Tag Archive: whistleblowers

The Russian Connection: The Monkeys Are Throwing Wrenches

The school of dirty tricks has gotten more ingenious and nefarious in the age of the internet. Rachel Maddow Says Forged NSA Document Being Shopped Around To News Outlets By Rachel Shapiro, HuffPost MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said she had a “strange scoop” to share with audiences Thursday night after receiving what she believes is a …

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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.

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.

Never Mind Bush, Obama Worse Than Nixon

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is the most closed, control-freak administration I’ve ever covered.

That is what David E. Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times, told former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie. Sanger was one of 30 journalists Downie interviewed for a report on the Obama administration’s efforts to control leaks. Downie, who was one of the editors involved in the Post’s Watergate investigation, called the administration’s “war on leaks” the most aggressive since the Nixon administration.

The Obama Administration and the Press

by Leonard Downie Jr. with reporting by Sara Rafsky, Committee to Protect Journalists

Leak investigations and surveillance in post-9/11 America

U.S. President Barack Obama came into office pledging open government, but he has fallen short of his promise. Journalists and transparency advocates say the White House curbs routine disclosure of information and deploys its own media to evade scrutiny by the press. Aggressive prosecution of leakers of classified information and broad electronic surveillance programs deter government sources from speaking to journalists.

Compounding the concerns of journalists and the government officials they contact, news stories based on classified documents obtained from Snowden have revealed extensive surveillance of Americans’ telephone and e-mail traffic by the National Security Agency. Numerous Washington-based journalists told me that officials are reluctant to discuss even unclassified information with them because they fear that leak investigations and government surveillance make it more difficult for reporters to protect them as sources. “I worry now about calling somebody because the contact can be found out through a check of phone records or e-mails,” said veteran national security journalist R. Jeffrey Smith of the Center for Public Integrity, an influential nonprofit government accountability news organization in Washington. “It leaves a digital trail that makes it easier for the government to monitor those contacts,” he said.

“I think we have a real problem,” said New York Times national security reporter Scott Shane. “Most people are deterred by those leaks prosecutions. They’re scared to death. There’s a gray zone between classified and unclassified information, and most sources were in that gray zone. Sources are now afraid to enter that gray zone. It’s having a deterrent effect. If we consider aggressive press coverage of government activities being at the core of American democracy, this tips the balance heavily in favor of the government.”

At the same time, the journalists told me, designated administration spokesmen are often unresponsive or hostile to press inquiries, even when reporters have been sent to them by officials who won’t talk on their own. Despite President Barack Obama’s repeated promise that his administration would be the most open and transparent in American history, reporters and government transparency advocates said they are disappointed by its performance in improving access to the information they need.

In an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, Leonard Downey discusses freedom of the press and the Obama administration.

I found that these leaks investigations and a program called the Insider Threat Program, instituted since the Bradley Manning leaks, that requires government employees to monitor each other to make sure that they’re not leaking information to anyone, including journalists, to have really frightened government officials. Many, many reporters that I interviewed here in Washington say that government officials are afraid to talk to them. They’re afraid that their telephone conversations and their email exchanges would be monitored. That is to say that investigators could come in later, as they did in several leaks investigations, and use their telephone and email records in order to find the contacts between government officials and reporters. So they’re simply scared to talk to reporters.

And this, this is not good, because-I just heard the president saying that he was concerned about the safety of our troops and our intelligence officers. It’s important that responsible, knowledgeable government officials be able to talk to reporters about these matters, so that, among other things, they can alert reporters to information that might be harmful to national security or harmful to human life, in which case no responsible news organization would publish those.



Transcript can be read here

Who Is a Journalist?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In the midst of the furor over whistleblowers and the revelations from Wikileaks and The Guardian, there has been an on going war with journalists waged by the Obama administration should be of great concern for the American people. Marcy Wheeler made note of this phenomenon in July after it was revealed the attorney General Eric Holder had labeled Fox News reporter James Rosen a criminal co-conspirator in a case under investigation by the DOJ. After denying he had signed off on a secret warrant to search Rosen’s private e-mails, Holder admitted he authorized the warrant. Along with the DOJ taping the phone lines of the Associated Press, Holder issued new “News Media Policies,” (pdf)

As Marcy reported, those guidelines were a step towards creating an “official press.” If that isn’t a clearly an intent to put limits on the First Amendment, in steps California Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is backing the Media Shield Law which would define journalist as those who are paid by news agencies

A real reporter, declared Feinstein during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, is “a salaried agent” of a media company like the New York Times or ABC News, not a “shoestring operation with volunteers and writers who are not paid.”

