Top Ten Ways US TV News are Screwing us Again on NSA Surveillance Story (Iraq Redux)

US television news is a danger to the security of the United States. First, it is so oriented to ratings that it cannot afford to do unpopular reports (thus, it ignored al-Qaeda and the Taliban for the most part before 9/11). Second, it is so oriented toward the halls of power inside the Beltway that it is unable to examine government allegations critically. US television news was an unrelieved cheering section for the launching of the illegal and disastrous Iraq War, which will end up costing the taxpayers many trillions of dollars, which seriously wounded 32,000 US military personnel (many of them will need help the rest of their lives), which left over 4000 soldiers, Marines and sailors dead, and which was responsible for the deaths of on the order of 300,000 Iraqis, the wounding of 1.2 million Iraqis, and the displacement from their homes of 4 million Iraqis (out of a then population of 26 million). In 2002 and 2003, Bush administration leakers and ex-generals led the television reporters and anchors by the nose. The corporations were all for the war, and they own the news. Where on-screen talent was unwilling to go along, such as Phil Donohue or Ashley Banfield, they were just fired.

Now, corporate television news is repeating this shameful performance with regard to the revelations by Edward Snowden of massive, unconstitutional government surveillance of Americans’ electronic communications. The full failure to do proper journalism was on display on Sunday (when, unfortunately, critical voices such as Rachel Maddow are absent). Here are the propaganda techniques used to stack the deck on Sunday:

1. Focus on the personality, location, and charges against the leaker instead of the substance of his revelations.

2. Smear Snowden with ad hominem fallacies. His transit through Moscow was held up as a sign of disloyalty to the United States, as though nowadays American business people and government officials don’t transit through Moscow all the time. The US ships significant amounts of military materiel for Afghanistan through Russia. Is that treasonous?

3. Focus on politicians making empty threats against China and Russia for not being sufficiently obedient to the United States. The US can’t do anything to either one that wouldn’t hurt the US more than it did them.

4. Ignore important breaking stories that impugn the government case. For instance, The Guardian broke the story Saturday morning that the NSA PRISM program was small compared to the TEMPORA program of GCHQ, its British counterpart, which Snowden alleged has attached sniffers to the fiber optic cables that stretch from New York to London, and is vacuuming up massive amounts of email and telephone conversations. A Lexis Nexis search in broadcast transcripts for Sunday showed that no US news broadcaster mentioned TEMPORA or GCHQ. This was true even though the NSA has 250 analysts assigned to TEMPORA and even though that program sweeps up and stores exactly the kind of material (telephone calls, emails) that President Obama denied were being collected.

5. Skew the guest list. Television news interviewed Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Rep. Ilena Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and a gaggle of retired FBI and CIA figures. All of them without exception were cheerleaders for the Iraq War. Glenn Greenwald was virtually the only voice allowed on the other side. He was cut short on CNN and was at a disadvantage on television because he was on the phone from Rio. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Al Gore, Steve Wozniak, Pierre Omidyar, and a whole host of figures supportive of Snowden having told us what is going on were not invited on the air to balance the hard liners interviewed.

6. Accuse journalists of treason for reporting Snowden’s revelations. This was the absolutely shameful tack taken by David Gregory on Meet The Press, when he asked Greenwald, “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?” The “to the extent” and “aided and abetted” language isn’t journalism it is shilling for the most despicable elements in Congress (and that is way over on the despicable scale).

7. Ignore past government misuse of classified information. Television news has studiedly avoided referring to Dick Cheney’s outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA field officer (and therefore outing of all the CIA field officers who used the same dummy corporation as she did as a cover,as well as all local informants known to be connected to that dummy corporation). Television anchors seem to think that the government is always trying to ‘protect’ us and is on the side of the angels, and sidestep the question of whether secret information can be used for private or shady policy purposes. Plame, by the way, is warning about the intelligence-industrial complex.

8. Continually allege or allow guests to allege that Snowden could have taken his concerns to the NSA or to Congress internally. None of his predecessors had any luck with that approach. Even sitting senators of the United States of America like Ron Wyden have been muzzled and cannot conduct a public debate on these abuses.

