval electronic communications involving the Legislative Branch. Although the Defense Department and similar agencies run the surveillance in theory much of the decision making is in the hands of powerful conractors. Significant evidence exists that private contractors with highly partisan leanings installed the Congressional communications system a decade ago, using foreign equipment that in itself might provide a security risk. Additionally, former NSA analyst Russell Tice gave an interview on Boiling Frogs radio in June stating that NSA to his certain knowledge monitored Congress, including Barack Obama when the future president was an Illinois senator.

Such claims are, of course, difficult to evualate. The president denied on the Tonight show that any such program exists. Law enforcement actions against government employees suggest also that any of them who disclosed specific information would be in serious legal jeopardy as indicated by horrendous punishments being exacted upon government workers who mention matters disapproved by the White House.

Yet common sense and conventional wisdom both indicate that, in general, Capitol Hill officials raise so much money and consort to discuss business with so many lobbyists (many hired in part for their good looks) that any release of surveillance could prove awkward. 

Former Navy Intelligence officer and NSA analyst Wayne Madsen has been a major target of Schindler. As a response, Madsen undertook a research effort on Schindler's comments, summarized in the subscription-only report, Shilling for NSA "Powered by Twitter,"  The column identified the cascade of Twitters exemplified above and other campaigns against journalists and politicians. Madsen summarized Schindler's comments as follows:

In addition to this editor ("conspiracy nut") and Snowden ("traitor" and "spy"), Schindler has primarily used Twitter to launch attacks on Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald ("Jim Jones" and "dumber than I thought"), NSA whistleblowers Tom Drake ("unpopular at NSA"), William Binney ("unhinged"), and Russell Tice ("fabulist", "Christie fat," "loon," "flake"), "The Puzzle Palace" and "Shadow Factory" author James Bamford ("doesn't always let facts get in the way of a good story," "facts wrong," "sensationalism"); McClatchy reporter Jonathan Landay (Schindler questioned in a Tweet whether the McClatchy DC bureau knew that Landay "can't read")*, "Secret Power" author Nicky Hager ("fabricator"), "Overworld" author and former U.S. intelligence agent Larry Kolb, and more shocking, Representative Justin Amash (R-MI), right, ("Ayn Rand follower, dormitory BS"), who co-sponsored legislation that almost passed the U.S. House that would have curbed NSA's surveillance activities.

Madsen, who holds a graduation certificate from the War College and reports that he has been unable to obtain comment from the college about his research, concluded:

Schindler is in gross violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits U.S. government civilian and military personnel from engaging in partisan political activities and that includes publicly criticizing members of Congress from a perch at a military-funded campus. Violations of the Hatch Act were once considered a court martial offense in the military. To criticize Judge Andrew Napolitano's criticisms of NSA, Schindler, a college professor mind you, can only offer up "awesome hairdo" as a snarky response.

It is also interesting to note that Schindler referred to Roman Catholic French as "papist Frenchies." Why is Schindler allowed to get away with using his U.S. government positions to engage in almost non-stop Twitter activity and partisan bashing of those who disagree with NSA? His operations are sanctioned. The only person who has the ultimate authority to ensure that Schindler ceases violating the Hatch Act is the newly-installed Naval War College President, Rear Admiral Walter E. “Ted” Carter Jr., right.

Finally, there are weird components to the mainstream news coverage of the Mideast and North Africa embassy closings and of the Boston Bombing Case, as illustrated below.

I won't try to examine each story in depth here, especially since each presents different dynamics best explored by other authors in the excerpts.

A common thread is worth noting, however: Many in the major media act in a public relations capacity for whatever officials want to say, on or off the record.

This is not an accident. Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters, my new book about the Obama second term and the century of history leading to this point, illustrates that the same few interests that dominate our presidents have similar influence over Congress and the major media.

The result is smooth-running system in which self-interest generally prevails over the public interest. Cooperative journalists get the scoops, avoid the years of career-threatening litigation endured by some or, more commonly, shunning by the Professor Schindlers of government.

