04/2/17

First They Came for Judge Napolitano

By: Cliff Kincaid | Accuracy in Media

An admitted CIA mouthpiece writing for The Washington Post receives classified information and publishes it. He remains in good standing at the paper. Yet the Senior Judicial Analyst for Fox News offers his informed opinion that the British helped conduct surveillance on President Trump and is suspended for several days from on-air appearances.

This action by Fox News reflects disrespect for someone who has worked for the channel since 1998. It sends a message that the intelligence community, here and abroad, cannot be investigated.

Since the British NSA, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), had issued a denial of what Napolitano had said, the feeling of most of the media (and the management of Fox News Channel) was apparently that this was the Gospel and must not be challenged.

The scalp of Judge Napolitano will forever be nailed to the wall of Fox News, setting an example of what happens when the establishment narrative about Russia and Trump is undermined. Napolitano was made into an example of what happens when the intelligence agencies are embarrassed.

We understand that journalists use intelligence officials as anonymous sources and therefore accommodate them. But when a commentator like Napolitano breaks the mold with information that embarrasses the intelligence community, he must be supported, not punished with a suspension. Otherwise, the notion of a free and independent press is a joke.

Meanwhile, an anchor for Fox News, gay activist Shepard Smith, makes a mockery of conservative values on a regular basis and continues to enjoy the blessings of the channel’s owners. This is what happens when a conservative channel takes its conservative base for granted and moves to the left in order to appear more acceptable to the rest of the media. Smith was actually designated to declare on the air that Napolitano’s report was incorrect. No details were offered on what investigations were done, if any, to question the sources behind his claims. One source came forward to validate what the judge had said.

His “return” was instructive and quite uncomfortable. Host Bill Hemmer offered a lame joke that Napolitano “had a few quiet days” and “likely needed them.” Napolitano said he stood by his report that the British played a role in the surveillance, “and the sources stand by it.”

Meanwhile, over at The Washington Post, CIA mouthpiece David Ignatius is still on the payroll of Jeff Bezos, the Amazon billionaire owner of the paper with CIA and NSA connections. Little is said or reported about this curious arrangement.

The Post is an example of the corporate marriage between the media and intelligence establishments. It has become a weapon in the arsenal of the Democratic Party and the Obama officials still ensconced in the intelligence agencies.

As we should all know by now, Ignatius received an illegal leak of classified information about conversations involving Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, and reported them in the paper. Both the leak and the publication of the information constitute potential felonies under the law.

Ignatius continues to write from the viewpoint of those who want to use anonymous sources to destroy the Trump presidency. His latest column is a blast at the courageous head of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), for continuing to probe the issues of illegal leaks and illegal surveillance of the Trump team. Ignatius knows the trail leads to his desk and then to a high-ranking Obama official in the CIA, NSA or FBI.

His obvious conflict of interest is cause for concern among anyone with a remote sense of journalistic ethics.

But the Post, whose owner Jeff Bezos does business with the CIA and NSA, looks the other way.

Incredibly, Ignatius tried to turn the tables on Nunes, saying, “He needs to demonstrate that he’s the chairman of a bipartisan oversight panel trusted with the nation’s secrets, rather than a conduit for information from the Trump White House.”

For the record, nobody knows the identity of the source that provided evidence to Nunes of improper or illegal surveillance of the Trump team. It is completely absurd, however, for Ignatius to posture as someone concerned about the protection of “the nation’s secrets.”

Our column, “Investigate and Prosecute the Press,” remains as valid today as when we published it.

In a promotional advertisement trying to drum up subscriptions, the Post declares, “Democracy needs great journalism. Great journalism needs you.”

Bezos ought to be indicted for false advertising and consumer fraud. He ought to be invited to testify after Nunes is done with Ignatius.

Indeed, Ignatius ought to be hauled in front of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and grilled on his relationship with the anonymous sources who provided him with classified information.

Nunes just might have the guts to do this. But it’s clear that the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr (NC), is in over his head, and is letting the ranking minority member, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), virtually run the hearings on the Senate side.

In their “Statement on Inquiry into Russian Intelligence Activities,” Burr and Warner didn’t indicate any effort would be undertaken to discover the source of the illegal leaks and whether surveillance of the Trump team had taken place.

No wonder the Post wants to destroy Nunes. He is standing in the way of the establishment reasserting the primacy of their narrative on the Russians and Trump. They got Napolitano’s scalp; now they want to get that of Nunes.

  • Call 202- 225-4121 and support Rep. Nunes, urging him to hold the media and the intelligence community accountable for illegal leaks of classified information.

Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at [email protected] View the complete archives from Cliff Kincaid.

03/26/17

Free Judge Napolitano!

By: Cliff Kincaid | Accuracy in Media

BuzzFeed, described by Wikipedia as “a liberal American internet media company based in New York City,” is in the “donor spotlight” at the national news museum in Washington, D.C., known as the Newseum. The “honor” demonstrates how the media have changed and how low they have sunk.

A virtual property of Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal, BuzzFeed has been a cog in the anti-Trump media machine.