Feinstein voiced her concern “that the current version of the bill would grant a special privilege to people who aren’t really reporters at all, who have no professional qualifications,” like bloggers and citizen journalists.

She and her fellow Democratic Senators Charles Schumer and Dick Durban want to limited who can be a journalist leaving bloggers and independent journalist without First Amendment protections:

Take the case of Crystal Cox, for example.  A self-described “investigative blogger” from Seattle, Cox broke a story about financial malpractice at a major investment bank, prompting a lawsuit for defamation.

Cox argued in court that she should be covered by Oregon’s shield laws, but a judge found she was not protected because she was not part of the traditional media.

As a result, she was ordered to pay $2.5 million to the investment firm.

The laws in many states are lagging behind the reality of journalism today, where anyone with a camera, smart phone or a computer can break an important story.

“The distinction between who gets paid to do journalism and who doesn’t is going to be come essentially meaningless as we go forward with this technological revolution,” said Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute, a journalism school based in St. Petersburg, Fla.

McBride, the recent author of a book on journalism ethics in the Internet age, said shield laws are meant to ensure a vibrant marketplace of ideas where all voices can be heard.

“To the extent that you limit the shield law, you limit who is in that marketplace,” she said.

This is an outrageous assault on the  press and the First Amendment.

“our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

Thomas Jefferson to Dr. James Currie, January 28, 1786

h/t LaEscapee

Shallow, Fascist America

We’re launching yet another war against a Middle Eastern country on the basis of false pretenses.  Our own damned government is spying on our every communication.  People who expose crimes by our government are thrown in prison for decades or forced into exile and hiding.  High ranking criminals get away with their crimes.  The rich keep getting richer at the expense of everyone else.  Our leaders declare they can have us killed without even the Constitutionally-mandated niceties of charging us with any crime at all, let alone any warranting the death penalty.  The Constitution no longer applies.  Politicians are bought and owned by the wealthy, which trample our rights with impunity.  The world is burning and yet we keep drilling and fracking.

Yet the most pressing story of the day is how shameful Miley Cyrus’ antics on stage at an MTV award show were.

A Heavy Price for Our Freedom

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

David Coombs, attorney for Army Private Bradley Manning, read Pvt. Manning’s statement to the press after his sentencing to 35 years in prison. Immediately after the sentence was read, Pvt. Manning turned to Mr. Coombs telling him, “It’s okay. It’s alright. I know you did your best. I’m going to be okay. I’m going to get through this.”

Bradley Manning: “Sometimes You Have to Pay a Heavy Price to Live in a Free Society”



Transcript can be read here

Just after the court adjourned and after the press conference, Mr. Coombs  was interviewed by independent journalist Alexa O’Brien which aired exclusively on Democracy Now!

“He Wanted To Help America”: Manning Attorney in First Extended Interview After 35-Year Sentence



Transcript can be read here

Coombs talks about the government’s use of classified evidence, Manning’s reaction to the sentence and how much of the court record was hidden from the public. “I can’t believe that was actually the sentence he received,” Coombs tells O’Brien. “Anyone who sat through the hearing and heard all the evidence, even in the closed sessions, there is not evidence there where you would think 35 years would be the appropriate sentence. I wonder now if there had actually been damaged or if he had really intended to harm the United States or wanted to obtain personal gain from selling classified information, just what the sentence would have been. Because this was a person who had true intentions. He wanted to help America. He wanted to get people to think about what was going on in Iraq. He didn’t have an evil motive in what he did.”

Bradley Manning Sentenced to 35 Years

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Pfc. Bradley Manning was sentenced this morning to  35 years in prison for passing classified documents to Wikileaks that exposed war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. None of the those crimes have been investigates and no one has been charges in their commission.