9. No one on television has discussed how many of the 850,000 analysts with access to secret databases containing your information work for private corporations such as Booz Allen Hamilton. That is, they aren’t even government employees. And, how much lobbying do these intelligence contractors do of Congress?

10. Focus the discussion on the alleged criminality of Snowden’s disclosures instead of on the obvious lawlessness of programs such as Tempora, which sweep up vast amounts of personal information on private individuals and store them in data bases. As Noam Chomsky has said, the way to distract the public in a democracy is to allow more and more vigorous debate about a more and more narrow set of issues. By narrowing the debate to “how illegal were Snowden’s actions?” instead of allowing the question, “how legal are the NSA’s actions,” the US mass media give the impression of debating both sides of a controversy while in fact suppressing large numbers of pertinent questions.

37 Responses

  1. I have to wonder what percent of law enforcement officials read Informed Comment. I have to wonder if any of what you just wrote would matter to any law enforcement official.
    If the past is any guide they will just continue to do what they are told to do by those that hire them.

  2. On #2, the extent to which we demand absolute martyrdom (“Snowden would face the music if he were a patriot”) is really bizarre. I’m not only talking about the establishment media, government, and corporate interests here. I’ve heard statements like this from a number of people in regards to Snowden and other leakers. Is it not enough to make a moral stand, when most others would stay quiet? Is it not enough to give up a lucrative career? For that matter, why does doing the right thing have to come at one’a own expense when we demand nothing of the sort from the people doing wrong in the first place?

    • The vast majority of Americans buy the constant pablum emitted from the Fawning Corporate Media. Polls around the time of fear-mongering for the Iraq war showed about 70 percent of the people bought into the propaganda. Other than those who saw the Iraq war as a way to make s putrid buck, the rest can be charged to gullibility.

  3. The universal and widely accepted excuse for all of this is:
    We are at war, this is necessary.

    The solution is to end the wars!

  4. A word that comes to mind is “revisionist” … not only that but another incident that typifies the corporate media, that of the sinking of the Maine in Havana Harbour in 1898.
    “Revisionism,” as I understand it, is taking an ‘accepted’ history and reinterpreting it based upon new evidence and unveiling of facts previously hidden from view.* In the cases of the corporate media, the process is quite advanced, performing the revising coincidentally and almost simultaneously with the occurrence of events. Thought processes are so rigidly formed so as to satisfy the higher echelons within the news organisations, those levels that are better connected to the powers-that-be. Those at the lower rungs of the corporate ladders can either preserve their standings within their respective organisations, OR, risk being relieved of their positions, seeking employment elsewhere (and, at times, outside of the news business). Walking the line might serve in the longer run, perhaps with an expectation of discovering and exposing the next “Watergate” or other career-making story. Sticking around might also be compared to being on flypaper, stuck in one place with nowhere to go until professional death occurs, slowly, predictably.
    The risk that those at Snowden’s level take is feeling able to think beyond those with greater knowledge and experience than their ‘superiors,’ exposing themselves to all kinds of ridicule due to their supposed naivete and youthful overexuberance. The dilemma faced by the older professionals is whether one should sacrifice all of the hard work and lose their position in the promotion/retirement queue or just act conscientiously at the right times. That faced by the youthful is whether to gain standing or cut their lives short.^
    Thus, ‘how’ the stories are told is important, denying facts outright at the outset in favour of other information that is more appealing to those at the controls of the gravy train, preferring not to derail it lest they become jettisoned “for the good of the organisation.” The stories are revised at their conception with these and other notions in mind and in hand.
    And, so, “Remember the Maine!” This was a battleship that was sunk in Havana Harbour in 1898 and was a spark that helped ignite the Spanish-American War.** The irony, of course, is the explosion came INSIDE the U.S. warship just as the source of ignition for the war came from inside the United States.*** “The New York Journal and New York World, owned respectively by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, gave the Maine intense press coverage, but employed tactics that would later be labeled “yellow journalism.” Both papers exaggerated and distorted any information they could attain, sometimes even fabricating “news” when none that fitted their agenda was available.” As can be seen, the tactics of the corporate media have not changed, although one would expect with a ‘free press’ that consciences would be unshackled and able to move about in an unfettered fashion.
    Of course, the time for real historical revisionism will come, but unfortunately, any actions by the government will have become faits accomplis, the historical truths merely allowed for those with curious minds and idealistic thoughts about when the students and readers will be able to set not only the records but the system straight!

