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Obama’s Escalating War on Freedom of the Press


The Executive Branch fought for that ruling — and is now celebrating.”We agree with the decision,” said a Justice Department spokesman. “We are examining the next steps in the prosecution of this case.” The Risen case, and potentially many others, are now under the ominous shadow of the Appeals Court’s pronouncement: ” There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify ” in criminal proceedings.”

At the Freedom of the Press Foundation, co-founder Trevor Timm  calls the court ruling “the most significant reporter’s privilege decision in decades” and asserts that the court “eviscerated that privilege.” He’s not exaggerating. Press freedom is at stake.

Journalists who can be compelled to violate the confidentiality of their sources, or otherwise go to prison, are reduced to doing little more than providing stenographic services to pass along the official story. That’s what the White House wants.

The federal Fourth Circuit covers the geographical area where most of the U.S. government’s intelligence, surveillance and top-level military agencies — including the NSA and CIA — are headquartered. The ruling “pretty much guts national security journalism in the states in which it matters,” Marcy Wheeler writes.

That court decision came seven days after the Justice Department released its “News Media Policies” report announcing “significant revisions to the Department’s policies regarding investigations that involve members of the news media.” The report offered assurances that “members of the news media will not be subject to prosecution based solely on newsgathering activities.” (Hey  thanks!) But the document quickly added that the government will take such action “as a last resort” when seeking information that is “essential to a successful investigation or prosecution.”

Translation: We won’t prosecute journalists for doing their jobs unless we really want to.

Over the weekend, some news accounts described Friday’s court decision as bad timing for Attorney General Eric Holder, who has scrambled in recent weeks to soothe anger at the Justice Department’s surveillance of journalists. “The ruling was awkwardly timed for the Obama administration,” the New York Times reported. But the ruling wasn’t just “awkwardly timed” — it was revealing, and it underscored just how hostile the Obama White House has become toward freedom of the press.

News broke in May that the Justice Department had seized records of calls on more than 20 phone lines used by Associated Press reporters over a two-month period and had also done intensive surveillance of a Fox News reporter that included obtaining phone records and reading his emails. Since then, the Obama administration tried to defuse the explosive reaction without actually retreating from its offensive against press freedom.

At a news conference two months ago, when President Obama refused to say a critical word about his Justice Department’s targeted surveillance of reporters, he touted plans to reintroduce a bill for a federal shield law so journalists can protect their sources. But Obama didn’t mention that he has insisted on a “national security exception” that would make such a law approximately worthless for reporters doing the kind of reporting that has resulted in government surveillance — and has sometimes landed them in federal court.

Obama’s current notion of a potential shield law would leave his administration fully able to block protection of journalistic sources. In a mid-May article — headlined “White House Shield Bill Could Actually Make It Easier for the Government to Get Journalists’ Sources” — the Freedom of the Press Foundation shed light on the duplicity: As a supposed concession to press freedom, the president was calling for reintroduction of a 2009 Senate bill that “would not have helped the Associated Press in this case, and worse, it would actually make it easier for the Justice Department to subpoena journalists covering national security issues.”

Whether hyping a scenario for a shield law or citing new Justice Department guidelines for news media policies, the cranked-up spin from the administration’s PR machinery does not change the fact that Obama is doubling down on a commitment to routine surveillance of everyone, along with extreme measures specifically aimed at journalists — and whistleblowers.

The administration’s efforts to quash press freedom are in sync with its unrelenting persecution of whistleblowers. The purpose is to further choke off the flow of crucial information to the public, making informed “consent of the governed” impossible while imposing massive surveillance and other violations of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Behind the assault on civil liberties is maintenance of a warfare state with huge corporate military contracts and endless war. The whole agenda is repugnant and completely unacceptable.

Norman Solomon is the author of many books, including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death,” which has been adapted into a documentary film. For more information, go to: http://www.normansolomon.com

via OpEdNews – Article: Obama’s Escalating War on Freedom of the Press.

Snowden seeks asylum in place immune from US prosecution – WALL STREET


wall-street

In a desperate bid to evade the international reach of US authorities Snowden has applies for asylum to Wall Street. “Where else can I go?”, says Snowden. Pointing out that Wall Street ripped off 10 trillion dollars in 2008 and no one went to jail Snowden thinks this is the only place on Earth that is beyond the reach of the Justice Department. “If they can get away with that,” says Snowden, this must be the best place in the world to hide!”

via Dvorak News Blog.

It’s Called Freedom Of The Press For A Reason


In one of his final opinions as a Supreme Court Justice, Hugo Black in the 1971 Pentagon Papers case wrote that “The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.” The Court’s 6-3 decision granted the Washington Post and New York Times permission to resume publishing a comprehensive and classified government history of the Vietnam War. The permission was granted over the “national security” objections of the Nixon administration. Black’s opinion stressed that the “press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people.”

