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Halliburton admits Gulf data charge


Halliburton Energy Services has agreed to plead guilty to destroying evidence in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the US Department of Justice has said.

Federal officials said that a criminal information charging Halliburton with one count of destruction of evidence was filed in federal court.

Halliburton has agreed to pay the maximum fine, be on probation for three years and continue to co-operate with the government’s criminal investigation, said the news release, which did not specify the fine amount. The Texas-based company has also made a voluntary 55 million dollar (£35 million) contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Halliburton was oil giant BP’s cement contractor on the drilling rig that exploded after a well blow-out, killing 11 workers and spilling millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.

Around May 2010, the company directed a programme manager “to run two computer simulations of the Macondo well final cementing job using Halliburton’s Displace 3D simulation programme to compare the impact of using six versus 21 centralisers”, the news release said.

Halliburton recommended to BP the use of 21 centralisers in the well, but BP decided to use six instead, said the news release. The simulations indicated there was little difference between using six and 21 centralisers, but the programme manager “was directed to, and did, destroy these results”, federal officials say.

Similar evidence was destroyed in a subsequent incident in June 2010, said the Justice Department.

The news release said: “Efforts to forensically recover the original destroyed Displace 3D computer simulations during ensuing civil litigation and federal criminal investigation by the Deepwater Horizon Task Force were unsuccessful. In agreeing to plead guilty, Halliburton has accepted criminal responsibility for destroying the aforementioned evidence.”

The plea agreement and criminal charge both arise from a criminal investigation by the Deepwater Horizon Task Force. Halliburton and BP have blamed each other for the failure of the cement job to seal the Macondo well.

During a trial, BP asked a federal judge to sanction Halliburton for allegedly destroying evidence about the role that its cement slurry design could have played in the blow-out. The company announced in April it was trying to negotiate a settlement over its role in the disaster.

Press Association

via Halliburton admits Gulf data charge – Independent.ie.

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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Watchdog Groups Decry Obama Limits on Whistle-Blowers


Open-government advocates said a proposed U.S. rule that could lead to more federal jobs being classified as sensitive may also make it easier to fire federal whistle-blowers.

The Government Accountability Project and the Project on Government Oversight said the draft rule, published in the Federal Register today, was premature as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit weighs whether employees in “sensitive” jobs have the same rights to appeal termination as other federal workers.

The proposed rule from the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of Personnel Management “dramatically expands the use of this label of sensitive to apply to a great number of jobs,” said Angela Canterbury, director of public policy for the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington-based watchdog group.

Workers who don’t have security clearances can now appeal their termination to the Merit Systems Protection Board, an independent federal agency whose chairman is picked by the president.

The Government Accountability Project said the rule could classify public-safety workers, border patrol agents, foreign service officials and other federal workers as holding sensitive positions.

If the court decides that workers in sensitive jobs don’t have the same ability to appeal termination, then it may make it easier for administrations to fire employees who leak information to the press or attempt to expose corruption and mismanagement, Canterbury said.

Fox, AP

“The current regulations are now 20 years old and provide only general guidance,” the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of Personnel Management said in a joint e-mail response to questions today. “The new regulations will clarify the requirements and procedures agencies should follow when designating national security positions, by providing more detail and concrete examples.”

A White House spokesman didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for a comment on the rule.

Earlier this month, U.S. lawmakers criticized the administration of President Barack Obama for subpoenaing phone records of Associated Press reporters after the news service published a story about a foiled terrorist plot that originated in Yemen. The Department of Justice also disclosed earlier this month that it subpoenaed the phone records and e-mails of a Fox News reporter in a leak investigation.

First Amendment groups have also condemned the administration’s indictments of five government workers for leaking information under a World War I-era spy law.

“There couldn’t be a more sweeping roll back on the rule of law for the federal labor force,” Tom Devine, legal director for the Government Accountability Project, said in an interview.

via Watchdog Groups Decry Obama Limits on Whistle-Blowers – Bloomberg.

“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”.

A Conspiracy To Commit Journalism: The Justice Dept’s Dangerous New Argument Threatens Basic Reporting


Last night, the Washington Post reported on a little known leak case involving former State Department official Stephen Kim. In an alarming new extreme, the Justice Department and FBI argue there’s “probable cause to believe” Fox News reporter James Rosen “has committed or is committing a violation of [the Espionage Act], as an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator” by soliciting information from Kim for a story.

