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So I've been waiting for our nation's leading press critics at TPM, Mediaite, the Washington Post and other outlets to weigh in on Andrew Fishman and Glenn Greenwald's devastating expose this month of the shoddy, fear mongering work of NPR's Dina Temple-Raston. So far, it's been mostly crickets.

That's good news for Temple-Raston, a high priest of the national media elite. Maybe her credentials from Northwestern, Columbia, and Harvard make her untouchable.

But it is bad news for American citizens who deserve fierce, independent and adversarial journalism, especially in a post 9-11 nation.

On August 1st, Temple-Raston relayed a study by Cambridge, Mass.-based "big data" company Recorded Future that claims "an increased pace of innovation" in Al-Qaeda's encryption software since since the June 2013 leaks by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Here is Temple-Raston's money quote:

"The company trolled the Internet for al-Qaida mentions of Snowden. It downloaded versions of al-Qaida's encryption software and it discovered signs that al-Qaida had changed, specifically, it upgraded its encryption systems. For years, al-Qaida had used an encryption program written by its own coders. They called it Mujahideen Secrets. And most al-Qaida affiliates used it to scramble their communications. Since its introduction in 2007 there had been some minor updates. Then, in late 2013 after the Snowden leaks, the program got a major overhaul. Three different groups with links to al-Qaida introduced three new encryption products. It was like jumping from Windows 2.0 to Windows XP. Ahlberg says, that wasn't a coincidence."
In The Intercept a week later, Greenwald -- the journalist who first published the Snowden leaks in The Guardian -- and Fishman eviscerated the report's logic. They  detailed the many obvious, non-Snowden reasons for al-Quaida to be upgrading its encryption software, including the State Department's public boast in August 2013 that its decision to close 21 embassies was informed by eavesdropping on al Qaeda's high command.

They also report that Temple-Raston failed to disclose crucial information about Recorded Future's ties to the government.

"With this report, Temple-Raston seriously misled NPR’s millions of listeners. To begin with, Recorded Future, the outfit that produced the government-affirming report, is anything but independent. To the contrary, it is funded by the CIA and U.S. intelligence community with millions of dollars. Back in 2010, it also filed forms to become a vendor for the NSA. (In response to questions from The Intercept, the company’s vice president Jason Hines refused to say whether it works for the NSA, telling us that we should go FOIA that information if we want to know. But according to public reports, Recorded Future “earns most of its revenue from selling to Wall Street quants and intelligence agencies.”)
Fishman and Greenwald report that Temple-Raston was well aware of Recorded Future's financial relationship to the intelligence community, since she reported on them in 2012.
"Back in 2012, NPR’s Morning Edition broadcast her profile of Recorded Future and its claimed ability to predict the future by gathering internet data. At the end of her report, she noted that the firm has “at least two very important financial backers: the CIA’s investment arm, called In-Q-Tel, and Google Ventures. They have reportedly poured millions into the company.”That is the company she’s now featuring as some sort of independent source that can credibly vindicate the claims of U.S. officials about how Snowden reporting helps terrorists.
I encourage everyone who cares about U.S. journalism to read what Greenwald and Fishman wrote about the journalistic crime that Temple-Raston committed. It is one of the best critiques of inside-the-beltway news reporting you will ever read. I promise.

But you haven't heard about it from Mediate or TPM, which are usually keen to cover the sensational aspects of feuds between high profile reporters.  Nothing by the Washington Post's usually fearless Erik Wemple. And only a passing reference on the usually hyper-vigilant press critic Jay Rosen's Twitter feed. And sadly, nothing here on the Daily Kos, an oversight this post is meant to correct.

Here is why this matters: Glenn Greenwald represents an existential threat to the inside-baseball "Church of the Savvy" (Rosen's term) Morning-Joe-cool-kids table approach that has compromised and undermined our national media.  

Temple-Raston is a high priest of that Church, with degrees from the prestigious schools of journalism at Northwestern and Columbia Universities. She has just been named a fellow at Harvard's Neiman Foundation for Journalism, and recently moderated a panel held during a very cosy gathering of national security elite hosted by the Aspen Institute's Security Forum.

(Note: According to the Neiman Foundation's website, she will be using her fellowship to "study the intersection of Big Data and the intelligence community to understand how information from Twitter and other social media can be used to predict and understand events in the future. She also will study the rise of Islam and the first caliphate to research how Shariah law might be included in the transitional governments of the Arab world." This may explain the hackery uncovered by Greenwald and Fishman, since it sounds like she will be studying the work of companies like Recorded Future.)

What Greenwald and Fishman have done with their reporting is to call those credentials into question. They are forcing us to ask to what end is the access granted by those credentials being used? The answer provided by Temple-Raston's reporting is depressing. She has used her access to serve as a watchdog for the government, rather than of the government that has been all too willing to use national security as an excuses for invading the privacy of American citizens. She will justify doing this  because she is "in the know," unlike you and me.  