The Pentagon Papers case revolved around the more traditional press debate regarding prior restraint: if and when the government has the right to stop news organizations from disseminating sensitive information. The Supreme Court’s landmark 1931 media ruling, Near v. Minnesota, declared that almost all forms of prior restraint were unconstitutional. One of the few exceptions included issues of national security.*

Of course, the recent Obama administration controversies surrounding freedom of the press revolve around national security and the intense prosecutorial efforts by the government to weed out leakers of classified information. Rather than trying to stop journalists from reporting national security news, federal law enforcement seems preoccupied with snooping around, in increasingly clandestine ways, and ensnaring reporters in criminal investigations.

Whether it was the Department of Justice’s wild overreach in seizing phone records of more than 20 separate telephone lines used by Associated Press editors and reporters, or the Department’s more focused, yet even more troubling, information grab of a Fox News reporter, the practice is wrong and shortsighted. It’s also un-American.

The Founding Fathers had the foresight to carve out extraordinary privileges and protections for the press, and for centuries they have endured. So why now turn our storied First Amendment into the Sort Of First Amendment or the When It’s Convenient First Amendment?

Imagine what international observers must be thinking as they watch the U.S. government, in the name of leak investigations, chisel away at one of America’s most famous contributions to the democratic way of life: Freedom of the press.

Yet it’s also important to note that despite some of the heated rhetoric in recent days, there’s little evidence that the federal government is waging some sort of all-out war on journalism (that it’s “spying” on reporters), or that it’s set out a dangerous new policy to “criminalize” the craft. And no, Fox News certainly hasn’t been “targeted” by the Obama administration, despite Fox’s plaintive cries of victimhood in recent days. (There’s certainly no evidence to back up Shepard Smith’s baseless on-air claim that the Department of Justice “went into” Fox News computer servers and “pulled things out.”)

First Amendment alarms bells went off when it was revealed that Fox News’ James Rosen had been described as “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” in a 2010 FBI affidavit in support of warrant seeking permission to look through the reporter’s phone records as well as the contents of his Gmail account. The FBI was looking for correspondences with then-State Department security adviser Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, charged with leaking classified information to Rosen about North Korea in 2009.

Those First Amendment alarm bells were justified.

The Rosen warrant request appears to be the first time (that we know of) that the government singled out a journalist as a possible criminal during a leak investigation. In other words, it was the first time law enforcement in court proceedings suggested it was a crime to publish, or to try to obtain, classified information. (It is not.) The FBI’s targets in the past had always focused on the leakers, not those receiving the leaks.

And in the past, when law enforcement wanted to obtain phone records or other personal communications from journalists, they were supposed to issue narrow subpoenas after exhausting all other investigative avenues. (And only after the Attorney General personally approved of the move.) Prosecutors also notified the media company in question about the subpoena, unless notification threatened the integrity of the investigation.

Prior to the Washington Post story being published on May 20, Rosen knew nothing of the search warrant or that it had been acted upon. And that’s why the alarm bells sounded, and with good reason. The idea that federal law enforcement can simply grab a reporter’s private communication without the reporter or his news employer ever being notified — and without them given a chance to persuade a judge the stop the action (i.e. judicial relief) — is wrong and it’s dangerous and in the Rosen case it was unacceptable.

But also note that Rosen being unaware the FBI grabbed his emails was, in weird way, reassuring. It’s reassuring because despite the alarming wording of the warrant request (“abettor and/or co-conspirator”), no charges were ever brought against Rosen, and according to the FBI none are expected to be forthcoming.

Despite the disturbing language used in the single FBI warrant request, reportedly approved by Attorney General Eric Holder, the Rosen case not does appear to reflect a larger policy shift within the Department of Justice to “criminalize” reporting. Plus, there’s recent evidence to suggest the DOJ has declined to take drastic steps against the press during a national security leak investigation.

On May 17, The Smoking Gun reported that FBI counterintelligence agents had overseen a lengthy leak investigation after The Smoking Gun published a classified, 12-page CIA report detailing the organizing activities of al-Qaeda members imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Smoking Gun learned:

The case remained open for three years and eight months, spanning the Bush and Obama administrations. It was formally closed in March 2010 when, after much internal debate, the Department of Justice’s Counterespionage Section declined to authorize a subpoena–sought by the FBI–compelling [The Smoking Gun’s] editor to testify before a grand jury about its source.

Faced with taking the extreme measure of forcing an editor to testify before a grand jury about the identify of a source, the DOJ declined, and instead closed down an unsuccessful leak investigation. If there really were a top-down administration attempt to “criminalize” national security reporting, wouldn’t that editor have been compelled to testify?

Right now though, that remains a small consolation.

via It’s Called Freedom Of The Press For A Reason | Blog | Media Matters for America.

