The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

Julian Assange unlikely to face U.S. charges over publishing classified documents | The Washington Post

The Justice Department has all but concluded it will not bring charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing classified documents because government lawyers said they could not do so without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations and journalists, according to U.S. officials.

The officials stressed that a formal decision has not been taken, and a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks remains impaneled, but they said there is little possibility of bringing a case against Assange, unless he is implicated in criminal activity other than releasing online top secret military and diplomatic documents.

The Obama administration has charged government employees and contractors who leak classified information — such as former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning — with violations of the Espionage Act. But officials said that although Assange published classified documents, he did not leak them, something they said significantly affects their legal analysis.

“The problem the department has always had in investigating Julian Assange is there is no way to prosecute him for publishing information without the same theory being applied to journalists,” said former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller. “And if you are not going to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information, which the department is not, then there is no way to prosecute Assange.”

Justice officials said they looked hard at Assange but realized that they have what they described as a “New York Times problem.” If the Justice Department indicted Assange, it would also have to prosecute the New York Times and other news organizations and writers who published classified material, including The Washington Post and Britain’s the Guardian, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said last week that the anti-secrecy organization is skeptical “short of an open, official, formal confirmation that the U.S. government is not going to prosecute WikiLeaks.” Justice Department officials said it is unclear whether there will be a formal announcement should the grand jury investigation be formally closed.

“We have repeatedly asked the Department of Justice to tell us what the status of the investigation was with respect to Mr. Assange,” said Barry J. Pollack, a Washington attorney for Assange. “They have declined to do so. They have not informed us in any way that they are closing the investigation or have made a decision not to bring charges against Mr. Assange. While we would certainly welcome that development, it should not have taken the Department of Justice several years to come to the conclusion that it should not be investigating journalists for publishing truthful information.”

A New Media Shield Law Would Only Shield Corporate Media | VICE

[…] In May, a Senate bill titled the “Free Flow of Information Act Act of 2013” (S. 987) was introduced by Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham. The bill was originally introduced in 2007 (S. 2035), and then again in 2009 (S. 448), but either died in committee or failed a cloture vote. The bill is supported by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, but only if it includes specific language that excludes individuals she claims, “are not reporters at all.” Schumer echoed Feinstein’s concerns, specifically calling out WikiLeaks, saying, “We’re very careful in this bill to distinguish journalists from those who shouldn’t be protected, WikiLeaks and all those, and we’ve ensured that.” At the time of writing, the “Free Flow of Information Act” is schedule for more debate before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 12.

This bill ironically purports to “maintain the free flow of information to the public by providing conditions for the federally compelled disclosure of information by certain persons connected with the news media.” The proposed law does not describe a “journalist” by that name, but instead a “covered person.” It defines this individual as someone who “regularly” reports on the news and excludes self-employed journalists. The House version of this bill (H.R. 1962) includes precarious language, solely defining this “covered person” as someone who reports for a news organization for “financial gain or livelihood.” The bill introduced by Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) suggests that the legal protections, already afforded to every US citizen under the Constitution, will only extend to an individual reporting the news for money.

It’s common practice for politicians to color coat the purpose behind a controversial piece of legislation in an attempt to disguise it with a friendlier title for their colleagues and the general public. The current “Free Flow of Information Act” under discussion does nothing to support the free flow of information. In practice, this law would endanger internet bloggers, freelance writers, and citizen journalists who are guilty of nothing more than performing acts of journalism. Essentially, members of Congress have proposed a “media shield law” that paradoxically has no hope of shielding the media—unless of course the reporter in question happens to work for an establishment like CNN or the New York Times.

The US Constitution does not mince words on this subject: Congress has no authority to abridge the freedom of the press. Most importantly, many of today’s respected citizen journalists represent more closely the kind of press originally referred to in that revered document, and certainly more so than anyone occupying a desk at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

Some would argue that it’s essential for breaking news to be handled by so-called professionals in the modern era, a period of heightened national security, that in a time when government whistleblowers are disclosing classified documents claimed to damage US foreign relations and potentially endanger the lives of American troops abroad, no one person should have the right to report the facts of these delicate issues. While there should always be a consistent effort to verify information and weigh its value to the public against the cost of its disclosure, sometimes the close relationship that professional news companies have with the US government interferes with what’s best for the American public.

