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Been absent far too long from my alma mater at Daily Kos. But since some elements are inspired by US campaigning (and my journalism was inspired by first writing here) I though I might just update y'all with snippets of my just published article about the battle between social media in the UK, and our now rabid right wing press.

For various reasons I've outlined before, it's been the most rabidly partisan election for the British press for many years. 80% of Fleet Street have come out in favour of the ruling Conservatives or their coalition
The fact is that, after the exposure of Murdoch and the hacking scandal, and the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics and culture, the bulk of the British Press has doubled down in an anti Labour campaign, because the leader Ed Miliband has promised to look at the heavy concentration of ownership. More on that in another piece here. Three Way Gunfight in the Last Chance Saloon.
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US Intelligence has confirmed a Malaysian Airways plane carrying 295 passengershas been shot down over the Donetsk region of Ukraine.

Meanwhile Mashable has this from a Separatist leader:

KIEV, Ukraine — As news broke of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 being downed in eastern Ukraine, the separatist’s shadowy commander with a pencil mustache issued a dark warning on social media.

Through his account, Russia’s version of Facebook, the self-proclaimed defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Igor Girkin — who goes by the nom de guerre Igor Strelkov — boasted about shooting down a plane.

"We did warn you — do not fly in our sky," he wrote.

Thinking it was a Ukrainian transport plane, Strelkov added that “a plane has just been downed somewhere around Torez, it lays there behind the 'Progress' mine,” referring to the mining town of some 80,000 people.

“And here is the video proving another 'bird' falling down,” he continued. “The bird went down behind a slagheap, not in a residential district. So no peaceful people were injured,” Strelkov wrote, adding that there is also information about a Ukrainian military plane shot down.

However, Strelkov deleted the post when he found out it was actually a commercial jetliner carrying 295 innocent people — not a military aircraft.

It's too early to be sure of the facts at the moment. But I will say this. Having watched Putin pursue the same agenda as he did in Georgia, and the long term consequences of post communist ethnic nationalism in the Former Yugoslavia - Vladimir Putin may have made his biggest miscalculation of his career.
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From Nick Davies, who I've had the pleasure of spending the last eight months with at the phone hacking trial

Rupert Murdoch has been officially informed by Scotland Yard that detectives want to interview him as a suspect as part of their inquiry into allegations of crime at his British newspapers.

It is understood that detectives first contacted Murdoch last year to arrange to question him but agreed to a request from his lawyers to wait until the phone-hacking trial was finished.

The interview is expected to take place in the near future in the UK and will be conducted "under caution", the legal warning given to suspects. His son James, who was the executive chairman of News International in the UK, may also be questioned.

News of the police move comes after an Old Bailey jury found Murdoch's former News of the World editor Andy Coulson guilty of conspiring to hack phones, but acquitted his former UK chief executive Rebekah Brooks on all charges.

The verdict on Coulson also means that Murdoch's UK company is now threatened with a possible corporate charge, while the media owner also faces the prospect of a dozen more criminal trials involving his journalists as well as hundreds more legal actions in the high court from the alleged victims of phone hacking by the News of the World.

Tough for me to say more while there are two indictments the jury are still considering (against Goodman and Coulson over paying Royal Protection police for internal palace phone directories). But Mr Ceebs has a great piece about the costing of the trial so far, coming soon
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Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 12:17 PM PDT

Ignore this Diary: it's just Stupid Meta

by Brit

I've spent the last eight months locked up in the Old Bailey, listening to the most expensive defense in British legal history, argue against the prosecuting authorities in the the Phone Hacking trial

So I've seen 21 bewigged barristers, paid enormous sums of money per diem, argue out one of the most important cases in decades: often billed as the Trial of the Century.

So forgive me my first and last ever 'highly recc'ed' comments diary. Having known the frontpager in question for several years, and knowing she's risked life, livelihood and freedom for being far to the radical left of any person I've ever known, I thought I just had to paste this takedown.

Thankyou Qveris

Many of the self-described lefties on DKos (15+ / 0-)

seem to be mostly about creating lurid backdrops in front of which they eventually strike self-valorizing poses.


Ironically, the warriors guarding their 'besieged' left-wing outpost here, who often form up into a nightmare conga line behind any member of their tribe who makes a noise, who centipedinously follow each other from thread to thread, throwing recs, up-rates and hide-rates around like shuriken, are actually evacuating DKos of left-leaning discussion, left-leaning participation, left-leaning possibility.

If I sound harsh, and I guess I do, it's because I've suggested DKos to a number of out-of-network lefties. They drop by, note the pathologically defensive posture of many of their likely stalwarts, the bunker mentality, the reflexive, often simple-minded tribal behavior, and they back out carefully, taking their ideas, words and enthusiasm elsewhere - or nowhere.

