by Mike Masnick
Mon, Sep 23rd 2013 3:49pm
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 30th 2013 10:16am
Once Again, Will People Say That Reporters Revealing Details Of US Intelligence On Syria Be Called Criminals?
from the just-wondering dept
Yet, when more detailed leaks come directly from more obvious government sources, no one bats an eye. We pointed out how clear this was in the past with Barbara Starr, the CNN reporter that Greenwald has jokingly referred to as "the Pentagon spokesperson who works at CNN." She was among those who keep publishing reports from "inside sources" claiming that Snowden's leaks were incredibly damaging.
And yet, here is the very same Barbara Starr, reporting from an anonymous "U.S. official," details about what kinds of communications the US has intercepted by Syrian military leaders.
CNN has learned the United States has intercepts of conversations among top Syrian military officials discussing the chemical weapons attack after it took place last week, according to a U.S. official.Right, so just as the US is pushing to intervene militarily in Syria, suddenly we get a "leak" revealing details of intelligence intercepts of Syrian leaders? Wouldn't you think that's the kind of thing that the government would most want to keep secret? But, of course, in this case, the hope is that this "leak" will help bolster the government's case for bombing Syria, so it's "okay." Yet, how come we don't hear the normal Snowden and Greenwald attackers calling for investigations into this "leak" and suggesting that Starr is a criminal?
The intercepts form a key basis for the conclusion that the Syrian regime was behind the attack.
Greg Mitchell has a succinct update of Richard Nixon's famous "if a President does it, it's not illegal" statement for the modern era. Apparently, "if a President leaks it, it's not illegal."
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Aug 8th 2013 11:47am
NY Times Reveals NSA Searches All Emails In & Out Of The US; Will It Offer Up Its Source For Prosecution?
from the just-wondering dept
The National Security Agency is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans’ e-mail and text communications into and out of the country, hunting for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance, according to intelligence officials.Again this is the kind of thing that many people had assumed was going on, but it hadn't been confirmed until now. Of course, the NSA's response was not to talk about whether or not this was true, but to claim, yet again, that everything it's doing is "authorized," which is a way of deflecting the fact that it's almost certainly unconstitutional. In this case, the claim is that the NSA isn't storing these emails, but rather: "temporarily copying and then sifting through the contents of what is apparently most e-mails and other text-based communications that cross the border," and the whole process only takes "a small number of seconds" before the records are deleted.
The N.S.A. is not just intercepting the communications of Americans who are in direct contact with foreigners targeted overseas, a practice that government officials have openly acknowledged. It is also casting a far wider net for people who cite information linked to those foreigners, like a little used e-mail address, according to a senior intelligence official.
This report raises a whole bunch of issues, but let's focus on two of them:
- Right, so remember that last post, where Barack Obama claimed that there is no domestic spying program? Yeah, so about that... Here's a bit more evidence of just what a lie that is.
- Here's the bigger one, though. Just yesterday, the NY Times published an astounding editorial that suggests that the US should punish Russia for not sending Ed Snowden back. It is effectively calling for the prosecution of a key whistleblower concerning NSA surveillance.
So, I'm wondering, does the NY Times editorial board believe that Charlie Savage's source -- who is revealing information not unlike that which Snowden revealed -- shouldn't be protected, should be revealed and should be prosecuted? Because I would imagine that both Savage and that source would find that very uncomfortable. At this point, if you're a government whistleblower, why would you ever go to a reporter at the NY Times when they're supportive of prosecuting sources and whistleblowers?
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jul 19th 2013 2:20pm
from the uh-oh dept
The two judges (out of a three judge panel) who felt this way seriously twisted previous precedents concerning whether or not someone could be compelled to testify if you "witness" a crime. But the point of the laws there are basically if you see someone dealing drugs, you can be compelled to testify about it. With a reporter talking to a source, where that source is blowing the whistle on the government, then yes, the whistleblower may be technically "breaking the law" in providing info to a journalist, but it's an entirely different situation than say a journalist reporting on drug dealers (the precedent case that the court relied on). But, the court ruled otherwise.
There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify by the prosecution or the defense in criminal proceedings about criminal conduct that the reporter personally witnessed or participated in, absent a showing of bad faith, harassment, or other such non-legitimate motive, even though the reporter promised confidentiality to his source.It is difficult to overstate the chilling impact this particular ruling will have on investigative journalism, especially when it comes to reporting on government abuse and corruption. Even if a journalist promises confidentiality and completely means it, this ruling means the government can just drag that journalist to court and force him or her to reveal his or her sources. That's going to completely freak out whistleblowers. While the court disagrees, I have a hard time seeing how this does not, fundamentally, violate the First Amendment's protections for press freedom.
Given that, I agree with Judge Gregory, who wrote a strong dissent.
