PROJECT CENSORED • The Top 10 Censored Stories of 2018 • Part II

Posted In: News, Investigative Reporting,   From Issue 876   By: Robert E Martin

14th March, 2019     0

Compiled by Project Censored • Edited by Robert E. Martin

For 41 years Project Censored has been committed to bringing the most vital stories to public awareness with the belief that genuine democracy depends upon freedom of the press, which in recent years has fallen under its own particular brand of dangerous and threatening corporate influence.

Founded by Carl Jensen in 1976, Project Censored is a media research program working in cooperation with various independent media groups throughout the USA, and has trained over 1,500 students in investigative research.

Project Censored conducts research to determine significant news stories that are either underreported, ignored, misrepresented, or censored by corporate media. Each year they release 25 stories out of over 1000 that are researched.

This is the second part of a two-part series.

5).  Washington Post Bans Employees from Using Social Media to Criticize Sponsors

It’s hard to believe how low the Post has sunk since it’s storied days when Woodward and Bernstein broke the Watergate Scandal. In June 2017, Andrew Beaujon reported in the Washingtonian on a new policy at the Washington Post that prohibits the Post’s employees from conduct on social media that “adversely affects The Post’s customers, advertisers, subscribers, vendors, suppliers or partners.”  In such cases, according to the policy, Post management reserved the right to take disciplinary action “up to and including termination of employment.” According to the report, the Post’s policy went into effect on May 1 and applies to the entire company.

In addition to restricting criticism, the Post’s new policy encourages employees to snitch on one another: “If you have any reason to believe that an employee may be in violation of The Post’s Social Media Policy . . . you should contact the Post’s Human Resources Department.” The Post declined to comment on the policy to the Washingtonian.

At the time of the news report, the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, which represents newsroom and commercial employees at the Post, was protesting the company-wide action and was seeking to have the controversial parts of the policy removed in a new labor agreement.

As Whitney Webb noted in a report for MintPress News, “This new policy offers a simple loophole to corporations that wish to avoid criticism from the Post, as becoming a sponsor of the paper would quickly put an end to any unfavorable coverage.”

Webb’s report also addressed how the policy might affect the Post’s coverage of stories involving the CIA. Four months after Jeff Bezos purchased the Post, Amazon Web Services signed a $600 million contract with the CIA for web hosting services that now serve “the entire U.S. intelligence community.” (Bezos is the CEO of Amazon.)

According to Webb, “long before” the Post’s new policy restricting employees’ use of social media went into effect, “some had speculated that the connections between the CIA and the Post were already affecting its reporting. For example, last year, the Post openly called for the prosecution of [Edward] Snowden, despite having previously used the whistleblower’s leaks for their Pulitzer Prize–winning report on illegal NSA spying.”

Former Post reporters suggested that, although criticizing the CIA would not technically be prohibited under the company’s new policy, doing so might jeopardize one’s career. In 2013, John Hanrahan, a former Post reporter, told AlterNet, “Post reporters and editors are aware that Bezos, as majority owner of Amazon, has a financial stake in maintaining good relations with the CIA—and this sends a clear message to even the hardest-nosed journalist that making the CIA look bad might not be a good career move.”

Corporate news coverage of the Washington Post’s social media policy has been extremely limited. In July 2017, Fox Business News caught up with the story in a brief 74-second “Business Alert” during its Mornings with Maria program. The segment cited the Washingtonian as the source of its information, while adding that Jeff Bezos “was not part of the executive team that determined the policy,” according to a spokesperson for the Post. “

Andrew Beaujon, “The Washington Post’s New Social Media Policy Forbids Disparaging Advertisers,” Washingtonian, June 27, 2017, https://www.washingtonian.com/2017/06/27/the-washington-post-social-media-policy/.

Josh Delk, “Washington Post Prohibits Social Media Criticism of Advertisers,” The Hill, June 28, 2017, http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/339930-washington-post-prohibits-social-media-criticism-of-advertisers.

Whitney Webb, “Bezos Bans WaPo Staff from Criticizing Corporate Advertisers on Social Media,” MintPress News, July 17, 2017, https://www.mintpressnews.com/washington-post-staff-banned-criticizing-advertisers/229821/.

4)  How Big Wireless Convinced Us Cell Phones and Wi-Fi are Safe

A Kaiser Permanente study (published December 2017 in Scientific Reports) conducted controlled research testing on hundreds of pregnant women in the San Francisco Bay area and found that those who had been exposed to magnetic field (MF) non-ionizing radiation associated with cell phones and wireless devices had 2.72 times more risk of miscarriage than those with lower MF exposure.

Furthermore, the study reported that the association was “much stronger” when MF was measured “on a typical day of participants’ pregnancies.” According to lead investigator De-Kun Li, the possible effects of MF exposure have been controversial because, “from a public health point of view, everybody is exposed. If there is any health effect, the potential impact is huge.” [For previous Project Censored coverage of this topic, see Julian Klein and Casey Lewis, with Kenn Burrows and Peter Phillips, “Accumulating Evidence of Ongoing Wireless Technology Health Hazards,” in Censored 2015: Inspiring We the People.]

