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Friday, May 7, 2010

Low-tech torpor

Yes indeed, we do learn that low-tech surveillance was used against the Times Square terror suspect.

An National Public Radio report discussed news coverage that allegedly crimped the investigation. The NPR reporter specifically was justifying holding back information that would have tipped the suspect that authorities were looking for him.

But what catches my attention is that the suspect supposedly eluded a tail after ducking into a supermarket.

So that means that in such an important (one would think) national security case, high-tech surveillance methods were not deployed. Really, there is no way he should have been able to escape surveillance by security crews. Not only do they have the advanced equipment I described, they also are able to swarm an area with operatives.

Maybe only the CIA or Pentagon security services use such methods. But it seems incredible that rudimentary surveillance was used in such a supposedly important case, while real high-tech methods are used against spies (and dissidents presumed to be "spies").

So, on balance, I'd say the intense reportage served to expose something that needs exposing.

If security gurus were playing the time-honored game of leading reporters around by the nose, their ploy may have backfired.

The Pentagon has barred a group of reporters from covering Guantanamo Bay military tribunals because they published the name of an interrogator that was officially confidential. However, the rebuttal is that the name has been in the public domain for a long time.

The "heads-up" report says reporters barred include Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald and reporters representing Canada's Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and the Canwest media conglomerate.

Canada's top court has slammed the door on reporter attempts to protect their sources, says the Globe and Mail.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs tried to make light of a reporter's question about why Obama holds no press conferences, but the other White House correspondents cheered on their colleague, according to an item at Accuracy in Media.

An Ulster libel case bodes ill for press freedom, relates the Belfast Telegraph. A woman plaintiff was permitted to amend her suit and claim a breach of privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights. If upheld, the press would have a tough time meeting the treaty's definition of public issue, the newspaper says.

This should be a warning to other European member states. Iceland, for example, is considering a law to guarantee near absolute press freedom, but could find its law trumped by the European parliament. In fact, Iceland's liberal position concerning internet censorship could be overruled by a European Union initiative to require blocking of sites deemed unsuitable. (I agree that many sites are "over the top," but the issue is "patrol and prosecute" rather than block -- which is always done without truthful explanation.)

The market plunge resulted from short-seller manipulation, not from machine glitch, says one market analyst quoted in an AIM column. He says the hedge funds are putting out phony explanations via the media. Their objective is to avert relevant regulation, which he says the finance reform bill lacks.

The Jewish Journal relates that the Israeli government has arrested a Haifa-based Arab activist and imposed a media gag order on the arrest. The U.S.-based Electronic Intifada, which is not bound by the Israeli censorship, is quoting Palestinian rights groups urging the release of Ameer Mahkoul.

Human Rights Watch says backers of Uganda's ruling party are threatening journalists in attempts to gain more favorable coverage. Some of the pressure comes from party backers inside the government, the watchdog group says.

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