Today we consider the importance of a free press in ensuring the informed public debate critical to citizens’ oversight of their democratically elected representatives. Undoubtedly, the revelation of some government secrets is too damaging to our country’s national security to warrant protection by evidentiary privilege. Yet the trial by press of secret government actions can expose misguided policies, poor planning, and worse. More importantly, a free and vigorous press is an indispensable part of a system of democratic government. Our country’s Founders established the First Amendment’s guarantee of a free press as a recognition that a government unaccountable to public discourse renders that essential element of democracy – the vote – meaningless. The majority reads narrowly the law governing the protection of a reporter from revealing his sources, a decision that is, in my view, contrary to the will and wisdom of our Founders.The dissent is really worth reading, going into great detail on how this ruling appears to contradict previous rulings protecting the right of journalists to keep sources confidential.
In the past, Risen himself has said that he will appeal such a ruling and, further, that he would go to jail before revealing his sources. Either way, yet again, we see the Obama administration's all-too-aggressive war against whistleblowers and the impact it has. Various national security reporters have already been talking about how sources have been clamming up lately, and this is only going to lead to more of that -- and much less oversight and reporting on government fraud, abuse and corruption.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, May 13th 2013 4:04pm
from the freedom-of-the-press?-ha!-what's-that? dept
There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. 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 operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.The AP also (again, quite reasonably) notes that this appears to be a "serious interference with AP's constitutional rights to gather and report the news" and demand that the government destroy all copies of the data it received.
That the Department undertook this unprecedented step without providing any notice to the AP, and without taking any steps to narrow the scope of its subpoenas to matters actually relevant to an ongoing investigation, is particularly troubling.
The sheer volume of records obtained, most of which can have no plausible connection to any ongoing investigation, indicates, at a minimum, that this effort did not comply with 28 C.F.R. §50.10 and should therefore never have been undertaken in the first place. The regulations require that, in all cases and without exception, a subpoena for a reporter’s telephone toll records must be “as narrowly drawn as possible.’’ This plainly did not happen
This really is an incredibly broad move by the government. Especially when it comes to reporters, the government has generally respected the right for reporters to keep their sources private, even if this administration has been known to threaten reporters if they won't reveal sources. In case you're wondering the law here is pretty clear about the limitations on getting this kind of info.
There should be reasonable ground to believe that a crime has been committed and that the information sought is essential to the successful investigation of that crime. The subpoena should be as narrowly drawn as possible; it should be directed at relevant information regarding a limited subject matter and should cover a reasonably limited time period. In addition, prior to seeking the Attorney General's authorization, the government should have pursued all reasonable alternative investigation steps as required by paragraph (b) of this section.I'm sure that Eric Holder will try to tapdance around this one as well, but the claims here are very serious. On the positive side, perhaps this will finally help the press wake up to the continued expansion of the federal government's surveillance operations and their general disdain for the constitution if it helps them go after whoever they want. The press likes to go nuts when some startup accidentally leaks some data or tracks what people are doing online, but routinely ignores how the government seems to feel entitled to any bit of private data about anyone, often without a warrant. Perhaps having the press have their records taken will wake some of them up to the fact that it impacts them as well (perhaps even more than others).
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Mar 23rd 2011 10:39am
from the questions,-questions dept
But the even more interesting point comes after that:
Every journalist I've spoken to since 2006 uses Wikipedia as their handy universal backgrounder. Funnily enough, there's a distinct lack of donations to the Wikimedia Foundation from newspapers and media organisations. How much did the New York Times donate in the fundraiser?Marcus Carab, who works in a newsroom, made a similar point in response to that article a few weeks ago when the NYTime's Bill Keller claimed that the Huffington Post was a "pirate site," in that newspaper reporters rely on tons of other sources that never get any credit, let alone payment (excuse Marcus' Canadianisms, he can't help it):
We do this stuff for everyone to use and reuse. Journalists taking full advantage of this is absolutely fine. But claiming we should then pay the papers for the privilege is just a little odious.
Forget the fact that pavement-pounding reporting is a form of aggregation from the public - newspapers actively aggregate from tonnes of published sources too. Every newsroom has a table covered in copies of every other newspaper in town - in case you missed something, or they got an angle you didn't, or you think one of the stories can be taken further. In addition to reporting, all journalists do research: they look up other articles on the topic, find past magazine interviews and pull data from published reports. Many science articles in newspapers are just summaries of journal articles.So this raises a really good point about the silly claims from the NY Times and others about how they need to get paid, since they believe that they're the "originators" of the news. I do wonder how many of the people at the NY Times did contribute to Wikipedia? I would bet many of the folks who insist that their own work needs to be paid for by users, have in turn never once contributed to Wikipedia.
