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It's probably a forlorn hope, but I'm cross posting this from the Motley Mooseto see if this can initiate a sensible discussion about the NSA leaks without it reverting to the usual Rox/Sux Obama debate, or framing intelligence services as all good, or all bad.

I've published a piece today in The New Republic which (going beyond the personalities of either Manning or Snowden or their interlocutors Assange and Greenwald) tries to look at the role of whistleblowing and the press in the modern age.

One of my major interviewers for this piece, Heather Brooke, a US trained journalist who broke the MPs expenses scandal here, and was responsible for bringing the wikileaks classified cables to the Guardian makes two interesting points, often overlooked in the debate/furor

The first is how dangerous the surveillance powers are for any whistleblower wanting to contact a journalist.

Often overlooked in the discussion of personal privacy and national security is the impact that digital surveillance has on journalist source protection. Even if only a tiny fraction of social networking and email accounts are examined by government intelligence agencies (around 19,000 out of 1.1 billion Facebook users according to James Ledbetter at Reuters), that’s still an untenable risk for a would-be whistleblower contacting a journalist.

“The flip side of the digital revolution is that this technology is so easily hijacked by state surveillance,” says Brooke, who has since written up her experiences in her book The Revolution Will Be Digitised. “It was a steep learning curve for me three years ago,” she says. Brooke would “go dark” before important meetings, ditching her smart phone which could be hijacked as a tracking device, electronic bug or remote camera. She was told most email and online messaging services were insecure, and she relied on encryption keys and secret chat rooms. Three years before it had been acquired by Microsoft, other journalists would communicate with Assange using Skype. She wouldn’t trust it now (nor Assange apparently, who she claims tried to destroy the credibility of the Guardian when it wouldn’t do his bidding).

The second is about the temerity of big news organisations these days, when confronted with government secrets
But Brooke, who cut her teeth as a crime reporter in the U.S., thinks the American press has since become a victim of “regulatory capture.” “Whistleblowers are vanishingly rare, and every newspaper needs government briefings and insider information just to survive,” she says. But since the Beltway is not the preoccupation of a U.K.-based news service, the Guardian could afford not to play ball.

It’s an odd side effect of the borderless exchange of information—a kind of regulatory arbitrage. While Apple, Amazon, Google and other corporations can use global communications to escape national taxes, the Guardian seems to have a found a niche where it can play to U.S. readers while avoiding the worst consequences from the authorities—exclusion from briefings, refusal to confirm or deny stories, or provide interviews from senior politicians and staff.

As you all know, I am an Obama supporter. But I'm also deeply critical of concentrations of power, in the media, in certain sections of international finance, and - because power corrupts - in an unaccountable security service.
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Comment Preferences

  •  The Guardian has become the best source (42+ / 0-)

    of news on what the U.S. government is doing.

    This situation is similar to the situation states formerly controlled by the Soviet Union when the BBC was the best source of information.

    The decline of formerly great papers like the New York Times is stunning. The old Times would have never allowed the embedding of Judy Miller and the enabling of the Iraq war.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 05:12:54 AM PDT

    •  There was a story I couldn't publish (22+ / 0-)

      About the NYT during the wikileaks era. Maybe I'll find a way of doing it soon - but it kind of confirms your point

      The Fall of the House of Murdoch -with Eric Lewis and all the latest Leveson evidence out now!

      by Brit on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 05:14:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  BREAKING: Wikileaks negotiating for Snowden... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jadt65, Meteor Blades, Kombema

        Given this story in today's NYT, as noted here:

        WikiLeaks Says It Is Working to Negotiate Asylum in Iceland for Snowden
        June 20, 2013

        WASHINGTON — WikiLeaks activists in Iceland are discussing with government officials there the possibility of asylum for Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who disclosed hundreds of classified documents on N.S.A. surveillance, Julian Assange, the founder of the antisecrecy group, said Wednesday.

        “We are in touch with Mr. Snowden’s legal team and are in the process of brokering his asylum in Iceland,” Mr. Assange said in a conference call with reporters. He said both the legal and practical obstacles were under review by Mr. Snowden’s lawyers and supporters.

        A spokeswoman for Iceland’s embassy in Washington confirmed that the government had been approached by advocates for Mr. Snowden but would not comment further...

