Archive for the ‘Media’ Category
The UK has never placed a high value on actual freedom of the press. The government and people are content to let tabloids run amuck, digging up and publishing direct on private individuals (though the limits are loose, they do indeed exist, as Rupert Murdoch and minions discovered), but serious reporting on the British government and what it’s doing? Not allowed, really: the Official Secrets Act seems to be wielded often and without hesitation to stop the publication of stories that the government doesn’t want the public to see, ostensibly for purposes of “national security,” that magical catchall.
But now the UK government has come up with an even more powerful weapon than the Official Secrets Act: regulations to forbid the publication of any reports the government simply doesn’t like. Glenn Greenwald writes in The Intercept:
In 2001, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II used the occasion of the annual “Queen’s Speech” to unveil a new statutory proposal to regulate all media operating in her realm, one provision of which was the creation of the “Office of Communications” (Ofcom) to monitor and punish television outlets which exhibit “bias.” In 2008, the BBC heralded the Queen’s Speech as “one of the high points of the parliamentary calendar, unrivalled in its spectacle and tradition,” as the monarch “delivers the speech from the grand throne in the House of Lords.” The press monitor’s Twitter accountboasts: “We keep an eye on the UK’s telecoms, television, radio and postal industries to make sure they’re doing the best for all of us.”
Ofcom has rarely punished establishment British media outlets for “bias” even though the British media is notoriously and slavishly loyal to the state and other British political and financial elites. Just last week, Guardian editor Seumus Milne noted: “as one academic study after another has demonstrated . . . . from the coverage of wars to economics, [the BBC] has a pro-government, elite and corporate anchor. The BBC is full of Conservatives and former New Labour apparatchiks with almost identical views about politics, business and the world.” Indeed, of all the countless media outlets around the world covering NSA reporting over the last 18 months, the BBC has easily been the worst: the most overtly biased in favor of mass surveillance and official claims. Ofcom’s authority over BBC is limited, but plenty of British media outlets — certainly most of its largest ones — are driven by these same biases.
During my first week writing at the Guardian, a long-time observer (and one-time member) of the British media warned me about the extreme group think bias of U.K. journalists, and I quoted that warning in the context of describing their extreme and deeply personal animus toward WikiLeaks: “Nothing delights British former lefties more than an opportunity to defend power while pretending it is a brave stance in defence of a left liberal principle.” Needless to say, none of that extreme, power-serving media bias — including the avalanche of deceit and lies much of the British media peddled to sell Tony Blair’s invasion of Iraq — has ever provoked any punishment from Ofcom.
By rather stark contrast, Ofcom has repeatedly threatened the Russian-state television outlet RT with revocation of its license. Last November, that outlet launched a British-specific, London-based version of its network, but previously had been broadcasting its standard English-speaking programming in the U.K. At the time of its launch, the Guardian noted that RT “is facing six separate investigations by media regulator Ofcom.”
That investigative history included a finding last fall whereby the network was “threatened with statutory sanctions by  Ofcom after the Kremlin-backed news channel breached broadcasting regulations on impartiality with its coverage of the Ukraine crisis.” RT executives were “summoned to a meeting with Ofcom after it was found guilty of breaching the code governing UK broadcasters” and told they could face revocation of their license if these breaches of “impartiality rules” continued.
Today, Ofcom announced a new “bias” investigation into RT. The offense this time, according to the Guardian, is the broadcasting of “anti-western comments in a late-night discussion on Ukraine.” Specifically, “the programme is understood to have featured a number of anti-Western views in the discussion between the presenter and three studio guests.”
Unfortunately, RT told the Intercept this morning that it was barred by Ofcom regulations even from commenting on this new investigation. . . .
As Trevor Timm points out in his post on Boing Boing, the US does not hesitate to condemn governments that use overly-broad laws regarding terrorism to punish journalists simply for reporting what is happening. But when the UK does it, will the US speak up? The post begins:
In a disturbing ruling for democracy, a lower court in United Kingdom announced today that the detainment of journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was lawful under the Terrorism Act, despite the fact that the UK government knewMiranda never was a terrorist. This disgraceful opinion equates acts of journalism with terrorism and puts the UK on par with some of the world’s most repressive regimes. Miranda has vowed to appeal the ruling.
