Lamestream Drops NSA Snoopergate Story

Not surprisingly, the lamestream media have begun the burial process for the NSA Snooper-gate Story. One likely reason is that the administration has dug its heels in and steadfastly refused the possibility that bulk domestic spying might ever end. Ultimately, the lamestream media are brown-nosers, and without a path for the story that resolves in favor of the Government’s omnipotence, they see no other alternative than burial.

Europe, on the other hand, is not so keen to just roll over and accept that they’re being relentlessly spied on by the U.S. government. Here’s today’s DayPage, which I host over on Radio InfoWeb every morning. It features a look at today’s German paper, Der Spiegel


Now, to be fair, the Washington Post had an article on today’s edition, page A3, regarding Edward Snowden visiting the Russian Embassy in Hong Kong prior to his departure for Russia to evade the full anger and rage of the U.S. A search of the online edition of today’s New York Times, however, received no hits.

Outside the lamestream media, today’s Democracy Now! was chock-full of snooper-gate related news:

  • NSA Spied on UN

The United Nations has confirmed plans to ask the Obama administration about reports of U.S. spying on top U.N. officials. Citing leaks from Edward Snowden, the German magazine Der Spiegel has revealed the National Security Agency decoded the United Nations’ internal video conferencing system to eavesdrop last year. The spying on U.N. communications would violate the United Nations’ 1961 Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.

  • NSA/Intelligence Disinformation to Discredit Critics

Snowden denies a leak credited to him by Britain’s Independent. The Independent of London reported on Friday that the British government is running “a secret internet-monitoring station in the Middle East to intercept and process vast quantities of emails, telephone calls and web traffic on behalf of Western intelligence.” The article cites documents leaked by Snowden. But in a statement, Snowden denied leaking that information or working with The Independent. In a statement, Snowden said the British government may have deliberately leaked that information itself in a bid to convince the public that the National Security Agency leaks have been harmful. The article appears just as the British government faces widespread criticism for its detention of David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, under an anti-terrorism law last week. Snowden said: “It appears that the UK government is now seeking to create an appearance that The Guardian and Washington Post’s disclosures are harmful, and they are doing so by intentionally leaking harmful information to The Independent and attributing it to others.”

  • NSA: Willful Violations and Illegal Distribution of Snoop Data

The National Security Agency has acknowledged new abuses of its surveillance powers. In a statement, the NSA said it had uncovered “very rare instances of willful violations of NSA’s authorities” by agency operatives. Some NSA officials were found to have spied on love interests, with one monitoring a former spouse. According to the Wall Street Journal, the practice is “common enough to garner its own spycraft label: LOVEINT.”

The National Security Agency has also been found to be providing illegally collected information about U.S. citizens to the Drug Enforcement Agency and Internal Revenue Service in order to assist in prosecutions. Such information would be inadmissible in court. Because it is illegal and violates due process, the results would be devastating to those accused.

On a related note: when the going get’s rough, the U.S. historically starts a war. Syria, perhaps? The lamestream media have been keeping up the drumbeat of war for several days now. But it’s a new day, and there is some question as to whether a war can completely bury the snooper-gate story.


US In Plea Deal with The People

The U.S. Government has taken to competing with Snowden documents to try to stop the hemorrhaging of truth about the extent of NSA data collecting. In recent days we have seen a declassified court document declaring that the NSA committed a relatively minor “oops” of collecting some “tens of thousands” of domestic emails.

The National Security Agency illegally collected tens of thousands of domestic emails before being stopped in 2011. The disclosure was made Wednesday in a newly declassified order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees NSA spying. The FISC ordered the NSA to change its procedures after the agency admitted to wrongly collecting up to 56,000 emails a year over a three-year period. The NSA says the illegal email collection resulted from technical error, not deliberate snooping. — Democracy Now! [8/22/2013]

Make no mistake, this is a psyops/disinformation campaign. It’s as if they’re going into the Court of Public Opinion to cut a plea deal:

Instead of going to trial for total bulk collection of data, the Government would plead guilty for the inappropriate collection of a few thousand emails in return for getting a lighter sentence, and the possibility that they might continue their criminal enterprise of total data collection.

  • The People would agree to forget about the illegal massive bulk collection, the corrupt cloak of secrecy, and go back to business as usual, even going so far as to feel comfortable with it, as President Obama has insisted.
  • The Government would feel free to do whatever it wants, including limitless expansion of data collection, and trampling of basic freedoms.
  • We would no longer have a democracy. Democracy would no longer be possible anywhere on the planet, but we could pretend, moving forward.
  • The Government is banking on the hope that The People will share and keep up the pretense that “These aren’t the ‘droids we’re looking for, move along” and that things will just go back to the way they were (which they never do).

It’s a bold move, but I really do question if the American public is that stupid. The public is a big ship to turn around, but it’s already well into the maneuver, and stopping it will not be easy for the Government. It will take more than a little grease and bullsh*t. One of the things that has slowed the public awakening to the violations that have been committed against it has been grasping the practical implication of bulk data collection on day-to-day life. The same has been true for the lamestream media. However, journalists and talking heads at the edge of the lamestream media, such as Tor creator Jacob Applebaum on August 20th’s Democracy Now!, have pointed out in unambiguous language that democracies and free markets cannot exist in a global surveillance state and provided clear examples of why they can’t.

“I think, at its core, what is at stake is the ability for a human being to have dignity and for journalists to have integrity with their sources. And from that, I believe that it threatens the whole concept of a free democracy. This is, I think, in a sense, being shown in the last 48 hours to the extreme. And I don’t mean that as hyperbole. But if everything is under surveillance, how is it that you can have a democracy? How is it that you can organize a political function or have confidentiality with a constituent or with a source, or with a friend or with a lover? That’s fundamentally an erasure of fundamental things that we have had for quite some time.

