Tag: freedom of the press

Jan 15

Questions, Questions, Not a Lot of Answers

In an extended segment of MSNBC’s  “All In,” host Chris Hayes spoke with author and co-founder of “The Intercept” Jeremy Scahill about the claim by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) that they were responsible for the shooting at the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo.” Later in the segment, Hayes speaks with satirical cartoonist, Ted Rall about the limits of free speech and expression.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula: We Directed Paris Attack as ‘Vengeance for the Prophet’

By Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has now officially taken responsibility for the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris last Friday, but denied any involvement in the subsequent attack on the kosher supermarket in Paris. [..]

As we reported earlier this week, “In analyzing AQAP’s potential role in the Paris attack, it’s worth remembering the four-month delay between the group praising the 2009 underwear plot and the group releasing evidence it actually orchestrated the act. Short of such video or photographic documentation, and even with an official statement from AQAP’s leadership, it would be difficult to prove that AQAP indeed sponsored the raid on Charlie Hebdo.” If such photographic or video evidence exists, AQAP will undoubtedly release it. When pressed as to whether the group has and will publish proof of this nature, an AQAP source told The Intercept, “We are not in a hurry.”

For in-depth analysis of AQAP, Anwar al Awlaki and the Paris attacks, see our previous coverage here and here.

On Charlie Hebdo and the Real Free Speech Weenies

By Ted Rall, A New Domain

Not everyone believes in free speech.

I’m not talking about those on the authoritarian right. No one expects them to stand up for the right to dissent. They are ideologically consistent; for them, the rights of the individual always is a distant second to the prerogatives of the state and its incessant campaign to maintain the status quo that keeps them in power.

Today I’m pointing to those – liberals, progressives, left libertarians – who purport to support freedom of expression, and must be seen to do so in order to continue to identify as members of the antiauthoritarian left, but only state their defense of press and personal freedom with reservations. [..]

If those cartoons hadn’t been outrageous, the cartoonists who drew them probably wouldn’t have gotten shot to death. (Similarly, my cartoons about 9/11 icons were over-the-top. That’s why they stirred a fuss.)

To believe in freedom of expression, to truly defend satire, we must stand up for it unequivocally, without reservation – not despite our distaste for the cartoons or standup routines or humorous essays or films drawing fire from critics and potential murderers, but because they make us uncomfortable.

If you can’t compartmentalize, if you can’t refrain from playing the critic even when the cartoons or whatever have gotten their creators blown away by automatic weapons, then you are not with us. You are with them.

Jan 14

Privacy Under Attack After Charlie Hebdo

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

SOPA Reddit Warrior photo refresh31536000resize_h150resize_w1.jpg
Well, this didn’t take long. President Barack Obama and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron didn’t let any dust settle.

Cybersecurity bill: privacy activists warn of unnecessarily ‘broad legal immunity’

By Dan Roberts, The Gusrdian

White House hoping legislation will toughen private sector response by allowing companies to share information with government agencies including NSA

Barack Obama plans to announce new cybersecurity measures on Tuesday amid warnings from privacy campaigners about unnecessarily “broad legal immunity” that could put personal information at risk in the wake of attacks like the Sony Pictures hack.

Just a day after the Pentagon’s own Twitter account was compromised and Obama pushed a 30-day window for consumer security breaches, his administration was hoping the proposed legislation would toughen the response of the private sector by allowing companies to share information with government agencies including the NSA – almost immediately and under broad protection. [..]

The administration believes the legislation is necessary partly to give companies legal immunity for sharing information on attacks so that counter-measures can be coordinated, but the White House has stepped back from suggestions that companies should be allowed to individually retaliate against hackers, fearing such encouragement could lead to an escalation of cyber warfare.

A White House statement released in advance of Obama’s speech on Tuesday said it “encourages the private sector to share appropriate cyber threat information with the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center”.

David Cameron pledges anti-terror law for internet after Paris attacks

By Nicholas Watt, Rowena Mason and Ian Traynor, The Guardian

PM calls for new laws to break into terrorists’ communications but Nick Clegg warns of encroachment on civil liberties

Britain’s intelligence agencies should have the legal power to break into the encrypted communications of suspected terrorists to help prevent any Paris-style attacks, David Cameron proposed on Monday.

