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Ear to the Ground

NSA Uses Corporate News to Spread Propaganda and Silence Dissent

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Posted on Apr 5, 2014
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald published an expose this week detailing how the NSA has been feeding “propaganda” to various news publications, which have happily played along. The propaganda isn’t limited just to schlock networks like Fox News, but is promulgated also by widely trusted newspapers, including The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. 

The message NSA and other officials send to the public every time a whistle-blower and journalist step forward to expose an inconvenient truth is, “You’re all going to die because of these leakers and the journalists who publish their disclosures!” Greenwald writes. This encourages a fervor of fear that has led some legislators and “journalists” to openly call for the assassination of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for disclosures made through his site. The “danger” of these leaks is the general reason given for convicting Chelsea Manning, who exposed war crimes committed under the name of Americans. (Manning’s failure to expose what she witnessed would have been a violation of the Nuremberg Laws.) Of course, this justification was never subjected to scrutiny during Manning’s trial and never criticized in the corporate media. Truthdig columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, who was at the Manning hearings, has said the U.S. government was never able to find a single example in which lives were endangered by Manning’s disclosures.

Greenwald shows that this isn’t just the hyperbole of government officials, but also the position taken by the press, as is demonstrated through repeated cover stories. He offers the example of NSA chief Keith Alexander, who has claimed, without providing evidence, that “Snowden leaks could lead to deaths.” Statements like these become a cover, Greenwald argues, a sound bite that permits no critical thought of what is said.

The war on whistle-blowers has gotten worse under the Obama administration. Its officials seem to think that hidden government information puts people in harm’s way only when it paints the government in a bad light. Greenwald references the present administration’s effort to prevent details of the Bush-era torture programs being leaked to the public. But no harm is done if the leaked information serves the government’s interests. Sources are left alone, officials keep their positions and authority, and newspapers go right along publishing.

By way of illustration, Greenwald points to clips by the L.A. Times that he believed resemble an NSA infomercial. In one story the agency reveals that “every Iraq email, text message and phone-location signal in real time” is analyzed. Gen. David H. Petraeus, former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, views this frightening reality of surveillance as “absolutely invaluable.”

Greenwald explains what seems to be the NSA’s rationale as follows:

No bad acts of the U.S. government should ever be reported, lest those disclosures make people angry and want to attack government agents. Indeed, that is the rationale that the Obama administration used to protect evidence of Bush-era torture from disclosure (to disclose torture photos, Obama said, “would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger”).

What is so extraordinary is that the NSA—at exactly the same time it is telling news organizations that disclosing its collect-it-all activities will endanger its personnel—runs to its favorite L.A. Times reporter and does exactly that, for no reason other than to make itself look good and to justify these activities ...

This demonstrates how brazenly the NSA manipulates and exploits the consultation process in which media outlets are forced (mostly by legal considerations) to engage prior to publication of Top Secret documents: They’ll claim with no evidence that a story they don’t want published will “endanger lives,” but then go and disclose something even more sensitive if they think doing so scores them a propaganda coup. It also highlights how cynical and frivolous are their claims that whistleblowers and journalists Endanger National Security™ by reporting incriminating information about their activities which they have hidden, given how casually and frequently they disclose Top Secret information for no reason other than to advance their own PR interests. It’s the dynamic whereby the same administration that has prosecuted more leakers than all prior administrations combined freely leaks classified information to make Obama look tough or to help produce a pre-election hagiography film.

Read Greenwald’s full story here

—Posted by Donald Kaufman. 

—Posted by Donald Kaufman.

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