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“The staff of Project Censored presents their annual compilation of the previous year’s 25 stories most overlooked by the mainstream media along with essays about censorship and its consequences. The stories include an 813% rise in hate and anti-government groups since 2008, human rights violations by the US Border Patrol, and Israeli doctors injecting Ethiopian immigrants with birth control without their consent. Other stories focus on the environment, like the effects of fracking and Monsantos GMO seeds. The writers point out misinformation and outright deception in the media, including CNN relegating factual accounts to the “opinion” section and the whitewashing of Margaret Thatcher’s career following her death in 2013, unlike Hugo Chavez, who was routinely disparaged in the coverage following his death. One essay deals with the proliferation of “Junk Food News,” in which “CNN and Fox News devoted more time to ‘Gangnam Style’ than the renewal of Uganda’s ‘Kill the Gays’ law.” Another explains common media manipulation tactics and outlines practices to becoming a more engaged, free-thinking news consumer or even citizen journalist. Rob Williams remarks on Hollywood’s “deep and abiding role as a popular propaganda provider” via Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. An expose on working conditions in Chinese Apple factories is brutal yet essential reading. This book is evident of Project Censored’s profoundly important work in educating readers on current events and the skills needed to be a critical thinker.” -Publisher’s Weekly said about Censored 2014 (Oct.)
“Project Censored continues to be an invaluable resource in exposing and highlighting shocking stories that are routinely minimized or ignored by the corporate media. The vital nature of this work is underscored by this year’s NSA leaks. The world needs more brave whistle blowers and independent journalists in the service of reclaiming democracy and challenging the abuse of power. Project Censored stands out for its commitment to such work.” —Deepa Kumar, author of Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire and associate professor of Media Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University
“In another home run for Project Censored, Censored 2013 shows how the American public has been bamboozled, snookered, and dumbed down by the corporate media. It is chock-full of ‘ah-ha’ moments where we understand just how we’ve been fleeced by banksters, stripped of our civil liberties, and blindly led down a path of never-ending war.” –Medea Benjamin, author of Drone Warfare, cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK.
“Hot news, cold truths, utterly uncensored.” —Greg Palast
“Most journalists in the United States believe the press here is free. That grand illusion only helps obscure the fact that, by and large, the US corporate press does not report what’s really going on, while tuning out, or laughing off, all those who try to do just that. Americans–now more than ever–need those outlets that do labor to report some truth. Project Censored is not just among the bravest, smartest, and most rigorous of those outlets, but the only one that’s wholly focused on those stories that the corporate press ignores, downplays, and/or distorts. This latest book is therefore a must read for anyone who cares about this country, its tottering economy, and–most important– what’s now left of its democracy.” –Mark Crispin Miller, author, professor of media ecology, New York University.
“At a time when the need for independent journalism and for media outlets unaffiliated with and untainted by the government and corporate sponsors is greater than ever, Project Censored has created a context for reporting the complete truths in all matters that matter. . . . It is therefore left to us to find sources for information we can trust. . . . It is in this task that we are fortunate to have an ally like Project Cen-sored.” —Dahr Jamail
“[Censored] should be affixed to the bulletin boards in every newsroom in America. And, perhaps read aloud to a few publishers and television executives.” —Ralph Nader
“For ages, I’ve dreamed of a United States where Project Censored isn’t necessary, where these crucial stories and defining issues are on the front page of the New York Times, the cover of Time, and in heavy rotation on CNN. That world still doesn’t exist, but we always have Project Censored’s yearly book to pull together the most important things the corporate media ignored, missed, or botched.” –Russ Kick, author of You Are Being Lied To, Everything You Know Is Wrong, and the New York Times bestselling series The Graphic Canon.
“Project Censored brings to light some of the most important stories of the year that you never saw or heard about. This is your chance to find out what got buried.” –Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System.
“One of the most significant media research projects in the country.” —I. F. Stone
“Censored 2014 is a clarion call for truth telling. Not only does this volume highlight fearless speech in fateful times, it connect the dots between the key issues we face, lauds our whistleblowers and amplifies their voices, and shines light in the dark places of our government that most need exposure.” –Daniel Ellsberg, The Pentagon Papers
“Project Censored is one of the organizations that we should listen to, to be assured that our newspapers and our broadcasting outlets are practicing thorough and ethical journalism.” —Walter Cronkite
“Project Censored interrogates the present in the same way that Oliver Stone and I tried to interrogate the past in our Untold History of the United States. It not only shines a penetrating light on the American Empire and all its deadly, destructive, and deceitful actions, it does so at a time when the Obama administration is mounting a fierce effort to silence truth-tellers and whistleblowers. Project Censored provides the kind of fearless and honest journalism we so desperately need in these dangerous times.” —Peter Kuznick, professor of history, American University, and coauthor, with Oliver Stone, of The Untold History of the United States
“Those who read and support Project Censored are in the know.” —Cynthia McKinney
Buy it, read it, act on it. Our future depends on the knowledge this col-lection of suppressed stories allows us.” —San Diego Review
“Activist groups like Project Censored . . . are helping to build the media democracy movement. We have to challenge the powers that be and rebuild media from the bottom up.” —Amy Goodman
“[Censored] offers devastating evidence of the dumbing-down of main-stream news in America. . . . Required reading for broadcasters, journalists, and well-informed citizens.” —Los Angeles Times
“Project Censored shines a spotlight on news that an informed public must have . . . a vital contribution to our democratic process.” —Rhoda H. Karpatkin, president, Consumer’s Union