The prime minister said a future Conservative government would aim to deny terrorists “safe space” to communicate online, days after a warning from the director general of MI5, Andrew Parker, that the intelligence agencies are in danger of losing the ability to monitor “dark places” on the net.

His proposed legislation, which would be introduced within the first year of Cameron’s second term in Downing Street if the Conservatives win the election, would provide a new legal framework for Britain’s GCHQ and other intelligence agencies to crack the communications of terror suspects if there was specific intelligence of an imminent attack. Political approval would also be necessary.

They aren’t the only ones leaping on the security train wreck, the French and Italian governments have hooped on board.

More Surveillance Won’t Protect Free Speech

By Jillian York, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Following a terrorist attack, it is not uncommon to hear calls from politicians and government officials for increased surveillance. Fear and grief can lead to quick “solutions” that have significant consequences; as we pointed out last week, some of the most far-reaching surveillance and law enforcement powers around the world were devised in the wake of tragedies.

That’s why what we’re hearing this week-in the wake of the attack on Charlie Hebdo-alarms us. On Friday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls suggested that “it will be necessary to take further measures” to address the threat of terrorism, despite the fact that French intelligence had collected “reams of intelligence” on the terror suspects, and despite a draconian anti-terror law established last November. As our German colleagues point out in a joint statement, France already has some of the strictest security measures in Europe. [..]

Italian authorities are planning new legislation that would enable the government to seize the passports of those suspected of traveling to Syria to join the Islamic State. Interior Minister Angelino Alfano stated Friday that Italy also needed “greater access to conversations between extremists online,” demanding help from Internet companies to provide the Italian government with better access to such data in order to create a “black list” of those who pose a security threat. [..]

Mass surveillance doesn’t only infringe on our privacy, but also our ability to speak freely. As a recent PEN American study found, for writers around the world, surveillance has the effect of chilling speech. The knowledge, or even the perception of surveillance, can prompt writers to think twice before touching upon a given issue.

Let us resist attempts to use this tragic moment as an opportunity to advance law enforcement surveillance powers. Freedom of speech can only thrive when we also have the right to privacy.

And last but not least, there is Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat, scared that your i-phone is harboring criminals

New York’s Top Prosecutor Says We Need New Laws To Fight iPhone/Android Encryption

By Tim Cushing, Techdirt

from the because-child-murdering-drug-dealers,-of-course dept

The greatest threat to law enforcement since the motocar continues to receive attention from entities aghast at the notion that peoples’ communications and data might not be instantly accessible by law enforcement. Apple’s decision (followed shortly thereafter by Google) to offer default encryption for phone users has kicked off an avalanche of paranoid hyperbole declaring this effort to be a boon for pedophiles, murders and drug dealers.

New laws have been called for and efforts are being made to modify existing laws to force Apple and Google into providing “law enforcement-only” backdoors, as if such a thing were actually possible. New York County’s top prosecutor, Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance — speaking at an FBI-hosted cybersecurity conference — is the latest to offer up a version of “there ought to be a law.”

Mark Jaycox and Lee Tien of Electronic Frontier Foundaton released this statement regarding the president’s proposal.

Statement on President Obama’s Cybersecurity Legislative Proposal

More needs to be done to protect cyberspace and enhance computer security. But President Obama’s cybersecurity legislative proposal recycles old ideas that should remain where they’ve been since May 2011: on the shelf. Introducing information sharing proposals with broad liability protections, increasing penalties under the already draconian Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and potentially decreasing the protections granted to consumers under state data breach law are both unnecessary and unwelcome.

Information Sharing

The status quo of overweening national security and law enforcement secrecy means that expanded information sharing poses a serious risk of transferring more personal information to intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Given that the White House rightly criticized CISPA in 2013 for potentially facilitating the unnecessary transfer of personal information to the government or other private sector entities when sending cybersecurity threat data, we’re concerned that the Administration proposal will unintentionally legitimize the approach taken by these dangerous bills.

Instead of proposing unnecessary computer security information sharing bills, we should tackle the low-hanging fruit. This includes strengthening the current information sharing hubs and encouraging companies to use them immediately after discovering a threat. [..]

Increased Criminalization

The administration’s proposals to increase penalties in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act are equally troubling. We agree with the President: “Law enforcement must have appropriate tools to investigate, disrupt and prosecute cyber crime;” however, the past two years of surveillance disclosures has shown law enforcement certainly doesn’t need more legal authorities to conduct digital surveillance or prosecute criminals. [..]

