Corporate Media Accused of Parroting Fear-Mongering over Patriot Act

Privacy advocates say outlets like New York Times spread ‘government propaganda’ by publishing uncritical White House quotes

by: Nadia Prupis

The New York Times published quotes from White House officials warning against the Patriot Act sunset on Thursday. (Photo: Torrenegra/flickr/cc)With key provisions of the USA Patriot Act nearing a long-awaited expiration date, there remains one last adversary to take down in the fight for privacy rights: the corporate media.The most recent case is the New York Times, which on Thursday quoted several anonymous White House officials who warned that allowing the Patriot Act to sunset is akin to “playing national security Russian roulette” and leaves intelligence agencies in “uncharted waters…fraught with unnecessary risk.”If Congress fails to strike a deal to renew the Patriot Act’s controversial Section 215 by its June 1 deadline, the officials warned that the result would “suspend crucial domestic surveillance authority at a time of mounting terrorism threats.”But as other national security experts note, the Patriot Act is far from a safeguard against terrorism. In an op-ed published last Sunday, ACLU legal deputy director Jameel Jaffer criticized the media’s choice of publishing such quotes wholesale without challenging their veracity. The “claim that the expiration of Section 215 would deprive the government of necessary investigative tools or compromise national security,” wrote Jaffer, “is entirely without support.”Jaffer continued:In a last-ditch effort to scare lawmakers into preserving unpopular and much-abused surveillance authorities, the Senate Republican leadership and some intelligence officials are warning that allowing Section 215 of the Patriot Act to sunset would compromise national security.The sunset of Section 215 would undoubtedly be a significant political loss for the intelligence community, and it would be a sensible first step towards broader reform of the surveillance laws, but there’s no support for the argument that the sunset of Section 215 would compromise national security.Several analyses, including one by the Department of Justice released just last week, have shown the surveillance allowed by Section 215 to be ineffective.

As journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote at The Intercept on Thursday, the Times’ reporting exemplifies “the principal weapons that have poisoned post-9/11 political discourse in the U.S.”Greenwald, who helped expose the NSA’s mass surveillance programs with the publication of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s cache of classified intelligence documents in 2013, said the media’s acceptance of White House statements is “government propaganda masquerading as a news article.””In other words,” Greenwald wrote, “it’s a perfect museum exhibit for how government officials in both parties and American media outlets have collaborated for 15 years to enact one radical measure after the next and destroy any chance for rational discourse about it.”Not all media outlets have parroted the administration’s line. The Seattle Times editorial board on Wednesday said it was “time to say goodbye and good riddance to government collection of Americans’ electronic communications data.”The Seattle Times continued:Congress should let the deadline for renewing Section 215 pass so lawmakers can continue discussing, under less pressure, how to proceed and balance the demands of national security with the protection of privacy and civil liberties.But don’t let Section 215 completely fade away. Its misuse should continue to remind Americans of the importance of standing firm on principles even in uncertain times.

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Source: Corporate Media Accused of Parroting Fear-Mongering over Patriot Act | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Threat of ‘Inevitable’ War Looms Between US and China Over Pacific Island Row

Chinese military white paper accuses US of ‘meddling’ in South China Sea

by: Lauren McCauley

Chinese dredging vessels in the waters around Mischief Reef. (Photo: the Telegraph)

Tensions between China and United States continue to rise over the South China Sea as a Chinese government newspaper warns that war may be ‘inevitable’ if the U.S. and its allies do not back off from the heavily disputed territory.Last week, the Chinese government condemned the actions of the U.S. military after the P8-A Poseidon, the US’ most advanced surveillance aircraft, was caught spying on Chinese naval activities in the Fiery Cross Reef.The Chinese government has been accused of provoking its neighbors by actively building “artificial islands” in the Spratly archipelago, which is both a vital shipping corridor and an oil and gas rich territory, west of the Philippines. While China has claimed the right to most of the South China Sea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have competing interests in the highly-contested waters.An editorial published Sunday in China’s Global Times—which the Telegraph describes as “a tabloid owned by the Chinese Communist Party through another newspaper”—warns that U.S. actions have been “raising the risk of physical confrontation with China recently,” and that the two countries may soon reach a “tipping point” if they are unable to compromise on their strategic purposes.The Global Times says that it is “essential that both sides should show their bottom lines to each other, and see if one can respect the other on these. For China, one bottom line is that the reclamation of these islands must be finished no matter what.””If the United States’ bottom line is that China has to halt its activities, then a U.S.-China war is inevitable in the South China Sea,” the editorial concludes.On Tuesday, the Beijing government issued a white paper outlining its military strategy, in which it says that the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region “has caused grave concerns.””Some external countries are also busy meddling in South China Sea affairs,” the paper continues, adding that “a tiny few maintain constant close-in air and sea surveillance and reconnaissance against China.”Further, the Telegraph reports:China’s forces will no longer be limited to defence of the nation’s territory but will project its military power further beyond its borders at sea and more assertively in the air in order to safeguard its maritime possessions, the white paper states. While the air force will shift focus from “territorial air defence” to both offence and defence, the Chinese army will increase its global mobility and its artillery will improve its “medium and long-range precision strikes”, it said.Meanwhile, also on Tuesday it was reported that Japan, for the first time, will be joining the U.S. and Australia in joint military exercises around Australia this summer, which security experts say is being done to counter threats that China will impose air and sea restrictions in the Spratly island chain.

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Source: Threat of ‘Inevitable’ War Looms Between US and China Over Pacific Island Row | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

With Local Democracy Squashed, Fracking to Resume in Texas Town

Just seven months ago, nearly 60 percent of Denton voters approved local fracking ban, but city says law is ‘rendered unenforceable’ by state legislation

by: Deirdre Fulton

Earlier this year, Denton residents went to the Texas capital to defend their fracking ban. (Photo: Frack Free Denton/Facebook)Less than two weeks after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation to prevent local municipalities from regulating a wide variety of drilling practices, fracking is set to resume in the city of Denton, where nearly 60 percent of voters banned the practice last November.According to KERA News, “Vantage Energy plans to resume fracking operations at eight gas wells in the North Texas city on June 1, the Colorado-based operator has told city officials, and it plans to frack at least eight more wells later in the year—flouting the town’s seven-month-long ban on the controversial technique of blasting apart shale to bolster petroleum production.”The new state law—House Bill 40—forbids the city from enforcing the ban, though Denton vowed in a press release to “continue to regulate other surface activities related to drilling operations per our existing oil and gas well drilling ordinance.”Of the state ban on fracking bans, the group Frack Free Denton wrote earlier this month that “the legislature just used its oil and gas money and its bully pulpit in Austin to overturn a grassroots democratic decision in Denton.”KERA News reports “[t]here are rumblings about town that some Denton residents — unhappy with the city’s decision to stand down — plan to protest around the Vantage well sites.”As Frack Free Denton previously declared: “We can’t say for sure, but it’s a good guess that the people of Denton won’t just let that happen without at least bearing some sort of witness there to the demise of democracy.”In Oklahoma, where a sharp uptick in earthquakes has been conclusively linked to fracking, the state legislature has passed similar legislation that would overturn an 80-year-old statute that allows cities and towns to ban drilling operations within their borders. That bill is currently awaiting the signature of Republican Gov. Mary Fallin.

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Source: With Local Democracy Squashed, Fracking to Resume in Texas Town | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community