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Edward Snowden can smile briefly: The Obama administration just lost a fight to keep grand jury records sealed in a 1942 national security leaks prosecution.
A federal court ruling, written by an Obama friend and former law school colleague, rejects a Justice Department attempt to keep secret the testimony from a 74-year-old prosecution of The Chicago Tribune for revealing that the U.S. had cracked Japanese codes. (Bloomberg)
Writes Judge Diane Wood for the court majority: “The U.S. Office of War Information warned the populace that ‘loose lips sink ships.’ But what if the ships sailed some 70 years before the tongues wag?” (United States Courts) Wood is chief judge of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago and the Obama friend who’s been a finalist for a Supreme Court vacancy.
Historian Elliot Carlson wants transcripts of the grand jury that investigated reporter Stanley Johnston’s June 7, 1942 story that accompanied the front-page news of the stunning post-Pearl Harbor victory of the U.S. at the Battle of Midway.The victory was crucial to the ultimate Allied victory. (Chicago Tribune)
“Navy Had Word of Jap Plan to Strike at Sea” disclosed that we knew the Japanese planned a minor attack elsewhere to distract us from Midway. President Franklin Roosevelt was furious with the paper and, in apparently the only such attempt ever, the government went after a reporter (Johnston) for allegedly violating The Espionage Act.
The grand jury didn’t indict him or other Tribune staff, which was hailed as an important free speech victory. Now, the Obama administration is fighting Carlson’s attempt to release records stored at the National Archives facility in College Park, Maryland.
Its position involves what it deems the limited jurisdiction of any district court on such matters. It took a similar tack when it lost a 2011 ruling on keeping secret the 1975 Watergate grand jury testimony of former President Richard Nixon. (Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press)
By 2-1 the Chicago appeals court affirms a ruling by District Court Chief Judge Ruben Castillo, with the pro-Obama administration dissent coming from Diane Sykes, a Northwestern University journalism graduate who is a Wisconsin Republican picked by President George W. Bush. Joining Wood in the majority is Michael Kanne, an Indiana Republican picked by Ronald Reagan.
Katie Townsend, litigation director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, finds the case “extraordinarily important.” It’s important not just for legal or military historians but for its relevance as the administration goes after journalists and clamps down on disclosure of government records.
There is a presumption of grand jury secrecy, she concedes, but it can be overcome. And it’s a defeat for an administration attempt to say that not even judges have the power to release certain records.
Indemnity deal at Gawker
Univision now owns Gawker Media, and there’s been an early pissing match over deleting posts related to litigation. The staff has been in an uproar. But now it’s achieved an early victory.
A deal has been cut by which the company will make clear in writing that it will indemnify any reporter sued in the course of doing his or her job. Most media companies do defend their reporters but most don’t put it in writing.
It’s a notable deal, given Gawker’s recent litigation history — the Hulk Hogan suit led to founder Nick Denton filing for bankruptcy — and the animus toward the media that has prompted very rich, very powerful folks to take aim at the press. For sure, it doesn’t assure the vast cultural divide between Univision and Gawker will be narrowed. But it’s an improvement over an initial Univision-Gawker clash over posting on Deadspin. (Reuters)
Speculation runs rampant on the bombings suspect
Questions, questions, questions and speculation, speculation, speculation.
“Was he alone?” asked Chris Cuomo on CNN’s “New Day” this morning. “Did he have help? Was he part of a larger organization? He certainly didn’t have an exit plan.” Reporter Jim Sciutto: “Did he have contacts with anybody else overseas? Communications with terrorist organizations? Tradecraft not smart, didn’t put bombs in high-density places.”
The chyrons on “Fox & Friends” were of a piece: “Deadbeat”: Woman says terror suspect hates America” and “Radicalized signs — Rahami began wearing Muslim attire.” Then co-host Steve Doocy held aloft the front of that important cultural arbiter, the New York Post. “Bomber ‘hates gays, hates military, hates culture’ — he hates America.”
On MSNBC there was a reporting-light reflex to sit and vamp on the political implications on the campaign. Who’s advantaged, wondered Willie Geist. Is it Clinton experience or Trump rhetoric? Everything will now reset after Monday’s first debate, said Mike Barnicle.
As Trump harrumphed about speedy trials and tough punishment for “these people,” Mika Brzezinski looked dyspeptic on considering how Trump’s remarks were scripted “When the campaign writes that, Republicans, that’s what you’re voting for? That’s what you’re voting for? That’s what you’ve got? …Does he want it to be Russia?” Presumably, yes. But only if there were a Trump Hotel in Moscow, which we all still await.
Emmy ratings head south amid NFL offensive
“Viewership for the 68th Emmy Awards fell slightly to a new ratings low as ‘Sunday Night Football’ and a JonBenét Ramsey documentary on CBS chipped away at ABC’s broadcast of the television industry’s awards ceremony. An estimated 11.3 million viewers tuned in to watch the Emmys, according to Nielsen figures cited by ABC, down from 11.9 million in 2015. Last year’s telecast on Fox, which also struggled against NFL football, was down from 15.6 million in 2014, when NBC held the event on a football-less Monday night in August.” (The Wall Street Journal)
Chicago, a paradise for cyclers?
