General Keith B. Alexander in service uniform
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General Keith Alexander lied to
. That was reason enough to fire and prosecute him.
Now, he's gone further, calling for stopping the press. This is bad
for America and bad for democracy and press freedoms
Glenn Greenwald wrote compellingly on this in his
"...how are American and British officials, in light of their
conduct in all of this, going to maintain the pretense that they
are defenders of press freedoms and are in a position to lecture
and condemn others for violations? In what might be the most
explicit hostility to such freedoms yet -- as well as the most
unmistakable evidence of rampant panic -- the NSA's director,
General Keith Alexander,actually
demanded Thursday that the reporting being done by
newspapers around the world on this secret surveillance system be
halted (Techdirt has
the full video here):
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The head of the embattled National Security Agency, Gen Keith
Alexander, is accusing journalists of "selling" his agency's
documents and is calling for an end to the steady stream of public
disclosures of secrets snatched by former contractor Edward
"I think it's wrong that that newspaper reporters have all these
documents, the 50,000 -- whatever they have and are selling them
and giving them out as if these -- you know it just doesn't make
sense," Alexander said in an interview with the Defense
Department's "Armed With Science" blog.
"We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don't
know how to do that. That's more of the courts and the
policy-makers but, from my perspective, it's wrong to allow this to
go on," the NSA director declared. [My italics]
There are 25,000 employees of the NSA (and many tens of thousands
more who work for private contracts assigned to the agency). Maybe
one of them can tell The General about this
thing called "the first amendment".
I'd love to know what ways, specifically, General Alexander has in
mind for empowering the US government to "come up with a way of
stopping" the journalism on this story. Whatever ways those might
be, they are deeply hostile to the US constitution -- obviously.
What kind of person wants the government to forcibly shut down
reporting by the press?
Whatever kind of person that is, he is not someone to be trusted in
instituting and developing a massive bulk-spying system that
operates in the dark. For that matter, nobody is."
Greenwald indicts general Alexander quite effectively. But
there's more. Alexander is clearly a threat and danger to first
amendment freedoms in the US. But his behavior and words are
hurting the soft power and reputation of the United States AND
democracy AND the idea of freedom of the press.
The people of the world love and hate America. They love us
for our American dream, for our freedoms, particularly our freedom
of the press, and for our arts-- movies, music and
When a powerful leader like General Alexander says we need to
stop that freedom it is not just an empty idea that won't pass
muster in the US. It is an idea that becomes a meme, a concept that
authoritarian regimes and less free democracies embrace and use to
do what he's advocating.
Take England, for example, which already has a less free
press, restricted by libel and slander laws that prevent the press
from writing what it can in the USA. Today, it is reported that
Prime Minister David Cameron has
, referring to the media, and the Guardian in particular, "
if they don't demonstrate some social responsibility it
would be very difficult for government to stand back and not to
act." That's a pretty direct threat to freedom of the press, in a
nation that should be setting examples.
This is setting of bad examples not a one-off pheomenon
applicable to freedom of the press only. We see it with election
rigging. The USA has a horribly corrupted, broken election system
that is based on using easily rigged electronic voting machines.
Eventually, if the USA survives as a real democracy, the e-voting
phase of its history will be viewed as a shameful time when corrupt
legislators allowed corrupt elections for many election cycles.
Today, the nations which use hand counted paper ballots have
more reliable, more trustworthy, more democratic
Every time a high level official within the US government does
something like Alexander has done, it hurts the reputation of
America-- the soft power that keeps the rest of the world
maintaining a balance of love with the hate that so many feel, as
this WaPo map
of love and hate of
the US shows.
When American officials behave badly, in un-democratic ways,
they hurt democracy and the freedoms America used to stand for all
over the world, affecting billions of people.
it is not enough allow the buck to stop with General
Alexander. President Obama has allowed Alexander's lies to stand,
where the president should have called for Alexander (and Clapper)
to resign-- or fired him. Obama should be calling Alexander on his
anti-first amendment positions, and making it clear that this is
not the way America operates.
Then there are the rest of the stenographic mainstream media.
Where are they? Why aren't they calling out Alexander? The
way the media and politicians treat Glenn Greenwald and Edwards
Snowden provides a litmus test.
Most are failing.
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