Journalists Face Most Deadly and Dangerous Period in Recent History

Originally published on April 29, 2015, at NationofChange.org

According to a report released on Monday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) found that terrorist groups and governments have made recent years the most dangerous period to work as a journalist. Targeted by both terrorists and national security agencies, journalists across the world have been subjected to kidnapping, torture, murder, government surveillance, censorship, and imprisonment. As Islamic State continues releasing videos of beheaded reporters, the number of journalists detained in jails worldwide has more than doubled since 2000.

In its annual global assessment of press freedom, Attacks on the Press: Journalists caught between terrorists and governments, the CPJ reported that the incessant war on terror has escalated the risk to journalists’ lives as many of their murders remain unsolved. With the advent of mass electronic surveillance, journalists must now employ extreme countermeasures in order to protect the identities of their sources and often succumb to self-censorship while working in abject fear of arbitrary detention.

“From government surveillance and censorship to computer hacking, from physical attacks to imprisonment, kidnapping, and murder, the aim is to limit or otherwise control the flow of information—an increasingly complicated effort, with higher and higher stakes,” wrote CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in the review’s foreword.

In the U.S., the National Security Agency (NSA) is attempting to gather every piece of electronic communication sent or received. With the government recording our phone conversations, email archives, cell-site location, metadata, online activity, and GPS, reporters also have to contend with roving bugs and surveillance cameras in order to protect their source’s identity. Without employing surveillance countermeasures such as encryption tools and clandestine meetings, journalists can no longer guarantee the anonymity of their sources. The Obama administration is also responsible for aggressively prosecuting whistleblowers that provide information to reporters.

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Former CIA Director Agrees to Plead Guilty to Leaking Classified Material

Originally published on March 5, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Retired four-star general and former CIA Director David Petraeus entered a plea bargain agreeing to plead guilty to leaking highly classified material to his former mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell. In his plea deal, Gen. Petraeus also admitted to violating several Non-Disclosure Agreements with the Department of Defense (DOD), making false statements to the FBI during the course of a criminal investigation, and retaining classified documents after resigning from office. Although the Obama administration has a record of aggressively prosecuting conscientious whistleblowers, the Justice Department has been lenient on high-ranking officials responsible for leaking sensitive information.

After returning from the war in Afghanistan, Gen. Petraeus spoke with Broadwell about the location of sensitive documents referred to as the black books. In their conversation, recorded on August 4, 2011, Petraeus acknowledged that the black books contained highly classified material before eventually agreeing to lend her the journals. On August 28, 2011, Petraeus delivered the black books to a private residence in Washington, D.C., where Broadwell was staying for a week.

The black books consisted of eight sensitive notebooks possessing the identities of covert agents, war strategy, intelligence mechanisms, diplomatic discussion, notes from high-level National Security Council meetings, and Petraeus’ private discussions with President Obama. At the time, Broadwell was writing a biography of Petraeus titled “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus” while engaging in a sexual relationship with the married four-star general.

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U.S. Government Threatened to Fine Yahoo $250,000/Day

Originally published on September 14, 2014, at NationofChange.org

Unsealed court documents reveal the U.S. government threatened Yahoo Inc. with $250,000 daily fines for refusing to hand over customer data to intelligence agencies in 2008. After losing in court, Yahoo and many major U.S. telecommunications corporations became complicit in the mass surveillance programs revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Taking desperate measures to ensure its secrecy, the government has rewritten the law to allow infringements upon the Fourth Amendment.

Instead of just requesting metadata, the Protect America Act of 2007 demanded telecom companies also provide full emails without a warrant. Although the law intended to target people outside of the U.S., the government admitted communications between Americans would likely be collected as well. After the Protect America Act lapsed, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 swiftly replaced it authorizing continued mass surveillance.

Contesting the order to provide the U.S. government with user data without a warrant, Yahoo waged a legal battle at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court chief justice, FISC members hold secret sessions and often only hear from Justice Department and intelligence agency lawyers. Arguing that the Protect America Act was in violation of the Fourth Amendment, Yahoo lost the case and was ordered to pay $250,000 for each day they refused to turn over customer data. The fine would have doubled for each successive week.

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NSA Colluding with Abusive Saudi Arabian Secret Police

Originally published on July 27, 2014, at NationofChange.org

While the U.S. State Department denounces human rights abuse in Saudi Arabia, the NSA is secretly helping the oppressive state police to capture and torture political activists. A 2013 NSA memo exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals the NSA has been providing surveillance assistance to the Saudi Ministry of Interior (MOI) in exchange for signals intelligence on terrorists and “Maritime Force targets of mutual interest.”

According to the NSA memo, relations between the US and Saudi intelligence communities had become strained after the first Gulf War in 1991. The NSA experienced years of stagnation while attempting to work with the Saudi Ministry of Defense, Radio Reconnaissance Department. But in December 2012, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper authorized sharing SIGINT with MOI’s Technical Affairs Directorate.

Influenced by the CIA’s successful relationship with the MOI’s General Directorate for Investigations, Mabahith (equivalent to the FBI), Clapper strengthened the NSA’s faltering relations with the Saudi state police. By providing technical assistance and decryption tools to the MOI, Clapper gave the Saudi government the ability to improve their surveillance systems and spyware against political dissidents, bloggers, and human rights activists.

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