April 4, 2012
By Steve Watson
“Doesn’t anyone think it’s odd that the mainstream media hardly covered the NDAA? It’s almost as if someone told them to leave it alone. What would the founding fathers think?” –KTRN
An award winning reporter who is suing the Obama administration over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which legislates for the ‘indefinite detention’ of American citizens without trial, is appalled at the lack of media coverage of the issue.
Appearing on RT, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, author and Middle East expert Chris Hedges said that the NDAA, otherwise known as the ‘Homeland Battlefield Bill’, is already causing a chilling effect on the work of journalists in the US.
“The NDAA has received very little publicity, including by my former employer The New York Times.” Hedges said.
“It is a piece of legislation that was essentially supported by both political parties. Indeed the sponsors of the Bill are Carl Levin, a Democrat and John McCain, a Republican. There was no outcry within the systems of power itself, and that of course meant there was no outcry within the media, which allows those systems of power to set the parameters of debate.” Hedges added.
The controversial legislation, signed into law by Obama on New Years Eve, allows American citizens to be abducted and held in a detention camp anywhere in the world without trial under section 1031. Although Obama indicated in a signing statement attached to the bill that he would not use it to indefinitely detain American citizens, it was the Obama administration itself that requested the provision be worded so it would apply to US citizens.
The legislation specifically says that any persons deemed to have “substantially supported” al-Qaida and the Taliban and “associated forces” may be incarcerated without trial.
“What’s an associated force?” Hedges rhetorically asked, after explaining that his lawsuit is based around the fact that definitions within the NDAA are extremely, and seemingly purposefully vague.
March 20, 2012
By Peter Hart
Jeremy Scahill’s piece at the Nation website (“Why Is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen?,”3/13/12) about imprisoned Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye is riveting and deeply reported. But to Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum, the story doesn’t quite add up…because Barack Obama seems like a decent guy.
As Scahill reports, Shaye has “risked his life to travel to areas controlled by Al-Qaeda and to interview its leaders.” He argues that this reporting has not exactly won him friends in the U.S. or Yemeni governments:
His collision course with the U.S. government appears to have been set in December 2009. On December 17, the Yemeni government announced that it had conducted a series of strikes against an Al-Qaeda training camp in the village of al Majala in Yemen’s southern Abyan province, killing a number of Al-Qaeda militants. As the story spread across the world, Shaye traveled to al Majala. What he discovered were the remnants of Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs, neither of which are in the Yemeni military’s arsenal. He photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label “Made in the USA,” and distributed the photos to international media outlets. He revealed that among the victims of the strike were women, children and the elderly. To be exact, 14 women and 21 children were killed.
Shaye was subsequently arrested and likely tortured by Yemeni authorities, who charged and convicted him on terrorism charges. The case has drawn international attention, with media and human rights groups denouncing the trial. Pressure inside Yemen seemed to be working, and a pardon was ready for then-president Ali Abdullah Saleh to sign.
Enter Barack Obama, who “expressed concern” over Shaye’s release. The pardon was shelved; as Scahill reports:
Yemeni journalists, human rights activists and lawyers have said he remains in jail at the request of the White House.
Salon’s Glenn Greenwald weighed in (3/14/12), reminding readers that the initial media accounts of the attacks in Majala were wildly misleading–the strikes were carried out by Yemen, those killed were “militants,” and so on. As Greenwald puts it, the world knows the truth about this attack–which was a U.S. strike using cruise missiles and cluster bombs–because of Shaye’s reporting.
Seems pretty straightforward. But not to everyone. Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum wrote a response headlined, “Is Barack Obama a Murderous Sociopath?” The crux of Drum’s argument is that Shaye’s reporting isn’t all that important. “I wonder what’s really going on,” writes Drum. “Because here’s the thing: the attack on al Majala was no secret.”
Drum points out that “within a few hours of the strike it was common knowledge that U.S. cruise missiles had done most of the damage and that there were local reports of many civilian casualties.” He adds that
everything that Shaye reported in 2010 had long since been common knowledge. Obama has suffered, as near as I can tell, literally zero embarrassment from this episode. The al Majala attack got a small bit of media attention when it happened and has been completely forgotten since.
August 22nd, 2011
The Huffington Post
By: Dina Rickman
When the woman who exposed the MPs expenses scandal says she’s uncovered the next big public outrage, it’s impossible not to take notice.