Federal Data Breach Law

The President’s legislative proposal also follows up on yesterday’s announcement to pursue a federal data breach law. Consumers have a right to know when their data is exposed, whether through corporate misconduct, malicious hackers, or under other circumstances. Over 38 states already have some form of breach notification law-so the vast majority of Americans already get some protection on this score. While the President has not yet released detailed legislative language, the Administration’s May 2011 Cybersecurity legislative proposal would preempt state notification laws, removing the strong California standard and replacing it with a weaker standard. [..]

Many of these proposals are old ideas from the administration’s May 2011 Cybersecurity legislative proposal and should be viewed skeptically. While the Administration information sharing proposal may have better privacy protections than dangerously drafted bills like CISPA, we think the initial case for expanding information sharing requires much less secrecy about how intelligence and law enforcement agencies collect and use data on our networks. And instead of increasing penalties under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, we’ve long advocated common sense reform to decrease them.

Here’s hoping there are enough sane heads left in legislatures to stop this in its tracks, on both sides of the pond.  

Jan 13

Anonynous Launches #OpCharlieHebdo

Fighting fire with cyber attacks:

On January 9th, the hacker group Anonymous launched #OpCharlieHebdo to take down websites and social media networks of Islamic extremist groups] as avenge the attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The announcement was made on You Tube

The threat has produced results:

Anonymous blocks jihadist website in retaliation for Charlie Hebdo attack

By David Goldman and Mark Thompson, CNN Money

Hackers claiming to be with the group Anonymous say they have hacked a jihadist website in retaliation for the terror attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The website ansar-alhaqq.net, a French jihadist site, currently redirects to Duck Duck Go, a search engine. Hackers using the Twitter handle @OpCharlieHebdo claimed responsibility.

Anonymous also named dozens of Twitter accounts that the hacktivist group says belong to jihadists.

The hackers posted the Twitter handles on Pastebin, a website that lets people post information anonymously online.

Jan 08

James Risen Still Protecting Press Freedom

Freedom of the Press and Speech have come under attack lately from the and, strangely, from the so-called left. The vicious attack on the office of “Charlie Hebdo” was especially vicious but there are more subtle attacks on our rights from the US Department of Justice. Even though Attorney General Eric Holder has said that he would force New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal the sources for his book “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” Holder approved the issue of a limited subpoena requiring Risen to testify at the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling who is being charged as a whistleblower under the 1917 Espionage Act. On January 5th in an unusual pre-trial hearing, Risen finally testified, for the first time under oath, in a Virginia federal courtroom

The terse, and at times combative, testimony prompted a lawyer for Sterling to question whether prosecutors could even proceed with their case.

There are many unequivocal statements the government cannot prove without Risen, said Edward MacMahon, a lawyer for Sterling. Sterling was indicted on unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and other charges in 2010. [..]

On Monday, Risen said he did not want to provide any information to the government that it might be able to use as a “building block” to prove or disprove a “mosaic” it was trying to make. He made the comments just days before Sterling is scheduled to begin trial on Jan. 12.

New York Times reporter Mark Appuzo spoke with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and  Juan González about the possibility of Risen being held in contempt and going to jail

It remains to be seen if Risen will testify at all. If he does and stick to his guns, will Holder stick to his statement that no journalist would go to jail on his watch for doing his or her job?

Dec 19

The Justice Department’s War on Freedom of the Press

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In this chapter of the Obama administration’s war on freedom of the press, the cast of character are:

Jeffrey Alexander Sterling, an former employee of the CIA, was indicted, arrested, and charged with violating the Espionage Act in 2010.

James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist for The New York Time, is the author of the book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, which was discussed CIA operations, specifically Operation Merlin.

Mr. Risen was subpoenaed to testify at Mr. Sterling’s trial and would have been asked if Mr. Sterling was the source for the Operation Merlin. He refused and fought the subpoena through the courts. In July 2013, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Mr. Risen would have to testify. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Mr. Risen said that he would not comply and was willing to go to jail. That was not the end of Mr. Risen’s fight to protect a confidential source.

