Our Courtier Press

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

misdirectionWhile the NSA is, perhaps unconstitutionally, intercepting your electronic data, our media is focusing on whether Snowden should be charged with treason. One of reasons Snowden was charged with espionage is so the media would follow that meme. While James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, is getting away with lying to the Senate, our media is playing Where’s Waldo with Snowden. Instead of a debate on the constitutionality of the NSA programs out media is focusing on insignificant details regarding the private lives of Snowden and Greenwald.

One of the most outrageous performances of our lapdog press came on Meet The Press when host David Gregory asked Glenn Greenwald:

Final question for you…. To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?

Snowden had passcodes, tank clearances, and thumb drives. To think that Greenwald could have possibly assisted Snowden in removing the classified data is pure fantasy. Nobody’s lapdog, Greenwald responded:

I think it’s pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies. The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence, the idea that I’ve aided and abetted him in any way. The scandal that arose in Washington before our stories began was about the fact that the Obama administration is trying to criminalize investigative journalism by going through the e-mails and phone records of AP reporters, accusing a Fox News journalist of the theory that you just embraced, being a co-conspirator in felonies, for working with sources.

In Bartnicki v. Vopper (2001), a 6-3 U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a radio station was not liable since it did nothing illegal in obtaining an illegally taped conversation. In United States v. Stevens (2010), an 8-1 U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Stevens’ selling of dog fight videos should not be added to the list of First Amendment restrictions. Although Senator Dianne Feinstein, in a feat of empty threat misdirection, wants Greenwald prosecuted, the law is not on her side.

As Noam Chomsky reminds us: distract the people by allowing very lively debate on a limited spectrum of issues. So the courtier press will focus on the illegality of Snowden’s actions and not discuss the legality of the NSA’s actions.

The courtier press is also focusing on how the Snowden affair will effect US-Russian and US-China relations. Playing the leads in this drama are Democratic U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Secretary of State John Kerry. Schumer’s line was: “Putin always seems almost eager to stick a finger in the eye of the United States – whether it is Syria, Iran and now of course with Snowden,” Kerry’s line was “It would be obviously disappointing if he was willfully allowed to board an airplane.”

We the people need to know the full extent of our surveillance state to make an informed decision of acceptance or rejection. Is some unverifiable and vague spin about successful preventions enough for us to make a reasoned decision to forfeit our civil liberties? Does the FISA court constitute genuine judicial oversight? Should government agencies be required to obtain a warrant, based on probable cause, before searching a citizen’s phone and internet usage? Does the courtier press serve itself or the people?

H/T: David Sirota, Juan Cole, Erik Wemple, Charles P. Pierce, Alfredo Lopez, John Cassidy, Paul Campos, Orin Kerr.

93 thoughts on “Our Courtier Press”

  1. So, what has Snowden done? Levied war? Who is the enemy? The American people are the victims of the governments spying. If the government attempts to try him in some secret court then many of us will rebel.

  2. Our Constitution makes the trial of a person for “treason” a bit difficult for the government. Here is some Wikipedia stuff on the Aaron Burr trial and the Constitution:

    The Aaron Burr Treason Trial — Historical Background and Documents
    A Short Narrative

    The trial of Aaron Burr for treason in 1807 has few rivals in American history for dramatic appeal and for its colorful cast of characters. The accused traitor had been Vice President during the first administration of Thomas Jefferson. In the summer of 1804, Burr killed his rival Alexander Hamilton in a duel, an event that effectively ended Burr’s career in national politics. Three years later, he was on trial, charged with the capital crime of treason by the government headed by Jefferson, his former partner in political office. Presiding over the trial was John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States, the President’s distant cousin and political foe. Finally, there was James Wilkinson, general of the army, once Burr’s associate and at trial his chief accuser. With these principal players, the trial in the U.S. Circuit Court at Richmond was as much high political and personal drama as it was a judicial proceeding.

    The law of treason

    From the standpoint of constitutional law, the Burr trial is notable for Chief Justice Marshall’s landmark decision narrowly construing the Constitution’s definition of treason and thereby making conviction for this crime exceedingly difficult. Article III, section 3, of the Constitution provides that “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.” The government charged Burr with the first of these two crimes of treason, levying war against the United States.

    In limiting treason “only” to levying war and giving aid and comfort to enemies, the framers established a more restrictive definition than had prevailed in Great Britain. Some of the language used in the Constitution was identical to an English statute of 1352 that listed seven treasonable actions, including levying war against the king and adhering to his enemies and giving them aid and comfort. Of the other treasonable actions in the English law, the most important was “compassing” (bringing about) or imagining the death of the king. English judges had extended this category of treason by “construction” (interpretation) to embrace spoken or written words critical of government policy and actions taken to prevent the execution of a law. The framers’ omission of this definition of treason was intended to restrict the concept of “constructive treason”—in other words, speaking or acting to encourage treason—that in England had been exploited to suppress dissent and political opposition.