‘Our Liberty Cannot Be Guarded but by the Freedom of the Press’



Attorney General Eric Holder. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Democrats and Republicans working together in Washington to address abuses of basic liberties? Bipartisan responses to the challenges that arise in the gray area where balances are struck between constitutional guarantees and national security demands? Impossible. Can’t happen. There is no way in these days of fury and scandal-mongering.

Actually, there is a way.

A genuine left-right coalition has developed over the past several days in response to the revelation that the Department of Justice seized Associated Press telephone records in its recent investigation of a CIA leak. And that coalition is likely to strengthen in light of the news that the DOJ investigated the reporting activities of Fox News’s chief Washington correspondent as a potential crime—“solicitation” of leaks. The latter development, in many senses more troubling than the former, calls into question whether basic protections for both reporters and whistleblowers are crumbling after more than a decade of Patriot Act abuses, Bush and Obama administration excesses and the politicization of debates about what were once accepted standards for protecting the public’s right to know and the privacy rights that underpin it.

In moments so rigorously partisan as these, many members of Congress will retreat to their corners, mounting attacks or making excuses. But there are some serious legislators, libertarian-leaning Republicans and progressive Democrats, who understand the urgency of the moment.

They get that the revelations about DOJ overreach reveal a threat not just to freedom of the press but to the most necessary of press functions: the work of revealing for citizens the details of what their government is doing in their name but without their informed consent. None of these members are foolish or casual in their approach; they understand that it is necessary for the government to protect against the leaking of information that could endanger people. But they also understand that it is possible to provide that protection within a constitutional context.

Perhaps most importantly, they get that the best way to protect the First Amendment guarantee of a free press is to protect the Fourth Amendment guarantee of privacy. Journalists do not need—and should not seek—an array of special protections to do their jobs. But journalists and their sources do need to know that information can be shared without the threat of unwarranted—and self-serving—government surveillance of necessary conversations.

It is with this in mind that four very different members of Congress (Michigan Republican Justin Amash, South Carolina Republican Mick Mulvaney, California Democrat Zoe Lofgren and Colorado Democrat Jared Polis) have proposed a precise and appropriate response to the overreach by the Department of Justice. While the White House and key members of the Senate are backing a Shield Law, which protects journalists from being required to reveal sources, the House members are going deeper—to protect not just journalists but all citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” They seek a Telephone Records Protection Act, which requires court approval when the government demands telephone records from service providers.

“The Justice Department’s seizure of the AP’s phone records—likely without the sign-off of a single judge—raises serious First and Fourth Amendment concerns,” says Amash, who has emerged as a hero to libertarian-leaning conservatives. “Regardless of whether DOJ violates the legitimate privacy expectations of reporters or ordinary Americans, we deserve to know that the federal government can’t seize our records without judicial review.”

Polis, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, says, “Americans of all political stripes were shocked to find out that the Department of Justice had been accessing telephone records of reporters at the Associated Press. The Department of Justice claims that they operated within the confines of the law, which makes it abundantly clear that we need to provide a higher level of protection against government intrusion into an individual’s private records.”

This is an essential equation for all Americans who value the right to privacy outlined in the Fourth Amendment. But it is especially essential when it comes to constructing a press system that serves the intention expressed by the founders: to inform citizens so that they can, with their votes, steer the affairs of state.

This is what Thomas Jefferson recognized more than 227 years ago when he wrote to John Jay, “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”

In the same letter, Jefferson wrote: “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.”

Associated Press President Gary Pruitt updated the Jeffersonian premise when he explained that the Justice Department’s actions were not just “unconstitutional” but destructive to the public’s right to know, insofar as such monitoring of media makes sources less willing to talk to journalists and reduces the likelihood that citizens will learn what their government is up to.

“If they restrict that apparatus [of newsgathering about controversial government actions] the people of the United States will only know what the government wants them to know and that’s not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment,” explained the head of the country’s largest news service.

Pruitt’s right. No matter what action is taken, or not taken, journalists will continue to clog the corridors of the Capitol and crowd into White House press briefings. The question is whether those journalists will be present to challenge the status quo or as mere stenographers to power.

That’s a distinction that members of Congress who take seriously their oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States understand. Indeed, it is the distinction that James Madison, the essential player in the drafting of the core document and of the Bill of Rights, was getting at when he said, “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Justin Amash and Jared Polis are not going to agree on most issues. Neither are Mick Mulvaney and Zoe Lofgren.

But they can agree on the basic outlines of the American experiment and how it must operate.

This is as the founders of that experiment intended: a free press providing a free people with the information they need to be their own governors.

John Nichols is the author (with Robert w. McChesney) of the upcoming book Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America. Hailed by Publisher’s Weekly as “a fervent call to action for reformers,” it details how the collapse of journalism and the rise of big-money politics threatens to turn our democracy into a dollarocracy.

