“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9
Remember watching the old newsreels that chronicled the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany? Remember how mad you got when you saw the German people and the Jews doing almost nothing to stem the rising tide of what was an obviously (to us now) corrupt and tyrannical government? You asked yourself, time and again, “why didn’t they do anything about it??”
Welcome to Obama’s America 2013…you now have your answer.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government’s aggressive prosecution of leaks and efforts to control information are having a chilling effect on journalists and government whistle-blowers, according to a report released Thursday on U.S. press freedoms under the Obama administration.
The Committee to Protect Journalists conducted its first examination of U.S. press freedoms amid the Obama administration’s unprecedented number of prosecutions of government sources and seizures of journalists’ records. Usually the group focuses on advocating for press freedoms abroad.
Leonard Downie Jr., a former executive editor of The Washington Post, wrote the 30-page analysis entitled “The Obama Administration and the Press.” The report notes President Barack Obama came into office pledging an open, transparent government after criticizing the Bush administration’s secrecy, “but he has fallen short of his promise.”
“In the Obama administration’s Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press,” wrote Downie, now a journalism professor at Arizona State University. “The administration’s 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.”
Downie interviewed numerous reporters and editors, including a top editor at The Associated Press, following revelations this year that the government secretly seized records for telephone lines and switchboards used by more than 100 AP journalists. Downie also interviewed journalists whose sources have been prosecuted on felony charges
Those suspected of discussing classified information are increasingly subject to investigation, lie-detector tests, scrutiny of telephone and email records and now surveillance by co-workers under a new “Insider Threat Program” that has been implemented in every agency.
“There’s no question that sources are looking over their shoulders,” Michael Oreskes, the AP’s senior managing editor, told Downie. “Sources are more jittery and more standoffish, not just in national security reporting. A lot of skittishness is at the more routine level. The Obama administration has been extremely controlling and extremely resistant to journalistic intervention.”
To bypass journalists, the White House developed its own network of websites, social media and even created an online newscast to dispense favorable information and images. In some cases, the White House produces videos of the president’s meetings with major figures that were never listed on his public schedule. Instead, they were kept secret – a departure from past administrations, the report noted.
Frank Sesno, a former CNN Washington bureau chief who is now director of George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, told Downie the combined efforts of the Obama administration are “squeezing the flow of information.”
“Open dialogue with the public without filters is good, but if used for propaganda and to avoid contact with journalists, it’s a slippery slope,” Sesno said.
In the report, White House officials objected to findings that the administration has limited transparency or information. Press Secretary Jay Carney said such complaints are part of the “natural tension” between the White House and the press.
“The idea that people are shutting up and not leaking to reporters is belied by the facts,” Carney told Downie.
National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said there is still investigative reporting about national security issues with information from “nonsanctioned sources with lots of unclassified information and some sensitive information.”
Downie found the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were a “watershed moment,” leading to increased secrecy, surveillance and control of information. There is little direct comparison between the Bush and Obama administrations, though some journalists told Downie the Obama administration exercises more control.
“Every administration learns from the previous administration,” said CBS Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer. “They become more secretive and put tighter clamps on information.”
Shortly after Obama entered office, the White House was under pressure from intelligence agencies and Congress to stop leaks of national security information. The administration’s first prosecution for leaking information came in April 2009 after a Hebrew linguist working for the FBI gave a blogger classified information about Israel.
Other prosecutions followed, targeting some government employees who believed they were whistle-blowers. The administration has rejected whistle-blower claims if they do not involve “waste, fraud or abuse,” according to report. So sources exposing questionable or illegal practices are considered leaks.
To date, six government employees and two contractors have been targeted for prosecution under the 1917 Espionage Act for accusations that they leaked classified information to the press. There were just three such prosecutions under all previous U.S. presidents.
By 2012, an AP report about the CIA’s success in foiling a bomb plot in Yemen further escalated the Obama administration’s efforts, even as the White House congratulated the CIA on the operation, Downie wrote. The disclosure in May that the government had secretly subpoenaed and seized AP phone records drew sharp criticism from many news organizations and civil rights advocates.
In September, the Justice Department announced AP’s phone records led investigators to a former FBI bomb technician who pleaded guilty to disclosing the operation to a reporter.
“This prosecution demonstrates our deep resolve to hold accountable anyone who would violate their solemn duty to protect our nation’s secrets and to prevent future, potentially devastating leaks by those who would wantonly ignore their obligations to safeguard classified information,” the Justice Department said last month.