    At some level, however, a federal law of treason could not entirely dispense with the concept of constructive treason. The Constitution might define treason as “levying war,” but the precise meaning of that term could only emerge by judicial construction in a series of cases. Before the Burr trial, the few United States cases of treason were limited to the federal government’s prosecution of persons involved in resisting a tax on distilled spirits and a direct tax in the 1790s. These cases were not important precedents for the Burr trial, though they provided examples of what some federal judges regarded as the conditions and circumstances necessary to constitute levying war. To discover the meaning of levying war, the Burr trial lawyers combed through many volumes of reports of English state trials. These cases shed much light, but American lawyers had to choose carefully which parts of English law they wanted judges to say were applicable to the United States.

  3. What G. Mason said! Gregory is bought and paid for and enjoys the fact that he is a stooge.

  4. Mike Spindell 1, June 29, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    … I knew exactly who I was voting for with Obama. …
    That is really funny.

  5. Gregory is a disgrace. He is a fascist.

    The US media is filled with cowards, hypocrites and government -corporate propagandists.

  6. George Orwell had a Newspeak word for this “journalism” thing as practiced in the U.S. Corporate Media: prolefeed. Or, as the culturally degenerate Boobies — who willingly chose to spurn the sunlight and return to watching shadows on the wall of a cave — would call it:

    Boobie Infotainment
    (from Fernando Po, U.S.A., America’s post-linguistic retreat to Plato’s Cave)

    Some chose to place a saintly crown
    Upon her dead blonde head,
    While others felt relieved at last:
    “She’s better off,” they said.
    A woman born of others’ needs:
    An unreal life she led.

    The tabloids built an image up
    To vend to those who dreamed
    Of two deadbeat aristocrats
    Unreasonably teamed:
    A fable for frustrated lives
    Vicariously beamed

    Into those households where the proles
    Preferred their rubbish crass
    Along with propaganda “news,”
    Leaked from and to an ass,
    Delivered by celebrities
    With tits or balls of brass.

    Thus Marilyn, Diana, or
    Maid Monica will do —
    Along with Michael Jackson and
    Dead Elvis Presley, too —
    Distracting ‘Murcans from the bad
    And ugly larger view.

    Just so did Bush and Blair concoct
    Some “coalition” fun.
    They’d have a go at poor Saddam
    And set him on the run:
    The mad dog and his Englishman
    Out in the noonday sun.

    This illustrates a lesson that
    Some liars never learn:
    Do not believe the lie yourself
    Or else you’ll surely burn
    And find your ashes dumped into
    A small ceramic urn.

    As Hayakawa wrote, we have
    This thing, the Empty Eye:
    A Technicolor campfire on
    Which Boobies now rely
    To dull the pain with images
    That pass too swiftly by.

    The Eye emitted “content” both
    Innocuous and bland
    And pushed it past the limits of
    What Boobie brains could stand,
    Inducing thought rejection all
    Across the Boobies’ land.

    The pictures came and went too fast
    To process on the fly,
    So Boobies felt upset but they
    Could find no reason why.
    The only thing they knew is that
    They felt compelled to buy.

    With nervous systems stunned and jazzed
    They couldn’t bring to mind
    Some cartoons from the past that told
    Of just this Boobie kind:
    A salesman of the bait-and-switch
    Who robbed a sailor blind.

    He’d beg a meal from Popeye then
    This Wimpy guy would say:
    “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for
    A hamburger today.”
    Which meant, of course, that he had no
    Intention to repay.

    King George the bumbling Boobie, too,
    Worked things the selfsame way.
    He waged a war on nothing down
    But promised that some day
    Some other one would come along
    And all the costs defray.

    “When Tuesday comes, I won’t be here,”
    He snickered as he spent.
    “I’ll eat my burger now and get
    Those lenders to relent
    Till I can high-tail out of town
    And stiff them for the rent.”

    The Infotainment tabloids, though,
    Saw no need to retort.
    They liked the dead-blonde pictures that
    They showed around for sport.
    Convinced that only “good news” lies
    Deserved a full “report.”

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2006, 2009

  7. Darren

    The links aren’t to other agencies, they are to divisions within the agency. My understanding is that the agency itself is supposed to implement the FOIA at the agency level instead of making requestors go from one component to another.

    One thing that is really confusing about the Freedom of Information Act as currently implemented is that DoJ claims that you have to do a so called administrative appeal before you can go to court. That isn’t in the statute only in the Code of Federal Regulations. It isn’t even in the notes.

