TIME National Security

Government Spying Hurts Journalists and Lawyers, Report Says

A Human Rights Watch and American Civil Liberties Union report suggests NSA snooping prevents sources talking to journalists and compromises the relationships between defense attorneys and their clients

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National Security Agency surveillance in the U.S. has seriously hurt the ability of journalists to cover national security issues and of attorneys, particularly defense lawyers, to represent their clients, according to a new report out Monday.

Based on interviews in the United States with 46 journalists, 42 practicing attorneys, and five current or former senior government officials, the report seeks to document the tangible impact of NSA surveillance on Americans revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

In particular, the report cites the degree to which the Obama administration’s tough crackdown on unauthorized leaks, in combination with revelations about the extent of government surveillance on Americans’ cell phones and online communications, has caused sources to vanish for national security reporters.

“Sources are worried that being connected to a journalists through some sort of electronic record will be seen as suspicious and that they will be punished as a result,” said study author Alex Sinha, a fellow at Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, which jointly issued the report. “As a result sources are less willing to talk to the press about anything, including unclassified matters that could be of significant public concern,” he said.

“I had a source whom I’ve known for years whom I wanted to talk to about a particular subject and this person said, ‘It’s not classified but I can’t talk about it because if they find out they’ll kill me,’ [figuratively speaking]” longtime National Security Correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers Jonathan Landay said for the report.

“It’s a terrible time to be covering government,” Tom Gjelten, a National Public Radio employee for more than 30 years, said. TIME was not listed among the news outlets from which reporters, many of whom chose to remain anonymous, were interviewed for the report.

Defense attorneys, who represent clients charged with a wide variety of offenses including terrorism, drug and financial crimes, among others, described how U.S. government surveillance has forced them to take extraordinary and often cumbersome measures to protect the privacy of sources and clients.

Such measures might include the use of complex encryption technologies, disposable “burner” cell phones, so called “air-gapped” computers, which are never connected to the internet as a precaution against hacking and surveillance, and in some cases abandoning electronic communications entirely.

“I’ll be damned if I have to start acting like a drug dealer in order to protect my client’s confidentiality,” said national security defense attorney Tom Durkin for the report.

“We are fearful that our communications with witnesses abroad are monitored [and] might put people in harm’s way,” said Jason Wright, who has represented terrorism clients as a military defense attorney before the Guantánamo commissions.

A report released earlier this month by The New America Foundation argues the NSA deliberately weakens cybersecurity, making online communications, study authors argue, less secure in general. The NSA has “minimization procedures” designed to limit the exposure of “US Persons”—Americans at home or abroad and others legally inside the United States—to the NSA’s wide-net surveillance programs. Privacy advocates contend they are insufficient and that, in any case, it’s impossible to verify their effectiveness because the details remain secret.

The NSA directed questions about the report to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which did not respond to TIME’s query.

To address problems raised in the report, HRW and the ACLU recommend reforming U.S. surveillance practices, reducing state secrecy in general and limitations on official contact with journalists, enhanced whistleblower protections and strengthened minimization procedures.

The report comes just days before the expected unveiling in the Senate of the latest iteration of the USA Freedom Act, a bill to reform NSA surveillance practices. An earlier House version of the bill was significantly gutted of reform measures, leading privacy advocates to pull support for the bill and try instead to get more substantial reforms through the Senate.

TIME Iran

Washington Post Correspondent Reportedly Detained in Tehran

A Nov. 6, 2013 photo shows Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter, at the newspaper in Washington Zoeann Murphy—Washington Post/AP

The motive and identities of the people responsible for detaining Jason Rezaian, his wife and two other Americans remain unclear

Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, his wife Yeganeh Salehi and two American citizens appear to have been detained in Iran this week, the newspaper and U.S. officials reported on Thursday.

“We are deeply troubled by this news and are concerned for the welfare of Jason, Yeganeh and two others said to have been detained with them,” said the Post’s foreign editor Douglas Jehl in a statement.

Jehl said that the newspaper had received “credible reports” that the four people were detained in Tehran on Tuesday evening, but it is unknown who did it and why.

Rezaian has been the Post’s correspondent in Tehran since 2012 and holds both American and Iranian citizenship. Yeganeh, who is a correspondent for United Arab Emirates–based the National, is an Iranian citizen who has applied for U.S. permanent residency. The two other American citizens who were detained are freelance photojournalists and haven’t yet been identified by officials.

American journalists have been detained and imprisoned in Iran before. In 2009, freelance journalist Roxana Saberi was convicted for espionage, but successfully appealed her eight-year sentence and was released after four months. The same year, freelance journalists Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd were imprisoned after straying over the Iranian border when vacationing in Iraqi Kurdistan. After intense diplomacy, Shourd was released after one year, while Bauer and his friend Josh Fattal were released in 2011.