Kathleen Carroll, AP’s executive editor, said the report highlights the growing threats to independent journalism in a country that has upheld press freedom as a measure of democratic society for two centuries.
“We find we must fight for those freedoms every day as the fog of secrecy descends on every level of government activity,” she said in a statement. “That fight is worthwhile, as we learned when the outcry over the Justice Department’s secret seizure of AP phone records led to proposed revisions intended to protect journalists from overly broad investigative techniques. Implementation of those revisions is an important next step.”
In its report, the Committee to Protect Journalists recommends several reforms, including ending the practice of charging people who leak information to journalists with espionage and preventing secret subpoenas of journalists’ records. source – AP
RELATED STORY: Evidence Now Suggests Obama Did Not Have Bin Laden Killed
Records about the US Navy Seals’ raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout were ordered to be purged from Pentagon computers and sent to the CIA – where they could be more easily shielded from ever being made public.
A draft report by the Pentagon’s inspector-general briefly described the secret move, which was directed by the top US special operations commander, Admiral William McRaven.
The transfer did not set off alarms within the Obama administration even though it appears to have sidestepped rules governing federal records and circumvented the Freedom of Information Act.
President Barack Obama has pledged to make his administration the most transparent in US history.
The CIA said the documents were handled in a manner consistent with the fact that the operation was conducted under the CIA’s direction. source – Belfast Telegraph
Obama says guns for him and his family, but no guns for you and yours
Despite launching a gun control agenda that threatens to disarm the American people, President Obama has signed a bill that would afford him armed Secret Service protection for life.
“The legislation, crafted by Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, rolls back a mid-1990s law that imposed a 10-year limit on Secret Service protection for former presidents. Bush would have been the first former commander in chief affected,” reports Yahoo News.
The new bill, which will cost American taxpayers millions of dollars, is a re-instatement of a 1965 law which will see presidents protected for life as well as their children up to age 16.
The irony of Obama seeking to surround himself with armed men for the rest of his life while simultaneously working to disarm the American people via a gun control agenda that is likely to be enforced via executive decree represents the height of hypocrisy.
But it’s not the first time that Obama has lauded the notion of responsible Americans using firearms to protect himself and his family while concurrently eviscerating that very same right for the American people.
During an ABC Nightline interview broadcast on December 26 yet recorded before the Sandy Hook shooting, Obama said one of the benefits of his re-election was the ability “to have men with guns around at all times,” in order to protect his daughters.
In addition, the school attended by Obama’s daughters in Washington D.C. has no less than 11 armed security guards on duty at all times, yet the idea of arming teachers and school officials to prevent school massacres has been dismissed by gun control advocates who want school campuses to remain “gun free zones” where victims are disarmed and shooters are free to carry out their rampage unimpeded.
The hypocrisy of gun control advocates who feverishly work to create victim disarmament yet surround themselves with armed men is rampant amongst the political class.
As we reported last month, despite in the same year calling for “Mr. and Mrs. America” to “turn in” their guns California Senator Dianne Feinstein, author of a draconian bill set to be introduced later this month that would treat gun owners like sex offenders, admitted to carrying a concealed weapon for her own protection after she was threatened by a terrorist group.
Other prominent gun control advocates such as Mayor Michael Bloomberg have also aggressively pushed to disarm Americans while themselves employing armed bodyguards at all times.
Michael Moore, another vehement proponent for gun control, also has armed bodyguards, one of whom was arrested for carrying an unlicensed weapon at New York’s JFK airport back in 2005.
A White House petition created at the end of last month calls for making the White House and all federal buildings gun free zones. “If the government believes gun free zones are a solution for citizens, the same standard should apply to government servants and employees,” states the petition, which currently has over 12,000 signatures. source – InfoWars
Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the Supreme Court’s most vocal and conservative justices, said on Sunday that the Second Amendment leaves room for U.S. legislatures to regulate guns, including menacing hand-held weapons.
“It will have to be decided in future cases,” Scalia said on Fox News Sunday. But there were legal precedents from the days of the Founding Fathers that banned frightening weapons which a constitutional originalist like himself must recognize. There were also “locational limitations” on where weapons could be carried, the justice noted.
When asked if that kind of precedent would apply to assault weapons, or 100-round ammunition magazines like those used in the recent Colorado movie theater massacre, Scalia declined to speculate. “We’ll see,” he said. ‘”It will have to be decided.”