VIA

Read more: ‘Our Liberty Cannot Be Guarded but by the Freedom of the Press’ | The Nation http://www.thenation.com/blog/174450/our-liberty-cannot-be-guarded-freedom-press#ixzz2WjdF5PEe
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“Our Liberty Cannot Be Guarded but by the Freedom of the Press”


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Attorney General Eric Holder. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Democrats and Republicans working together in Washington to address abuses of basic liberties? Bipartisan responses to the challenges that arise in  the gray area where balances are struck between constitutional guarantees and national security demands? Impossible. Can’t happen. There is no way in these days of fury and scandal-mongering.

Actually, there is a way.

A genuine left-right coalition has developed over the past several days in response to the revelation that the Department of Justice seized Associated Press telephone records in its recent investigation of a CIA leak. And that coalition is likely to strengthen in light of the news that the DOJ investigated the reporting activities of Fox News’s chief Washington correspondent as a potential crime — “solicitation” of leaks. The latter development, in many senses more troubling than the former, calls into question whether basic protections for both reporters and whistleblowers are crumbling after more than a decade of Patriot Act abuses, Bush and Obama administration excesses and the politicization of debates about what were once accepted standards for protecting the public’s right to know and the privacy rights that underpin it.

In moments so rigorously partisan as these, many members of Congress will retreat to their corners, mounting attacks or making excuses. But there are some serious legislators, libertarian-leaning Republicans and progressive Democrats, who understand the urgency of the moment.

They get that the revelations about DOJ over-reach reveal a threat not just to freedom of the press but to the most necessary of press functions: the work of revealing for citizens the details of what their government is doing in their name but without their informed consent. None of these members are foolish or casual in their approach; they understand that it is necessary for the government to protect against the leaking of information that could endanger people. But they also understand that it is possible to provide that protection within a constitutional context.

Perhaps most importantly, they get that the best way to protect the First Amendment guarantee of a free press is to protect the Fourth Amendment guarantee of privacy. Journalists do not need — and should not seek — an array of special protections to do their jobs. But journalists and their sources do need to know that information can be shared without the threat of unwarranted — and self-serving — government surveillance of necessary conversations.

It is with this in mind that four very different members of Congress (Michigan Republican Justin Amash, South Carolina Republican Mick Mulvaney, California Democrat Zoe Lofgren and Colorado Democrat Jared Polis) have proposed a precise and appropriate response to the overreach by the Department of Justice. While the White House and key members of the Senate are backing a Shield Law, which protects journalists from being required to reveal sources, the House members are going deeper — to protect not just journalists but all citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” They seek a Telephone Records Protection Act, which requires court approval when the government demands telephone records from service providers.

“The Justice Department’s seizure of the AP’s phone records — likely without the sign-off of a single judge — raises serious First and Fourth Amendment concerns,” says Amash, who has emerged as a hero to libertarian-leaning conservatives. “Regardless of whether DOJ violates the legitimate privacy expectations of reporters or ordinary Americans, we deserve to know that the federal government can’t seize our records without judicial review.”

Polis, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, says, “Americans of all political stripes were shocked to find out that the Department of Justice had been accessing telephone records of reporters at the Associated Press. The Department of Justice claims that they operated within the confines of the law, which makes it abundantly clear that we need to provide a higher level of protection against government intrusion into an individual’s private records.”

This is an essential equation for all Americans who value the right to privacy outlined in the Fourth Amendment. But it is especially essential when it comes to constructing a press system that serves the intention expressed by the founders: to inform citizens so that they can, with their votes, steer the affairs of state.

This is what Thomas Jefferson recognized more than 227 years ago when he wrote to John Jay, “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”

In the same letter, Jefferson wrote: “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.”

Associated Press President Gary Pruitt updated the Jeffersonian premise when he explained that the Justice Department’s actions were not just “unconstitutional” but destructive to the public’s right to know, insofar as such monitoring of media makes sources less willing to talk to journalists and reduces the likelihood that citizens will learn what their government is up to.

“If they restrict that apparatus [of newsgathering about controversial government actions] the people of the United States will only know what the government wants them to know and that’s not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment,” explained the head of the country’s largest news service.

Pruitt’s right. No matter what action is taken, or not taken, journalists will continue to clog the corridors of the Capitol and crowd into White House press briefings. The question is whether those journalists will be present to challenge the status quo or as mere stenographers to power.

That’s a distinction that members of Congress who take seriously their oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States understand. Indeed, it is the distinction that James Madison, the essential player in the drafting of the core document and of the Bill of Rights, was getting at when he said, “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Justin Amash and Jared Polis are not going to agree on most issues. Neither are Mick Mulvaney and Zoe Lofgren.

But they can agree on the basic outlines of the American experiment and how it must operate.

This is as the founders of that experiment intended: a free press providing a free people with the information they need to be their own governors.

