August 2013 Archives

August 17, 2013

Peter Maass’ revealing and thought-provoking profile of documentary filmmaker and journalist Laura Poitras (in photo below), which was published in the August 13, 2013, edition of The New York Times magazine under the headline “How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets,” should be required reading Laura_Poitras_at_PopTech_2010in all journalism classes. In fact, all editors should required their reporters to read it. It’s a great story of how investigative journalism must be done in the digital age, especially that dealing with national security issues, such as the U.S. National Security Agency’s (NSA) massive, global collection of all internet and telephone communications, including that of Americans.

Mr. Maas’ article is about how Ms. Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, a former constitutional lawyer and a columnist for The Guardian, a London-based publication with offices in the U.S., brought to light how they became the journalist former CIA agent Edward Snowden, a former system administrator at Booz Allen Hamilton, an NSA subcontractor, contacted about the NSA’s global spying operation. Mr. Maas concludes, and I concur, that:

Poitras and Greenwald are an especially dramatic example of what outsider reporting looks like in 2013. They do not work in a newsroom, and they personally want to be in control of what gets published and when. When The Guardian didn’t move as quickly as they wanted with the first article on Verizon, Greenwald discussed taking it elsewhere, sending an encrypted draft to a colleague at another publication. He also considered creating a Web site on which they would publish everything, which he planned to call NSADisclosures.
Mr. Maas said, “In the end, The Guardian moved ahead with their articles. But Poitras and Greenwald have created their own publishing network as well, placing articles with other outlets in Germany and Brazil and planning more for the future. They have not shared the full set of documents with anyone.

Conclusion: In the 1970’s, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein inspired a generation of aspiring journalists with their reporting on the Watergate Scandal, which forced President Richard M. Nixon to resign. Now, in 2013, it’s Poitras and Greenwald. Hopefully, young journalist will follow their lead. 

Note: Laura Poitras photo by Kris Krug . Licensed under Creative Commons share and share alike.

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August 5, 2013

Richard Falk, Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, explains that, “there was no legal duty on Russia's part to turn (National Security Agency whistleblower Edward) Snowden over to American authorities for criminal prosecution, and a moral and political duty not to do so, especially in the circumstances surrounding the controversy over Snowden.” Mr. Snowden has been granted a one-year visa.

Mr. Falk, “the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights,” writing in an August 5, 2013, post at Al Jazeera English, opines:

The most influential media in the United States has lived up to its pro-government bias in the Snowden Affair in three major ways: firstly, by consistently referring to Snowden by the demeaning designation of 'leaker' rather than as 'whistleblower' or 'surveillance dissident,' both more respectful and accurate.

Secondly, they are completely ignoring the degree to which Russia's grant of temporary refugee status to Snowden for one year was in full accord with the normal level of protection to be given to anyone accused of nonviolent political crimes in a foreign country, and pursued diplomatically and legally by the government that is seeking to indict and prosecute. In effect, for Russia to have turned Snowden over to the United States under these conditions would have been morally and politically scandalous considering the nature of his alleged crimes.

Thirdly, the media's refusal to point out that espionage, the main accusation against Snowden, is the quintessential 'political offense' in international law, and as such is routinely excluded from any list of extraditable offenses. That is, even if there had been an extradition treaty between the United States and Russia, it should have been made clear that there was no legal duty on Russia's part to turn Snowden over to American authorities for criminal prosecution, and a moral and political duty not to do so, especially in the circumstances surrounding the controversy over Snowden.

Mr. Falk said, “If these elements had been clearly articulated, the United States government would have seemed ridiculous if it complained about the willingness of some foreign governments to give Snowden asylum.”

To read the entire post, please see “Snowden's Asylum: 'It's the law, stupid.'”

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Diplomats Meet With a Brotherhood Leader

Al Jazeera's Jamal Al Shayyal has reported from Cairo that “the foreign ministers of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as well as US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and the European Union representative to the Middle East” met with deputy Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Khairat Saad el-Shater over the weekend. He refused to negotiate with the envoys.

The Brotherhood’s position is that President Muhammad Mursi, who was deposed in a military coup d’etat on July 3, 2013, must be released from jail before any negotiations can take place.

Some Brotherhood leaders will go on trial later this month.