The sentence was more severe than many observers expected, and is much longer than any punishment given to any previous US government leaker.

The 25-year-old soldier was convicted last month of leaking more than 700,000 classified documents and video. The disclosures amounted to the biggest leak in US military history.

He was found guilty of 20 counts, six of them under the Espionage Act, but was acquitted of the most serious charge of “aiding the enemy”. [..]

The 1,294 days Manning has already spent in military custody, since May 2010, will be deducted from his sentence. The figure includes 112 days that is being taken off the sentence as part of a pre-trial ruling in which Lind compensated Manning for the excessively harsh treatment he endured at the Quantico marine base in Virginia.

He has to serve a minimum of a third of his sentence, meaning he will be eligible for parole in just over eight years, and, at the very earliest, could be released under parole soon as 2021. He can earn 120 days per year off his sentence for good behaviour and job performance.

Manning faced a maximum possible sentence of 90 years, although few legal experts expected he would receive anything near that amount.

The sentence will automatically be appealed.

The Center for Constitutional Rights condemned the sentence and praised Manning  as a whistleblower who never should have been prosecuted. This is part of their statement:

We are outraged that a whistleblower and a patriot has been sentenced on a conviction under the Espionage Act. The government has stretched this archaic and discredited law to send an unmistakable warning to potential whistleblowers and journalists willing to publish their information. We can only hope that Manning’s courage will continue to inspire others who witness state crimes to speak up.

There are calls for President Barack Obama to pardon Manning or commute his sentence to time served. Considering Obama had declared Manning guilty before the trial started, there are serious doubts that will happen.  

The Slow Death of Democracy

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

“Well, Doctor, what have we got-a Republic or a Monarchy?”

 “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

~Benjamin Franklin~ 1787

While Bradley Manning awaits sentencing that could bring up to 136 years in prison, the perpetrators of the war crimes that he exposed and those who authorized those crimes remain free, some still have been appointed to high positions in the government. War crimes apologists hail Manning’s conviction but are silent about prosecution of the likes of George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Alberto Gonzalez, John Brennan, James Comey, and hundreds of others.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange spoke with Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on this morning’s Democracy Now!



Transcript can be read here

“Bradley Manning is now a martyr,” Assange says. “He didn’t choose to be a martyr. I don’t think it’s a proper way for activists to behave to choose to be martyrs, but these young men – allegedly in the case of Bradley Manning and clearly in the case of Edward Snowden – have risked their freedom, risked their lives, for all of us. That makes them heroes.” According to numerous press reports, the conviction of Manning makes it increasingly likely that the U.S. will prosecute Assange as a co-conspirator. During the trial, military prosecutors portrayed Assange as an “information anarchist” who encouraged Manning to leak hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents.

Statement by Julian Assange on Verdict in Bradley Manning Court-Martial

30 July 2013, 19:30 UTC

Today Bradley Manning, a whistleblower, was convicted by a military court at Fort Meade of 19 offences for supplying the press with information, including five counts of ‘espionage’. He now faces a maximum sentence of 136 years.

The ‘aiding the enemy’ charge has fallen away. It was only included, it seems, to make calling journalism ‘espionage’ seem reasonable. It is not.

Bradley Manning’s alleged disclosures have exposed war crimes, sparked revolutions, and induced democratic reform. He is the quintessential whistleblower.

This is the first ever espionage conviction against a whistleblower. It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short sighted judgment that can not be tolerated and must be reversed. It can never be that conveying true information to the public is ‘espionage’.

President Obama has initiated more espionage proceedings against whistleblowers and publishers than all previous presidents combined.

In 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama ran on a platform that praised whistleblowing as an act of courage and patriotism. That platform has been comprehensively betrayed. His campaign document described whistleblowers as watchdogs when government abuses its authority. It was removed from the internet last week.

Throughout the proceedings there has been a conspicuous absence: the absence of any victim. The prosecution did not present evidence that – or even claim that – a single person came to harm as a result of Bradley Manning’s disclosures. The government never claimed Mr. Manning was working for a foreign power.

