Conflict-Ridden CBS 60 Minutes 'Journalist' Defends NSA Propaganda Piece By Insulting All His Critics

from the how-convincing dept

We recently wrote about 60 Minutes' laughably bad propaganda piece for the NSA, done by "reporter" John Miller, who has spent much of his time working in various high level positions in the law enforcement and intelligence communities. That he's expected to be rejoining law enforcement in an intelligence role shortly and that reports suggest the deal was negotiated long before his NSA report was completed only add to the questionable nature of allowing someone with such an obvious conflict of interest to handle that report. And, given that Miller appeared to only toss ridiculous softballs, failed to challenge any of Keith Alexander's highly questionable statements, and that the entire 60 Minutes team (in a "behind the scenes" clip posted to the web) seemed in awe of the NSA from the word go, the idea that this was nothing more than a infomercial for the NSA has plenty of credence.

After a week or so of silence, Miller finally decided to respond to his critics, by insulting them all and claiming that only the great and mighty John Miller does real reporting. Everyone who criticized the report is nothing more than angry bloggers in pajamas. David Carr, at the NY Times spoke to Miller:
Mr. Miller was more than happy to explain his N.S.A. segment, which he said he would not change if he had the chance.... He is nothing if not confident, dismissing his critics as ankle-biting, agenda-ridden bloggers who could not be compelled to get out of their pajamas and do actual reporting.

“I fully reject the criticism from you and others,” he told me. “The N.S.A. story has been a fairly one-way dialogue. There has been no conversation and when you do hear from the N.S.A., it is in a terse, highly vetted statement.”

“We went there, we asked every question we wanted to, listened to the answers, followed up as we wished, and our audience can decide what and who they believe. As we constructed it, the N.S.A. was a story about a debate, not a villain, and we added to that debate with important information. I fail to understand how a shrill argument for the sake of creating televised drama would have accomplished anything.”
Nearly everything said above is wrong or misleading -- like the comments he got from his buddies at the NSA. Many of the people who criticized Miller's infomercial are well-known and successful reporters with long histories of investigative reporting. For example, New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza absolutely trashed Miller's report, and Lizza recently wrote what I think is one of the absolutely most comprehensive and well-researched pieces on the NSA stuff. Other critics included Glenn Greenwald, who, it's difficult to argue, hasn't done some rather impressive reporting recently on these subjects. Then there's Spencer Ackerman, who has done amazing investigative work concerning the intelligence community and law enforcement for years. And he did a wonderful piece totally debunking the lies the NSA told in the 60 Minutes piece -- that is, the stuff John Miller let go through without questioning any of it. To argue that real investigative reporters weren't criticizing his piece is just wrong. Sure, some of us may be bloggers in our pajamas (guilty!), but to pretend that's where all the criticism came from isn't just lame, it's wrong. Besides, I really thought we were past the age where complaining about "bloggers in pajamas" was considered a thing to do.

As for the idea that the NSA story had been a "one-way dialogue," that's also just ridiculously false. I mean, when a large part of the federal government is on your side, the idea that the NSA's side of the story wasn't being told is laughable. Each week on the usual Sunday talk programs, NSA defenders seem to dominate the airwaves. While it might not be Keith Alexander or James Clapper directly, plenty of surrogates are out there listing out the talking points.

But it's that final paragraph that's really the most maddening -- this idea that "well, we asked questions and now it's up to the audience to decide who to believe." That's bullshit. That's not reporting. Reporting is about uncovering the truth. Bad reporting is, as journalism professor Jay Rosen (who also criticized Miller's reporting) calls it: "he said, she said" journalism where you write down what everyone says and then let the public sort it out for themselves who's full of shit. In this case, it was even worse, because Miller didn't even do the "she said" side. He provided the "he said" without any pushback to clearly bogus statements, and now wants to claim it's okay because the public can figure it out? Really?

Furthermore, what "important information" did they add to the debate? There was nothing in the report that revealed anything new or valuable at all. There was a scare-mongering story about a "BIOS" attack that was quickly shown to have been reported incorrectly (one security expert noted that it was gibberish, rather than anything real). That was about it.

I can understand Miller's desire to hit back at his critics, but name calling and refusing to respond to the direct claims of things that were clearly misleading or erroneous in his report, doesn't help his credibility. Oh, wait, I mean his credibility with the public who get news from him. I'm sure it helps his credibility quite a lot with his former and future bosses within the law enforcement community. And that's why 60 Minutes is a laughingstock for allowing someone so conflicted to put on such a bogus infomercial love letter to the NSA.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    TasMot (profile), Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 11:04am

    Back in the Day....

    When real programmers had real jobs, they had to wear a suit to work....
    Now, business casual is the high-end and almost everybody wears blue jeans and a "nice" shirt (generally, one without holes).

    Journalists used to only be the ones running around with a notebook in hand and a typewriter in the office.
    Oh, and at one point, a "journalist" was not a journalist if that person wore a dress.

    Now, almost anybody can be a journalist and the clothes are not actually all that important.