Glenn Greenwald has much more on what this means for press freedom, but I’d like to expand on one particular point:
Over the past several years, the US State Department has publicly criticized several governments for using overly-broad terrorism laws against journalists and has even claimed its their policy to oppose “misus[ing] terrorism laws to prosecute and imprison journalists.” As we pointed out a couple months ago, they have criticized Turkey, Ethiopia, Morocco, and Burundi all within the past year.
Just last week, the State Department harshly criticized Egypt for detaining over twentyAl-Jazeera journalists and charging them under the regime’s terrorism statute. A State Department spokesman said, Egypt’s “targeting of journalists and others on spurious claims are wrong and demonstrates an egregious disregard for the protection of basic rights and freedoms.” She continued: “any journalist, regardless of affiliation, must not be targets of violence, intimidation or politicized legal action. They must be protected and permitted to freely do their jobs in Egypt.”
Will the US State Department condemn very similar behavior by one of its closest allies, the United Kingdom? Sadly, in November when the UK first made its argument in court, the State Department refused to comment when asked about its stance by the Guardian‘s Paul Lewis. Now that a court has ruled in the UK’s government favor, it’s time for the State Department to speak out.
With the ruling, the UK government has vastly widened the definition of terrorism to include ensnare people who have not committed violence, who have no intention to commit violence, and who aren’t even associated with people who intend to commit violence. The lower court essentially agreed with the government’s warped definition it put forth in court documents in November: . . .
Continue reading. The interpretation the UK government offers is Orwellian in its deliberate effort to crush journalists.
The American Red Cross has become a dysfunctional organization that has decided that their best defense is to lie. The organization should be avoided until it has undertaken a thorough housecleaning rid itself of the vermin currently in charge. Report here, worth reading, by Justin Elliott and Jesse Eisinger in ProPublica:
The American Red Cross recently sent ProPublica and NPR a request for corrections to our series of stories about the charity’s failures in responding to Hurricane Isaac and Superstorm Sandy, misleading donors about how money is spent, and other issues. We stand by our reporting and have found no instances of errors. We have responded in detail below, noting where the Red Cross’ assertions are misleading or incorrect.
The organization’s request for corrections came shortly after we sent questions related to our ongoing reporting, specifically about the Red Cross’ response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Our stories have been scrupulously fair to the Red Cross. The Red Cross had an opportunity to respond to every fact, detail, and allegation from our reporting before every story. Before the stories ran, we sent the Red Cross extensive and detailed questions, documents and had in-person interviews with officials. We took the charity’s responses seriously and modified our stories based on the Red Cross’ responses.
Our core conclusions about the Red Cross’ response to Sandy and Isaac were drawn from the charity’s own high-level internal assessments. We posted those documents.
We also interviewed dozens of Red Cross officials and volunteers, storm victims, and government officials.
Below, we have summarized the charity’s complaints about our coverage, followed by our responses. (Here are the Red Cross’ criticisms in full.)
1. Emergency response vehicles diverted for PR purposes
Red Cross complaint (pg. 1):
The charity takes issue with our reporting that executives diverted vehicles for public relations purposes. In particular, the Red Cross asserts that NPR’s version of the story erroneously refers to multiple “incidents” where 40 percent of available emergency response vehicles were used for press conferences. The Red Cross also says our reporting relied on a “lone source.” It both denies that any emergency vehicles were diverted away from providing relief and says that the 40 percent figure is wrong.
The Red Cross’ claim that we referred to multiple “incidents” where 40 percent of vehicles were diverted is based on its use of a misleading, truncated quotation.
NPR’s transcript makes clear the word “incidents” refers to a variety of episodes, not just the diversion of trucks:
Our reporting found incidents where the charity sent as many as 40 percent of its emergency vehicles to press conferences instead of into the field, where it failed to show up as promised to open shelters, allowed sex offenders to hang out in a shelter’s play area.
As for the Red Cross’ claim that our account was based on a single source, that is false.
The account of the Red Cross’ use of its vehicles for public relations purposes was based on interviews with multiple Red Cross officials and volunteers, including two current Red Cross senior managers. Their accounts were bolstered by internal documents and twocontemporaneous emails, one to senior Red Cross officials at the time and another a month later to Red Cross disaster volunteers.