While Rosen remains unindicted, the consequences of this argument are breathtaking.

As secrecy expert Steven Aftergood wrote, the government’s argument “all but eliminates the traditional distinction in classified leak investigations between sources, who are bound by a non-disclosure agreement, and reporters, who are protected by the First Amendment as long as they do not commit a crime.” Aftergood continued, “What makes this alarming is that ‘soliciting’ and ‘encouraging’ the disclosure of classified information are routine, daily activities in national security reporting.”

Nothing Rosen did is out of the ordinary for good reporters, as New Yorker‘sRyan Lizza pointed out when referencing the alleged ways Rosen communicated with his source: “If James Rosen’s ‘clandestine communications plan’ were illegal, every journalist in Washington would be locked up. Unreal.”

While these new revalations are certainly disturbing, contrary to popular belief, they are not unprecedented. First, as Glenn Greenwald documented today (and has been documenting for years), this is the same argument the Justice Department has been using in their attempt to indict WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

This is why it’s always been so important for journalists to aggressively stand up for WikiLeaks’ rights. A WikiLeaks conviction would mean that the next ‘co-conspirator’—a.k.a. ‘journalist with a scoop’—may very well face indictment.

But the most starking parallel to this case comes in a new book by former New York Times chief counsel James Goodale, which details how the Nixon administration once convened a secret grand jury to indict New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan and his wife, New Yorker staff writer Susan Sheehan, for obtaining and copying the Pentagon Papers from Dan Ellsberg.

Goodale recounted the near miss in the Daily Beast in 2011:

In 1971, after Nixon had lost the Pentagon Papers case in the Supreme Court, he desperately wanted to bring criminal charges against the Times. Attorney General John Mitchell first went to U.S. Attorney Whitney North Seymour Jr. in New York and asked him to indict the Times. When Seymour refused, a grand jury was convened in Boston, where the prosecutors eventually dragged virtually every journalist and anti-war academic in the Cambridge area to court using subpoenas. The Justice Department wanted to know exactly who knew of the Pentagon Papers before they were released and how they ended up at the New York Times

The scope of the investigation was extraordinarily broad, yet this episode, besides in Goodale’s new book and 2011 article, has largely been lost in the history books, despite the many well-known names that were dragged into court to testify (though almost all of them refused):

A Who’s Who of Boston-based reporters and anti-war activists were then forced to testify, including New York Times reporter David Halberstam, anti-war activists Noam ChomskyHoward Zinn, and two senatorial aides to Mike Gravel and Ted Kennedy. Harvard Professor Samuel Popkin would even serve a week in jail for refusing to testify as to his sources, citing the First Amendment right to keep them confidential.

Perhaps the most amazing part of this story, recounted in much more detail in Goodale’s book, is that the Times was so sure that Sheehan would be indicted for ‘conspiracy to commit espionage’ that New York Times publisher drew up a statement condemning the indictment that never appeared. The statement, published in full for the first time in Goodale’s book, reads in part:

“The indictment of Neil Sheehan for doing his job as a reporter strikes not just at one man and one newspaper but at the whole institution of the press of the United States. In deciding to seek Mr. Sheehan’s indictment, the administration in effect has challenged the right of free newspapers to search out and publish essential information without harassment and intimidation.”

Those words ring true today whether we’re talking about Fox News’ James Rosen, WikiLeaks, or any of the other media organizations now at risk because of this draconian and out-of-control war on leaks.

As Goodale put it, “conspiracy to commit espionage” can more accurately be characterized as “conspiracy to commit journalism.” You can buy Goodale’s book here.

UPDATE: Fox News just released a statement defending its reporter James Rosen and it bears a striking resemblance to Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger’s unpublished statement above from 43 years ago. It reads:

“We are outraged to learn today that James Rosen was named a criminal co-conspirator for simply doing his job as a reporter. In fact, it is downright chilling. We will unequivocally defend his right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press.”

Anonymous ‘spokesperson’ to spend year in jail without trial


Does Democracy and Justice still apply in the USA?

The federal trial against alleged computer criminal Barrett Brown has been delayed by six months. Now the activist once called the “spokesperson” of the Anonymous hacker movement will wait in prison for one full year before being tried.

Brown, 31, was scheduled to stand trial later this month for a slew of charges that have handed down in three separate indictments filed by the government since last September. Per the request of his attorneys, however, legal proceedings have been pushed back for six months, delaying the trial until September 2013.

