Round-up: Revelations of the Objects and Depths of the Security Apparatus
Even among US Senators, virtually nothing was known at the time about the National Security Agency. The Beltway joke was that "NSA" stood for "no such agency". Upon completing his investigation, Church was so shocked to learn what he had discovered - the massive and awesome spying capabilities constructed by the US government with no transparency or accountability - that he issued the following warning, as reported by the New York Times, using language strikingly stark for such a mainstream US politician when speaking about his own government:
"'That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.'
"He added that if a dictator ever took over, the NSA 'could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.'"
"Liberal Icon Frank Church on the NSA"
President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.
Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material. They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.
“Hammer this fact home . . . leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States,” says a June 1, 2012, Defense Department strategy for the program that was obtained by McClatchy.
"Obama's Crackdown views leaks as aiding enemies"
If you add up the pulling of news organization phone records (The Associated Press), the tracking of individual reporters (Fox News), and the effort by the current administration to go after sources (seven instances and counting in which a government official has been criminally charged with leaking classified information to the news media), suggesting that there is a war on the press is less hyperbole than simple math.
For the time being, it is us (the press) versus them (federal officials), which is part of the reason David Gregory ended up taking a lot of incoming fire for suggesting on NBC's “Meet the Press” on Sunday that Glenn Greenwald may have committed crimes, not journalism, when he published leaks by Mr. Snowden.
“To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?” he said in the interview.
Mr. Greenwald responded assertively.
“I think it’s pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies,” Mr. Greenwald responded.
"The Other Snowden Drama"
America is blessed with a first amendment, which prevents prior restraint and affords a considerable measure of protection to free speech. But the Obama administration has equally shown a dismaying aggression in not only criminalising leaking and whistleblowing, but also recently placing reporters under surveillance – tracking them and pulling their phone and email logs in order to monitor their sources for stories that were patently of public importance.
"history will be kind to him"
The Obama Administration doesn’t want him to come home and contribute to the national-security-versus-liberty debate that the President says is necessary. It wants to lock him up for a long time.
And for what? For telling would-be jihadis that we are monitoring their Gmail and Facebook accounts? For informing the Chinese that we eavesdrop on many of their important institutions, including their prestigious research universities? For confirming that the Brits eavesdrop on virtually anybody they feel like? Come on. Are there many people out there who didn’t already know these things?
Snowden took classified documents from his employer, which surely broke the law. But his real crime was confirming that the intelligence agencies, despite their strenuous public denials, have been accumulating vast amounts of personal data from the American public. The puzzle is why so many media commentators continue to toe the official line. About the best explanation I’ve seen came from Josh Marshall, the founder of T.P.M., who has been one of Snowden’s critics. In a post that followed the first wave of stories, Marshall wrote, “At the end of the day, for all its faults, the U.S. military is the armed force of a political community I identify with and a government I support. I’m not a bystander to it. I’m implicated in what it does and I feel I have a responsibility and a right to a say, albeit just a minuscule one, in what it does.”
I suspect that many Washington journalists, especially the types who go on Sunday talk shows, feel the way Marshall does, but perhaps don’t have his level of self-awareness.
"Demonizing Snowden: Which side are you on?"