After our story published, we were contacted by a Red Cross driver who received orders to stop delivering goods to storm victims and instead show up at the press conference cited in the story with Red Cross President Gail McGovern.
“The press conference did keep us from being able to provide any meaningful response that day,” the driver told us.
Another Red Cross official at the event told us, “The only purpose for sending the ERVs there was to show a large presence. The vehicles were told where to park, which was behind where the podium was set up,” the official said. “They were not providing services there.”
All of those first-hand accounts are in line with the Red Cross’ own Lessons Learned PowerPoint presentation, produced out of national headquarters in Washington, whichlists “diverting assets for public relations purposes” as a “hindrance to service delivery.”
As for the Red Cross’ claim that even if vehicles were diverted, it wasn’t 40 percent of them: In supporting its point, the group cites a “disaster log” showing a count of emergency response vehicles assigned during Sandy in New York state overall. It is not a log of the vehicles available in the relevant area, New York City. We asked Red Cross officials for that information before publication and they have declined to provide it.
2. Hurricane Isaac volunteers sent where they weren’t needed . . .
ON THE MORNING of June 11, 2009, James Rosen stepped inside the State Department, scanned his building badge and made his way to the Fox News office in the busy press room on the second floor. It was going to be a hectic day. Like other reporters working the phones that morning, Rosen was looking for fresh news about the latest crisis with North Korea.
Two weeks earlier, North Korea had conducted a nuclear detonation that showed the rest of the world it possessed a functioning bomb. The United Nations was on the verge of a formal condemnation, but no one at the U.N. or inside the U.S. government knew how North Korea’s unpredictable regime would respond and whether things might escalate toward war.
Rosen called Stephen Kim, a State Department expert on rogue nations and weapons of mass destruction. Kim, a U.S. citizen who was born in South Korea, spoke fluent Korean and had worked at one of America’s nuclear-weapons labs. He probably knew more about what was going on in Pyongyang than almost anyone else in the building.
The call, according to metadata collected by the FBI, lasted just half a minute, but soon afterward Kim called Rosen and they talked for nearly a dozen minutes. After that conversation, they left the building at roughly the same time, then spoke once more on the phone after they both returned.
A classified report on North Korea had just begun circulating, and Kim was among the restricted number of officials with clearance to read it. He logged onto a secure computer, called up the report at 11:27 a.m., and phoned Rosen 10 minutes later. A few minutes past noon, he left the building again, and a minute later Rosen followed. The destruction of Kim’s life would center on the question of what the two men discussed during that brief encounter outside the State Department.
Kim returned to the building at 12:26 p.m., but Rosen lingered outside to make calls to colleagues at Fox News — to lines for the network’s Washington bureau chief, as well as a vice president and assignment editor. Back inside, Rosen called the bureau chief’s line again, and then an official at the National Security Council. Around 3:00 in the afternoon, with typos that suggest it was written in haste, Rosen posted a story on the Fox News website under the headline, “North Korea Intends to Match U.N. Resolution With New Nuclear Test.” It said the U.S. government, in its latest intelligence assessment, believed U.N. sanctions would trigger retaliatory actions from North Korea, including another detonation.
As news goes, Rosen’s story wasn’t, in fact, much of a scoop. It merely confirmed the conventional wisdom of the day. According to court documents, one State Department official described the intelligence assessment as “a nothing burger,” while another official said Rosen’s story had disclosed “nothing extraordinary.” But the article had a seismic impact in another way. It occurred just as the Obama administration was intensifying its effort to crack down on leakers and whistleblowers; the FBI soon launched an investigation. Because Rosen used phones that were easy to trace and twice left the building at the same time as Kim, it was simple for the FBI to zero in on whom he talked with that day. Before long, Kim, who had worked as a civil servant since 2000, was being threatened with decades in prison for betraying his country.
Five years later, on April 2, 2014, I sat in a half-empty courtroom in Washington, D.C., and watched as Kim pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act. . .
The US expresses incredible outrage when a pilot of a friendly nation is burned alive, despite the US routinely burning people alive in its wars—civilians as well as combatants. How many tons of napalm has the US used over the years?