John Nichols is the author (with Robert w. McChesney) of the upcoming book Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America.  Hailed by  Publisher’s Weekly  as “a fervent call to action for reformers,” it details how the collapse of journalism and the rise of big-money politics threatens to turn our democracy into a dollarocracy.

via OpEdNews – Article: “Our Liberty Cannot Be Guarded but by the Freedom of the Press”.

The Obama administration has aggressively prosecuted leaks and whistleblowers. Who are they?


U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder claimed that theAP leak put U.S. lives at risk and demanded “very aggressive” method of investigation, reported the BBC.

Revelations this week of a secret Justice Department seizure of two months’ worth of phone records from The Associated Press are the latest flare up in tense relationship between the U.S. government and the media when it comes to whistleblowers.

The Obama administration’s legacy with access to information and whistleblowers has been contentious. While the administration claims it’s the “most transparent” in history, many critics accused the president of doublespeak on the issue, lauding whistleblowers with the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement act of November 2012 while aggressively prosecuting leaks at the same time.

According to a statement from the White House, the president’s office was not involved in the Justice Department’s request of the AP’s phone records, reported The Huffington Post.

According to The New York Times, the Obama administration has waged the most aggressive campaign against whistleblowers in U.S. history, responsible for six of the nine total indictments ever brought under the 1917 Espionage Act. See a brief timeline of the prosecutions assembled by the newspaper here, including the famous 1973 Pentagon Papers case.

Reporters Without Borders condemned the act as a “grave violation” of press freedom and argued that the Justice Department’s overstep signals the need for a federal shield law to protect journalists and their sources from government interference.

The Obama administration has six current and former government officials indicted on leak-related charges so far, reported The New York Times this morning. Here’s a list of them:

1. Shamai K. Leibowitz, 2009

Leibowitz, a former-FBI Hebrew translator, pleaded guilty to leaking classified information to Richard Silverstein who blogs at Tikun Olam, reported AlterNet. The translator passed 200 pages of transcribed conversations recorded by FBI wiretaps of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. Leibowitz was sentenced to up to 20 months in prison, according to The Washington Post.

2. Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, 2010

Kim was a nuclear proliferation expert working on a contract basis for the U.S. State Department when he was accused of leaking information about North Korea to Fox News.

The Justice Department claimed that Kim was the source behind Fox News journalist James Rosen’s 2009 report suggesting that the North would likely test another nuclear bomb in reaction to a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning its tests, reported AlterNet.

Kim pleaded not guilty to the charges. A Federal Grand Jury indicted him but the case has not gone to trial, according to The New York Times.

3. Thomas Drake, 2010

Drake worked as a senior executive at the National Security Agency when he was charged with “willful retention” of classified documents under the Espionage Act. He leaked information about government waste on digital data gathering technology to The Baltimore Sun, according to AlterNet.

At one point Drake faced up to 35 years in prison for several charges. Eventually, most of the charges were dropped and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for  “exceeding authorized use of a computer.” He was sentenced to one-year probation and community service.

4. Pfc. Bradley Manning, 2010

Probably the best known of the six under indictment, Manning was the source behind the WikiLeaks and CableGate information dumps. Critics accuse the government of dragging its feet and aggressively redacting requests for public information about the trial. One journalist opined that the Guantanamo military tribunals were more transparent.

Manning faces a court martial and a harsher sentence that could include life in prison without parole, reported The New York Times. AlterNet pointed out, however, that prosecutors would have to prove Manning released the documents with the intention of harming the U.S. to win those harsher charges, something Manning denies. His trial is set for next month, June 3.

5. Jeffery Sterling, 2010

Sterling, a former-CIA official, pleaded not guilty to leaking information to New York Times journalist James Risen regarding a failed U.S. attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. The information in question was published in Risen’s book “State of War.”

Risen successfully fought several subpoenas from the federal government to reveal his sources during Sterling’s trial, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The Justice Department announced in the summer of 2012 that it has “effectively terminated” the case, according to the Times.

6. John C. Kiriakou, 2012

One of the few prosecuted under the Espionage act to serve jail time, Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Jan. 25, 2013, for leaking classified information to the media. Kiriakou pleaded not guilty to releasing the name of an undercover CIA agent to a reporter and information about the intelligence agency’s use of waterboarding, a controversial interrogation technique.

Kiriakou is the first person successfully prosecuted under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in 27 years, according to the Times. The reporter the ex-CIA official spoke to did not publish the undercover agent’s name, although the Times pointed out that the agent’s identity appeared in a sealed legal filing and on an “obscure” website.

via The Obama administration has aggressively prosecuted leaks and whistleblowers. Who are they? | Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

Legal Group Launches to Aggressively Challenge US Government Prosecutions of Whistleblowers


A legal group of criminal defense attorneys has formed to combat what they describe as the FBI and Justice Department’s use of harassment and over-prosecution to chill and silence those who engage in journalism, Internet activism or dissent.