Doug Morris, a public defender appointed to serve as Brown’s defense counsel, asked for an extension in order to evaluate the evidence against his client, the Associate Press reports. US District Judge Sam Lindsay obliged on Wednesday this week.

The AP adds that Brown’s trial for one indictment is now slated for September 3, 2013, with trials for his second and third indictments scheduled to start on Sept. 23. Brown was arrested on Sept. 12 last year and has been in law enforcement custody for the nearly six months since.

The AP describes Brown as having Brown “once served as de facto spokesman for Anonymous, a shadowy movement that has gotten attention for cyberattacks,” although he says he’s never represented himself as such. Although Brown has aligned himself with the Anonymous movement on several occasions in the past and have spoken broadly on matters relating to the group, he wrote from prison last year, “I am not and never have been the spokesman for Anonymous, nor its ‘public face’ or, worse, ‘self-proclaimed’ ‘face’ or ‘spokesperson’ or ‘leader.’”

Brown’s legal issues began last March when FBI agents raided his Dallas, Texas home with search warrants for computers that contained information pertaining to, among other things, the Anonymous collective, offshoot LulzSec and a number of private businesses that were investigated by both groups as well as Brown’s own Project PM, an independent think-tank he designed in part “to develop new methods by which to use the internet for positive change and to encourage others to adapt such methods.”

One day after the March 2012 raid, Brown wrote the FBI “fully intended to take a certain laptop, and did” when the feds raided his mother’s house shortly after the first incident. He also said that federal agents threatened both he and his mother with conspiracy to obstruct justice for the next few months, spawning Brown to lash out at the FBI in a series of YouTube videos and Twitter posts created in September 2012.

“I know what’s legal, I know what’s been done to me… And if it’s legal when it’s done to me, it’s going to be legal when it’s done to FBI Agent Robert Smith — who is a criminal,” claimed Brown in one of the clips uploaded to the Web. “That’s why Robert Smith’s life is over. And when I say his life is over, I’m not saying I’m going to kill him, but I am going to ruin his life and look into his fucking kids… How do you like them apples?”

Hours after that video was uploaded to the Web, a SWAT team raided Brown’s Dallas, Texas apartment and placed him in custody for nearly one month before he was charged with threatening a federal officer. Once behind bars, though, Brown’s legal issues escalated.

While in custody, the Justice Department unsealed two separate indictments against Brown: In December, Brown was charged with sharing an Internet hyperlink that contained over 5,000 credit card account numbers, the card holders’ identification information and the authentication features for the cards.  One month later, Brown was charged with obstructing justice by “knowingly and corruptly conceal and attempt to conceal records, documents, and digital data contained on two laptop computers,” as he hinted at nearly one year earlier.

Attorney Jay Leiderman, who is not representing Brown in this case, wrote on his personal blog when the third indictment was unsealed that the hacktivist could face a century in prison if convicted on all counts.

“He is alleged to have made threatening YouTube videos aimed at the FBI agent that raided his home, he is alleged to have shared a link that contained credit card and access information, and he supposedly hid laptops when the FBI came-a-knocking. That’s right, that sorta stuff could cost you 100 years these days,” he wrote.

Brown is alleged to have shared a link to the credit card details in a chat room after seeing it posted in another. The trove of data contained within the link related to subscriber data pilfered by Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, a private intelligence company hacked by Anonymous in December 2011. Thousands of emails obtained in that compromise were later given to the whistleblower website WikIleaks and have been subsequently published online.

Upon release of the credit card numbers, Brown disavowed the hack. He said, “Stratfor was not breached in order to obtain customer credit card numbers, which the hackers in question could not have expected to be as easily obtainable as they were. Rather, the operation was pursued in order to obtain the 2.7 million e-mails that exist on the firm’s servers.”

Jeremy Hammond, a hacker and activist from Chicago, has been behind bars for over one year while awaiting trial for charges relating to the Stratfor hack. Federal proscutors say he spearheaded the hack as a member of the groups Anonymous and LulzSec. He stands to face the rest of his life in prison if convicted.e

via Anonymous ‘spokesperson’ to spend year in jail without trial — RT USA.

via Anonymous ‘spokesperson’ to spend year in jail without trial — RT USA.

The Miracle Product That Cures Degenerative Entitlement Syndrome!


The Miracle Product That Cures Degenerative Entitlement Syndrome! 

