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Reporters Fall For CIA Director Brennan's Non-Denial Denial Over Senate Spying Scandal

from the bad-reporters dept

On Tuesday morning, Senator Dianne Feinstein finally got angry about the intelligence community, revealing much of the back story behind the CIA spying on Senate Intelligence Committee staffers who were investigating the CIA's torture program from the early 2000s. About an hour after her speech, CIA director John Brennan was set to give an interview to NBC's Andrea Mitchell at the Council on Foreign Relations, and of course, she asked about Feinstein's claims, leading Brennan to do what the intelligence community does best: give an answer that appears to say one thing, while really saying something entirely different, and never actually answering the question. Here's exactly what he said:
Andrea Mitchell: First of all, the topic of the morning, which you have addressed here. You said that you want to get the interrogation and detention past practices behind you. But Senator Feinstein today went to the floor. She said she did this reluctantly, that she has been dealing with you privately trying to resolve this since January and only went public today because of events, because of the referral from the inspector general of the CIA to Justice because a lawyer in CIA had referred a crimes report separately accusing the Senate of going in improperly into CIA computers.

Her claim in this scathing speech, frankly, was that the CIA has hacked into the Senate Intelligence Committee staff computers to thwart an investigation by the committee into those past practices. She also alleges that the Panetta-era report was very similar to the Senate’s conclusions about those past practices, but that you were involved in that era in the program itself and that CIA currently was trying to thwart the full review of the harshness of the detention and interrogation practices. Can you respond to that?

John Brennan: Yes. Well, first of all, we are not in any way, shape or form trying to thwart this report’s progression, release. As I said in my remarks, we want this behind us. We know that the committee has invested a lot of time, money and effort into this report, and I know that they’re determined to put it forward.

We have engaged with them extensively over the last year. We have had officers sit down with them and go over their report and point out where we believe there are factual errors or errors in judgment or assessments. So we are not trying at all to prevent its release.

As far as the allegations of, you know, CIA hacking into, you know, Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. I mean we wouldn’t do that. I mean that’s just beyond the -- you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we would do.
First of all, note that he is the one who is describing it as "hacking into." But that's not at all what Feinstein alleged. In fact, she said she gave her speech, in part to dispel the claims in the media that the CIA had "hacked" into their computers. Instead, the issue was that the CIA had simply been looking into what the Senate staffers had access to and what they'd been doing with it -- and also that they'd been "deleting" files that those staffers had previously been given access to. The agreement between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee had been that the CIA would not interfere with the investigation, and it seems quite clear that they did that.

But instead of responding to that claim, Brennan just says "well, we didn't hack their computers." He then went on, as he did last week, to imply that the Senate staffers themselves were somehow the problem here, and that the Justice Department may find they violated the law.

But, of course, the media isn't known for its ability to handle nuance, and many interpreted Brennan's non-denial denial exactly the way he intended them to interpret it: as a denial of what Feinstein claimed, even though he said nothing of the sort. First Look Media's Dan Froomkin looked at the way different media outlets covered the story, noting that Politico, the NY Times, Reuters and the Wall Street Journal all misleadingly claimed that Brennan denied Feinstein's allegations. The Associated Press and the LA Times, on the other hand, actually informed their readers of Brennan's word games. The AP stated: "He denied that the CIA 'hacked' into the computer network in remarks on Tuesday but did not address the question of a search" (though I've found other versions of the AP report that don't have that qualification, and instead suggest Brennan denied Feinstein's claims). The LA Times gave the most accurately worded description of Brennan's statements, noting that Brennan "offered carefully worded remarks that did not dispute the actions Feinstein said had taken place, but did deny that they constituted 'spying' on the Senate."

In looking at some other sources, I see the International Business Times actually took on the issue, directly asking whether or not Brennan denied Feinstein's claims and concluding that Brennan's "statements have been vague enough to avoid addressing specific accusations by Feinstein," and further pointing out that Feinstein never actually accused the CIA of hacking, so the response was clearly misleading. That article goes so far as to highlight that "Brennan’s language, then, is somewhat troubling, as it doesn’t address exactly what he and the CIA have been accused of...." Furthermore, that report notes that in a later interview, when asked directly about the CIA deleting files, "Brennan didn’t comment on it directly, instead assuring that the matter is being dealt with." Kudos to the IB Times.

That's about the best I've seen from any of the larger "mainstream" news outlets. Time Magazine quotes Brennan out of context to imply that he's actually addressing Feinstein's allegations, rather than dancing around them -- and even worse, it did so in two separate articles. ABC News also pretends that Brennan denied Feinstein's claims even though he did not. The Boston Globe also claims Brennan's denial was about Feinstein's allegations, rather than Brennan's own made up "hacking" standard.

The Voice of America amazingly gets the story wrong on both ends. First, it claims that Feinstein said the CIA "hacked" the staffers' computers, when she explicitly stated it wasn't a hack. Second, it claims that Brennan said the CIA "did not improperly search lawmakers' computers" when he very carefully did not deny that particular claim.

All in all, if you're not following the story closely (i.e., reading the actual source materials), it appears that the vast majority of the mainstream press absolutely misled its readers in implying that Feinstein said the CIA hacked her staffers' computers and that Brennan then denied her allegations.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Ninja (profile), Mar 12th, 2014 @ 10:58am

    All in all, if you're not following the story closely (i.e., reading the actual source materials), it appears that the vast majority of the mainstream press absolutely misled its readers in implying that Feinstein said the CIA hacked her staffers' computers and that Brennan then denied her allegations.

    It would be a surprise if most of the mainstream media actually got something right.

    On the other hand, I wonder how Feinstein will deal with the weasel words now that she is the receiving "harmed" end.

