Saturday, May 25, 2013

A few can stand









"Obama said that there would be more limits on targeted killings, a step in the right direction," said Kenneth Roth, executive director at Human Rights Watch. "But a mere promise that the US will work within established guidelines that remain secret provides little confidence that the U.S. is complying with international law."


 Starting in the US with The War on the First Amendment.  Last week, The War on the First Amendment's big revelations were that the Justice Dept had secretly seized the phone records of a 167-year-old news institution, the Associated Press. This week's revelation is that the Justice Dept targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen. Clark S. Judge (US News and World Reports) observed yesterday, "It has been a bad few weeks for the First Amendment.  The sinister commonality to the Internal Revenue Service and AP scandals and the James Rosen affair is that each appears to have been (strike "appears ": each was) an attempt to suppress a core American right."  Michael Isikoff (NBC News) reported:

 Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “possible co-conspirator” in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails, a law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday.

James Rosen's State Dept press badge was also used to retrace every moment he made in the State Dept when visiting.  Fox News reporter Whitney Ksiazek and Associated Press reporter Matthew Lee raised this issue yesterday at the State Dept spokesperson Patrick Ventrell's press briefing.

 Whitney Ksiazek: And then on a separate topic, was former Secretary Clinton consulted with the tracking of my colleague James Rosen’s building – State Department building swipe? And were any other employees interviewed in connection with the North Korea reporting that James Rosen did?

Patrick Ventrell: My understanding, this is a law enforcement matter. I really refer you to the Department of Justice for all details on that. In terms of our cooperation with the Department of Justice or the FBI on matters, that would be handled through Diplomatic Security channels and law enforcement channels. That’s how that’s done.

Matthew Lee:  So you – in principle, DS doesn’t have a problem turning over badge records to --

Patrick Ventrell: Again, I’m not aware of the specific cooperation on this case, but --

Matthew Lee:  Well, they got the records of his entry and egress, so you guys obviously handed – I mean, they didn’t make them up, I hope.

Patrick Ventrell:   Well, I can’t --

Matthew Lee:  So you guys obviously gave them to them.

Patrick Ventrell: I can’t comment on any details of this particular case, but when we have --

Matthew Lee: Well, I’m not talking about this particular case. Just in general, I mean, are you, like, running around, giving out the details of our comings and goings from this building?

Patrick Ventrell: Issues of cooperation on law enforcement matters between Diplomatic Security and the FBI are handled in law enforcement channels. I don’t have anything further on it.

Matthew Lee: Wait. Well, so you mean you’re not – do you just give the information out if people ask for it? Or do they need a court order or something?

Patrick Ventrell:  Matt, I’m not sure of the legal circumstances on that kind of information sharing.

Matthew Lee: Well, can you check?

Patrick Ventrell: Sure.

Matthew Lee: It would be --

Patrick Ventrell: I’m happy to check on --

Matthew Lee: If DOJ comes to you and says we want the entry and exit records from people, persons X, Y, and Z, do you just give them to them? Or do they have to --

Patrick Ventrell: My understanding is there’s a legal process that’s followed, but I’d have to check with the lawyers.

Matthew Lee:  Well, can you find out what the – what it is --

Patrick Ventrell: I’d be happy to check.

Matthew Lee: -- from your end, whether they need a subpoena or whether they need something like that.

This afternoon, Luke Johnson (Huffington Post) explained, "The Justice Department argued that Fox News reporter James Rosen's emails should be monitored for an indefinite period of time, even in the absence of being able to bring charges against him, according to court filings unearthed by The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza.  The revelation demonstrates the vast power that the Justice Department used against the journalist, who drew attention for publishing an article on North Korea's nuclear plans." Phil Mattingly (Bloomberg News) adds, "The Justice Department, in a statement today, said Holder was involved in the discussions as prosecutors deliberated over whether to seek the search warrant in the investigation into the leak of information about North Korea’s nuclear program in 2009."

On the president's remarks yesterday, Andrea Mitchell (Andrea Mitchell Reports -- link is video) had questions for Antony Blinken today:

Andrea Mitchell: I also wanted to ask you about the leak investigations.  He said in his speech yesterday that he's trying to get answers from the Justice Dept.  Why does he need answers from the Justice Dept about something that has been going on for so long?  Isn't he aware more broadly of the way these leaks are pursued and the way journalists have been swept up in it?

