On Monday I posted about a CIA program started in the 1950’s called Operation Mockingbird. In the post, I explained that the CIA operation paid reporters, editors, and other media personal to write and cover favorable stories about pro-CIA politicians, to exclude stories that would embarrass or bring scrutiny on the CIA, and influence public opinion about any number of things by including or excluding certain stories in the media. Although the program was “officially” ended in 1976, the emerging news about an American drone base in Saudi Arabia, and the fact that the media kept this quiet for a year, caught my eye.
The reason I linked this suppression of news to the CIA operation, is because one article specifically mentioned that The Washington Post, and The New York Times knew about the drone base, but decided not to publish anything on it, because of “pressure from the Obama administration”, and “national security concerns”. The Washington Post and New York Times were two of the first papers to be included in the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird when it began. Could their ties still exist today, just under more secrecy than Operation Mockingbird originally afforded?
Experts and the public essentially agree that the drone base in Saudi Arabia was not a national security concern–in fact Obama’s own release of information, and the timing of the release, on the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden was more of a national security failure than the American public finding out about the drone base. In reality Obama probably wanted to keep the base under wraps to shelter himself from criticism over his drone program. Dr. Jack Lule, who is a professor of journalism and communication at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, said:
We have two partners’ participation in the secrecy of the drone programme: the government and the news media. If we are looking to open it up to scrutiny, where do we go?
It happened at the top ranks of the media, too. We look to digital media, but they do not have the contacts and the resources to look at this. They should have been leading the pack in calling for less secrecy. For them to give up that post is terrible.
All the more concerning about the complicity of the media and government in keeping facts hidden from the public, is that Obama’s National Security Adviser, John Brennan, has been tapped to become the next head of the CIA. Some disconcerting things that Brennan has said in the past, include that he is “in favor of some degree of government censorship”. So now we can put some puzzle pieces together. The New York Time and Washington Post, who at one time had a number of reporters and editors on the CIA payroll under Operation Mockingbird to influence public opinion, did not publish anything about the Saudi Arabia drone base, because of supposed national security concerns. Obama’s National Security Adviser, John Brennan, will likely become the head of the CIA; the CIA, of course, having initiated Operation Mockingbird for the purposes of spreading propaganda across America, and throughout the world. John Brennan has stated in the past that he agrees with some amount of government censorship.
According to Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, commenting on the secrecy of the drone base:
To public perception, it begins to appear that those decisions were made not for national security reasons but to provide cover for the administration. That is the tightrope that news organisations walk in these situations.
The whole brouhaha has become so complex over what the implications are for John Brennan, and whether the Post has done this for political reasons.
We have people in the White House and other government agencies that are opposed to transparency, and hostile to independent media. There should be no doubt that the mainstream media in this country is utterly untrustworthy. If they are taking their directions from the government, then we might as well just have government media. At least then, we would know it was coming from the government, but under current circumstances many people are still led to believe that the media is reporting independently. In fact many media outlets simply pour government propaganda into the public sphere, although that is becoming harder with the internet. No doubt the internet is on the list of things to censor; for “national security” purposes of course. Red flags should be going up in all of our minds about the government working with the media to influence public opinion about drone strikes, and limit public information regarding drone strikes. Already we have seen the DOJ under Obama, coordinate with Media Matters to attack specific people critical of the administration and DOJ’s handling of “Operation Fast and Furious”.
If the public is not allowed to have the proper information, than we can not have a proper debate, and make proper decisions about whether or not the drone program, and the practice of targeting individuals for assassination, should be allowed and continue. Shame on The Washington Post and New York Times for keeping facts hidden from the public, and shame on the Obama administration for putting pressure on news sources to keep his policies out of the public realm. So much for “the most transparent administration in history”.