Heather Brooke explains to the Huffington Post UK why data dealing is even bigger than phone hacking and the reasons she lost faith in WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Somewhere in an upmarket central London restaurant over lunch the negotiations started at £100,000. Heather Brooke witnessed the document with the names, addresses and telephone numbers of every voter in Britain go on sale.
The investigative journalist and campaigner says the attempt to sell the electoral register was just one example of data dealing – the burgeoning trade in personal information that could affect any citizen with an online profile.
“I don’t think people have any idea that this goes on all the time. There are corporate private investigators, companies doing very forensic background checks on people. They buy data, they get their own data … They don’t want their industry publicised”, she says.
The phone hacking scandal exposed how the private lives of celebrities and the bereaved had been targeted by journalists. But according to Brooke, her latest investigation will show now everyone’s details are up for grabs, and not by reporters, but by companies.
“Phone hacking, that’s just touching the surface of that whole industry in personal information which is vast, huge, it’s massive,” she says.
Two years ago a wave of public outrage forced the Home Office to abandon plans to set up a so-called ‘Big Brother database’ to collect information about every website you visited, phone call you made and email you sent. In the new information era exposed by Brooke in her forthcoming book, that doesn’t matter, companies can just piece together that information about you anyway.
And she says they can use instant message conversations, pictures, the texts you receive and your Facebook status.
Brooke warns corporations and governments are a “customer” for information, and they want it for a reason: “It’s trying to predict the behaviour of different people and it’s making decisions about who it thinks are going to be trouble makers, not based on what you’ve actually done but based on what they think you’re going to do in the future.”
She doesn’t subscribe to the ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about’ philosophy: “If you believe the promise that an authoritarian state makes that if it has enough knowledge on every citizen it will keep people safe. I think that’s a false promise. It doesn’t actually happen. If that was the case then East Germany would be a really incredible place to live and in fact it wasn’t, it was really horrible, most of these places were really horrible.”
And as the amount of data about people increases – google searches, text messages, emails, chat logs, purchases – so does the value of what it says about you. The websites you like to go to, the products you like to buy, and what exactly you might get up to in your spare time. And with more data comes opportunity for democracy – or suppression.
Brooke explores this in new book, ‘The Revolution Will Be Digitisied’, part crash course in information held by the government and corporations, and part thriller, focusing on the drama surrounding WikiLeaks’ attempts to expose US diplomatic cables and the gradual implosion of the organisation.
For Brooke it comes down to the dangers when there is a concentration of power – either with WikiLeaks or in government. The investigative journalist and campaigner made it clear she was not afraid to take on vested interests during her five year campaign to expose MPs’ expenses. And she says pockets of public outrage when it emerges that iPhones keep track of everywhere you go aren’t enough.
She’s scathing about David Cameron’s response to the riots in Britain, proposing to monitor social networks like BBM and Twitter.
“I think it’s interesting the political reaction is ‘we have to start surveying all the social networks’. That’s the instant reaction. That’s what I mean about how the revolution will be digitised because it totally shakes up power structures, it does put power in the hands of people, including the proletariat, chavs, whatever you want to call them. They’re on social networks now, they can organise, they can communicate. And people that are in power, in the more elitist bastions of power, they find that really frightening. It’s challenging, it’s frightening, they don’t know what to do, their kind of instant reaction is: let’s shut it down.”
For her, governments haven’t “evolved fast enough”: “People are used to getting a lot of information quickly and they’re used to being quite empowered as consumers and they go to governments expecting a similar treatment, they want to find data and they want to influence events quickly and yet they come into this brick wall. The government wants to know everything about them but isn’t willing to share any of that information.”
Julian Assange, of course, plays a part in her quest to free up data. Initially, she’s attracted to him (“He’s the world’s most famous leaker, I’m a freedom of information campaigner so we’ve a lot to talk about”). But he also unsettles her, telling her without fear she can become a “megalomaniac” like him. She says in her book “I couldn’t have felt less comfortable alone in that room with him”, and most strikingly, reveals that he asked her to be his Mary Magdalene and “bathe his feet at the cross”.
Now, Brooke says she would not have been tempted by Assange even if she were not married: “He did strike me as a kind of dangerous person.”
She says it was his domination of the WikiLeaks exposes that left her disillusioned with the founder.
“The values of WikiLeaks have been completely overshadowed by Julian Assange. And he’s trying to conflate the two as one. Which is why a lot of the good people left. The people that I thought were the best people left. It is basically the Julian Assange project now.