And that's just what went on and still goes on in the traditional media ecosystem, amongst the old players. Newspapers actively aggregate from blogs too. Every journalist in entertainment or technology starts his morning looking for leads on blogs, and the first thing any reporter does when they get an assignment on a topic they aren't familiar with is look it up on Wikipedia.
Information comes in all sorts of forms from all sorts of places. The NY Times is good at what it does. No one is denying that. But it's delusional in its thinking that it somehow is the piece of the puzzle that is worth the most here.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Mar 18th 2011 5:32pm
from the maybe-he-should-investigate-that dept
"There's going to be something we're going to miss in journalism that will be very regrettable. I hope the young people who have developed Facebook and Google will say, 'We need to fix the information system and we need to get information to people that's well-researched and investigated.' "There's something beautiful in a statement that disproves itself, and Woodward's statement above fits into that category perfectly. After all, he made the statement above, and it's pretty damn clear that he made it without investigating or researching what's actually going on. The fact is that Woodward seems to have conflated two totally separate issues: the fact that services like Google and Facebook exist... and the fact that not all reporting is well-researched or investigated. The problem is that those two things are not particularly related, and most certainly not causal. There are, for example, plenty of reports in newspapers that are neither well-researched nor investigated. At the same time, there are plenty of things found online that are both well-researched and investigated. Of course, there's plenty that isn't... but that doesn't harm the stuff that is. I never understand why people automatically think that all content online gets equal attention, and that any "bad" content somehow takes something away from good content.
But rather than researching and investigating what's really causing problems for newspapers (hint: massive debt-load and an astounding failure to adapt to the times), Woodward simply does what he claims to hate, and makes uninformed and ignorant statements, blaming "search engines" for the "screwed up information system." He also seems to think that while "people" exist offline, what happens online no longer involves people. The following paragraph, for example, makes no sense:
"Mark Felt, who was Deep Throat, didn't have a Facebook account. He wouldn't have had one. The news of Watergate came from human beings who were reluctant to talk. And the information was not on the Internet. You talk to college students and they say, 'Instead of two years before Nixon resigned, it would have happened in a week.' And I say, 'Why?' And they say, 'Because, people would have gone to the Internet and found it.' But I say, 'It wasn't there. Even if there was an Internet, the information would not be available.'"Even if that latter exchange really happened (and I have my doubts), the whole thing seems to be based on the idea that a reporter today can't cultivate sources online. While I'm not an investigative reporter by any stretch of the imagination, I can say pretty clear that the internet has been a massive boon in building up a variety of sources of information that simply wouldn't be possible in the past. Just because it happens online doesn't mean it doesn't involve communicating with people. It's just that the process becomes more efficient. He's right that Mark Felt wouldn't have put info online... but would it have been possible for reporters to cultivate a source like Feld online? Absolutely.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 28th 2011 11:46am
from the going-too-far dept
The latest is the report that came out late last week that the government, in going after leakers, got access to reporter James Risen's phone records, bank details and credit card statements. As the report notes, this is pretty extreme:
Although there have been other public controversies over subpoenas -- real and threatened -- to reporters in recent years, there have been few, if any, cases in which it has been documented that federal prosecutors obtained the bank records and credit reports of journalists.It's not entirely clear if all of these activities took place under the Obama administration or previous administrations, but multiple people quoted in the article say this kind of activity has been much more common in the Obama Justice Department. For a President who has positioned himself as being a big supporter of press freedoms, this looks really hypocritical. Spying on reporters is bad. As the report notes, Risen was subpoenaed directly twice, but both times a judge reasonably quashed the subpoenas. So, for the administration to basically go around all that and get records from others is pretty bad.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 27th 2011 12:05pm
from the complex-actors-in-complex-situations dept
Keller's final suggestion that Wikileaks' impact has been "overblown" is belied somewhat by the fact that Keller just spilled so much ink on the background of the paper's association (and subsequent blacklisting) with the organization. There are other points that could be nitpicked, but it's not surprising that Keller seeks to position the NY Times in the best possible light, and perhaps minimize the contributions of Wikileaks itself. But, just the fact that the NYT's is now considering its own Wikileaks, shows that the idea certainly has changed the way many people think about this aspect of reporting.
I'd argue -- as some others have -- that the impact of Wikileaks has actually been both over- and under-estimated. And part of the problem is that so many people are quick to conflate the idea of such an organization with the single organization itself (or worse, with a single person in the form of an easily dislikable Julian Assange). But it's a mistake to think that just because the particular organization itself is flawed, that its existence and what it's accomplished so far won't have profound effects on secrecy in organizations (government and corporate), the practice of journalism itself (which has suddenly gotten a hint of what's possible), and the idea of distributed or "stateless" organizations as enablers of information flow. It's that last point that I think many are ignoring, and that will later prove to be a mistake.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 27th 2011 1:14am
from the catching-up dept