But thanks to Greenwald and Fishman, you and I are in in the know in a way we have not been before. Sunlight is shining on a part of our post 9-11 society that has been overlooked for too long -- the willingness of our media elite to do the government's bidding on issues of national security.

One encouraging development is that NPR Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos tweeted this on August 13: "Gotten a lot of feedback re: The Intercept article. Am investigating." Let's hope that Rosen, Josh Marshall, Wemple and others do the same.

Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 10:36 AM PT: NPR Ombudsman Schumacher-Matos exonerates Temple-Raston, saying her omission of Recorded Future's ties to the intelligence community was due to deadline pressure. He quotes her making this excuse: "I was aware that the companies had worked with In-Q-Tel and the government on some projects in addition to their commercial work," Temple-Raston told me. "I had meant to include a line in the piece saying as much. On deadline, as we were making changes to the story, I just forgot to include that. It would have been better to have noted it, but I certainly didn't leave it out on purpose." The ombudsman notes her Neiman Fellowship as proof of her distinguished reporting career. I find it odd that he does not note the work of companies such as Recorded Futures was part of her scope of study during the fellowship. That fact makes her omission of its ties to the government in her story more -- not less -- suspicious.  

Sun Aug 17, 2014 at  3:06 PM PT: NPR issues correction:


Aug. 17, 2014

This report should have said that In-Q-Tel has invested in the firms Record Future and Reversing Labs. As NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos notes, In-Q-Tel is "a quasi-government venture capital fund that publicly invests in young high-tech companies on behalf of the CIA and other partner intelligence agencies." Record Future and Reversing Labs are among the companies In-Q-Tel has invested in.

Mon Aug 18, 2014 at  6:04 AM PT: Jay Rosen weighs in -- NPR did not correct the story until it was investigated by their ombudsman. Also notes that Temple-Raston's excuse -- omission of Recoded Future and Reversing Labs CIA funding due to deadline pressure -- is lame because of self-imposed deadline.

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Comment Preferences

  •  i heard that story and it had an obvious stink to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


  •  What you've depicted is not at all different... (5+ / 0-)

    ...from the structural biases in favor of the official narrative in every single news story in the MSM.  The idea that Temple-Raston did anything different or worse doesn't stand up to scrutiny.  If she's a hack, which I willing to believe, then they're all hacks and she's probably no worse than the median.

    It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

    by Rich in PA on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 08:09:34 AM PDT

    •  Right, the Fact We Have to Face is One of Our Most (3+ / 0-)

      sacred and fundamental concepts, the free press, absolutely does not work, in fact as you say structurally, the press must function oppositely from the premises of the framers. It functions as a state press, adversarial not to government but to the people, because the interests of the people are oppositional to those of all forms of top ownership and their enterprises, both public and private.

      That one part of the 1st Amendment is so dangerous that it's sufficient to bring the American experiment to an end, a process we've watched happening for half a century since government ceased serving the people if ownership objected. And by preventing rational mainstream discourse, it could keep us a major driver of climate change on to the collapse of civilization.

      What to replace those few words about "press" with, that's a bigger and more fundamental problem than the design of our system was at its birth. To my eye it's never even been tackled, given that our hands off approach surrenders it to the same forces that capture the press in dictatorial governments.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 08:43:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The over-arching problem, which is often... (11+ / 0-)

    ...mirrored here (there is lots of propaganda spewed, even here) and elsewhere, is that the original "breaking news" receives 99% of the attention, while the "correction" and/or "apology" gets nominal notice, at best. So, at the end of the day, the goals of the propagandists are achieved, despite feeble/failed, lameass kabuki attempts by the so-called, "responsible" (ethically-"concerned") journalists to pay lip service to their servitude to the status quo the confused/misdirected masses.

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 08:12:20 AM PDT

  •  Ignoring the fact that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pdxteacher, RiveroftheWest

    everyone is continually trying to upgrade their encryption (and in many cases, decryption) software.

    It's a mathematical theorem that (1) no anti-virus program can stop every virus, and (2) no virus can get past every anti-virus program. And while there are solid conceptual encryption schemes (assuming first, that P != NP, and second, that there is no working, scalable general-purpose quantum computer), any actual implementation will have weaknesses. So no one is going to be satisfied with the status quo.

    •  however, I can verify first-hand that AQ crypto... (4+ / 0-) of 2010, really sucked.   Without going into sources & methods or disclosing non-public-source information:

      Crypto was one of a number of areas in which Al Qaeda's technical expertise was found to be seriously lacking.  An apt comparison would be to a politically naive protest group that is trying to sue a corporation that has a seasoned legal team, and believes their lawsuit will succeed because their cause is righteous.

      AQ believed that its technical capabilities would produce winning outcomes on various fronts, because AQ was favored by Allah.  AQ's belief in the sufficiency of its technical capabilities was a matter of faith, rather than something to be tested and improved empirically.  "God will protect us, that settles that" (and where else have we heard that line of "reasoning"?).