     

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    David, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 11:22am

    Bunch of liars and criminals

    The purpose of communication is to have the receiver get the meaning of the sender. Not to have the receiver understand something else while the sender has, in some manner of speaking, phrased what he was supposed to be saying in words.

    Anything uttered with the intent to cause a misleading interpretation is a lie. It does not matter whether or not some technical interpretation of the words exists that could be related to the truth.

    And the whole bunch of liars who think they are in some sense meeting their duties by playing word games on their employers has to be prosecuted, jailed and fired.

    Anybody who reports with an obvious intent of leaving a misleading impression with the listeners is guilty of contempt of congress.

    And who does this with the intent of hiding crimes, is a criminal and has to be treated as such.

     

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      DogBreath, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 11:58am

      Re: Bunch of liars and criminals

      The purpose of communication is to have the receiver get the meaning of the sender.

      Anything uttered with the intent to cause a misleading interpretation is a lie.

      Anybody who reports with an obvious intent of leaving a misleading impression with the listeners is guilty of contempt of congress.

      And who does this with the intent of hiding crimes, is a criminal and has to be treated as such.




      As proven by this, that ship sailed a long time ago.

      Welcome to BartSimpsonLand.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 11:27am

    When will reporter remember that given half a chance any political figure will answer a different question that the one they were asked. This allow the press to lie on their behalf, while they can claim they did not lie, but were misrepresented by the press.

     

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    scrivener50 (profile), Mar 12th, 2014 @ 11:29am

    Di-Fi false flag attack against a reformed torturer?

    More here than meets eye? Brennan moderated his stance on torture -- perhaps making HIM a target of IC extremists; could this be a Di-Fi false-flag attack against a master of the genre?

     

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    zip, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 11:57am

    Bloviation

    Isn't that what government officials and designated spokespeople are supposed to do when asked pointed questions -- construct answers filled with off-topic fluff, that if they ever get around to the original question, misconstrue it to the greatest degree possible, and above all, never directly answer the question that was actually asked?

    And then isn't the job of mainstream-media reporters to accept such non-answers without complaint and move on?

     

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    art guerrilla (profile), Mar 12th, 2014 @ 12:13pm

    Voice of Amerika ? ? ?

    aren't they a known organization to park spooks ?

    *besides* the pure propaganda they disseminate, it would hardly surprise me at all if -like faux news when they 'mistakenly' misidentify scumbag rethugs as scumbag dem'rats- they -oops!- made 'mistakes' which ONLY made the gummint look better...

    golly, goshies, sure is funny how those 'mistakes' always go one way ideologically...

    nah, i'm sure that can't be true, i mean they'll drone us, they'll destroy our constitution, they'll murder brown people on a whim, they'll destroy the economy so banksters can make billions instead of mere millions, but LIE to us ? deceive us ?
    no, they wouldn't go that far...
    *snicker*

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 12:25pm

    I'm pleased you called them reporters rather than journalists, as there's a big difference between the two. One reports, and the other does actual investigating journalism.

    If you actually fail at simply reporting... wow. You need to go back to school. Start with something simple, like "reading".

     

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    ahow628 (profile), Mar 12th, 2014 @ 1:29pm

    I'm sure this tactic works...

    Reporter: Jeffrey, you murdered and ate dozens of people. Can you respond to that?
    Jeffrey Dahmer: I just want to put this behind me.
    Reporter: Oh, ok then.

    Reporter: Adolph, you murdered millions of Jews. Can you respond to that?
    Adolph Hitler: You know, I just want to put this behind me.
    Reporter: Oh, ok then.

    Or, you know, maybe they need to be punished. What the heck is Brennan thinking?!?

     

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      DogBreath, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 1:58pm

      Re: I'm sure this tactic works...

      Brennan is doing exactly what he thinks he is allowed to do. In this case, it's like he is trying to pull the old Jedi Mind trick with something like, "These aren't the papers you are looking for. The CIA did nothing wrong and can go about its business."



      Except in this case replace "Jedi" with "Sith".

      The Sith Explained

      "The Sith believe the Force is a tool to be used and that the power in and of itself is justification enough for their actions. In short, they believe they can do anything they want simply because they have the power to do so."

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 1:37pm

    I think it is important to read the source as often as I can, but I am getting exhausted every time I have to play some sick word game in order to get the meaning behind the words.
    It is always like this: Millions of dollars are spent on spin-doctors and expert manipulators in order to get better at lying and mislead the people the speakers supposedly serve.
    I feel sick every time I listen to carefully disguised misleads... and the bad taste of bile, in my mouth every time they succeed and nobody dares asking any critical questions, which is quite often.
    We look down on criminals because they lie, cheat, steal and hurt. Politicians and lots of other government employees get away with it on a huge scale compared to most criminals... and they run the world.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 2:17pm

    I can agree with Brennan's statement that the CIA didn't hack the computers the Senate Intelligence Committee staffers used.

    When you own the network and computers used, you have access to what is traveling across that network. It doesn't require hacking because it is your system where you have all the access rights. Knowing that documents were disappearing after the fact, leaves the spying part wide open though doesn't it?

    Unlike Greenwald who complained that the words he was typing were disappearing right after he wrote them in the Guardian's offices.

    We again see that these spying agencies have no conception of what the word truth means. Nothing they put out for public consumption can be believed.

     

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      GEMont (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 6:34pm

      Re:

      Actually, for the last fifteen years, I've considered anything printed on paper, or broadcast on TV by the Truth-Free Press, to be 100% propaganda.

      I assume that, with the exception of "most" of the pointless "feel-good" news, about puppies, kittens and pre-school kids, anything that they present for public consumption, is produced by a fascist regime, to fulfill fascist needs.

      In fifteen years, this assumption has yet to be proven faulty.

       

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