Stewart Baker: Journalists Are To Blame For Making The NSA Look Like It's Doing All The Things It's Actually Doing

from the narrative-controller-gripes-about-narrative-he-can't-control dept

Stewart Baker, former NSA General Counsel and unofficial apologist for the DHS, CIA and NSA, is still trying to pin the blame for everything on everyone that isn’t a member of these fine American agencies. Privacy activists are to blame for TSA groping. Civil libertarians are to blame for the 9/11 attacks. FISA minimization procedures are also to blame for the 9/11 attacks. Encryption is to blame for the Blackberry’s disappearance from the cellphone market. And so on.

Now, in an interview with Wired where he supposedly dispels “cyber-security myths,” it’s journalists who are to blame for people’s distrust of government surveillance. But, you know, not in the flattering sort of way where uncomfortable truths are told and transparency is forced on reluctant, shadowy agencies. No, it’s in the bad way where journalists didn’t present a “fair” picture of domestic surveillance.

He leads off by saying there’s no possible way to hold a “conversation” about surveillance programs because to do so compromises security. We’re supposed to just trust the government on this, apparently.

This assertion is challenged by Wired’s Caleb Garling, who asks Baker whether Snowden’s leaks have served any positive purpose. Baker says there’s nothing to be gained because it’s journalists — not the Executive Branch and the intelligence community — that have been secretive and dishonest.

It was a scam from the start. Greenwald, Poitras, Snowden, and Bart Gellman did exactly what people like them have been accusing the intelligence community of doing for 40 years. They used the classification to tell a partial story in the hopes of shaping the debate, and they succeeded.

They released that order saying the government is scarfing up metadata about all your calls and they withheld, for roughly two weeks,* the [documentation] which they all had which showed all the limitations on that access. Why? Because they didn’t want a debate on the limitations—they wanted to leave the impression that everybody’s phone calls are looked at by NSA and they have succeeded in leaving that impression because of their manipulation of the classified information. That’s a shame.


Left unmentioned by Baker is the fact that the government could have stepped in at any time and countered this mis-impression. But it never did. It still doesn’t, at least not to any significant extent. When documents are served up by news agencies with access to them, they’re routinely greeted with denials, refusals to comment or cliches about “lawful authority” and “oversight.” Only very belatedly has the government experimented with transparency, and even in this, there’s routinely more redaction than insight.

While it’s true that the debate over security vs. privacy will always be somewhat hampered by security concerns, the US government spent years hiding its expanding surveillance programs from everybody, including oversight committees and the FISA Court. It made no effort over the next decade-plus to welcome the public to the debate — mostly because it had already held this debate in the public’s absence shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Now, government apologists like Baker want to blame the press for “skewing” the perception of these agencies and their tactics. But what other view could possibly have been presented? The government — until June of 2013 — held (almost) all the cards. Snowden gave journalists a deck of these own and Baker wants to criticize how the press played its limited hand.

Someone who spent years keeping information out of the public’s hands (and applauds further efforts to do the same) is in no position to criticize the transparency efforts of others, no matter how subjectively much it looks like activists pitching skewed narratives.

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Comments on “Stewart Baker: Journalists Are To Blame For Making The NSA Look Like It's Doing All The Things It's Actually Doing”

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Violynne (profile) says:

Funny thing.

Years ago, I was taught there were members of a society who despised how their government was working. When journalists tried to give the people of that society the corruption and violation of freedoms the government was imposing, they, too, were called out (if not executed).

Many started to realize these journalists were telling the truth. Fearing their lives and liberties, they huddled up and decided to bail on this utopia and settle a new one.

Soon, this utopia formed a new name, calling itself the United States of America.

Those who fail to learn from history are surely doomed to repeat it.

In short: Stewart Baker is an idiot.

Anonymous Coward says:

They released that order saying the government is scarfing up metadata about all your calls and they withheld, for roughly two weeks,* the [documentation] which they all had which showed all the limitations on that access.

Does this guy not understand that the 4th Amendment protects against illegal search AND seizure?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: 4th

The government is supposed to have limitations to the data that is not pertinent to an ongoing investigation, as well as how long it can be stored – at least that is what they argue when they are ordered to not destroy evidence:

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: 4th

The Law behind asset seizure is unconstitutional. You just need to look at the 5th amendment:

…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

They are skirting due process by claiming that the property stolen is given the process, not the person. And it’s not taken for public use, the stolen property is fined because the stolen property was breaking the law.

In other words, they are just working really hard to prove Shakespeare had the right idea.

Anonymous Coward says:

The government as well as these so called agencies have shown time and again just how concerned they are with the Constitution.

Bulk gathering of phone data has been ruled illegal by the court. Snowden has shown that in secrecy, these same agencies have been willing to redefine the english language in order to pull off illegal activities and then claim them legal. As long as they can use the secrecy clauses within National Security, there is no effective oversight, even at the levels of the Congressional Intelligence Oversight Committee, where a committee in charge of oversight has to play 20 questions in an attempt to get to the core of the subject.

This is no longer about security. This is about government take over and the altering of laws whether acknowledged or not. These security agencies have become rouge. There is no oversight, there is no accountability, there is no checks provided by a court that can’t get the straight facts. There is no creditability with these security agencies that lie to every one and no one is holding them to accountability. Clapper is still holding his job and has never been called to account over lying under oath.

None of this would be a problem were transparency part of the process. It is the exposure of just how far gone it is by the Snowden releases that provides the proof positive of where that is that has brought about the condemnation of those same security branches. Until they come clean, until they are held to oversight beyond in word only, and until they are again within the law, tested in court to actually be legal, none of the condemnations are out of line.

They are called for.

David says:

Have you been reading the same stories I did?

Left unmentioned by Baker is the fact that the government could have stepped in at any time and countered this mis-impression. But it never did. It still doesn’t, at least not to any significant extent.

Uh, what? The government did step in and countered the “mis-impression” almost every time. The problem is that they countered with deliberate lies which were then uncovered in subsequent publications.

Again and again and again and again.

The problem is that there are very few truths which would be fit to ameliorate the bad impression the release of Snowden’s documents did because so far it is awful and lies and crimes against the Constitution all the way down.

And if the dismal picture that was given was an aberration then the government would have started fixing the abuses.

The government does nothing of the sort, so it is obvious that they are reliant on exactly those things which are an abomination.

The government is full of heroes and patriots and honorable men who torture, kill, deceive, eavesdrop, perjure their oaths and common decency and lie, lie, lie while stealing the money of taxpayers who never assented to the misappropriation of their property for aiding and abetting the enemies of the U.S.A. and their Constitution.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Very typical nowadays

Everything is image these days. Imagine one of our more modern corporations speaking about that:

“Sure we may have stolen $25 billion, poisoned 57,000 people, dumped our hazardous waste in 94 pristine lakes, evicted 90,000 people from their homes, filed 10,000 bogus criminal charges, recorded 15 million people in the privacy of their homes, bribed 5,000 politicians and etc., etc. “

“But that’s not the problem. The problem is the EFFING PRESS KEEPS TELLING EVERYONE ABOUT IT!”

“See, if the EFFING press would just shut their EFFING yaps, our image management group would be able to make us look like sweet little angels.”

CyberKender says:

I think Baker is into Quantum Physics...

He appears to have spent a lot of time on Heisenberg. Obviously, if the public hasn’t observed the NSA committing unconstitutional acts, then obviously, no one can say that they have happened. But then Snowden, Greenwald, et al, comes along and looks at what the NSA has been doing, and that observation affected the result, thus creating the fact that the NSA has been committing constitutional violations.

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