Surprise, Crain’s Chicago Business does not have a cycling beat. But it does have Greg Hinz, a locally well-known political blogger who’s a bit disbelieving over Bicycling magazine disclosing Monday that Chicago tops San Francisco and Portland, Oregon as the best of America’s top 50 cities for cycling. (Bicycling) Yes, it’s partly reflection of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to create more than 100 miles of protected bike lanes and to expand a bike-share program. But “bike nirvana has not arrived.” (Crain’s)
Samantha Bee calls out a puffball interview
Samantha Bee was in a lather last night about NBC’s incestuous relationship with Donald Trump. Rather than focus on alleged failings of its journalists, she went after fellow late-night entertainer Jimmy Fallon. She offered a montage of his very softball questions to Trump during a recent interview. (The Daily Beast) “‘Aww, Trump can be a total sweetheart with someone who has no reason to be terrified of him,’ Bee said. ‘I notice there were no cutaway shots to The Roots. I wonder why.'”
It was cutting — and too simple by half. Do we now expect searing, Chris Matthews-like inquisitions of political guests from Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert or Trevor Noah? Or, for that matter, the theatrically chagrined Samantha Bee?
Obama’s Pittsburgh op-ed
He’s got one in the Post-Gazette on self-driving vehicles, which argues, “Automated vehicles have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives each year. And right now, for too many senior citizens and Americans with disabilities, driving isn’t an option. Automated vehicles could change their lives…That’s why my administration is rolling out new rules of the road for automated vehicles – guidance that the manufacturers developing self-driving cars should follow to keep us safe. And we’re asking them to sign a 15-point safety checklist showing not just the government, but every interested American, how they’re doing it.” (Post-Gazette)
C’est vrai! French blogger claims YouTube censorship
The European Commission says its boss Jean-Claude Juncker “needed no protection from awkward questions after a video blogger accused a staffer at YouTube of trying to censor her questions to the EU chief executive.” (The Guardian)
He gave interviews on YouTube to “young social media celebrities” — right out of the Obama playbook — including French blogger Laetitia Birbes, “aiming to counter an image of Brussels bureaucrats as stuffy and out of touch.” She now claims a YouTube employee threatened her YouTube career if she asked tough questions. Then she did.
She asked whether, “as a long-time premier of the tax haven’ Luxembourg, his campaign against corporate tax avoidance was like having a bank robber as chief of police.” Not bad. He responded that “robbers and poachers” often made the best cops. Not bad, either.
Life just isn’t fair
“In the highly-anticipated matchup between the veteran and the rookie, the loser next Monday night may be ESPN. The first presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican Trump on Sept. 26 is expected to reduce ratings for ESPN’s ‘Monday Night Football,’ and multiple ad buyers are predicting TV viewership in the range of about 10.3 million to 11 million people for the game.” (The Wall Street Journal)
Ah, yes, the dark downside of democracy. The media will surely aid and abet by covering that silly debate, striking a potentially deadly blow to American commerce during the Falcons-Saints game.
The Post’s Snowden editorial
A Washington Post weekend editorial contends that Edward Snowden, whose handiwork led to a Pulitzer Prize for the paper for work on the National Security Agency, should return home for a trial or cut some deal in which he accepts some measure of “criminal responsibility” for his leaks. (The Washington Post) Post Editor Marty Baron doesn’t comment on editorials (not his bailiwick), while Barton Gellman, the reporter who helped break the Snowden stories, is outraged.
Then there’s Jane Kirtley, a media ethics and law expert at the University of Minnesota and former longtime head of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:
“Even acknowledging the separate and distinct roles of the editorial board and the news reporting staff (though I notice one commentator thought the editorial board edits the paper), I do find this denunciation of a critical (essential) source astonishing.”
“I remember back when I was first at the Reporters Committee and Samuel Morison (naval intelligence guy) was prosecuted for espionage for giving classified photos to Jane’s Defence Weekly in the UK, the board was adamant that we had to support him in his appeal. The fact that he wasn’t a source for a US media outlet was beside the point.”
“They realized that going after leakers for espionage is, at least potentially, only one step away from prosecuting journalists for receiving them. So ethics aside, self interest, ethics aside, would dictate support for your newspaper’s source.”
A Kennedy says a Bush is voting for a Clinton
Interesting attribution: Politico says former President George H.W. Bush is voting for Clinton. Says who? Says Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who’s daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy and is a former Maryland lieutenant governor. (Politico) CNN underscored how a Bush spokesman wasn’t talking. (CNN) A Bush endorsement would be absolutely no surprise and probably doesn’t make a whit of difference to Trump’s followers.
Obama and Trump town halls
CNN will hold a Sept. 28 session with President Obama. Bet the mortgage that the interrogation will be rather more acute from Jake Tapper than on Fox News’ “special edition” of Sean Hannity’s show Wednesday with, surprise, Trump. Hannity is a slavish Trump booster and “special” would appear to simply mean “longer” than Trump’s regular appearances on the show.
Arianna Huffington’s new gig
“Thrive Global is basically based on the need to change the way we work and live, and make it more sustainable,” says Huffington. (CNNMoney) The launch date is Nov. 30 and just hired Callie Schweitzer, 27, who’s been editorial director for audio e strategy at Time, as managing editor.
It will also offer training. “The training sessions will be conducted both in-person and through e-courses.” And the training of the trainers has begun, she says. Per usual, you probably shouldn’t bet heavily against her.