by Susanne Posel

July 28, 2014

from OccupyCorporatism Website








The non-governmental organization (NGO) Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have released a report (With Liberty to Monitor All - How Large-Scale U.S. Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy) explaining the damage caused by U.S. government surveillance agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA).


The report states:

"Journalists told us that officials are substantially less willing to be in contact with the press, even with regard to unclassified matters or personal opinions, than they were even a few years ago.


Journalists and their sources, as well as lawyers and their clients, are changing their behavior in ways that undermine basic rights and corrode democratic processes."

More than 92 journalists, attorneys, as well as current and former U.S. government officials were interviewed for the report.


Alex Sinha, author of the report and fellow at the HRW contends that,

"the U.S. holds itself out as a model of freedom and democracy, but its own surveillance programs are threatening the values it claims to represent."

Sinha said:

"They're not in general convinced that there is a chilling effect of the sort that we were talking about."

Both the ACLU and HRW call for the reform of the Obama administration and Congressional approval of such surveillance agencies and their ability to monitor average citizens across the world without clear and legal purpose for doing so.


Earlier this year, citizen journalism was given another prompt toward legitimacy with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that bloggers have the same 1st Amendment rights as established journalists when involved in a defamation of character suit; as long as the issue is of public concern.


The outcome of this case establishes the fact that protections afforded the news media are not exclusive to their realm, but are also extended to citizen journalists and bloggers.


Most importantly, the judges found that,

"under the 1st Amendment, it doesn't matter whether the person accused of defamation is a professional journalist, an amateur whistle-blower or a crank with a Web page."

This case highlights the findings in 1974 wherein the U.S. Supreme Court wrote that freedom of the press applies to everyone - not only journalists.


Senator Dianne Feinstein commented last year that the new Federal Media Shield would guarantee 1st Amendment protection to federally recognized journalists who are "real reporters" - not those "blogger" journalists in alternative media.


Feinstein claimed that the 1st Amendment is a privilege, not an inalienable right as defined by our U.S. Constitution.


In 2013, the mainstream media complained about pictures of President Obama that are not allowed to be made public.


Because images of the president are used by independent and alternative media, as well as corporate-sponsored, the way in which Obama is portrayed is important.


In controlling access to images of the president, this is one way of making sure Obama's image remains intact. Photographs end up in the hands of independent and alternative media which make the president look bad.


The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released a report showing that President Obama is on a crusade to subvert the freedom of the press and democracy.


Leonard Downie, professor of journalism at Arizona State University (ASU) and author of the report for CPJ said:

"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."

Downie pointed out that the Obama administration has a,

"war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I've seen since the Nixon administration, when I was one of the editors involved in The Washington Post's investigation of Watergate."

Journalists interviewed for the report conveyed the fact that the,

"U.S. government has conducted more than twice as many criminal prosecutions for alleged leaks of classified information than all the previous administrations combined."

The Obama administration has taken internal leaks seriously with the implementation of aggressive measures under the Insider Threat Program (ITP) that conducts surveillance on journalists to prevent whistleblowing by any means necessary.


According to the Pentagon, an "insider threat" is defined as an employee,

"with a clearance who 'wittingly or unwittingly' harms 'national security interests' through 'unauthorized disclosure, data modification, espionage, terrorism, or kinetic actions resulting in loss or degradation of resources or capabilities'."

The ITP is under high security to ensure that leverage for blackmail and coercion are utilized to the fullest extent and power by this current administration to mitigate potential leaks with co-workers spying on each other, keeping profiles for future use and the broad spectrum surveillance that remains intact long after a subject is no longer an immediate threat for future consideration.


The Obama administration made public a portion of this initiative with the presidential memorandum entitled, "National Insider Threat Policy and Minimum Standards for Executive Branch Insider Threat Programs" wherein leaks are considered treasonous acts against the current administration.


The reward based system set up by the Obama administration gave coverage and protection to those whistleblowers who "followed the proper channels" when leaking out information and paved the way for the ITP to punish other who did not allow the federal government to control their leaks.


Under ITP, Obama asserted that intelligence agencies would follow a subject for years after they had "defected" from the U.S. government to determine if highly classified documents had been acquired and could be released to media outlets or the general public.

By using public opinion against the potential leak, the ITP is designed to discredit the whistleblower.