The Heart of the Matter: David Miranda and the Preclusion of Privacy

[… If you were the NSA, of] course you wouldn’t formally direct the UK authorities to do anything; you’d want to maintain the ability to obscure your involvement without outright lying about it if possible. And of course you might not even be sure the spouse would be carrying anything secret at all, but intercepting secret information wasn’t really the purpose of the exercise anyway. The purpose was to demonstrate to journalists that what they thought was a secure secondary means of communication — a courier, possibly to ferry encrypted thumb drives from one air-gapped computer to another — can be compromised, and thereby to make the journalists’ efforts harder and slower.

Does this sort of “deny and disrupt” campaign sound familiar? It should: you’ve seen it before, deployed against terror networks. That’s because part of the value in targeting the electronic communications of actual terrorists is that the terrorists are forced to use far slower means of plotting. The NSA has learned this lesson well, and is now applying it to journalists. I suppose it’s fitting that Miranda was held pursuant to a law that is ostensibly limited to anti-terror efforts. The National Surveillance State understands that what works for one can be usefully directed against the other. In fact, it’s not clear the National Surveillance State even recognizes a meaningful difference.

The National Surveillance State doesn’t want anyone to be able to communicate without the authorities being able to monitor that communication. Think that’s too strong a statement? If so, you’re not paying attention. There’s a reason the government names its programs Total Information Awareness and Boundless Informant and acknowledges it wants to “collect it all” and build its own “haystack” and has redefined the word “relevant” to mean “everything.” The desire to spy on everything totally and boundlessly isn’t even new; what’s changed is just that it’s become more feasible of late. You can argue that the NSA’s nomenclature isn’t (at least not yet) properly descriptive; you can’t argue that it isn’t at least aspirational.

To achieve the ability to monitor all human communication, broadly speaking the National Surveillance State must do two things: first, button up the primary means of human communication — today meaning the Internet, telephone, and snail mail; second, clamp down on backup systems, meaning face-to-face communication, which is, after all, all that’s left to the population when everything else has been bugged. Miranda’s detention was part of the second prong of attack. So, incidentally, was the destruction of Guardian computers containing some of Snowden’s leaks. The authorities knew there were copies, so destroying the information itself wasn’t the point of the exercise. The point was to make the Guardian spend time and energy developing suboptimal backup options — that is, to make journalism harder, slower, and less secure.

A heart beset by coronary disease will begin to recruit secondary arteries to carry oxygenated blood. If you’re the NSA, you recognize you have to block those developing secondary routes, too, or you’ll lose control of the flow you feed on. To the National Surveillance State, therefore, coverage of Miranda’s treatment at Heathrow isn’t a bug. It’s a feature. And why not? The authorities want you to understand they can do it to you, too. Whether they’ve miscalculated depends on how well they’ve gauged the passivity of the public. [++]

David Miranda, schedule 7 and the danger that all reporters now face | Alan Rusbridger

From the editor of The Guardian:

[…] The detention of [Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David] Miranda has rightly caused international dismay because it feeds into a perception that the US and UK governments – while claiming to welcome the debate around state surveillance started by Snowden – are also intent on stemming the tide of leaks and on pursuing the whistleblower with a vengeance. That perception is right. Here follows a little background on the considerable obstacles being placed in the way of informing the public about what the intelligence agencies, governments and corporations are up to.

A little over two months ago I was contacted by a very senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister. There followed two meetings in which he demanded the return or destruction of all the material we were working on. The tone was steely, if cordial, but there was an implicit threat that others within government and Whitehall favoured a far more draconian approach.

The mood toughened just over a month ago, when I received a phone call from the centre of government telling me: “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.” There followed further meetings with shadowy Whitehall figures. The demand was the same: hand the Snowden material back or destroy it. I explained that we could not research and report on this subject if we complied with this request. The man from Whitehall looked mystified. “You’ve had your debate. There’s no need to write any more.”