    Another FOIA/ PA fact is that DoJ has special forms called certification of searches that its employees are supposed to sign under penalty of perjury showing which computer system they searched, what search words they used, and the date of search. I have submitted at least 100 requests for records searches but I only got back one certification of search form. That shows that they didn’t search the prosecutor’s data base, PROMIS, which includes investigation for criminal acts and discussion of both what is and what is not prosecuted, for records about myself, even though I was a federal prisoner three times for 5 months total. But even though they claim there are no records about me in PROMIS, they won’t return certification of search forms showing that they actually searched the prosecutors’ system of records for Kay Sieverding.

    The United States Marshals Service is DoJ’s police department. They are police. They hire young men who never went to college based on their size and strength and these men wear uniforms and capture and chain up American citizens. The USMS captured me, put me in chains, and held me against my will for more than 4 months. After that there was a court hearing and that was the first time that a DoJ prosecutor showed up. All he said was that DoJ wasn’t involved with me. But the USMS kept me in chains or locked in a cage anyway for another three weeks after that hearing. I asked my congressman Ed Markey to get a search of the PROMIS system so that I could find out why the USMS captured me and locked me up. The Office of Information Policy wrote a letter to Representative Markey and said that that hearing was the first and only interaction DoJ had with me and that is why there weren’t any records about me in the PROMIS system. But I wasn’t a state prisoner — I was a federal prisoner held on DoJ’s dime with no state charges. I even have the bills paid by DoJ listing me as a prisoner.

  8. Darren

    DoJ is one agency. It isn’t contact information for other agencies, it is for other components within DoJ. I think that DoJ deliberately sets up its organization so that the agency as a whole can stall and avoid responsibility.

    The Office of Information Policy, for instance, sent a letter to my congressional representative saying that they had no contact with me before a civil hearing that one of their attorneys went to. That was a misrepresentation because before the hearing I had already been arrested twice by the USMS component of DoJ and detained for more than four months on DoJ’s dollar.

    Another way that DoJ obstructs justice is by submitting documents labeled affidavits under penalty of perjury with the scanned signature of a blind man testifying about documents that he can’t read. DoJ writes misleading statements and puts the blind man’s scanned signature on and then no one is responsible. The Office of Professional Responsibility says that they have a policy of not receiving complaints that might end up in court. Of course that policy isn’t published, it’s a special policy for only a few people.

  9. Jill,

    The Tea Party facilitates the worst abuses by our government by fomenting anger against it. The Tea Bag message is carefully crafted to appeal to the less educated class of Americans who want believe that government is the enemy, that it is not competent to address any situation, and is so riddled with vice and corruption that nothing short of cataclysmic revolution will fix it – a revolution that will have to wait until a night when there’s nothing good on tv. The corporations have used this disenchantment to seize control of government and, quite honestly, they don’t care if you are pissed off. In fact, they hope you are. It’s the ultimate distraction. They want you so angry at government that you lose track of what they’re doing to you, your bank account, and the environment. And most importantly, that you’ll never view government as an instrument for improving things.

  10. The preclearance of questions is not scandalous. It’s frequently done on the advice of lawyers. 60 Minutes readily admits to the practice, as do other productions like Frontline. It may not be standard in every case, but neither is it unusual. My point is that Glen Greenwald would be savvy enough to want to know beforehand what to expect, and in any case Meet the Press would have tipped it’s hand when approaching him for an interview following the accusations made by Feinstein.

    As for any perceived animus (vitriol?), modern-day journalism is as much about the image as show business. The criminal defense attorneys reading this know that there are times when they need to give the appearance of being harsh with their clients on the stand in order to make the questioning look believable for the jury; questioning that would be completely different in tone in a bench trial.

    Remember, nobody seriously thinks there’s much of a chance Greenwald’s going to be charged with treason or conspiracy; Mr. Drumm makes that point in his post when he cites the precedents that forestall a conviction, so that tells me there’s some inside journalism at play here, a little self-serving in nature. Greenwald’s role becomes larger, or more widely known; Gregory cements his stature as Tim Russert’s heir. Gregory knew he had to be tossing up a softball for Greenwald and giving him a chance to respond to Feinstein’s remarks without having to address her directly. In fact, Greenwald may have insisted on having the chance to answer a question about her charges. Greenwald gives his response, Gregory looks tough and hard hitting; everybody’s a winner.