Hamid Babaei, a spokesman for the Iranian mission to the U.N., told the Post in an email that Iranian diplomats are looking into the detentions of Rezaian, Yeganeh and the two photojournalists.

[Washington Post]

TIME Burma

Burmese Journalists Sentenced to a Decade in Prison With Hard Labor

Myanmar Journalist Protest
Burmese journalists hold banners as they protest for press freedom outside the office of the Daily Eleven newspaper in Rangoon on Jan. 7, 2014. Khin Maung Win—AP

Five journalists were handed astonishingly harsh sentences for reporting about an alleged chemical-weapons plant in the central part of the country

Burma may no longer be a pariah state, but its courts have shown that the government’s authoritarian tendencies are alive and well.

On Thursday, a court in Pakokku Township sentenced the CEO of the Unity Weekly current-affairs magazine, and four of its reporters, to a decade in prison with hard labor for publishing an article earlier this year about the possible existence of a chemical-weapons factory in central Burma.

“This is blatant bullying of media workers by the government’s judicial and executive sectors,” Unity reporter Lu Maw Naing told Burmese broadcaster DVB Multimedia as policemen hustled him out of the courthouse.

Following the publication of the article in January, the government cracked down hard on the periodical. It was hit with a lawsuit by the President’s Office, issues of the magazine were seized and reporters were arrested. The journal was soon shuttered as financial pressures mounted.

While the government has confirmed the existence of the factory, Naypyidaw says it is for standard munitions and denies allegations that chemical weapons are being produced on the grounds. The claims are impossible to independently verify because Burma is a not signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The former generals at the country’s helm remain sensitive about reporting on weapons programs launched by the former junta. Despite the easing of a smattering of sanctions against Burma in the past two years, several nations, including the U.S., have refused to drop sanctions that target members of the country’s shady military.

Thursday’s ruling is the latest in a series of developments that belie Burma’s reformist narrative. Opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi remains barred from holding the country’s highest office, the internal peace process is stagnating and the rise of Buddhist nationalism has ripped massive holes in the diverse country’s delicate social fabric.

In addition, the fourth estate now appears to be firmly in the government’s crosshairs. In the past year, reporters from DVB and Eleven Media have been jailed, and in May the government deported a foreign journalist for covering a press-freedom rally. The palpable optimism that wafted over the nation three years ago is waning rapidly.

“I think [this case] shows the true colors of this government,” Aung Zaw, editor of the Irrawaddy news magazine, tells TIME. “It’s a real reminder of the old days under the previous repressive regime.”

During a radio address to the nation earlier this month, President Thein Sein boasted that Burma’s media environment was one of the freest in Southeast Asia. However, he added the caveat that journalists who undermine “national security” would be punished.

“[If] media freedom threatens national security instead of helping the nation, I want to warn all that we will take effective action under existing laws,” said Thein Sein, according to a state-run publication.

Just a week later, the threat became reality for the reporters of Unity Weekly. The administration relied on the colonial-era Official Secrets Act to wallop the journalists rather than prosecuting them through newly passed media legislation.

“The authorities are clearly shifting from rule of law to rule by law,” says Benjamin Ismail, head of Reporters Without Borders’ Asia-Pacific desk.

“They are just trying to justify their censorship and repression of the press by showing the international community that legal procedures are followed and everything is normal.”

Editors on the ground say the financially ruinous lawsuit launched against Unity is part of the government’s elaborate strategy to silence dissent. With myriad publications struggling to keep their head above the water in the impoverished country, any legal action could prove disastrous.

“There’s a clear glass ceiling from the owners or the business side,” says Toe Zaw Latt, DVB’s Burma bureau chief. “Once there is trouble, of course you lose money.”

Harassment of editors also appears to be on the rise. In the past two weeks, numerous press offices have reportedly been party to unannounced visits from officers from the military’s special branch.

“They come to our office and other media offices asking petty questions: ‘How are you making money?’ ‘Are you making a lot of business?’ ‘Are you making a profit?’” says Aung Zaw. “It’s clearly intimidation.”

TIME Thailand

Thailand’s Junta Arrests an Editor Over a Facebook Comment

Thailand's Military Coup Continues As General Prayuth Receives Royal Endorsement
A man shows his mobile phone while riding the Bangkok sky train on May 28, 2014. A widespread Facebook outage occurred in Thailand one afternoon while the ruling military junta who staged a coup denied causing it. Paula Bronstein—Getty Images

The military continues to silence critics of the May 22 coup

Thailand’s ruling junta set another disturbing precedent over the weekend after arresting a magazine editor in retaliation for comments he published on his Facebook page on July 4.

In his message, Thanapol Eawsakul, the editor of Fah Diew Khan magazine, said that military authorities had instructed him to refrain from making critical remarks about the junta. He was taken into custody the following day by soldiers clothed in civilian attire.

