Tag Archives: secrecy

Reporters claim the White House changes reports before they are released

The current White House administration has been lauded as the “most transparent administration in history,” but a number of journalists are coming out, saying they have been intimidated or coerced into altering their stories for the sake of making the White House look good.

Brain Carovillano is the managing editor for US news with the AP, and spoke during a panel discussion recently on the White House’s transparency claim.  “The White House push to limit access and reduce transparency has essentially served as the secrecy road map for all kinds of organizations — from local and state governments to universities and even sporting events,” said Carovillano.

Sally Buzbee, the AP’s Washington chief of bureau, has said the administration has extended its control of information to other government agencies in an indirect manner.  Buzbee has said sources from these other agencies which might be willing to share information, have been warned they could be fired for simply talking to a reporter.

Many people have also asked Buzbee to compare the level of transparency present within the Obama administration and the level present during the Bush administration.  “Bush was not fantastic… The (Obama) administration is significantly worse than previous administrations,” she said.

A recent Washington Post article has also said press-pool reports have been tampered with as White House aides have “demanded- and received- changes in press-pool reports before the reports have been disseminated to other journalists.”

It is important to note, press-pool reports are written by reporters for other reporters, and they are used by news outlets every day to aid in the coverage of the White House and the president.

The article from the Post does say most of the demands for changes in these press-pool reports have involved trivial matters, but what is disturbing is these demanded changes are happening in the first place.  Instead of allowing journalists to report on matters from the White House with as unbiased of an opinion as they can muster, the White House has deemed it appropriate to filter and make changes to reports which concern the administration.

White House reporter Tom DeFrank said, according to the Daily Signal, “My view is the White House has no right to touch a pool report… If they want to challenge something by putting out a statement of their own, that’s their right… But they have no right to alter a pool report unilaterally.”

Appeals court wants execution drug details before lethal injection

An execution in Arizona has been put on hold by a federal appeals court after the court said the man sentenced to death has a right to know what drugs will be used in the cocktail used to carryout his execution.

Joseph Wood was convicted of the 1989 shooting and deaths of his ex-girlfriend, Debra Dietz, as well as her father Eugene.  Wood was sentenced to death in 1991 and was scheduled to be put to death this Wednesday, but a three-judge panel in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this past Saturday Wood was entitled to more information regarding the drugs which would put him to death.

The ruling states, according to the Washington Post, “Information concerning execution protocol is not only of general interest to the public, it is important for consideration by the courts. … We, and the public, cannot meaningfully evaluate execution protocol cloaked in secrecy.”

“Today the court has made a well-reasoned ruling,” said Wood’s lawyer Dale Baich, according to the BBC, after hearing the verdict, “affirming the core First Amendment principles regarding the public’s right to know, which aid all parts of our democratic government.”

This ruling was brought about after Wood, along with five other death row inmates, sued the state of Arizona for not providing adequate information on the drug cocktail to be used in their executions.  The secrecy surrounding the drugs used in botched Ohio and Oklahoma executions is the central issue at hand, and the six inmates say the secrecy surrounding the drugs violates their constitutional rights.

Dissenting judge on the appeals court, Judge Jay S. Bybee, said in a statement according to the NY Times, the court had expanded the right of access under the First Amendment in order to “bar the state from lawfully imposing the death penalty.”

Florida Judge Orders Release of Details on Stingray Cell Phone Tracking Technology

Tallahassee, Florida – On June 3 a Florida judge ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union, forcing the release of  new documents related to police use of “stingray” cell phone tracking technology.

The ruling deals with a case where Tallahassee police used stingray to locate a suspected rapist’s apartment without first getting a warrant. When the police officer involved in tracking the suspect testified in court, the federal government stepped in to demand secrecy, the court obliged, closed the hearing and sealed the transcript. After the ACLU asked the judge to unseal the court transcript based on constitutional First Amendment access to court proceedings, the government attempted to invoke national security privilege by invoking the Homeland Security Act.

The ACLU was able to convince the judge to release the transcript, providing more details about the law enforcement tool that was first revealed last Summer by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The Stingrays work by mimicking a cellphone tower and tricking cell phones into registering their location and other identifying information with the device rather than cell phone towers in the area.

The new documents confirm that cell phones can be tracked as long as the phone is on, whether or not you are making or receiving calls. Also, the stingrays force cell phones to send data to the device “at full signal, consuming battery faster.”  For an activist or journalist a constantly dying battery could be a sign that you are being tracked.

The court transcript also reveals a case where the police drove around with a vehicle-based stingray until they located the apartment complex where their suspect was staying. Upon locating the complex the officers switched to a handheld device and went to “every door and every window in that complex” until the phone transmitting the signal was located. A police officer testified that as far back as 2007 the device were being used. He estimated between Spring of 2007 and August 2010 the police used the stingrays around “200 or more times.”

These latest details fill in the gaps regarding the United States’ governments growing obsession with spying on it’s own citizens. With the revival of the Domestic Extremism Task Force and the news that the Obama Administration is fighting the release of information about Stingrays, it is obvious the government views it’s citizens as worthy of constant surveillance and scrutiny.