The group, the Whistleblower Defense League, will, according to attorney Jason Flores-Williams, defend individuals engaged in investigating the United States government and those who are “in positions to reveal truths about this government and its relationships with other governments and corporations.”

The founding members include Internet rights attorney Jay Leiderman, Dennis Roberts, an attorney who is a veteran of the civil rights movement and  Flores-Williams, who is now involved in representing online activists targeted by the government’s investigation into activist and former self-proclaimed spokesperson for Anonymous, Barrett Brown.

Attorneys in the group come from an “activist tradition,” according to Flores-Williams. They have decided to form this group to defend truth-tellers and dissenters because they identify with these people. They think many of the people being subjected to over-prosecution or prosecutorial abuses of power are heroes. “We’re going to pull out every stop and use every vector available us – media and constitutionally in the courts – to defend them.” And they intend to take on not only whistleblower cases but also the cases of journalists and activists facing prosecution.

Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who is a part of the defense team for WikiLeaks, said in reaction to the formation of this group, “Every effort that focuses on the defense of  whistleblowers, internet free speech activists, publishers and others persecuted by the US government is to be applauded.  This group joins the many other members of the criminal defense bar as well as non-profits such as Electronic Frontier Foundation and Government Accountability Project, who are already defending those accused of shining light on the dark secrets of government and corporations.”

Flores-Williams acknowledges there are other organizations doing necessary work on behalf of whistleblowers and activists, “Everyone who is out [there] trying to defend whistleblowers and activists and those who engage in dissent are heroes and are doing great work.” Yet, he adds this legal group is forming because there is more attention the legal community needs to be giving to what the government is doing to go after these individuals. There needs to be “aggressive forms of litigation.”

For example, he explains that this afternoon he submitted a motion to quash a government subpoena in the Brown investigation. The government subpoenaed content delivery network and domain name server service, CloudFlare, for information about a domain. The group was contacted because the government is using the case to “virally subpoena” information “about online activists around the world by using the Barrett Brown case as justification.” They want details on domain names that used so “people who used the domain names that Barrett Brown was associated with I now represent.”

This is what needs to be done and the type of legal action will he be looking to do. Flores-Williams adds that they intend to get in the middle of this activity by prosecutors to abuse power and go after data and information in ways that violate the First Amendment, violate basic due process rights and fundamentally invade privacy.

With the zealous prosecutions of Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide in January, and Pfc. Bradley Manning, who recently took responsibility in a military court for disclosing information to WikiLeaks, the government is “sending a message to everyone about stepping into the role of revealing truths about power structure,” Flores declares.

“The Whistleblower Defense League and organizations like it are very important to let potential whistleblowers know they have a support network in case of retribution from the government,” Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation states. “They can help mitigate the chilling effect from the recent increase of prosecutions of whistleblowers who have leaked information to the press. Hopefully, the Whistleblower Defense League can give whistleblowers any added encouragement they need to step forward if they witness wrongdoing or corruption in government.”

Flores-Williams concludes, “The greatest threat to democracy is the unchecked power of prosecutors,” on both the state and federal level. “These people have the mindset that there is always some threat to the United States that they have to be going after. Prosecutors are very simple people: they believe blindly in executing the law. They don’t share that there is a human being on the other side.” In 1850, they would prosecute a slave who escaped from Mississippi so “the law can be on the wrong side” and they do not always represent justice.

As someone who regularly covers cases of activists, whistleblowers and even journalists whom the Justice Department is targeting, it is refreshing to see a group form that is willing to inject some more spirit into the struggle to defend those who exercise their rights, challenge government policies, expose misconduct or wrongdoing and then wind up being subjected to the politics of personal destruction, which so many US prosecutors appear to be embracing these days.

The Justice Department seems to have plenty of zeal and commitment to go after activists like Swartz or Brown, to target whistleblowers like CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou or NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake or to even attempt to go after someone engaged in journalism, as in the case of Matthew Keys, who worked on social media for Reuters and was recently indicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act over past work he did on Anonymous.

However, the Department does not have much zeal at all when it comes after going after criminals in government who authorize and engage in torture, a war crime, and attempt to cover up their involvement by destroying evidence. They aren’t interested in making examples out of individuals contractors like Blackwater who violate weapons laws and smuggle arms, engage in obstruction of justice when under investigation or murder innocent civilians in Iraq. They certainly seem to have trouble cobbling together a case—trouble they wouldn’t have if they pursue an activist or whistleblower—when bank executives commit financial fraud at “too big to fail” corporations and face no criminal penalty.