A March 2018 investigation for the Nation by Mark Hertsgaard and Mark Dowie showed how the scope of this public health issue has been inadequately reported by the press and underappreciated by the public. Hertsgaard and Dowie reported that the telecom industry has employed public relations tactics, first pioneered by Big Tobacco in the 1960s and developed by fossil-fuel companies in the 1980s, to influence both the public’s understanding of wireless technologies and regulatory debates.

The wireless industry has “war-gamed” science by playing offense as well as defense, actively sponsoring studies that result in published findings supportive of the industry while aiming to discredit competing research that raises questions about the safety of cellular devices and other wireless technologies. [On “war-gaming,” see, for example, a 1994 Motorola memo, now published online.] When studies have linked wireless radiation to cancer or genetic damage, industry spokespeople have pointed out that the findings are disputed by other researchers.

This strategy has proven effective, Hertsgaard and Dowie reported, because “the apparent lack of certainty helps to reassure customers, even as it fends off government regulations and lawsuits that might pinch profits.”

As Hertsgaard and Dowie concluded; Lack of definitive proof that a technology is harmful does not mean the technology is safe, yet the wireless industry has succeeded in selling this logical fallacy to the world. The upshot is that, over the past 30 years, billions of people around the world have been subjected to a massive public-health experiment: Use a cell phone today, find out later if it causes cancer or genetic damage. Meanwhile, the wireless industry has obstructed a full and fair understanding of the current science, aided by government agencies that have prioritized commercial interests over human health and news organizations that have failed to inform the public about what the scientific community really thinks.

Mark Hertsgaard and Mark Dowie, “How Big Wireless Made Us Think That Cell Phones are Safe: A Special Investigation,” The Nation, March 29, 2018, https://www.thenation.com/article/how-big-wireless-made-us-think-that-cell-phones-are-safe-a-special-investigation/.

“Phonegate: French Government Data Indicates Cell Phones Expose Consumers to Radiation Levels Higher Than Manufacturers Claim,” Environmental Health Trust, June 2, 2017, updated June 2018, https://ehtrust.org/cell-phone-radiation-scandal-french-government-data-indicates-cell-phones-exposeconsumers-radiation-levels-higher-manufacturers-claim.

3) World’s Richest One Percent Continue to Become Wealthier

In November 2017, the Guardian reported on Credit Suisse’s global wealth report, which found that the richest 1 percent of the world now owns more than half of the world’s wealth. As the Guardian noted, “The world’s richest people have seen their share of the globe’s total wealth increase from 42.5% at the height of the 2008 financial crisis to 50.1% in 2017.” This concentrated wealth amounts to $140 trillion, according to the Credit Suisse report. The number of millionaires in the world—approximately 36 million people—is now nearly three times greater than in 2000.

This staggering concentration of wealth comes at an extreme cost, as the Guardian noted: “At the other end of the spectrum, the world’s 3.5 billion poorest adults each have assets of less than $10,000 (£7,600). Collectively these people, who account for 70% of the world’s working age population, account for just 2.7% of global wealth.”

The report contained bad news for millennials, as well. As Credit Suisse’s chairman, Urs Rohner, noted, “Those with low wealth tend to be disproportionately found among the younger age groups, who have had little chance to accumulate assets . . . we find that millennials face particularly challenging circumstances.”

Tremendous concentration of wealth and the extreme poverty that results from it are problems that affect everyone in the world, but wealth inequalities do not receive nearly as much attention as they should in the establishment press. The few corporate news reports that have addressed this issue—including an August 2017 Bloomberg article and a July 2016 report for CBS’s MoneyWatch—focused exclusively on wealth inequality within the United States. As Project Censored has previously reported, corporate news consistently covers the world’s billionaires while ignoring millions of humans who live in poverty.

Rupert Neate, “Richest 1% Own Half the World’s Wealth, Study Finds,” The Guardian, November 14, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/nov/14/worlds-richest-wealth-credit-suisse.

2)  “Open-Source” Intelligence Secrets Sold to Highest Bidders

In March 2017, WikiLeaks released Vault 7, which consisted of some 8,761 leaked confidential Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents and files from 2013 to 2016, detailing the agency’s vast arsenal of tools for electronic surveillance and cyber warfare. [According to WikiLeaks, the first series of released CIA documents, titled “Year Zero,” introduced “the scope and direction of the CIA’s global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and dozens of ‘zero day’ weaponized exploits against a wide range of U.S. and European company products, include Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs.

Vault 7, which WikiLeaks described as the “largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency,” drew considerable media attention, including stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post, for example. However, as George Eliason of OpEdNews reported, while Vault 7 documented the tools at the CIA’s disposal, the “most important part” of the disclosure—“the part that needs to frighten you,” he wrote—is that “it’s not the CIA that’s using them.”