And planetary surveillance has very serious concerns, not the least of which is economic espionage, and not the least of which, I think, for me, personally, is about journalistic source protection. I mean, how is it that we will be able to protect our sources if there’s no way to securely meet, no way to communicate about having a meeting, no way to actually communicate about basic facts? There’s no such thing as on or off the record, when in fact you don’t control the record. And it’s not merely a matter of whether or not we have something to hide, because it is not us that will decide whether we have something to hide. It is an analyst somewhere. It is a machine learning algorithm somewhere.

And this is the thing that is perhaps the most terrifying: Because people are flagged, then other people are dispatched. Each person plays their role, and more and more a machine plays that role, a machine that does not understand constitutional protections, does not understand the Magna Carta or the Bill of Rights, does not understand humanity. It’s a machine. And the humans, they behave like machines, too, which is a great fear, that humans will start to behave like machines. And so, what is at stake is in fact democracy, where we still have it, and the free press. ” — Jacob Applebaum 8/20/2013

And so, for those who feel powerless to act in their democratic society (and yet, isn’t that the purpose of a democratic society?), one often hears the lament alluded to by Jacob Appelbaum, above:

“well, shucks, I have nothing to hide. I’m not important. I try to straitjacket myself with the Orwellian rules imposed on me at all times, and comply with commands given by designated authorities immediately and without question.”

The hurdle until recently has been to get the masses beyond that point. Luckily, Edward Snowden came along with a sufficient amount of information in addition to Bradley Manning’s (and many others) to reach the tipping point. The heavy hand of the government since has shattered the illusion of The Emperor’s New Clothes, and just as in the parable, small children are speaking up and shredding the pretense of the Government shared with older people who don’t wish to bothered or inconvenienced by reality. As with Humpty Dumpty, all the King’s horses, and all the King’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again. Once an illusion is shattered, one can’t go back into the illusion. Not fully.


People Before Big Brother

This post was written and performed on radio for DayPage – a daily radio program I do wherein I provide a capsule of the day’s news…

The following rush transcript probably contains errors and/or omissions…

Earth to NSA: Give It Up

DayPage – weekend edition. I’m Rex Latchford on Radio InfoWeb.

It’s the weekend, and time for reflection on the week’s events. The NSA scandal initiated by Edward Snowden’s leaked documents has been going on for over a month now.

In some ways, Friday was yet another seismic event with the release of the NSA’s own documents in the Washington Post, showing that the NSA’s overreach and proneness to error is self-documented. Thousands of violations of it’s own rules, in many cases self-made, occur every day at the agency, by it’s own admission in the documents. The troubling aspect which isn’t clearly mentioned is: what they SAY about their own infractions is completely different. In other words, they are liars. And yet, the Obama administration still scrambles to defend the NSA with it’s bulk data collection programs and domestic spying.

And hey – how about them folks in other countries? You don’t think they want privacy too? Of course they do.

As inarguable as that would seem in the face of the release of the release of the NSA’s own documents — it seems to be arguable! And still, folks who are part of the Washington machine provide a knee-jerk defense of the NSA! Dianne Feinstein, prominent and chronic apologist for the NSA called the NSA’s documents “reports” as if they came from some fringe lunatic who was simply out-to-get the NSA and could hardly be believed. No, Dianne – sorry – these are NSA documents, not “wild reports”.

Last night, I watched a PBS interview in which the interviewee clearly had less grasp of the facts than the interviewer, who soldiered on. The interviewee went on to split hairs and equivocate on when domestic spying might be OK. Sorry. It isn’t. The question isn’t whether such folks, especially President Obama, are going to somehow forceably make us “more comfortable” with bulk domestic spying. The question is, how are we going to bring it to an end?

That, my friends, is a VERY big question.

Today’s Washington Post — the paper that revealed the NSA’s self-audit Friday — carried an interesting letter-to-the-editor entitled:

NSA: Follow International Law

Regarding the Aug. 16 front-page article “Audit: NSA repeatedly broke privacy rules”:

In defending its mistakes, the National Security Agency (NSA) said that the number is insignificant, but we don’t have a complete picture of how many mistakes were made as the audit only encompassed information from a limited number of agency offices. Additionally, the NSA said that the people who work at the agency are human and make mistakes.

[The writer goes on to say…] That’s not good enough. That is why the NSA surveillance practice should be compliant with international legal standards that protect people from unlawful surveillance. Compliance would involve setting up a system to ensure that mistakes are identified and corrected before someone’s rights have been violated.

Widney Brown, New York
The writer is senior director of international law at Amnesty International.

So yes, this is a very big thing indeed. Not only do we need to bring domestic spying and bulk-data collection to an end, we need to bring it to an end outside our borders as well. The same applies to the Snooping and Spying agencies of other countries. Human rights – the rights of people, not any particular government, need to be respected. The human race has come far enough — now — that we no longer need rule by fear and intimidation. At last, we can have the human rights that Martin Luther King dreamed of. Not only for one minority — but for all the people of planet Earth.

That’s DayPage for this weekend edition. Find all the DayPages at DayPage dot net. A production of Radio InfoWeb.

NSA Snooping Forces Business Closures

(updated 8/9 7pm EDT)

The Fable of The NSA and the Internet

Long ago and far away on the planet Earth, the people of the planet enjoyed the fruits of a global telecommunications network. But the Governments, which did not trust the people, secretly decided to collect all its information and use it to rule the people. When the people found out, they stopped using the Internet because they didn’t want the Governments intrusions and manipulations in every aspect of their lives. The planet fell silent, technological advancement was halted, and economic hardship gripped it’s people.
The End

The Fable of the Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs

Just as the lame-stream media has become dimly aware that all the snooping has real consequences in the real word… news is breaking of how some businesses are being forced to close as a result of the extent of NSA information gathering. There is likely to be a wave of such consequences, as the Federal Government may eventually discover they have killed the goose that laid the golden eggs: the Internet.

