Government & Communications

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

The latest NSA leak is a reminder that your bosses can see your every move

It took just days for authorities to arrest and charge a federal contractor with leaking classified intelligence to the media. Court documents explain in detail how the 25-year-old woman suspected in the leak, Reality Leigh Winner, allegedly printed off a copy of a National Security Agency report on Russian tampering in the US elections and mailed it to a news outlet. What helped federal authorities link Winner to the leak were unrelated personal e-mails she had sent to the Intercept news site weeks before, which surfaced when investigators searched her computer. But how were officials able to gain access to her personal accounts? The answer, according to some former National Security Agency analysts, is that the agency routinely monitors many of its employees' computer activity. The case offers a reminder that virtually every American worker in today's economy can be tracked and reported — and you don't even have to be the NSA to pull it off.

Republican political operatives want to sell the dark arts of opposition research to tech companies

A team of veteran Republican operatives is taking its talent for under-the-radar political muckraking to an unlikely place: The liberal-leaning, Democratic-donating, Donald Trump-hating tech epicenter of Silicon Valley. The newest startup setting up shop in the Bay Area is Definers Public Affairs, a Washington (DC)-based outfit that seeks to apply the dark science of political opposition research to the business world. Their mission: To arm companies with ammunition to attack their corporate rivals, sway their government overseers and shape the public’s opinion on controversial issues.

To the GOP-led political venture, Silicon Valley is a natural target for their so-called “oppo” efforts. The tech industry is characteristically hyper-competitive, with boardroom squabbles, takeover attempts, and legal wars over employees and patents and regulations. Definers hopes to supply some of its future tech clients with the gossip, dirt and intel to win those fights. But the firm’s new Oakland-based operative — Tim Miller, who previously served as communications director to GOP presidential contender Jeb Bush — plans to do it with a decidedly Republican bent. The region’s tech heavyweights have long struggled to form relationships with GOP candidates and causes, so Miller and crew are pitching a way for those companies to leverage the power — or outrage — of the country’s most influential, vocal conservative groups to defeat their political or corporate enemies.

New Facebook tools aim to help connect lawmakers, constituents

Facebook released a new set of tools to help facilitate civic engagement and discourse between voters and their representatives. The new tools give both constituents and lawmakers more targeted means of interacting with another, and are a part of Facebook’s larger push to introduce civically focused features to the platform. Facebook’s three new targeted tools now give users the options to show lawmakers that they are a constituent from their district, show lawmakers what topics are trending among their own constituents and allow lawmakers to share posts targeted specifically to their voters. The “Constituent Badge,” feature will allow users to opt in to displaying a badge that they are a part of a lawmaker’s district, so that they lawmakers can know that they’re engaging with those they represent.

Request for Comments on the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ Implementation of a Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch

Executive Order 13781,
‘‘Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch,’’ signed into effect on March 13, 2017, directs the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to present the President with a plan that recommends ways to reorganize the executive branch and eliminate unnecessary agencies. As part of this process, the Broadcasting Board of Governors will be submitting a proposal for reorganization to OMB. This request for comments seeks public input on potential reforms at the BBG that would increase the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the agency. These comments will also be considered in the development of the BBG’s 2018–2022 Strategic Plan. The BBG requests that respondents generally address the following overarching questions:
What are the most important or effective projects or programs that the BBG undertakes?
Do you think that there are any changes that BBG could make to increase the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of its media networks or the agency itself? If so, please describe those changes.
Would you propose reorganizing any parts or aspects of the BBG or its media networks to increase efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability? If so, how?
In today’s changing media landscape, how should the BBG adapt to best serve its mission to inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy?
Submit either electronic comments or information by June 30, 2017.

Top intelligence official told associates President Trump asked him if he could intervene with Comey on FBI Russia probe

The nation’s top intelligence official told associates in March that President Donald Trump asked him if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe, according to officials. On March 22, less than a week after being confirmed by the Senate, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats attended a briefing at the White House together with officials from several government agencies. As the briefing was wrapping up, President Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. The president then started complaining about the FBI investigation and Comey’s handling of it, said officials familiar with the account Coats gave to associates.