This is the second time Thanapol has been taken into custody since the army seized power from the country’s caretaker government in late May. He is expected to be held in “administrative detention” for at least seven days.

“Arresting an editor for a Facebook criticism of military rule shows just how far the junta will go to silence critics,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “The military can neither arrest all critics nor wish them out of existence.”

Fah Diew Khan is largely associated with the country’s Red Shirt movement, which supports the popularly elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra that was removed from power during the coup.

In a barely disguised display of media favoritism, the junta appointed the chairman of Post Publishing, which owns several periodicals that reportedly have strong ties to Thailand’s ruling class, to the 10-member advisory board it set up days after the coup.

Since seizing the reins of power, the military has relied on the interment of protest leaders, politicians, analysts and journalists critical of their policies to smother dissent.

On May 28, the junta briefly suspended access to Facebook before quickly reinstating the connection. While the military later denied blocking Facebook, a spokesperson from Norwegian telecommunications firm Telenor, which operates the second largest network in Thailand, admitted that the firm did so for one hour after being instructed by Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.

TIME Law

Supreme Court News Blog Is Yet Again Denied Press Credentials

Two men talk as the sun rises over the Supreme Court in Washington
Two men talk as the sun rises over the Supreme Court in Washington on June 23, 2014 Kevin Lamarque—Reuters

Never mind the awards it has won or the influence it exerts — there is apparently a "conflict of interest" in SCOTUSblog's coverage

What’s particularly ironic — and maybe impressive — about SCOTUSblog’s 12 successful years covering the U.S. Supreme Court is that its reporters aren’t allowed in the courtroom on which they’re reporting.

Not through their employer, at least. The U.S. Senate has once again denied the blog’s appeal for press credentials at the nation’s highest court, citing a conflict on interest: Tom Goldstein, SCOTUSblog’s publisher, is the founding partner of a law firm that deals primarily in cases argued before the Supreme Court.

“Having found that SCOTUSblog fails the fundamental test of editorial independence, the committee looked no further at other questions raised by this application,” the Senate’s Standing Committee of Correspondents wrote in an open letter to Goldstein on Monday. “If SCOTUSblog were to take additional steps to separate itself from Goldstein & Russell and any other lawyer or law firm who is arguing before the Supreme Court, we would welcome a new application.”

Though it earned its journalistic chops as a source of news on the Supreme Court — its diligent coverage of Affordable Care Act hearings and opinion in 2013 earned a Peabody Award — SCOTUSblog also operates as a forum for legal scholars to offer analysis and opinions on judicial decisions.

To fortify its coverage, the blog has pushed for years to earn court press credentials. Its leading writer, veteran court reporter Lyle Denniston, also works for numerous other outlets, on whose press passes he has also relied for SCOTUSblog. Monday’s decision comes in response to Goldstein’s appeal of another credential rejection in April.

“All in all, the refusal by the court and the Senate to credential us have always seemed strange. No one seems to doubt that we are a journalistic entity and that we serve a public function. Winning the Peabody and other awards would seem to confirm that,” Goldstein wrote on the blog. “Credentialing the blog doesn’t give us any special power or recognition; it just makes our jobs incrementally easier. All in all, it doesn’t seem to make sense to impose burdens on us that are greater than those that apply to others who fundamentally do the same thing.”

TIME russia

Five Men Convicted of Murdering Russian Journalist Anna Politkovskaya

A woman places flowers at a portrait of slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya, during a rally in downtown Moscow, in 2009.
A woman places flowers at a portrait of slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya, during a rally in downtown Moscow, in 2009. Pavel Golovkin—AP

But the slain reporter's family says justice won't be served until the people behind the hit are named

A Moscow court on Tuesday found five men guilty of murdering award-winning investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

The renowned reporter and frequent Kremlin critic was shot dead in the elevator of her apartment block in 2006. Fellow activists later described the murder as a contract-style hit, reports Reuters.

Politkovskaya’s murder helped highlight the risks faced by journalists who are willing to speak out against authorities in Russia. Following the verdict, her family and activists continued to call for further investigations into who might have ordered the hit.

“The murder will only be solved when the name of the person who ordered it is known,” Anna Stavitskaya, a lawyer for Politkovskaya’s family, was quoted as saying by RIA news agency.

Russia ranks 148 out of 179 countries surveyed on Reporters Without Borders’ 2014 Press Freedom Index.

[Reuters]

TIME Photos

Barbara Walters: A Career in Pictures

It’s hard to imagine a world where Barbara Walters isn’t on television. After all, this is a woman who entered the news business (as a segment producer on NBC’s Today Show) in 1962 and has been on the air longer than many of her fans have been alive.

But, as she announced nearly a year ago, the groundbreaking journalist will retire from the small screen today after hosting one last episode of The View.