“I guess that’s the real disappointment in the book. There was this opportunity in 2010 to really revolutionise the way information was shared, and instead of that cause going forward and being the main thing it was subverted, I felt and I observed by Julian Assange to serve his own personal interest and protect himself from personal problems.”
She says the leaks on Iraq and Afghanistan could have actually changed government policy, if it weren’t for Assange.
“I think they could have had a pretty big effect on America’s view of that war. But … because of the way Julian personalised those stories and made them about him rather than the story itself.”
Suddenly we’re back to the hacking scandal again: “That’s all Nick Davies, right? Does Nick Davies give a press conference himself about Nick Davies? No he doesn’t, he lets the story speak for itself.
“That’s what Julian needs to take on board. If you’re really serious about wanting to change society you have to pull back off the story, let the facts speak for themselves and stop trying to micromanage the way the public interprets it.”
July 20th, 2011
The Huffington Post
Glenn Beck laughed about the death of a whistleblower involved in the phone hacking scandal and asked listeners to “pray” that Fox News was not involved in the crisis.
On his Tuesday show, Beck joked about the death of Sean Hoare, who was the first journalist to go on the record about the phone-hacking crisis at the News of the World in a 2010 New York Times article. Hoare was found dead in his London home on Monday. Beck said he loved the story of the death.
“I’m not saying that foul play was involved, but it is suspicious that he’s dead,” Beck said, laughing. (On Tuesday, police categorically concluded that no third party was involved in Hoare’s death.)
He then joked that Vladimir Putin was involved in the death, before turning to Fox News, which, like the News of the World, is owned by News Corp.
Beck said he was worried that the scandal would be used by opponents of Fox News to try and bring it down, but that, as far as he knew, there had never been a hint of a scandal at the network.
“Pray that that is so and that they are thwarted,” Beck said. “…They will use this and it will shut down.”
July 19th, 2011
By: Amelia Hill, James Robinson and Caroline Davies
Sean Hoare, the former News of the World showbusiness reporter who was the first named journalist to allege that Andy Coulson was aware of phone hacking by his staff, has been found dead .
Hoare, who worked on the Sun and the News of the World with Coulson before being dismissed for drink and drugs problems, was said to have been found at his Watford home.
Hertfordshire police would not confirm his identity, but said in a statement: “At 10.40am today [Monday 18 July] police were called to Langley Road, Watford, following the concerns for the welfare of a man who lives at an address on the street. Upon police and ambulance arrival at a property, the body of a man was found. The man was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after.
“The death is currently being treated as unexplained but not thought to be suspicious. Police investigations into this incident are ongoing.”
There was an unexplained delay in the arrival of forensics officers at the scene.
Neighbours said three police cars and two ambulances arrived at the property shortly before 11am. They left around four hours later, around 3pm, shortly after a man and a woman, believed to be grieving relatives, arrived at the premises. There was no police presence at the scene at all for several hours.
The curtains were drawn at the first-floor apartment in a new-build block of flats.
At about 9.15pm, three hours after the Guardian revealed Hoare had been found dead a police van marked “Scientific Services Unit” pulled up at the address, where a police car was already parked. Two officers emerged carrying evidence bags, clipboards, torches and laptop-style bags and entered the building. Three officers carrying cameras and wearing white forensic suits went into the flat at around 9.30pm.
Hoare was in his mid-40s. He first made his claims in a New York Times investigation into the phone-hacking allegations at the News of the World. He told the newspaper that not only did Coulson know of the hacking, but he also actively encouraged his staff to intercept the calls of celebrities in the pursuit of exclusives.
In a subsequent interview with the BBC he alleged he was personally asked by his editor at the time, Coulson, to tap into phones. In an interview with the PM programme he said Coulson’s insistence he did not know of the practice was “a lie, it is simply a lie”. At the time a Downing Street spokeswoman said Coulson totally and utterly denied the allegations; he had “never condoned the use of phone hacking and nor do I have any recollection of incidences where hacking took place”.
Hoare said he was once a close friend of Coulson’s, and told the New York Times the two first worked together at the Sun, where, Hoare said, he played recordings of hacked messages for Coulson. At the News of the World, Hoare said, he continued to inform Coulson of his activities. He “actively encouraged me to do it”, Hoare said. In September last year he was interviewed under caution by police over his claim the former Tory communications chief asked him to hack into phones when editor of the paper, but declined to make any comment.