The “donor spotlight” designation is strangely appropriate, since BuzzFeed disclosed the so-called “Trump Dossier” used by the intelligence community to smear President Trump. “The allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors,” the social media site acknowledged while spreading the dubious claims.

By contrast, the John Peter Zenger exhibit located in the Newseum highlights a printer whose publication used the weapon of truth. The Newseum tells us, “German immigrant John Peter Zenger became a free-press hero before there was a First Amendment. On Nov. 17, 1734, the newspaper publisher was jailed for printing truthful articles in his New-York Weekly Journal accusing British Colonial governor William Cosby of being corrupt.”

The “Trump Dossier” released by BuzzFeed was concocted by a former British intelligence agent, and turned over to James Comey’s FBI. Around that time, in July of 2016, notes columnist Lawrence Sellin, the FBI launched its investigation of the unproven connections between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Comey told Congress that the Bureau has been actively investigating possible links between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin since “late July” of 2016.

“What a coincidence,” writes Sellin, a retired colonel with 29 years of service in the U.S. Army Reserve and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. This means that “the FBI investigation was based on highly questionable evidence” for which former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele reportedly “paid intermediaries who in turn paid sources for the information he used in the report.” In other words, he says, they were third-hand rumors from unidentified individuals. Sellin adds, “Remarkably, along with Trump’s political opponents, the Obama-Comey FBI planned to pay Steele to continue his work.”

The British link is significant. While Fox News commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano has been suspended for suggesting that the British NSA, known as GCHQ, had access to the surveillance information used against Trump, the two organizations do in fact have a history of working closely together.

This is shaping up as an example of how the Deep State operates, writes Sellin. In this case, intelligence arrangements are made “that open the possibility for government officials to skirt inconvenient national laws in order to surveil citizens and then use the products of that surveillance for political purposes.”

For raising necessary questions about this arrangement, Napolitano was reportedly banned from Fox News. He is the modern-day John Peter Zenger. However, his March 16 column, “Did Obama Spy on Trump?” is still on his website and looks increasingly relevant every day that passes.

This has been a major black mark for Fox News. Still, Fox News personalities like Sean Hannity are trying to cover the deepening scandal involving Obama administration surveillance of Trump and his associates.

The role that has been played by Comcast and its properties in the anti-Trump campaign is a teachable moment that allows us to reflect on the meaning of the First Amendment and how modern media have left behind the legacy of John Peter Zenger.

In contrast to Zenger, who used the weapon of truth against public officials, BuzzFeed used lies that were apparently devised for partisan political purposes by a foreign operative.

Referring to Comcast and others, Trump adviser Peter Navarro said during the campaign, “Donald Trump will break up the new media conglomerate oligopolies that have gained enormous control over our information, intrude into our personal lives, and in this election, are attempting to unduly influence America’s political process.”

BuzzFeed has been forced to apologize to one of those named in the Trump Dossier, in preparation for a suit filed against them.

By contrast, Zenger was found not guilty of seditious libel after his attorney, Alexander Hamilton, said, “It is not the cause of one poor printer, but the cause of liberty.”

Rather than being given a distinction as a valued donor, perhaps an exhibit in the Newseum should highlight BuzzFeed as an example of the politically-correct corporate media that today makes a mockery of First Amendment values.

At the same time, the Newseum should consider embracing the cause of freeing Judge Napolitano.

There’s no money in doing so. It would just be the right thing to do. It would be a reaffirmation of First Amendment values.


Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at [email protected] View the complete archives from Cliff Kincaid.

03/21/17

Trump vs. Fox News on Wiretapping

By: Cliff Kincaid | Accuracy in Media

President Donald Trump is usually a fan of Fox News, but his opinion may now be changing. Fox News has been caught misrepresenting its own interview with Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) on the subject of alleged wiretapping of President Trump, in order to make Trump look bad. The cable channel also threw one of its own commentators, Judge Andrew Napolitano, under the bus for highlighting a possible British role in gathering intelligence on Trump and his associates.

After having Nunes on the network’s “Fox News Sunday” show, Fox News claimed that he said “that phones at President Donald Trump’s campaign headquarters in midtown Manhattan were never tapped during last year’s election campaign, contrary to Trump’s earlier, unsubstantiated assertion.”

But if you listen to the video clip or read the transcript, that is not what Nunes really said.

Nunes actually said, “…the President doesn’t go and physically wiretap something. So if you take the President literally, it didn’t happen.” But Trump has referred to “wiretap” in quotes, to refer to surveillance. Nunes went on, “I think the concern that we have is that are—were there any other surveillance activities that were used unmasking the names” (emphasis added).

Unmasking refers to acquiring the name of a U.S. citizen in a surveillance report, even though that citizen’s personal privacy is supposed to be protected under U.S. law because he/she was not the target of the surveillance that captured the conversation. Trump press secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday, “Before President Obama left office, Michael Flynn was unmasked and then illegally his identity was leaked out to media outlets, despite the fact that, as NSA Director [Mike] Rogers said, that unmasking and revealing individuals endangers ‘national security.’ Not only was General Flynn’s identity made available, Director [James] Comey refused to answer the question of whether or not he’d actually briefed President Obama on his phone calls and activities.”

