Streetwise Professor

July 3, 2013

Consider the Source

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 8:50 pm

Der Speigel has unleashed much self-righteous Euroshrieking with its revelations that the NSA intercepted EU communications and the communications of European governments.

Much of this has the Shocked! Shocked! tone of Claude Rains collecting his winnings at Ricks.  Come on.  Governments spy on other governments, friend or foe.  It has always been so.  If total trust between allies was the rule, why would they hold secrets that had to be ferreted out in the first place?

Note too how the Snowden story has morphed, from allegations about data on individual Americans collected by the NSA (which is really old news, having been reported on by USA Today in 2006 and the WSJ in 2008, and the subject of extensive debate in Congress in 2008) to the more recent disclosures about espionage carried out against governments.

And I thought Henry Stimson  was naive.

But the most interesting thing about the story is the byline: Laura Poitros. And lo and behold, Monday Der Speigel ran another Poitras-bylined article, this one labeled “Commentary.” So we observe a blurring of the line between reporting, ostensibly objective and independent, and opinion writing.

But it gets better.  Or worse, actually.  For Poitras is a well-known anti-US advocate and ideologue, closely aligned with Wikileaks, Assange, Appelbaum, and Greenwald, all of whom are quite open about their agenda to undermine the US government, and US intelligence in particular.

And it gets worse still.  For Poitras is a principal in the Snowden drama.  She was in communication with Snowden in January, 2013, before he took the Booz Allen Hamilton job with the (admitted) intent of gaining access to highly classified information for the purpose of stealing it.  A reasonable inference is that she conspired with Snowden to carry out his espionage.  Further, she was waiting in Hong Kong with a film crew when Snowden arrived there.  All this suggests that she was an accessory before, during, and after the fact.

Laura Poitras is not an independent, objective journalist, even by the rather lax application of those words to most working news reporters.  She has an agenda, and a mission.  That mission is to undermine governments, namely western governments, and particularly the US government.  Her anti-US animus is such that according to credible sources, she had foreknowledge of an attack by Iraqi “insurgents” on US troops, but failed to provide a warning.  She is an adherent to Assange’s view that the best way to undermine the ability of governments to operate-and perform their legitimate functions-is to deprive them of their ability to communicate, strategize, plan, and operate by revealing all their internal deliberations, communications, and operations.

So why are ostensibly objective journalistic outlets like the Washington Post and Der Speigel giving a principal in the Snowden story the byline to write about it?  Given her clear slant, how can they be sure that she is not being selective-or deceptive-in what she covers in her pieces?   How can they possibly believe that she will be skeptical and questioning, as a proper journalist should be?   How can they be sure that they are not being played by her, and her coterie?  She is, in many respects, “reporting”-I should just say writing-about herself. Would we all have such an ability to control our own press.

Der Speigel’s motives are somewhat easier to understand.  Snowden is wildly popular in Germany, primarily because Germans have long tried to assuage their, um, historical issues, by moralizing about purported American flaws.  Often, as in this case, with little effort to consider real world choices or dilemmas.   Costless preening.  Just what the BND does gets much less attention.

Bottom line. When reading these stories, consider the source.  Don’t trust, and attempt to verify.

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  1. You seem to be quite nonchalant about governments spying on their allies. What’s your position on Jonathan Pollard?

    Comment by aaa — July 4, 2013 @ 12:39 am

  2. WOW. Just wow. Reading the last link, I cannot believe people like this Laura b*tch actually exist and are allowed to walk free like the rest of us. She does not have the guts to admit the fact she stood on the roof knowing about the attack when face to face to the commanders of the soldiers she helped to kill, but e-mails another journalist later on when she is already far away: “Oh, I WAS actually there that day!” It is not hard to imagine her laughing her ass off when she wrote that…

    People like this should not be questioned when trying to enter US. They should be shot.

    Comment by deith — July 4, 2013 @ 7:47 am

  3. @aaa-Nonchalant? Realistic. I know that the equilibrium is everyone spies on everyone else, and find the outrage over this “revelation” to be rather tiresome. Moreover, the outrage is often partisan and political in nature. For instance, in Germany, the Greens and the SDP are pushing this as part of their electoral campaign. It doesn’t take too much searching to find many stories about allies on spying on allies. It is particularly rich that the French have expressed such umbrage, because they are among the most avid snoopers, both on governments (including ostensibly allied ones) and foreign corporations. There are numerous stories out today (originating with Le Figaro) stating that France routinely collects all electronic communications in France, from phones to email. They have their very own Prism, in other words. So let’s get over the faux outrage here about differences between the US and the Euros. There ain’t any, to speak of

    Here’s one example of a story about bugging embassies. Regarding the French, the French DGSE and the CIA were supposedly engaged in “an underground war” some years back, and the French ruled out a “non-aggression pact” proposed by US intel head Blair. This blog post also provides some interesting context and background.

    Regarding Pollard, you need to distinguish between understanding that allies spy on us, and condoning our own intelligence personnel from facilitating this foreign espionage. I know the Pollard case has become a cause celebre, and hesitate to try to separate fact from fiction here: aren’t enough hours in the day to do that. I will say that on principle, though, prosecution of a US intelligence or military or diplomatic employee who conducts espionage on the behalf of any foreign service is warranted.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 4, 2013 @ 9:53 am

  4. Even the “bastions” of journalism realize what a farce the concept has become. the Internet is our last hope, Obi Wan Kenobi…

    Comment by Dh — July 4, 2013 @ 10:41 am

  5. I mentioned Pollard because that case goes beyond his prosecution. Basically both sides agreed to pretend that Pollard was recruited by rogue elements in Israeli intelligence and Israel was pressured to apologize and punish the rogue elements. Every time the cover slips, for example when Rafi Eitan became minister or when Aviem Sella was promoted to commander of Tel Nof, there is a sharp rebuke from the US. I don’t really have an opinion on whether the US was justified in being outraged about Pollard, but I think the parallels to this case are interesting.

    Comment by aaa — July 4, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

  6. @aaa. What you mention is exactly why I am reticent about opining about that case in particular. There are so many claims and counterclaims, and by the nature of intelligence-related issues, there is no way of verifying or disproving any of them. I know there is a deep story here, and trying to draw inferences about that story from what happens on the surface (like what you mention re Eitan or Sell) is very dangerous. That’s why I limit myself to statements about the prosecution, and the principle of prosecuting those who spy for foreign governments, even those who are our allies.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 4, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

  7. @deith. Totally. She is reprehensible at best, and more likely evil.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 4, 2013 @ 6:35 pm

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