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What America learned from Watergate and The Pentagon Papers eras is that the core and often undergirding story, or stories to follow, begins in public ignorance. Discovering what matters, as opposed to what satisfies advertisers, reveals a uniquely American conundrum — the delicate balance between legitimate efforts to make the nation secure — and the rights of ordinary citizens to be free of an oppressive government. Accordingly, Edward Snowden is not the story — for his decision to leak NSA documents is but a trigger event — one that shed light upon an ugly and unwelcome reality — the insidious thirst of government(s) to know what is being said, written or transmitted, and by whom.
Robert W. Butche, Publisher
Newsroom Magazine Launches Governance & Privacy Content Section
In the 72 hours following publication of Edward Snowden’s NSA documents, Newsroom Magazine publisher Robert Butche sought the opinions of others on the long range implications, if any, from revelations concerning the breadth and secrecy of electronic surveillance by the United States Government.
The long range implications arising from the NSA document leaks were many and their impact over the fulness of time unclear. Our planning for a Governance & Privacy content section began in earnest on June 9th. The central idea is to assemble a day by day historical record of important events, statements and governmental news materials that unfold over many months, or years.
Two weeks later, previously published materials dealing with the issues raised by the NSA leaks were relocated to the new Governance & Privacy section. Since then, all related materials, including this statement of our editorial motivation and intent, have been published in the new section in ascending time date order.
The shared journalistic and historical purpose for this new content section is to pull together a wide range of content relevant to a single, largely unreported and undefined news story. Articles, statements, documents, transcripts and narrative materials contemporaneous at time of publication, are now grouped together on an open-ended timeline suitable for news seekers today and historical study ( using Newsroom Magazine’s powerful database search and browsing tools ) for many years to come.
Newsroom Magazine openly solicits credible, non-political materials for inclusion — from all points of view including the clandestine community whose story needs to be part of the public knowledge and debate.
Edward Snowden’s June 5, 2013 leak of NSA secrets to The Washington Post and a struggling British newspaper, The Guardian, has the potential to become one of the most important news stories in our lifetimes. Best we keep in mind that the adventures of Mr. Snowden are but a trigger event — a 21st century equivalent of the Metropolitan Police arriving at the Watergate complex to investigate what appeared a third-rate burglary.
Snowden’s misdeed ( leaking secrets to journalists is a criminal act in the United States ) revealed information concerning electronic monitoring of commercial telecommunications systems by lawfully authorized departments and intelligence agencies. Early evidence suggests that government monitoring of telephony and Internet communications was undertaken under authority of post 911 era legislation ( The USA Patriot Act ) passed by Congress a month after the Word Trade Center attacks in September, 2001.
What was a staggering loss for the U.S. clandestine services was only the first clap of thunder in what promises to become a long and complicated story that has already revealed a nation’s most closely held secrets — even as it elevated the arts and sciences of electronic skulduggery into the consciousness of all, foreign or domestic.
When Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon papers in 1971 he became the news story — at least until the New York Times and Washington Post began to publish highly secret papers revealing America’s undisclosed information, actions and motivation in Vietnam.
Similarly, during the early hours of June 17, 1972 when Frank Wills, a night watchman, discovered tape holding open the door latch to the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate Hotel Complex, James W. McCord, Jr. and Frank Sturgis and three Cubans were the focus of press coverage.
Neither President Nixon’s plumbers unit, nor Pentagon Papers leakers Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo were what mattered. Nor is Edward Snowden.
To the contrary. The Pentagon Papers were about deceit and incompetence in government and military. Watergate was about misuse of executive power and concealment of criminal activities in the White House including the Oval Office. And the NSA leaks are about government seemingly out of control, if not in violation of First, Fourth and Seventh amendment protections of the U.S. Constitution.
If anything good is to come from Snowden’s revelations they will fuel, what has been heretofore a non-existent public airing and discussion, concerning critically important security and privacy issues arising from the USA Patriot Act — and its further extensions by large numbers of FISA Court orders.
Whatever will be the outcome of the Snowden story, the still hidden, but sure to be revealed big-story remains wrapped in patriotic rhetoric, political pandering, high-level power brokering and governmental secrecy.
The monitoring of public telephone call records, and digital information containers called data-packets transiting the global Internet, was authorized by the Patriot Act to improve, grow and strengthen the U.S. Government’s counter-terrorist tools. Many, especially those in the Defense and Intelligence communities, believe the nation has been well served by NSA signals monitoring activities.
As evidence, proponents of signals monitoring point to recent successes in breaking-up terrorist plots. Their point is that compared to the disastrous events of September 11th the anti-terrorist efforts of the U.S. Government, legislated by the Congress and monitored by the FISA court have been very successful.
What we know today, from NSA documents leaked by The Washington Post and The Guardian, is that the secrecy required to keep our nation safe from terrorist attack has not been responsibly overseen, nor is there convincing evidence that what has the appearance of government overreach was responsibly subjected to constitutionally mandated checks and balances.
Newsroom Magazine seeks to provide our readers at home and abroad balanced coverage that includes narratives and documents favoring every viewpoint and perspective. We hereby invite government in general, and the clandestine community in specific, to submit articles, narratives and other materials to make certain their viewpoints and observations are not overlooked.
Robert W. Butche
Publisher, Newsroom Magazine
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