Real World Impacts:
Two Business Shutting Down Due to NSA Domestic Surveillance

Lavabit Out Of Business – Gagged and Bound by U.S. Govt

Texas-based Lavabit service has shut down but said that legal reasons are preventing it from explaining why. Lavabit appears to have been in a legal battle to stop U.S. agencies from obtaining customer details.

Silent Circle, a secure communications firm, has shut its email service because messages cannot be kept wholly secret, which was the basis of its appeal to customers.

Edward Snowden is rumored to have been using Lavabit while holed up in the Moscow airport.

Ladar Levison, Owner and Operator of Lavabit LLC wrote in an open letter that has replaced the company’s website at

“I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.”

Following that is a link requesting donations to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund via PayPal [PayPal was stopped by the U.S. Government from transferring donation funds to WikiLeaks in the U.S.’s quest to destroy WikiLeaks].

Silent Circle Shuts Down Secure Mail Service:
NSA Surveillance Makes Email Security Impossible

Silent Circle, a firm offering a variety of telecommunications products, states on its’ website: “Silent Circle has preemptively discontinued Silent Mail service to prevent spying.”

The announcement continues:

“We designed our phone, video, and text services (Silent Phone, Text and Eyes) to be completely end-to-end secure with all cryptography done on the clients and our exposure to your data to be nil. The reasons are obvious — the less of your information we have, the better it is for you and for us.

Silent Mail has thus always been something of a quandary for us. Email that uses standard Internet protocols cannot have the same security guarantees that real-time communications has. There are far too many leaks of information and metadata intrinsically in the email protocols themselves. Email as we know it with SMTP, POP3, and IMAP cannot be secure.

And yet, many people wanted it. Silent Mail has similar security guarantees to other secure email systems, and with full disclosure, we thought it would be valuable.

However, we have reconsidered this position. We’ve been thinking about this for some time, whether it was a good idea at all. Yesterday, another secure email provider, Lavabit, shut down their system less they “be complicit in crimes against the American people.” We see the writing on the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail. We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now.”

The company plans to continue on with its’ non-email products.

“By injecting the N.S.A. into virtually every cross-border interaction, the U.S. government will forever alter what has always been an open exchange of ideas,” said Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

By injecting itself into every electronic communication, the U.S. Government has forever altered the way we think about and use the forms of communication we have used and become dependent on for over a generation. With the Internet the main driver of economic growth, the U.S., in its greed to collect every shred of information on the ‘net, may have killed the goose that laid the golden eggs.

See also: The Dog and the Bone – a fable wherein by greeding for all, one risks losing all.



Obama vs. Truth – on NSA

The following comes from this morning’s DayPage at

I was watching Amy Goodman deliver Democracy Now! live this morning. There was a remarkable contrast bordering on cognitive dissonance. First we had images of the actual NSA documents depicting how the NSA searches everything: email, chats, texts, phone calls, website accesses… for the mentions of names of “people of interest” [in ‘terrorist’ investigations ?!]. Then, cut to President Obama, on Jay Leno’s show, in which he is denying. Deny, deny, deny, deny. “[sic] Oh no, we don’t do this, everything is good, all this stuff was put into place by George Bush before I got here, but I’ve reviewed it, and it’s really OK, we put in some safeguards…” … and it’s like, what is he talking about?

Watch the incredible artistry of bull…

See also Amy Goodman’s Headlines (video, then link to text transcript below)… Democracy Now! can be heard weekdays at 2pm New York Time on Radio InfoWeb‘s main audio stream.

During his appearance on “The Tonight Show” Obama also responded to the growing controversy over the wide-ranging National Security Agency surveillance programs that Edward Snowden has revealed.

President Obama: “A lot of these programs were put in place before I came in. I had some skepticism, and I think there’s — we should have a healthy skepticism about what government is doing. I had the programs reviewed. We put in some additional safeguards to make sure that there’s federal court oversight, as well as congressional oversight, that there is no spying on Americans. You know, we don’t have a domestic spying program. What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an email address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat.”

See also: Amy Goodman delivers headlines…

Bezos Blocked WikiLeaks & Decimated the Book Industry

How The Washington Post’s New Owner Aided the CIA, Blocked WikiLeaks & Decimated the Book Industry

From Democracy Now! – heard weekdays at 2PM NY Time on Radio InfoWeb and hundreds of audio and video outlets worldwide.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We begin today’s show with a roundtable discussion about the sale of one of the nation’s leading newspapers to one of the world’s richest men. On Monday, The Washington Post announced the paper had been purchased by founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. Bezos will pay $250 million for the paper and a number of other publications—less than 1 percent of his wealth, which is estimated at more than $28 billion. Bezos is a friend of Donald Graham, chief executive of The Washington Post Company, whose family has owned the newspaper for eight decades.

Bezos said management of The Washington Post newspaper will remain the same, but it’s unclear what changes might be coming. Last year, Bezos was quoted in an interview with the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung saying, quote, “There is one thing I’m certain about: There won’t be printed newspapers in 20 years. Maybe as luxury items in some hotels that want to offer them as an extravagant service. Printed papers won’t be normal in 20 years.”

AMY GOODMAN: Critics of the sale have cited Bezos’s close ties to the U.S. government. In 2010, Amazon pulled the plug on hosting the WikiLeaks website under heavy political pressure. Earlier this year, Amazon inked a $600 million cloud-computing deal with the CIA.

For more, we’re joined by three guests. In Madison, Wisconsin, Bob McChesney is with us, co-founder of Free Press, author of several books on media and politics, including his Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy. You can read the first chapter at our website, He also recently co-authored with John Nichols Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex Is Destroying America.