A shame, really.

There does seem to be slight improvement lately. A purge? My mojo disqualifies my opinion, but I've got one anyway. I really doubt that DKos is trying to purge lefties, but I do think that it's entirely possible that Those-Whose-Reputations-This-Site-Most-Affects might be trying to encourage a renovated, more presentable left wing.

As for Denise, well c'mon FFS - for like a thousand years she's been pushing real-world molecules in the direction most of us want them to go. Her resumé features sweat and bone accomplishment. And her writing is clearly an asset to this site. It's going to take more than the blurry indictments I've seen so far to send me on a soul-crushing search through recent combat archives. And even if I were to discover something disappointing, it would fade in... well hell, it'd be gone already.

It's an opinion diluted by lurkiness, but if we could quit rolling around in ego-driven, agenda-driven meta-comment, or at least cut our rolling-around time in half, why then we would appear to be almost as cool as... Markos. And meta-comments like this one wouldn't exist.

And the world would chortle more often, in that cute way she has.

Gotta go. Supper today is steamed earwigs and a hearty mug of stump water!

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After all the personalised attacks, the questioning of their standards, and direct threats from the British security services, theGuardian US rightly wins a Pulitzer prize

I won't rehearse why this is good for journalism and transparency. More here in my New Republic piece from last summer.

Famed for its feral tabloid press, Britain’s Fleet Street often seems grimy and sleaze-obsessed compared to its U.S. counterparts who—from across the Atlantic—still seem to glow with the kudos of Watergate-era investigative journalism and Pentagon Paper–style whistleblowing. But Brooke, who cut her teeth as a crime reporter in the U.S., thinks the American press has since become a victim of “regulatory capture.” “Whistleblowers are vanishingly rare, and every newspaper needs government briefings and insider information just to survive,” she says. But since the Beltway is not the preoccupation of a U.K.-based news service, the Guardian could afford not to play ball.
And I definitely won't use this as a stick to beat pro/anti Obama administration supporters. I've said my piece on this.  Some issues are bigger than the Rox/Sux wars: and credit to the White House for (slowly) responding to the revelations.

Guardian US Editor has some great links on the work that went into their ground breaking expose.


This will be my briefest diary ever,

Though exhausted from ten days in court livetweeting the Phone Hacking Trial at the Old Bailey, I've just seen Annette K's diary about what happened this week.

Short version is: I couldn't pay to go to the trial every day for months on freelancer's rates ($350 a week). When people asked why I told the truth. I was flat broke. Two years of book writing and journalism on Murdoch and associated scandals may have elevated my profile (and certainly restored my faith in people) but it did nothing for my bank balance which had been depleted to zero.

Within a day - in a 'It's a Wonderful Life' moment' - they'd encouraged me to set up aindiegogo fund and then covered my costs and some more.

I'm not the story here though. Journalism is being hollowed out by free internet content. It's not actually a problem of people paying for content - it's that advertising (which subsidised most print journalism) has collapsed. $40bn has left publishing in the last 7 years. (Coincidentally about the same amount Google has earned in ad revenue)

Most journalists I know from the court are incredibly supportive. Indeed they see this as a potential new way of funding tricky investigations into subjects the MSM ignore. I think it could be. But I also realise I was very lucky. A very specific time limited service (we don't allow cameras in our courts) which appealed to a fairly large audience fascinated by the biggest media/commercial/political scandals of our  age.

But I will think about how other journalists could crowd fund their projects, and suggestions welcome here.

Finally (oh it wasn't so short this diary after all): Someone commented in Annette's diary that Daily Kos helped developed the kind of fact based, analysis-driven skills needed to break out into online journalism. I couldn't but agree more. Here, and at Motley Moose, I've learned, through sturm und drang, how people crave both immediacy, logic and veracity.

Shorter version (and I'm rambling because my fingers and mind are fried);

I learned it all on the US blogosphere.
So thanks, avatars of the fifth estate, friend and adversary who tried to keep me honest in different ways. When this maelstrom is over I'll be back bugging you more regularly.  

So over on Motley Moose, Shaun Appleby has brilliantly dissected the first rounds of the diplomatic game about a UN resolution over chemical weapons control.

As he points out, the key thing is whether any chemical weapons resolution over Syria is chapter VII, or chapter VI. The former allows the use of force. Putin is arguing that force should be removed from the equation. But as Shaun points out, this could be in defiance of the UN's own charter which explains the exigent nature of Chapter VII resolutions.

Article 42: Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.
Charter of the United Nations: Chapter VII UN
So now the ball is in Putin's court - and of course Assad's.