      As a result, AQ made certain fatal errors in regard to cryptography.  This at a time when the US had been at war with AQ for years, and AQ would have had to know (as a matter of common sense!) that US intelligence would seek to acquire its communications.

      My assessment was that a substantial part of AQ's lack of technical competence was due to the nature of education in extreme fundamentalist Islam: based on rote memorization rather than on analytic thinking.  The outcome of that makes the difference between people who can follow recipes and people who can analyze and innovate in a deliberate manner.  The former will be frustrated but stymied when a recipe does not come out as they intend; the latter will seek to find out why it didn't come out, and make changes and improvements accordingly.

      The difference with crypto is that you don't get to see how the recipe comes out: at least not directly.  You don't know when your crypto has been broken other than if you know how to observe outcomes from which that inference can be made (e.g. certain types of unexpected battlefield losses).

      So AQ tootled along with crappy crypto, and suffered various consequences accordingly, and was unable to put 2+ 2 together.  The situation was highly satisfactory from the American perspective.

      The exceptions were senior AQ leadership who stayed clear of all forms of electronic communication.  But the fact that they did so was "negative signal" (think "the dog that did not bark") that supported the conclusion that AQ had little real understanding of the relevant aspects of communications technologies.

      One more point of history:

      During the Clinton Administration, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah remarked, on the floor of the Senate where such remarks are protected from all legal consequences, "Why are we wasting millions of dollars eavesdropping on the satellite phone of a guy named Bin Laden who lives in a cave?"

      Thereby doing as much damage as any other sources & methods leak, as Bin Laden immediately ditched his satellite phone, costing us a priceless and irreplaceable source of intel on his and AQ's intentions.  Without Hatch's nasty attempt at a dig against Clinton, we might very well have gained much additional information about the 9/11 plot, to the point where even the Bush Administration would have been motivated to take appropriate precautions.

      Fast-forward to present.

      Despite the US being at war with AQ in the 2000s, AQ retained shoddy communications security practices at least to 2010.

      If it's true that AQ upgraded its crypto following the Snowden leaks, then it's highly likely that the publicity around those leaks was a signficant motivating factor, as it was when Senator Hatch took a leak on the Senate floor.

      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

      by G2geek on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 01:02:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Never heard of her (6+ / 0-)

    because I no longer listen to NPR (or give them donations, as I used to) -- as far as I'm concerned, they have long since relinquished their claim to be doing alternative (and real) journalism. Is that because (1) Congress slashed funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to punish their "liberal bias", and (2) the replacement funding, along with seats on the Board, is dominated by Koch Brothers and similar interests who have a strong interest in pushing the conversation in directions they favor? Inquiring minds would like to know.

  •  Thanks Hoosier. great diary. I will go read the... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thanks Hoosier. great diary. I will go read the whole thing at the Intercept.

  •  ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hoosiercrat, aitchdee

    "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

    by indycam on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 08:25:45 AM PDT

  •  Thanks (5+ / 0-)

    I really appreciate your posting this. I've been unhappy with NPR for some time about their reporting on the intelligence community and everything to do with the Middle East, especially Iraq and Afghanistan. And that's not to mention their incredibly condescending coverage of the problems facing any person of color or anyone with an income less than six figures. It seems their reporters grew up never imagining there was life outside the gated community.

    Alas, since I lived in a Red State, NPR is the closest thing I can get to minimally competent radio news. I stopped giving money because the state public broadcasting pledge drives express a not-so-subtle disdain for the those who can afford only the minimal contribution. It may be only $35 to them, but for me and many others $35 is a week's worth of gas, several days of groceries or half a monthly utility bill. I don't need a mug, t-shirt or tote bag, but a little genuine appreciation would help. They might not have to beg so hard if they changed their tone.

  •  Judith Miller now has a (0+ / 0-)

    soul mate.  Like peas and carrots, these two bozoheads deserve one another.  Thanks for your diary.

  •  I can't find MainStreamMedia (0+ / 0-)

    I was trying to find a truly independent news source that could be called main stream and haven't found one yet. Any suggestions?

  •  A truly independent media would need to ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, pdxteacher, Shotput8

    operate independently of funding.

    Unfortunately, much of the funding these days for all of our media comes with strings attached.

    It is very similar to our political system.

    •  Like who? (0+ / 0-)

      You can't operate w/o funding.  Even if you operate purely on donations, those donations will assuredly dry up the moment you start writing about something your audience finds 'suspect'.  

      There is no media, aside from blogs which are mostly opinion driven (with the exception of blogs that concentrate on local issues), that are not operating without funding from someone.  None.

      Charlie Crist for Florida Primary date: August 26, 2014, Election Date: November 4, 2014

      by aimeehs on Fri Aug 15, 2014 at 08:12:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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