Tag Archives | Journalism

Journalist Raymond Bonner on How Telecommunications Company Helped Government Spy On Him

Not-SpyingJournalist Raymond Bonner has good reason to doubt the government’s reassurances that only terrorists need worry about its snooping powers.

Via ProPublica:

In 2004, my telephone records as well as those of another New York Times reporter and two reporters from the Washington Post, were obtained by federal agents assigned to investigate a leak of classified information. What happened next says a lot about what happens when the government’s privacy protections collide with the day-to-day realities of global surveillance.

The story begins in 2003 when I wrote an article about the killing of two American teachers in West Papua, a remote region of Indonesia where Freeport-McMoRan operates one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines. The Indonesian government and Freeport blamed the killings on a separatist group, the Free Papua Movement, which had been fighting a low-level guerrilla war for several decades.

I opened my article with this sentence: “Bush Administration officials have determined that Indonesian soldiers carried out a deadly ambush that killed two American teachers.”

I also reported that two FBI agents had travelled to Indonesia to assist in the inquiry and quoted a “senior administration official” as saying there “was no question there was a military involvement.’’

The story prompted a leak investigation.

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Obama’s Justice Department: Trumpeting a New Victory in War on Freedom of the Press

US-DeptOfJustice-SealThere’s something profoundly despicable about a Justice Department that would brazenly violate the First and Fourth Amendments while spying on journalists, then claim to be reassessing such policies after an avalanche of criticism — and then proceed, as it did this week, to gloat that those policies made possible a long prison sentence for a journalistic source.

Welcome to the Obama Justice Department.

While mouthing platitudes about respecting press freedom, the president has overseen methodical actions to undermine it. We should retire understated phrases like “chilling effect.” With the announcement from Obama’s Justice Department on Monday, the thermometer has dropped below freezing.

You could almost hear the slushy flow of public information turning to ice in the triumphant words of the U.S. attorney who led the investigation after being handpicked by Attorney General Eric Holder: “This prosecution demonstrates our deep resolve to hold accountable anyone who would violate their solemn duty to protect our nation’s secrets and to prevent future, potentially devastating leaks by those who would wantonly ignore their obligations to safeguard classified information.”

Translation: This prosecution shows the depth of our contempt for civil liberties.Read the rest

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Is The Western Media Promoting War on Syria? Are All The Facts in? Does It Matter?

Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile -cropAs the United States threatens to target Syria militarily, how can we expect the military strikes to be covered?

First, there are very few US or western journalists stationed in Syria,  and many of the citizen reporters on the ground have become casualties, and/or have been intimidated and forced to leave.

That assures poor coverage of  those who will be hurt or become predictable and disposable “collateral damage.”

A front page New York Times article on Friday reporting on Syria, carries no dateline and was filed from Beirut. The Times explains that mainstream journalists cannot work freely in Syria, and contends that social media offers better coverage.

The paper quotes Absi Smesem, Syrian journalist, as saying,

“There are no objective sources of information on either side, neither with the regime nor the rebels .We need to get out of this Facebook phase, where all we do is whine and complain about the regime.”

Writing on Salon, in a piece picked up by Mediachannel.org, Patrick L Smith indicts western “lapdog media,”  asking,

“When was it that journalists began thinking of themselves as national security operatives?

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Rise to the Call for Real American Media

Screen Shot 2013-08-05 at 2.19.40 PMRemember when corporate owned mainstream media was relevant? Me either. Not to any meaningful extent anyway. Of course, there are a few good exceptions. “60 Minutes” is not so bad. We always have “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” to fall back on. Some crazy percentage of people get their news from these Comedy Central shows. Jon Stewart still refuses to admit he is a news reporter of any kind. Is he embarrassed to be a part of that once proud profession? Has it gotten so bad that a stigma is now permanently attached to the field? Or do people just prefer comedy with their news? After all, a spoonful of sugar does make the medicine go down. Stewart and Colbert are masterful at that, and deserve their warehouse full of Emmys.

The two remaining examples of relevant mainstream news are essentially mirror images, now largely overlooked remaining bastions of a bygone era in which the everyman felt he could connect with the powers that be.… Read the rest

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Obama’s Escalating War on Freedom of the Press

Newseum 5 Freedoms 1st AmendmentThe part of the First Amendment that prohibits “abridging the freedom … of the press” is now up against the wall, as the Obama administration continues to assault the kind of journalism that can expose government secrets.

Last Friday the administration got what it wanted – an ice-cold chilling effect — from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled on the case of New York Times reporter James Risen. The court “delivered a blow to investigative journalism in America by ruling that reporters have no First Amendment protection that would safeguard the confidentiality of their sources in the event of a criminal trial,” the Guardian reported.

The Executive Branch fought for that ruling — and is now celebrating. “We agree with the decision,” said a Justice Department spokesman. “We are examining the next steps in the prosecution of this case.” The Risen case, and potentially many others, are now under the ominous shadow of the Appeals Court’s pronouncement: “There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify … in criminal proceedings.”

At the Freedom of the Press Foundation, co-founder Trevor Timm calls the court ruling “the most significant reporter’s privilege decision in decades” and asserts that the court “eviscerated that privilege.” He’s not exaggerating.… Read the rest

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NSA College Recruitment Drive Goes Quite Wrong

NSA college recruitmentWhen the National Security Agency visited the University of Wisconsin last week to recruit language students to be the next generation of intelligence workers, events didn't go smoothly as planned. Journalist Madiha Tahir, currently taking a language course at the university, posted an audio recording of the NSA officials' presentation to the student body going off the rails, as she and others tear the presenters to pieces with questions about Edward Snowden, the legality and ethics of their work, and if being a good liar is an asset for getting a job at the NSA. She has also posted a rough transcript on her blog. Her comment that sums up the whole debacle: "I'm just surprised that for language analysts, you're incredibly imprecise with your language. And it just doesn't seem to be clear."
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Conspiracy Theories Surrounding Journalist Michael Hastings’s Death Grow

michael hastingsAcclaimed reporter Michael Hastings died tragically when his car crashed and burst into flames over a week ago. The mysterious accident has already led to talk of the conspiracy theory variety, as Hastings had been investigating stories related to the CIA and NSA prior to his death. Now WikiLeaks has revealed that Hastings contacted them hours before he died, and KTLA Los Angeles adds that on that day Hastings sent a mass email to associates saying that he was being investigated by the “Feds”, was “onto a big story”, would be going “off the radar for a bit”:

The crash that killed journalist Michael Hastings was ruled an accident by police, but conspiracy theories continued to circulate on Friday. Hastings, 33, was killed in a fiery solo-vehicle crash in Hancock Park early Tuesday morning.

He was best known for a 2010 Rolling Stone article that led to the resignation of Gen.

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Does Making Films Help Make Change?

President Obama on The Daily Show closeThere has been a major shift in media culture as most TV networks have abandoned long-form information programming. In these times, with Twitter playing a big part in disseminating news, TV has to be punchy, quick and visual. The age of media mergers has seen showbiz merging with news biz, and soundbites have become shorter as the newscast story count rises.

Significantly, the best TV criticism of these trends in the US appears in a nightly program on the Comedy Central channel. But ultimately, there is nothing funny about the way a media system – intended to bolster a democratic discourse – contributes to its decline.

News is increasingly becoming more about the image than the information – an approach to “coverage” that is at its core tabloid in its sensibilities, often intended for a memorable emotional impact that will boost media ratings and revenues. The race for “breaking news” is breaking our ability to understand the context of events.… Read the rest

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