10. CISA: The Internet Surveillance Act No One is Discussing

On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) into law as part of a 2,000 page omnibus spending bill. As drafted, CISA was intended to “improve cybersecurity in the United States through enhanced sharing of information about cybersecurity threats, and for other purposes.” The act authorized the creation of a system for corporate informants to provide customers’ data to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which, in turn, would share this information with other federal agencies, including the Departments of Commerce, Defense (which includes the NSA), Energy, Justice (which includes the FBI), the Treasury (which oversees the IRS), and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

As Sam Thielman of the Guardian reported, civil liberties experts had been “dismayed” when Congress used the omnibus spending bill to advance some of the legislation’s “most invasive” components. Anthony Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union criticized Congress for using the spending bill “to pursue their extremist agendas.” “Sneaking damaging and discriminatory riders into a must-pass bill usurps the democratic process,” he told the Guardian. Lauren Weinstein, who cofounded People For Internet Responsibility, also spoke critically of the legislation: “There is not a culture of security and privacy established in the government yet. You have to have that before you even consider sharing the amounts of data [CISA] would cover.” Evan Greer of Fight for the Future called CISA “a disingenuous attempt to quietly expand the US government’s surveillance programs.”

In July 2015, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had attempted to attach the bill as an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act, but the Senate blocked this by a vote of 56-40.

As Andy Greenberg reported for Wired, the final Senate version of the bill removed personal information protections that privacy advocates had fought successfully to have included in a previous version. Greenberg reported that CISA had “alarmed the privacy community” by providing a loophole in privacy laws that would enable intelligence and law enforcement officials to engage in surveillance without warrants. The version of CISA approved in the Senate by a vote of 74 to 21 in October 2015, Greenberg reported, “creates the ability for the president to set up ‘portals’ for agencies like the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, so that companies hand information directly to law enforcement and intelligence agencies instead of to the Department of Homeland Security.” Commenting on this aspect of the legislation, Jadzia Butler and Greg Nojeim of the Center for Democracy and Technology wrote, “Information shared for cybersecurity reasons should be used for cybersecurity purposes, but this legislation does not impose this simple requirement.”

Greenberg’s Wired article noted that tech firms—including Apple, Twitter, and Reddit—as well as fifty-five civil liberties groups had opposed the bill, and that, in July 2015, DHS itself warned that the bill would “sweep away privacy protections” while inundating the agency with data of “dubious” value.

In April 2016, Jason R. Edgecombe reported for TechCrunch on the release by DHS and the Department of Justice of additional “Privacy and Civil Liberties Interim Guidelines” to supplement CISA. The interim guidelines aimed to address continued concerns over inadequate privacy safeguards. In particular, the language of CISA required that private entities sharing information with the government only had to protect “information that the entity knows at the time of sharing to be personal information or information that identifies a specific person” (emphasis added). As Edgecombe observed, “This is a low bar: If the entity doing the sharing isn’t aware ‘at the time of sharing’ that a CTI [cyber threat indicator] identifies a specific person, it is not required to de-identify that information.”

The interim guidelines required DHS and other government agencies receiving private information under CISA to review cyber threat indicators for personally identifiable information and to remove it before sharing the data further. As Edgecombe reported, however, the interim guidelines only protect personal information “not directly linked to a cybersecurity threat.” And they do not require destruction of personal information unless it is “known not to be directly related to uses authorized under CISA.” As he reported, this wording created a “potentially vast loophole,” because CISA authorized “a number of law enforcement activities unrelated to cybersecurity.” “The best way to prevent personal information from falling into the hands of the feds,” Edgecombe concluded, “is for non-governmental entities to decline to share it in the first place.” As Censored 2017 went to press, the DHS/DOJ final guidelines had not yet been made public.

Assessing where presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump stand on cybersecurity issues, Violet Blue of Engadget reported that, while most people felt that CISA did not go far enough in protecting citizens’ privacy, “Clinton felt the law didn’t go far enough in facilitating the sharing of data between companies and the government.” Sanders voted against CISA. (“Our civil liberties and right to privacy shouldn’t be the price we pay for security. #CISA”, he tweeted on October 22, 2015.) Though Trump had not taken a specific position on CISA, Blue noted, “Trump is an outspoken supporter of government surveillance.” The NSA, he has said, “should be given as much leeway as possible.”

In November 2015, NBC News asked, “Why aren’t Presidential Candidates Talking about Cybersecurity?” The story noted that Sanders was the only candidate (other than Republican Rand Paul) to oppose CISA, and it included a “quick primer” on CISA that consisted of two sentences. On December 22, 2015, CNBC’s Everett Rosenfeld reported on President Obama having signed the “controversial ‘surveillance’ act,” but this report was derivative of Andy Greenberg’s previous report for Wired.


Andy Greenberg, “Congress Slips CISA into a Budget Bill That’s Sure to Pass,” Wired, December 16, 2015, http://www.wired.com/2015/12/congress-slips-cisa-into-omnibus-bill-thats-sure-to-pass/.

Sam Thielman, “Congress Adds Contested Cybersecurity Measures to ‘Must-Pass’ Spending Bill,” Guardian, December 16, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/16/congress-cybersecurity-information-sharing-cisa-spending-bill.

Jason R. Edgecombe, “Interim Guidelines to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act,” TechCrunch, April 13, 2016, http://techcrunch.com/2016/04/13/interim-guidelines-to-the-cybersecurity-information-sharing-act/.

Violet Blue, “Where the Candidates Stand on Cyber Issues,” Engadget, May 13, 2016, http://www.engadget.com/2016/05/13/where-the-candidates-stand-on-cyber-issues/.

Student Researcher: Victoria Bespalov (University of Vermont)

Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)

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