Government & Communications

Attempts by governmental bodies to improve or impede communications with or between the citizenry.

Sen Klobuchar Warns Against Politicizing AT&T-Time Warner

Sen Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has warned attorney general Jeff Sessions that any political interference in the Justice Department's review of the AT&T-Time Warner merger would be "unacceptable." Sen Klobuchar was responding to a report in the New York Times that White House advisors have discussed leveraging the deal against Time Warner-owned CNN, which President Donald Trump has hammered as fake news—most recently in a tweet featuring him pummeling a figure with a CNN logo for a head.

President Trump said as a candidate his White House would oppose the deal. In a letter to AG Sessions, sen Klobuchar said that while she has "serious questions" about the deal's impact, "the transaction should be judged solely on its impact on competition, innovation, and consumers, not as 'leverage' for political gain." She added: “Any political interference in antitrust enforcement is unacceptable. Even more concerning, in this instance, is that it appears that some advisers to the President may believe that it is appropriate for the government to use its law enforcement authority to alter or censor the press. Such an action would violate the First Amendment.”

The ethics issue: Should we abandon privacy online?

In an age where fear of terrorism is high in the public consciousness, governments are likely to err on the side of safety. Over the past decade, the authorities have been pushing for – and getting – greater powers of surveillance than they have ever had, all in the name of national security. The downsides are not immediately obvious. After all, you might think you have nothing to hide. But most of us have perfectly legal secrets we’d rather someone else didn’t see. And although the chances of the authorities turning up to take you away in a black SUV on the basis of your WhatsApp messages are small in free societies, the chances of insurance companies raising your premiums are not.

President Trump’s leaks crackdown sends chills through national security world

National security officials across the federal government say they are seeing new restrictions on who can access sensitive information, fueling fears in the intelligence and security community that the Trump administration has stepped up a stealthy operation to smoke out leakers. Officials at various national security agencies also say they are becoming more concerned that the administration is carefully tracking what they’re doing and who they’re talking to — then plotting to use them as a scapegoat or accuse them of leaks.

One US official voiced concern over even talking to their superiors about a benign call from a reporter. The agency this official works for had started limiting staff’s access to information, they said, and it would make it far easier to figure out who was talking to people in the media. There was suspicion, the official said, that the agency was even tracking what they printed, to keep tabs on what information they were accessing. A half dozen officials across the national security community described to Politico a series of subtle and no-so-subtle changes that have led to an increasingly tense and paranoid working environment rooted in the White House’s obsession with leaks. President Donald Trump has regularly vented about his intense frustration with anonymously sourced stories, and has specifically targeted federal government entities, including intelligence agencies like the CIA and FBI and the State Department.

President Trump shrugs off 'haters' and media in early morning tweets

President Donald Trump waved off critics and the "Fake News Media" on July 7 as he prepared to meet with world leaders at the annual Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. "I will represent our country well and fight for its interests! Fake News Media will never cover me accurately but who cares! #MAGA," he wrote in an early morning tweet, using an abbreviation for his campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again." "My experience yesterday in Poland was a great one. Thank you to everyone, including the haters, for the great reviews of the speech!" the President tweeted.

Other presidents boosted free press abroad; President Trump bashes it

President Donald Trump bashed the American press corps on July 6, singling out CNN and others as "fake news." That wasn't new, of course. What was different was where it occurred. This latest example of Trump's anti-media rhetoric -- perhaps the defining element of his presidency thus far -- came during a visit to Warsaw, Poland, his second overseas trip since taking office. In the past, presidents have often used foreign visits to preach the value of a free press. President Trump went a different way.

Judge denies DOJ effort to halt Twitter lawsuit over national security orders

A federal judge in California has decided to allow Twitter’s lawsuit against the attorney general’s office to go forward. She rejected arguments that the social media giant should not be allowed to be precise in its transparency reports when describing how it responds to the government’s requests for user data.

