Archive for the ‘Media’ Category
A very strong editorial in the NY Times:
It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.
The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.
We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times’s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws.
There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level.
We considered whether it would be best for Washington to hold back while the states continued experimenting with legalizing medicinal uses of marijuana, reducing penalties, or even simply legalizing all use. Nearly three-quarters of the states have done one of these.
But that would leave their citizens vulnerable to the whims of whoever happens to be in the White House and chooses to enforce or not enforce the federal law.
The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. . .
Continue reading. It gets very specific.
And in the same issue:
Let States Decide on Marijuana, by David Firestone
The Public Lightens Up About Weed, by Juliet Lapidos
Julia Ioffe writes in The New Republic:
id you know Malaysia Air Flight 17 was full of corpses when it took off from Amsterdam? Did you know that, for some darkly inexplicable reason, on July 17, MH17 moved off the standard flight path that it had taken every time before, and moved north, toward rebel-held areas outside Donetsk? Or that the dispatchers summoned the plane lower just before the crash? Or that the plane had been recently reinsured? Or that the Ukrainian army has air defense systems in the area? Or that it was the result of the Ukrainian military mistaking MH17 for Putin’s presidential plane, which looks strangely similar?
Did you know that the crash of MH17 was all part of an American conspiracy to provoke a big war with Russia?
Well, it’s all true—at least if you live in Russia, because this is the Malaysia Airlines crash story that you’d be seeing.
As the crisis surrounding the plane crash deepens and as calls for Vladimir Putin to act grow louder, it’s worth noting that they’re not really getting through to Putin’s subjects. The picture of the catastrophe that the Russian people are seeing on their television screens is very different from that on screens in much of the rest of the world, and the discrepancy does not bode well for a sane resolution to this stand-off. . . .
Very interesting article in the NY Review of Books by Tim Parks:
Is there any consistent relationship between a book’s quality and its sales? Or again between the press and critics’ response to a work and its sales? Are these relationships stable over time or do they change?
Raise your hand, for example, if you know what the actual sales are for Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle. This mammoth work of autobiography—presently running at three five-hundred-page volumes with three more still to be translated from his native Norwegian—is relentlessly talked about as an “international sensation and bestseller” (Amazon) and constantly praised by the most prestigious critics. “It’s unbelievable… It’s completely blown my mind,” says Zadie Smith. “Intense and vital…. Ceaselessly compelling…. Superb,” agrees James Wood. Important newspapers (The New York Times for one) carry frequent articles about Knausgaard and his work. A search on The Guardian website has ten pages of hits for articles on Knausgaard despite the fact that his work wasn’t published in the UK until 2012. In a round-up of authors’ summer-reading tips in the same newspaper, the academic Sarah Churchwell remarks that after sitting on the jury for the Booker prize she looks forward to being “the last reader in Britain” to tackle My Struggle.
One could be forgiven, then, for imagining that this is one of those books which periodically impose themselves as “required reading” at a global level: Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose, Jostein Gaardner’s Sophie’s World, Peter Hoeg’s Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom all spring to mind, literary equivalents of internationally successful genre works like Stieg Larssen’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey.
Well, as of a few days ago UK sales of all three volumes of Knausgaard work in hardback and paperback had barely topped 22,000 copies. A respectable but hardly impressive performance. In the US, which has a much larger market, that figure— total sales of all three volumes (minus e-books)—stood at about 32,000. This was despite the fact that with Knausgaard’s growing reputation the powerful Farrar, Straus and Giroux stepped in to buy the paperback rights from the minnow Archipelago and bring its own commercial muscle to bear. On the Amazon bestsellers ranking, A Death in the Family, the first and most successful volume of the My Struggle series, is presently 657th in the USA and 698th in the UK, this despite a low paperback price of around ten dollars.
So what is going on here? Should we be reassured that critics are sticking loyally by a work they admire regardless of sales, or bemused that something is being presented as a runaway commercial success when in fact it isn’t? Wouldn’t it be enough to praise Knausgaard without trying to create the impression that there is a huge international following behind the book? Or do the critics actually assume that everyone is buying it because they and all their peers are talking about it?
The truth is . . .