Hoare returned to the spotlight last week, after he told the New York Times that reporters at the NoW were able to use police technology to locate people using their mobile phone signals, in exchange for payments to police officers. He said journalists were able to use “pinging”, which measured the distance between a mobile handset and a number of phone masts to pinpoint its location.
Hoare gave further details about “pinging” to the Guardian last week. He described how reporters would ask a news desk executive to obtain the location of a target: “Within 15 to 30 minutes someone on the news desk would come back and say ‘Right, that’s where they are.’”
He said: “You’d just go to the news desk and they’d come back to you. You don’t ask any questions. You’d consider it a job done.
“The chain of command is one of absolute discipline, and that’s why I never bought into it, like with Andy saying he wasn’t aware of it and all that. That’s bollocks.”
He said he stood by everything he told the New York Times of “pinging”. “I don’t know how often it happened. That would be wrong of me. But if I had access, as a humble reporter … ”
He admitted he had had problems with drink and drugs, and had been in rehab. “But that’s irrelevant,” he said. “There’s more to come. This is not going to go away.”
Hoare named a private investigator who he said had links with the News of the World, adding: “He may want to talk now, because I think what you’ll find now is a lot of people are going to want to cover their arse.” Speaking to another Guardian journalist last week, Hoare repeatedly expressed the hope that the hacking scandal would lead to journalism in general being cleaned up, and said he had decided to blow the whistle on the activities of some of his former NoW colleagues with that aim in mind.
He also said he had been injured the previous weekend while taking down a marquee erected for a children’s party. He said he broke his nose and badly injured his foot when a relative accidentally struck him with a pole from the marquee. Hoare also emphasised that he was not making any money from telling his story.
Having been treated for drug and alcohol problems, Hoare reminisced about his partying with former pop stars and said that he missed the days when he was able to go out on the town.
On Monday evening the curtains were drawn at his home, a first-floor apartment in a new-build block of flats.
A neighbour living opposite, Nicky Dormer, said three police cars and two ambulances arrived at the property at 11am; police left at 3pm, shortly after a man and a woman, believed to be grieving relatives, arrived at the premises.
She and another neighbour described Hoare as a jovial man who would often sit on his balcony, overlooking the block entrance, and talk to residents. They said he lived in the block with his partner, a woman called Jo, who they believed had been away on holiday. Neither had seen Hoare for a few days.
Paul Pritchard, 30, another neighbour, said Sean Hoare was “the most sociable” resident, and they would regularly see him watering the communal front lawn.
“It is just such a shock. About a month ago he said he felt unwell and he said he went to the doctors for a checkup. Then I saw him again and he seemed well.”
June 1st, 2011
The Washington Post
By: Melissa Bell
Missing since Sunday, Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad has been declared dead by his employer Italian news agency Adnkronos. His body was found in southeast Islamabad and reportedly identified by his brother. There were indications that he had been tortured before his death.
His disappearance came just days after Shahzad published an article in Asia Times Online about the alleged links between the Pakistan navy and al-Qaeda. It was the first in a two-part report.
After Libya and Iraq, Pakistan is the deadliest country to be a journalist in, according to statistics compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
April 7th, 2011
The Huffington Post
By: Jack Mirkinson
The Washington bureau chief for CBS News vehemently denied allegations that he had served as an informant for the FBI while working for ABC News in the 1990s.
Christopher Isham was not named in a report by the Center For Public Integrity which was published on Tuesday. The report cited a declassified memo in alleging that a journalist worked with the FBI from 1995 to 1996, in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing. The memo seemed to suggest that the journalist passed along information from sources and even gave the name of a confidential source.
But Isham later issued a statement acknowledging that he was the subject of the report, and angrily protesting its implications. He called the allegations “outrageous and untrue,” and said that he would have only talked to the FBI to check information or warn of a potential terrorist attack.
“This is consistent with the policies at every news organization,” Isham said. “But at no time did I compromise a confidential source with the FBI or anyone else.”
The CPI report revealed that the source Isham was talking about was Vincent Cannistrarto, a former CIA official who was working for ABC News at the time. Cannistrarto apparently told Isham that there were possible ties between the Oklahoma City bombing and the Iraqi Special Services, a claim that turned out to be false. In his statement, Isham seemingly acknowledged passing this information on to the FBI, but denied that he had violated any journalistic ethics.
“Mr. Cannistraro was not a confidential source, but rather a colleague–a paid consultant to ABC News who had already spoken to the FBI about information he had received,” he said.
