What is the bigger story behind the AP spying scandal?
Attack on the Press
You know that the Department of Justice tapped scores of phone lines at the Associated Press.
You might have heard that the Attorney General of the United States isn’t sure how often reporters’ records are seized.
You might have learned that the Department of Justice is prosecuting a whistleblower regarding North Korea … as well as the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News who reported on what the whistleblower told him. As the Washington Post notes:
[Department of Justice investigators] used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails.
You might have read that the Department of Justice Inspector General published a new report today saying that former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke leaked a document intended to smear Operation Fast and Furious scandal whistleblower John Dodson, concluding:
We believe this misconduct to be particularly egregious because of Burke’s apparenteffort to undermine the credibility of Dodson’s significant public disclosures about the failures in Operation Fast and Furious. We further believe that the seriousness of Burke’s actions are aggravated by the fact that they were taken within days after he told Deputy Attorney General Cole that he took responsibility for his office’s earlier unauthorized disclosure of a document to The New York Times, and after Cole put him on notice that such disclosures should not occur. Burke also knew at the time of his disclosure of the Dodson memorandum that he was under investigation by OPR for his conduct in connection with the earlier disclosure to The New York Times. As a high-level Department official, Burke knew his obligations to abide by Department policies and his duty to follow the instructions of the Deputy Attorney General, who was Burke’s immediate supervisor.
And you may even have caught ABC News’ report today that an armed minder trailed reporters … preventing them from being able to talk to whistleblowers:
As we traveled the public hallways of the building – watched over by security cameras – an armed uniformed police officer with the Federal Protective Service followed us. We were looking for a particular office—of someone who would not want to be seen talking to reporters–but chose to bypass it because of our official babysitter.
Asked why we were being escorted in a public building, the officer identified himself as Insp. Mike Finkelstein and said he was only trying to make sure that the newsmen were not a “nuisance.” He brushed aside further questions. The cop said a supervisor would call to explain.
One of the reporters wanted to know if the act of following the journalists was an effort intended to scare off any federal employee who might have considered speaking to the press. That’s sure what it looked like; and, even if that wasn’t the goal, it was the effect.
As of Friday night, no supervisor had called back.
After ABC News phoned and e-mailed the spokespeople in Washington repeatedly for more than 24 hours, a low-level staffer with Homeland Security finally responded. “After review by a supervisor, it was determined that the inspector acted according to proper security procedures and that no improper conduct occurred,” the spokesman said.
But there have been many similar scandals over the last couple of years. For example:
- The Pentagon recently smeared USA Today reporters because they investigated illegal Pentagon propaganda
- Reporters covering the Occupy protests were targeted for arrest
- The Bush White House worked hard to smear CIA officers, bloggers and anyone else who criticized the Iraq war
- After Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, journalist Naomi Wolf, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and others sued the government to enjoin the NDAA’s allowance of the indefinite detention of Americans – the judge asked the government attorneys 5 times whether journalists like Hedges could be indefinitely detained simply for interviewing and then writing aboutbad guys. The government refused to promise that journalists like Hedges won’t be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of their lives without any right to talk to a judge
- An al-Jazeera journalist – in no way connected to any terrorist group – was held at Guantánamo forsix years … so the U.S. could find out about the Arabic news network. And see this
In an effort to protect Bank of America from the threatened Wikileaks expose of the bank’s wrongdoing,the Department of Justice told Bank of America to a hire a specific hardball-playing law firm to assemble a team to take down WikiLeaks (and see this).
But – whatever you think of Wikileaks – that was the canary in the coal mine in terms of going after reporters. Specifically, former attorney general Mukasey said the U.S. should prosecute Assange because it’s “easier” than prosecuting the New York Times.
Journalist and former constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald notes today:
The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty [says that “The alternative to ‘conspiring’ with leakers to get information: Just writing what the government tells you.”]
That, of course, is precisely the point of the unprecedented Obama war on whistleblowers and press freedoms: to ensure that the only information the public can get is information that the Obama administration wants it to have. That’s why Obama’s one-side games with secrecy – we’ll prolifically leak when it glorifies the president and severely punish all other kinds – is designed to construct the classic propaganda model. And it’s good to see journalists finally speaking out in genuine outrage and concern about all of this.
