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“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
“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
“Those who read and support Project Censored are in the know.” —Cynthia McKinney
“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.
Buy it, read it, act on it. Our future depends on the knowledge this col-lection of suppressed stories allows us.” —San Diego Review
“[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 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
“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
“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.
“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
“[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
“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.)
“One of the most significant media research projects in the country.” —I. F. Stone
“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
“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
“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.
“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.

Warrantless Spying, Russian Targets, and Trumped-Up Wire Tap Charges: What the Feds Might Really Have on the President

By Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D.

Recently, President Trump accused former President Barrack Obama of wire tapping Trump Tower. He tweeted, “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” And he further tweeted, “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” And also, “Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!” The Trump administration then called for an investigation into the claimed “wire tapp [sic]” without providing any evidence to justify such an investigation. Unfortunately, the corporate, mainstream media has taken to this claim like a dog thrown a sliver of red meat. As a result, the really important issues have been buried beneath a smokescreen of “alternative facts.”

Most of this media coverage has focused on the serious but unsubstantiated nature of Trump’s claim. For example, Chris Matthews of MSNBC stressed that Trump was accusing Obama of a felony without evidence.  And subsequent reports have stressed the fact that the former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, as well as the current Director of the FBI, James Comey, have denied that there have been any Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FIS) warrants issued by the FIS court to the FBI to tap Trump’s phones.  However, this focus has obscured the nature of electronic surveillance, and, thereby, given credence to Trump’s apparent naivety about how electronic surveillance actually works.  In this intercourse of the proverbial blind leading the blind, exploration of the potential connections between the Trump team’s own possible clandestine communications with Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential election have been sidelined.  Paradoxically, notwithstanding his baseless accusations of having been unlawfully wiretapped, he might well have been party to a legal but warrantless form of foreign intelligence gathering.

As was revealed in the aftermath of the Snowden disclosures (and even before that by the AT&T whistleblower, Mark Klein), electronic communications involving at least one individual “reasonably believed” to be outside the U.S. have, since as early as 2003, been systematically copied, analyzed and stored by the National Security Agency (NSA) as they pass through the facilities of electronic communication service providers (such as AT&T and Comcast) on route to their destinations.   In the past decade, this system of mass surveillance has grown exponentially in its capacity to analyze and store increasingly larger amounts of data at accelerated speeds.  This massive surveillance system has the power to construct “digital footprints” or profiles of anyone it targets.  It can even capture and analyze an “upstream” data flow in real time as well as store it in searchable databases for later retrieval.

Pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act of 2008, the electronic communications of non-U.S. persons, who reside outside the U.S. can be acquired without a search warrant issued by the FIS Court.  According to provision 702(a), “Notwithstanding any other provision of law… the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence may authorize jointly, for a period of up to 1 year from the effective date of the authorization, the targeting of persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information.” As such, insofar as Trump and/or his associates were communicating with a Russian person or organization located outside the U.S., which was itself a target of foreign intelligence gathering, the communications of Trump and/or his associates would also have been lawfully acquired.

However, if Trump himself were exclusively the target, a FISA warrant would have needed to be issued by the FIS Court in order for the government to lawfully acquire the communication in question.  Pursuant to the Fourth Amendment, the FBI would then have needed to show probable cause. While there have been a few unconfirmed reports of such FISA warrants having been applied for by the FBI and some of these actually granted, such reports contradict the statements made by Comey and Clapper denying that any warrants have been issued.  If such warrants were, indeed, issued by the Court (whose rulings are almost always highy secretive and unpublished), then the evidence gleaned from previous intelligence would have had to show probable cause.  This would, in turn, give the FBI the legal authority to look into the target’s other computerized activities such as credit card purchases, banking activities, internet searches, and the contents as well as metadata of wholly domestic phone conversations.  So, what other intelligence could have been legally obtained without such a warrant?

Suppose that Trump’s server at Trump Tower (or elsewhere) was communicating with a foreign power or agent of a foreign power thought to be involved in espionage, say a Russian Bank such as Alfa Bank with known ties to the Kremlin, a credible scenario reported earlier by Slate.  In this case, the NSA (not the FBI) would acquire the Trump communications when it targeted Alfa Bank, which might conceivably tell the feds a great deal about any possible quid pro quo going on between Team Trump and the Kremlin.   Yet this warrantless acquisition would still be legal just as long as the following provisions held true:

Consistent with the Fourth Amendment, pursuant to Section 702(b) of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, the acquisition could not intentionally target: (1) a person located in the United States; (2) a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States merely for purposes of targeting someone in the United States; (3) a United States person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States; or (4) a person who is a sender or recipient of a wholly domestic communication.

In the case of Alfa Bank, provision 1 would be satisfied since Alfa Bank is located in Russia.  According to provision 2, if the government targeted Alfa Bank just in order to target Trump, then it would violate the FISA Amendments Act.  However, if the government were tracking the communications of Alfa Bank, even before it communicated with Trump Tower, then it would be hard to see how this provision could have been violated. Provision 3 would also be satisfied inasmuch as Alfa Bank is not a United States Person; and provision 4 would be satisfied since the acquisition would not be between persons located in the United States.

Ironically, if the Trump team really did communicate electronically with Alfa Bank or some other Russian agent who was an NSA target of intelligence gathering, then, because Trump has called for an investigation of whether Obama ordered a wire tap on Trump Tower, he has also made his own communications the target of a criminal investigation.  In such a case, he would be caught with his proverbial fingers in the cookie jar.

According to Section 702 (g)(2)(A)(v) of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, “a significant purpose” of the acquisition must be to obtain foreign intelligence, which means that there could be other purposes for conducting warrantless surveillance of a foreign power or its agents. In particular, a further purpose could be to gather information regarding the commission of a crime. This means that the evidence of the commission of a crime acquired in the course of electronic foreign surveillance would be admissible for purposes of criminal prosecution. So, if Trump and/or his associates colluded with the Russians in interfering with the 2016 presidential election, then the evidence acquired through surveillance of the Russian target would be admissible in prosecuting him and/or his associates for a crime against the United States, namely treason as defined in Article 3, Section 3 of the United States Constitution—“adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

So, the corporate media may best do its job as “Fourth Estate” by keeping the focus on the investigation into possible collusion between Trump and the Russians, rather than on whether Obama wire tapped Trump Tower.  Indeed, it would not be remarkable if the communications of Trump and/or his associates showed up in a perfectly lawful albeit warrantless foreign intelligence acquisition.  And, in stark contrast to the trumped-up charge that Obama bugged Trump’s phones, this would truly be breaking news!

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