    (Note: all references are intended to serve as starting points)
    * link to en.wikipedia.org
    ^ link to rollingstone.com
    ** link to en.wikipedia.org
    *** link to en.wikipedia.org

  5. Interesting thought, CCC. These days we hear a lot about our American apathy. But unfortunately the problem is often the opposite: people feel strong beliefs and act on them, they just happen to be odious to others amongst us. Many of those who involve themselves in law enforcement and more significantly the military are not defenders of truth and justice; they are quite often true believers in raw, unmitigated government authority.

  6. The damned thing is, they do this – the Goebbel’ Model, for lack of a better term – because IT WORKS. I suppose you could call it Pavlov’s Model as the vast majority of “Americans” are conditioned through eighty years now of practical application to accept these as self-evident truths, but your top ten read like expansions of at least half of the Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism. Corporatism is Fascism.

    I don’t find the charicature of the drooling obease Ambien, Prozac, Viagra and crotch-shots on CNN/Fox Kool-Aid addled “American” sprawled across the couch all that far fetched. The playbook is eighty years old.

  7. The US government and media have to pillory Snowden as an example to all other potential whistleblowers within the national security apparatus.

  8. Where’s the NRA on this ?
    Looks like the NSA knows where every gun in America is. Isn’t that anathema to NRA members ?

  9. I have been ready to scream for the past few days over how the MM is handling the Snowden situation, but I haven’t been able to articulate my extreme frustration as well as these 10 points. The question that keeps occurring to me – as it does in so many of these situations of government run amok – is what can one ordinary person like me really do that makes any difference. Write, call, talk – to my Senator, Rep and the White House – but they don’t listen. At least people like you, Juan, keep speaking up in a manner that a few (albeit not enough) people hear.

  10. Has there been anyone in the White House press corps of the stature, integrity and intelligence of Helen Thomas since she was maneuvered out to leave behind a pool of note takers and purveyors of propaganda?

  11. The surprising moments of the Sunday shows was that “Meet the Press” and CNN let Glenn Greenwald get anywhere near their shows. He slipped a great one in on David Gregory in response to one of Gregory’s snide remarks when Greenwald said something along the lines of “I don’t know what government officials are whispering in your ear.”

  12. What are the protections that constrain Booz Allen Hamilton from creating private proprietary intellectual property, for use in their private consulting business, from information gathered or inferred from national security contracts ?

    • I doubt there are effective protections. I’d be more worried about an ability to blackmail or otherwise penetrate members of the House Intelligence Committee (if it had happened, it might why so many of them loudly defend PRISM

    • Regarding the outsourcing of ‘government’ functions and intellectual property, here’s a personal favorite you may have seen: A Powerpoint slide prepared by a British “consultancy” that “explains” how to Achieve Victory in Notagainistan. Or at least claims to put all the salient elements on a single page and link them all together:

      link to eatitorwearit.wordpress.com

      If you expand the image, way down there in the lower left corner you have the, get this, COPYRIGHT CLAIM of one PA Consulting Group (PA Knowledge Ltd.) link to paconsulting.com So that slide and the rest of the presentation, created by a government-paid ‘think tank,’ is not even a work-for-hire to which the private firm has no possible basis to claim copyright? Ignore the idiocy of having a British firm (albeit with US sneaky-petes no doubt in the loop) tell the military how to go about COIN (though Bill will tell us about that one supposedly successful counter-insurgency in Malaysia, run violently by the Brits.)

      The “contract” for millions of dollars of “thinking” under which this “think” was conjured up must be a real doozie.