During one of these meetings I asked directly whether the government would move to close down the Guardian’s reporting through a legal route – by going to court to force the surrender of the material on which we were working. The official confirmed that, in the absence of handover or destruction, this was indeed the government’s intention. Prior restraint, near impossible in the US, was now explicitly and imminently on the table in the UK. But my experience over WikiLeaks – the thumb drive and the first amendment – had already prepared me for this moment. I explained to the man from Whitehall about the nature of international collaborations and the way in which, these days, media organisations could take advantage of the most permissive legal environments. Bluntly, we did not have to do our reporting from London. Already most of the NSA stories were being reported and edited out of New York. And had it occurred to him that Greenwald lived in Brazil?

The man was unmoved. And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. “We can call off the black helicopters,” joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.

Whitehall was satisfied, but it felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age. We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won’t do it in London. The seizure of Miranda’s laptop, phones, hard drives and camera will similarly have no effect on Greenwald’s work.

The state that is building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best to prevent journalists from reporting on it. Most journalists can see that. But I wonder how many have truly understood the absolute threat to journalism implicit in the idea of total surveillance, when or if it comes – and, increasingly, it looks like “when”.

We are not there yet, but it may not be long before it will be impossible for journalists to have confidential sources. Most reporting – indeed, most human life in 2013 – leaves too much of a digital fingerprint. Those colleagues who denigrate Snowden or say reporters should trust the state to know best (many of them in the UK, oddly, on the right) may one day have a cruel awakening. One day it will be their reporting, their cause, under attack. But at least reporters now know to stay away from Heathrow transit lounges.

Detaining my partner: a failed attempt at intimidation | Glenn Greenwald

At 6:30 am this morning my time - 5:30 am on the East Coast of the US - I received a telephone call from someone who identified himself as a “security official at Heathrow airport.” He told me that my partner, David Miranda, had been “detained” at the London airport “under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000.”

David had spent the last week in Berlin, where he stayed with Laura Poitras, the US filmmaker who has worked with me extensively on the NSA stories. A Brazilian citizen, he was returning to our home in Rio de Janeiro this morning on British Airways, flying first to London and then on to Rio. When he arrived in London this morning, he was detained.

At the time the “security official” called me, David had been detained for 3 hours. The security official told me that they had the right to detain him for up to 9 hours in order to question him, at which point they could either arrest and charge him or ask a court to extend the question time. The official - who refused to give his name but would only identify himself by his number: 203654 - said David was not allowed to have a lawyer present, nor would they allow me to talk to him.

I immediately contacted the Guardian, which sent lawyers to the airport, as well various Brazilian officials I know. Within the hour, several senior Brazilian officials were engaged and expressing indignation over what was being done. …

Despite all that, five more hours went by and neither the Guardian’s lawyers nor Brazilian officials, including the Ambassador to the UK in London, were able to obtain any information about David. We spent most of that time contemplating the charges he would likely face once the 9-hour period elapsed.

According to a document published by the UK government about Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, “fewer than 3 people in every 10,000 are examined as they pass through UK borders” (David was not entering the UK but only transiting through to Rio). Moreover, “most examinations, over 97%, last under an hour.” An appendix to that document states that only .06% of all people detained are kept for more than 6 hours.

The stated purpose of this law, as the name suggests, is to question people about terrorism. The detention power, claims the UK government, is used “to determine whether that person is or has been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.”

But they obviously had zero suspicion that David was associated with a terrorist organization or involved in any terrorist plot. Instead, they spent their time interrogating him about the NSA reporting which Laura Poitras, the Guardian and I are doing, as well the content of the electronic products he was carrying. They completely abused their own terrorism law for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism: a potent reminder of how often governments lie when they claim that they need powers to stop “the terrorists”, and how dangerous it is to vest unchecked power with political officials in its name.

Worse, they kept David detained right up until the last minute: for the full 9 hours, something they very rarely do. Only at the last minute did they finally release him. We spent all day - as every hour passed - worried that he would be arrested and charged under a terrorism statute. This was obviously designed to send a message of intimidation to those of us working journalistically on reporting on the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ.

Before letting him go, they seized numerous possessions of his, including his laptop, his cellphone, various video game consuls, DVDs, USB sticks, and other materials. They did not say when they would return any of it, or if they would.