Then in October 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder stated “no reporter’s going to jail as long as I’m attorney general.” On December 10, a federal court judge told prosecutors that they had a week to decide whether they enforce the subpoena.  On this Tuesday, it was announced that Mr. Risen would be subpoenaed to answer questions before the trial but there is some confusion about what those questions are:

Prosecutors say they will not ask James Risen if ex-CIA man Jeffrey Sterling was his anonymous source for part of the 2006 book “State Of War” that detailed a botched CIA effort to cripple Iran’s nuclear program. However, they do want to know if the two had a prior, on-the-record source relationship.

Risen’s lawyer, Joel Kurtzberg, said at Tuesday’s hearing that he is not sure whether his client is willing to answer the questions that prosecutors want to pose.

Furthermore, defense attorneys indicated they may also have their own questions, which puts Risen at risk of being found in contempt of court if he refuses to answer. {..}

On Tuesday, though, as prosecutors detailed what they would seek from Risen, it was unclear whether Risen would agree to the limitations. And it became equally clear that Risen may have as much to fear, if not more, from defense lawyers, who would be free to cross-examine Risen and could even seek to subpoena him themselves.

Edward MacMahon, one of Sterling’s lawyers, told Brinkema that “the notion we can sanitize this by limiting (his testimony) to two or three questions is hard for us to fathom.”

He declined comment after the hearing on whether he may seek to subpoena Risen.

Prosecutor James Trump said there is much more uncertainty about the questions Risen might face from the defense than there is about what prosecutors will seek.

Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman and Juan González spoke to Marcy Wheeler, investigative blogger who runs EmptyWheel.net and writes for ExposeFacts.org.



The transcript can be read here

In Plan for Risen Subpoena, Government Raises Sixth Amendment Interests of Jeffrey Sterling

Marcy Wheeler, Expose the Facts

December 16, 2014

The government has now submitted its explanation for the limited information it will seek from James Risen in the Jeffrey Sterling trial and pre-trial hearings.

It will ask him to confirm that:

  •    He has  confidentiality agreement with his source or sources on the Merlin story (though they will not ask who those sources are)
  •    He authored the Merlin chapter of his book State of War, but also one article in which he explicitly and another the government claims he relied on Sterling as a source
  •    He worked with Sterling for one of those earlier stories in a non-confidential relationship

[..]

The last line of the filing, however, suggests ExposeFacts may have correctly predicted their plan. The government raises the possibility Risen will refuse to answer Sterling’s questions.

It’s obvious that the DOJ is behind the eight ball and is praying that the they will not be the reason Mr. Risen ends up behind bars.

Aug 21

Ferguson’s War on Freedom of the Press

Reporting the events by the news media in Ferguson, MO has become very problematic with the police limiting not only the press access to the demonstrations on the ground but the Federal Aviation Administration has created an unprecedented “no fly zone” over the town. The excuse is “to provide a safe environment for law enforcement operations.” The same reasoning was given repeatedly by Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson who has also threatened and ordered arrests of reporters.

The situation was so bad last week that on August 14 the ACLU sued the town and county and won a court order from a judge telling police that they cannot bar journalists from reporting which was promptly ignored.

Why is this happening? Of course the police excuse is that they are “protecting” the reporters and have also made the unsubstantiated accusation that the press is interfering with police operations. The real reason is they don’t want a free press to record any brutality on the part of the police in containing the demonstrators, peaceful or otherwise. Nor do they want the entrapment tactics, like blocking egress at both ends of the streets refusing to allow protestors to exit, then arresting them when they try to pass through to go home.

The bogus press conference that Capt. Johnson held in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, displaying a Molotov cocktail and other items confiscated from alleged “agitators,” was contrived to justify the use of tear gas, smoke bombs, rubber bullets and other military type weapons. It was fairly obvious from a trained observer that the way the “evidence” was handled – no gloves – and displayed – not bagged and tagged – that these were just props in the side show. Yes, capt Johnson, I call you on your preprocessed bovine waste (thank you, John Oliver).

Published on Aug 21, 2014

With 11 journalists arrested thus far, Truthout.org investigative reporter Mike Ludwig describes how Ferguson police are using intimidation tactics against journalists.



Transcript can be read here

Restricting and harassing the free press is a cover up of police criminality of the first order and it is being aided and abetted by the state government of Missouri and Federal government.  

May 17

The War On Words

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Journalist Chris Hedges spoke with RT news host Sophia about the information difference in the news that is reported. Citing the uprising in the Ukraine as an example, he talks about how the US government uses fake facts and dubious evidence to push its propaganda on the public using an ever compliant American media.

