In Naming Its Man of the Year, Time Proves It Doesn’t Even READ the News

I’m probably fairly lonely among my crowd to be satisfied that Time picked Pope Francis over Edward Snowden to be Person of the Year. Not only do I prefer that the focus remain on the reporting on NSA than revert back to caricatures like Time creates of Snowden as a “Dark Prophet” reading Dostoevsky. The Pope’s criticism of — above all — inequality may have as much or more impact on people around the globe as Snowden’s criticism of the surveillance state.

Would that both the Catholic Church and the United States live up to the idealist claims they purport to espouse.

But reading the profile Time did of Snowden, I can’t help but suspect they picked the Pope out of either fear or ignorance about what Snowden actually revealed. Consider this paragraph, which introduces a section on the lies NSA has told.

The NSA, for its part, has always prided itself on being different from the intelligence services of authoritarian regimes, and it has long collected far less information on Americans than it could. The programs Snowden revealed in U.S. ­surveillance agencies, at least since the 1970s, are subject to a strict, regularly audited system of checks and balances and a complex set of rules that restrict the circumstances under which the data gathered on Americans can be reviewed. As a general rule, a court order is still expected to review the content of American phone calls and e-mail ­messages. Unclassified talking points sent home with NSA employees for Thanksgiving put it this way: “The NSA performs its mission the right way—­lawful, compliant and in a way that protects civil liberties and privacy.” Indeed, none of the Snowden disclosures published to date have revealed any ongoing programs that clearly violate current law, at least in a way that any court has so far identified. Parts of all three branches of government had been briefed and had given their approval.

It’s full of bullshit. There’s the claim that NSA collects far less on Americans than it could. Does that account for the fact that, in the Internet dragnet and upstream collection programs, it collected far more than it was authorized to? Those same programs prove that surveillance can go on for (in the case of the Internet dragnet) 5 years before anyone realizes it has been violating the law — not exactly the definition of a regularly audited system. And, with its claim that “all three branches of government have been briefed,” Time must have missed Dianne Feinstein’s admission that the stunning sweep of the programs conducted under EO 12333 (which also collect US person data) don’t get close scrutiny from her committee (and none from the FISA Court).

But this claim most pisses me off:

As a general rule, a court order is still expected to review the content of American phone calls and e-mail ­messages.

Journalistic outlet Time must have missed where NSA’s General Counsel Raj De, in a public hearing, testified that NSA doesn’t even need Reasonable Articulable Suspicion — much less a court order — to read the content of Americans’ data collected incidentally under the FISA Amendment Act’s broad sweep, to say nothing of the even greater collection of data swept up under 12333. To support this demonstrably false claim, Time then points to the similarly false talking points the NSA sent home at Thanksgiving. It points to the NSA’s talking points just two paragraphs before Time lays out how often NSA has lied, both describing the government as actively misleading…

At the time Snowden went public, the American people had not just been kept in the dark; they had actively been misled about the actions of their government.

And then describing the specific lies of Keith Alexander and James Clapper.

The NSA lies, and lies often. But Time points to the NSA’s own lies to support its bad reporting.

At the same time, Time dances around the many things the US does that make us less secure. For example, it gives credence to the nonsense claim that Snowden singlehandedly prevented us from pressuring China into stopping hacking of us.

While in Hong Kong, Snowden gave an interview and documents to the South China Morning Post describing NSA spying on Chinese universities, a disclosure that frustrated American attempts to embarrass China into reducing its industrial-espionage efforts against U.S. firms.

This repeats the anachronistic claims and silence about US cyberwar that Kurt Eichenwald made in Newsweek.

And Time says Bullrun — a program that involves inserting vulnerabilities into code — “decodes encrypted messages to defeat network security,” which also minimizes the dangerous implications of NSA’s hacking.