        Brit, this story is "relatively breaking," and not picked-up by many here, even as you read, you might even want to consider using it in an update to your post!

        ("Don't say I never gave you nuthin'..." LOL!)

        "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

        by bobswern on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 08:03:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think Brit's diary is complete as is. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Brit, bobswern

          I appreciate that he's focusing on the way the digitization  of our lives has adversely affected journalism as a whole and investigative journalism in particular.  

          The Iceland item is a separate diary, imo, and in that vein I was impressed that some in Germany are even talking about offering him asylum there (not gonna happen, but indicative of the anti-US-intel mood in the EU where much of the NSA tracking is done without any engagement of the EU countries being blanket-surveilled).   IOW, that's a big story in itself, how the Snowden leaks are damaging relations with our closest allies.

          "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you succeed." - Nancy Pelosi // Question: "succeed" at what?

          by nailbender on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 09:38:40 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The damage that's been done to the U.S.... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

   their relationship(s) with the rest of the world--perhaps most notably every member of the E.U., which hasn't been great for awhile, already--is really a highly underreported reality here as far as the U.S. media's coverage of this fiasco's concerned. I totally agree.

            On a different note, I would posit that technology (not just "digitization"), in its entirety, is the primary tool (and this includes the media-related/news-generating aspects of it, quite prominently, as well) used by this nation's--any many other countries'--elite(s) to supplant any underlying semblance of a democracy with full-blown, Inverted Totalitarianism. And, furthermore, that effort's pretty much a done deal. Frankly, anyone that thinks otherwise is either in rather extreme denial or they've been living in a cave on a remote island for the past few years.

            (BTW, nailbender, Brit and yours truly--although, sometimes, neither of us may acknowledge it, for a few reasons impertinent to our dialogue within this community--have a little "history," and it traces back almost five years.)  

            "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

            by bobswern on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 10:15:28 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  It was on Democracy Now this morning (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          and Manning sounded ... not well (like in not healthy).

          If you go to the site it starts at TC 08:48 and you hear his voice in an audio file.

          WikiLeaks Seeks Asylum for Edward Snowden in Iceland
          Facebook_20 Twitter_20
          Reddit_20 Email_20 Addthis_20

          The whistleblower group WikiLeaks says it has made contact with Edward Snowden’s legal team to help him win asylum in Iceland. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange disclosed the news in a phone call with reporters. Assange also urged President Obama to drop the reported grand jury investigation of WikiLeaks for publishing leaked U.S. documents.

             Julian Assange: "President Obama must do the right thing. He must immediately drop the immoral investigation against WikiLeaks, its staff and its office, before a precedent is set which will spell the end of national security journalism in the United States. We are in touch with Mr. Snowden’s legal team and have been — are involved in the process of brokering his asylum in Iceland."
          In addtion there was the information about the Michael Hastings having been under FBI investigation.
          WikiLeaks: Late Journalist Michael Hastings Said He Was Under FBI Investigation
          Facebook_20 Twitter_20
          Reddit_20 Email_20 Addthis_20

          In another disclosure from WikiLeaks, the group is claiming the late journalist Michael Hastings said he was under FBI investigation just before he died. Hastings was killed in an early morning car wreck Tuesday in Los Angeles. In a Twitter message on Wednesday, WikiLeaks said: "Michael Hastings contacted WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson just a few hours before he died, saying that the FBI was investigating him."

        •  Greenwald, Snowden's unofficial 'spokesman', (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          is denying the report, though in somewhat vague terms.  But given that none of the three (Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange) are particularly good at fact checking, I have no clue what to believe this case.

    •  Great analogy with the Soviet Union and the BBC (11+ / 0-)

      Forgot to add that!

      The Fall of the House of Murdoch -with Eric Lewis and all the latest Leveson evidence out now!

      by Brit on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 05:15:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The problem with the NYT and the WP - both (27+ / 0-)

      once great papers - is that they're so selective in what they do and do not report - it's quite staggering what they neglect to report...

      I read both papers for many years (I'm in my early 70s) but now no longer bother with them.

      Fortunately, the internet (while the NSA still doesn't interfere with our access) enables us to read British papers such as The Guardian and The Independent.

      Both are far more reliable as sources on matters of vital interest to Americans. For example what is now happening in Afghanistan with our overtures to the Taliban...