This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism. It’s bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It’s worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic. Even the Mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members of people they feel threatened by. But the UK puppets and their owners in the US national security state obviously are unconstrained by even those minimal scruples.

If the UK and US governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded. If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further. Beyond that, every time the US and UK governments show their true character to the world - when they prevent the Bolivian President’s plane from flying safely home, when they threaten journalists with prosecution, when they engage in behavior like what they did today - all they do is helpfully underscore why it’s so dangerous to allow them to exercise vast, unchecked spying power in the dark.

David was unable to call me because his phone and laptop are now with UK authorities. So I don’t yet know what they told him. But the Guardian’s lawyer was able to speak with him immediately upon his release, and told me that, while a bit distressed from the ordeal, he was in very good spirits and quite defiant, and he asked the lawyer to convey that defiance to me. I share it, as I’m certain US and UK authorities will soon see.

James Risen's risk of prison means journalism is being criminalised | Lindsey Bever

"I’ve been an investigative reporter for a long time, and almost always, the government says that [‘you can’t publish that because of the national security risk’] when you write a story. And then they can never back it up. They say that about everything. And it’s like the boy who cried wolf. It’s getting old." - James Risen

New York Times reporter James Risen has been ordered to testify in the criminal trial of former Central Intelligence Agency official Jeffrey Sterling, who has been indicted under the Espionage Act of 1917 – for leaking classified information to Risen for publication in his book, State of War. Last month, the US court of appeals for the fourth circuit in Richmond, Virginia, ruled that Risen could not claim a reporter’s privilege under the first amendment to win exemption from being compelled to testify.

In effect, the court has ruled that the journalist must reveal his source. That sets a dangerous precedent now applicable in Maryland and Virginia, home to the NSA and CIA – the very states in which national security journalism matters most. If a reporter cannot guarantee confidentiality to an important source willing to provide information that may be of vital public interest, the job of journalism itself has been criminalised. If a reporter like Risen refuses to co-operate and name names, he himself may face time behind bars.

Indeed, like a dedicated few before him, Risen has vowed to go to prison rather than break his vow of confidentiality in the courtroom. Although there will almost certainly be an appeal, the court’s ruling is a potentially devastating blow to investigative journalism. Given its significance, it is shocking how little publicity the Risen/Sterling case has yet received from major media outlets with a direct interest in its outcome.

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Fourth Circuit Guts National Security Investigative Journalism Everywhere It Matters | Marcy Wheeler

The Fourth Circuit — which covers CIA, JSOC, and NSA’s territory — just ruled that journalists who are witnesses to alleged crimes (or participants, the opinion ominously notes) must testify in the trial.

There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify by the prosecution or the defense in criminal proceedings about criminal conduct that the reporter personally witnessed or participated in, absent a showing of bad faith, harassment, or other such non-legitimate motive, even though the reporter promised confidentiality to his source.

With this language, the Fourth applies the ruling in Branzburg — which, after all, pertained to the observation of a drug-related crime — to a news-gathering activity, the receipt of classified information for all the states in which it most matters.

The opinion goes on to echo DOJ’s claims that Risen’s testimony is specifically necessary.

Indeed, he can provide the only first-hand account of the commission of a most serious crime indicted by the grand jury –- the illegal disclosure of classified, national security information by one who was entrusted by our government to protect national security, but who is charged with having endangered it instead.

… There is no dispute that the information sought from Risen is relevant. Moreover, it “can[not] be obtained by alternative means.” Id. at 1139. The circumstantial evidence that the government has been able to glean from incomplete and inconclusive documents, and from the hearsay statements of witnesses with no personal or first-hand knowledge of the critical aspects of the charged crimes, does not serve as a fair or reasonable substitute.

… Risen is the only eyewitness to the crime. He is inextricably involved in it. Without him, the alleged crime would not have occurred, since he was the recipient of illegally-disclosed, classified information. And it was through the publication of his book, State of War, that the classified information made its way into the public domain. He is the only witness who can specify the classified information that he received, and the source or sources from whom he received it.

… Clearly, Risen’s direct, first-hand account of the criminal conduct indicted by the grand jury cannot be obtained by alternative means, as Risen is without dispute the only witness who can offer this critical testimony.