Glenn Greenwald reports at The Intercept:
On January 26, the New York Times claimed that “a CIA drone strike in Yemen. . . . killed three suspected Qaeda fighters on Monday.” How did they know the identity of the dead? As usual, it was in part because “American officials said.” There was not a whiff of skepticism about this claim despite the fact that “a senior American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, declined to confirm the names of the victims” and “a C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment.”
That NYT article did cite what it called “a member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” (AQAP), who provided the names of the three victims, one of whom was “Mohammed Toiman al-Jahmi, a Yemeni teenager whose father and brother were previously killed in American drone strikes.” The article added that “the Qaeda member did not know Mr. Jahmi’s age but said he was a member of the terrorist group.”
In fact, as the Guardian reported today, “Mr. Jahmi’s age” was 13 on the day the American drone ended his life. Just months earlier, the Yemeni teenager told that paper that “he lived in constant fear of the ‘death machines’ in the sky that had already killed his father and brother.” It was 2011 when “an unmanned combat drone killed his father and teenage brother as they were out herding the family’s camels.” In the strike two weeks ago, Mohammed was killed along with his brother-in-law and a third man.
Mohammed’s older brother Maqded said he “saw all the bodies completely burned, like charcoal” – undoubtedly quite similar to the way the Jordanian combat pilot looked after he was burned alive last month by ISIS. That’s not an accident: the weapons the U.S. military uses are deliberately designed to incinerate people to death. The missiles shot by their drones are named “Hellfire.” Of his younger, now-deceased 13-year-old brother, Maqded told the Guardian: “He wasn’t a member of al-Qaida. He was a kid.”
There are a few observations worth making about this repugnant episode:
(1) The U.S. media just got done deluging the American public with mournful stories about the Jordanian soldier, Moaz al-Kasasbeh, making him a household name. As is often the case for victims of America’s adversaries, the victim is intensely humanized. The public learns all sorts of details about their lives, hears from their grieving family members, wallows in the tragedy of their death.
By stark contrast, I’d be willing to bet that the name “Mohammed Tuaiman al-Jahmi” is never uttered on mainstream American television. Most Americans, by design, will have no idea that their government just burned a 13-year-old boy to death and then claimed he was a Terrorist. If they do know, the boy will be kept hidden, dehumanized, nameless, without the aspirations or dreams or grieving parents on display for victims of America’s adversaries (just as Americans were swamped with stories about an Iranian-American journalist detained in Iran for two months, Roxana Saberi, while having no idea that their own government imprisoned an Al Jazeera photojournalist, Sami al-Haj, in Guantanamo for seven years without charges).
When I was in Canada last October during two violent attacks – one in northern Quebec and the other in Parliament in Ottawa – both of the soldiers killed were (understandably) the subject of endless, intense media coverage featuring their lives, their dreams and their grieving parents. But I’d bet that the Canadian public was incapable of naming even a single foreign individual killed by their own government over the last decade.
It’s worth considering the extreme propaganda impact that disparity has, the way in which the U.S. media is so eagerly complicit in sustaining ongoing American militarism and violence by disappearing victims of U.S. violence while endlessly heralding the victims of its adversaries.
(2) I have no idea whether this 13-year-old boy was “a member of al-Qaeda,” whatever that might mean for a boy that young. But neither does the New York Times, which is why it’s incredibly irresponsible for media outlets reflexively to claim that those killed by U.S. drone strikes are terrorists.
That’s especially true since the NYT itself previously reported that the Obama administration has re-defined “militant” to mean “all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.” In this case, Mohammed did not even qualify for that Orwellian re-definition, yet still got called a terrorist (by both the Obama administration as well as a “member of AQAP,” both of whom are, for different reasons, motivated to make that claim). Whatever else is true, extreme skepticism is required before claiming that the victims of the latest American drone strike are terrorists, but that skepticism is virtually never included.
(3) . . .
Later in the article:
If it were American teenagers rather than Yemeni ones regularly being burned to death – on American soil rather than Yemeni soil – does it take any effort to understand why there’d be widespread calls for violence against the perpetrators in response? Consider how much American rage and violence was unleashed by a single-day attack on American soil 13 years ago.