      Or even an article in The Guardian such as this one - right or wrong certainly a stimulating discussion:

      The US MSM is a total disaster.

      We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

      by Lepanto on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 05:26:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Financial Times (11+ / 0-)

      A leftist friend told me that the Financial Times, weirdly enough, is a good source of information and that Noam Chomsky will soon publish an op ed there about the American surveillance state.

    •  Well, yes and no. I recommend checking into... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brit, SoCalSal, Larsstephens

      ...what happened to Ray Bonner at the Times in 1982 after he was one of two reporters who uncovered the El Mozote Massacre in El Salvador.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 09:03:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great article, thanks. (17+ / 0-)

    Makes it apparent that contacting a reporter is frought with peril. At the same time, the publications ask for free 'tips' on breaking news, 'send us your pictures'.  Anything substancial is another thing.

    Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

    by DRo on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 05:20:49 AM PDT

  •  If "regulatory capture" were in a race (9+ / 0-)

    with "regulatory arbitrage", I know where my money is bet in most sectors ... but not necessarily in media. Thank goodness for the internets and all the talented hackers.
    Nice to read you here.

    "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

    by tardis10 on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 05:28:33 AM PDT

  •  Are you sure (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lunachickie, CroneWit, LynChi

    that Heather Brooke is not actually Lisbeth Salander?

    Glad to see you're persisting here.

    The GOP can't win on ideas. They can only win by lying, cheating, and stealing. So they do.

    by psnyder on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 06:24:16 AM PDT

  •  Thank you a few dozen more times, Brit. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lunachickie, 3goldens, Brit

    The Guardian has my respect. Its also perfectly named.

  •  thanks for the diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    3goldens, Brit


    Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. --Edward Abbey

    by greenbastard on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 06:43:50 AM PDT

  •  Thank you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for this.

    "The “Left” is NOT divided on the need to oppose austerity and the Great Betrayal. The Third Way is not left or center or even right. It is Wall Street on the Potomac."--Bill Black

    by lunachickie on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 06:49:22 AM PDT

  •  It's discouraging how easily things get diverted (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, Brit, Lepanto, tardis10

    to arguments about personalities.  I don't have to personally admire every aspect of Assange or Snowden or Manning to think they've done something valuable in exposing secrets which we as a society need to know.  I don't have to hate President Obama to think some of his policies are grievously wrong.

    “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

    by jrooth on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 07:20:35 AM PDT

  •  The fact that the MSM (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alumbrados, SoCalSal, burlydee

    have become captured creatures of the corporate establishment is no accident. They are now owned by them and they have been consolidated by them in the name of efficiency of scale and profit. The Guardian operates at a financial loss. The reason that they have been able to do this for some time is that they can draw on the Scott Family Trust which was established by the paper's founding family.

    I am sure that their days of being able to do this are likely numbered. In his interview with the NYT Alan Russberger, the editor, stated they they were considering asking for reader donations. I would be willing to pony up some money.

    Ten years ago, blogs like Daily Kos were supposed to be the hope of the future for providing alternative journalism. If you look at the front page, it is hard to believe that such has come to pass. It's nice to have a place where people can exchange ideas, but serious investigative journalism can't be accomplished by amateurs and done for free. There has always been tension in how professional journalists can make a living at it and still retain their independence.

  •  While I agree with the diary, my chief (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon

    view is that these are long existing problems that have been shaping policy outcomes for quite sometime.

     In fact, the response so far is something I predicted would happen and is predictable from almost every other policy response we have seen.

    So, my question is: what is the solution because I agree with both comments?

    •  Part legislative - part economic IMO (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Richard Lyon, tardis10, SoCalSal

      I don't know enough about congressional oversight to say how much law makers have been hoodwinked about the real nature of digital surveillance. It's such a fast moving interconnected world I guess they're left - along with many laws - behind the curve

      What most concerns me about the Snowden revelations is the collusion of national security with the commercial giants of the digital. To me Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook all have monopoly powers already, ripe for abuse. Collusion of such monopolies (who pay zero iTaxes) with the state is like the worst of both worlds. I personally know three senior advisors to Prime Minister David Cameron in Number 10 who have gone on to work, in the last three years, for Google (with massive salary spikes)

      This corporatist combination is the worst of both worlds, and only proper trust busting powers can take on these Standard Oils of the digital age.