If Time had actually read the news, rather than wax romantic about Russian literature, it might report that NSA in fact does collect vast amounts of and can the read incidentally collected content of most Americans. It might describe the several times NSA has been found to be violating the law, for years at a time. It might explain that many of these programs, because they operate solely under the President’s authority, might never get court review without Snowden’s leaks. And Time might bother to tell readers that, in some ways at least, the NSA makes us less safe because it prioritizes offensive cyberattacks (and not just on China) over keeping American networks safe.

As I said, I could have been happy about either a Pope Francis or an Edward Snowden selection. But as it is, Time might better call their scheme “Caricature of the Year,” because at least in their Snowden profile, they’re not actually presenting the news.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

15 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    The Holy See
    back up Search
    riga

    MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS
    POPE PAUL VI
    FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE
    DAY OF PEACE

    1 JANUARY 1972

    IF YOU WANT PEACE, WORK FOR JUSTICE

    Men of thought!
    Men of action!
    All mankind living in 1972!
    Accept once more
    our invitation to celebrate
    the Day of Peace!

    We take up again our reflection on Peace, for of Peace we have the loftiest conception: that of an essential and fundamental good of mankind in this world, that is, of civilization, progress, order and brotherhood.

    We believe that the idea of Peace still is, and still must be, dominant in human affairs, and that it becomes all the more urgent whenever and wherever it is contradicted by opposite ideas or deeds. It is a necessary idea, an imperative idea, an inspiring idea. It polarizes human aspirations, endeavours and hopes. Its nature is that of an aim, and as such it is at the base and at the goal of our activities, be they individual or collective…

    But is not Justice also an immobile goddess? Yes, it is so in the expressions of it which we call rights and duties, and which we arrange in our illustrious codes, that is, in laws and pacts which produce that stability of social, cultural and economic relationships which cannot be infringed. It is order, it is Peace. But if Justice, that is, what it is and what it should be, were to produce finer expressions beyond those now existing, what would happen?

    Before answering, let us ask whether this hypothesis of a growth of consciousness of Justice is admissible, is probable and is desirable?

    Yes. This is the fact which characterizes the modern world and distinguishes it from the ancient. Today consciousness of Justice is increasing. No one, we believe, denies this phenomenon. We shall not pause here to analyze it: but we all know that today, because of the spread of culture, man, every man, has a new awareness of himself . Every man today knows he is a person; and he feels he is a person: that is, an inviolable being, equal to others, free and responsible – let us use the term: a sacred being. Since a different and better perception – that is, one which is fuller and more demanding – of the inward and outward flow of his personality, in other words, of his twofold moral movement of rights and duties, fills the consciousness of man, it is a dynamic Justice, and no longer a static Justice that is born of this heart. This is not simply an individual phenomenon, nor one reserved for select and restricted groups; it is now a collective and universal phenomenon. The developing countries shout it out with a loud voice. It is the voice of peoples, the voice of mankind. It demands a new expression of Justice, a new foundation for Peace.

    Convinced as we all are of this irrepressible cry, why do we waste time in giving peace any other foundation than Justice?…

    And where other unquestionable forms of Justice have been injured or crushed – be they national, social, cultural or economic – could we be sure that the Peace resulting from such a tyrannical process is true Peace? That it is a stable Peace? Or, even if it be stable, that it is a just and human Peace?

    Is not an integral part of justice the duty of enabling every country to promote its own development in the framework of cooperation free from any intention or calculated aim of domination, whether economic or political?

    The problem is extremely serious and complex; it is not for us to make it worse, or to resolve it on the practical level. That is not within the competence of the one who is speaking here.

    But it is precisely from this place that the invitation we give to celebrate Peace resounds as an invitation to practise Justice: “Justice will bring about Peace” (Cf: Is 32:17). We repeat this today in a more incisive and dynamic formula: “If you want Peace, work for Justice”.