The only ‘victim’ was the US government’s wounded pride, but the abuse of this fine young man was never the way to restore it. Rather, the abuse of Bradley Manning has left the world with a sense of disgust at how low the Obama administration has fallen. It is not a sign of strength, but of weakness.

The judge has allowed the prosecution to substantially alter the charges after both the defense and the prosecution had rested their cases, permitted the prosecution 141 witnesses and extensive secret testimony. The government kept Bradley Manning in a cage, stripped him naked and isolated him in order to crack him, an act formally condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for torture. This was never a fair trial.

The Obama administration has been chipping away democratic freedoms in the United States. With today’s verdict, Obama has hacked off much more. The administration is intent on deterring and silencing whistleblowers, intent on weakening freedom of the press.

The US first amendment states that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. What part of ‘no’ does Barack Obama fail to comprehend?

Manning Verdict: Slow Death for Democracy

by David Gespass, Common Dreams

Hypocrisy and criminality are rife in the United States government and, in its eyes, the worst criminals are those who expose such evils. Among the many documents Manning released, for example, was the notorious “collateral murder” video, showing U.S. pilots killing a Reuters journalist, his driver and several others. Some have argued that, although unfortunate, the killing was justified in the heat of battle but the U.S. denied any knowledge of how the reporter, Namir Noor-Eldeen, died until the video was released. Reuters had simply asked how such events could be avoided in the future and was stonewalled. It is only thanks to Manning that the world knows exactly what happened.

There are two ways in which any government can seek to control security leaks. The first is by honesty and transparency, by allowing the public to know enough to make democratic decisions about how far is too far. That is the path that the United States, and this president, claims to follow. The second is by threatening draconian consequences to anyone who exposes questionable policies and practices to the light of day. That is the path the United States, and this administration, has chosen with the prosecution of Bradley Manning and others. No amount of sophistry can hide that truth, try as the administration might. The result, for Bradley Manning, is many years in prison. The result for democracy is a slow death.

The highest obligation we, as citizens, have is to protect the Constitution and the laws of this country. This is what two young men, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, have courageously done. They don’t deserve prosecution. They deserve medals and praise.

Dallasgate?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In the “you can’t make this stuff up” category, from Charles P. Pierce at Esquire’s Politics Blog:

Dear god, tell me nobody anywhere near this government can possibly be this stupid.

“It’s a crazy, strange and suspicious situation,” attorney Cary Schulman told The Cable. “It’s clear to me that it was somebody looking for information and not money. My most high-profile case right now is the Aurelia Fedenisn case, and I can’t think of any other case where someone would go to these great lengths to get our information.” According to the KDFW report, the firm was the only suite burglarized in the high-rise office building and an unlocked office adjacent was left untouched. The State Department, which has repeatedly disputed Fedenisn’s allegations, denied any involvement in the incident. “Any allegation that the Department of State authorized someone to break into Mr. Schulman’s law firm is false and baseless,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. After assessing the surveillance footage, Schulman said he believed the motivations were likely political, but did not suspect department involvement. “It wasn’t professional enough,” he said. “It is possible that an Obama or Hillary supporter feels that I am unfairly going after them. And the timing of this is right after several weeks of very public media attention so it seems to me most likely that the information sought is related to that case. I don’t know for sure and I want the police to do their work.”

I disagree with Charlie on the lawyers claim that Fedenisn’s whistleblowwer case is the firms’s “most high-profile case right now.”

“It’s a crazy, strange and suspicious situation,” attorney Cary Schulman told The Cable. “It’s clear to me that it was somebody looking for information and not money. My most high-profile case right now is the Aurelia Fedenisn case, and I can’t think of any other case where someone would go to these great lengths to get our information.”  

Any case involving a whistleblower and the Obama administration is clearly a very high profile case for any law firm.

However, I do agree that the State Department denial is pathetic.

The State Department, which has repeatedly disputed Fedenisn’s allegations, denied any involvement in the incident. “Any allegation that the Department of State authorized someone to break into Mr. Schulman’s law firm is false and baseless,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The burglary, as Charles pointed out, was rather amateurish since the fools not only didn’t disable the surveillance cameras but left everything in the office untouched except for the computers they stole.

Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Knowing how stupid some government civil service employees can be, anything is possible.

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