RSSCategory: Propaganda

Why the trial of Bradley Manning is about democracy

July 21, 2013 | By | Reply More

At the U.K. Guardian, Yochai Benkler writes that the trial of Bradley Manning is about much more than Manning’s freedom. And it’s about much more than Wikileaks.

[T]his case is about national security journalism, not WikiLeaks. At Monday’s argument in preparation for Thursday’s ruling, the judge asked the prosecution to confirm: does it make any difference if it’s WikiLeaks or any other news organization: New York Times, Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal? The prosecution answered: “No, it would not. It would not potentially make a difference.”

There are a lot of Americans who immediately write off Manning as a criminal because he leaked “secret” information (many of those people have never bothered to watch “Collateral Murder,” a small but vivid and highly disturbing part of Manning’s leak.

How typical is this of the “fight for freedom” that has been waged in our names? We wouldn’t know, because the information that has come from Iraq over the years is carefully filtered by the American military American press. In woeful ignorance, many Americans fail to see that Manning’s trial is about the right of Americans’s to be informed about what goes on in their name, informed enough to engage in meaningful discussion and informed enough to vote intelligently.

Leak-based journalism is not the be-all-and-end-all of journalism. But ever since the Pentagon Papers, it has been a fraught but critical part of our constitutional checks in national defense. Nothing makes this clearer than the emerging bipartisan coalition of legislators seeking a basic reassessment of NSA surveillance and Fisa oversight following Edward Snowden’s leaks. National defense is special in both the need for, and dangers of, secrecy. As Justice Stewart wrote in the Pentagon Papers case, the press is particularly important in national defense because it is there that the executive is most powerful, and the other branches weakest and most deferential:

In the absence of the governmental checks and balances present in other areas of our national life, the only effective restraint upon executive policy and power in the areas of national defense and international affairs may lie in an enlightened citizenry – in an informed and critical public opinion which alone can here protect the values of democratic government. For this reason, it is perhaps here that a press that is alert, aware, and free most vitally serves the basic purpose of the first amendment. For without an informed and free press, there cannot be an enlightened people.


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Teach the children of America about America’s secret courts

July 19, 2013 | By | Reply More

I wonder if American children in civics classes are taught about the secret courts of America?

Glenn Greenwald on Democracy Now.

That might be the most amazing thing about all of this, is that we have a secret court that meets in complete secrecy, with only the government present, and this court is issuing rulings that define what our constitutional rights are. How can you have a democracy in which your rights are determined in total secrecy by a secret court issuing 80-page rulings about what rights you have as a citizen? It is Orwellian and absurd. And I think one of the reforms that will come and is coming from our reporting is that a lot more light is going to be shined on the shenanigans that have been taking place within that court.

And after we teach them about our secret courts, we are just getting warmed up. Civics classes should also include lessons that our phone companies are happy accomplices to spying on their customers:

We’ve known for a long time that the telecoms—AT&T, Sprint, Verizon—are completely in bed with the United States government. Remember, the scandal of the NSA in the Bush years was that—not just that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on the calls of Americans without the warrants required by law, but also that the telecoms were vigorously cooperating in that program and turning over full and unfettered access to the telephone calls and records of millions of their customers even though there was no legal basis for doing so. And, in fact, the telecoms were on the verge of losing in court and being sued successfully by millions of their customers that they had violated their civil rights and also that they had violated their privacy rights and broken the law, criminally and civilly. And it was only because the Congress stepped in, with the leadership of both political parties, and retroactively immunized the telecoms. But the telecom industry makes massive profits on their extreme cooperation with these—with the NSA to allow all kinds of unfettered access to the communications of their customers. And so, the telecoms are the last people that want transparency brought to their cooperation with the NSA, because that would really shock people to learn just how untrustworthy those companies are when it comes to protecting the privacy of their customers’ communications.

What else is our government up to?

That Snowden has created some sort of “dead man’s switch” – whereby documents get released in the event that he is killed by the US government – was previously reported weeks ago, and Snowden himself has strongly implied much the same thing. That doesn’t mean he thinks the US government is attempting to kill him – he doesn’t – just that he’s taken precautions against all eventualities, including that one (just incidentally, the notion that a government that has spent the last decade invading, bombing, torturing, rendering, kidnapping, imprisoning without charges, droning, partnering with the worst dictators and murderers, and targeting its own citizens for assassination would be above such conduct is charmingly quaint).

Teach the children the truth. If you dare.


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Chris Hedges and Geoffrey Stone on whistle-blowers: What can one do about the Surveillance State?

July 10, 2013 | By | Reply More

Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman led a discussion also involving Chris Hedges and Geoffrey Stone, law professor at the University of Chicago Law School. Hedges supports the disclosure of government secrets to the press by people of conscience where the secrets are disclosed to the press. Stone indicates that what Edward Snowden disclosed was clearly a crime and he should be prosecuted, although the government needs to reevaluate the scope of its surveillance state. Fascinating conversation. My own position is quite close to Hedges on this issue, but I also believe that citizen journalism should be regarded as comparable to mainstream journalism in terms of protection offered from prosecution for engaging with whistle-blowers to discuss what they believe to be government wrong-doing. Elevating citizen journalists (I aspire to assume that role) to the category of the press, of course, means that any whistle-blower could talk to any blogger about any government secret and yet be protected from prosecution. This is a thorny issue, but one where work-arounds seem possible, especially given Stone’s alternative.