I was thinking of the male movie stars generally regarded as masculine and attractive in a fit, tough, man kind of way: Joel McCrae, for example, or Gary Cooper, or Randolph Scott. When they had to play some no-shirt scene, sometimes involving fisticuffs, it bears little resemblance to the current version: today the fisticuffs are martial arts production pieces, and the chiseled body we view has been shaped by weeks if not months of training and day-to-day diet control with a professional nutritionist and professional trainers. Movies are big bucks, and as little is left to chance as possible—plus there is the meme-evolution/competition factor: each new blockbuster must set a new mark, and one strand of the resulting evolution is how the hero’s physique became increasingly developed and ripped—to the point where the normal guy starts to feel that something’s going wrong here: reality is being distorted, in effect, so that the internalized cultural image a man carries and secretly measures himself against is such a god-like warrior that makes his own physique seem somewhat lacking. I bet feminism has some useful reading on this sort of thing, when cultural values/memes undermine and weaken the power of certain groups. And, of course, if you can make a person feel that there’s something wrong with him (or her), you can make a lot of money selling potions and equipment and supplements and training courses that promise to fix what’s wrong. “Power abs in 10 days!” You start to see that sort of thing—very much along the lines of “Lose 25 lbs in 7 days with …!”
The reports on Israel’s Iron Dome defense system read like press releases—which, indeed, they are, for all practical purposes. And like most press releases, the truth is not to be found in them.
James Fallows has some excellent examples of the propaganda articles, and also some pushback from actual experts, who point out that the system doesn’t work all that well.
Apparently the US government now accepts lying as a standard procedure: there seems to be no feeling that being truthful with the public—the governed—is important, and telling flat-out lies is completely accepted as NSA procedure, with no sanctions applied (even, as in the case of James Clapper, lying while under oath). Unfortunately, the result is whole distrust of the government: people tend not to trust those who lie to them, particularly if the lying is habitual.
Glenn Greenwald reports at The Intercept:
On July 20, 2013, agents of the U.K. government entered The Guardian newsroom in London and compelled them to physically destroy the computers they were using to report on the Edward Snowden archive. The Guardian reported this a month later after my partner, David Miranda, was detained at Heathrow Airport for 11 hours under a British terrorism law and had all of his electronic equipment seized. At the time, the Obama administration—while admitting that it was told in advance of the Heathrow detention—pretended that it knew nothing about the forced laptop destruction and would never approve of such attacks on press freedom. From the August 20, 2013, press briefing by then-deputy White House press secretary Josh Earnest:
Q: A last one on the NSA—The Guardian newspaper, following on everything that was discussed yesterday—The Guardian is saying that British authorities destroyed several hard drives, because they wanted to keep secrets that Edward Snowden had leaked from actually getting out. They were stored in The Guardian‘s—they had some hard drives there at their offices. British authorities went in there and destroyed these hard drives. Did the American government get a heads up about that the way you did about the person being detained?
MR. EARNEST: I’ve seen the published reports of those accusations, but I don’t have any information for you on that.
Q: And does the U.S. government think it’s appropriate for a government, especially one of our allies, to go in and destroy hard drives? Is that something this administration would do?
MR. EARNEST: The only thing I know about this are the public reports about this, so it’s hard for me to evaluate the propriety of what they did based on incomplete knowledge of what happened.
Q: But this administration would not do that, would not go into an American media company and destroy hard drives, even if it meant trying to protect national security, you don’t think?
MR. EARNEST: It’s very difficult to imagine a scenario in which that would be appropriate.
But emails just obtained by Associated Press pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) prove that senior Obama national security officials— including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-NSA chief Keith Alexander—not only knew in advance that U.K. officials intended to force The Guardian to destroy their computers, but overtly celebrated it.
One email, dated July 19 (the day prior to the destruction) bears the subject line “Guardian data being destroyed” and is from NSA deputy director Richard Ledgett to Alexander. He writes: “Good news, at least on this front.” The next day, almost immediately after the computers were destroyed, Alexander emailed Ledgett: ”Can you confirm this actually occurred?” Hours later, under the same subject line, Clapper emailed Alexander, saying: “Thanks Keith … appreciate the conversation today”.
It’s hardly surprising that the Obama Administration was fully informed in advance: It’s virtually inconceivable that notoriously subservient London officials would ever take any meaningful action without the advance knowledge and permission of their Washington overseers. There are, however, several notable points from these new disclosures:
Continue reading. Greenwald points out more instances of outright lies made to the public by NSA and the Obama Administration.