White House Deputy National Security Advisor Antony Blinken: Well Andrea, I obviously can't comment on a specific investigation but I can say this and it goes towards what the president said yesterday --

Yeah, we heard what heard what Barack said yesterday.  So you've got no new comments.  Gotcha.  He also pimped Barack's 'support' for a media shield law.  It was left to a news veteran today to remind the public that Barack's embrace of a proposed media shield law is a new development.  Today on CBS This Morning (link is video), hosts Gayle King and Charlie Rose discussed the issue with veteran CBS journalist Bob Schieffer (who hosts CBS' Face The Nation).

Gayle King: The President also said yesterday, Bob, that he wants to protect journalists from the government's overreach and now comes news this morning that Attorney General Eric HOlder signed off on allowing an investigation into some reporters' e-mails.  Is that an awkward position?

Bob Schieffer: Well I think what's interesting here is the President has said he wants Attorney General Holder to be the one who does this review about protecting reporters' rights and all of that when it is the Justice Dept, of course, that has caused all this controversy.  I mean, the president's saying he wants to review this and he wants to protect reporters' sources.  I think a lot of journalistic organizations and the people who run them are going to view this with  skepticism.  They'll go back to the old Ronald Reagan "trust, but verify" because the last time they introduced the shield law, uh, it was the President and this administration that watered it down and it, uh -- and it just laid there.  Nothing ever happened.  They're going to now reintroduce the same legislation.  But I think a lot of people are just waiting to see how serious the President is about this, because there's no question in the minds of many journalistic organizations -- and there's no question in my mind -- this was an outrageous overreach when they subpoenaed all these records at the Associated Press and some of these other instances as well.

Gene Policinski (San Jose Mercury News)  reminds, "Freedom to report the news requires the freedom to gather it."  Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program. usually airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week.  It did have a new weekly program this week but WBAI listeners didn't hear it.  WBAI is in pledge mode and instead had  Heidi Boghosian, and  Michael S. Smith for two hours live asking for donations to WBAI (if you'd like to donate, click here) and presenting a different program than this week's taped program.  From the live pledge drive:

Michael S. Smith:  And that raid on Associated Press where they got the home, cell phone and business phone records of 100 AP reporters --

Heidi Boghosian:  Right.

Without a warrant.  In clear violation of the Fourth Amendment --

Heidi Boghosian: Right.

Michael Smith:  and the First Amendment.  And just cleaned up the AP records.  Unprecedented.

Heidi Boghosian: It's unprecedented, Michael.

Michael Smith:  It's one thing after another.

Heidi Boghosian:  It's illegal too.  They're supposed to give notice when they do that but what's clearly happening is the press in this country is under attack.  We no longer have really a so-called free press.  If you look at the case of  Bradley Manning, Jeremy Hammond -- who's facing 42 years in prison for uploading documents to WikiLeaks  and of course Julian Assange.  Now the AP spying, the warrantless spying that has effected countless legal organizations such as the Center for Constitutional Rights, The People's Law Center in Chicago --

Michael Smith:  You know, you know why it's effected so many.

Heidi Boghosian:  Why?

Michael Smith:  Because the people effected by the raid on AP files are not just the AP reporters but they're their sources.

Heidi Boghosian:  Exactly.

Michael Smith:  Who's gonna --

Heidi Boghosian:  Who's gonna turn over information?

Michael Smith:  Who's gonna tell something to an AP reporter knowing that their phone conversation is going to go to the FBI?

Heidi Boghosian:  Exactly.  Exactly.  So we have what we have called "the chilling effect on Free Speech in this country" -- which again is why you need to support WBAI because we're not afraid to bring you the truth in reporting.

 At the Libertarian CATO Institute, Julian Sanchez argues the administration needs to take certain steps:

Transparency can begin with letting the public know exactly what the guidelines for investigating the press are—and how the Justice Department interprets them. As the FBI’s operational guidelines make clear, the rules requiring the press to be notified when their phone records are obtained only apply to subpoenas—not other secretive tools, such as National Security Letters, which can be issued without court approval. But the rules governing NSL demands for media records remain secret.
The Justice Department should also release any internal memos interpreting the rules governing press investigations. We know, for example, that there exists an informal 2009 opinion in which Justice Department lawyers analyzed how the rules would apply to sweeping demands—such as so-called “community of interest” requests—that can vacuum up a reporter’s records (among many others) even if the reporter is not specifically named as a target. Only brief excerpts of that opinion have been disclosed, thanks to a 2010 Inspector General report, and there is no way of knowing how many others remain secret.
Finally, we need an independent review—conducted by the Office of the Inspector General, not Attorney General Holder—to determine just how much surveillance of reporters has already occurred. It seems clear that the Justice Department does not think the current rules always require the press to be informed when they’ve been spied on: DOJ lawyers convinced a judge that the government never had to notify Rosen they’d read his e-mails. And because demands for electronic records can be quite broad, it would be all too easy for the government to end up with sensitive information about journalistic investigations even when no reporter was explicitly targeted.
When Congress and the public know what the rules really are, and how they have been applied in practice, we can begin a serious conversation about what reforms are needed to protect press freedom. Asking Eric Holder to investigate Eric Holder, on the other hand, is unlikely to protect much of anything—except, perhaps, Eric Holder.

