PRISM story falling apart: Reporters with an axe to grind?

Shorter Question Everything

There was a time when I used to enjoy Greenwald’s articles. Lately that’s been difficult. While he’s always had very strong opinions, the articles have become less about facts and more about him having an axe to grind, and only displays the sad fact that Obama Derangement Syndrome isn’t something exhibited purely on the right. What makes him any different than Glenn Beck or one of the Breitbart idiots now?

NSA Bombshell Story Falling Apart Under Scrutiny; Key Facts Turning Out to Be Inaccurate. It turns out, the NSA PRISM story isn’t quite the bombshell that everyone said it was. Yes, there continues to be a serious cause for concern when it comes to government spying and overreach with its counter-terrorism efforts. But the reporting from Glenn Greenwald and the Washington Post has been shoddy and misleading.

DNI Fact Sheet on Internet Surveillance: PRISM is not an undisclosed collection or data mining program. It is an internal government computer system used to facilitate the government’s statutorily authorized collection of foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision, as authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) (50 U.S.C. § 1881a). This authority was created by the Congress and has been widely known and publicly discussed since its inception in 2008.

Glenn Greenwald is deciding what’s in our national security interests. I appreciate very much that Glenn is owning responsibility. I think that is important. But once again, the question comes back to trust. What he’s suggesting is that we should trust him to calibrate the potential for harm from this information being leaked. He evaluates that and then decides on the balance between public value and harm. I think that’s why this story has grabbed me so strongly. The level of harm this particular leak might/might not have caused is not self-evident to me. But of all people on the planet I want to see making decisions about something like that, Glenn Greenwald is near the bottom of my list. I fear this is dangerous territory we’ve entered when ideologues like Greenwald and Rosen are the arbiters of our national security.

Should we trust the leakers? The truth is – not all leakers are whistleblowers. Most of us are old enough to remember that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby also leaked information to the press about Valerie Plame’s covert status at the CIA. And Cheney’s office leaked a lot of false information about WMDs in Iraq to NYT reporter Judith Miller. I would call those leakers the opposite of whistleblowers. To be fair, because of Glenn’s assumption that all politicians are liars, he views anyone who leaks information that damages them to be whistleblowers and anyone who provides information that supports them to be leakers. But I’m afraid the truth is a bit more complex.

We are shocked, shocked: Is it just me or does the entire news media — as well as all the agitators and self-righteous bloviators on both sides of the aisle — not understand even the rudiments of electronic intercepts and the manner in which law enforcement actually uses such intercepts? It would seem so. Because the national eruption over the rather inevitable and understandable collection of all raw data involving telephonic and internet traffic by Americans would suggest that much of our political commentariat, many of our news gatherers and a lot of average folk are entirely without a clue. You would think that the government was listening in to the secrets of 200 million Americans from the reaction and the hyperbole being tossed about. And you would think that rather than a legal court order which is an inevitable consequence of legislation that we drafted and passed, something illegal had been discovered to the government’s shame. Nope. Nothing of the kind. Though apparently, the U.K.’s Guardian, which broke this faux-scandal, is unrelenting in its desire to scale the heights of self-congratulatory hyperbole. [PDF]

Dir. of National Intelligence James Clapper Condemns “Rush to Publish,” “Reckless Disclosures”. “Over the last week we have seen reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep Americans safe,” Clapper said in a statement. “In a rush to publish, media outlets have not given the full context – including the extent to which these programs are overseen by all three branches of government – to these effective tools.” …”There are significant misimpressions that have resulted from the recent articles,” he said. “Not all the inaccuracies can be corrected without further revealing classified information.” …The document said that PRISM “is not an undisclosed collection or data mining program” but rather “an internal government computer system” for gathering foreign intelligence under the act, and that the government “does not unilaterally obtain information from the servers of U.S. electronic communication service providers” since Section 702, which was reauthorized by Congress in December 2012, cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen.

National intelligence director slams ‘hyperbole’ in coverage of NSA data-mining program. The federal official in charge of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies criticized recent coverage of the data surveillance programs used by the National Security Agency (NSA) on Saturday, saying it was a misrepresentation and that it put the country at risk. While he supported advocating for transparency, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell that the “media explosion” regarding programs like “Boundless Informant” and PRISM was also being followed by “our adversaries, whether nation-state adversaries or nefarious groups.” “As we speak, they are going to school, learning how we do this,” Clapper said to Mitchell. “That’s why it, potentially, can render great damage to our intelligence capabilities.” NBC News also reported on Saturday that Clapper used harsher language in a separate statement. “Over the last week we have seen reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep American safe,” Clapper said in his statement. “In a rush to publish, media outlets have not given the full context — including the extent to which these programs are overseen by all three branches of government — to these effective tools.”

Attorney General Eric Holder appears to have little choice but to launch a new round of investigations into media leaks, the very issue that consumed him for the last month and led to renewed calls for his resignation. Holder’s Justice Department was called upon to identify the leaker of sensitive information when on Saturday the super-secret National Security Agency filed a report requesting a criminal investigation. U.S. officials said an investigation will undoubtedly try to uncover the leaker who gave a secret court order to Britain’s Guardian newspaper, as well as whoever gave a document describing surveillance methods to both the Guardian and the Washington Post.

US

Ted Cruz and Glenn Beck Go After Samantha Power and Susan Rice. Ted Cruz is a despot wannabe. If he could, he would take authoritarian control of our minds and turn us all into wingerbots who spend our days hating and fearing anyone different from us. He’s also not a fan of women. It’s rich to hear him go on Glenn Beck’s show in order to slam Susan Rice and Samantha Power as weak-kneed idiots who ‘grovel before tyrants.’

McCain and Feinstein pledge to close Guantánamo but sidestep hunger strike. In a joint statement late Friday, Republican senator John McCain, Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chair of the Senate Intelligence committee, and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said it remained in the “national interest” to shutter the centre and move inmates to other locations.

Canada

Conservative Party denies secret fund run by PMO. The federal Conservative Party is denying the existence of a secret fund in the Prime Minister’s Office controlled exclusively by Stephen Harper’s chief of staff. The CBC reported Thursday that Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, had control of a secret fund when he cut the now infamous $90,000 cheque to disgraced Senator Mike Duffy to repay ineligible Senate expense claims he made. CBC News stands by the story.

CFB Edmonton 1st base to raise gay-pride flag. In what is being called a first in Canada, a rainbow-coloured gay-pride flag was raised at an Alberta military base today during a ceremony attended by senior officers and civilian members of the LGBT community. Master Warrant Officer John McDougall, 47, made the request for the flag-raising a few weeks ago through the military chain of command at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton. McDougall, who is a company sergeant-major in a field medical unit, said he was surprised when his request was quickly granted.

CBRNE

Suspected ricin-laced letter to CIA found at Spokane, Washington post office. Postal workers in Spokane, Washington, on Saturday retrieved a wayward letter suspected of containing the deadly poison ricin that vanished for several weeks after it was sent from Washington state to a CIA address that does not receive mail, the FBI said. The envelope resembled four ricin-laced letters postmarked May 13 from Spokane that had addresses penned in red ink, FBI agent Frank Harrill, an agency spokesman, said in a statement.

Pandemic: Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found there isn’t much stopping the latest strains of the H5N1 and H7N9 flu viruses — also known as the “bird flu” — from being communicable from person to person. MIT News reported on Thursday that new studies showed the viruses could become “pandemic flus” within just a few mutations — all it would take would be a change in one or two amino-acids.

Turkey

Tens of thousands of demonstrators packed the streets of Turkish cities in defiance of a call from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for them to end their civil uprising.

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