Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What are they hiding this time?

Nothing new about government secrecy …
except the extreme enthusiasm with which the Obama administration seeks to protect it.
The A.P. said that the Justice Department informed it on Friday that law enforcement officials had obtained the records for more than 20 telephone lines of its offices and journalists, including their home phones and cellphones. It said the records were seized without notice sometime this year.

… In an angry letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Monday, Gary Pruitt, the president and chief executive of The A.P., called the seizure, a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into its news gathering activities.

“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” he wrote. “These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the news gathering activities undertaken by The A.P. during a two-month period, provide a road map to A.P.’s news gathering operations, and disclose information about A.P.’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”
The various phone companies involved are set up technically to grab such information whenever the government asks for it. In investigations of leaks of "national security secrets," the Obama administration has sought twice the number of indictments issued under all previous administrations combined.

The investigation, thought to involve publication of news of a Yemen-based terrorist plot to bomb an airliner, is one of two announced by the Justice Department last June. The other involves leaks to the New York Times about US-initiated cyberattacks on Iranian nuclear facilities. The Times has no knowledge of seized phone records in that case.

What this is really all about is whether the government can intimidate the press. The government wants to be free to decide which of its war-on-the-cheap projects the citizens get to know about. For the moment, we're a nation tired of declared wars and occupations. But our leaders (and particularly our spooks) have lots of places they want to project U.S. power. Maybe some of these efforts actually do protect us. Maybe some of them are monumental screw ups or even crimes that will ultimately make us less safe. None of them can be debated democratically if the government can succeed in hiding them in the name of "national security."

Want to keep on top of these machinations? I suggest reading Marcy Wheeler. She often has the story months before the "news" media.

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