Joining us via Democracy Now! video stream, Jeff Cohen, director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, where he’s also a journalism professor. He is founder of the media watch group FAIR, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting.

And here in New York City, Dennis Johnson is with us, co-founder and co-publisher of the book publisher Melville House. He recently wrote an article called “The Obama Business Plan: Be Like Amazon.”

We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Bob, McChesney, why don’t we begin with you in Madison, Wisconsin? Your response to the news that has rocked the industry, that Jeff Bezos is the new owner of The Washington Post?

ROBERT McCHESNEY: Well, I think what’s important is to have a structural understanding and context for this purchase, because the real story, the back story, is that the value of The Washington Post, like all other news media in this country, has plummeted in the last five or 10 years to maybe one-tenth, one-fiftieth of what it was in the late 1990s, and at this point they aren’t wise commercial investments. As the blip you had at the top of the show said, Amy, commercial journalism no longer is profitable. That’s why investors are jumping ship.

But they still have great political value, monopoly newspapers, especially The Washington Post, in the nation’s capital. It might not be a commercially viable undertaking, but it still has tremendous political power. And I think when we understand it that way, that’s the appeal of these remaining legacy monopoly newspapers, like the _Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, to wealthy people, is that it won’t make them money in the short term on that exact investment, but it gives them great political power to advance their political agenda, which, in the case of someone like Jeff Bezos, could give him a great deal of money down the road.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Jeff Cohen, could you respond to the sale of The Washington Post Company to Jeff Bezos and respond also to what Bob McChesney said about how the value of The Washington Post has been declining for several consecutive years, and talk about why Jeff Bezos might have made this purchase?

JEFF COHEN: Well, I think that when Jeff Bezos, in that older quote, talks about it being a luxury item—printed newspapers—I’ve got a good feeling, a good sense, that Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post will not remain a luxury item around Capitol Hill. It may go online heavily, but it’s going to stay there at Capitol Hill, because Bezos, I think, wants that kind of influence in the nation’s capital.

And I’ve been reading all this about Bezos’ politics, which of course is important when you’re a singular owner of a paper as influential as The Washington Post, a paper that actually urged us to get into the invasion of Iraq about a decade ago. But Bezos is like a lot of corporate executives: He’s liberal on social policy—he gave money to the pro-gay-marriage initiative—but he’s very conservative on economic policies that affect the corporation that made him wealthy and powerful. So, we learn about Bezos that he’s donated money to the initiative in the state of Washington—big money—that was trying to institute a tax, an income tax, on the top 1 percent of people in the state of Washington. It was supported by Bill Gates of Microsoft and Bill Gates’s dad. But Bezos was one of the billionaires that put money in to try to stop that. He’s conservative on labor policy, and we know what a bad labor policy Amazon has.

And the most important thing is, the biggest issue facing American journalism in the last month or so has been the surveillance state and these corporations that profit from the surveillance state, because 70 percent of the intelligence agency’s budgets, that come from the taxpayers, is delivered to private contractors. And as you guys mentioned, Amazon just brought down a huge CIA contract to provide cloud services. And we know that that’s not the only one. They want more contracts.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Dennis Johnson of Melville House, why, as a publisher—what are your feelings about Amazon? And then your thoughts about Amazon buying, or Jeff Bezos buying The Washington Post?

DENNIS JOHNSON: Well, my feelings as a publisher are the same as my feelings as an American. This is a—this is a very tough company to deal with, a company that has developed a whole new model for the marketplace of ideas. I mean, something to remember that maybe contributes to what the previous two speakers are talking about is that, you know, Amazon has, since its inception, been a company that, one, has avoided tax payments, or collecting sales tax, in not only the United States but across the world, and, two—

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that.

DENNIS JOHNSON: Well, they are, as a retailer, required to collect sales taxes for everything sold on their website. They have not done that, since its inception. In fact, Bezos originally tried to start the company and found it in an Indian reservation, because he believed it would be a sovereign nation and he wouldn’t have to collect any taxes. He founded the company in Seattle because he felt it would do the company the least harm for sales, for having to not collect taxes in the rest of the country.

So, you know, it was kind of a sham the other day when President Obama went down to speak at the warehouse in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which was a warehouse that Amazon opened only because they cut a deal with the state to not collect taxes for yet another year. They have never paid taxes in Tennessee to date, and they’re not going to for another year or two, but they promise to employ 2,000 people. Those are the jobs that Obama was celebrating. And, you know, this is a very damaging policy for a company to have, obviously. They’re also being contested in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe for similar policies.

The other thing to remember about Amazon is it’s a company that feels no pain. They’ve, as far as I can tell, never made money. Their quarterly statements are consistently sales are up—they’re astronomical numbers; they made $15.7 million last quarter alone—but their losses are up every quarter, as well. It’s a phenomenal track record, where—and, you know, in the retail market, how do you compete with that? How—in the book business, how does Barnes & Noble, how do the little indie booksellers compete with a company that can consistently lose money like that? Well, they can’t. They just can’t. So, when you see him taking over The Washington Post and you wonder is he going to be able to monetize it, is he going to make it profitable, he probably doesn’t care. That’s obviously not what it’s about. His business is to not operate as if they intend to make a profit.

AMY GOODMAN: But he did make $28 billion—I mean, he’s got $28 billion.

DENNIS JOHNSON: Personally. Sure, he’s a wealthy man, one of the most wealthy men in the country, if not the world. But the company, quarter after quarter after quarter, does not post a profit.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, in his letter to employees after he bought The Washington Post, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos seemed to try to address any potential conflict of interest, saying, quote, “The values of The Post do not need changing. The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners.” But many people have pointed out that Amazon ranks among the biggest spenders for high-technology companies seeking to influence the federal government. Dennis Johnson, could you talk about some of that, the politics of what Amazon’s lobbying efforts have been and how this is likely, if at all, to influence what appears in The Post under Bezos?