The crisis in Ukraine and the steadily dropping temperature in relations between Moscow and Washington made many talk about a new Cold War; and many others are worried it may turn ‘hot’. But there’s another war going on right now: the information war. US Secretary of State Kerry has already attacked RT, calling it “Putin’s propaganda machine.” But Washington itself uses dubious evidence and fake facts. What is the information war? What methods is America using?

There are two sides to every story, then there is the truth.

Apr 03

The War on the First Amendment Has Gone Global

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The war on media was inspired by America and encouraged by Barack Obama. Obama rocks. Not

Egypt’s al-Jazeera trial was inspired by America’s global war on journalism

   From a War on Terror to a war on leaks, now comes America’s shadow influence on a media crackdown

   Ten years ago, the United States also justified its detention of al-Jazeera journalists by claiming a “national security threat”. These arrests could not be cloaked as mere collateral damage in a messy war. The US, then as Egypt does now, made leaping connections between the news network and militants, and specifically targeted those whose coverage did not serve the military’s objectives: Dick Cheney warned that al-Jazeera risked being “labeled as ‘Osama’s outlet to the world‘”; Donald Rumsfeld called the network’s coverage of the Iraq war “vicious, inaccurate, inexcusable”.

   Over the next several years, US forces arrested and detained al-Jazeera journalists like Sami al Hajj and Salah Hasan Nusaif Jasim al Ejaili. US military forces captured both in separate instances while they were doing their jobs, and tortured them while attempting to establish ties between al-Jazeera and al-Qaida. Neither al Hajj nor al Ejaili received justice for their wrongful detention. After seven years of imprisonment in Guantanamo Bay, the US government released al Hajj to Sudanese authorities, without any reparations. Meanwhile al Ejaili, who was detained at Abu Ghraib, brought a case with other victims against the private military contractor at the prison, alleging it conspired to commit torture and war crimes. But the case was dismissed by the district court. The court perversely ordered al Ejaili and other plaintiffs to pay their alleged torturers for the cost of the suit. The case is pending on appeal.

   The reverberations of this misguided War on Terror continue, even if the war has shifted: the Obama administration has famously invoked the Espionage Act more than any other American president, attempting to control press leaks with tactics a report found to be “the most aggressive … since the Nixon administration“.

Feb 14

The Free Press is Dying in the US

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The group that monitors attacks on freedom of information worldwide, Reporters Without Borders, released in 2014 Free Press Index which rates the decline of the free press in countries around the world. Not unsurprisingly, the United States dropped 13 spots from last year, now ranking just 46th among 180 countries, between Romania and Haiti. RWB lays that blame at the feet of President Barack Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder:

In the United States (46th, -13), the hunt for leaks and whistleblowers serves as a warning to those thinking of satisfying a public interest need for information about the imperial prerogatives assumed by the world’s leading power.

The group is calling on the United Nations to monitor how member states meet their obligations to protect reporters. See the World Press Freedom Index and the 3-dimensional map “freedom of the press worldwide”

The Obama administration also came under attack by the Committee to Protect Journalists for aggressive leak prosecutions, secret subpoenas, surveillance and its marked lack of transparency and access:

Press freedom in the United States dramatically deteriorated in 2013, a special report by CPJ found.

The Obama administration’s policy of prosecuting officials who leak classified information to the press intensified with the sentencing of Chelsea Manning (then known as Pvt. Bradley Manning) to 35 years in prison and the indictment of NSA consultant Edward Snowden.

As part of its investigations into earlier leaks, the Justice Department revealed it had secretly subpoenaed the phone records of nearly two dozen Associated Press telephone lines and the emails and phone records of Fox News reporter James Rosen. The two cases, and language in the Rosen subpoena that suggested the journalist could be criminally charged for receiving the information, provoked widespread criticism. The backlash resulted in the drafting of revised Justice Department guidelines on press subpoenas and a renewed debate in the Senate of a federal shield law that would allow journalists greater protection for their sources.

As the debate moved forward in the Senate, a federal appeals court rejected an appeal by New York Times reporter James Risen in his long-term effort to protect a confidential source, setting up a likely Supreme Court showdown.