Stone argues that where government is acting inappropriate in realms involving classified information, the leakers should be prosecuted, even in situations involving grave government injustice. The press is immune from prosecution in this situation, based on the Pentagon Papers case. Stone’s position is deeply unsettling, however, because the issue today is out-of-control government surveillance. This rampant spying, including on reporters and sources, means that there won’t be any more revelations of government wrongdoing by the press. The current situation amounts to shutting down the press, meaning that the public will be kept in the dark. Stone’s “solution” for this is that government should seek internal solutions to its own injustices, in the dark. Stone asserts this to be a solution despite his earlier statements that governments are strongly motivated in the direction of NOT finding true solutions, but rather in maintaining and aggregating power over the citizens. My challenge to Professor Stone, then would be to offer a real long-term solutions. He pulls out the threat of terrorism card near then end of the discussion to justify what apparently amounts to the status quo approach (prosecute whistle-blowers who talk to the press, which Hedges argues will destroy the press). Hedges further disparages the concern with terrorism, indicating that terrorists communicate off the grid, meaning that the Surveillance State’s victims are ordinary people.

[Note: This discussion occurred prior to more recent disclosures that the U.S. government is collecting far more than metadata]

Here is an excerpt from the discussion:

CHRIS HEDGES: Well, what we’re really having a debate about is whether or not we’re going to have a free press left or not. If there are no Snowdens, if there are no Mannings, if there are no Assanges, there will be no free press. And if the press—and let’s not forget that Snowden gave this to The Guardian. This was filtered through a press organization in a classic sort of way whistleblowers provide public information about unconstitutional, criminal activity by their government to the public. So the notion that he’s just some individual standing up and releasing stuff over the Internet is false.

But more importantly, what he has exposed essentially shows that anybody who reaches out to the press to expose fraud, crimes, unconstitutional activity, which this clearly appears to be, can be traced and shut down. And that’s what’s so frightening. So, we are at a situation now, and I speak as a former investigative reporter for The New York Times, by which any investigation into the inner workings of government has become impossible. That’s the real debate.


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Our secret court system

July 6, 2013 | By | Reply More

I’m a lawyer and I’d like to study U.S. surveillance court rulings, but I can’t, and you can’t either, because court rulings are secret. Our massively opaque government (all three branches) has truly become Kafkaesque. So much for the People running this country. The NYT reports:

In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation’s surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say.

The rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny, according to current and former officials familiar with the court’s classified decisions.


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Unequal access to secret information shows us who is doing real journalism

June 30, 2013 | By | Reply More

Chris Hayes nails it on MSNBC. The U.S. government and its many cronies in the mass media love to disburse secret information when it bolsters the position of the government. They take the opposite position when information embarrasses the U.S. government.

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Love his conclusion: The conduct of the vast and growing surveillance web is “on all of us what the government does in our name.”


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Non-journalist David Gregory attacks the journalism of Glenn Greenwald.

June 23, 2013 | By | 3 Replies More

This is what modern American journalism is coming down to.

Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald blasted NBC host David Gregory on Sunday for publicly entertaining the idea that he should be prosecuted for publishing secret National Security Agency (NSA) documents leaked by former U.S. government contractor Edward Snowden.

“To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?” Gregory asked the columnist in a Sunday interview.

“I think it’s pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themself a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies,” Greenwald shot back. “The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence, David — the idea that I’ve aided and abetted him in any way.”

Here’s what journalism is, in the eyes of David Gregory. He eyes are all lit up, as if to say, “Look at me! I’m on a bus with a famous politician!” Check out Gregory’s unwillingness to ask real questions throughout in his interview of Mitt Romney. Start at min 2:50 and see how long you can stand to watch this obeisant poor-excuse for a journalist. He gives up truth-finding in order to maintain a feel-good relationship with Romney. In other words, he is committing journalism malpractice:

I understand Greenwald’s disdain and shortness completely. I am disgusted that Gregory doesn’t understand that a journalist is doing his/her job to confront the government with embarrassing information. I also know that Greenwald, had he been assured of having 20 minutes to answer the question, would have annihilated Gregory with something like this, starting at min 2:30.

Consider also this:

[Greenwald] responds to threats of investigation, etc. by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) and others concerning his release of these documents journalism.