DENNIS JOHNSON: Well, sure. Coming strictly from the book business, I mean, this is a very transparent move to have made. This is a man who has growing interests in Washington. I mean, look, we just concluded the Department of Justice prosecution of the book industry, a shocking case that seems to fly in the face of what we know about antitrust law in this country. And it was a case that most in the book business feel was orchestrated by Amazon, and indeed Amazon did file the initial complaints that started that case. Well, they won. And when they won, most in the book industry saw this as—you know, we thought Amazon was a monopoly, to begin with; now we feel like, well, it’s a government-sanctioned monopoly. Then what happens? Just days after that decision comes down, the president of the United States goes to their warehouse to slap them on the back and say, “Good job.” This is a company that obviously—and this is—

AMY GOODMAN: Well, now that we have this new information, do you think President Obama knew he was buying The Washington Post when he went down last week? Even many of the reporters of The Washington Post who have been interviewed over the last few days, everyone seemed shocked.

DENNIS JOHNSON: Yeah, it was a really well-kept secret, but at the same time other reports are saying that it was probably cut about a month ago.

AMY GOODMAN: And given how much information the NSA gathers on us all, it would be hard to believe the president didn’t know.

DENNIS JOHNSON: I have a feeling—

AMY GOODMAN: You don’t think Jeff Bezos never mentioned this in a phone call or an email?

DENNIS JOHNSON: No, I have—who knows? I take it the president knew. But, you know, looking just at what happened, the president was down there lauding a company that he says is going to really boost the middle class, and really these are $11-an-hour jobs on average. They don’t meet the living wage of that part of the country. They were bought via tax avoidance. This is the—this is the president’s job policy?

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and come back to this discussion. Dennis Johnson is with us. He is a publisher; the publishing house is Melville House. Robert McChesney is with us, co-founder of Free Press. And Jeff Cohen, Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, a journalism professor and author. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We have a roundtable discussion on Jeff Bezos, the owner of, the founder and chief executive, buying The Washington Post. Dennis Johnson is with us of Melville House; Robert McChesney, co-founder of Free Press; and Jeff Cohen, journalism professor and head of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College.

I wanted to read from an article about Jeff Bezos written by Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. She wrote, quote, “How will he react—especially after Amazon’s recent clinching of a $600m contract to provide cloud services to the CIA—to the flow of stories from his own publication on the NSA and its covert pact with the tech industry to trace our every move? How will he like his Amazon workplace practices scrutinised by his own paper? How will he like being in a world where the greatest measure of success is to irritate, damage or, at best, remove a president and other public officials?” Interesting questions, Jeff Cohen.

JEFF COHEN: Oh, I think these are all good questions. I think one thing that’s missing is a discussion of the hallowed traditions, the hallowed journalistic traditions of The Washington Post. I mean, any media consumer who’s been looking at the bevy of articles in the last day and a half has heard about this—you know, “What’s going to happen to The Washington Post’s journalistic tradition—the paper of Watergate—or, the paper that exposed Watergate and published the Pentagon Papers?” I think any serious and very, you know, diligent news consumer is going to realize that the incidents like Watergate conspiracy and the Pentagon Papers, that was 40 years ago, and the hallowed tradition of The Washington Post that we’re worried Bezos is going to ruin—and, again, it may get worse, it may not; most likely it’ll continue—but that hallowed tradition, for 40 years, The Washington Post has really been a newspaper of the bipartisan consensus. And items like or invasions like Iraq could hardly have happened without the editorial pages headed by a sort of a hawk, Fred Hiatt, who’s still in power today, and Fred Hiatt’s editorial pages of The Washington Post has, in a five-month period before the Iraq invasion, more than two dozen editorials urging on that invasion. Skeptics of the invasion were mercilessly savaged in the editorial pages and the op-ed pages, but they weren’t allowed to speak for themselves. And so, when I hear people talk about The Washington Post under the Graham family, the paper of Watergate, it reminds me of people who would look at today’s Barack Obama and say he’s a community organizer embedded with the poor in Chicago. The Watergate Washington Post was decades ago. The Washington Post we should be thinking about in the last 10, 12 years has been a very important instrument of U.S. intervention, imperial foreign policy, at the hands of the editorial page editor Fred Hiatt.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, just on what you’re saying, just to read part of the Washington Post editorial from February 2003 that ran the day after Colin Powell’s Iraq presentation to the United Nations, under the headline, “Irrefutable,” it read, in part, “It is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Powell left no room to argue seriously that Iraq has accepted the Security Council’s offer of a ‘final opportunity’ to disarm.” The headline, again, “Irrefutable.”

JEFF COHEN: And on the Washington Post op-ed page in the next two days, every op-ed columnist, from, you know, one baby step to the left of center to the far right, was endorsing Colin Powell’s speech and endorsing the invasion of Iraq. And that’s been par for the course over there for the last 10, 20 years.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, you also mentioned the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. And Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, of course the most famous reporters in the history of The Washington Post, say they’re optimistic about the paper’s sale to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Woodward said, quote, “If there’s somebody who can succeed, it’s Bezos. He’s the innovator, he’s got the money and the patience, so we’ll see. I think in some ways, this may be the _Post_’s last chance to survive, at least in some form of what it was.” Bernstein also said he had high hopes for Bezos, saying he, quote, “seems to me exactly the kind of inventive and innovative choice needed to bring about a recommitment to great journalism on the scale many of us have been hoping for—while employing all the applicable tools and best sensibilities of a new era and the old.” Jeff Cohen, could you respond to that?