The work of defense attorneys to combat the trend in law enforcement to use the surveillance state to investigate activists and whistleblowers and then pass information on to the Justice Department for targeting is more important than ever. And the more groups there are out there vigorously defending victims of prosecutorial misconduct and abuses of government power, the better off citizens in this society will be.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, WHISTLEBLOWERS, SURVEILLANCE STATE, MICHAEL RATNER, TREVOR TIMM, MATTHEW KEYS, JAY LEIDERMAN, BARRETT BROWN, WHISTLEBLOWER DEFENSE LEAGUE

via Legal Group Launches to Aggressively Challenge US Government Prosecutions of Whistleblowers | The Dissenter.

via Legal Group Launches to Aggressively Challenge US Government Prosecutions of Whistleblowers | The Dissenter.

The Justice System


I guess the above cartoon sums up not just the justice system in the US but Europe as well.

Ask yourself the question how many Banking criminals are being jailed?

Goldman Sachs and Accounting Control Fraud


Goldman Sachs and Accounting Control Fraud

We know that leading up to the Great Financial Crisis Goldman Sachs used Accounting Control Fraud to make big profits for itself and its executives.  Unfortunately, the fraud has been overlooked by both the White House and the Department of Justice in the interests of the banks’ not failing.  It does not seem to matter that millions of ordinary people have lost their pensions and savings because of this banks’ actions.

Here’s another reminder of what accounting control fraud looks like:

http://www.goldmansachs666.com/

Goldman Sachs: Doing “God’s Work” by inflicting the Wages of Sin Globally

By William K. Black

The central point that I want to stress as a white-collar criminologist and effective financial regulator is that Goldman Sachs is not a singular “rotten apple” in a healthy bushel of banks.  Goldman Sachs is the norm for systemically dangerous institutions (SDIs) (the so-called “too big to fail” banks).  Impunity from the laws, crony capitalism that degrades democracy, and massive national subsidies produce exceptionally criminogenic environments.  Those environments are so perverse that they produce epidemics of “control fraud.”  Control fraud occurs when the persons who control a seemingly legitimate entity use it as a “weapon” to defraud.  In finance, accounting is the “weapon of choice.”  It is important to remember, however, that other forms of control fraud maim and kill thousands.

Large, individual accounting control frauds cause greater financial losses than all other forms of property crime – combined.  Accounting control frauds are weapons of mass financial destruction.  One of the crippling flaws of the World Economic Forum (WEF) is ignoring private sector control frauds.  Control fraud makes a mockery of “stakeholder” theory.  Accounting control fraud, for example, aims its stake at the heart of its stakeholders.  The principal intended victims are the shareholders and the creditors (which includes the workers).  Other forms of control fraud primarily target the customers.  If the WEF wishes to effectively protect stakeholders it is imperative that they undertake a sea change and make the detection, prevention, and sanctioning of control fraud one of their central priorities.  WEF does the opposite, it wishes away fraud with propaganda because the alternative is to admit that many of its dominant participants are the central problem – they are degrading the state of the world.  In 2012, in response to endemic, elite financial frauds, the WEF declared the following without citation or reasoning in its 2012 report on “Rethinking Financial Innovation.”

6.1.1 Consumer Disservice

Malfeasance and outright fraud [in finance] are extraordinarily damaging but also, fortunately, extremely rare.

This passage Report demonstrates that WEF was unable to escape its dogmas and conduct a fundamental rethinking of what caused the crisis.  In a criminogenic environment fraud is common, not “rare.”  That is an empirical fact if one has competent investigators.  The national commission to investigate the savings and loan debacle found that control fraud was “invariably” present “at the typical large failure.”  We obtained over 1000 felony convictions in cases designated as “major” by the Justice Department.  The (2001) Nobel Laureate in Economics, George Akerlof and Paul Romer published their classic article in 1993 entitled “Looting: the Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit” explaining accounting control fraud.  Akerlof and Romer emphasized five points:

They had supplied the missing economic theory of control fraud, so economists no longer had an excuse for ignoring such frauds

The regulators in the field recognized that deregulation was “bound” to create widespread fraud because it created a criminogenic environment in which fraud paid

Accounting control fraud was a “sure thing” – if lenders followed the fraud “recipe” three results were certain: (a) the bank would promptly report record (albeit fictional) profits, (b) the controlling officers would promptly be made wealthy by modern executive compensation, and (c) the bank would suffer catastrophic losses

If many banks in the same area followed the same strategy the result would hyper-inflate a bubble and delay loss recognition because bad loans could be refinanced, and

Now that we had an economic theory confirming that the field regulators had gotten it right from the beginning the economists could prevent future fraud epidemics if they supported the regulators rather than pushing deregulation

The accounting control fraud recipe for a lender has four “ingredients”:

Grow like crazy by

Making really crappy loans at a premium yield, while

Employing extreme leverage, and

Providing only trivial reserves for the inevitable, massive loan losses

Akerlof had identified another control fraud variant – anti-purchaser fraud – in his seminal article on markets for “lemons.”  He identified a critical principle in that article – the “Gresham’s” dynamic.  Akerlof explained that if a seller gained a competitive advantage over his honest competitors through fraud market forces would become perverse and “bad ethics would drive good ethics from the marketplace.”

