Have you noticed anything strange about news stories recently dominating the news? I sure have. Let's compare notes.
The nation's public affairs agenda has been dominated recently by several major and highly dubious news stories about national security. I haven't seen anything like it since 9/11 or the WMD charade before the Iraq invasion. Recent coverage is even more troublesome because there is no obvious new event trigger, as in 9/11.
Most important this week was President Obama's rejection on the Aug. 6 Tonight Show of years of solid evidence that the National Security Agency (NSA) has a massive domestic spy program.
In response to softball questions by the show's affable host, Jay Leno, the president contradicted the evidence developed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden as well as by others who had been high-ranking NSA executives or expert outside commentators, such as author James Bamford. Here are the words: 'We Don’t Have A Domestic Spying Program.’
Another strange approach was the terminology by major news outlets that called Snowden an alleged “spy” even though there is no evidence he was working for any outside nation. This spy claim parallels other smears of investigative journalists that suggest an orchestrated plan by intelligence authorities working with friendly reporters.
The flip side is the appearance of a campaign linked to the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island to pressure media outlets not to quote or pay journalists who criticize the government. Highly active in this effort is War College Professor John Schindler, a former NSA employee whose frenzied campaign on social media and mainstream media has targeted a number of high-profile former NSA executives, commentators and political figures.
We published a three-part series about such smear campaigns last month. New evidence now suggests the Daily Beast website and the U.S. Navy War College are near the center of this campaign to assault journalists who publish unflattering information about the NSA.
The War College President, Rear Admiral Walter E. “Ted” Carter Jr, was announced in the spring and took office July 1.
Schindler's rhetoric, as indicated at right on a public Twitter posting July 31, has gone so far as to mock President Obama as “the Crown” — and “Frenchie Papists.” Although military officers are normally expected to speak respectively of superiors in rank, includng the president, the anti-Catholic slur is also odd for a professor teaching in the heavily Roman Catholic state of Rhode Island.
Historically, military officers and those working for such federal agencies as NSA (a unit of the Department of Defense) might be leery of publicly mocking the president and such a large segment of the voting population as Catholics.
Rhode Island's senior U.S. senator, Democrat Jack Reed, left, for example, is a West Point graduate, Roman Catholic, Harvard Law graduate, and a member of powerful appropriations and armed services committees.
However, the Senate and Congress have ceded many of their Constitutional powers to the Executive Branch in recent years, a fact well-known in the government and lobbying community. The reasons are many but two might be especially relevant in this context. One is the Executive Branch's relentless expansion of its war-marking powers even though such Constitutional scholars as Bruce Fein argue that unilateral warmaking was the most important power that Founders wanted to withhold from the presidency.
A second factor that is much harder for the public to assess. These are reports that the Executive Branch's surveillance operations over the public also capture and store for easy retrieval electronic communications involving the Legislative Branch. Although the Defense Department and similar agencies run the surveillance in theory much of the decision making is in the hands of powerful conractorsSignificant evidence exists that private contractors with highly partisan leanings installed the Congerssional communications system a decade ago, using foreign equipment that in itself might provide a security risk. Additonally, former NSA analyst Russell Tice gave an interview on Boiling Frogs radio in June stating that NSA to his certain knowledge monitored Congress, including Barack Obama when the future president was an Illinois senator.