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“You might have noticed that there is an increasingly massive industry in our country that sells something called “financial products”.  This industry now comprises close to 40% of our economy.  What is a financial product, you ask?  It is the most amazing, miracle invention known to humankind! You can buy one of these financial products and then just wait – go on a vacation, do your nails, play golf – while doing absolutely nothing productive.  And when you come back you find that your financial product has disgorged free money! You don’t even have to water it!”

During last year’s presidential election, Dr. Willard M. Romney diagnosed a previously unrecognized epidemic illness that is eating away at the moral foundations of our country.  Romney was the first medical scientist to grasp that 47% of our citizens have been transformed into an army of zombie parasites now known to the experts as “moochers.”  The moochers have been infected with DES, Degenerative Entitlement Syndrome, a 21st century plague whose victims live lives solely devoted to sucking funds from the bank accounts of decent people.   Not one to sit idly by while an invasive undead horde saps and impurifies our precious bodily fluids, Dr. Romney attempted to sound the national alarm about the moocher scourge.  But alas, he was ahead of his time.  The country was not yet ready to hear his bracing but prescient DES warning.

Moochers might appear normal, but don’t be fooled by appearances!  While these bloodsuckers are seemingly busy changing bedpans, waxing the floor at your office, serving up stacks of pancakes at Denny’s and standing in long lines to beg abjectly for “jobs’, they are all the while draining our hard-won and well-merited wealth.  A tell-tale symptom of DES is that while moochers pay all kinds of sales taxes, payroll taxes and government fees just like the rest of us, they don’t pay any income taxes.  Imagine!  No income taxes!   The DES sufferer will tell you that the absence of income tax obligations is somehow related to the moocher’s extreme deficiency in actual income.  A likely story!

Moochery is the new leprosy.  Its victims cannot be cured, but only isolated from the rest of us by being cut off from access to lobbyists, fund-raising dinners, Justice Department cronies, voting booths, think tank idea moguls, astroturfing consultants, and all the other instruments by means of which normal, healthy people influence the direction of government and society.  They must even be cut off from access to regular, remunerative employment.  Economists are now helping the cause by gradually redefining the natural rate of unemployment upward to take the profusion of unemployable moochers into account.  It is expected that by 2021, the country will have become quite comfortable with workforce participation rates of 50% or less.

But what hope is there for the rest of us?  If Degenerative Entitlement Syndrome can’t be cured, can it at least be prevented?  Scientists now know the answer is – yes!  And the urgently needed prophylaxis has lain within our grasp all along.  A common, widely-sold product that is available to almost all worthy and non-mooching people with a respectable amount of money in the bank can keep DES at bay indefinitely.

What is this marvelous treatment?  You might have noticed that there is an increasingly massive industry in our country that sells something called “financial products”.  This industry now comprises close to 40% of our economy.  What is a financial product, you ask?  It is the most amazing, miracle invention known to humankind! You can buy one of these financial products and then just wait – go on a vacation, do your nails, play golf – while doing absolutely nothing productive.  And when you come back you find that your financial product has disgorged free money! You don’t even have to water it!

Where does the money come from? Hardly anyone really knows! The person who sold the financial product probably doesn’t know; and certainly the person who bought the financial product doesn’t know.   (A hysterical rumor has been spread that some of these financial products derive their cash flows from the work of some of the moochers themselves; but economists have now proven this manifestly ridiculous theory to be unambiguously false.)  What we do know is that the money is 100% deserved.  And that makes financial products the perfect barrier to fend off the DES virus and the onset of acute moochitis.

But what are financial products made of, you ask? What hidden quintessence produces these glorious emanations of lucre? So far as scientists have been able to discern, financial products are mostly derivative products that come from other financial products!  And the best thing about these money-engendering financial products is that to buy most of them you are required to have a lot of money already. So the more money you have the more money you are able to get. Just buy a financial product, sit back and enjoy the spontaneous money ejaculations!

Financial products have been shown to have all sorts of salubrious psychological effects. Doctors have shown that the mere ownership of financial products causes their owners to develop extremely high levels of self-esteem and unshakable convictions of personal merit. Even though the owners of financial products might do nothing productive, they become resolutely convinced that the effort they put into deciding which financial products to buy is in itself a form of meritorious personal industry.  The ability to buy and sell lucrative financial products with a rapidity exceeding the perceptual thresholds of naked eye vision is viewed by their owners as the most exalted of all human occupations.  Also, staring into one’s financial products sometimes induces the same kinds of transcendent experiences and levels of higher consciousness others have attained from close concentration on mandalas and lava lamps.