For more, please see “Fresh diplomatic efforts to end Egypt crisis.”

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August 3, 2013

Egypt’s Impending Bloodbath

Esam Al-Amin, author of The Arab Awakening Unveiled: Understanding Transformations and Revolutions in the Middle East, has a long, insightful analysis on the political turmoil in Egypt in the weekend edition of Counter Punch. See “An Impending Bloodbath in Egypt: Will It Break the Coup?

According to Mr. Al-Amin,

There is no parallel in modern history to the recent events in Egypt, which have so quickly and effortlessly stripped people of their will. Within a year, the nation that went to the polls in free and fair elections to elect the lower and upper houses of parliament, choose the first civilian president in a multi-candidate race, and approve a new constitution, remarkably witnessed the reversal and invalidation of its nascent democratic institutions.
Mr. Al-Amin said, "After the triumph of the great Egyptian uprising in February 2011, such a tragic outcome was not the anticipated feat of its promising trajectory.”

I highly recommend the article.

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Will Turkey Follow Egypt Into Turmoil?

During the opening ceremony at Andromega hall in Istanbul, Turkey, on August 3, 2013, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked the question:“Should we accept if some try to make an Egypt out of Turkey?”

The answer: “Never. The people’s right in Egypt has been extorted,” he added, according to Anadolu, the official news agency of Turkey. According to a report in the Hurriyet Daily News, Mr. Erdogan said, “If someone respects [the military takeover in Egypt], it is impossible for me as someone who believes in democracy to show him respect,”

For more, please see “Some are trying to make an Egypt out of Turkey,’ says PM Erdoğan.”

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A Lack of Moral Courage

The Economist, in an article headlined Democracy and Hypocrisy, thinks “The West’s failure to condemn the shooting of unarmed Islamists in Cairo was craven and shortsighted.”

“Remember the opprobrium heaped on Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, in June for using tear gas and water-cannon against his people?” the publication asks. “Imagine the outrage if Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to fire live ammunition into demonstrators on the streets of Moscow. But over the weekend, when Egypt’s generals set about killing scores of protesters, the West responded with furrowed brows and pleas for all sides to refrain from violence.”

The Economist said, “Such meekness betrays not only a lack of moral courage, but also a poor sense of where Egypt’s—and the West’s—real interests lie.”

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Mr. Mugabe’s Re-Election Victory

BBC Africa Correspondent Andrew Harding wrote in an August 3, 2013, article “Most elections provide answers. Zimbabwe's seems to be generating questions.” See “Zimbabwe’s Perplexing Election” for questions the re-election of President Robert Mugabe raises, according to Harding.

Mr. Mugabe has ruled for thirty-three years. That’s too damn long for anyone to rule. Zimbabwe needs new, younger leaders with new ways of confronting problems.

Nevertheless, Roy Agyemang, director/producer of Mugabe: Villain or Hero?, writes in the Guardian:

Mugabe is more than just a politician, he leads a cause, or as his militant supporters would say, he has become the cause itself. And the cause has something to do with giving back the African his dignity well beyond symbols of nominal independence. A few days ago he told his supporters political independence was inadequate if it did not yield economic freedom.

Mr. Agyemang said, “While it is fashionable to charge Mugabe with destroying Zimbabwe in its prime, little regard is given to the fact that the average African country has been granted nominal political independence amid economic subservience. And as the convulsions in northern Africa and even Brazil show, the flag does not always fly away.”

For more, please see: 'Why a Robert Mugabe victory would be good for Zimbabwe.'

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The Thursday Luncheon Group

Washington Post opinion writer Colbert I. King  takes a look at the Thursday Luncheon Group, an association “founded in 1973 to increase the participation of African Americans and other minorities in the formulation, the articulation and the implementation of United States foreign policy.”

Mr. King opines in an August 2, 2013, column:

The group members are pioneers in a tough and demanding undertaking: representing and showcasing the United States throughout the world. To say it has been a tough slog for African Americans in the Foreign Service is, perhaps, to state the obvious.

He added: “I learned that during my six years with State at home and abroad. If you want to know what it was like, look no further than “Being Black in a ‘Lily White’ State Department,” the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training’s 1995 interview with career ambassador Terence Todman.”

I highly recommend: “Black Leaders Who Missed the Spotlight.”

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