Twitter has argued that, just as it has been precise in other areas of its transparency report, so too should it be allowed to say precisely how many national security orders it has received from American authorities. For now, under federal law, it is only allowed to describe those numbers in vague ranges, such as “0 to 499,” and “500 to 999,” and so forth. Lawyers for Twitter say that this law constitutes a violation of the company’s First Amendment rights and is “prior restraint,” a concept of blocking legitimate speech before it is uttered. Attorneys from the Department of Justice claimed in a hearing in federal court in Oakland, California, earlier this year that if Twitter is allowed to specifically say how many national security orders it has received, potential adversaries could somehow use that number to inflict harm. But the judge didn’t buy it.

State Department concocting “fake” intellectual property “Twitter feud”

The US State Department wants to team up with other government agencies and Hollywood in a bid to create a "fake Twitter feud" about the importance of intellectual property rights. As part of this charade, the State Department's Bureau of Economic Affairs says it has been seeking the participation of the US Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, the US Patent and Trademark Office, and "others."

To make the propaganda plot seem more legitimate, the State Department is trying to enlist Stanford Law School and "similar academic institutions" to play along on the @StateDept feed on Twitter. "We're not going to participate," said Mark Lemley, the director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science, and Technology at Stanford Law School. He recently received an e-mail and a telephone call from the State Department seeking his assistance. "Apparently there is not enough fake news for the US government," Lemley told his Facebook followers. On the Facebook post, he redacted the name of the official who sent him the letter out of privacy interests. The RIAA declined comment, as did the trademark office. The MPAA said it is not participating.

Does Lifeline Need a Life Boat?

The Federal Communications Commission’s Universal Service Fund initiatives are important, complex programs that are as necessary as they are challenging to manage. The Government Accountability Office Lifeline report provides additional evidence that flaws in these programs can be used by unscrupulous actors seeking to line their own pockets at the expense of taxpayers and populations truly in need; and that while the FCC’s Lifeline program is essential to those that need it, there is significant room for both improved efficiency and performance.

CNN: The Network Against the Leader of the Free World

CNN and its president, Jeff Zucker, are in the middle of their most intense bout yet: an unlikely public fight with the leader of the free world. It is rare that a single news organization attracts the level of ire mustered by President Donald Trump, who over the weekend posted on Twitter a video that portrayed him wrestling a figure with the logo of CNN for a head. But the president’s denunciations — in stinging tweets and slashing speeches, in phrases like “fraud news” and “garbage journalism” — have far outstripped his criticisms of other prominent news outlets, like The New York Times or The Washington Post. And his attacks have spawned a cottage industry of Trump supporters who have declared a digital war of sorts against CNN, including gotcha videos of network employees and threatening messages sent to anchors’ cellphones.

White House advisers have discussed a potential point of leverage over their adversary, a senior administration official said: a pending merger between CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, and AT&T. President Trump’s Justice Department will decide whether to approve the merger, and while analysts say there is little to stop the deal from moving forward, the president’s animus toward CNN remains a wild card.

President Trump war with the media goes global

President Donald Trump took his fight with the news media to the world stage on July 6, hammering CNN and his political enemies in the press as “fake news” at a press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw. President Trump gave the first question of the press conference to Daily Mail editor David Martosko, a Trump ally who has been considered for various administration posts. That led CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta to allege a set-up. Martosko asked President Trump about the controversy that exploded around CNN July 5, when the network published a story claiming to know the identity of the man who created a video the President tweeted, which showed him tackling a wrestler with the CNN logo emblazoned over his face. President Trump didn’t miss a beat, saying that the network “has some pretty serious problems.” “They have been fake news for a long time,” President Trump said. “They’ve been covering me in a very dishonest way.”

At the press conference, President Trump also slammed NBC, noting that he once pulled big ratings for the network, which aired his program “The Apprentice." Then-NBC president Jeff Zucker now heads CNN. “NBC is equally as bad, despite the fact that I made them a fortune, they forgot about that,” President Trump said. “But I will say that CNN has really taken it too seriously and I think has hurt themselves very badly. Very, very badly. What we want to see in the United States is honest, beautiful, free, but honest press. We want fair press. We don’t want fake news, and by the way, not everybody is fake news. Bad thing. Very bad for our country.”