This language will enhance the strength of the reservation DOJ made to its News Media Policies, allowing it to require testimony if it is essential to successful prosecution.

The only limit on the government’s authority to compel testimony under this opinion is if the government is harassing the journalist, which (with proof of the way the government collected phone records, which remains secret) might have been proven in this case. There is a strong case to be made that the entire point of this trial is to put James Risen, not Jeffrey Sterling, in jail. But Leonie Brinkema has already ruled against it. I think the subpoena for 20 AP phone lines might rise to that level as well, except that case is being investigated in the DC Circuit, where this ruling doesn’t apply.

This pretty much guts national security journalism in the states in which it matters.

Golly. It was just last week when the press believed DOJ’s News Media Guidelines would protect the press’ work.

Fourth Circuit Endorses WikiLeaks | Kevin Jon Heller

Well, not really. But that’s the unintended consequence of yesterday’s awful decision in US v. Sterling, in which the Fourth Circuit held that James Risen could not rely on journalist’s privilege to avoid testifying against James Sterling, whom the government believes leaked classified information [about the CIA] to Risen. According the court, the government is entitled to Risen’s testimony, because he is the only “eyewitness” (a journalist receiving classified information) to the “crime” (leaking classified information to a journalist):

There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify by the prosecution or the defense in criminal proceedings about criminal conduct that the reporter personally witnessed or participated in, absent a showing of bad faith, harassment, or other such non-legitimate motive, even though the reporter promised confidentiality to his source.

Indeed, he can provide the only first-hand account of the commission of a most serious crime indicted by the grand jury –- the illegal disclosure of classified, national security information by one who was entrusted by our government to protect national security, but who is charged with having endangered it instead.

If a journalist can be forced to testify against a whistleblower in a leak case because he “witnessed” the “crime,” there is only one solution for journalists who want to work with whistleblowers who expose government misconduct: obtain the information completely anonymously. If they do not know who provided the information, forcing them to testify will accomplish precisely nothing.

In other words, WikiLeaks. That is now the only viable model of investigative journalism, given Sterling‘s overt attack on freedom of the press.

Well done, Fourth Circuit. You’ve offered the most compelling defense of WikiLeaks to date.

Bradley Manning 'aiding the enemy' charge is a threat to journalism | Yochai Benkler

Thursday, Colonel Denise Lind, the judge in the Bradley Manning court martial, refused to dismiss the “aiding the enemy” charge. The decision is preliminary, and the judge could still moderate its effect if she finds Manning not guilty. But even if she ultimately acquits Manning, the decision will cast a long shadow on national security journalists and their sources.

First, this case is about national security journalism, not WikiLeaks. At Monday’s argument in preparation for Thursday’s ruling, the judge asked the prosecution to confirm: does it make any difference if it’s WikiLeaks or any other news organization: New York Times, Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal? The prosecution answered: “No, it would not. It would not potentially make a difference.”

Second, the decision establishes a chilling precedent: leaking classified documents to the these newspapers can by itself be legally sufficient to constitute the offense of “aiding the enemy”, if the leaker was sophisticated enough about intelligence and how the enemy uses the internet.

Thursday’s decision was preliminary and made under a standard that favors the prosecution’s interpretation of the facts. The judge must still make that ultimate decision on guilt based on all the evidence, including the defense, under the strict “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.

Although the decision is preliminary, it is critical as a matter of law because it accepts the prosecution’s extreme theory as legally sufficient. The prosecution’s case is that by leaking materials to the press, the source of classified materials is “communicating with the enemy” indirectly. The source gives materials to the journalist; the journalist publishes; the enemy reads the publication and, presto, the source is guilty of the offense of “aiding the enemy”. Manning is facing life imprisonment without parole for this offense.

[…] Leak-based journalism is not the be-all-and-end-all of journalism. But ever since the Pentagon Papers, it has been a fraught but critical part of our constitutional checks in national defense. Nothing makes this clearer than the emerging bipartisan coalition of legislators seeking a basic reassessment of NSA surveillance and Fisa oversight following Edward Snowden’s leaks.