      Want a tiny sample of Your Tax Dollars In Action in the huge procurement machinery that spends your trillions and mine for stuff like that Powerpoint slide, and heavier weapons and how-to training (not including how to, you know, “govern,” to the Deserving Insurgents in Syria? link to federalregister.gov

    • You know..I’ve been a cleared fed and a cleared contractor and I genuinely don’t get the negative buzz about the distinction. Your clearance obligations are the same, your vetting is the same, etc. Especially given how messed up the federal hiring/firing process is, trusting one (fed) vs the other (contractor) is more about differences in individuals than employers when it comes to classified information.

      • Me, personally, speaking as a former non-secret-squirrel federal employee (the EPA, for 13 years) who got to watch and try to resist what the Reaganauts did starting in 1980, as a GI who got to see the “thinking” of the Best and Brightest and of Brass Hats doing body counts and “contracting” in action for just short of 3 years in the Army, including a year in that Vietnam place, and someone who has a personal letter from H. R. Haldeman on White house stationery in response to a nasty letter I wrote to Dick Nixon about some Fish Hook/Parrot’s Beak BS, reading, in total, “Dear Mr. McPhee: Rest assured, your comments have been noted,” and being a fella who makes myself sad and sick trying to keep up with the crap that our ruling class has been and is pulling on us ordinary folks, I have neither trust nor respect for most of the people who are senior GS, O serie, or senior E types, and of course the “contractors” who so easily have slid into StasiLand and that idiot unending inevitable development of worser and worser and deadlier and stupid “smart” weapons and dumber dead-end tactics and obscure but profitable “doctrines” and “strategies.” Leading to Gahan Wilson’s horrific cartoon from my own era: link to google.com At least, that grunt appears to have some idea of what “victory” means, in his value system…

        The federal “security” structure is just about moving careers and money, not a damn bit about “security” the way we moo-cows think we understand it, not about “protecting our way of life.” Unless we work in Crystal City or such places. Kicking in doors in Kandahar? Individually, personally working the blasting of what, 1649 “wogs” into Gehenna, on a good middle-class salary plus great benefits? Developing little spy-gnats and code and packet-grabbers to “keep an eye on” the rest of us, and prepare to do what, exactly?

        I knew some serious types who kind of paid and no doubt still pay attention to “constitutional” notions and strive for decency and fairness and honesty and all that Boy Scout crap, but they are in a shrinking minority, in a business, because that’s what it is, that is, as pointed out here and in a few other places, dedicated to a dead-end negative-sum game. Though of course a very few, in advance of the dead-end, will live Really Large, Infinitely Comfortable and possibly even vastly extended lives. At the expense of a lot of people who have the poor fortune to be human, blessed and cursed with a limbic system that subjects them to sectarian loyalties and sectarian violence and all that other stuff.

        Dare I say that given where all this is leading us, what one’s “clearance obligations” are is a meaningless set of terms when the behaviors of all those “cleared” people (interesting that being “cleared” is a stage on the way to high Scientology status), in net sum, are the grease and ball bearings that are helping slip the rest of us down a rat hole?

        “Mission Accomplished, SIR!”

  13. The owners of mass media profit from wars so they encourage wars. The owners of mass media profit from scare, so they encourage scare. Media ownership is a root problem creating many others. In countries without this media ownership by weapons makers there seem to be fewer, or no, wars.

  14. Nice observations, J. Cole.

    Sadly, our country is comfortably divided (for and by the richest 1%) between right-wing authoritarians and those who will contort themselves into funny shapes in order to defend their 3rd Way corporatist hero, Obama.

    It does not look good.
    ~

    • The story of a one-percent-them and a 99-percent-us is a simplistic myth. The one percent is fairly valid, but the other 99 percent is composed of other divisions among which there is a sizable portion (courtiers and enablers) who aid and abet the one percent. Then there is another larger group that is apathetic and essentially going along with the one-percenters and their enablers. We could define the millions living in poverty as another group. They are unhappy with the situation but don’t have a clue about what to do. Finally, there is a small group of activists trying to make changes for the better, but for the most part they are voices in the wilderness with occasional calls that get some national attention but not enough to waken the parade of sleepwalkers.