JEFF COHEN: Yeah. You know, he might be innovative, and he does have deep pockets, and if I was a journalist at The Washington Post, I’d want someone with deep pockets, as opposed to the Graham family, which has been bleeding money. But the reality is, when we have, as you pointed out earlier, one of the big issues is the surveillance state, and Amazon, the company that has made this individual so wealthy, is so embedded with the surveillance state, I’d be very concerned. And as for Bob Woodward, again, 40 years ago he unraveled a conspiracy and brought down a president. In the last 10, 12 years, he’s been very, very cozy with American presidents, whether Republican or Democrat.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Bob McChesney, your response?

ROBERT McCHESNEY: Well, I think that the absurdity is that we’re reduced to the point where journalism is dying in this country as an undertaking supported by commercial enterprise, and we’re reduced with these monopoly franchises to hopefully get a good billionaire, relative to the Koch brothers, for example. But we should stand back and understand how ridiculous the situation is, that we’re reduced to this pathetic state of affairs, because we really actually need real journalism. We need journalism that tells us about war plans, that tells us about the NSA, long before it becomes too late or deep into the game. And we’re not getting that now, and there’s no reason to think the current system is going to give us that. It’s incredibly corrupt.

It’s worth noting that we have a system like the one we have now a hundred years ago in the United States. If you were to look at American journalism in between 1900 and 1915, it had grown incredibly concentrated except in our very largest cities. There were huge empires, and the Hearsts, the Pulitzers, the Scrippses—the bosses of that era—used their power to actively and aggressively promote their politics, their generally right-wing, anti-labor politics. And it was a result of that period that there was a great crisis of journalism that led to the creation of professional journalism, the idea that the editorial content should not be influenced directly by the owners and the advertisers. And we’re going back to that era, except for we’re doing it without any resources, and there’s even less accountability, far less, than there was then. There’s—you know, in those days, there were four, five, six, eight major daily newspapers in each of our great cities, like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago. Today we don’t have anything like that.

What we have is a plaything for these billionaires that they can then use aggressively to promote their own politics. And when we talk about promoting your own politics, we’ve got to understand, it’s not like Jeff Bezos has to march into a newsroom and say, “Cover this. Don’t cover that.” It rarely works that way. That happens once a decade. You basically set an organizational culture, and smart journalists who want to survive internalize the values, and those that don’t internalize the values get out of the way.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, Bob McChesney, Koch Industries, of course—and we’ve been talking about this for a while—interested in acquiring Tribune’s big regional titles, which include Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune_, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel. I mean, this is what you have these days. You have the Koch brothers. You also have Warren Buffett, right? What was it? Last year, Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought 28 daily newspapers for something like $344 million. This is how it operates in the United States right now. And so, then compare Jeff Bezos to the Grahams, who have owned this newspaper for decades.

ROBERT McCHESNEY: You’re right, and we’re looking at a situation where we have these owners who are making these investments now, like the Koch brothers, and it’s—

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, I should say Bloomberg. You cannot forget our mayor in New York City—


AMY GOODMAN: Bloomberg News, one of the world’s largest news and media companies, employing 2,300—2,300 professionals in 146 bureaus around the world, and, I’m sure, employs many more people than that.

ROBERT McCHESNEY: Yeah. In Dollarocracy, John Nichols and I outline people like the Koch brothers and Shelly Adelson and a whole host of CEOs and billionaires that most Americans don’t now, because they aren’t seeking publicity, who are spending hundreds of—tens of millions and hundreds of millions of dollars to buy elections, oftentimes anonymously and surreptitiously through dark money. Well, if you look at that closely, it makes perfect sense they’d want to start buying up newspapers as a political investment, because they’re so cheap now, and you can dominate the discussion to have it frame the issues your way, talk about what you think is important. It’s a very wise political investment. And for people concerned with democratic theory, democratic governance, it’s antithetical to what this country needs to be for the constitutional system to work. When the news media, the Fourth Estate, a pillar of our constitutional system, becomes a plaything for billionaires and there’s no accountability, our government—our governing system can’t work effectively as something except a plaything for the rich.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Dennis Johnson, you’ve spoken about some of your concerns with Amazon as a company—its labor practices, tax evasion and so on. So could you say what you think Bezos’s interests will be now in this position and how Amazon—what’s been happening at Amazon might influence that?

DENNIS JOHNSON: Well, his position, as regards buying The Post, seems fairly transparent. I mean, there’s pending legislation he’s concerned with in Washington regarding collection of sales tax. He is being—Amazon is being talked about more and more openly as a monopoly in the wake of the DOJ decision. Is something going to be done about this?

AMY GOODMAN: The DOJ decision being?

DENNIS JOHNSON: Being the recently concluded case we mentioned a moment ago, the prosecution of Apple and the five of the six major publishers for supposed price fixing. Really what they were trying to do was just create—find a way to stop Amazon from severe discounting, which has really disrupted the marketplace. So, you know, it’s going to be very handy for him to have a newspaper in Washington, D.C., particularly this newspaper. It seems pretty transparent that way.

AMY GOODMAN: How has Amazon affected you as a publisher at Melville House?

DENNIS JOHNSON: Well, Amazon really controls the marketplace. You know, my publishing company has existed just about the same period of time that Amazon has, and we’ve watched it happen. They get current—from Melville House’s point of view, we are an activist press, but we’re also a fairly kind of normal trade press doing fiction, poetry, a wide variety of books. They are 90 percent of our digital business. They’re at least 30, maybe more, percent of our overall business. This is—

AMY GOODMAN: So do they make you more money?

DENNIS JOHNSON: Do they make us money? How do you mean?

AMY GOODMAN: Meaning, are you selling more books because you have this global marketplace?