    It is an invitation which does not ignore the difficulties in practising Justice, in defining it, first of all, and then in actuating it, for it always demands some sacrifice of prestige and self-interest: Perhaps more greatness of soul is needed for yielding to the ways of Justice and Peace than for fighting for and imposing on an adversary one’s rights, whether true or alleged. We have such trust in the power of the associated ideals of Justice and Peace to generate in modern man the moral energy to actuate them, that we are confident of their gradual victory. Indeed we are even more confident that on his own modern man has an understanding of the ways of peace, sufficient to enable him to become a promoter of that Justice which opens those ways and sets people travelling them with courageous and prophetic hope.

    That is why we dare once again to extend an invitation to celebrate the Day of Peace, in 1972 under the austere and serene sign of Justice, that is, with the burning wish to give life to deeds which will be convergent expressions of a sincere desire for Justice and a sincere desire for Peace…

    From the Vatican, 8 December 1971.

    PAULUS PP. VI

    pope francis

    2013-05-16

    Your Excellencies,

    … Ladies and Gentlemen, our human family is presently experiencing something of a turning point in its own history, if we consider the advances made in various areas. We can only praise the positive achievements which contribute to the authentic welfare of mankind, in fields such as those of health, education and communications. At the same time, we must also acknowledge that the majority of the men and women of our time continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences. Certain pathologies are increasing, with their psychological consequences; fear and desperation grip the hearts of many people, even in the so-called rich countries; the joy of life is diminishing; indecency and violence are on the rise; poverty is becoming more and more evident. People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way. One cause of this situation, in my opinion, is in the our relationship with money, and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society. Consequently the financial crisis which we are experiencing makes us forget that its ultimate origin is to be found in a profound human crisis. In the denial of the primacy of human beings! We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old (cf. Ex 32:15-34) has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.

    The worldwide financial and economic crisis seems to highlight their distortions and above all the gravely deficient human perspective, which reduces man to one of his needs alone, namely, consumption. Worse yet, human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away. We have begun a throw away culture. This tendency is seen on the level of individuals and whole societies; and it is being promoted! In circumstances like these, solidarity, which is the treasure of the poor, is often considered counterproductive, opposed to the logic of finance and the economy. While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling. This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good. A new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules. Moreover, indebtedness and credit distance countries from their real economy and citizens from their real buying power. Added to this, as if it were needed, is widespread corruption and selfish fiscal evasion which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The will to power and of possession has become limitless.

    Concealed behind this attitude is a rejection of ethics, a rejection of God. Ethics, like solidarity, is a nuisance! It is regarded as counterproductive: as something too human, because it relativizes money and power; as a threat, because it rejects manipulation and subjection of people: because ethics leads to God, who is situated outside the categories of the market. These financiers, economists and politicians consider God to be unmanageable, unmanageable even dangerous, because he calls man to his full realization and to independence from any kind of slavery. Ethics – naturally, not the ethics of ideology – makes it possible, in my view, to create a balanced social order that is more humane. In this sense, I encourage the financial experts and the political leaders of your countries to consider the words of Saint John Chrysostom: “Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life. It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs” (Homily on Lazarus, 1:6 – PG 48, 992D).

    Dear Ambassadors, there is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone. This would nevertheless require a courageous change of attitude on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and farsightedness, taking account, naturally, of their particular situations. Money has to serve, not to rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but the Pope has the duty, in Christ’s name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them. The Pope appeals for disinterested solidarity and for a return to person-centred ethics in the world of finance and economics…”

  2. C says:

    While I agree that the poor coverage is maddening it has been a while since I cared about Time. While it may be one of the oldest magazines running it is also a poor excuse for journalism. Despite the odd groundbreaking feature on inequality and trade deals, groundbreaking at least for main-stream media, Time is not a place for serious journalism and in recent years has only been notable for publishing pictures of people with crosses over their faces.

  3. Strangely Enough says:

    The NSA, for its part, has always prided itself on being different from the intelligence services of authoritarian regimes, and it has long collected far less information on Americans than it could.

    Talk about damning by faint praise.

    It seems like what “we” are is no longer defined by what “we” do, but, rather by who “we” are not.