This one is really worth reading and thinking about. The problem with going along with journalist/pundits like Yglesias is that having factually incorrect beliefs can lead to enormously bad decisions—find your own favorite example. So the first requirement is to reflect reality, not provide yet another layer of false belief? Garbage in, garbage out, and our media basically feed us garbage. And guess what…
And I’m not talking about “liberal media,” I’m talking about simple failure to report facts (I’m looking at you, Fox News) and failure to note that a “balanced” argument on evolution with two points of view: that of an evolutionary biologist and that of a creationist. Just presenting that implies that the sides are balanced, not that one is as established a scientific fact as you’re likely to find, with evidence in every branch of biology and the ability to see it happening and even to start to figure out the code and how it evolved, and the other view is a counterfactual religious myth from just one of the myriad world religions (and one that doesn’t seem to care about the environment and what happens to it), a myth taken a tad too literally. That’s not balance, but that’s the sort of tripe we get from most media.
Kevin Drum has a particularly good post today, which begins:
I’ve been meaning to make note of something about Iraq for a while, and a story today in the LA Times provides the perfect hook:
A group of U.S. diplomats arrived in Libya three years ago to a memorable reception: a throng of cheering men and women who pressed in on the startled group “just to touch us and thank us,” recalled Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security advisor….But in three years Libya has turned into the kind of place U.S. officials most fear: a lawless land that attracts terrorists, pumps out illegal arms and drugs and destabilizes its neighbors.
….Now, as Obama considers a limited military intervention in Iraq, the Libya experience is seen by many as a cautionary tale of the unintended damage big powers can inflict when they aim for a limited involvement in an unpredictable conflict….Though they succeeded in their military effort, the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies fell short in the broader goal of putting Libya on a path toward democracy and stability. Exhausted after a decade of war and mindful of the failures in Iraq, U.S. officials didn’t want to embark on another nation-building effort in an oil-rich country that seemed to pose no threat to Western security.
But by limiting efforts to help the new Libyan government gain control over the country, critics say, the U.S. and its allies have inadvertently helped turn Libya into a higher security threat than it was before the military intervention.
The view of the critics in this piece is pretty predictable: no matter what happens in the world, their answer is “more.” And whenever military intervention fails, it’s always because we didn’t do enough.
But I don’t think Obama believes this anymore. . .
Those who demand a war should be required to fight on the front lines of such wars. If they are unwilling to make any personal sacrifice, then their demands that others sacrifice their lives become suspect.
The NY Times seems to be losing interest in accuracy and truth. I would say that Glenn Kessler landed a solid blow in this column:
There was a moment at the height of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 when Soviet ships approached to within just a few miles of a U.S. naval blockade and then, at the last minute, turned back — prompting then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk to utter one of the most famous lines from the Cold War: “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.”
— opening sentence of a column, “Putin Blinked,” by Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, May 27, 2014
The Fact Checker does not normally assess the accuracy of claims of pundits, keeping our gaze generally on politicians and political ads. But we are going to make an exception in this case, in part because this is an interesting case brought to our attention by our old colleague Michael Dobbs, who first started The Fact Checker in 2007.
The issue is this: When new primary source documents demonstrate that a historical myth has been proved incorrect, shouldn’t people who repeat the discredited myth admit their error? An even odder element here is that the Times has previously publicized the fact that the myth was wrong, citing this very research, and yet it refuses to correct the error in Friedman’s column.
The myth in question is the supposed “eyeball to eyeball” confrontation of U.S. and Soviet ships during the Cuban Missile Crisis — an event spun at the time by the Kennedy White House as a pivotal moment that demonstrated courage and coolness under fire.
But Dobbs, in his 2008 book One Minute to Midnight, demonstrated conclusively that there was no high seas engagement. Sixteen missile-carrying Soviet ships had already been turned around on the orders of Premier Nikita Khrushchev the day before. (Here’s an English translation of the minutes of a Soviet Communist Party presidium meeting ratifying the decision.) The orders were issued early in the morning of Oct. 23, 1962.
Of course, President John F. Kennedy and his aides did not know that on the morning of Oct. 24 as they awaited a potential clash. An aircraft carrier group led by the USS Essex had orders to intercept the Kimovsk and her submarine escort. Kennedy nervously canceled the intercept, issuing an order to the Essen: “Secret. From Highest Authority. Do Not Stop And Board. Keep Under Surveillance.”