WEF has been acting for decades to make banking criminogenic.  They have pushed the three “de’s” – deregulation, desupervision, and de facto decriminalization.  They have favored executive compensation systems.  They have pushed for ease of entry.  And they have spread the myth that fraud by corporate elites is “rare.”  WEF has optimized the intensely criminogenic environments that produce recurrent, intensifying fraud epidemics, bubbles, and financial crises.

WEF’s complacency about accounting control fraud has led to its embarrassing failures in finance.  It’s “competitiveness” scales and “financial market development” scales have praised the most criminogenic financial systems – Iceland, Ireland, the UK, the U.S., and Spain – even as the largest banks in those Nations were (in reality) destroyed along with the much of the national economy.  Similarly, the WEF’s “global risks” series has proven unable to identify the major financial risks until the hurricane has roared through the system.  The central problems are the same – the WEF “stakeholder” premise and the WEF’s domination by powerful corporations is an elaborate propaganda apparatus that assumes away the reality of how CEOs running control frauds use compensation (and the power to hire, promote, and fire) and political power to deliberately create the perverse incentives that produce widespread fraud.  The irony is that the WEF’s dogmas have encouraged elite frauds to drive stakes through the stakeholders.

http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2013/01/goldman-sachs-doing-gods-work-by-inflicting-the-wages-of-sin-globally.html

Judge orders the FBI to explain their Internet spy plans — RT


The FBI has been adamant about withholding information about their plans to ensure the government can access any encrypted emails or messages sent over the Internet, but now a federal judge says the agency needs to come clean.

US District Judge Richard Seeborg took the side of the Electronic Frontier Foundation this week in a case that’s been disputed back and forth between Pennsylvania Avenue and Silicon Valley for years. Washington hopes to eventually roll out a program that will see that the FBI and other federal agencies are allowed backdoor access to any and all online communications. So far, though, they’ve managed to make much of the so-called “Going Dark” program a matter that’s shielded from interested parties, namely the EFF and other Internet activists. On Tuesday, Judge Seeborg agreed with the plaintiffs that the Justice Department has been not exactly accommodating with Freedom of Information Act paperwork filed by the San Francisco-based non-profit, and said the FBI and other federal agencies will have to go back and reassess those requests, ordering a “further review of the materials previously withheld.”

The EFF has on at least two occasions filed FOIA requests for info on the secretive surveillance blueprints the FBI has drafted, but the response have been scant at best. Judge Seeborg now rules that the DoJ will have to examine their annals once again for information, as their responses to the requests so far have been insincere.

“T]he Government is directed to conduct a further review of the materials previously withheld as non-responsive. In conducting such review, the presumption should be that information located on the same page, or in close proximity to undisputedly responsive material is likely to qualify as information that in ‘any sense sheds light on, amplifies, or enlarges upon’ the plainly responsive material, and that it should therefore be produced, absent an applicable exemption,” the judge ruled, according to court papers first spotted by CNet.

The two requests in particular that will have to be reassessed relate to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, a 1994 law that Judge Seeborg says was “designed to aid law enforcement efforts to conduct surveillance of digital telephone networks.” After nearly 20 years on the books, though, the EFF argues that law enforcement officers across the charts have wanted updated additions to the legislation, particularly because FBI Director Robert Mueller has told the US Senate as recently as September, “We must ensure that our ability to obtain communications pursuant to court order is not eroded,” because many companies “are not required to build or maintain intercept capabilities.”

We want to “be able to obtain those communications,” Mueller said during a May hearing on Capitol Hill. “What we’re looking at is some form of legislation that will assure that when we get the appropriate court order that those individuals — individual companies are served with that order do have the capability and the capacity to respond to that order.”

The EFF fears that the Justice Department is asking for amendments to the CALEA that

would “require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters, social networking websites, and “peer to peer” messaging services — to be technically capable of complying with wiretap orders, including being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.” What they actual are asking for remains up for debate, however, as those FOIA requests have been all but ignored.

When the Criminal Division of the DoJ decided to respond to the EFF, they said they found 8,425 pages of “potentially responsive information.” What they returned, however, was hardly that. “It ultimately released one page in full and 6 pages in part, and withheld 51 pages in full. DOJ also referred approximately 500 pages of potentially responsive information to other agencies for processing and possible production to plaintiff,” Judge Seeborg writes.

Both sides have been given 15 days by the judge to “meet and confer to negotiate a timetable for the FBI to complete” its revisions.

“It’s nice to have a court say the government can’t do that,” EFF staff attorney Jennifer Lynch tells CNet’s Declan McCullagh, adding that the judge’s ruling shows that the Justice Department now is required “to make an effort” to comply with the FOIA.

via Judge orders the FBI to explain their Internet spy plans — RT.

via Judge orders the FBI to explain their Internet spy plans — RT.

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