    It points to the NSA’s talking points just two paragraphs before Time lays out how often NSA has lied, both describing the government as actively misleading…

    Sounds like Time doesn’t even read Time.

  4. TarheelDem says:

    Isn’t that the perfect set-up for the investigative journalism report from the Snowden documents that details how media companies like Time-Warner, Disney, Comcast, Viacom and Fox have been impressed into the service of the NSA?

    Ah, the old adage still applies. “Time, the magazine for people who can’t think. Life, the magazine for people who can’t read.”

  5. What Constitution? says:

    Hmmm. Reading the excerpt quoted by EW, my reaction was “this smells like Joe Klein’s work.” Clicked through, and apparently it’s not, or at least he isn’t attributed. How does TIME find ’em with such regularity? It’s not so bad that Snowden isn’t the “winner”, but it’s a shame to have TIME do such a shoddy job in the course of explaining its “thought” processes.

  6. C says:

    Slightly o/t Chris Arnade over at the Guardian has a well written piece on why he supports the choice of the Pope. One of the crucial points he makes is to note that the poor and typically minorities assume that they are being spied upon and raided because it happens so frequently and blatantly in their communities.

    I have spent past three years with many people living in the poorest parts of the Bronx neighborhood in New York City. One night, soon after the Snowden story broke, I was in a crack house taking pictures of addicts by candlelight. I asked one of them if I could post her picture online. “Not if it’s Facebook. The government owns that and are spying on you.”

    Her friend replied, “Of course they are, you idiot. They are also throwing me against the wall whenever they want. They are breaking down my house whenever they want. They are throwing all of our kids and men in jail whenever they want. And people are upset they looking at a Facebook page?”

    This made me think of something that he didn’t say. Perhaps Snowden’s real transgression was informing all of the rest of us, the comfortable and well-off, that the state spies don’t respect us any more than they respect the poor. Ultimately Arnade is right, the invasiveness is news to some but has long been a fact of life for others.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/11/time-pope-francis-whistleblower-poor-right-choice

  7. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    The Pope, what a great choice for Man of the Year. Not.

    Instead of picking Snowden, the man who risked his life to save humanity, Time picked the man who has risked nothing and as the head of the world’s most long-lived criminal organization oversees the brain-washing-from-birth that on a daily basis helps to undermine humanity’s true potential.

    One day a massive leak will expose the catholic church’s true nature and we’ll see that the criminals at the head of the NSA are rank amateurs in comparison.

    So for Man of the Year, only Keith Alexander would be have been a threat to the Pope’s chance of winning. Snowden never had a chance, even Jesus wouldn’t have won.

    But history will show that The Pope and KA are nothing more than footnotes to Snowden’s triumph.

  8. D.Li says:

    Out of TRILLIONS of its mostly illegal e-intercepts, the NSA has admitted they have led to–exactly–one SINGLE low-level “terrorist” plot(and it had to do with some material aid to a FOREIGN nation’s rebel activity!) If this is not the proverbial use of a 60-ton M-60 tank to smash a tiny gnat, I don’t know what else would fit the NSA’s delusional insanity of logic or proportionality. The only sane remedy would be to cut off 95% of its funding and subject the remaining agency to a vigorous oversight. Even better, perhaps, would be devoting most of the cut-off funds to develop a truly more democratic and accountable society than currently exists inside the “Full Spectrum Dominance”-obsessed USA empire!

  9. carroll price says:

    Like most of the main stream media, Time magazine serves as an effective Zionist propaganda organ, and has done so since it’s inception. With that being the case, why would anyone think they would honor an individual like Edward Snowden who poses a genuine threat to the Zionist dominated power structure in control of the US government?

  10. Teddy says:

    When I look for objective journalistic coverage of any government, especially any government’s secret surveillance, I always choose the journalistic outlet that provides uncritical repetition of the talking points the secrecy agency sends home to cheer up its employees. Because you *know* that shit’s objective, amirite?

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