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Press Freedom And Privacy Won’t Be Safe Under Biden, Either

By nivekbr | Policy, Not Politicians | 19 Nov 2020

His transition team, his own record, and a bad history with whistleblowers.


Of course, Biden won’t go after the corporate press like Trump has, but that doesn’t mean press freedom is entirely safe. The years of the Obama administration have been called “a period of unprecedented whistleblower prosecutions,” and it appears that several of the same people who were involved in that administration are now back in various capacities under Biden, either as future cabinet members or as part of the transition team. Journalist Kevin Gosztola recently posted a list of notable names from Biden’s Agency Review Teams in a thread on Twitter, here are a few that have particular relevance to the subject at hand:

Matt Olsen: a former official from the Obama administration. Served as director of the National Counterterrorism Center, general counsel for the NSA, and executive director of the Guantanamo Bay Review Task Force. Once said that what Edward Snowden revealed about NSA spying on American citizens “had little to do with privacy and civil liberties,” and spoke in defense of backdoor searches of our electronic communications.

Bob Litt: “worked with James Clapper and was involved in US intelligence response to Snowden’s whistleblowing.” He then defended Clapper when it was found that he had lied to Congress. He also led the effort to run interference for the mass surveillance program.

Neil MacBride: formerly chief counsel for Biden while he was a senator. He oversaw the investigation of WikiLeaks until his resignation in August 2013; and prosecuted two CIA whistleblowers, John Kiriakou and Jeffrey Sterling. When asked if he thought that the Obama administration had “gone overboard” with their record number of whistleblower prosecutions, his response was, “No, I don’t believe we have.”

These aren’t the only problematic names on the list, just the ones most relevant to this article. For more, see the article Gosztola wrote for The Grayzone, in which he describes the Biden transition team as “filled with war profiteers, Beltway chickenhawks, and corporate consultants.”

Another recent report in The Grayzone points to the transition team’s “head of state media,” Richard Stengel, and how he self-described as “chief propagandist,” and “called to ‘rethink’ the First Amendment.” While it could be said that “propaganda” is a loaded word — and, in essence, a lot of politics is propaganda — the way Stengel talks suggests that some suspicion is reasonable in this case. As Ben Norton points out in the article, this is especially troubling in light of the recent push for social media censorship. This line of thinking also leads to questions about the number of tech executives on the transition team, some of which come from companies that are currently attempting to position themselves as arbiters of truth. At least one of these same companies, Alphabet, Inc. (Google’s parent company), is listed among the top donors to Biden’s presidential campaign.

Let’s also not forget that Biden himself had a hand in keeping Snowden from being able to find asylum in a friendly country, and that he described Julian Assange as a “high-tech terrorist.”

Speaking of Assange leads back to the subject of corporate media, and how, for their part, the press is unlikely to hold a Biden administration or associated government agencies accountable to the degree that they should. A report that came out during the recent sham extradition hearings of Assange in the UK exposed US reporters knowingly looking the other way while being spied on by a CIA contractor. For that matter, how much did you even hear about that trial on cable news? On a similar note, hopefully none of us have forgotten the role our media played in selling us the war in Iraq under Bush, or how quiet they were while the Obama administration dropped enough bombs to average three per hour every day during just 2016 alone. As mentioned at the beginning of the article, these members of the press will likely be safe. Whistleblowers and the journalists who publish them, however… perhaps not so much.

While the focus here is mostly on the incoming administration, it also bears mentioning that there are a number of ongoing threats to privacy and press freedom, such as the EARN IT Act, a proposed bill which seeks to undermine end-to-end encryption. While these are mostly being pushed by conservatives at this point, these are some of the things we should worry about when people like Biden talk about bipartisanship.



Originally published on Medium

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Mountain hermit turned rabble rouser. Maker of strange noises. Deeply disturbed, but not surprised. He/him.

Policy, Not Politicians
Policy, Not Politicians

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