The owners of financial products also develop contempt for the meaner and more productive occupations in life, which is no doubt good for their health as it makes them avoid all kinds of physical hazards, toxic industrial environments, and muscular stresses and strains (unrelated to golfing).  Indeed, the shrewd owner of financial products acquires the belief that the very fact that their discernment is more keen than others, to the degree that they are able to bathe in fountains of money without expending the kinds of labor others must undertake to enjoy much smaller trickles, is proof positive of their ordained desert. The fact that others demonstrably lack those rare combinations of personal qualities that make a person a discerning purchaser of financial products, and so must work for a living instead, only convinces the owner of financial products that work is a barbarous vestigial habit of the undeserving undermasses.

But isn’t the psychological conviction that one deserves flows of money that are not derived in any measurable way from one’s own productive contribution to society, and that seem to come from magically reproducing money alone, a sense of entitlement?  The effects of financial product ownership seem disturbingly similar to the moochachondriacal symptoms of DES, do they not?  If I own some financial products and feel entitled to their monetary discharges, how do I know that I am not suffering from DES myself?

The effects may look similar on the surface, but don’t be fooled by these false positives in self-administered DES tests!  Just as in the case of cholesterol, scientists have learned to distinguish “good” entitlement from “bad” entitlement.   The technical names are “1-alpha entitlement” and “86-zeta entitlement”, but let us not be sidetracked by jargon.  Bad entitlement is the kind of entitlement one feels when one thinks one is entitled to a decent life in exchange for a willingness to work to the best of one’s abilities, given the natural gifts one possesses, however meager, and given the opportunities for work that one’s society has offered.  Bad entitlement is the entitlement of the DES-afflicted moocher.  Good entitlement is that kind of entitlement one experiences from the assurance of one’s own cleverness in the buying and idle owning of financial products.  (1-alpha entitlement is closely related to the other members of the alpha family of entitlement experiences, such as 800-alpha entitlement: the entitlement feelings that flow from having high SAT scores; and 10-alpha entitlement: the sense of entitlement that derives from being totally hot.)

As Martin Luther King said, “The course of the moral universe is long, but bends toward justice!”  If King was right, then there is no doubt that Willard Romney will eventually receive his just due from the world: a Noble Prize in medicine for his studies in the identification and treatment of Degenerative Entitlement Syndrome.  He has already been nominated for other prizes, including the Eric Holder memorial Too Big to Bother lifetime prosecution exemption award from the US Justice Department.  And yet, what if King was wrong?  Well, Romney is already an accomplished virtuoso in the buying and ownership of financial products, so his real reward will remain the quiet, inward assurance of his own awesomeness, and the enjoyment of his 100% merited 1-alpha entitlement.  Dr. King, on the other hand, is not known to have possessed any noteworthy skills in the acquisition and holding of financial products.  So really, who cares what he thought?

via The Miracle Product That Cures Degenerative Entitlement Syndrome! – New Economic Perspectives.

via The Miracle Product That Cures Degenerative Entitlement Syndrome! – New Economic Perspectives.

Why I let Wall Street walk


Justice Department prosecutor Lanny Breuer gives an unapologetic exit interview to Dealbook

Assistant Attorney General of the U.S. Justice Department‘s Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer (Credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott)

I’ve never seen as relatively unheralded an official as the head of the criminal division at the Justice Department get so many exit interviews in national newspapers.  But Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, who’s retiring to spend more time with his family at white-shoe law firms on Wall Street, has been given multiple chances to make a last impression.  When you spend nearly four years and fail to prosecute anyone of significance for the financial crisis that caused millions of foreclosures, layoffs and a giant hole in the economy that has still not been papered over, I guess you need your pals in the establishment to help you plead your case.

This interview with the New York Times’ Dealbook (sponsored today by the financial firm Allianz) is no different. As a prelude, he gets a commendation from former Attorney General and current corporate lawyer Michael Mukasey (always good to have the lawyer from the other side of the table, defending those you could have but chose not to prosecute, praising your work). He gets phantom criticism from unnamed members of “the Occupy Wall Street crowd” and “Rolling Stone magazine,” a reference to Matt Taibbi. There’s no easier way to marginalize critics than to refuse to name them.