At the time, Dobbs concluded, Kimovsk was nearly 800 miles away from the Essex, not “just a few miles.” This was all eventually figured out by U.S. intelligence analysts — here are the CIA records obtained by Dobbs — but the White House failed to correct the historical record. After all, the eyeball to eyeball imagery was simply too good for political memoirs.
In the book, Dobbs printed a map showing the ship positions. . .
Continue reading. The Times doesn’t look good in this, embracing the error and denying clear evidence that Friedman’s anecdote is non-historical fiction. “Surprisingly, when Dobbs pointed out that Friedman had repeated historical fiction in his column, the Times refused to correct the mistake.” Read the whole column. The Times has some arrogance (and ignorance) problems.
Estremely good column by Eric Alternman at billmoyers.com:
In a column entitled “Bush’s toxic legacy in Iraq,” terrorism expert Peter Bergen writes about the origins of ISIS, “the brutal insurgent/terrorist group formerly known as al Qaeda in Iraq.”
Bergen notes that, “One of George W. Bush’s most toxic legacies is the introduction of al Qaeda into Iraq, which is the ISIS mother ship. If this wasn’t so tragic it would be supremely ironic, because before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, top Bush officials were insisting that there was an al Qaeda-Iraq axis of evil. Their claims that Saddam Hussein’s men were training members of al Qaeda how to make weapons of mass destruction seemed to be one of the most compelling rationales for the impending war.”
There was no al Qaeda-Iraq connection until the war; our invasion made it so. We have known this for nearly a decade, well before the murderous ISIS even appeared. In a September 2006 New York Times article headlined “Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat,” reporter Mark Mazetti informed readers of a classified National Intelligence Estimate representing the consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ the analysis cited the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology: “The Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,’ said one American intelligence official.”
The Bush Administration fought to quash its conclusions during the two years that the report was in the works. Mazetti reported, “Previous drafts described actions by the United States government that were determined to have stoked the jihad movement, like the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal.” Apparently, these were dropped from the final document, though the reference to jihadists using their training for the purpose of “exacerbating domestic conflicts or fomenting radical ideologies” as in say, Syria, remained.
At the beginning of 2005, Mazetti notes, another official US government body, the National Intelligence Council, “released a study concluding that Iraq had become the primary training ground for the next generation of terrorists, and that veterans of the Iraq war might ultimately overtake Al Qaeda’s current leadership in the constellation of the global jihad leadership.”
On the one hand, it is impressive how well our intelligence agencies were able to predict the likely outcome of the Bush Administration’s foolhardy obsession with invading Iraq. On the other, it is beyond depressing how little these assessments have come to matter in the discussion and debate over US foreign policy.
As we know, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the other architects of the war did everything possible to intimidate, and when necessary, discredit those in the intelligence agencies who warned of the predictable consequences of war. Cheney and his deputies made repeated trips to Langley to challenge professional intelligence work and used pliant members of the media — including Robert Novak of The Washington Post and Judith Miller of The New York Times, among many, many others — to undermine the integrity of people like Joseph P. Wilson and Valerie Plame lest the truth about the administration’s lies come out. Rather incredibly, they even went so far as to ignore the incredibly detailed planning documents, created over a period of a year at a cost of $5 million by the State Department, that had a chance of providing Iraq with a stable postwar environment. Instead, they insisted on creating an occupation that generated nothing but chaos, mass murder and the terrorist victories of today.
One of the many horrific results was the decision to support Nouri al-Maliki as a potential leader of the nation. Maliki’s sectarian attacks on Sunni Muslims on behalf of his Shiite allies are the immediate cause of the current murderous situation. And his placement in that job, as Fareed Zakaria aptly notes, “was the product of a series of momentous decisions made by the Bush administration. Having invaded Iraq with a small force — what the expert Tom Ricks called ‘the worst war plan in American history’ — the administration needed to find local allies.”
One could go on and on (and on and on and on) about the awful judgment — the arrogance, the corruption, the ideological obsession and the purposeful ignorance — by the Bush Administration that led to the current catastrophe. As Ezra Klein recently noted, “All this cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives.” And this is to say nothing of the destruction of our civil liberties and poisoning of our political discourse at home and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died, the millions of refugees created, the hatred inspired in the world toward the United States.