The notorious hacker Guccifer (a combination of Gucci and Lucifer?) is best-known for releasing personal information about celebrities, including photos of paintings by former President George W. Bush. In addition, there are stolen lists of members of secret societies, such as Bohemian Grove or those 1,500 or so members of the Council on Foreign Relations who focus on the intelligence sector. Virtually every significant news organization and many in related fields such as book publishing has a representative on the latter list.

This does not mean members are receiving directives, only that they are recognized as a trusted member able to receive confidential reports and otherwise act as a trusted scrivner for the inner circle. Each would doubtless point to examples of independent thought and publication. Given the track record below, however, the public is entitled to whether the bargain is to perform as expected.


Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment


Related News Coverage

Obama, McDonaugh, White House grounds 8-5-13Updated:

XXTwitterWarCommittee, Open letter to Profs. Schindler and Nichols from USSA’s желтый дом, Anonymous, Aug. 5, 2013. Prof. Schindler has smeared NSA whistleblowers who did not flee to Russia, like William Binney and Russ Tice, as ‘fabulists’ and ‘liars’. However, Schindler has provided no evidence to contradict Tice’s claims that Tice personally witnessed the NSA spying on then obscure Illinois State Senator Barack Hussein Obama in 2004, nor future Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. When confronted on this point, Schindler whines that he’s being asked to ‘prove a negative’. THE piece of evidence that the Professors and their Twitter followers have gnashed their fangs at, like vampires greeted with a Cross [is]: the sworn testimony of licensed Pennsylvania private investigator Douglas J. Hagmann that he personally experienced the NSA’s Utah Data Center presenting itself on his caller ID in late May 2013. Some of Mr. Hagmann’s ‘conspiracy theories’ have proven to be conspiracy facts. Mr. Hagmann was one of the rare individuals to publically state in the weeks after the 09/11/12 Benghazi assault that it was triggered by CIA arms trafficking to Syrian rebels, a Rand Paul ‘conspiracy theory’ now confirmed by the UK Daily Telegraph and CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Huffington Post, Daily Beast To Lose As Much As $12 Million This Year: Report, Staff report, Aug. 26, 2013. The Daily Beast could lose as much as $12 million in 2013, sources recently told AdWeek. The publication reported the number in a piece published Monday, writing, "Despite those positive signs, the Beast is believed to be on track to lose as much as $12 million this year, per knowledgeable sources, and IAC chief Barry Diller's goodwill may be running out." Those "positive signs" included ad revenue increasing 23 percent and average traffic increasing 28 percent compared to last year. The piece discussed what Tina Brown might do if she leaves the Daily Beast when her contract expires in January. It has been a busy year for Brown, who saw IAC sell Newsweek to IBT Media. When the magazine stopped printing at the end of last year, she had acknowledged that it was an "insane" idea to have taken over the magazine in the first place.

Washington Post, Justice claims broad powers for surveillance, Ellen Nakashima and Robert Barnes, Aug. 9, 2013. A Justice Department legal analysis says law allows vast NSA collection of records to aid investigations, despite concerns of critics from both parties in Congress. President Obama announced plans Friday to pursue reforms that would open the legal proceedings surrounding NSA surveillance programs to greater scrutiny. Some in President Obama's administration are pushing for greater transparency in federal surveillance programs following recent revelations about National Security Agency programs. The report, which echoes assertions the administration has made to Congress, said the law and subsequent court decisions bestow broad power on the government to seek telephone records “relevant” to investigations of suspected terrorism. “Relevance,” the paper stated, is “a broad standard that permits discovery of large volumes of data in circumstances where doing so is necessary to identify much smaller amounts of information within that data that directly bears on the matter being investigated.” The release of the white paper appeared to do little to allay the concerns of critics in Congress and the civil liberties community who say the surveillance program violates Americans’ right to privacy. Last month, the House narrowly defeated a proposal to terminate it. The closeness of the vote, 217 to 205, was surprising but gave fresh momentum to lawmakers who have been trying to rein in the collection effort. “The president must acknowledge what a clear majority of Americans know: Our government has violated the law by collecting the communications of millions of innocent U.S. citizens,” said Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), left, who wants the collection to end and has also criticized another major NSA surveillance program that targets communications of foreigners. At right, President Obama strolls White House grounds with Chief of Staff Denis McDonaugh.