  15. I was watching MSNBC All In With Chris Hayes, and one of his “guests” made multiple attempts to discredit Greenwald’s reporting as “sloppy”. Watching Rachel Maddow a bit later, it was clear that she got the memo, as she pulled the party line in an effort to destroy Snowden’s motives. It was pretty pathetic and a transparent sham. So much for the “Liberal” media.

    • Are you talking about the Monday night shows? I didn’t watch Hayes, but Maddow was just awful.

      She has become completely supine to the current administration since Olbermann got canned.

      In her segment on Snowden’s flight from Hong Kong, she made every effort possible to imply that he really is spying, that he has sold or given loads of secrets to the Chinese or Russians, or that he is not taking any care to prevent the Russians and Chines from *somehow* stealing the documents from him.

      Snowden recently said that he took the job at Booz-Allen specifically to have more access to documents that would prove the many accusations of criminality he is making.

      Maddow took this and quoted it as if that was obvious evidence that his motives were not patriotic. As if only a spy would do something like that.

      This would be bad enough from anyone who sells themselves as a real journalist. But this is a woman who wrote a book last year, ‘drift’, which argued that the national security and military complex had grown more and more ‘unmoored’ from it’s real purpose since the collapse of the USSR, and was in danger of growing out of control and endangering the country itself.

      The author of that book ought to be jumping on these NSA revelations as evidence of just how right she was.

      But she is treating Snowden as if he is exactly the spy that the government claims he is. Her tone was sarcastic every time she mentioned him.

      It’s just pathetic, but she is obviously willing to be establishment stenographer if the alternative is following Olbermann out the door.

      Maddow is now in the same category as Scarborough, Chuck Todd, David Gregory, and all the other media cretins.

      Worthless.

      • Why would you or anybody else be surprised? MSNBC, filled with party-line liberals, is just as (ok, almost as) corrosive as Fox News. They both make discussion of serious issues into sporting events, serve as cheerleaders of opposing sides and make a mockery of critical thinking.

        • No, I’m not really surprised. I realised what Maddow is a long time ago, and since Olbermann’s firing she’s done exactly what I expected.

          But, I write posts like the earlier one in the hope that everyone will see what’s going on. The partisan hackery really does escape many people, they tune in to their favorite echo-chamber and just take everything said as fact.

          It may give you an opportunity to feel smug by pointing out that ‘anybody’ should already know this stuff, but that’s useless. Keep shouting it from the rooftops until everybody knows and is angry. Change doesn’t come from people who keep the truth to themselves.

      • “In her segment on Snowden’s flight from Hong Kong, she made every effort possible to imply that he really is spying, that he has sold or given loads of secrets to the Chinese or Russians, or that he is not taking any care to prevent the Russians and Chines from *somehow* stealing the documents from him.”

        I have no idea whether or not Snowden willingly sold or gave classified secrets loaded on his hard drives and thumb drives to the Chinese and Russians. You can be sure, however, that he was in a form of “custody” while in Hong Kong and Moscow, and that Chinese, and particularly Russian, intelligence officers down-loaded everything on his hard drives and thumb drives. He would have had no say in the matter, his own protestations and that of his Wikileaks “handlers” notwithstanding.

        • Were you there, Bill? or is this just more claiming of authoritative knowledge without referents, other than “You can be sure”? Following the snide little unsubstantiated indictment of Snowden, “whether or not Snowden willingly sold or gave classified secrets loaded on his hard drives and thumb drives to the Chinese and Russians.” You never say — do you have first-hand Player knowledge of how the sneaky petes do their bloody, too often idiot business where the rest of us are always advised not to look?

          You’re getting better at the doubt-sowing and impeachment game. Maybe you will attain Joe’s status and skill level in the art of drive-by impeachment eventually?

        • “I have no idea whether or not Snowden willingly sold or gave classified secrets loaded on his hard drives and thumb drives to the Chinese and Russians.”