Nunes explained, “…the one crime we know that’s been committed is that one, the leaking of someone’s name through the FISA system. That is—that is a crime that’s been committed.”

At Monday’s hearing, Nunes repeated in his prepared opening statement, “…it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.”

The media highlighted FBI Director James B. Comey’s statement at Monday’s hearing that the FBI and the Justice Department had “no information that supports” President Trump’s tweets about wiretapping.

But where could these “other surveillance activities” have originated? We know that a former British intelligence agent was involved in gathering “intelligence” against Trump in the form of the fake “Trump Dossier,” and was paid by donors associated with the Hillary Clinton campaign. Parts of that “dossier” were passed on to Trump by the U.S. intelligence community.

As we note in our special report, “A Watergate-style Threat to the Democratic Process,” it is well-known that the British NSA, known as GCHQ or Government Communications Headquarters, collaborates with the NSA. In fact, a declassified document on the NSA’s own website confirms NSA/GCHQ “collaboration” dating back decades. Fox News senior judicial analyst and commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano said his sources confirm there was such an arrangement in the matter of the “wiretapping” of Trump and/or his associates.

Fox News immediately threw Napolitano under the bus. “Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano’s commentary,” Fox News anchor Shepard Smith said on-air. “Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-President of the United States was surveilled at any time, any way.”

The phrase, “knows of no evidence,” does not suggest any independent investigation of his information.

One of Napolitano’s sources, former CIA operative Larry Johnson, came forward to say, “I reached out to friends in the intel community and asked them about the possibility that a back channel was used to get the Brits to collect on Trump associates. My sources said, ‘absolutely.’ I later confirmed this via a cutout with a person who is a Senior Intelligence Service executive in the CIA.”

In the face of this evidence of collaboration, NSA Director Mike Rogers tried to insist at Monday’s hearing that the NSA never asked the British to conduct surveillance of Trump. So why did the intelligence community accept and circulate the Trump dossier?

In a letter to Comey, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) noted that not only was the former British intelligence agent Christoper Steele “creating these memos as part of work for an opposition research firm connected to Hillary Clinton,” but that The Washington Post had reported that the FBI had reached an agreement a few weeks before the 2016 presidential election “to pay the author of the unsubstantiated dossier alleging a conspiracy between President Trump and the Russians, Christopher Steele, to continue investigating Mr. Trump” (emphasis added).

Grassley said, “The idea that the FBI and associates of the Clinton campaign would pay Mr. Steele to investigate the Republican nominee for President in the run-up to the election raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends.”

At the House Intelligence Committee hearing on Monday, Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) was still quoting from the discredited Trump dossier.

Although Comey confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee that the investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged relationship with Russian officials continues, there was no firm commitment to get to the bottom of the source (or sources) of the leaks to the media that are designed to damage the Trump administration.

Nunes said his committee wanted to pursue the matter, saying, “Numerous current and former officials have leaked purportedly classified information in connection to these questions. We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so that these individuals can be brought to justice.”

As we argued in our column, “Investigate and Prosecute the Press,” there is a procedure to get to the bottom of at least one of these leaks. That is, to subpoena Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, the recipient of the illegal leak of the classified information naming or “unmasking” Michael T. Flynn.

Here’s what Ignatius, a known mouthpiece for the CIA, reported on January 12: “According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking.”

Subsequently, the Post revealed that, in regard to the Flynn matter, “Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.”

All of this leaking is illegal, a violation of the Espionage Act. It is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Jeff Bezos, the owner of The Washington Post, has a financial relationship with the CIA and the NSA through the provision of computer cloud capabilities.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Nunes said that “still remaining out there is the unmasking of names and the leaking of names…we have a lot of surveillance activities in this country and I think the concern that the Trump administration has is, you know, were they actually using surveillance activities to know what they were up to, because we know that that happened with General Flynn. We know that his name was unmasked and we know that it was leaked out to the press.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) was unable to get exact figures from Comey or Rogers on the number of people at these agencies able to “unmask”—and therefore leak—a name. Such a number is absolutely vital in any identification of the leakers.

Comey did admit that the heads of the intelligence agencies and various Obama White House officials could have acquired access to unmasked names. But as Spicer noted at the White House press briefing, Comey would not talk about any discussions he may have had with President Obama on the matter.

It looks increasingly like any serious investigation of the illegal surveillance and leaking will have to be led and conducted by Rep. Nunes. But in going forward, it appears that the Fox News Channel has decided not to pursue the line of inquiry already opened up by one of its own commentators, Judge Napolitano.

Predictably, there are now demands that Fox News fire its senior judicial analyst for offering his own informed opinion based on the facts and his own sources of information.

[UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times and other media are now reporting that Judge Napolitano has been suspended by the Fox News Channel.]


Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at [email protected] View the complete archives from Cliff Kincaid.