In fact, if it were the case that this 13-year-old boy were a “member of AQAP,” is it hard to understand why? Do we need to resort to claims that some primitive, inscrutable religion is to blame, or does this, from the Guardian article, make more sense:
When the Guardian interviewed Mohammed last September, he spoke of his anger towards the US government for killing his father. “They tell us that these drones come from bases in Saudi Arabia and also from bases in the Yemeni seas and America sends them to kill terrorists, but they always kill innocent people. But we don’t know why they are killing us.
“In their eyes, we don’t deserve to live like people in the rest of the world and we don’t have feelings or emotions or cry or feel pain like all the other humans around the world.”
In 2009, the U.S. got caught using cluster bombs in Yemen in an attack that slaughtered 35 women and children. Obama then successfully demandedthat the Yemeni journalist who proved that the attack was from the U.S., Abdulelah Haider Shaye, be imprisoned for years. In December, 2013, a U.S. drone strike killed 12 people as they traveled to a wedding.
The NY Times is quite credulous of government claims—it functions somewhat along the lines of Pravda in the old Soviet Union: the “official” story (and the “official” suppression of stories, as when the NY Times refused to report on the massive program of illegal surveillance administer by the Bush Administration because the government told them not to).
See also this report.
Steve Coll in the NY Review of Books reviews a recent book by James Risen:
by James RisenHoughton Mifflin Harcourt, 285 pp., $28.00
In early 2003, James Risen, an investigative reporter in the Washington bureau of The New York Times, prepared a story about a covert CIA effort to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. Before publishing it, he informed the CIA of his findings and asked for comment. On April 30, 2003, according to a subsequent Justice Department court filing, CIA Director George Tenet and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice met with Risen and Jill Abramson, then the Times’s Washington bureau chief. Tenet and Rice urged the Times to hold Risen’s story because, they said, it would “compromise national security” and endanger the life of a particular CIA recruit. (The agent is referred to in the Justice filing as “Human Asset No. 1.”) Eventually, the Times informed the CIA that it would not publish Risen’s story.1 Abramson said recently that she regrets the decision.
The following year, Risen and a colleague, Eric Lichtblau, learned of a National Security Agency surveillance program that collected details of Americans’ telephone and e-mail communications without reference to a search warrant. Some of Risen’s sources inside the NSA thought that the program was unconstitutional, because it violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unlawful search. Risen felt that he had come across “my biggest story of the post-9/11 age,” as he puts it in Pay Any Price, his revealing, diverse collection of investigations of greed, incompetence, and mendacity in the American national security state.
In October 2004, Risen and Lichtblau drafted their NSA story. They again informed the Bush administration of what they had discovered. The White House launched “an intense lobbying campaign” to persuade senior Times editors that the story “would severely damage national security,” Risen recalls. The decision about whether to publish fell to Bill Keller, then the Times’s executive editor. Risen, Lichtblau, and Rebecca Corbett, their editor, argued that the paper should go forward, but Keller ultimately decided against them. [Keller is a sanctimonious cowardly shit and a lickspittle of the powerful in general and the government in particular. So far as I can see, his main motivation was to ensure that George W. Bush be re-elected. – LG] That left Risen, as he writes, “frustrated and deeply concerned.”
He then took a leave of absence from the newspaper to write a book. In the summer of 2005, he finished his manuscript. He included in it his reporting about the CIA’s Iran operation and, with Lichtblau’s consent, their discoveries about the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program. Risen found a willing publisher at Free Press. When he informed his editors at the Times about his book-publishing plans, he recalls, “They were furious.”
Rather than be scooped by their reporter and Free Press, the Times’s executives reconsidered their decision not to publish his story about the NSA’s warrantless surveillance. According to Risen, the deliberations culminated in an Oval Office meeting between President Bush and Arthur Sulzberger Jr., then and now the Times’s publisher. In December 2005 the Times printed Risen and Lichtblau’s account. It caused an immediate sensation and later won a Pulitzer Prize. Yet the Times did not reverse its decision to withhold Risen’s reporting about the CIA’s covert operation to undermine Iran’s nuclear program.