Huffington Post, Obama's 'Tonight Show' Domestic Spying Comments Contradicted By New York Times Story (VIDEO), Staff report, Aug. 8, 2013. A New York Times article Thursday revealed previously unreported details about the United States' domestic surveillance program, namely that the NSA is "searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans' e-mail and text communications into and out of the country, hunting for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance." Trevor Timm, Freedom of the Press Foundation Executive Director and Electronic Frontier Foundation Director, told HuffPost Live's Ahmed Shihab-Eldin Thursday that the news directly contradicts what President Obama told Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" earlier in the week. "There is no spying on Americans. We don't have a domestic spying program. What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an email address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat," Obama told Leno. "That statement is just unbelievable and it reeks of this Orwellian newspeak," Timm told Shihab-Eldin. "When he talks to Jay Leno later in the clip, he says we can't listen to your phone calls or read your emails, and now we know with this New York Times story that is plainly not true. It is unfortunate that we have to parse through government statements a dozen times before we actually figure out what they are meaning to say. With all these questions that they get they are obfuscating and deflecting and deceiving the American public."

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

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

As we all know that is in no way accurate. The mechanisms exist completely independent of a terrorist attack and may be accessed for a variety of reasons. Obama is putting out disinformation. Obama called the surveillance programs “a critical component to counterterrorism,” but acknowledged that they’ve “raised a lot of questions for people.” Then Obama went on to falsely claim that the whistleblowing system works and Snowden should have used that if he had concerns about those non-existent domestic spying programs. All of this comes from a president going to war on whistle-blowers. The performance, if anything, demonstrates that the government cannot be trusted to be honest about civil liberties violations. It’s no surprise that President Obama chose a late night comedy show throwing softball questions to address his gross violations of the Constitution.

Who, What, Why, Monday Morning Skeptic: Questioning Authority in the Sprawling Boston Bombing Case, David J. Krajicek, Aug. 5, 2013. A glib article published in the Boston Globe on July 27 suggested that those who question the opaque law enforcement narrative about the Boston Marathon bombing have a screw loose. “There are those,” the writer begins, ”who believe the bombs and blood were staged, the amputees and others injured were actors in some kind of Hollywood production designed to justify martial law.” David Abel’s lead is a splendid Straw Man ploy: dismiss an idea by seizing upon an absurd exaggeration, like looking at a reflection in a funhouse mirror. We asked Martin Garbus, one of the country’s premier constitutional attorneys, about the issue of public trust for law enforcers. He suggested that Americans have been taught a lesson by recent revelations of wholesale spying on citizens by the National Security Agency. “There is no more reason to think that the FBI will do the right thing,” Garbus told us, “than there is to think that the NSA will do the right thing.” William Keating, right, seems to agree, and he doesn’t seem like a kook. He is a Democratic U.S. Congressman who represents southeast Massachusetts, including Cape Cod, New Bedford and Plymouth. But he has respectful skepticism about law enforcement, learned on the job. Like Kempthorne, Keating is a former prosecutor, having served 12 years as district attorney for Norfolk County, Massachusetts, before he was elected to Congress in 2010. He is a member of both the House Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs committees. For three months, Keating has doggedly pursued answers about the Boston bombing from the FBI. He wants to know when the FBI recognized that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the dead bombing suspect, was a threat to national security and why it did not share its intelligence with the Boston Police Department and other law enforcement agencies. It would be charitable to describe the Bureau’s response as “less than forthcoming.” So on July 31, Keating sent a wrathful three-page, 1,200 word letter letter to James Comey, the newly confirmed FBI director, demanding answers to seven questions related to the bombing investigation.

