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Ray Bonner was working for The New York Times in January 1982 when he (at the same time as Alma Guillermoprieto of The Washington Post) broke the story of "la matanza"—the massacre—at El Mozote, El Salvador. The army had murdered 900 civilians the month before. The Reagan administration, helped along by the editorial page shouters at The Wall Street Journal put so much pressure on the Times that Bonner was pulled from the Central American desk. Soon afterward, he resigned, although he later worked for the Times on a free-lance basis.

Abe Rosenthal, then the Times's managing editor, hotly and repeatedly denied that the newspaper had succumbed to administration pressure, saying this would be a violation of journalistic principles. Yes, it would. And bowing to pressure is exactly what the Times did.

Bonner has, in the three decades since then, proved his mettle time and time again in his coverage of foreign affairs far and wide, including Indonesia, the Sudan and Rwanda, where he wrote about the genocide there. He has written several books, including the one I was lucky enough to interview him about for a review I wrote in 1985—Weakness and Deceit: U.S. Policy and El Salvador

It's been known for half a decade that Bonner's phone records were obtained illegally by the FBI.

At ProPublica Thursday, he provided some details of the bureau's activities in that regard and on that basis questioned what the Obama administration is now doing in How a Telecom Helped the Government Spy on Me:

Over the past several months, the Obama Administration has defended the government’s far-reaching data collection efforts, arguing that only criminals and terrorists need worry. The nation’s leading internet and telecommunications companies have said they are committed to the sanctity of their customers’ privacy.

I have some very personal reasons to doubt those assurances.

Raymond Bonner, veteran Pulitzer prize-winning foreign correspondent.
Raymond Bonner
In 2004, my telephone records as well as those of another New York Times reporter and two reporters from the Washington Post, were obtained by federal agents assigned to investigate a leak of classified information. What happened next says a lot about what happens when the government’s privacy protections collide with the day-to-day realities of global surveillance.

The story begins in 2003 when I wrote an article about the killing of two American teachers in West Papua, a remote region of Indonesia where Freeport-McMoRan operates one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines. The Indonesian government and Freeport blamed the killings on a separatist group, the Free Papua Movement, which had been fighting a low-level guerrilla war for several decades.

I opened my article with this sentence: “Bush Administration officials have determined that Indonesian soldiers carried out a deadly ambush that killed two American teachers.”
 I also reported that two FBI agents had travelled to Indonesia to assist in the inquiry and quoted a “senior administration official” as saying there “was no question there was a military involvement.’’

The story prompted a leak investigation. The FBI sought to obtain my  phone records and those of  Jane Perlez, the Times bureau chief in Indonesia and my wife. They also went after the records of the Washington Post reporters in Indonesia who had published the first reports about the Indonesian government’s involvement in the killings.

As part of its investigation, the FBI asked for help from what is described in a subsequent government report as an “on-site communications service” provider. The report, by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General, offers only the vaguest description of this key player, calling it “Company A.’’

“We do not identify the specific companies because the identities of the specific providers who were under contract with the FBI for specific services are classified,’’ the report explained.

Whoever they were, Company A had some impressive powers. Through some means—the report is silent on how—Company A obtained  records of calls made on Indonesian cell phones and landlines by the Times and Post reporters. The records showed whom we called, when and for how long—what has now become famous as “metadata.” […]

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2007Open Thread for Night Owls:

Unless there is a remarkable intervention from somewhere, by the end of October, with two months yet to go till year's end, 2007 will become the worst year for U.S. troop fatalities in Iraq since the war and occupation began 55 months ago. Obviously, as has been the case since the beginning, Iraqis fare much worse, as noted in this excerpt from an editorial in Friday's Los Angeles Times:
The administration can't or won't admit most Iraqi refugees. Is it incompetence or indifference?

Plenty of pious statements have been made over the last year -- many of them by senior Bush administration officials -- about how the United States has a moral obligation to help the more than 2 million refugees who have fled Iraq, most particularly those who have become targets because they worked for the Americans. Credibility with the Iraqi population, in the broader Middle East and around the world will be gauged by whether the U.S. keeps its promises. Now we may judge the administration's performance by the benchmarks it set for itself.

Tweet of the Day:

Tea Party Leaders Announce Support For Deal In Exchange For Malia Obama

On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin joins us for an extended segment diving into the Democracy Corps Gop focus group report. OMG! Then, a roundup of shutdown coverage, endgame predictions, and analysis of the fallout. CBS WH reporter Mark Knoller kicked up some dust with comments on the debt ceiling, and Armando calls in to clarify the issues. We watch in horror as Chuck Todd grills Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) over his spin on the blown Grassley amendment, and how it was resurrected during the shutdown fight. Even a decent effort at pushback can't undo all the nonsense and talking point regurgitation.

High Impact Posts. Top Comments.

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