          As Glenn Greenwald said on “Meet the (Fawning Corporate) Press” Snowden could have sold his information but didn’t. Given your previous comments and this, that is something you would prefer not to believe.

          “You can be sure, however, that he was in a form of “custody” while in Hong Kong and Moscow, and that Chinese, and particularly Russian, intelligence officers down-loaded everything on his hard drives and thumb drives.”

          This is another piece of BS and a dumb idea you would like to smear Snowden with and probably believe, but a more likely scenario is that whatever hardware Snowden had he and others working with him made sure that it was in a secure place. That would have excluded on his person in foreign places such as HK, China and Russia.

        • “Were you there, Bill? or is this just more claiming of authoritative knowledge without referents, other than “You can be sure”?”

          I just don’t believe in the tooth fairy, Mr. McPhee. It would be foolish to think the Russian FSB, in particular, would not take advantage of Snowden’s intelligence trove. Or do you think Russian intelligence is filled with Boy Scouts reciting the Oath and Honor Code?

          “As Glenn Greenwald said on “Meet the (Fawning Corporate) Press” Snowden could have sold his information but didn’t. Given your previous comments and this, that is something you would prefer not to believe.”

          I don’t give a damn what Glenn Greenwald said, Mr. Bodden. Neither Greenwald nor you have anything other than Snowden’s word on what he has or has not done, and his word has been shown to be worth less than the cost of a cup of coffee.

          “This is another piece of BS and a dumb idea you would like to smear Snowden with and probably believe, but a more likely scenario is that whatever hardware Snowden had he and others working with him made sure that it was in a secure place. That would have excluded on his person in foreign places such as HK, China and Russia.”

          Speaking of BS and dumb ideas, not to mention naivete, after reading your above-cited quote, Mr. Bodden, I would like to make you an offer of some oceanfront property in Arizona, sight unseen, of course. (And I’ll throw a bridge in for good measure.)

        • You have no evidence for any of those assertions.

          Either way, we can be quite certain that both Chinese and Russian intelligence services already *have* access to everything Snowden might be carrying. We know that every side of the ‘cold war’ had agents, double agents, and even triple agents at all sorts of levels in every major government. Every so often a new one gets caught, and everyone is surprised.

          We know for a fact that almost ONE MILLION people in the US have ‘top secret’ clearance and can access all this stuff. The chances that the other sides haven’t yet ‘turned’ one of these MILLION people is zero.

          Nobody in China or Russia needs to get access to Snowden’s files. What’s more, I’m sure he has them all encrypted with the very simple standard that the NSA admits it can’t crack. That’s why they are allowed to store encrypted data forever, so one day they can crack it.

          So on more or less every front, your arguments are either ignorant or ridiculous.

  16. “Private Sector’contractors are used because its believed they cant be held accountable to local or our laws. This is partly why Rumsfeld expanded enormously the use of private contractors in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Also, too there was alot of lobbying because hey its a verra profitable business and during the Bush administration, a law was passed that said contractors not based in the US could receive USG money and a number offshored themselves to avoid paying US taxes.

    Dr Peter Ludlow, who is a professor at Northwestern and making a documentary on hacking, had a guest blog at the NY Times recently. He cites the problem of private sector intel companies and mentions how for years not only have they spied on US citizens, they have been involved in deliberately fabricating information on social activist groups to discredit them. The link to the piece he wrote is below.

    Unfortunately, alot of our newspapers are are just arms of the official public affairs machinery. The NY TImes and Washington Post not only deliberately NOT publish information on other whistleblower cases to not offend whatever administration is in power, they coordinate the editorials and articles with the white house public affairs office. Notice all the similar commentaries and articles in regard to the Snowden affair??