I've been a strong critic of the sudden move to intervention over the summer. I felt the case was not made. I don't believe in punitive actions in humanitarian intervention. I only believe (as in Bosnia, Kosovo and Libya) in actions which prevent harm.

And sometimes, yes, you have to bomb gun emplacements raining terror on innocent civilians. Sometimes, yes, there is the price of a smaller violence to pay to prevent a bigger one.

This current mess/debate/fuckup call it what you will, is proper preparation. It gives the bad faith actors enough rope to hang themselves, and focuses laser-like on the conventions of non chemical weapon use.

I'm still surprised (a little) that this pathway/trap wasn't prepared before. Now everything is open to scrutiny, and the conspiracy theorists, peak oil fanatics, and Putinapologists are being forced into a nice tight corner. These same people said protecting the Bosnians against Milosevic would be a disaster. These same people said protecting Kosovars against Milosevic would be a disaster.

Meanwhile, on the right, the Neocons who hijacked international standards for their own weird quasi rational eschatology, will also be forced into a corner. Do they really want everything or nothing? Are they so addicted to the to erotics of power that they see a cruise missile launch as the ultimate shock and awe come-shot? (apologies for that image)

Once again, by bending to people and circumstance, but keeping his ultimate goals in view, Obama has proved himself as the best community organiser for the international community.

It isn't about leading from the front, dressed in an airman's jacket behind a banner saying Mission Accomplished. It's actually about a real mission - making the world a safer place taking heed of all its various participants.

What pundits call weakness in Obama, I call his biggest strength.

Let's hope - not for his sake - but for the millions of refugees, the hundreds of thousands who may yet die if the civil war continues unabated, that resolution of the Syrian conflict is finally uppermost in people's mind, and the post colonial games (by Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel as much as Britain, Russia, France and the US) may finally stop


OK. I've asterisked the title so as not to break any rules. And first up, as anyone who knows me over the last (yikes) 9 years intermittent activity on Kos

I am the biggest Obamab*t there is

But we seem to be falling out in recent weeks over the issue of the NSA and Snowden revelations. Thanks to my Murdoch investigations here during the Hackgate Scandal (which is still unfolding as you can see from my Daily Beast timeline) I've become a big fan of privacy, and antipathetic to corporate blackmail and surveillance.

So, when the extent of digital surveillance became apparent thanks to the Guardian and the Snowden revelations, my concern wasn't over the Obama administration (most the programmes were established beforehand) nor indeed the character of the government. But one simple thing has always concerned me: the effect of this kind of surveillance on potential government whistleblowers and investigative journalism

One would have thought the chilling effects on whistleblowing and investigative journalism should concern every reporter.
On the vituperation heaped on Greenwald and the Guardian, I urge you to read David Carr in the New York Times
If the revelations about the N.S.A. surveillance were broken by Time, CNN or The New York Times, executives there would already be building new shelves to hold all the Pulitzer Prizes and Peabodies they expected. Same with the 2010 WikiLeaks video of the Apache helicopter attack.

Instead, the journalists and organizations who did that work find themselves under attack, not just from a government bent on keeping its secrets, but from friendly fire by fellow journalists. What are we thinking?

I couldn't agree more: as I wrote a few days ago
Since when has the emotional complexion of the source been the main point of the story? The attacks on Greenwald display the same problem. He may be partisan, argumentative and thin-skinned (he blocked me on Twitter a year ago for an innocuous comment) but does that disqualify him from landing a major scoop? Attacking a source or intermediary is just another version of the ad hominem fallacy. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Journalism is about disclosure and transparency, not heroics and personality. It’s the story, stupid.
I'm still a fan of Obama. But you can't rely on the governance of good people. As Evgeny Morosov has shown us over the failure of the Green Revolution in Iran, these same tools of social networking and communication can  be easily misused by rogue intelligence agencies, and for an future government, they are a secret policeman's wet dream.

For the historic background I'd urge you to read James Bamford's excellent piece in the New York Review of Books. As he says...

One man who was prescient enough to see what was coming was Senator Frank Church, the first outsider to peer into the dark recesses of the NSA. In 1975, when the NSA posed merely a fraction of the threat to privacy it poses today with UPSTREAM, PRISM, and thousands of other collection and data-mining programs, Church issued a stark warning:
That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such [is] the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology…. I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.
I'm still an Obamabot. But I also still remember Bush. The issue of massive collusion between state and private corporations over surveillance is, unfortunately, an issue which transcends any particular President.

I hope my fellow Obamabots can take the long view, and not consider this just an attack on this administration. We came together over certain ideas of equality, liberty and justice. Those ends are not served an intelligence system that could quickly be turned to squash civil dissent.

