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Media Lessons from Snowden Reporting: LA Times Editors Advocate Prosecution of Sources


Media Lessons from Snowden Reporting: LA Times Editors Advocate Prosecution of Sources

Glenn Greenwald

Two years ago, the first story based on the Snowden archive was published in the Guardian, revealing a program of domestic mass surveillance which, at least in its original form, ended this week.


“They were unabashed about their mentality that so identifies with and is subservient to the National Security State that they view controversies exactly the same way as those officials: someone who reveals information that the state has deemed should be secret belongs in prison – at least when those revelations reflect poorly on top U.S. officials.”


"People like Bob Schieffer and David Brooks, within days of learning his name, purported to psychoanalyze him in the most banal yet demeaning ways. "

I hope that Glenn Greenwald, Digby, and others will see the growing analogy between the logistical applications potentially linking these two quoted comments.

I recently posted the link for an hour panel discussion featured on C-span that hosted a debate between David Kay and Webster Tarpley. Tarpley was challenging the official story for 911 events.

The moderator, David Frum AND David Kay both held to the same no doubt preconceived strategy: It was aimed at discussing WHY people gravitate towards Conspiracy Theories and the entire gist of this “examination” was full of all kinds of demeaning qualifiers. All of them suggestive of this idea that Authority is Right (by virtue of it being an authority) and any questions to it, therefore pathological. (Neither could challenge the actual data that Tarpley had expertly compiled and laid out.)

It’s classic–shoot the messenger/demean the whistle blower in order to do away with what they reveal.

A similar stance was enshrined into a position paper penned by Cass Sunstein, and this one makes it quite clear that any question to official state narratives like the bogus fiction propped up to explain 911 are indicators that those who espouse them are mentally ill or mentally unbalanced.

The Soviets used this idea–setting up dissident camps to “change” the minds of those who didn’t quite accord with The Authoritarian Program.

Since the German method of ubiquitous spying has taken hold along with the preferred Nazi idolization of muscular men in martial uniform, how much of a stretch would it be for authorities to tie meaningful dissent to inside authorities’ insistence that such thinking is the mark of a lack of mental wellness.

It’s a very slippery slope. And it’s being greased.


Perhaps the courtiers of the press could be persuaded to wear white wigs to make them easier to identify - and more importantly, because it would really look fashionable and would help those in power see who they should talk to…


For the past twenty-five or thirty years, perhaps even longer, the people have been subjected to conditioning and propaganda. The young people of today look upon suppression, universal surveillance, brutal police reactions to protest as normal. Most kids today, if asked about the Constitution and Bill of Rights just look at you blankly.

  • Goebbels said, "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
  • Three decades or more of the big lie being broadcast by news, politicos, right wing think tanks, have done their deed well.
  • Dissent of US policy in other countries equals death by drone for patriots in other lands, or capture and torture.
  • Imagine what it will mean to true patriots in the United States when the real Powers that Be decide to show their claws.*


Here’s my take. As a citizen, happiness for me is for the press to be our servants, ferreting out mendacity on the part of government officials. A large part of the mainstream media did not fulfill that role and were secretaries for Bush and Chaney in the run up to our occupying Iraq; we were betrayed. I and hundreds of thousands of others knew that preemptive war is a war crime and went to Washington in the autumn, before 9/11. Any reporters who did their job would have cut off their access to government officials.; in other words, would have committed professional suicide. That scenario was replayed with surveillance. Now that they and the emperor have been revealed to have no clothes, the only way that they can survive is to take off their clothes and jump in bed with the emperor. So Jefferson and other founding fathers who worshipped at the alter of a free press were right. And we have lost whatever democracy we had and are now a plutocracy.


At a time when Thomas Jefferson was being roasted by the press, he wrote that, "if I had to choose between a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter”:

  • The full quote is worth reading: "The tumults in America, I expected would have produced in Europe an unfavorable opinion of our political state. But it has not. On the contrary, the small effect of these tumults seems to have given more confidence in the firmness of our governments. The interposition of the people themselves on the side of government has had a great effect on the opinion here. I am persuaded myself that the good sense of the people will always be found to be the best army. They may be led astray for a moment, but will soon correct themselves. The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs thro’ the channel of the public papers, & to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people. The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them. I am convinced that those societies (as the Indians) which live without government enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under the European governments. Among the former, public opinion is in the place of law, & restrains morals as powerfully as laws ever did anywhere. Among the latter, under pretence of governing they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves & sheep. I do not exaggerate. This is a true picture of Europe. Cherish therefore the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you & I, & Congress & Assemblies, judges & governors shall all become wolves. *It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions; and experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor. The want of news has led me into disquisition instead of narration, forgetting you have every day enough of that. I shall be happy to hear from you sometimes, only observing that whatever passes thro’ the post is read, & that when you write what should be read by myself only, you must be so good as to confide your letter to some passenger or officer of the packet. I will ask your permission to write to you sometimes, and to assure you of the esteem & respect with which I have honour to be Dear Sir your most obedient & most humble servt.
  • That is worth reading over and thinking about it for a few minutes.


Thank you, Siouxrose, that was very clearly and succinctly presented.

The US nazification began in 1945, with the initial steps to recruit the preferred nazis from the totalitarian nazi regime the US and Russia and others had just reduced to rubble. But those prize nazis became the core from which the CIA, NSA, and DOD, along with all their supporting agencies, became the US Nazi totalitarian regime we now have. Mostly we do not see it; just like the Germans in the 1930s & 1940s did not see their own totalitarian regime.

It is easy to hide away from political vicissitudes and pretend there is nothing we can do.

Much easier than trying to figure out what are the most important things for a citizen to do.