Snowden’s leak of a still unknown quantity of classified information on secret surveillance programs spurred both a national and international outcry and, after a report that Al-Jazeera’s communications had allegedly been spied on, caused journalists to fear even more for their sources. The secrecy surrounding the surveillance programs echoed a pervasive lack of transparency and openness across government agencies where, despite President Barack Obama’s promise to head the most open government in history, officials routinely refused to talk to the press or approve Freedom of Information Act requests.

Journalists faced limitations covering national security-related trials, in cases of alleged terrorism at Guantánamo Bay and in the court-martial of Manning in Virginia.

Delphine Halgand, U.S. director of Reporters Without Borders, joined [Democracy Now! ]’s Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh to discuss the decline of the free press and the safety of journalists.

Jul 27

Yemeni Journalist Freed Over Obama’s Objections

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Yemeni journalist who reported US missile strike is released from jail

by Tom McCarthy, The Guardian

Abdulelah Haider Shaye, imprisoned on charges of being an al-Qaida operative, reportedly had pardon revoked by US request

A Yemeni journalist who was kept in prison for years at the apparent request of the Obama administration has been released in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, according to local reports.

Abdulelah Haider Shaye was imprisoned in 2010, after reporting that an attack on a suspected al-Qaida training camp in southern Yemen for which the Yemeni government claimed responsibility had actually been carried out by the United States. Shaye had visited the site and discovered pieces of cruise missiles and cluster bombs not found in Yemen’s arsenal, according to a Jeremy Scahill dispatch in the Nation. [..]

Jeremy Scahill Condemns White House Opposition To Freeing Of Abdulelah Haider Shaye

by Jack Mirkinson, The Huffington Post

Jeremy Scahill blasted the Obama administration on Thursday for its opposition to the release of Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye from prison. [..]

Shaye was finally freed on Tuesday; the White House said it was “concerned and disappointed” about the release.

Speaking on “Democracy Now,” Scahill said that Shaye had been imprisoned “because he had the audacity to expose a U.S. cruise missile attack that killed three dozen women and children, and the United States had tried to cover it up.” He harshly criticized Obama for pressing for his continued imprisonment.

“My question for the White House would be you want to co-sign a dictator’s arrest of a journalist, beating of a journalist, and conviction in a court that every human rights organization in the world has said was a sham court?” he said. “That’s the side that the White House is on right now. Not on the side of press freedom around the world. They’re on the side of locking up journalists who have the audacity to actually be journalists.”



Transcript can be read here

Jun 08

Obama’s War on Journalists Yemeni Style

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Since he took office, President Barack Obama has prosecuted six whistleblowers using the Espionage Act of 1917, something no other president has done. In recent months, with total disregard for the First Amendment and freedom of the press, he has now gone after journalists with secret subpoenas and warrants, but this is nothing new. Huffington Post‘s Ryan Grim would like you to meet Abdulelah Haider Shaye:

James Rosen got off easy. After searching his email and tracking his whereabouts, the Department of Justice has not jailed or prosecuted the Fox News journalist, which the Obama administration says reflects its deep respect for the role of a free press. On Thursday, a DOJ spokesperson said in a statement that “the Department does not anticipate bringing any additional charges. During the Attorney General’s tenure, no reporter has ever been prosecuted.”

The Obama administration gave no such leniency to Abdulelah Haider Shaye, a Yemeni journalist who had access to top officials in the militant Islamist group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and reported on evidence that the United States had conducted a missile strike in al Majala for which the Yemeni government had claimed credit.

After Shaye was initially imprisoned for alleged involvement with AQAP in 2010, supporters pressed for his release, and word leaked that the Yemeni president was going to issue a pardon. In early 2011, Obama personally intervened. “President Obama expressed concern over the release of Abd-Ilah al-Shai, who had been sentenced to five years in prison for his association with AQAP,” reads a summary of the call posted on the White House website.

At his discussion of his new book and documentary, “Dirty Wars,” Jeremy Scahill spoke about about Shaye. In an article for The Nation in March 2012, he wrote about Shaye’s risks to interview Al Qaeda leaders, his interviews with the radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki and his reporting on the US bombing of al-Majalah, a impoverished Yemeni village killing 46 people mostly women and children.