National defense is special in both the need for, and dangers of, secrecy. As Justice Stewart wrote in the Pentagon Papers case, the press is particularly important in national defense because it is there that the executive is most powerful, and the other branches weakest and most deferential:

In the absence of the governmental checks and balances present in other areas of our national life, the only effective restraint upon executive policy and power in the areas of national defense and international affairs may lie in an enlightened citizenry – in an informed and critical public opinion which alone can here protect the values of democratic government. For this reason, it is perhaps here that a press that is alert, aware, and free most vitally serves the basic purpose of the first amendment. For without an informed and free press, there cannot be an enlightened people.

Significance of Military Judge’s Decision to Not Acquit Bradley Manning of ‘Aiding the Enemy’ | Kevin Gosztola

… During oral argument on July 15, Manning’s defense attorney, David Coombs, declared the only way this offense makes sense is if there is an “intent requirement.” It has to be there to “avoid the very slippery slope of basically punishing people for getting information out to the press, to basically put, I guess, a hammer down on any whistleblower or anybody who wants to put information out.”

That the charge was not dismissed by the judge and is part of this trial should continue to be the focus of any attention given to proceedings. As the prosecutors are arguing it, a successful conviction would go a long way toward aiding the government in their efforts to control the flow of information and criminalize leaks to the press.

If you add up the pulling of news organization phone records (The Associated Press), the tracking of individual reporters (Fox News), and the effort by the current administration to go after sources (seven instances and counting in which a government official has been criminally charged with leaking classified information to the news media), suggesting that there is a war on the press is less hyperbole than simple math. The Other Snowden Drama - Impugning the Messenger

Assange: Snowden is en route to Ecuador and “in a safe place” for now | Ars Technica

… During the question-and-answer period, BBC reporter Paul Adams challenged Assange. Adams noted the “obvious irony” of trying to cooperate with the Chinese and Russian authorities: “Given their problematic relationship with the values of privacy and freedom of speech that you hold dear—and if Edwards Snowden ends up in Ecuador—doesn’t the same irony pertain? I wonder: are you simply involving those countries because they’re happy to stick one in the eye of the United States rather than upholding those values that you represent?”

Assange replied to start a quick back-and-forth:

“I simply do not see the irony. Mr. Snowden has revealed information about mass, unlawful spying which has affected every single one of us. The US administration has issued a series of bellicose, unilateral threats against him and against others who are attempting to support his rights. That is a very serious situation and any country that assists in upholding his rights must be applauded for doing so.”

“Even when they don’t uphold those rights for their own citizens?” Adams asked.

“That’s another matter. In these cases, we do not criticize people for seeking refugee status in the United States despite its use of torture, drone strikes and executive kill lists and so on. No one is suggesting that countries like Ecuador are engaged in those types of abuse.”

“The Obama administration hopes to erect a new interpretation of law which defines journalistic sources as spies, and that is not acceptable,” he continued. “If such a precedent is permitted, it will result in the complete destruction of national security journalism within the United States. Already, serious national security journalists are speaking about how their government sources are too scared to reveal government misconduct in a national security sphere. That’s an extremely serious matter. At the same as time the national security sector of the United States is increasing its share of the US tax burden and at the same time where unprecedented levels of criminality and abuse are being uncovered, it seeks to weaken the press, who is the only effective mechanism of bringing it to account.”

I just don’t buy this argument that, you know, this hurts national security. I covered al-Qaeda for The New York Times, and, believe me, they know they’re being monitored. The whole idea that somehow it comes as a great surprise to jihadist groups that their emails, websites and phone calls are being tracked is absurd. This is—we’re talking about the wholesale collection of information on virtually most of the American public, and the consequences of that are truly terrifying. At that point, we are in essence snuffing out the capacity of any kind of investigation into the inner workings of power. And to throw out this notion that it harmed—this harmed national security, there’s no evidence for that, in the same way that there is no evidence that the information that Bradley Manning leaked in any way harmed national security. It didn’t. What the security and surveillance state is doing is playing on fear and using that fear to accrue to themselves tremendous forms of power that in a civil society, in a democracy, they should never have. And that’s the battle that’s underway right now, and, frankly, we’re losing. Chris Hedges (via azspot)

(via azspot)

A Statement on Rep. Peter King's Call for the Prosecution of Journalists | Freedom of the Press Foundation

[On Tuesday] night, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) publicly called for the prosecution of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald for his recent reports showing that the NSA has been secretly collecting private data on millions of Americans. Rep. King’s appalling call for legal action against a reporter for doing his job is an affront to all journalists, and indeed, the First Amendment itself. Freedom of the Press Foundation condemns Rep. King’s comments in the harshest terms.