Back to yesterday's State Dept press briefing. Later in the briefing, Asia Today and India Globe's Raghubir Goyal had a question.

Raghubir Goyal: New subject?

Patrick Ventrell: Yeah.

Raghubir Goyal: Question, Patrick, on the freedom of the press, globally.

Patrick Ventrell: You ask very broad questions, Goyal. (Laughter.)

Raghubir Goyal: Just simple question on the freedom of the press.

Patrick Ventrell: We support the freedom of the press. (Laughter.)

Raghubir Goyal: And the question is --

Matthew Lee: Do you?

Patrick Ventrell: We do.

Matthew Lee: Do you really?

Patrick Ventrell: We do, Matt.

Matthew Lee: Are you speaking for the entire Administration, or just this building?

Patrick Ventrell: We support the freedom of the press. We support it globally. We support it here at home.

Matthew Lee: That’s the position of this building. Is it the position of the entire Administration?

Patrick Ventrell: It is.

Raghubir Goyal: Just to mark the international freedom of the press, and recently Freedom House, they placed another 84 names of the journalists who were killed in 25 countries, but – these are only official from the Freedom House – but hundreds of journalists are beaten, jailed, or killed in many countries – more than 25 countries. My question is here: When Secretary meets with world leaders here or abroad, does he talk ever other than human rights but on the freedom of the press in these countries?

Patrick Ventrell: Indeed, he constantly and consistently raises these issues with foreign leaders around the world and here when he meets with them. And I think you heard over the two weeks during our freedom of the press activities, many of the cases that we called out, the high priority that we place on this, and our deep concern for the well-being of journalists who face violence and repression for the work that they do around the world. So that’s something we’re deeply committed to.

Raghubir Goyal: -- especially in China or Saudi Arabia and --

Patrick Ventrell: It includes all those countries.

Raghubir Goyal: Thank you, sir.

Matthew Lee: Is it just violence and repression? Or is it also government intimidation or – that you’re opposed to?

Patrick Ventrell: That as well. All of that.

Matthew Lee: So in other words, the State Department opposes the Administration – the rest of the Justice Department’s investigations into --

Patrick Ventrell: Well, again, I think you’re trying to conflate two issues here.

Matthew Lee: No, no. I’m asking about freedom of the press. That was what the question was.

Patrick Ventrell: And we do – and we support freedom of the press. I think you’ve heard the President – I think you’ve heard the White House talk about this extensively.

Matthew Lee: Right. So you – and you think that violence and repression against journalism – journalists is wrong, as you do harassment or intimidation by government agencies.

Patrick Ventrell: All of the above.

Matthew Lee: So you do not regard what the Justice Department has been doing as harassment or intimidation.

Patrick Ventrell: Again, I can’t comment on a specific law enforcement investigation.

Matthew Lee: I’m not asking about a specific case. In general, would the State Department oppose or support harassment, intimidation, or prosecution of journalists for publishing information?

Patrick Ventrell: We oppose that, in terms of them – is this around the world --

Matthew Lee: Okay. So the State Department then opposes the Justice Department’s prosecution.

Patrick Ventrell: Again, you’re trying to get me to conflate two issues.

No, not really but way to send a mixed signal to the world Patrick Ventrell.  Let's hope Secretary of State John Kerry does raise the issues of press freedom with Nouri al-Maliki's government in Iraq.  As Helena Williams (Independent) noted earlier this month, "According to the CPJ, Iraq continues to have the world's worst record on impunity, with more than 90 unsolved murders over the past decade and no sign that the authorities are working to solve any of them."

Article 36 of the Iraqi Constitution guarantees "Freedom of expression, through all mean," "Freedom of press, printing, advertisement, media and publication" and "Freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration.  This shall be regulated by law."  Every week, Nouri al-Maliki, chief thug and prime minister in Iraq, demonstrates that he has trouble comprehending if he bothers to read. Fridays in Iraq. Since December 21st, that's meant ongoing protests.

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