Archive for the ‘Washington Post’ Category
lmost 15 years have passed since I warned about media “balance” that involved systematically abdicating the journalistic duty of informing readers about simple matters of fact. As I said way back when,
If a presidential candidate were to declare that the earth is flat, you would be sure to see a news analysis under the headline ”Shape of the Planet: Both Sides Have a Point.” After all, the earth isn’t perfectly spherical.
So have things improved? In some ways, they may have gotten even worse. These days, media balance often seems to involve retroactively rewriting history to avoid telling readers that one side of a policy debate got things completely wrong.
In particular, when you see reports on monetary disputes, you often see characterizations of what the Fed’s right-wing critics have been saying that go something like this, in the WaPo:
Among the criticisms: The Fed was keeping interest rates artificially low and fueling speculative bubbles. The helicopter-drop of money known as quantitative easing did little more than inflate stock markets and fund Washington’s deficit spending. The bailout of big banks left them bigger than ever.
Um, no. The people who gathered at the anti-Jackson-Hole eventweren’t warning about bubbles and too-big-to-fail. They warned, in apocalyptic terms, that runaway inflation was just around the corner. Here’s Ron Paul; here’s Peter Schiff.
Why would a reporter credit the Fed’s critics with warnings they didn’t give, and fail to mention what they actually said? The answer, pretty obviously, is that if you were to say “Ron Paul has been predicting runaway inflation ever since the Fed began its expansionary policies”, that would make it clear that he has been completely wrong. And conveying that truth — even as a matter of simple factual reporting — is apparently viewed as taking sides.
So what we get instead is a whitewashing of the intellectual history, in which Fed critics are portrayed as making arguments that haven’t been shown to be ridiculous. It’s a pretty sorry spectacle.
In Motherboard Sarah Jeong points out what should be obvious, but something the Washington Post editorial staff cannot seem to grasp:
Last year, the Washington Post editorial board called for tech companies to create a “golden key” that would decrypt otherwise secure user communications for law enforcement. Apple, Google, Facebook, and others ignored the editorial, coming out with end-to-end encryption for iMessage and Facetime, end-to-end encryption for Gmail, and PGP for Facebook notification emails. Now, the Washington Post isdoubling down on its call for a “golden key.”
The problem noted by many last year is that a backdoor to encryption, even if euphemistically rebranded as a “front door” or a “golden key,” is by definition a vulnerability. Building in backdoors threatens consumers and makes them vulnerable to criminals and hostile foreign governments alike. See, for example, the FREAK andLogjam vulnerabilities, discovered earlier this year. The FREAK attack can allow a malicious hacker to “steal or manipulate sensitive data” in transit—think, a password for your online banking, a credit card number, a compromising photo.
Both FREAK and Logjam originate out of 1990s “export-grade” cryptography—purposefully weakened encryption from the last time the government was pushing for the kinds of “golden keys” that the Washington Post is now advocating for. These days, not a week goes by that another major hack makes the news: OPM, Hacking Team, Ashley Madison. All this, even without a federal mandate to purposefully make things less secure.
The newspaper’s editorial board last week called for the National Academy of Sciences to examine “the conflict.” In other words, the Post thinks we had better hear both sides. “All freedoms come with limits,” the board writes, “it seems only proper that the vast freedoms of the Internet be subject to the same rule of law and protections that we accept for the rest of society.”
But it’s not illegal to lock your door at night. It’s not illegal to have a whispered conversation in a park. It’s not illegal to walk out of sight of a CCTV camera. It’s not illegal to carry cash.
Certainly, it is a great blow to law enforcement that some encryption cannot be broken for them, just like it is a great blow to law enforcement that we don’t have the telescreens from 1984 installed in our bedrooms. There are some things law enforcement do not get to see and do not get to have, even with a warrant. That is how things have always been, and our society has yet to fall apart because of it.
For a long time, the fight around online privacy has orbited around the phrase, “Get a warrant.” But that does not mean a warrant is a magic incantation that should conjure any information imagined and desired. . .
Chris Coyne clearly explains the problem with the Washington Post editorial board’s infantile idea:
This week, the Washington Post’s editorial board, in a widely circulated call for “compromise” on encryption, proposed that while our data should be off-limits to hackers and other bad actors, “perhaps Apple and Google could invent a kind of secure golden key” so that the good guys could get to it if necessary.
This theoretical “secure golden key” would protect privacy while allowing privileged access in cases of legal or state-security emergency. Kidnappers and terrorists are exposed, and the rest of us are safe. Sounds nice. But this proposal is nonsense, and, given the sensitivity of the issue, highly dangerous. Here’s why.
A “golden key” is just another, more pleasant, word for a backdoor—something that allows people access to your data without going through you directly. This backdoor would, by design, allow Apple and Google to view your password-protected files if they received a subpoena or some other government directive. You’d pick your own password for when you needed your data, but the companies would also get one, of their choosing. With it, they could open any of your docs: your photos, your messages, your diary, whatever.
The Post assumes that a “secure key” means hackers, foreign governments, and curious employees could never break into this system. They also assume it would be immune to bugs. They envision a magic tool that only the righteous may wield. Does this sound familiar?
Practically speaking, the Washington Post has proposed the impossible. If Apple, Google and Uncle Sam hold keys to your documents, you will be at great risk.
In case you’re not a criminal
Perhaps the reason the WaPo is so confused is that FBI Director James Comey has told the media that Apple’s anti-backdoor stance only protects criminals. Unfortunately he’s not seeing beyond his own job, and WaPo didn’t look much further.
Apple’s anti-backdoor policy aims to protect everyone. The following is a list of real threats their policy would thwart. Not threats to terrorists or kidnappers, but to 300 million Americans and 7 billion humans who are moving their intimate documents into the cloud. Make no mistake, what Apple and Google are proposing protects you.
Whether you’re a regular, honest person, or a US legislator trying to understand this issue, understand this list.
Threat #1. It Protects You From Hackers
If Apple has the key to unlock your data legally, that can also be used illegally, without Apple’s cooperation. Home Depot and Target? They were recently hacked to the tune of 100 million accounts.
Despite great financial and legal incentive to keep your data safe, they could not.
But finance is mostly boring. Other digital documents are very, very personal.
So hackers have (1) stolen everyone’s credit cards, and (2) stolen celebrities’ personal pictures. Up next: your personal pics, videos, docs, messages, medical data, and diary. With the Washington Post’s proposal, it will all be leaked, a kind of secure golden shower.
There is some hope. If your data were locked with a strong password that only you knew, only on your device, then the best hackers could get nothing by hacking Apple’s data servers. They’d look for your pictures but find an unintelligible pile of goops instead.
To begin to protect yourself, you need the legal right to a real, working password that only you know.
Threat #2. . .
Continue reading. There’s a lot more and it’s quite good.
The WaPo editorial board are idiots, but we knew that already.
From a report by David Carr in the NY Times.For context, read the story to which this is a parenthesis:
(In one bit of irony in the aftermath of the events on Wednesday, President Obama said, “Here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their job and report to the American people what they see on the ground.” This from an administration that has aggressively sought to block reporting and in some instances criminalize it.)
And you can see here how Twitter exploded.
And do read the story at that first link. It’s an important account of events that show how we’re headed.
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.
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 . . .