Here’s an amazing and revealing fact: after Richard Nixon lost the right to exercise prior restraint over the New York Times’ publication of the Pentagon Papers, he was desperate to punish and prosecute the responsible NYT reporter, Neil Sheehan. Thus, recounted the NYT’s lawyer at the time, James Goodale, Nixon concocted a theory:
“Nixon convened a grand jury to indict the New York Times and its reporter, Neil Sheehan, for conspiracy to commit espionage . . . .The government’s ‘conspiracy’ theory centered around how Sheehan got the Pentagon Papers in the first place. While Daniel Ellsberg had his own copy stored in his apartment in Cambridge, the government believed Ellsberg had given part of the papers to anti-war activists. It apparently theorized further that the activists had talked to Sheehan about publication in the Times, all of which it believed amounted to a conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act.”
As Goodale notes, this is exactly “the same charge Obama’s Justice Department is investigating Assange under today,” and it’s now exactly the same theory used toformally brand Fox’s James Rosen as a criminal in court.
Whistleblower Witch Hunt
But Obama has gone after whistleblowers more viciously than Bush, Nixon, or any president in history. Indeed, the Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidentscombined.
Even high-level government employees are in danger. For example, after the head of the NSA’s spying program – William Binney – disclosed the fact that the U.S. was spying on everyone in the U.S. and storing the data forever, and that the U.S. was quickly becoming a totalitarian state, the Feds tried toscare him into shutting up:
[Numerous] FBI officers held a gun to Binney’s head as he stepped naked from the shower. He watched with his wife and youngest son as the FBI ransacked their home. Later Binney was separated from the rest of his family, and FBI officials pressured him to implicate one of the other complainants in criminal activity. During the raid, Binney attempted to report to FBI officials the crimes he had witnessed at NSA, in particular the NSA’s violation of the constitutional rights of all Americans. However, the FBI wasn’t interested in these disclosures. Instead, FBI officials seized Binney’s private computer, which to this day has not been returned despite the fact that he has not been charged with a crime.
Other NSA whistleblowers have also been subjected to armed raids and criminal prosecution.
After high-level CIA officer John Kiriakou blew the whistle on illegal CIA torture, the governmentprosecuted him for espionage.
Even the head of the CIA was targeted with extra-constitutional spying and driven out of office.
The Most Gagged Person in the History of the United States
One example of the extreme gagging of whistleblowers is former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds.
The ACLU described Edmonds as:
The most gagged person in the history of the United States of America.
Edmonds has been deemed credible by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General, several senators(free subscription required), and a coalition of prominent conservative and liberal groups.
Famed Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg says that Edmonds possesses information “far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers”.
Ellsberg also said that the government has ordered the media not to cover 9/11:
Ellsberg seemed hardly surprised that today’s American mainstream broadcast media has so far failed to take [former FBI translator and 9/11 whistleblower Sibel] Edmonds up on her offer, despite the blockbuster nature of her allegations [which Ellsberg calls “far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers”].
As Edmonds has also alluded, Ellsberg pointed to the New York Times, who “sat on the NSA spying story for over a year” when they “could have put it out before the 2004 election, which might have changed the outcome.”
“There will be phone calls going out to the media saying ‘don’t even think of touching it, you will be prosecuted for violating national security,’” he told us.
* * *
“I am confident that there is conversation inside the Government as to ‘How do we deal with Sibel?’” contends Ellsberg. “The first line of defense is to ensure that she doesn’t get into the media. I think any outlet that thought of using her materials would go to to the government and they would be told ‘don’t touch this . . . .‘”
Indeed, the mainstream British newspaper the Sunday Times started publishing a series of articlesexposing the scandal which Edmonds had uncovered. But U.S. State Department pressure killed the series.
What are Edmonds’ allegations … that the media is too cowardly to report … that the most famous whistleblower in history calls “more explosive than the Pentagon Papers”?
Now that would be a big story if true, wouldn’t it?
The best defense is a strong offense, and it is use it or lose it time for the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The press should shake of its sleepiness and start talking to the whistleblowers (like Edmonds) it’s been ignoring for years … to find out what the government is working so hard to hide.