God forbid the “average American” would now stoop to being an actually engaged, curious, serious, self-respecting citizen. What a treasonous thought! Not even the employees of the totalitarian regime are so interested. They are just like the other nazi corporatists: just climbing the bureaucratic ladder until the dreamy retirement kicks in.

Oh, what an American dream.


A number of enormous changes since Jefferson, minitrue, need to be taken into account. First, television has contributed greatly to functional illiteracy, That plus the internet is forcing many newspapers into bankruptcy. Consolidation of news services has allowed the corporations to de facto censor the news. Even NPR announces the corporate sponsors, so don’t expect them to include a Noam Chomsky on the Diane Rehme program. Then, there are changes in the body politic. In “The Political Brain”, Drew Westen says that 85 per cent of voters vote for emotional reasons, the basis for which was laid down when they were young people just becoming political aware… Thus, we received not only our DNA from our parents, but, also, some political baggage. When a candidate’s position on an issue conflicts with these emotions, he posited , the emotions win hands down every time. He identified abortion, same sex marriages and hand guns as the issues. I would add race. Remember G.H.W. Bush’s Willie Horton admonition and Ronald Reagan’s Cadillac welfare queens? Finally, George Lakoff in “The Political Mind” says that progressives and conservatives think differently.

We are having this conversation because we obtain our information from CD and several other information aggregators. The behaviors that Greenwald discussed are disconcerting.


It is vital that we hold the press accountable for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity and for their responsibility on fomenting wars via the unquestioning promotion of propaganda. The Press has become increasingly a branch of the CIA over the last decades. It is now fully emebdded. I do my best to spread links to the unembedded press – Common Dreams, DemocracyNow, TruthOut . . . as well as writing a regular column in a small local paper. We all have to do our part to counter the lies but I would love to see a movement demanding press accountability and independence.


Speaking of being young and ill informed….

The other day I was at K-Mart at the checkout when the twenty something clerk asked me for my phone number so I could receive the sale price. Call me silly but I do not yell out my phone number in public places so I produced one of those little key-card thingies that they swipe through the system.

Well … as I always do just to be cantankerous, I said as loud as I could “Oh….I guess Big Brother needs know how many under panties I am buying.”

The checker turns to me and says….wait for it…… “WHO IS BIG BROTHER?” I said …you do not know who Big Brother is, and she said no. I told her then you had better find out.

You know when you think about “1984”….we are already living it. The giant TV screens mounted on the wall of almost every home in America. Every move monitored and tracked by our own cooperation. The majority of the population subdue like sheep by the promise of protection from “terrorism” when every day in the streets of America terrorism is being perpetrated against unarmed citizens with impunity.

As far as the Los Angeles Times goes that is what you get when you hire morons. We have a local “rag” that only spews that the ‘good-times’ are here and how the rich only do good things for our community……like helping the por old folk and by giving them new boot-straps to pull themselves up by. Usually on page two of this 10-page noose-paper is a whole page dedicated to local crimes, arrests for drugs and drunkenness, petty thief’s, shoplifting etc. We por-folk just can’t seem to get it together. I say if the rich would pay their fairshare….us poor folks would have jobs and healthcare and roofs over our heads and there wouldn’t be enough subject matter to print a “crimes” page.


I don’t like to see my name in print but have writing letters regularly to my local paper since the election campaign of 2000. Been doing so because that local paper is one of the examples of “failed” journalism that Greenwald talks about. Had a conversation with a like-minded letter-writer. He was livid that the paper could be so one-sided and partisan. I tried to make him realize that no publication has a “responsibility” to publish any particular sort of thing. The owners of a paper or a TV or radio station can “report” anything they want, it is their instrument, they own it, and they can advocate and slant their message in any manner they choose.

Chomsky and Herman long ago, with facts and figures, explained this to us and the world of message manufacturing in which we now live. But it seems this ownership by wealth of the fourth estate has ultimately failed to manufacture consent. Opinion polling continually shows lack of support for: state secrecy, state spying, endless war, homophobic and racist marginalizing, severe inequality, regressive taxation (taxes that effectively take a larger percentage of earnings from the poor and working class than the wealthy,) and lack of action to address climate change.

The only consent the fourth estate has managed to manufacture is amongst themselves. As their narrative veers ever more sharply away from reality the more they fully expose their malfeasance. Yes, it is truly wondrous the vaporous non-reality they have been able to conjure and keep afloat, as if by magic. But it will not hold.


True, but the points made by Jefferson are correct. The medium of communication may change, but the idea behind his words has not. A free, objective, paper/radio/net or whatever comes next, is what is needed. I don’t think our Founders ever expected that the banksters would be able to buy all three branches of the government to run as their own private game, but they did repeatedly warn that We the People must stay consistently on guard against their influence. We haven’t.

  • We are now seeing the result of about three generations of conditioning by an owned media doing what they are told and passing on what they are told to.
  • Back during Ellsberg I knew an investigative journalist who had once been in the FBI. I asked him if he was censored in what he wrote.
  • “No, Steve, I’m not censored in any way, but what I write passes across the editor’s desk. He may accept it, send it back for a rewrite, or put it in the circular file. If too much goes in the circular file, you are looking for a new job, possibly through a blacklisting. So, you learn what the editor wants and try to stay within his guidelines.”
  • And that was a long time ago. Think of what it must be like today.


There was a dipstach issued by the CIA in 1967 after a number of people started questiong the conclusions of the Warren Commission and the Kennedy assassination. In that dispatch they outlined how the word “Conspiracy Theory” was to be used by the media and US Intel agencies in order to discredit any that questioned the official narrative. It described exactly what you outlined in that interview with Webster Tarpley.

Prior to that dispatch (sent to the media) the word “Conspiracy Theory” was rarely used in the media . After the dispatch its usage increased exponentially. The CIA spent a lot of time and dollars researching the use of WORDS to control a population,