DENNIS JOHNSON: I wouldn’t say our total business is up, no, at all. In fact, in the recession, I’d say it’s down. They’ve depressed the marketplace. Their—because of their rise and their kind of ruthless tactics, they’ve put out of business a lot of the retail market, which is—which is a problem for them, as well. I mean, there’s a phenomenon known as “showrooming,” where people actually need to see the book in a bookstore before they decide to buy it. It influences Amazon’s sales, even its e-book sales. So they’re—

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And you even said that it’s—Amazon has, quote, “devalued the concept of what a book is, and turned it into a widget.”

DENNIS JOHNSON: Yeah. This is maybe my biggest concern about them. You know, we’re not talking about the business of widgets when you’re talking about books, nor newspapers. You’re talking about the culture of ideas. You’re talking about making art. You’re talking about speaking truth to power. Amazon has, pretty successfully over the course of its 18-year history, turned the concept of the book into a thing that has a set value: No matter what the book is, it’s only worth $9.99. And this has nothing to do with the content of the book, and that’s a dangerous idea to have in the marketplace of ideas.

AMY GOODMAN: But why not make books affordable?

DENNIS JOHNSON: If you ask me or you ask anyone in publishing, we’ll tell you, books are underpriced as it is. It’s always been a low-margin business. It’s not—I don’t know anybody that got into the book business, before Amazon, to make money. They got in it to fight the good fight, because they love literature. And that’s part of the problem. The people in the book business are lovers; they’re not fighters. They just—you know, they want to read. It’s mainly why they got into the business. They’re not used to these really aggressive bottom-line guys like Jeff Bezos, who was a former hedge fund manager, getting into the business strictly to make money. Then you see a marketplace that gets constricted, becomes about just the selling of best-sellers, and it becomes more and more difficult for little publishers like me to sell books about politics, to sell books about ideas and art.

AMY GOODMAN: Bob McChesney, I wanted to go to this issue of WikiLeaks that we mentioned before, because you talk about it in your book. In 2010, the WikiLeaks website was temporarily shut down when Amazon dropped it from its servers just 24 hours after being asked to do so by former Senator Joe Lieberman. You know, people may not realize this, but Amazon runs massive global servers that people can pay for, and that’s what WikiLeaks was doing. In a post to its Twitter account, WikiLeaks said, “If Amazon are so uncomfortable with the first amendment, they should get out of the business of selling books.” Well, last year, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange referred to the incident during an interview on Democracy Now! when he discussed it along with the impact of credit card companies’ blockade of donations to WikiLeaks.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Since the blockade was erected in December 2010, WikiLeaks has lost 95 percent of the donations that were attempted to be transferred to us over that period. So, that is over $50 million. Now, fortunately, our 5 percent of $50 million is still not nothing, and so the organization can continue. But as I said in that press conference, our rightful and natural growth, our ability to publish as much as we would like, our ability to defend ourselves and our sources, has been diminished by that blockade.

Now, the United States government has looked into the blockade in January of 2011 and formally found that there is no lawful reason to erect a U.S. financial embargo against WikiLeaks. So what has happened here is that—and this came out in the commission documents that we published yesterday—is that Senator Lieberman and Congressman Peter T. King pressured at the very least MasterCard and Amazon, but perhaps others, including Visa, as well, pressured those organizations to erect an extrajudicial blockade that they were not able to successfully erect through the Legislature or through a formal administrative process.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Bob McChesney, if you could talk about that and Bezos’s relationship with the CIA? We talked about the $600 million cloud deal. Also, Forbes said a year ago, “commercial quantum computing company D-Wave announced [that] it had closed a $30 million equity funding round. The primary investors … were In-Q-Tel, which invests in technology on behalf of the CIA and other intelligence agencies, and Bezos Expeditions, which is Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos’ private investment firm. … So far D-Wave [had] only sold one of its $10 million systems to Lockheed Martin.” If you could make sense of all of this, Bob McChesney, from WikiLeaks to the CIA?

ROBERT McCHESNEY: When the WikiLeaks scandal broke and I was doing my research for Digital Disconnect, I actually did some research on this. And I consulted people I knew fairly high up in the State Department off the record, and they said that they did not have to put pressure on Wiki—excuse me, on Amazon for that to happen, that Amazon was more than willing to cooperate. It was not a difficult sell, and there was no real pressure on them. They sort of leapt to the front of that parade of getting rid of WikiLeaks and removing it from the server.

And I think it really points to the issue you’re getting at, which this all suggests, which is that the large Internet giant monopolies, starting with, at the top of the list, Amazon, but really including Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, right on down the list, they all have an extraordinarily cozy relationship with the national security state, with the military, the intelligence community. It’s a harmonious relationship. It’s mutually beneficial for both of them. They interact at the highest levels. And we’ve created this military-digital complex of sorts. And Jeff Bezos is at the top of that. It is something that—as President Eisenhower said in his famous farewell address, that we need to discuss the military-industrial complex, that it’s the reigning issue of our era, he said in 1961. And it remains the remaining issue, but now it has a digital complexion.

And I think this is an issue we have to discuss: How much power is in unaccountable monopolies? And these companies are really unaccountable to the government. You look at Obama running around trying to be on good terms with the companies. And now they control the news media directly, some of them, like Bezos. You don’t have to—if we stood outside the United States and Americans saw another country in this situation, we would instantly deride the country as not being remotely close to being on the democratic grid. It’s in our own country. I think we should be looking at it in the same lens.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Bob McChesney, very quickly, before we wrap, could you talk about alternative models of newspaper ownership?

ROBERT McCHESNEY: Well, I think the—a lesson that’s clear from this is that we’ve had the illusion that journalism is a commercially viable undertaking for the last hundred years in the United States, and that was because advertising provided between 50 and 100 percent of all the revenues to support commercial journalism, and it made it very profitable throughout the 20th century, especially monopoly markets, which most of them gravitated toward. But now journalism has gone digital, and it’s turning to smart advertising. It no longer provides revenue for content for journalism, and that’s never going to come back. We’re not going to have commercial journalism.

