Tag Archives: national security state

What if it was Bush? How would I feel?

ccccccccccccccccccThe 2014 World Press Freedom Index is out. Nasty news – again – for the old U-S-of-A where we’ve been sliding into the badlands ever since 9/11. And where my President and his Attorney General have some ‘splainin’ to do. Which will not happen with this President or any future President unless we get really really lucky.

Countries that pride themselves on being democracies and respecting the rule of law have not set an example . . . Freedom of information is too often sacrificed to an overly broad and abusive interpretation of national security needs, marking a disturbing retreat from democratic practices.

This has been the case in the United States (46th), which fell 13 places, one of the most significant declines, amid increased efforts to track down whistleblowers and the sources of leaks. The trial and conviction of Private Bradley Manning and the pursuit of NSA analyst Edward Snowden were warnings to all those thinking of assisting in the disclosure of sensitive information that would clearly be in the public interest.

US journalists were stunned by the Department of Justice’s seizure of Associated Press phone records without warning in order to identify the source of a CIA leak. It served as a reminder of the urgent need for a “shield law” to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources at the federal level. The revival of the legislative process is little consolation for James Risen of The New York Times, who is subject to a court order to testify against a former CIA employee accused of leaking classified information. And less still for Barrett Brown, a young freelance journalist facing 105 years in prison in connection with the posting of information that hackers obtained from Statfor, a private intelligence company with close ties to the federal government.

The United Kingdom (33rd, -3) distinguished itself in the war on terror by the disgraceful pressure it put on The Guardian newspaper and by its detention of David Miranda, journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner and assistant, for nine hours. Both the US and UK authorities seem obsessed with hunting down whistleblowers instead of adopting legislation to rein in abusive surveillance practices that negate privacy, a democratic value cherished in both countries.

At least the UK was spared the shame of our double-digit decline in press freedom. USA!

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Jes sayin’

As it is, so it’s ever been.

The massive NSA scoop of Verizon records (and others probably) is well timed – for us

  • UPDATE: Seems this program has been going on for years through two administrations and the authorization is renewed, almost automatically, every 90 days. Some nat’l security reporters point out that this has been reported on before and is the result of the big FISA public debate of a decade ago, but it disappeared from the public conversation. (We really need to do better than this.)

Not all things are the same: not all whistle blowers are honorable, but the tradition of revealing secret government activity to the press . . . that will always be the essential ingredient if the press is to fulfill its most important mission. Our press is charged to:

Speak truth to power

Connor Friedersdorf makes that point today:

The Unknown Patriot Who Exposed the Government’s Verizon Spy Program

In praise of whistle-blowers whose risky disclosures of official wrongdoing make the nation stronger rather than weaker . . .  “The order was marked TOP SECRET//SI//NOFORN, referring to  communications-related intelligence information that may not be released to noncitizens. That would make it among the most closely held secrets  in the federal government”
This leaker is no doubt fully aware he/she has committed a crime but got the priorities exactly right. So to some unknown person – well done.

Which is why we must defund PBS. Now. Or we all die.

UPDATE:In comments, both jonolan and jamesb have pointed out this chart is, at the  very least, dishonest. They are right. I threw it up in haste. Bad me.

But it still sucks that our damn congress critters are going after PBS.

The national security state: go along now; nothing to see here

A tidy little depository

There is an astonishing and superbly researched in-depth story at Wired Magazine about the one million square foot facility now under construction in Utah for the National Security Agency.

It’s very disturbing. And it’s in full view (well, not exactly full view – the photograph accompanying the story is by “Name Withheld”, suggesting that such stories have consequences) to any media organization that cared to look. Few do.

A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

So much for the outcry and so much for Congress. The NSA moves forward under its own gargantuan authority and can barely be challenged any more.

Your tax dollars at work suckers.