But to focus exclusively on the administration begs an obvious question. How did they get away with it? Where were the watchdogs of the press?
Much has been written on this topic. No one denies that the truth was available at the time. Not all of it, of course, but enough to know that certain catastrophe lay down the road the administration chose to travel at 100 miles per hour. Top journalists, like those who ran the Times and The Washington Post, chose to ignore the reporting they read in their own papers.
As the Post itself later reported, its veteran intelligence reporter Walter Pincus authored a compelling story that undermined the Bush administration’s claim to have proof that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction. It only made the paper at all because Bob Woodward, who was researching a book, talked his editors into it. And even then, it ran on page A17, where it was immediately forgotten.
As former Post Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks later explained, “Administration assertions were on the front page. Things that challenged the administration were on A18 on Sunday or A24 on Monday. There was an attitude among editors: ‘Look, we’re going to war, why do we even worry about all this contrary stuff?” The New York Times ran similarly regretful stories and its editors noted to its readers that the paper had been “perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper.” (Bill Moyers’ documentary special “Buying the War: How Big Media Failed Us” tells the story, and in conjunction with that Moyers report, you can find an Interactive Timeline as well as post-March 2003 coverage of Iraq.)
Many in the mainstream media came clean, relatively speaking, about . . .
Explained in the Washington Post with charts. Some highlights:
- Conservatives dislike Democrats more than liberals dislike Republicans
- Conservatives are more likely to say that the opposition’s policies are a threat to America
- Conservatives surround themselves with people who share their views
- The conservative echo chamber encompasses media too
- Compromise is not a conservative value
The article concludes:
A few weeks ago, Tom Mann wrote the following in The Atlantic:
Republicans have become a radical insurgency—ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited policy regime, scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of their political opposition. The evidence of this asymmetry is overwhelming.
With the release of today’s Pew study, that overwhelming evidence becomes even stronger.
It’s worth reading the article. The charts are interesting and the commentary helpful. For example, in the comment on the last chart (“compromise is not a conservative value”), the article notes:
This may be the most telling chart in the Pew report. You’d expect partisans on either end of the ideological spectrum to be less fond of compromise than those in the middle. But as it turns out, compromise is basically a liberal value – 82 percent of consistent liberals prefer politicians who make compromises. Less than a third of consistent conservatives say the same.
It’s important to note that when it comes to the actual practice of compromise, both liberals and conservatives have a hard time grasping what the word actually means. But liberals are much more into the notion of compromise as a political ideal. Conservatives, on the other hands, have a stated preference for candidates who “stick to their positions.”
A party that is ideologically predisposed against compromise is going to have a very hard time governing, particularly within a divided government. You can see this reflected in the Tea Party’s repeated enthusiasm for shutting the entire government down instead of passing pieces of legislation they disagree with. [And that's the same attitude that brought us the Civil War, when the South took up treason as a cause. - LG]
Kevin Drum has a good post how how this conservative cocoon is built and maintained: Fox News. Well worth reading.
I wonder what Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, thinks of that column and—more to the point—what he thinks he should think.
Alex Kane offers 5 specific examples of Administration attacks on a free press in his article at AlterNet:
The U.S. Supreme Court has turned down the appeal of a prominent journalist seeking to avoid testifying in a leak case. The move effectively placed the U.S. Supreme Court on the side of the Obama administration, which has been aggressive in going after journalists it accuses of publishing classified information.
The journalist at the center of the case is New York Times writer James Risen, who in March called the Obama administration “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.” The U.S. Supreme Court has now given the administration more leeway to prove Risen’s point with a decision that rejected the reporter’s argument that he should not be compelled to reveal a source.
Since May 2011, Risen, an investigative journalist working on national security issues, has been in the crosshairs of the Obama administration over his 2006 book, State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration. The U.S. subpoenaed Risen, telling him he must testify in the case of former CIA employee Jeffrey Sterling, who is accused of leaking classified information that ended up in Risen’s book. The classified information Risen wrote about concerned a CIA effort to scuttle Iran’s nuclear energy program by employing a former Russian scientist. The scientist is said to have given Iran a blueprint for a nuclear triggering device that had a design flaw.