The first part of Greenwald’s response: “Let them go ahead and investigate. There’s this document called the Constitution, and one of the things it guarantees is the right of a free press. Which means, as a citizen and as a journalist, I have the absolute Constitutional right to go on and report on what it is my government is doing in the dark and inform my fellow citizens about that action … And I intend to continue to shine light on that and Dianne Feinstein can beat her chest all she wants and call for investigations and none of that’s gonna stop and none of it’s gonna change”…

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Edward Snowden spills details on NSA capabilities

June 17, 2013 | By | 10 Replies More

In a live interview sponsored by the Guardian, Edward Snowden provided more details regarding NSA spying. If 20% of his information is true, Congress should tear apart the NSA, piece by piece.

Snowden makes an important distinction between what the NSA policy requires and what really happens on the ground. This is an attack on NSA credibility, which is already highly suspect.


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Investigative reporter James Bamford casts doubt on government claims regarding the Surveillance State

June 16, 2013 | By | Reply More

Investigative reporter James Bamford isn’t believing the official government positions regarding the Surveillance State. He discussed his reasons for his disbelief with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now:

Amy Goodman: Jim Bamford, explain the spy center that’s being built in Bluffdale, Utah.

JAMES BAMFORD: Well, it’s a mammoth—actually, the best way to think of it is NSA’s external hard drive. It’s a storage place for all that NSA gets from its surveillance, including the daily records of everybody’s telephone calls, which, again, we’ve just been hearing about in the news. But it’s not just that. It’s all this information that’s coming in from the Internet that the NSA picks out. It’s all their surveillance from all around the country, all around the world. And it all goes into this one place. It’s basically a huge data warehouse where all this information is placed. But it also serves as the cloud for NSA, the cloud being the central repository where every—where all the information is kept. And then, through these fiber-optic cables that go out from it, people at NSA headquarters, people at NSA listening posts in Georgia, Texas, all these places, are able to immediately go in. It’s just like, like I said, a hard drive. You go in, and you analyze all that information that’s in there. So if they’re collecting my telephone records today, who I’m calling, then tomorrow or tonight the NSA could go into those records in Bluffdale, Utah, and analyze them. So, that’s basically what it’s for. It’s this massive repository for all the information that NSA is collecting. And it’s a million square feet. It’s an enormous amount of space at a time when you can put a terabyte worth of data on just a blade on a Swiss Army knife, which can, like I said, hold a terabyte worth of data, and this is a million square feet, costing $2 billion.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I wanted to ask you about—in 2012, at the annual DEF CON convention, the hacker convention, NSA director, General Keith Alexander, was asked whether the NSA keeps a file on every U.S. citizen. This was his response.

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: No, we don’t. Absolutely not. And anybody who would tell you that we’re keeping files or dossiers on the American people know that’s not true. And let me tell you why. First, under our agency, we have a responsibility. Our job is foreign intelligence. We get oversight by Congress, both intel committees and their congressional members and their staffs, so everything we do is auditable by them, by the FISA Court—so the judiciary branch of our government—and by the administration. And everything we do is accountable to them. And within the administration, it’s from the director of national intelligence, it’s from the Department of Justice, it’s from the Department of Defense. I feel like when I was a kid growing up—and some of you may feel like this, too. You know, you might get in a little trouble. You’re supervised a lot and maybe had to spend time in the hall. Well, that’s the way I feel today. We are overseen by everybody. And I will tell you that those who would want to weave the story that we have millions or hundreds of millions of dossiers on people is absolutely false.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: James Bamford, that was General Keith Alexander, again, at the DEF CON convention in 2012 in—as we mentioned yesterday, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, a black T-shirt. Your response, especially this whole thing that he raises about we’re just involved in foreign intelligence gathering?

JAMES BAMFORD: Well, it’s funny. I was there, too. I also spoke at the DEF CON conference there. But the comments that General Alexander made, I thought, were amazingly out of place, because here it is, we just discovered he has all these dossiers that he’s listing, that he’s got all these records on American people and all these links into American Internet. What he’s talking about in terms of oversight also is—is just nonsense. He talks about the courts. Well, the court he’s talking about is a top-secret court that nobody is even allowed to know where it exists, where its address is, let alone getting any information from it. And in the last—or, the last time that they overhauled the legislation, they weakened the court a great deal. So, I’m sure—was that the answer you were looking for? What was the question again?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, basically, his emphasis on the foreign intelligence gathering, as well, the role of NSA.

JAMES BAMFORD: Right, right, right, yeah. Well, that’s always what they claim, is that, “Look, we’re not involved in the United States at all. We’re not involved in U.S. interception at all. We’re just involved in foreign communications.” Well, you know, if you look at that Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order that was released, what it talks about is getting from Verizon not just overseas calls, it talks about local calls. These are calls that aren’t even going to be on your bill. I mean, these are local calls or, you know, somebody calling their grandmother next door. We’ve come down to that, where the government is trying to get access to even your local calls. And I don’t see any connection between that and what they say. What they claim is that we’re only doing international, we’re only doing foreign communications. Well, when you’re asking for local phone calls throughout the United States, everybody in the United States, on a daily basis, you know, where’s the truth in all these claims?


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George Carlin discusses the language of politics

June 13, 2013 | By | Reply More

In this excellent 1999 video, George Carlin discusses the language of politics:


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