    Some people feel that the ability to think is reduced if you don't wear a business suit (or at least whatever THEY think is the right clothes - pullover with an alligator anybody, or a power tie?).

    It's not what someone is wearing that is important, it's the work that is produced. ANYBODY can buy expensive clothes, not everybody can THINK.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 11:11am

    Given how poorly law enforcement has been handling things, his level of intelligence seems to be supporting the status quo.

     

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  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 11:14am

    Get out of your pajamas, Mike, and STOP reporting on the "reporting".

    Recursively useless diversion in itself.

    Webster G. Tarpley: "There is no more corrupt discipline than academic economics [because doesn't include humanism]. (@ 10:40) from http://tarpley.net/audio/WCR-20131221.mp3

    Everyone should listen -- and I mean LISTEN -- to the first half hour or so of that; more important themes cogently stated than Mike glosses over in a year.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 11:17am

    When you don't have answers or don't want to answer because you know it is true but still want to respond in support of your activities one of the prime ways is to discredit your opponents. It's right out of the play book by the NSA who went out of their way to find out who and what porn certain characters were watching so as to have discrediting info on hand.

    Here we have the same play. No real meat to say that isn't so in the response but rather attacking the creditability as best as able without really saying anything. According to Miller no one is a real journalist but himself who already has a vested interest in status quo. So it comes out ringing as hollow and unfounded. It sounds false because the objections raised are true and are not addressed.

    The old saying for lawyers in this situation goes:
    When the law is on your side you pound on the law.
    When the facts are on your side you pound on the facts.
    When neither are on your side you pound on the table.

    Lots of table pounding going on with this response.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 11:19am

    " agenda-ridden bloggers who could not be compelled to get out of their pajamas and do actual reporting."

    Well if even 1/4 of us pajama folks had the access to the NSA that he had ,they would have walked out of that feeling like they had been taken anally by a porcupine and the questions would have been asked ..doubtfully answered... but asked

    I wonder how a guy in law enforcement got a position at CBS in the first place .. police officials and police have a pretty bad track record for telling the truth

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 11:27am

    Re: Get out of your pajamas, Mike, and STOP reporting on the "reporting".

    You first.

     

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  7.  
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    DOlz (profile), Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 11:32am

    The key line

    “We went there, we asked every question we wanted to, …"

    Not the questions that needed to be asked or should have been asked, but the ones that supported the narrative they wanted.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 11:33am

    Re: Re: Get out of your pajamas, Mike, and STOP reporting on the "reporting".

    Come to think of it, you suggesting that to Mike is very General Alexander of you.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 11:36am

    Re: The key line

    *We* asked every question *we* wanted to.

    Far cry from "We asked questions every intelligent mind in America is wondering."

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Me, Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 11:37am

    Enemies of the People

    It's already been established that Alexander, Clapper, Feinstein, Obama, Verrilli (sorry Don, you get listed here until you actually stand up for your legal obligations to not only tell the truth, but correct the record with respect to your own witnesses/representatives when they lie), Hayden et al are enemies of the people of the United States.

    It's no consolation that these people *think* they're defending the government. The government is NOT the people, and the sooner these hacks realized that the better for all of us.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    md, Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 11:44am

    Re: Get out of your pajamas, Mike, and STOP reporting on the

    You understand that a lot of news shows do the same thing, right? Take a story and give their opinion and take on it. Except Mike tends to back his opinions with references to actual quotes and information making him more credible.

    I've come to the conclusion that either

    1) Mike pays you to troll every post for whatever reason (doubtful)
    2) You are Mike and multiple disorder conditions are showing through (uhhh I'll take my tin foil cap off now)
    -or-
    3) You're for whatever reason unemployed, and spend your time leeching off the gov't and getting hot and bothered looking at a picture of Mike photo shopped to stand in front of Google's HQ.

     

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  12.  
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    OldMugwump (profile), Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 12:04pm

    Re: Re: Get out of your pajamas, Mike, and STOP reporting on the

    Blue is hard to understand except as:

    1 - A genuine paranoid with an irrational anti-Google obsession strangely blind to every other threat, a strange fixation on Mike personally, and too much free time, or,

    2 - Some sort of puppet of Mike's, here to "stir the pot" and get the rest of us going (thus helping Techdirt's pageviews?)

    I really like Techdirt - it focuses on issues I think are important, and I usually agree with Mike's viewpoint.

    If in the end OOTB turns out to be #2, I'm not sure what to think. On one hand, it's sneaky, devious, and somewhat dishonest. On the other hand, one could argue it's a fiendishly clever and successful way for Mike to get his viewpoint across - by making him seem reasoned and calm in comparison to the OOTB clown. Given that I think Mike is (usually) on the side of the angels, maybe the end justifies the means. In this case. But it's still sneaky.

     

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  13.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Get out of your pajamas, Mike, and STOP reporting on the

    2 - Some sort of puppet of Mike's, here to "stir the pot" and get the rest of us going (thus helping Techdirt's pageviews?)

    In absolutely no way is this true. We do like to encourage *reasoned* debate and *factual* analysis. Having people disagree and discuss from positions of knowledge is good. Having crackpot crazy conspiracy theories from uninformed idiots doesn't help at all.