On January 5, 2006, Free Press brought out State of War, Risen’s first book, which contained, in Chapter Nine, a critical account of “Operation Merlin.” In this covert action of the Clinton administration, according to Risen, the CIA recruited a Russian scientist to provide flawed nuclear weapons designs to Iran, in hopes of delaying the country’s progress toward constructing a bomb. Instead, the scientist pointed out the design flaws to the Iranians, which may have helped them.
From this tangled history of investigative reporting and espionage has arisen one of the most consequential confrontations between the government and the press in a generation. The Obama administration inherited the case from the Bush administration. The Obama administration then pressured Risen aggressively to reveal the sources he relied upon in describing “Operation Merlin.” The result, as his book and other evidence make clear, was that the Justice Department’s actions damaged the First Amendment and the rights of journalists.
In mid-January, however, after several years of expensive litigation, the Justice Department reversed itself and conceded in federal court that Risen could avoid testifying about his confidential sources. Risen will not be going to prison. Justice’s concessions marked a significant advance for the cause of a freer press after many reversals during the Obama years. In this age of terrorism fears and digital surveillance, the protection of journalistic sources is becoming more difficult and more contested.
The story of how, exactly, the Obama administration went after Risen bears examination in some detail. After State of War came out, the Justice Department launched a grand jury investigation into how he had acquired his scoops. In 2010, a grand jury issued a ten-count indictment against Jeffrey Alexander Sterling, a former CIA operations officer who had left the agency in 2002. The indictment accused Sterling of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 by providing state secrets to Risen for his Iran chapter.
At the time, the Obama administration’s resort to the draconian provisions of the Espionage Act against Sterling was just one case in a series of overreaching prosecutions of journalistic sources carried out by Eric Holder’s Justice Department. In more than one instance, the Justice Department took positions that came close to criminalizing the act of professional reporting on classified subjects. In a pretrial filing in the Sterling matter, for example, prosecutors in the US Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia argued vehemently that Risen was an important eyewitness to a felony because the reporter had allegedly interviewed Sterling, who had given him classified information. Although the Justice Department did not indict Risen, this theory of the case cast his reporting as a form of co-conspiracy in a serious Espionage Act felony.
The Justice Department also took the position that . . .
Leonard Pitt, Jr., writes in McClatchy:
Tucker Carlson said on Fox that more children die of bathtub drownings than of accidental shootings. They don’t.
Steve Doocy said on Fox that NASA scientists faked data to make the case for global warming. They didn’t.
Rudy Giuliani said on Fox that President Obama has issued propaganda asking everybody to “hate the police.” He hasn’t.
John Stossel said on Fox that there is “no good data” proving secondhand cigarette smoke kills nonsmokers. There is.
So maybe you can see why serious people – a category excluding those who rely upon it for news and information – do not take Fox, well … seriously, why they dub it Pox News and Fakes News, to name two of the printable variations. Fox is, after all, the network of death panels, terrorist fist jabs, birtherism, anchor babies, victory mosques, wars on Christmas and Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi. It’s not just that it is the chief global distributor of unfact and untruth but that it distributes unfact and untruth with a bluster, an arrogance, a gonad-grabbing swagger, that implicitly and intentionally dares you to believe fact and truth matter.
Many of us have gotten used to this. We don’t even bother to protest Fox being Fox. Might as well protest a sewer for stinking.
But the French and the British, being French and British, see it differently. And that’s what produced the scenario that recently floored many of us.
There was Fox, doing what Fox does, in this case hosting one Steve Emerson, a supposed expert on Islamic extremist terrorism, who spoke about so-called “no go” zones in Europe – i.e., areas of Germany, Sweden, France and Great Britain – where non-Muslims are banned, the government has no control and sharia law is in effect. Naturally, Fox did not question this outrageous assertion – in fact, it repeated it throughout the week – and most of us, long ago benumbed by the network’s serial mendacities, did not challenge Fox.
Then, there erupted from Europe the jarring sound of a continent laughing. British Prime Minister David Cameron called Emerson an “idiot.” A French program in the mold of “The Daily Show” sent correspondents – in helmets! – to interview people peaceably sipping coffee in the no-go zones. Twitter went medieval on Fox’s backside. And the mayor of Paris threatened to sue.
Last week, Fox did something Fox almost never does. It apologized. Indeed, it apologized profusely, multiple times, on air.
The most important takeaway here is . . .