Risen has fought back, saying he would go to jail rather than reveal a source. He appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court. But on Monday, the highest court turned down Risen’s appeal, which was a last-ditch effort to defeat a U.S. Court of Appeals order that Risen testify in Sterling’s case. Now, a showdown over Risen’s refusal to reveal his source, and the larger issue of press freedom, will take place at an appeals court in Virginia.
While Attorney General Eric Holder recently pledged that under his watch, journalists will not go to jail, the administration has continued to use the judicial system to harass journalists into revealing their sources. Journalists and press freedom advocates say the administration’s war on journalists has chilled national security reporting, with potential sources afraid to speak to reporters for fear of being prosecuted. Here are four other cases where the Obama administration has targeted journalists.
1. James Rosen
Rosen (a different person than James Risen) is a Fox News reporter who was labeled a potential criminal by the Obama administration over his 2009 reporting on North Korea. That year, he published an article reporting that North Korea was about to conduct a nuclear weapons test.
The Justice Department started to investigate Rosen and ultimately indicted Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a State Department contractor said to have given Rosen the information he used in his article. The government charged Kim with violating the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law that has been a favored tool of the Obama administration in its attacks on journalists and sources.
While Rosen has not been charged, he has faced other government accusations and harassment. Rosen’s phone and e-mail records were seized during the investigation of Kim. The FBI also used electronic security badge records to track when Rosen and Kim met. And finally, the U.S. claimed “there is probable cause to believe that the reporter has committed or is committing a violation” of the Espionage Act. The evidence? Rosen played to Kim’s “vanity and ego” while trying to elicit information about North Korea—something journalists often do as part of their jobs.
2. Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman
The tag-team national security reporting duo’s stories have sparked three investigations since Obama took office. Apuzzo’s and Goldman’s stories for the Associated Press have raised the ire of the U.S. government, though Apuzzo has moved on to the New York Times, with Goldman now working for the Washington Post.
The Obama administration has looked into the sources  for stories concerning al Qaeda plots in New York and Norway, but the most egregious efforts by the U.S. government were revealed last May. Apuzzo and Goldman revealed that the CIA had disrupted an alleged Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula plot to blow up an airliner on the one-year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden. The Justice Department wanted to find out who their source was for the reporting so they seized Apuzzo’s and Goldman’s phone records. The department also seized the phone records of other reports and editors on the story.
“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of the Associated Press and its reporters,” Gary Pruitt, the president of the Associated Press, wrote in a letter to Attorney General Holder. “These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP’s activities and operation that the government has no conceivable right to know.”
3. Mike Levine
The latest revelation of a journalist being targeted was published last week by the New York Times’ Charlie Savage, who revealed that a former Fox News reporter, Mike Levine, was subpoenaed in 2011.
Interesting column in The Intercept by Glenn Greenwald:
In 2006, Charlie Savage won the Pulitzer Prize for his series of articles in The Boston Globe exposing the Bush administration’s use of “signing statements” as a means of ignoring the law. In response to those revelations, Michael Kinsley–who has been kicking around Washington journalism for decades as the consummate establishment “liberal” insider–wrote a Washington Post op-ed defending the Bush practice (“nailing Bush simply for stating his views on a constitutional issue, without even asking whether those views are right or wrong, is wrong”) and mocking concerns over it as overblown (“Sneaky! . . . The Globe does not report what it thinks a president ought to do when called upon to enforce or obey a law he or she believes to be unconstitutional. It’s not an easy question”).
Far more notable was Kinsley’s suggestion that it was journalists themselves–not Bush–who might be the actual criminals, due both to their refusal to reveal their sources when ordered to do so and their willingness to publish information without the permission of the government:
It’s wrong especially when contrasted with another current fever running through the nation’s editorial pages: the ongoing issue of leaks and anonymous sources. Many in the media believe that the Constitution contains a “reporter’s privilege” to protect the identity of sources in circumstances, such as a criminal trial, in which citizens ordinarily can be compelled to produce information or go to jail. The Supreme Court and lower courts have ruled and ruled again that there is no such privilege. And it certainly is not obvious that the First Amendment, which seems to be about the right to speak, actually protects a right not to speak. . . .
Why must the president obey constitutional interpretations he disagrees with if journalists don’t have to?