Two days earlier, Comey had confirmed in a congressional hearing that the bureau was probing whether President Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 race. After the encounter, Coats discussed the conversation with other officials and decided that intervening with Comey as President Trump had suggested would be inappropriate, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters. The events involving Coats show the president went further than just asking intelligence officials to deny publicly the existence of any evidence showing collusion during the 2016 election. The interaction with Coats indicates that President Trump aimed to enlist top officials to have Comey curtail the bureau’s probe.

In Political Media First, President Trump Releases Comey Attack Ad

In what appears to be a political media first, a Super Pac controlled by President Donald Trump has released an ad attacking the character of a witness in advance of a highly anticipated Senate hearing. The ad, entitled “Showboat,” was released June 6 by President Trump’s Great America Alliance and attacks the character of former FBI Director James Comey, who is scheduled to speak publicly June 8 during a Senate hearing. The spot, which will air on national TV outlets during the hearing, reportedly has a $400,000 media budget. Citing alt right news reports such as Breitbart News, American Spectator and AlternNet, the campaign attacks Comey as putting “politics over protecting America” and concludes with the tagline: “Just another DC insider in it for himself.”

Edward Snowden on Trump administration's recent arrest of an alleged journalistic source

Reality Winner is accused of serving as a journalistic source for a leading American news outlet about a matter of critical public importance. For this act, she has been charged with violating the Espionage Act—a World War I era law meant for spies—which explicitly forbids the jury from hearing why the defendant acted, and bars them from deciding whether the outcome was to the public's benefit. This often-condemned law provides no space to distinguish the extraordinary disclosure of inappropriately classified information in the public interest—whistleblowing—from the malicious disclosure of secrets to foreign governments by those motivated by a specific intent to harm to their countrymen.

The prosecution of any journalistic source without due consideration by the jury as to the harm or benefit of the journalistic activity is a fundamental threat to the free press. As long as a law like this remains on the books in a country that values fair trials, it must be resisted. No matter one's opinions on the propriety of the charges against her, we should all agree Winner should be released on bail pending trial. Even if you take all the government allegations as true, it's clear she is neither a threat to public safety nor a flight risk. To hold a citizen incommunicado and indefinitely while awaiting trial for the alleged crime of serving as a journalistic source should outrage us all.

Trump Administration Follows Obama Template In Targeting Journalists’ Sources

The announcement of charges June 5 against a federal contractor for allegedly leaking a top secret National Security Agency document to a news website is giving journalists flashbacks to leaker prosecutions under President Barack Obama. The charges, tweeted New York Times reporter Scott Shane, followed “the precedent of Obama, whose administration set the record for leak prosecutions.” Adam Goldman, a Times colleague who had his phone records secretly seized during a 2012 leak investigation, asked whether President Donald Trump would top the number of leak prosecutions set during the previous administration.

Knight Institute Demands That President Trump Unblock Critics on Twitter

In a letter sent to President Donald Trump, the Knight First Amendment Institute asked the President to unblock the Twitter accounts of individuals denied access to his account after they criticized or disagreed with him, or face legal action to protect the First Amendment rights of the blocked individuals. The President’s Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, is a “designated public forum” subject to the First Amendment, according to the Knight Institute. The First Amendment bars the government from excluding individuals from a designated public forum because of their views. The Knight Institute asked the President to unblock its clients, or to direct his subordinates to do so.

Michael Moore: Why I’m Launching TrumpiLeaks

[Commentary] Today, I’m launching TrumpiLeaks, a site that will enable courageous whistleblowers to privately communicate with me and my team. Patriotic Americans in government, law enforcement or the private sector with knowledge of crimes, breaches of public trust and misconduct committed by Donald J. Trump and his associates are needed to blow the whistle in the name of protecting the United States of America from tyranny. I know this is risky. I knew we may get in trouble. But too much is at stake to play it safe. And along with the Founding Fathers, I’ve got your back.

[Michael Moore is an Oscar and Emmy award-winning director]