Justice Department secretly taps into AP reporters’ phone records
In a surprising declaration a short time ago, the Associated Press revealed that the Justice Department had obtained two months of phone records tied to numerous reporters and editors in various cities, in what the news organization is calling a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”
The reason for the government’s actions, which the AP was alerted to in a letter Friday, are as of now unknown.
From the Associated Press’ story on the emerging scandal:
In all, the government seized those records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices whose phone records were targeted on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.
AP’s President and CEO, Gary Pruitt, issued a strongly-worded letter to Attorney General Eric Holder:We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news. While we evaluate our options we urgently request that you immediately return to the AP the telephone toll records that the Department subpoenaed and destroy all copies.
Photo: Molly Riley / Associated Press
If a movie is really working, you forget for two hours your Social Security number and where your car is parked. You are having a vicarious experience. You are identifying, in one way or another, with the people on the screen.
RIP Roger Ebert (June 18, 1942 - April 4, 2013)
Looking back at his tenure as Washington Post ombudsman, Michael Getler wrote in 2005 that the mainstream media’s performance in 2002 and 2003 likely represented the industry’s worst failing in nearly half a century. “How did a country on the leading edge of the information age get this so wrong and express so little skepticism and challenge?” Getler asked.
Let’s recall some concrete examples of what helped the Bush era press rightfully earn its title of lapdogs so we can understand why today’s conservative claims ring so hollow.
Conor Friedersdorf’s annual round-up of the best non-fiction journalism is one of the best best-ofs out there…and the 2012 edition is no exception.
There are, of course, worthy pieces of writing and reporting that escaped my attention in 2012, but I can assure you that all of the 102 stories…
The New Republic’s Timothy Noah writes how the New York Times Magazine assigned, then killed, Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
According to Diane McWhorter’s Carry Me Home: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution, [New York Times Magazine Editor Walter] Shapiro phoned the offices of King’s organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, in July 1962. King was doing jail time in Albany, Georgia, on charges of disturbing the peace while protesting the segregation of public facilities. Shapiro suggested that King write a “letter from prison” modeled on those of early Christian saints; Shapiro may also have been thinking about another 20th century political martyr and Christian minister, Dietrich Bonhoeffer…
…The following May, King was once again in jail for staging a nonviolent protest, this time in Birmingham, Alabama. King remembered Shapiro’s offer… King scribbled a response in the margins of the newspaper, on toilet paper, and and on other scraps that his lawyers sneaked out to the SCLC’s executive director, Wyatt Walker, who got it transcribed. Walker passed drafts back and forth through the lawyers until King was satisfied.
Up north at the Times Magazine, Shapiro was eager to publish, but (according to McWhorter) he “could not get the letter past his bosses at the Times.” Way to go, Gray Lady!
The Times, S. Jonathan Bass reports in Blessed Are The Peacemakers: Martin Luther King, Eight White Religious Leaders, and the ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail,’ initially scheduled the letter for publication in late May. But first it wanted (in the recollection of King adviser Stanley Levison) a “little introduction setting forth the circumstances of the piece.” Then it decided, no, what it really wanted was for King to “write a feature article based on the letter.” Or, possibly, it wanted both. Before King had a chance to jump through these hoops, the New York Post (in those distant days a plausible rival to the Times) got a copy of the letter and published unauthorized excerpts, killing the Times’s interest.
Meet the Mind Behind Barack Obama’s Online Persona
You’ve most definitely seen it by now. Michelle Obama, wearing a red-and-white checkered dress, stands with her back to the camera. Her arms are wrapped around her husband, the hints of a smile lingering on the edges of his lips. “Four more years,” reads the text, which was posted on the Obama campaign’s social media accounts around 11:15pm on election night‚ just as it became clear the president had won a second term.
The photo, taken by campaign photographer Scout Tufankjian just a few days into the job, pretty much won the internet: 816,000 retweets, the most likes ever on Facebook; thousands of reblogs on Tumblr. And yet it wasn’t chosen by the president’s press secretary, or even a senior-level operative, but by 31-year-old Laura Olin, a social media strategist who’d been up since 4am. For the first time since the campaign ended, she talked to Tumblr, in partnership with The Daily Beast, about what it’s like being the voice of the President — where millions of people, and a ravenous press, await your every grammatical error.
So how does it actually work, being the voice of the President? Who makes the decisions about what to post?
All of our decisions were made in-house — in Chicago, mostly — so we weren’t getting direct directives from the White House or anything. But we tried as much as possible to have voices for each account, so depending on the message — because we had all these channels — we had an appropriate place to put it. Obviously some stuff was sufficiently huge so that it went everywhere, but as much as possible we tried to tailor the message for the channel and the audience.
It must be daunting.
It was kind of terrifying, actually. My team ran the Barack Obama Twitter handle, which I think was probably most susceptible to really embarrassing and silly mistakes. We didn’t ever really have one, which I still can’t believe we pulled off.
World Press Freedom Day Round-Up: “In 2012, 1 journalist is killed every 5 days.”
- Check out Global Voices’ Threatened Voices Project, which is a collaborative database that maps bloggers who have been threatened.
- The Committee to Protect Journalists has released a Journalist Security Guide that’s really comprehensive (H/T: Future Journalism Project)
- CPJ also has recent article on safer mobile use for journalists and a list of the 10 most censored countries.
- A WNYC interview with reporter Sebastian Junger about the organization he founded, Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues, after the death of his friend and colleague Tim Hetherington.
- UNESCO has used the Ushahidi platform to crowdsource a map of World Press Freedom celebrations.
- UNESCO is honoring Azerbaijani journalist Eynulla Fatullayev with its annual Guillermo Cano freedom prize.
- Human Rights Watch is calling for action against Azerbaijan’s “appalling record on freedom of expression.”
- Reporters Sans Frontières reminds us that one journalist is killed every five days (see photo above). This day can be a celebration of freedoms but it’s also a time to consider how much there is to condemn and fight against.
- Here’s RSF’s 2012 Press Freedom Index. And, I encourage you to read through basically everything RSF has posted about journalists under threat.
- The Journalists Freedoms Observatory is noting the deterioration of press freedom in Iraq.
- From Amnesty International: reports on journalists and bloggers under threat in Sudan, Iran and Cuba.
- The International Federation of Journalists has a recently released report on the state of press freedoms in South Asia.
- UNESCO released a report in late March titled “The Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity.”
- There is much cause to examine Pakistan’s press freedom problems. A report has apparently been released by the Pakistan Press Foundation, but I can’t yet find a copy. Be on the look out.
- Freedom House’s 2012 Freedom of the Press survey has an unfortunate stat: only 14.5% of the world’s population live in a country with a free press. There is good news, though. Egypt, Libya and Tunisia have all shown marked improvements with the overthrows of Mubarak, Gaddhafi and Ben Ali.