(...) Stephen Colbert captured this exact pathology with untoppable precision in his 2006 White House Correspondents speech, when he mocked American journalism to the faces of those who practice it:
But, listen, let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works.The President makes decisions. He’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ’em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration? You know, fiction! (...)
By definition, authoritarians reflexively believe official claims – no matter how dubious or obviously self-serving, even when made while hiding behind anonymity – because that’s how their submission functions. Journalists who practice this sort of primitive reporting – I uncritically print what government officials tell me, and give them anonymity so they have no accountability for any it – do so out of a similar authoritarianism, or uber-nationalism, or laziness, or careerism. Whatever the motives, the results are the same: government officials know they can propagandize the public at any time because subservient journalists will give them anonymity to do so and will uncritically disseminate and accept their claims. (...)
Who’s keeping watch of the National Security Agency? In Congress, the answer in more and more cases is that the job is going to former lobbyists for NSA contractors and other intelligence community insiders. (...)
One of the big arguments trotted out repeatedly by surveillance state defenders concerning the NSA's Section 215 program to collect records on all phone calls is that such a thing "would have prevented 9/11" if it had been in place at the time. Here's former FBI boss Robert Mueller making just that argument right after the initial Snowden leaks. Here's Dianne Feinstein making the argument that if we had that phone tracking program before September 11th, we could have stopped the attacks. And here's former NSA top lawyer and still top NSA supporter Stewart Baker arguing that the program is necessary because the lack of such a program failed to stop 9/11.
Except, it turns out, the feds did have just such a program prior to 9/11 — run by the DEA. As you may recall, back in January it was revealed that the DEA had its own database of phone call metadata of nearly all calls from inside the US to foreign countries. Brad Heath at USA Today came out with a report yesterday that goes into much more detail on the program, showing that it dates back to at least 1992 — meaning that the feds almost certainly had the calls that Feinstein and Mueller pretended the government didn't have prior to 9/11.
A TSA spokesperson declined to comment on the criteria obtained by The Intercept. “Behavior detection, which is just one element of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) efforts to mitigate threats against the traveling public, is vital to TSA’s layered approach to deter, detect and disrupt individuals who pose a threat to aviation,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Since its introduction in 2007, the SPOT program has attracted controversy for the lack of science supporting it. In 2013, the Government Accountability Office found that there was no evidence to back up the idea that “behavioral indicators … can be used to identify persons who may pose a risk to aviation security.” After analyzing hundreds of scientific studies, the GAO concluded that “the human ability to accurately identify deceptive behavior based on behavioral indicators is the same as or slightly better than chance.”
The inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security found in 2013 that TSA had failed to evaluate SPOT, and “cannot ensure that passengers at United States airports are screened objectively, show that the program is cost-effective, or reasonably justify the program’s expansion.”
Despite those concerns, TSA has trained and deployed thousands of Behavior Detection Officers, and the program has cost more than $900 million since it began in 2007, according to the GAO.
British police claim a criminal investigation they launched into journalists who have reported on leaked documents from Edward Snowden has to be kept a secret due to a “possibility of increased threat of terrorist activity.” (...)
Top-secret documents obtained by the CBC show Canada's electronic spy agency has developed a vast arsenal of cyberwarfare tools alongside its U.S. and British counterparts to hack into computers and phones in many parts of the world, including in friendly trade countries like Mexico and hotspots like the Middle East.
The little known Communications Security Establishment wanted to become more aggressive by 2015, the documents also said.
Revelations about the agency's prowess should serve as a "major wakeup call for all Canadians," particularly in the context of the current parliamentary debate over whether to give intelligence officials the power to disrupt national security threats, says Ronald Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab, the respected internet research group at University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs.
"These are awesome powers that should only be granted to the government with enormous trepidation and only with a correspondingly massive investment in equally powerful systems of oversight, review and public accountability," says Deibert.
Details of the CSE’s capabilities are revealed in several top-secret documents analyzed by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept, a U.S. news website co-founded by Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who obtained the documents from U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden. (...)