    And Nick, as for your belief in a Liberal media…the media is wholly owned and controlled by four or five mega-conglomerates, and whenever news organizations are compelled to report the truth, as they are about the NSA surveillance program, GE and Disney want you to believe that it’s all the work of hokum-filled liberals trying to stir people up. If the media really was as liberal as you claim, the world wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in right now, and Americans wouldn’t be so ignorant. So slap on those Mickey Mouse ears and have another drink of Kool-Aid, my friendly friend.

  11. Kay:

    I looked at the website you suggested and found the page having those other agency contacts you mentioned.


    The default view, The Org Chart View, threw script errors on my browser that rendered it unviewable. To avoid this, look below the large black band having a picture of an eagle and you will see the words “List View” click on that and you can see the contact information for various other agencies.

    I have only done one information act request at the federal level, but I fortunately did not have the experience you did. It was from the American Battle Monuments Commission, and they took only a few days to provide what I requested.

    I guess it matters how controversial it is.

  12. Jill 1, June 29, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    I am going to write something that may piss people off. It is not my intent to hurt anyone here.

    What AY said.

    Please remember that “we” are psychologically a very, very disturbed group of people.

    By “we” I mean the human species.

    And to your general point, yes, the U.S.eh? is one centralized locus for many if not most of the defective brain cells of the world.

    But since this blog allows comment from the worst and best of us, because JT is just that way, I comment here.

    Speak up! is the JT mantra.

    Before I commented here on JT’s blog, I noticed that people thought you were radical.

    Now they think I am radical.

    You can relax some now. 😉

    A while back, Gene H had a post something about “Who Is The Real Enemy Of The State“, on which said post I made a comment:

    Four things are small on the earth,
    But they are exceedingly wise:

    The ants are not a strong people,
    But they prepare their food in the summer;

    The shephanim are not mighty people,
    Yet they make their houses in the rocks;

    The locusts have no king,
    Yet all of them go out in ranks;

    The lizard you may grasp with the hands,
    Yet it is in kings’ palaces.

    (Dredd Comment on Turley Blog). Now, soon after that comment, came the Ed Snowden / Glenn Greenwald episode.

    So, we can now get an easier grasp of what that proverb means to me.

    And doesn’t mean.

    For example, “The locusts have no king, Yet all of them go out in ranks” can mean that we pull together even though we have no king; further meaning that we have no one universal doctrine we can all agree with.

    But we can agree with a notion of fundamental freedom to the point that we “go out in ranks“, i.e. we see eye to eye on issues that seriously threaten our freedoms, and are strongly united to preserve those freedoms.

    Included in those “locusts going out in ranks”, is “The lizard you may grasp with the hands, Yet it is in kings’ palaces“, which depicts the energy around Snowden / Greenwald, and all whistleblowers who are inside the king’s palace.

    They are the proverbial “fly on the wall” –our spies see their spies.

    We have a cadre of Ed Showdens and Glenn Greenwalds in the kings palaces and they are locusts just like us, if you will.

    They will march in ranks with us when the time comes.

    So whatever we do we must not despair.

    We got game.

  13. One thing I think a that is totally shocking about DoJ right now is their new FOIPA portal


    They set the software up but instead of answering questions from the entire agency, it excludes the offices of U.S. Attorneys, the FBI, the USMS, the Office of Professional Responsibility, the Office of Inspector General, etc. Those are all the components that are most likely to have records of DoJ misconduct. So the portal increases the appearance of transparency but it is confusing if you have a request for a different component.

    Personally I used the portal to request records of the Office of Professional Responsibility that allow it to avoid the Open Meetings Act. The OIP didn’t even attempt to find the records for me.

  14. “Obama had worked as a constitutional law professor at University of Chicago”

    I tend to look at his proffered expertise in the Constitution more like Sun Tzu

    “So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss”

    Expertise in a subject doesn’t guarantee it will be used Honorably.

  15. GaryT, A great point. Stevie Wonder could have just listened to Greenwald’s voice, much less his seen body language, to know that reaction was visceral.

  16. “Personally I was really impressed that Obama had worked as a constitutional law professor at University of Chicago.”

    So was I, kay, until he demonstrated it is possible to teach a subject and then totally ignore and violate the principles taught.

  17. So what does one do? The courts are packed, Congress is feckless, and it turns out Obama is just a guy with a nicely tailored suit, a home-spun speaking style, and a crypto-fascist kink. Keep pissing and moaning, sure. Vote for the lesser of two evils, o.k. But I suggest my fellow liberals (with either upper or lower case L) start learning how to shoot.

  18. One problem w a lot of people who are making policy decisions for our country is that they really respect credentials. If someone doesn’t have “adequate” credentials then they think that their message must be inadequate. If they policy makers have great credentials, then many or most people won’t even attempt to rethink the subject.

    Personally I was really impressed that Obama had worked as a constitutional law professor at University of Chicago.

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