Last Sunday, same day as the Globe piece, The New York Times had a front-page article about the other shoe waiting to drop in these leak cases. The Bush administration may go beyond forcing journalists to testify about the sources of leaks. It may start to prosecute journalists themselves as recipients of illegal leaks. As with the Globe story, this turns out to be a matter of pugnacious noises by the Bush administration. Actual prosecutions of journalists for receiving or publishing leaks are “unknown,” the Times article concedes. But this could change at any moment.
Well, maybe. And maybe journalists are right in their sincere belief that the Constitution should protect them in such a case. But who wants to live in a society where every citizen and government official feels free to act according to his or her own personal interpretation of the Constitution, even after the Supreme Court has specifically said that this interpretation is wrong? President Bush would actually top my list of people I don’t want wandering through the text and getting fancy ideas. But why should he stay out of the “I say what’s constitutional around here” game if his tormentors in the media are playing it?
This is the person whom Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review, chose to review my book, No Place to Hide, about the NSA reporting we’ve done and the leaks of Edward Snowden: someone who has expressly suggested that journalists should be treated as criminals for publishing information the government does not want published. And, in a totally unpredictable development, Kinsley then used the opportunity to announce his contempt for me, for the NSA reporting I’ve done, and, in passing, for the book he was ostensibly reviewing.
Kinsley has actually done the book a great favor by providing a vivid example of so many of its central claims. For instance, I describe in the book the process whereby the government and its media defenders reflexively demonize the personality of anyone who brings unwanted disclosure so as to distract from and discredit the substance revelations; Kinsley dutifully tells Times readers that I “come across as so unpleasant” and that I’m a “self-righteous sourpuss” (yes, he actually wrote that). I also describe in the book how jingoistic media courtiers attack anyone who voices any fundamental critiques of American political culture; Kinsley spends much of his review deriding the notion that there could possibly be anything anti-democratic or oppressive about the United States of America.
But by far the most remarkable part of the review is that Kinsley—in the very newspaper that published Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers and then fought to the Supreme Court for the right to do so (and, though the review doesn’t mention it, also published some Snowden documents)—expressly argues that journalists should only publish that which the government permits them to, and that failure to obey these instructions should be a crime (emphasis mine): . . .
And, speaking of stupidity, check out the Alabama judge who locked a blogger in jail until he took down some posts from his blog, to which he of course had no access while in jail. When the blogger pointed out that if he was in jail, he could not remove the posts, the judge replied, “That’s your problem.” I would have to classify this judge in the “stupid” camp. Nicole Flatow has the report at ThinkProgress:
“You get down to survival mode.” That was blogger Roger Shuler’s state of mind after being arrested and hauled off to jail for writing about a politically connected Alabama lawyer.
“Once you’re arrested I mean there’s not much you can do,” he told ThinkProgress in a conversation after his release, explaining that he felt powerless to handle the legal defense of his case. “Your hands are tied literally and figuratively and just to try to figure out how to get out was almost impossible … I really was afraid for my life at times.”
Until last week, Shuler was the only known journalist in the Western Hemisphere jailed for doing his job. Shuler, a former sports reporter and university editor who developed the political blog Legal Schnauzer, is known as a controversial figure in his community. He has fielded other allegations of falsehoods and has been embroiled in numerous lawsuits over his blogging. But even his critics conceded that a court order banning him from writing anything about the alleged extramarital affair of a man rumored to be running for Congress was likely unconstitutional, and a First Amendment outrage.
First, a Shelby County judge ruled that Shuler could not continue writing about the alleged affair of Robert Riley, Jr., the son of former Gov. Bob Riley rumored to be running for Congress. Then, when Shuler refused to comply with the order, police came to his home one evening and arrested him for contempt of court. Contempt of court is a punishment for failure to comply with a court order. In many instances such as this one, it is a “civil” offense, meaning it doesn’t carry long-term criminal penalties. But officials use jail as a means of forcing compliance with the order. So Shuler sat in jail until he complied.
Shuler was initially resistant to the order. But even when he wanted to comply, he didn’t know how.
“At my Nov. 14 hearing, the only hearing I had in the case, the court gave me no direction on how I could purge myself of contempt,” Shuler told the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “I noted that I had no computer or Web access to take down the posts, even though I knew it was unlawful to be forced into taking them down. The court’s response was more or less that I had to resolve that problem myself. With that kind of response from the court I felt caught between the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place.’” . . .