Friday, July 05, 2013

Ed Snowden -- a tough topic for a superficial US press

Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) noted Wednesday night:

The first NSA story to be reported was our June 6 article which exposed the bulk, indiscriminate collection by the US Government of the telephone records of tens of millions of Americans. Ever since then, it has been undeniably clear that James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, outright lied to the US Senate - specifically to the Intelligence Committee, the body charged with oversight over surveillance programs - when he said "no, sir" in response to this question from Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden: "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"
That Clapper fundamentally misled Congress is beyond dispute. The DNI himself has now been forced by our stories to admit that his statement was, in his words, "clearly erroneous" and to apologize. But he did this only once our front-page revelations forced him to do so: in other words, what he's sorry about is that he got caught lying to the Senate. And as Salon's David Sirota adeptly documented on Friday, Clapper is still spouting falsehoods as he apologizes and attempts to explain why he did it.
How is this not a huge scandal? Intentionally deceiving Congress is a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison for each offense. Reagan administration officials were convicted of misleading Congress as part of the Iran-contra scandal and other controversies, and sports stars have been prosecuted by the Obama DOJ based on allegations they have done so.

Wednesday found Brad Plumer (Washington Post) attempting a media critique and failing.  Why?  The most obvious reason is he felt the need to do a reach around on Ben Smith.  There's no reason to cite Ben or to expand on Ben's thoughts/fears.  Plumer says a few critics feared whistle-blower Ed Snowden would overwhelm the NSA revelations and that Ben Smith was one of them.

So he runs with what Smith said (which wasn't that original but when you're try to do a reach around in the online circle jerk, you just care about links).

And he offers 'proof' via what was on Twitter and what's being searched on Google.  Apparently actual media analysis -- such as looking at what the big three commercial broadcast TV evening news programs or doing or a sample of newspapers or anything original that might have required Plumer to put in more than five minutes of 'research' before writing was too much.

There wasn't even time for honest thought which is how Plumer comes to offer this:

 Maybe that’s not too surprising. The Snowden story is, after all, genuinely fascinating — not least after he disappeared into the bowels of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and was then thought to be hiding on the president of Bolivia’s plane (he wasn’t, in turned out).

What's missing here?

Oh, that's right, the fact that the administration can't shut up about Ed Snowden.

That's what's driving the Ed Snowden story, the administration's actions.

That's why he's a story.

But somehow, the daily State Dept press briefings, the remarks by John Kerry and by Barack Obama and by Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein and on and on and on . . . don't factor into Plumer's 'analysis.'  Nor does the full force of the US government being brought down on an American citizen who's yet to be convicted of any crimes.  Did Plumer miss Amnesty International's statement this week? Maybe so.  Here it is:

The US authorities’ relentless campaign to hunt down and block whistleblower Edward Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum is deplorable and amounts to a gross violation of his human rights Amnesty International said today.
“The US attempts to pressure governments to block Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum are deplorable,” said Michael Bochenek, Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International. “It is his unassailable right, enshrined in international law, to claim asylum and this should not be impeded.”
The organization also believes that the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower could be at risk of ill-treatment if extradited to the USA.
“No country can return a person to another country where there is a serious risk of ill-treatment,” said Bochenek.
“We know that others who have been prosecuted for similar acts have been held in conditions that not only Amnesty International but UN officials considered cruel inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of international law.”
Senior US officials have already condemned Snowden without a trial, labelling him both guilty and a traitor, raising serious questions as to whether he’d receive a fair trial. Likewise the US authorities move to charge Snowden under the Espionage Act could leave him with no provision to launch a public interest whistle-blowing defence under US law.
"It appears he is being charged by the US government primarily for revealing its - and other governments’ - unlawful actions that violate human rights,” said Bochenek.
“No one should be charged under any law for disclosing information of human rights violations. Such disclosures are protected under the rights to information and freedom of expression.”
Besides filing charges against Snowden, the US authorities have revoked his passport – which interferes with his rights to freedom of movement and to seek asylum elsewhere.
“Snowden is a whistleblower. He has disclosed issues of enormous public interest in the US and around the world. And yet instead of addressing or even owning up to these actions, the US government is more intent on going after Edward Snowden.”

“Any forced transfer to the USA would put him at risk of human rights violations and must be challenged,” said Michael Bochenek.

And, let's be clear, it's not 'fascinating' that a whistle-blower is seeking asylum and having so many problems being granted sanctuary, it's horrifying.  And what was done to President Evo Morales' plane was shocking and will have international ramifications for many years to come. Maybe a little less trash TV in his writing would let people  take Plumer a little more seriously?  Maybe not.  He does hail from The New Republic, after all.

And maybe that, more than anything else, explains why his writing is so superficial?

He can take comfort and hide behind the fact that the 'editorial board' of USA Today offers similar sentiments.  Then again, has anyone taken USA Today's "our view" seriously in decades?  For most of us, they lost all credibility when "our view" insisted Bill Clinton needed to resign.  Over sex?  Grow up.  For anyone wondering, no, "our view" never called for Bully Boy Bush to resign or be impeached over starting the illegal Iraq War.   USA Today has some strong reporters working for it but it's editorials are always a joke.

Contrast his surface writing with Catherine Hart's historical approach at Huffington Post Canada (and at the Straight):

The U.S. National Security Agency has been in hot water for the last few weeks, as whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed a massive online spying system that has been vacuuming up huge amounts of communications data from U.S. and foreign citizens. Over half-a-million people have rallied against the warrantless spying, and demonstrations are taking place on the ground today.
But Snowden is far from the first whistleblower -- in fact, Techdirt claims that the battle against overly broad court orders for spying goes back to 1790 and the creation of the Fourth Amendment. And the sounding of the alarm over NSA surveillance has been going on for at least the last 10 years.
The NSA surveillance machine originates with William Binney, the brilliant NSA analyst behind "ThinThread," a version of the algorithm that the intelligence agency uses for its spying activities. However the NSA's version has been stripped of all the privacy protections Binney had built in. Binney resigned from the NSA in 2001 in protest at what he suspected was the misuse of his work, but the spying continued. In September 2002 he filed a complaint with the Pentagon's Inspector General, in collaboration with fellow analyst J. Kirk Wiebe, computer scientist Ed Loomis, and Diane Roark, a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence which oversees the NSA. Still nothing was done.

Yesterday, Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! did a Fourth of July special on whistle-blowing.
Smith feared whistle-blower Ed Snowden  And, if you're in a streaming mood, you can also drop back to June 16th when reporters Peter Eisler and Susan Page (USA Today) hosted a video chat with NSA whistle-blowers Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe  and with Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project

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