Breuer talks about his hardscrabble upbringing and his selfless decision to enter public service as a junior district attorney in Manhattan (we know it was selfless because he told us about it himself). In the same interview, he proudly says how constantly walking through the revolving door from government law enforcement to corporate firms makes him a “better private lawyer,” and how he’s going to look at all kinds of offers rather than just settling for Covington & Burling, the corporate firm where he (and Attorney General Eric Holder) last worked.  The humble-bragging here is a bit unsightly.

But the big question on everyone’s minds is, why hasn’t Wall Street paid a price for its conduct that exploded the economy. And here’s his non-answer.

I can tell you that I assigned the top, most talented attorneys to investigate them, and I know that U.S. Attorneys’ offices across the country assigned aggressive prosecutors to these cases as well.  I assigned people from my fraud section and my own front office to look at them.  And I approached these cases exactly the same way I approached BP, the same way I approached Libor, the same way I approach every case. If there had been a case to make, we would have brought it. I would have wanted nothing more, but it doesn’t work that way.

Well, that answers that. He assigned people. Never mind the fact that the central complaint of both the financial fraud enforcement unit and the year-old securitization task force announced by the president has been that they lacked resources. Former Sen. Ted Kaufman and his chief of staff Jeff Connaughton consistently complained of no legitimate investigations at the financial fraud unit. And for months upon months, the securitization task force, the one co-chaired by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, had no staff, no phones and no offices. The lack of assignments, as it were, was a central problem.  Despite years of working on a settlement for the biggest banks on their illegal foreclosure processing, the only actual investigation into that conduct at the federal level came from the inspector general from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Dealbook, meanwhile, strains to help Breuer out. They ask why he would “open yourself to such scrutiny” on “60 Minutes” and “Frontline,” as if it’s an affront to question the man in charge of criminal prosecutions about the lack of criminal prosecutions. And they highlight Breuer’s “biggest victory”: a guilty plea from a Japanese subsidiary of UBS on manipulating a benchmark interest rate known as Libor.  “It was the first unit of a global bank to plead guilty in two decades,” Dealbook gushes.

Please. The previously-not-mentioned Matt Taibbi has taken on how pathetic this is. The parent company UBS got a non-prosecution settlement, and the Japanese subsidiary was told beforehand it would not lose any licenses to continue banking in Japan. That this is seen as a new get-tough policy (instead of actually prosecuting the individuals at the companies responsible for fraud), as a legitimate deterrent to future crimes rather than a symbolic speck of dust, tells you plenty about the corruption inside Main Justice, and apparently at Dealbook as well.

But I guess that as the Justice Department loses a criminal division chief, Dealbook gains a new source at a corporate law firm, willing to dish about which Wall Street figure will go free this time. All’s well that ends well.

David Dayen is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on

via Why I let Wall Street walk – Salon.com.

via Why I let Wall Street walk – Salon.com.

Shell in Arctic oil risk alert


Failings identified on a Shell ship drilling in the Arctic have raised questions about the energy giant’s plans to extract oil in the region.

The US Coast Guard has passed its investigation of 16 violations on board the Noble Discoverer to the Department of Justice, after the ship spent last summer drilling off Alaska‘s northern coast.

The violations included fire hazards and problems with the propulsion system, which meant the ship could not move as quickly as required in all expected weather conditions. Any potential fines would depend on how seriously officials view them.

The findings emerged after Shell’s other Arctic barge, the Kulluk, broke away from a tug and crashed into the uninhabited Sitkalidak Island on New Year‘s Eve.

Ed Markey, as US Congressman, has written to Marvin Odum, Shell’s oil president, to ask what he will do. “The reports that Shell may have been drilling this summer using a drill ship with serious deficiencies in its safety and pollution control equipment raise additional and continued questions about whether Shell is able to drill safely offshore in the Arctic,” he wrote in the letter.

A spokesman for Shell said the ship had not presented an environmental risk.

“At no time was the Noble Discoverer found or believed to be a danger to people or the environment while drilling,” he said. “Had that been the case, we would have ceased all operations immediately.”

However, the findings will give fuel to environmentalists calling on the White House to suspend Arctic drilling permits, arguing that the region’s extreme weather makes drilling too likely to lead to oil or fuel spills.

Aside from the political pressures, Shell also faces logistical difficulties as both of its Arctic ships are taken to Korea for inspection and repairs. The spokesman said it was “too early to say” whether they will be ready for the start of the Arctic drilling season in May, when the ice floes allow work to resume.

via Shell in Arctic oil risk alert – Telegraph.

via Shell in Arctic oil risk alert – Telegraph.

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