To celebrate her 50 years in television, we’ve assembled a gallery of images from her long and storied career.

 

 

TIME Technology and Media

Facebook Rolls Out a New Plan To Crush Twitter

Mark Zuckerberg arrives for a keynote session on the opening day of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Feb. 24, 2014.
Mark Zuckerberg arrives for a keynote session on the opening day of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Feb. 24, 2014. Simon Dawson—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Facebook launched FB Newswire, which aims to be journalists' social media resource for breaking news

Facebook announced a new service Thursday designed to make it the primary social media resource for journalists covering breaking news, a direct shot across the bow at Twitter.

FB Newswire is a tool accessible via Facebook that features an updated stream of newsworthy and embeddable public content. This includes photos, videos, and status updates about categories ranging from hard news to lifestyle to celebrity to sports. Journalists can grab that content to use it in their own stories across the web.

Newswire is powered by Storyful, bought by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp for $25 million in 2013, which promised users that it will be vetting all of the content it is providing.

Thus far, FB Newswire has provided content on stories ranging from Kim Kardashian’s views on the Armenian massacre:

To Obama taking pictures with a robot:

Twitter, one of Facebook’s primary competitors, has come to be known as a major breaking news resource for the media. It has built that news-friendly model with strategic hires and tool integration.

TIME Journalism

Greenwald, Poitras Return to U.S. For First Time Since Snowden NSA Revelations

Glenn Greenwald arrives at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
Glenn Greenwald arrives at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, April 11, 2014. John Minchillo—AP

Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras return to America for the first time since breaking the Edward Snowden story to receive the George Polk Award. They will share the journalism honor with The Guardian's Ewen MacAskill and The Washington Post's Barton Gellman

Two American journalists who reported on the National Security Agency documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden arrived back in the U.S. Friday for the first time since their reporting on those files was first published.

Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, who broke the Snowden story and met with the whistleblower in Hong Kong, are in New York City to receive the prestigious George Polk Award. Greenwald, formerly a columnist for The Guardian and now a partner in the upcoming First Look Media venture, and Poitras, a documentary filmmaker, will share the journalism award with Ewen MacAskill of The Guardian and Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, the Huffington Post reports.

Greenwald, who currently resides in Rio de Janeiro, told The Huffington Post that he wanted to return to the U.S. because “certain factions in the U.S. government have deliberately intensified the threatening climate for journalists.” He noted that language used by government officials suggested that reporters who investigated Snowden’s documents were complicit with him.

Greenwald and Poitras, who lives in Berlin, expected to be detained immediately upon their arrival Friday, but they left John F. Kennedy International Airport without incident.

[BoingBoing]

TIME Syria

Spanish Journalists Held Captive in Syria Are Freed

Syria Journalists
In this file photo taken on May 24, 2012, Spanish reporters Javier Espinosa, right, and Ricardo Garcia Vilanova, left, pose for a photo in Barcelona. The two Spanish journalists were freed after being held captive for six months in Syria by a rogue al-Qaida group. Joan Borras—AP

Veteran correspondent Javier Espinosa and award-winning photographer Ricardo García Vilanova, who were kidnapped by an extremist group while reporting in Syria six months ago, have been freed by their captors and are back home in Spain

Two Spanish journalists who were kidnapped in Syria six months ago and freed on Saturday are now back home in Spain, the daily newspaper El Mundo reports.

Veteran war correspondent Javier Espinosa and Ricardo García Vilanova, an award-winning freelance photographer, were released to the Turkish military near Tal Abyad, a Syrian town close to where the pair was abducted on Sept. 16.

Espinosa’s wife, Mónica García Prieto, posted a tweet on Saturday that read Felicidad pura, or “Pure happiness.” After his return, Espinosa said, “Thanks to those who made ​​it possible for us to come home.”

The journalists were originally abducted alongside several Free Syrian Army fighters and held at a detention facility in Raqqa by a brigade of the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The group, which released the fighters after less than two weeks, is thought to be holding dozens more aid workers, religious figures and journalists.

Fears that Espinosa was in trouble began when his Twitter followers noticed his account went silent on Sept. 15. Word of his capture began to spread quietly, but a media blackout was imposed until El Mundo went public in December.

Syria is the most dangerous location in the world for journalists, press freedom groups say. The Committee to Protect Journalists said at least 29 journalists were killed there in 2013 and another 61 were detained. About 30 journalists are still believed to be held throughout the country.

Some of the more high-profile cases included that of American journalists Austin Tice, who went missing in August 2012 while reporting near Damascus, and James Foley, kidnapped three months later as he was leaving Syria. Families of both reporters initially chose not to publicize their cases but have since initiated massive support and information-gathering campaigns.

The French government has also been working for months to secure the release of reporter Didier Francois and photographer Edouard Elias, who disappeared in June.

[El Mundo]

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