      The Fall of the House of Murdoch -with Eric Lewis and all the latest Leveson evidence out now!

      by Brit on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 08:30:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Both US major political parties (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brit, Lepanto

        have essentially become the agents of these corporatist powers. The revolving door that you describe in the UK works the same way in the US.

        •  Greenwald (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jrooth, 420 forever, Richard Lyon, Lepanto

          had this great piece about the two party system (and in fact this can be applied to Europe too) last year I believe.

          he said that the two parties act as a control on the range of debate. The press can go to them pretending to present a choice, but what is actually happening is a limitation on choice because the range of policy is narrowed to only what the two parties consider controversial.

          You know I refer to this as Sophie's Choice. The core idea being that we are presented with horrible choices, and told "see you have a choice"

          Its a core component of inverted totalitarian structures, which unlike fascism doesn't often use naked power. It uses the levers of manipulation to get the public to do the heavy lifting for it through propaganda such as "voting is your way to hve choice when in fact voting is their way of applying control.

          One of the reasons I am for third parties is not that I think they are always a good thing, but because its the only way to start to brake this dynamic. This is one of those fulcrums I keep mentioning. Youd on't need a conspiracy when you put the right controls in place. You don't need everyone to be corrupt when you set up a system that only requires you to keep your mouth shut for example. Not everyone on wall street needs to be a villian if you set up the system to be one that's akin to gambling with your finger on the deck.

          These things are just a matter of momentum if you set things up in the right way. That's the process right n ow.

          •  And this is why third parties have been (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Richard Lyon, Lepanto

            excluded from the Presidential Debates in the US. All the inconvenient stuff, such as single payer healthcare, the war on drugs, wrongheaded foreign policy, social safety net - none of these were discussed in the Romney / Obama debates.

            “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchett

            by 420 forever on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 09:36:17 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Observations (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brit, jrooth, Richard Lyon

        (1) I don't think the Congress is hoodwinked. No more than I think European officials are hoodwinked. Or banana republics are hoodwinked. They are corrupt. The system is much more predictable once you assume the corruption as to the outcomes you see. That's how I was able to predict what would happen.

        In the law, there is a concept called deliberate disregard. What it entails is a standard of mental state in which the guilty purposefully ignore what a reasonable person would have seen if they had bothered to look.  Do you think its reasonable for the "progressives" of Congress to claim to have not known about this? I know this isn't your area, but think about it- someone tells you that there's this secret process with secret i interpretation of laws, and that doesn't ring bells to you (imagining yourself as Congress person)? I just don't buy their feigned ignorance. Thus, once you think of it as feigned as I do, then their reactions to personalities makes more sense. The same dynamic is going on with the press.

        In short, its hard to get a man to admit to a lie if he's making his living off the lie. What you are seeing is a corrupt system that encourages people to not see it.

        (2) I agree with the concentration of corporate monopolist power with the government is a bad thing. The problem is that I don't believe the public understands this. I think they have no idea that we are even in a post industrial economy, which allows these forces to even exist. You have the few remaining progressives/leftist trying to save the welfare state that came out of the social democratic movement of the  early 20th Century. so they are reactive, and willing to take bread crumbs. You have the hard core elitists maintaining power at all cost as they push forward to consolidate control in this post industrial economy. Then you have the rest of the population- which is mostly just happy to be entertained rather than think to hard about what all of this means.  No one is thinking about a leftist or progressive solution in a post industrial economy. I don't pretend to have any either. I am just now becoming clear on what the debate should be about.

        •  Reccing your comment (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jrooth, Richard Lyon, SoCalSal

          One 1 and 'wilful blindness' I'm not so sure. I don't believe most lawmakers and MPs are corrupt, and many of them are hoodwinked by government agencies adept at covering their tracks. But even if we disagree over the culpability, the outcome is the same - unaccountable power. That must be checked.

          On 2. I agree with much of it, but I'm not sure the current leftist critique is right. One of the ways of actually tackling corporate monopoly is to appeal to those on the old classical liberal market position: trust busting monopolies to lead to fairer, more open markets.

          Having been on the hardish left for many years,  there is a tendency to spin off to more state control (on the European left) or almost zero state (on the libertarian anarchist left)

          To me, the social democratic urge - to tame capitalism towards more equality - is a usable 'past'. It led to much more equality of wages in Europe and the US from 1945 until the 80s advent of Thatcher and Reagan, with stunning improvements in life expectancy, social mobility and all round general welfare.