An unnamed FBI official told the New York Times that Isham had indeed passed on information to the bureau, but was never regarded as an official informant.
December 13th, 2010
The Huffington Post
By: James Moore
I am Julian Assange.
I want information so that I can hold my government accountable. If my country acts improperly and in my name, I want the proof. I want to know if there actually is no evidence proving weapons of mass destruction. I want to know if America is working with Israel to overthrow Iran’s leadership. I want data that has not been spun by reporters that work for publishers and broadcasters with political and business goals that conflict with the facts. I want to know.
I am Julian Assange because I know unfettered information is valuable to democracy and a peaceful world. I can make the best decisions with the most knowledge. I can vote for the best candidates. I can support the smartest policies to help my country and the world. I am not naïve; I know that not every operation can be transparent but I have a right to know its outcome and how it has affected my country and me.
I do not believe Julian Assange has done anything wrong. The cables that have been published have all been printed in newspapers and redacted to protect individuals at risk. I do not want my country to prosecute a man whose actions are changing the way we get information and how we make critical decisions. I now know that my president and my country’s military have not been honest about the war in Afghanistan. I know that my country has killed civilians and that we have refused to acknowledge our mistakes. I have learned that our allies are secretly consorting with our enemies.
I am also Pfc. Bradley Manning. I know that if I saw the disturbing information come across my desk that I would have confronted the conflict between my oath of service to my country and the immorality of its behavior. I do not believe I would have been able to ignore American helicopters gunning down journalists carrying cameras. I believe I would have acted on my conscience and found a way to reveal the facts. There was a reporter at the My Lai massacre in Vietnam but there was only a gun camera on the US helicopter in Iraq. And the Internet. And Bradley Manning.
I believe that governments are out of control and citizens have a decreasing belief that they can influence decisions. WikiLeaks and the Internet are empowering individuals and groups with information. Julian Assange and Bradley Manning are the first two faces and voices in a crowd that will soon be too big to control. Their arrests and charges and even prosecution will only spawn a broader resistance against war and deception and corruption. The Internet is now the reporter. This is the way the world is. I do not want to hear that there will always be wars and spying and death. I want information to prevent them and to build peace.
I am saddened that Australia’s government is once more acting as a lapdog for American interests and is not demanding sovereign rights for one of its citizens. I am also distressed that the president of my country who ran for office promising a transparent government is trying to find a way to prosecute a foreign national, and is preventing Pfc Manning from speaking with his family. WikiLeaks has shown there is an America in civics textbooks and an America that functions differently in the real world. Adequate information might move us closer to the ideal. I no longer trust my president. I do not trust my congress. I place my trust in facts and I do not get them from most of the media. But I still want to know.
I am Julian Assange. And if you care about the truth, you are, too.
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June 20, 2010
by Hugh Collins
Newly proposed legislation would give the federal government authority to seize and even switch off the Internet during a national crisis.
The bill, put forward Thursday by Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., would allow the Department of Homeland Security to issue emergency orders to companies providing services such as search engines, software and broadband Internet, according to CBS. Companies that didn’t comply would face a fine.
“The Internet can also be a dangerous place, with electronic pipelines that run directly into everything from our personal bank accounts to key infrastructure to government and industrial secrets,” Lieberman said. “Our economic security, national security and public safety are now all at risk from new kinds of enemies: cyberwarriors, cyberspies, cyberterrorists and cybercriminals.”
Governments worldwide are increasingly aware of the threat posed by cyberattacks. In 2007, the Baltic state of Estonia was paralyzed by a cyberattack that froze the websites of businesses and government agencies for days. Estonia now hosts NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence.
Lieberman’s bill also calls for the creation of a National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications within the Department of Homeland Security, CBS reported. The center would monitor the “security status” of websites and broadband providers to provide “situational awareness of the security status” of Internet within the United States.
The National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications would also be able to require certain Internet companies to share information with the federal government.
There’s something in the proposed legislation for the private sector, too: Companies would have immunity from civil lawsuits for compensation related to actions they took on orders from the federal government.
However, the bill has been fiercely criticized online by Internet freedom advocates.
“This legislation should be met with resistance until it fails,” journalist blogger Jamie DeLoma wrote. “Implementing the proposed plan would do nothing more than cause chaos and limit the information available.”
The ideas in the proposal are not entirely new. In August, technology website CNET obtained a pair of draft Senate proposals that would have allowed the president to declare a “cybersecurity emergency” and “order the disconnection” of certain networks and websites.