Instead, the malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized “zero-day” exploits, and remote-controlled systems detailed in Vault 7 are “unclassified, open-source, and can be used by anyone.” Eliason’s OpEdNews series reported how the CIA and other agencies came to rely on private contractors and “open source intelligence,” and considered the manifold consequences of these revolutionary changes in intelligence gathering.

As Eliason explained in his first OpEdNews article, the CIA is limited by law in what it can do with these hacking tools—but subcontractors are not similarly restricted. (“If these tools were solely in the hands of a US agency,” he wrote, “you would be much safer.”) By using private contractors, the CIA and other government intelligence agencies gain access to intelligence gathered by methods that they are prohibited from using.

As Tim Shorrock reported in a 2015 article in the Nation, “Over the last 15 years, thousands of former high-ranking intelligence officials and operatives have left their government posts and taken up senior positions at military contractors, consultancies, law firms, and private-equity firms. In their new jobs, they replicate what they did in government—often for the same agencies they left.” In a 2016 report, Shorrock estimated that 58,000 private contractors worked in national and military intelligence, and 80 percent of those contractors worked for the five largest corporations in the intelligence-contracting industry. In that report, Shorrock concluded that “not only has intelligence been privatized to an unimaginable degree, but an unprecedented consolidation of corporate power inside US intelligence has left the country dangerously dependent on a handful of companies for its spying and surveillance needs.”

This loophole created what Eliason described as a “private pipeline of information” that intelligence contractors could use to their advantage. Members of Congress, governors, news outlets, and others often wanted the same “intel” that the CIA had, and, Eliason wrote, open-source intelligence contractors “got paid to deliver Intel for groups looking for specific insights” into creating or influencing government policy.

As a result of these changes, according to Eliason’s second article, “People with no security clearances and radical political agendas have state sized cyber tools at their disposal,” which they can use “for their own political agendas, private business, and personal vendettas.”

George Eliason, “The Private Contractors Using Vault 7 Tools for US Gov: Testimony Shows US Intel Needs a Ground-Up Rebuild Part 1,” OpEdNews, March 31, 2017, https://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Private-Contractors-Us-by-George-Eliason-Hackers_Intelligence_Intelligence-Agencies_Websites-170331-791.html.

George Eliason, “How Intel for Hire is Making US Intelligence a Threat to the World Part 2,” OpEdNews, February 14, 2018, https://www.opednews.com/articles/1/How-Intel-for-Hire-is-Maki-by-George-Eliason-Agencies_Espionage_Intelligence_Intelligence-Agencies-180214-219.html.

1) Global Decline in Rule of Law as Basic Human Rights Diminish

A 2018 survey conducted in response to global concerns about rising authoritarianism and nationalism shows a major decrease in nations adhering to basic human rights. As the Guardian reported, the World Justice Project (WJP)’s “Rule of Law Index 2017–2018” examined legal systems around the world by documenting the experiences of 110,000 households and 3,000 experts and comparing the data with results from previous years. The WJP’s Index tabulated these results to calculate scores in eight different categories, including constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, regulatory enforcement, and civil justice, providing an overview of changes in the rule of law since the previous Index was published in October 2016.

In summarizing the WJP’s findings, the Guardian’s report quoted Samuel Moyn, a professor of law and history at Yale University: “All signs point to a crisis not just for human rights, but for the human rights movement. Within many nations, these fundamental rights are falling prey to the backlash against a globalising economy in which the rich are winning.”

Since 2016, when the previous WJP Rule of Law Index was published, overall rule of law scores declined in 38 countries, with the greatest declines occurring in the category of fundamental rights, which measures absence of discrimination, right to life and security, due process, freedom of expression and religion, right to privacy, freedom of association, and labor rights. From 2016 to 2018, 71 countries out of 113 dropped in this category.

Constraints on government powers, which measures the extent to which those who govern are bound by law, saw the second greatest declines (64 countries out of 113 dropped).

The Philippines saw the greatest decline in overall rule of law, falling 18 positions to 88th out of 113 countries overall, based on significant drops in constraints on government powers, fundamental rights, order and security, and criminal justice. As the Guardian reported, “President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration has put a ‘palpable strain upon established countervailing institutions of society,’ according to Jose Luis Martin Gascon, chairman of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights.” Gascon described a “chilling effect” on the country’s opposition after attacks on public figures who had criticized Duterte’s policies.

Three countries—Burkina Faso, Kazakhstan, and Sri Lanka—improved in the overall rule of law rankings from 2016 by nine positions, according to the WJP’s report. The Guardian noted that the United States ranked just 19th out of the 35 countries classified as “high-income” in the report. In the fundamental rights category, the United States fell five places to 26th overall as a result of “worsening levels of discrimination and due process of law plus decreased guarantees of the right to life.”

Will Bordell and Jon Robins, “‘A Crisis for Human Rights’: New Index Reveals Global Fall in Basic Justice,” The Guardian, January 31, 2018, www.theguardian.com/inequality/2018/jan/31/human-rights-new-rule-of-law-index-reveals-global-fall-basic-justice.

 

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