Media Matters, CNN Benghazi Special Pushes Debunked And Deceptive Claims, Aug. 7, 2013. CNN Benghazi Special Pushes Debunked And Deceptive Claims. CNN's special The Truth About Benghazi pushed long-debunked myths about the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, with host Erin Burnett and CNN correspondent John King asking questions that were answered months ago -- often by CNN itself -- and leaving important context out of many claims. CNN's special The Truth About Benghazi pushed long-debunked myths about the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, with host Erin Burnett and CNN correspondent John King asking questions that were answered months ago -- often by CNN itself -- and leaving important context out of many claims.

Gawker, Did the CIA Just Run an Intel Operation on the Daily Beast? J.K. Trotter, Aug. 8, 2013. Middle East Embassy Shutdown Extended Over "Credible Threat."  Today the Daily Beast reported that an intercepted conference call between “more than 20 al Qaeda operatives” led nearly two dozen U.S. embassies scattered across Southwest Asia and North Africa to shut down over the weekend, a precautionary measure that American officials later extended through August 10. Based on testimony from three unnamed U.S. officials, reporters Eli Lake and Josh Rogin say al Qaeda lieutenants in Nigeria, Uzbekistan, Egypt and Islamic Maghreb discussed vague plans of attack with al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri and the terrorist group’s Yemeni leader, Nasser al-Wuhayshi. One of the unnamed officers compared the call to a meeting of the "Legion of Doom."

 Wayne Madsen Report, Shilling for NSA "Powered by Twitter," Wayne Madsen, Aug. 6, 2013 (Subscription required). Although Twitter was not one of the Internet service firms that appeared on a list of National Security Agency data surveillance partners in the PRISM meta-data collection operation, it appears to have another major function for NSA: funneling and directing NSA propaganda via Twitter to the Internet. On August 5 on the Sirius XM satellite radio network channel POTUS (Politics of the United State), a mid-afternoon program that is clearly sponsored by Twitter and called "Politics Powered by Twitter), featured Joshua Foust of the overwhelmingly neo-conservative magazine and website, the Atlantic. Foust was defending NSA on the Twitter show against charges that the NSA's surveillance program was unconstitutional and unnecessarily overarching. Foust was asked to name his favorite people he follows regularly on Twitter. Foust named as his first favorite person U.S. Naval War College professor John Schindler.

Washington Post, Critics question NSA’s need to keep database, Ellen Nakashima, Aug. 9, 2013. The case against a San Diego cab driver convicted of sending money to a terrorist group has suddenly come to the fore of a national debate about U.S. surveillance.Officials have said that NSA surveillance tools have helped disrupt terrorist plots or identify suspects in 54 cases in the United States and overseas. In many of those cases, an agency program that targets the communication of foreigners, including e-mails, has proved critical. But the importance of the phone logs in disrupting those plots has been less clear — and also far more controversial since it was revealed in June.

Washington Post, Piercing the confusion around NSA, Aug. 9, 2013. The program that collects metadata has been referred to in shorthand as the “215 program” after the section in the law that governs it. It is a search for a needle in a haystack of unimaginable proportions, and administration officials can point to few successes. The NSA maintains a separate collection program, known as PRISM, that was exposed in June and has been at times conflated with the metadata program. But PRISM is focused not just on terrorism but any foreign intelligence matter. It is especially used to pursue foreign terrorism suspects, foreign espionage cases and investigations involving weapons of mass destruction, and it routinely sweeps up the content of e-mail and social media exchanges involving American citizens, according to documents and interviews. There is still much confusion about each program, even among people who have been briefed on them, and even among officials involved in carrying them out. What follows is an explanation of the 215, which has generated the most controversy and the most dedicated effort at reform in Congress. Every 90 days, Justice Department lawyers ask a federal judge to renew the authority to collect the phone records of all Americans by reissuing what is known as a “215 order,” after the section in the USA Patriot Act that government lawyers have determined permits the collection of such records. That blanket order allows NSA analysts to search the phone database for links between foreign terrorists and their U.S.-based contacts.