As an originalist scholar, Scalia looks to the text of the Constitution—which confirms the right to bear arms—but also the context of 18th-century history. “They had some limitations on the nature of arms that could be borne,” he told host Chris Wallace.
In a wide-ranging interview, Scalia also stuck by his criticism of Chief Justice John Roberts and the majority opinion in the ruling that upheld the Affordable Care Act this summer. “You don’t interpret a penalty to be a pig. It can’t be a pig,” said Scalia, of the court’s decision to call the penalty for not obtaining health insurance a tax. “There is no way to regard this penalty as a tax.”
Scalia, a septuagenarian, said he had given no thought to retiring. “My wife doesn’t want me hanging around the house,” he joked. But he did say he would try to time his retirement from the court so that a justice of similar conservative sentiments would take his place, presumably as the appointee of a Republican president. “Of course I would not like to be replaced by somebody who sets out immediately to undo” what he has spent decades trying to achieve, the justice said. source – Fox News
Freedom lives on…for now, at least
SAN ANTONIO — U.S. lawmakers stopped anti-piracy legislation in its tracks on Friday, delivering a stunning win for Internet companies that staged an unprecedented online protest this week to kill the previously fast-moving bills.
Lamar Smith, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, followed suit, saying his panel would delay action on similar legislation until there is wider agreement on the issue.
“I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy. It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products,” Smith said in a statement.
The bills, known as PIPA in the Senate and SOPA in the House, are aimed at curbing access to overseas websites that traffic in pirated content and counterfeit products, such as movies and music.
The legislation has been a priority for entertainment companies, publishers, pharmaceutical companies and other industry groups who say it is critical to curbing online piracy, which they believe costs them billions of dollars a year. source – MSBC
Internet censorship in the time of the One World Government
On Wednesday, January 18, thousands of websites will go dark to protest the massive Internet censorship bill before Congress right now.
From Ars Technica: Imagine a world in which any intellectual property holder can, without ever appearing before a judge or setting foot in a courtroom, shut down any website’s online advertising programs and block access to credit card payments. The credit card processors and the advertising networks would be required to take quick action against the named website; only the filing of a “counter notification” by the website could get service restored.
It’s the world envisioned by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) in today’s introduction of the Stop Online Piracy Act in the US House of Representatives. This isn’t some off-the-wall piece of legislation with no chance of passing, either; it’s the House equivalent to the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act, which would officially bring Internet censorship to the US as a matter of law.
Calling its plan a “market-based system to protect US customers and prevent US funding of sites dedicated to theft of US property,” the new bill gives broad powers to private actors. Any holder of intellectual property rights could simply send a letter to ad network operators like Google and to payment processors like MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal, demanding these companies cut off access to any site the IP holder names as an infringer.
The scheme is much like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA) “takedown notices,” in which a copyright holder can demand some piece of content be removed from sites like YouTube with a letter. The content will be removed unless the person who posted the content objects; at that point, the copyright holder can decide if it wants to take the person to court over the issue.
Here, though, the stakes are higher. Rather than requesting the takedown of certain hosted material, intellectual property owners can go directly for the jugular: marketing and revenue for the entire site. So long as the intellectual property holders include some “specific facts” supporting their infringement claim, ad networks and payment processors will have five days to cut off contact with the website in question.
The scheme is largely targeted at foreign websites which do not recognize US law, and which therefore will often refuse to comply with takedown requests. But the potential for abuse—even inadvertent abuse—here is astonishing, given the terrifically outsized stick with which content owners can now beat on suspected infringers.
Not surprisingly, the new bill is getting pushback from groups like NetCoalition, which counts Google, Yahoo, and small ISPs among its members. “As leading brands of the Internet, we strongly oppose offshore ‘rogue’ websites and share policymakers’ goal of combating online infringement of copyrights and trademarks,” said executive director Markham Erickson in a statement.
“However, we do not believe that the solution lies in regulating the Internet and comprising its stability and security. We do not believe that it is worth overturning a decade of settled law that has formed the legal foundation for all social media. And finally, we do not believe that it is worth restricting free speech or providing comfort to totalitarian regimes that seek to control and restrict the Internet freedoms of their own citizens.”
Dozens of law professors have also claimed the original PROTECT IP Act, which contains most of the same ideas, is unconstitutional. But the drumbeat for some sort of censorship is growing louder. source – ARS Technica