The Network of Cronkite and Murrow

NSA-Approved Propaganda: ’60 Minutes’ & the Revolving Door Journalism of John Miller

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Monday December 16, 2013 10:12 am

More than six months after stories on documents from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden began to appear, the NSA finally determined all the statements denying what had revealed or intended to clarify what the agency believed to be true and not true had not had the effect desired. Journalists continue to publish stories on the NSA, its capabilities, what information from Americans is being collected and how unchecked the agency’s powers happen to be. What has been revealed has had an impact on the public that has changed the way many Americans view the NSA. The agency may, as a result, have some of its surveillance powers curtailed.

It was time to call up John Miller of CBS’s “60 Minutes” program. As was stated in the two-part segment on the NSA, “Gen. Alexander agreed to talk to us because he believes the NSA has not told its story well.” So, the agency called up Miller to help “set the record straight” i.e. assist the NSA with its public relations issues.

Nobody quite represents the “revolving door” between journalism and government like Miller. “Full disclosure, I once worked in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence [ODNI] where I saw firsthand how secretly the NSA operates,” he said before the segment began.

More disclosure: Miller served as spokesperson for the New York Police Department in 1994. The “journalism bug bit him again,” according to Men’s Journal, so he left the NYPD and worked a network job for ABC News. He interviewed Osama bin Laden for ABC News in 1998 before going to work for the Los Angeles Police Department in 2003. He helped “establish the department’s counter-terrorism and criminal-intelligence bureau.” He also worked on the development of a “threat assessment system” called “Archangel” to protect “critical assets” in Los Angeles from terrorism.

He moved on to work as a public affairs officer for the FBI in 2005. Then, he worked for ODNI. When he grew tired of the bureaucracy at ODNI, he was hired by CBS as a senior correspondent in 2011.

Miller has engaged in some of the same kind of work as Alexander. He is unlikely to challenge those he interviews because they are the exact people he may want to work with after he gets tired of journalism again. This makes him someone with a huge glaring conflict of interest, but, for CBS News, that conflict of interest is a plus, and, when he produces segments for news programs like “60 Minutes,” the show does not see what he produces as propaganda because they value access more than investigating reporting that might actually hold officials accountable.

The Four Questions ’60 Minutes’ Forgot To Ask The NSA

By Lauren C. Williams, Think Progress

December 16, 2013 at 1:34 pm

  1. Why did Alexander and National Intelligence Director James Clapper tell Congress that NSA wasn’t collecting U.S. citizens’ personal data when it really was?
  2. Why were employees using NSA tactics to spy on their love interests?
  3. What can the NSA get from spying on Google and Yahoo that it can’t get directly?
  4. Does the NSA ever track people’s cell phone call locations and to what extent?

NSA goes on 60 Minutes: the definitive facts behind CBS’s flawed report

Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Monday 16 December 2013 13.56 EST

Our take on five things the spy agency would like the public to believe about its vast surveillance powers

  1. Surveillance is just about what you say and what you write
  2. Snowden and the NSA’s hiring boom
  3. The Chinese financial sector kill-switch
  4. NSA isn’t collecting data transiting between Google and Yahoo data centers, except when it is
  5. The NSA wasn’t trying to break the law that got broken

NSA ruling fallout hits White House


12/16/13 11:45 PM EST

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon’s ruling that the NSA’s metadata program appears to violate the Fourth Amendment was issued just three days after a review group established by Obama delivered its report proposing more than 40 changes to the federal government’s surveillance programs.

The delay gives Leon’s decision time to resonate and gives surveillance skeptics more time to pressure Obama to endorse significant reforms after Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance practices.

The ruling also underscores the awkwardness of a president who won office in part by railing against the national security state established by President George W. Bush trying to defend much of that establishment while also maintaining his vow to restore civil liberties and bring an end to what seemed like a permanent war on terror.

Former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden, a backer of the call-tracking program, also said the new court ruling could shift the balance in favor of more limits on the NSA’s work.

“The arguments of those interested in preserving the validity and legitimacy of arguments about how [Obama] ran could get a little stronger inside government,” Hayden said. “They may administratively change the program.”

While Monday’s ruling may shift the internal administration debate in favor of more reforms, there’s no expectation Obama will completely halt the bulk collection of calling data from U.S. carriers. But he might endorse stricter limits on how long the data can be kept or propose other ways of storing the data than having the NSA hold it.

Among the surveillance doubters who might now have more impact: former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, who’s set to begin work next month as a counselor to Obama. Podesta has been a longtime privacy advocate and has expressed sympathy with Leon’s conclusion that a 34-year-old Supreme Court precedent allowing police to trace a suspected criminals phone calls without a warrant does not authorize bulk collection of data on virtually every phone call made to, from or within the U.S.

“Our smartphones with built-in GPS technology track our locations and our phone companies and Internet providers collect metadata on every call we make and every person we email…..Court decisions from the pre-Internet days suggest that the information we give away voluntarily to these companies can be obtained fairly easily by the government,” Podesta told the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel in July. “That legal rule may have made sense in an age before Facebook and iPhones, but we need a serious examination of whether it still makes sense today.”

Podesta has also taken on the intelligence community before, singlehandedly waging a successful battle to defeat anti-leak legislation passed near the end of President Bill Clinton’s term in office. At Podesta’s urging, Clinton vetoed the intelligence bill containing the measure and it was later stripped out.

At a minimum, the decision undercuts one of the pro-surveillance camp’s best talking points: that every judge who has considered the NSA metadata program has upheld it.

“This is great,” Richardson said of Leon’s ruling. “One of the biggest things they’ve had going for them is to say the FISA Court has always signed off on this program…..It just can’t be overstated how important it is to have outside judges actually looking at these programs.”

All In with Chis Hayes

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