Unlike most journalists covering Al Qaeda, Shaye risked his life to travel to areas controlled by Al Qaeda and to interview its leaders. He also conducted several interviews with the radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki. Shaye did the last known interview with Awlaki just before it was revealed that Awlaki, a US citizen, was on a CIA/JSOC hit list. “We were only exposed to Western media and Arab media funded by the West, which depicts only one image of Al Qaeda,” recalls his best friend Kamal Sharaf, a well-known dissident Yemeni political cartoonist. “But Abdulelah brought a different viewpoint.”

Shaye had no reverence for Al Qaeda, but viewed the group as an important story, according to Sharaf. Shaye was able to get access to Al Qaeda figures in part due to his relationship, through marriage, to the radical Islamic cleric Abdul Majid al Zindani, the founder of Iman University and a US Treasury Department-designated terrorist. While Sharaf acknowledged that Shaye used his connections to gain access to Al Qaeda, he adds that Shaye also “boldly” criticized Zindani and his supporters: “He said the truth with no fear.”

While Shaye, 35, had long been known as a brave, independent-minded journalist in Yemen, his collision course with the US government appears to have been set in December 2009. On December 17, the Yemeni government announced that it had conducted a series of strikes against an Al Qaeda training camp in the village of al Majala in Yemen’s southern Abyan province, killing a number of Al Qaeda militants. As the story spread across the world, Shaye traveled to al Majala. What he discovered were the remnants of Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs, neither of which are in the Yemeni military’s arsenal. He photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label “Made in the USA,” and distributed the photos to international media outlets. He revealed that among the victims of the strike were women, children and the elderly. To be exact, fourteen women and twenty-one children were killed. Whether anyone actually active in Al Qaeda was killed remains hotly contested. After conducting his own investigation, Shaye determined that it was a US strike. The Pentagon would not comment on the strike and the Yemeni government repeatedly denied US involvement. But Shaye was later vindicated when Wikileaks released a US diplomatic cable that featured Yemeni officials joking about how they lied to their own parliament about the US role, while President Saleh assured Gen. David Petraeus that his government would continue to lie and say “the bombs are ours, not yours.”

Shortly after that article was published, Scahill and Mohamed Abdel Dayem, coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the Committee to Protect Journalists, appeared in this segment of Democracy Now with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, questioning Obama’s motives for keeping Shaye imprisoned.

Grim hopes that with the release of the documentary “Dirty Wars,” the start of PVT Bradley Manning’s trial and the Rosen issue, that Shaye’s case will get some attention.

Shaye’s trial in Yemen was widely considered a farce. Without the Obama administration presenting its own evidence, it’s difficult to know what President Obama meant by Shaye’s “association” with AQAP. Al Mawri said that Yemen’s former president was furious at Shaye for exposing the civilian deaths at al Majala and fed the United States false information to implicate him as a terrorist. Now, Yemen’s current president has reportedly promised to pardon Shaye, but the White House is still relying on what the past president told them. [..]

Shaye is not an obscure journalist. He contributed reporting to The Washington Post and other major media outlets regularly, including with regard to al-Awlaki. He was often critical of al Qaeda, the U.S. government and the Yemeni government.

Despite the reports of a possible pardon, Shaye’s family and supporters remain doubtful.

This is just some of what Wikileaks had exposed about our government and our so-called Democratic president.

May 12

Updated (3x) Over 200,000 Dead In Burma: Vloggers Respond

First, breaking news this morning. There has been a 7.8 earthquake in China that has left four schoolchildren and one adult dead:

Chinese President Hu Jintao has called for “all-out” efforts to rescue victims of an earthquake measuring 7.8 that has hit south-western China.

The quake struck 92km (57 miles) north-west of Sichuan’s provincial capital, Chengdu, at 1428 (0628 GMT).

The children were killed, and more than 100 others injured, when primary school buildings collapsed in the Chongqing area, a large municipality near Sichuan province, Xinhua added.

Another person is reported to have died when a water tower collapsed in the city of Mianyang, in Santai County.

link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asi…

The Bangkok Post gives further details of the magnitude of the quake:

Government and local officials said the quake struck at 2:28pm local time (1:28pm in Thailand) in Wenchuan county, Sichuan province. It was felt in cities hundreds of kilometres away, including Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, in addition to Bangkok.

“Major tremors” were felt by residents of cities closer to the epicentre, including Sichuan’s capital, Chengdu, and nearby Chongqing, the official news agency Xinhua said.

link: http://www.bangkokpost.com/top…

(Meanwhile in Myanmar below.- ek)

Load more