Washington Post, Another e-mail service shuts down over government spying concerns, Timothy B. Lee, Aug. 9, 2013. A prominent supplier of secure communications services has decided to shutter its e-mail service to avoid having to turn over confidential customer information to the government. The move comes hours after another e-mail service provider called Lavabit made the same decision in order to avoid becoming “complicit in crimes against the American people” — likely a reference to government surveillance. Silent Circle offers a suite of secure communications tools, including e-mail, chat, and voice calling to customers in 126 countries. The chat and voice services employ “end-to-end” encryption, which means that the company itself does not have the capability to unscramble customers’ communications and turn them over to the government. But e-mail services need to interoperate with other e-mail providers. That makes end-to-end encryption impractical and creates a danger that the company could be compelled to hand over information to the government.

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Agence France-Presse via Global Post, Moscow rejects Saudi offer to drop Assad for arms deal, Aug. 8, 2013. Moscow has rejected a Saudi proposal to abandon Syria's president in return for a huge arms deal and a pledge to boost Russian influence in the Arab world. Moscow has rejected a Saudi proposal to abandon Syria's president in return for a huge arms deal and a pledge to boost Russian influence in the Arab world, diplomats told AFP. On July 31, President Vladimir Putin, a strong backer of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, met Saudi Arabia's influential intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, after which both Moscow and Riyadh kept a lid on the substance of the talks. Bandar, left in a photo via Wikipedia, proposed that Saudi Arabia buy $15 billion (11 billion euros) of weapons from Russia and invest "considerably in the country," the source said. The Saudi prince also reassured Putin that "whatever regime comes after" Assad, it will be "completely" in the Saudis' hands and will not sign any agreement allowing any Gulf country to transport its gas across Syria to Europe and compete with Russian gas exports, the diplomat said. In 2009, Assad refused to sign an agreement with Qatar for an overland pipeline running from the Gulf to Europe via Syria to protect the interests of its Russian ally, which is Europe's top supplied of natural gas. An Arab diplomat with contacts in Moscow said: "President Putin listened politely to his interlocutor and let him know that his country would not change its strategy." "Bandar bin Sultan then let the Russians know that the only option left in Syria was military and that they should forget about Geneva because the opposition would not attend."

Roll Call, FBI Ties Chicago Representatives to Zimbabwe Lobbying, Emma Dumain, Aug. 7, 2013. Two Democratic lawmakers from Illinois worked to help lift economic sanctions against Zimbabwe after being targeted by an illegal $3.4 million lobbying scheme, according to FBI testimony unsealed in federal court. Reps. Danny K. Davis and Bobby L. Rush, both of the Chicago area, were identified by Chicago media as “U.S. Representative A” and “U.S. Representative B” in the case, given that they were the only Illinois Democrats to have sponsored a failed 2010 resolution to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe cited in court documents.

CNN, Exclusive: Dozens of CIA operatives on the ground during Benghazi attack, Jake Tapper, Aug. 1, 2013. CNN has uncovered exclusive new information about what is allegedly happening at the CIA, in the wake of the deadly Benghazi terror attack. Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in the assault by armed militants last September 11 in eastern Libya. Sources now tell CNN dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret. CNN has learned the CIA is involved in what one source calls an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency's Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out. Speculation on Capitol Hill has included the possibility the U.S. agencies operating in Benghazi were secretly helping to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels. It is clear that two U.S. agencies were operating in Benghazi, one was the State Department, and the other was the CIA.

David PetraeusFireDogLake, Bogus State Department Keystone XL Climate Study the Basis of David Petraeus’ CUNY Seminar, Steve Horn, July 25, 2013.  Former CIA-head David Petraeus’ City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College seminar readings include several prominent Big Oil-funded “frackademia” studies, a recent DeSmogBlog investigation revealed. Further digging into records obtained via New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) also reveals “a survey of the global economy to set the stage for the course” – as stated in an email from Petraeus, right, to an unknown source due to redaction – utilizes the U.S. State Department’s Keystone XL environmental review written by Environmental Resources Management (ERM Group) to argue that Transcanada’s tar sands export pipeline deserves approval.