Rep. King has a long and unfortunate history of calling for the prosecution of journalists when media organizations print something he doesn’t like. Unfortunately for him, that is not how the First Amendment works.

Mr. Greenwald and Laura Poitras—both of whom are founding board members of this organization—as well as the many other journalists reporting on the NSA revelations in the past week, are following in the finest traditions of press freedom that this country was founded on.

The freedom of the press clause in the First Amendment provides wide latitude for journalists to publish truthful information in the public interest, even when—and in many cases, especially when—the government considers that information “secret.” This has been the established law of the land for decades, if not centuries. And any attempt to prosecute journalists for doing their job should be met with the appropriate scorn.

Rep. King has cited unspecified “national security” concerns for his suggestion that we upend the First Amendment. As Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black once wrote, “The word ‘security’ is a broad, vague generality whose contours should not be invoked to abrogate the fundamental law embodied in the First Amendment.”

There is no better example of Justice Black’s statement than today comments by Mr. King, who cited no specific example as to how Mr. Greenwald’s reporting has harmed the country in any way. Indeed, former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke wrote today that claims the recent NSA stories damaged national security are “laughable.” The only thing these reports reveal is what the government has been doing to millions of innocent Americans, in complete secrecy, for years.

Obama Political Appointees Using Secret Email Accounts

The latest obfuscation from The Most Transparent Administration Ever™:

Some of President Barack Obama’s political appointees, including the secretary for Health and Human Services, are using secret government email accounts they say are necessary to prevent their inboxes from being overwhelmed with unwanted messages [which is bullshit], according to a review by The Associated Press.

The scope of using the secret accounts across government remains a mystery: Most U.S. agencies have failed to turn over lists of political appointees’ email addresses, which the AP sought under the Freedom of Information Act more than three months ago. The Labor Department initially asked the AP to pay more than $1 million for its email addresses.

The AP asked for the addresses following last year’s disclosures that the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency had used separate email accounts at work. The practice is separate from officials who use personal, non-government email accounts for work, which generally is discouraged – but often happens anyway – due to laws requiring that most federal records be preserved.

The secret email accounts complicate an agency’s legal responsibilities to find and turn over emails in response to congressional or internal investigations, civil lawsuits or public records requests because employees assigned to compile such responses would necessarily need to know about the accounts to search them. Secret accounts also drive perceptions that government officials are trying to hide actions or decisions.

“What happens when that person doesn’t work there anymore? He leaves and someone makes a request (to review emails) in two years,” said Kel McClanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, an open government group. “Who’s going to know to search the other accounts? You would hope that agencies doing this would keep a list of aliases in a desk drawer, but you know that isn’t happening.”

Agencies where the AP so far has identified secret addresses, including the Labor Department and HHS, said maintaining non-public email accounts allows senior officials to keep separate their internal messages with agency employees from emails they exchange with the public. They also said public and non-public accounts are always searched in response to official requests and the records are provided as necessary.

The AP couldn’t independently verify the practice. It searched hundreds of pages of government emails previously released under the open records law and found only one instance of a published email with a secret address: an email from Labor Department spokesman Carl Fillichio to 34 coworkers in 2010 was turned over to an advocacy group, Americans for Limited Government. It included as one recipient the non-public address for Seth D. Harris, currently the acting labor secretary, who maintains at least three separate email accounts.

Google can’t find any reference on the Internet to the secret address for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Congressional oversight committees told the AP they were unfamiliar with the non-public government addresses identified so far by the AP.

Ten agencies have not yet turned over lists of email addresses, including the Environmental Protection Agency; the Pentagon; and the departments of Veterans Affairs, Transportation, Treasury, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, Commerce and Agriculture. All have said they are working on a response to the AP.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz declined to comment. [more