And I think we have to then go back to the beginning of the republic. What did we do the first hundred years, before there was advertising in any significant levels for journalism? Well, what we had then to make sure there was a popular press was enormous postal and printing subsidies. We wouldn’t have had an Abolitionist press without it. We wouldn’t have had a daily press serving the masses without those postal subsidies, which effectively made newspaper distribution at that time all but free for these papers, nominal. And we’ve got to think in those terms again. If we look at the most democratic countries in the world, ranked by The Economist magazine, they all spend inordinate amounts of money supporting public and community media, supporting multiple newspapers and newsrooms in communities. They make a strong public investment in nonprofit, noncommercial journalism—independent nonprofit, noncommercial journalism. And that’s how you solve the problem. That’s a discussion that we’re eventually going to have to have in this country, the sooner the better.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you all for being with us—a very interesting discussion. And we urge people to tweet it around, to post it on your Facebook pages. The transcript will be up, and you can watch the audio and video. I want to thank Bob McChesney, co-founder of Free Press; Dennis Johnson, who is the publisher at Melville House; and, as well, Jeff Cohen, director of Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College and a journalism professor there.

This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we speak with Mac McClelland. She wrote a piece called “I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave.” Stay with us.

DEA Illegally Using NSA Domestic Intel on Americans

Here’s more from Glenn Greenwald, the journalist at The Guardian who broke the Snowden documents, on how a secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) unit is covering up its use of intelligence intercepts, wiretaps to help launch criminal investigations of Americans. “It’s a full-frontal assault on the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments and on the integrity of the judicial process, because they’re deceiving everyone involved in criminal prosecutions about how this information has been obtained,” Greenwald says.

The following video clip is from Democracy Now! heard weekdays at 2PM NY time on Radio InfoWeb and hundreds of media outlets worldwide.

Full transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn, I also wanted to ask you about a new story you just tweeted about that was published today by Reuters. The article begins, “A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

“Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin—not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges. …

“The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD.”

Glenn Greenwald, can you talk more about this?

GLENN GREENWALD: So this should be a huge scandal for the following reason. The essence of the Constitution is that the government cannot obtain evidence or information about you unless it has probable cause to believe that you’ve engaged in a crime and then goes to a court and gets a warrant. And only then is that evidence usable in a prosecution against you. What this secret agency is doing, according to Reuters, it is circumventing that process by gathering all kinds of information without any court supervision, without any oversight at all, using surveillance technologies and other forms of domestic spying. And then, when it gets this information that it believes it can be used in a criminal prosecution, it knows that that information can’t be used in a criminal prosecution because it’s been acquired outside of the legal and constitutional process, so they cover up how they really got it, and they pretend—they make it seem as though they really got it through legal and normal means, by then going back and retracing the investigation, once they already have it, and re-acquiring it so that it looks to defense counsel and even to judges and prosecutors like it really was done in the constitutionally permissible way. So they’re prosecuting people and putting people in prison for using evidence that they’ve acquired illegally, which they’re then covering up and lying about and deceiving courts into believing was actually acquired constitutionally. It’s a full-frontal assault on the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments and on the integrity of the judicial process, because they’re deceiving everyone involved in criminal prosecutions about how this information has been obtained.

Tired Terrorism Trotted Out Again as Reason for Fear

The by-now tired out ploy of using the threat of terrorism as a means to stir up fear in the populace was trotted out once again over the weekend. The move was a yawn-worthy: a transparent and desperate attempt by the U.S. government to take control of the Edward Snowden / NSA Snooper-Gate narrative. Despite the surreal propaganda, the lamestream media fell into lock-step with the Government pronouncements, thus becoming the sole topic for todays’ radio DayPage. Click on the .mp3 direct link, or try the embedded player to listen. The text of the program is included below.

If the player doesn’t work, upgrade your browser or use the link above.

Good Morning, boys and girls… time for another DayPage, and here to sing about it is Johnette Downing…

[Audio clip: the “Today is Monday” children’s song]

[Rex Latchford voices the commentary]
Well, let’s get into the dirty business of this Monday. Today is another day of Fear Mongering. The drumbeat of fear began over the weekend.

 All attempts at containing the NSA surveillance scandal have failed. Edward Snowden is still free. The more progressive representatives in Congress aren’t buying the line that everyone needs to be snooped on in order to be safe [from alleged threats of terrorism]. Claims that terrorist attacks have been thwarted got whittled down from 57 instances to less-than-one in cross examination of NSA promoters testifying in Congress. Worst of all, the people, and their representatives, aren’t doing what they’re told [by the Federal government]. They’re not accepting the bull poop they’re being given, and more truth about the surveillance society keeps slipping out.

So, what’s a totalitarian state to do? Declare war? That one has been overplayed and worn out for the time being. What’s left is to go back to “the threat of terrorism”: stories, warnings, of vague, “secret” threats designed to make one feel unsettled, worried, and maybe even fearful are seeded throughout the lamestream media. Wasn’t it George Bush who said:

[Audio clip of famous Bush mis-quote “There’s an old saying in Tennessee—I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, ‘Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.'” that suggests somehow his mind mashed up a bit of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”]

This is getting very tired and pathetic. For hundreds… thousands of years… power-mad regimes have used fear and intimidation as the instrument of their repression. Isn’t it time for it to end?

[Audio clip of James Brown singing “papa’s got a brand new bag”]

[Rex Latchford attempting a Smokey-the-Bear voice, and largely failing]

This is Beary Smoker (pfft) saying: Kids, only YOU can prevent totalitarian regimes.

[Audio clip of James Brown singing “ain’t that a groove”]

And that’s Day Page for Monday… I’m Rex Latchford, and I’ll be baaaack when the page in the Big Book turns to a new… DayPage… You can hear past DayPages at It’s a production of Radio InfoWeb.