New York Daily News, David Petraeus will take $1 salary for CUNY teaching post; Instead of earning $150,000 to lecture three hours a week at CUNY, former CIA director David Petraeus will earn $1, Bill Hutchinson, July 16, 2013. Former CIA director David Petraeus has taken a pay cut — instead of earning $150,000 to lecture three hours a week at CUNY, he’ll receive $1. Petraeus’ lawyer, Robert Barnett, and CUNY officials confirmed the salary cut on Monday. The move came just days after the six-figure salary was blasted on the Daily News’ editorial page and called “obscene” by CUNY’s faculty union.

The Huffington Post, Colin Powell Denies Affair With Romanian Diplomat After Guccifer Hacking, Ashley Alman, Aug. 1, 2013. The denial comes after famed hacker Guccifer breached Powell's email and Facebook accounts, revealing 10 years of communication with Corina Cretu, a member of the European Parliament. Powell, who left the State Department in 2005, kept in touch with Cretu over email after leaving his post. "Over time, the emails became of a very personal nature, but did not result in an affair," Powell said in a statement. Powell, who married his wife Alma in 1962, reportedly asked Cretu to delete the email exchange, as Guccifer posted personal emails from 2010 and 2011 online this week.  Guccifer has received a lot of attention since March, when he began hacking the accounts of members of government and celebrities. His victims include Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the Bush family and venture capitalist John Doerr.

New Yorker, Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes. Is that all we’re losing?
by Sarah Stillman August 12, 2013. The basic principle behind asset forfeiture is appealing. It enables authorities to confiscate cash or property obtained through illicit means, and, in many states, funnel the proceeds directly into the fight against crime. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, cops drive a Cadillac Escalade stencilled with the words “This Used To Be a Drug Dealer’s Car, Now It’s Ours!” In Monroe, North Carolina, police recently proposed using forty-four thousand dollars in confiscated drug money to buy a surveillance drone, which might be deployed to catch fleeing suspects, conduct rescue missions, and, perhaps, seize more drug money. Hundreds of state and federal laws authorize forfeiture for cockfighting, drag racing, basement gambling, endangered-fish poaching, securities fraud, and countless other misdeeds.

Washington Post, FCC to vote on lowering prison phone call costs, Cecilia Kang, Aug. 9, 2013. Unregulated industry is lucrative for companies, which charge high rates, and the prisons to which they donate. Federal regulators will vote Friday to overhaul prison phone rates that have skyrocketed, concerned that a few companies are taking advantage of an unregulated corner of the telecommunications industry and isolating convicts from their loved ones. The rates, which can reach $17 for a 15-minute call, have been a boon for a small set of companies and the prisons that get a share of the money. Many of the phone service providers are privately held and do not disclose revenue. But their payments to prisons — a fraction of total revenue — reveal a lucrative business dominated by exclusive carriers. Last year alone, prisons in 42 states received $103.9 million in commissions from the phone firms, according to Prison Legal News. Those arrangements have made it difficult for prisoners to stay in touch with family and friends, prisoner advocates say. The issue was first brought to light 10 years ago by Martha Wright, a D.C. resident who petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for reforms when she couldn’t afford to call her grandson in an Arizona prison. Lawmakers, civil rights leaders and hundreds of prisoners and their families have supported Wright’s petition, but the issue languished at the agency until acting FCC Chairman Mignon Clyburn, right, revived it last year.

Legal Schnauzer, The White House Fears An Attempt On Obama's Life If He Tries To Hold Bush-Era Criminals Accountable, Roger Shuler, Aug. 12, 2013. President Obama fears an assassination attempt if his administration tries to prosecute apparent crimes from the George W. Bush terms, according to a new book by a veteran Washington, D.C., lawyer and journalist. In fact, the president's security plan has been significantly enhanced for 2013, reports Andrew Kreig in Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney, and Their Masters. Obama's dismal performance in the first presidential debate against Republican nominee Mitt Romney might have been driven in part, Kreig writes, by a report from military aides earlier that day of a plot against the president.  Released in paperback on July 26, Presidential Puppetry is the first book to encompass the Obama second term and one of the first to examine the 2012 elections.