    It’s good to pay attention too to events in the UK – some people might be familiar with the case of Milly Dowler, the murder victim in the UK whose phone was hacked by a Rupert Murdoch-owened paper, News of the World, and her voice mail messages erased. If i remember right – please someone correct me if this is not so – i think some law enforcement were involved either in this case or other cases, taking bribe money relating to feature stories the ‘journalists’ of the News of the world were investigating. That is just one case that made it in the media and a number of british celebrities like Hugh Grant have sued believing they were the victims of unauthorized eavesdropping by this paper

    1.
    link to opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com

    2.
    link to dailymail.co.uk

  17. The Peter Ludlow piece offered by Kyzl Orda above underscores the extent to which the vast private surveillance network that has grown up over the last decade is omnipresent yet never mentioned. For example Edward Snowden is commonly mentioned as a NSA contractor, implying he was an individual associated with the agency, when in fact he was hired and managed by Booz Allen Hamilton. That firm has been remarkably successful in keeping its name out of the spotlight, and by staying in the shadows leaves us with an incomplete understanding of what is happening. To me one of the central concerns is the extent to which public power, including the ability to strip you of the right to travel, to confront charges against you, and to own information about yourself , is put at the service of private interests. It is easy to impugn the motive of Snowden but how do we know to whom private surveillance, protected by the US government, are channeling our information?

    I am less concerned about what Snowden did, which is in the open, than what those in the shadows continue to do.

    • The issue of private businesses controlling all this data is indeed a serious one.

      We know from the Stratfor and other leaks of email databases, that many of these private contractors offer their services to private corporations all the time. That’s their business. Stratfor, for example, offered to organize a smear campaign to frighten Glen Greenwald into silence, back when he was reporting on Wikileaks and that ‘Collateral Murder’ video.

      Other emails have shown that they promised to use their ‘leverage and access’ within the FBI to find out about an active investigation for a private client.

      There can be no question that they are happy to use any of the data that they acquire on behalf of the government in the course of offering services to private clients that often include foreign companies, and even the official governments of smaller countries.

      The real problem is that this isn’t strange or unusual; this has *always* been the case. The CIA, and the OSS before it, were created explicitly to serve the interests of the US’s wealthiest families. The staff that made up these agencies were almost entirely hired out of various big corporations existing internal intelligence agencies. The CIA’s plots over the years to overthrow elected goverments in Iran, or Guatamala, or anywhere else, have always been doen to protect the interests of private corporations in those countries. United Fruit was the company whose plantations in Cuba and all across South America were threatened by the populist uprisings, and the CIA’s murderous and bloody rampage across that continent was entirely devoted to protecting those commercial assets.

      This is how the US has always worked. We hear from every politician and military or intel officer that these covert ops are always for ‘protecting Americas interests’ overseas.

      Well, what are ‘Americas interests’? They are business interests, and always have been. The entire pentagon, CIA, and NSA apparatus has been used to protect corporate interests before anything else, since at least WW2, and often a lot before that.

      As someone famous once said, the business of America *is* business. It’s pretty amazing that 99% of the population don’t really understand this.

  18. There hasn’t been a time when this country needed good press like it does today. Many of the people I talk to have no idea what is really happening in the world or in this country.

  19. This is one of the really bad things:
    “850,000 analysts with access to secret databases ”

    Who are these analysts, and what could they do with the information aside from what the corporations and government do with it?

    Blackmail, identity theft, stalking come to mind right off the bat. What other things could they think up?

  20. One of the primary themes used to attack Edward Snowden is that about his breaking the law. We would do well to consider at this point Mr. Bumble’s comment on the law in “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens: “If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, “the law is a ass – a idiot”. Ref: link to phrases.org.uk

  21. Excellent piece, one of your better posts.

    Although I still dont really get why Snowden went public. Do we really need a persona attached to the leaks to make them believable? Does he have so much stature and credibility to withstand the onslaught of media focus?

    The establishment media’s ability to make the story about Snowden, instead of the NSA eavesdropping was a predictable outcome. His naivete must be taken into account for how the story has become a debate on his motives.

    My idol in this regard is deep throat, Mark Felt, 2nd at the FBI under Nixon. He enabled Woodward and Bernstein’s reporting. He guided them with deft hand and clever footwork. In testament to his actions a president resigned in disgrace. The Washington Post’s investigation is the gold standard of journalism to this day and every reporter including David Gregory knows it.

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