          Rereading Adam Smith recently, who is basically writing a Labour Theory of Value in the Wealth of Nations, there's a devastating critique of current monopoly practices and the dangerous side effect of hedging and derivatives.

          I think appeal to the true free marketeers - the innovators and small business people who want to employ others, add value through products and services, but get crushed by the acquisitive mergers and acquisitions of the giants, is another important constituency to appeal to

          But these are just my random thoughts.

          The Fall of the House of Murdoch -with Eric Lewis and all the latest Leveson evidence out now!

          by Brit on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 09:10:34 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  More obervations (0+ / 0-)

            (1) Outcome is the same, but it saves time on  trying to figure out who is your ally and who isn't. A man who is hoodwinked can be convinced. A  man who is pretending not to see cannot. When you are fighting with limited resources, time can be your friend or enemy. So it shouldn't be wasted unless people really are hoodwinked.

            (2) The problem with your second response is your believe that people really believe in competition. they don't. They simply want to win and be comfortable if they are the middle class. O win and dominate if they are wealthy. The poor are not a part of the conversation at all. I am not even sure wuat real competition is in a post industrial world anyway.

      •  But the problem is much deeper (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        than the obvious brand name internet monopolies. Palantir,Skybox Imaging,Cloudera,Mocana (what?ya think there might be a problem that the folks bringing you cutting edge encryption for your phone is partly funded by the CIA) and it goes on and on and on. The individual players moving from govts. to the Valley & back again is just as deep as Wall St. collusion.

        "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

        by tardis10 on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 09:05:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  So Brit (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ceebs, Brit, 420 forever

    What do you make of the idea that the Brits and the American officials are using each other to go around what small laws are left by spying on each other's citizens?

    American Television is a vast sea of stupid. -xxdr zombiexx

    by glitterscale on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 08:45:28 AM PDT

  •  I've switched (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brit, 420 forever, Lepanto

    The front page of the NYT used to be my go-to page in the morning.  Now, I go to the Guardian.  I even get their weekday mails highlighting their stories.

    And don't forget al Jazerza is coming soon.  They bought out Current TV.  Means more options.

    Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket. Eric Hoffer

    by LynChi on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 08:46:27 AM PDT

  •  "tries to look at the role of whistleblowing" (0+ / 0-)

    Stopped reading right there because what Manning and Snowden did was not whistleblowing and until we can agree on simple basics like that, there can be no legitimate discussion.

    The Green Tea Party is as dangerous as the original Tea Party.

    by Walt starr on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 09:02:00 AM PDT

  •  Easily hijacked (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brit, Catte Nappe, Larsstephens

    I just don't see how "easy" it is for state surveillance, even with a massive budget, to filter out all the noise. Yes it's easy for the state to acquire massive amounts of data. But it's also that much harder to analyze. I fail to see how that constitutes "hijacking technology."

    Through the entirety of the 90s and 2000s the government security apparatus has been APPALLINGLY behind the times, as far as digital technology is concerned. Read this piece about the last in a series of comical attempts of the FBI to upgrade their computer systems so that at long last agents in the field will be able to (GASP!) cross-reference data. At his retirement ceremony George Tenet, the head of the CIA when the Towers fell, admitted he needed his teenage son to tell him how to read his email.

    IF ONLY our military and security apparatus knew shit about computers. But they don't, and there's no way that embracing "new technologies" represents a hijacking. For the most part these people don't have a clue as to what they are even doing.

    •  Thanks for this (4+ / 0-)

      It's a very good point. Data isn't the same as information. And information needs to be processed to get knowledge

      We have the same debate about the number of CCTV systems in the UK. They've been proven to reduce crime by deterrence. But when it comes to crime, they're rarely useful except after the event, when a crime has already been committed.

      My big worry about the digital surveillance, however, is the effect it has on journalists. We saw News International hack thousands of phones for tabloid stories. Following a few thousand journalists would be the smart thing for any security service to do, but incredibly chilling for free speech.

      The Fall of the House of Murdoch -with Eric Lewis and all the latest Leveson evidence out now!

      by Brit on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 09:26:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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