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I'm republishing this diary from 18 months ago on the wonderful news that the mother of Stephen Lawrence, victim of a racist killing that continues to have repercussions among the police and press even now, has been elevated to the House of Lords.

I'm no fan of the honours system or our unelected second chamber, but before it's abolished, the thought that Doreen Lawrence, who has campaigned tirelessly for twenty years to bring her son's murderers to justice (and expose the collusion and institutional racism of the police) is to become a Labour peer is the best news I've heard in ages.

Below is a tribute to her, written by our poet laureate.

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As I predicted last week, the attempts to attack the messenger on the NSA revelationswould soon move from Snowden and Greenwald to the Guardian itself.

Last night the Observer newspaper, a long standing paper in its own right (it actually predates the Guardian by several years) publisheda badly sourced front page storytaken from Birtherist Wayne Madsen and the privacy surgeon site about European surveillance

Disaster for the Observer, which has been running on a much reduced staff for several years. It is owned by the Guardian now, but has a long and distinctly different identity and editorial separation.

Not for much longer after a disaster like that.

Complete cock up.

However, it wasn't long before many were claiming that this cock up undermined all of the Guardian's reporting on the Snowden issue. To me, that would be like assuming that News of the World's hacking undermined the Wall Street Journal's financial reporting, just because they have the same owner. In a long a protracted twitter exchange with Charles Johnson at Green Footballs (beginning somewhere round here) I noticed the claim had gone from 'Observer screws up' to "Guardian repeatedly used Madsen as a source."

Well, no. A source of a story in journalistic terms is the 'source/origin' of a story. Apart from the Observer debacle, he is cited five times by the Guardian, for one line quotes, often taken from other news sources. All but one of these were from before 2003, when he launched towards birtherism

Having put paid to the idea he's a major source for the Guardian, perhaps it would be worth watching this excellent Charlie Rose interview with Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and US editor Janine Gibson to see their real motivations.

Three things are apparent to me

1. They verified everything
2. The redacted anything that was a threat to national security
3. They think it's bigger than Snowden, and digital surveillance, for the first time in history, compromises the right to protest and the possibilities of investigative journalism

The latter is my biggest fear as expressed in the New Republic last week


Meanwhile Der Spiegel is reporting about surveillance on the EU parliament (Germans have a historical reason for mistrusting this level of intrusion) and the Washington Post is reporting that the NSA capture was of live information, with 49 per cent risk the target is domestic.


It's probably a forlorn hope, but I'm cross posting this from the Motley Mooseto see if this can initiate a sensible discussion about the NSA leaks without it reverting to the usual Rox/Sux Obama debate, or framing intelligence services as all good, or all bad.

I've published a piece today in The New Republic which (going beyond the personalities of either Manning or Snowden or their interlocutors Assange and Greenwald) tries to look at the role of whistleblowing and the press in the modern age.

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First let me say that, for historic reasons, I'm not a huge fan of Glenn Greenwald and he's even blocked me on twitter for mild divergence of opinion. But I do think Edward Snowden's leaks to the Guardian are significant, and because they contain Top Secret rather than just classified material like the state department cables leaked (allegedly) by Bradley Manning, could well be as important as the Pentagon Papers.

Tonight CNET is confirming that the warrantless surveillance goes well beyond meta data

The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed "simply based on an analyst deciding that."

If the NSA wants "to listen to the phone," an analyst's decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. "I was rather startled," said Nadler, an attorney who serves on the House Judiciary committee.

Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA's formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically, it suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls.

This is an issue of privacy versus security which is too important to be left to irrelevant pro/anti administration arguments. As Heather Brooke, the journalist who brought the wikileaks material to the Guardian,  says for a piece I'm writing for the New Republic:
“The flip side of the digital revolution is that this technology is so easily hijacked by state surveillance”
This is larger than any particular messenger. I don't really care if you love/hate Greenwald or Assange. As Kirsten Powers says about Snowden in the Daily Beast
In his 2003 book, Why Societies Need Dissent, liberal law professor Cass Sunstein pointed out that, in society, “a single dissenter or voice of sanity is likely to have a huge impact.” But the problem for dissenters is that they “have little incentive to speak out, because they would gain nothing from dissenting” and in fact might be punished.

Snowden knew this and he did it anyway. He clearly understands something that those screaming "traitor" do not: the allegiance we have as Americans is to the Constitution, not the institution of government. Snowden summed it up best when he told a South China Morning Post reporter this week, “I’m neither a traitor nor a hero. I’m an American.”

So I ask those who have trusted the administration whether now is not the time to call in your support and put pressure for reform.

And for those who've never trusted the government over anything, to put away your righteousness and focus on the point

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