    And none of it drives page views. As we've noted before, having a lot of comments is not an indicator of a post having a lot of traffic. Comments make the discussion richer, and that's what makes them valuable in general. But the amount of extra page views they drive is negligible at best. But we're not doing it "for the page views."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 12:14pm

    Re: Back in the Day....

    And Steven Spielberg directs movies in a baseball cap and t-shirt.

     

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  15.  
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    Reality Check (profile), Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 12:38pm

    Re: Re: Get out of your pajamas, Mike, and STOP reporting on the

    One day, we'll hear a news report about a pajama-clad lunatic being committed to a mental hospital for flinging his poo at a google maps car.

    The next day, the OOTB comments will dry up.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    KEVIN FEARS, Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 1:59pm

    WEBSTER SAID IT BEST.

    A TEXT BOOK EXAMPLE OF A TOADY BOOTLICKER.
    "Hey boss, did I do good?" "Save me a hot red head for the Xmas party, will ya?"

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 2:17pm

    Great arguement

    When you don't offer any defense to your statements and go straight to offense you admit that you already lost.

     

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  18.  
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    OldMugwump (profile), Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 6:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Get out of your pajamas, Mike, and STOP reporting on the

    I think I beleive you, Mike.

    But this whole Snowden thing has made me more skeptical than I used to be - I once actually thought the NSA was participating in crypto standards work to help keep American systems secure. (Stupid sucker, me.)

    So - why don't you just kick OOTB off the site? Whether intentional or not, I think Blue helps make your points - by acting as an easily refuted caricature of the other side. It's not really fair to the other side (they do have arguments, even if I think on balance they're wrong).

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 8:34pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Get out of your pajamas, Mike, and STOP reporting on the

    That would completely fly in the face of a free discussion about the topics at hand. OOTB is completely free to have whatever opinion he/she/they want. Just as we all are.

    Besides, no need to kick him off (ban his IP, which is easily routed around) since, as from what I've seen his or her comments tend to either be deleted or are flagged to the point that you have to actively look for them, and then click to show it.

    Marketplace of ideas and all that. The market has spoken.

    P.S. don't be ashamed/feel guilty that you've been duped by the NSA's PR(opoganda) agenda. They've kept several hundred -million- people in the dark for a long time. Me included. Take solace that you now know more than you did before.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    techflaws (profile), Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 10:20pm

    "one-way dialogue"

    And I always though dialogue would be two-way. Go figure.

     

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  21.  
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    techflaws (profile), Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 10:26pm

    "and now wants to claim it's okay because the public can figure it out? Really?"

    Why, yes, it is okay. The public DID figure it out and realized the NSA and Miller are full of sh!t.

    Pity he can't handle it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 11:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Get out of your pajamas, Mike, and STOP reporting on the

    But this whole Snowden thing has made me more skeptical than I used to be - I once actually thought the NSA was participating in crypto standards work to help keep American systems secure. (Stupid sucker, me.)

    Fair enough.

    So - why don't you just kick OOTB off the site? Whether intentional or not, I think Blue helps make your points - by acting as an easily refuted caricature of the other side. It's not really fair to the other side (they do have arguments, even if I think on balance they're wrong).

    We don't kick anyone off the site. Beyond generally being counterproductive, it's not even really possible. He once got caught in our spam filter for a few hours and threw a shitfit, as have some others, who seem to think that there's some conspiracy against them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Dec 23rd, 2013 @ 11:51pm

    I don't own pajamas. Does that mean I can't be a blogger? :(

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    History Man, Dec 24th, 2013 @ 5:41am

    He's just following orders!

    He's just following orders!

    Stop making trouble and get in the ovens!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Dec 24th, 2013 @ 8:08am

    Re:

    To most of the public, 'dialogue' involves two or more people speaking back and forth to each other, where one person will say something, the other will respond, and so forth.

    To the government and those in positions of power, 'dialogue' involves them saying something, and the other person just listening, or voicing agreement with them, because the last thing they want to hear is disagreement or an opposing viewpoint that might clash with what they've already decided on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    TasMot (profile), Dec 24th, 2013 @ 8:19am

    Re: Re:

    Sounds like a bunch of overbearing employers I've had. Corporate Communications is sending lots of emails about things only the senior managers care about and ignoring all the things that employees would want to say but usually can't because of fear of reprisals and/or it goes into a suggestion box black hole. Never to be heard about again (well maybe an automated "Thank You" email").

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 6:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Get out of your pajamas, Mike, and STOP reporting on the

    OOTB is a nutjob who claims to hate Google, but uses it all the time. She's trying to gain followers for her twisted views by posting here because her own blog has failed so spectacularly. I've outed her a number of times, but have been told I've got no proof I'm right, so I'll quit it.

    Suffice it to say she's a confused radical of sorts who talks commie while claiming to hate everything on the left and collectivism in general, and her failed blog is a reason-free pit of venomous hatred for all who do not worship at the altar of IP maximalism. I'm not going to give her page views by linking to it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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