Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Why The Media Isn't Doing Its Job by Edward Snowden and Emily Bell

The Tow Center for Digital Journalism’s Emily Bell spoke to Edward Snowden over a secure channel about his experiences working with journalists and his perspective on the shifting media world. This is an excerpt of that conversation, conducted in December 2015. It will appear in a forthcoming book: Journalism After Snowden: The Future of the Free Press in the Surveillance State, which will be released by Columbia University Press in 2016.

Emily Bell: Can you tell us about your interactions with journalists and the press?

Edward Snowden: One of the most challenging things about the changing nature of the public’s relationship to media and the government’s relationship to media is that media has never been stronger than it is now. At the same time, the press is less willing to use that sort of power and influence because of its increasing commercialization. There was this tradition that the media culture we had inherited from early broadcasts was intended to be a public service. Increasingly we’ve lost that, not simply in fact, but in ideal, particularly due to the 24-hour news cycle.

We see this routinely even at organizations like The New York Times. The Intercept recently published The Drone Papers, which was an extraordinary act of public service on the part of a whistleblower within the government to get the public information that’s absolutely vital about things that we should have known more than a decade ago. These are things that we really need to know to be able to analyze and assess policies. But this was denied to us, so we get one journalistic institution that breaks the story, they manage to get the information out there. But the majors—specifically The New York Times—don’t actually run the story, they ignore it completely. This was so extraordinary that the public editor, Margaret Sullivan, had to get involved to investigate why they suppressed such a newsworthy story. It’s a credit to the Times that they have a public editor, but it’s frightening that there’s such a clear need for one.

In the UK, when The Guardian was breaking the NSA story, we saw that if there is a competitive role in the media environment, if there’s money on the line, reputation, potential awards, anything that has material value that would benefit the competition, even if it would simultaneously benefit the public, the institutions are becoming less willing to serve the public to the detriment of themselves. This is typically exercised through the editors. This is something that maybe always existed, but we don’t remember it as always existing. Culturally, we don’t like to think of it as having always existed. There are things that we need to know, things that are valuable for us, but we are not allowed to know, because The Telegraph or the Times or any other paper in London decides that because this is somebody else’s exclusive, we’re not going to report it. Instead, we’ll try to “counter-narrative” it. We’ll simply go to the government and ask them to make any statement at all, and we will unquestioningly write it down and publish it, because that’s content that’s exclusive to us. Regardless of the fact that it’s much less valuable, much less substantial than actual documented facts that we can base policy discussions on. We’ve seemingly entered a world where editors are making decisions about what stories to run based on if it’ll give oxygen to a competitor, rather than if it’s news.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this, because while I do interact with media, I’m an outsider. You know media. As somebody who has worked in these cultures, do you see the same thing? Sort of the Fox News effect, where facts matter less?

The distance between allegation and fact, at times, makes all the difference in the world.

Bell: It’s a fascinating question. When you look at Donald Trump, there’s a problem when you have a press which finds it important to report what has happened, without a prism of some sort of evaluation on it. That’s the Trump problem, right? He says thousands of Muslims were celebrating in the streets of New Jersey after 9/11 and it’s demonstrably not true. It’s not even a quantification issue, it’s just not true. Yet, it dominates the news cycle, and he dominates the TV, and you see nothing changing in the polls—or, rather, him becoming more popular.

There are two things I think here, one of which is not new. I completely agree with you about how the economic dynamics have actually produced, bad journalism. One of the interesting things which I think is hopeful about American journalism is that within the last 10 years there’s been a break between this relationship, which is the free market, which says you can’t do good journalism unless you make a profit, into intellectually understanding that really good journalism not only sometimes won’t make a profit, but is almost never going to be anything other than unprofitable.

I think your acts and disclosures are really interesting in that it’s a really expensive story to do, and it is not the kind of story that advertisers want to stand next to. Actually people didn’t want to pay to read them. Post hoc they’ll say, we like The Guardian; we’re going to support their work. So I agree with you that there’s been a disjuncture between facts and how they are projected. I would like to think it’s going to get better.

You’re on Twitter now. You’re becoming a much more rounded out public persona, and lots of people have seen Citizenfour. You’ve gone from being this source persona, to being more actively engaged with Freedom of the Press Foundation, and also having your own publishing stream through a social media company. The press no longer has to be the aperture for you. How do you see that?

Snowden: Today, you have people directly reaching an audience through tools like Twitter, and I have about 1.7 million followers right now (this number reflects the number of Twitter followers Snowden had in December 2015). These are people, theoretically, that you can reach, that you can send a message to. Whether it’s a hundred people or a million people, individuals can build audiences to speak with directly. This is actually one of the ways that you’ve seen new media actors, and actually malicious actors, exploit what are perceived as new vulnerabilities in media control of the narrative, for example Donald Trump.

At the same time these strategies still don’t work […] for changing views and persuading people on a larger scope. Now this same thing applies to me. The director of the FBI can make a false statement, or some kind of misleading claim in congressional testimony. I can fact-check and I can say this is inaccurate. Unless some entity with a larger audience, for example, an established institution of journalism, sees that themselves, the value of these sorts of statements is still fairly minimal. They are following these new streams of information, then reporting out on those streams. This is why I think we see such a large interplay and valuable interactions that are emerging from these new media self-publication Twitter-type services and the generation of stories and the journalist user base of Twitter.

If you look at the membership of Twitter in terms of the influence and impact that people have, there are a lot of celebrities out there on Twitter, but really they’re just trying to maintain an image, promote a band, be topical, remind people that they exist. They’re not typically effecting any change, or having any kind of influence, other than the directly commercial one.

Bell: Let’s think about it in terms of your role in changing the world, which is presenting these new facts. There was a section of the technology press and the intelligence press who, at the time of the leaks, said we already know this, except it’s hidden in plain sight. Yet, a year after you made the disclosures, there was a broad shift of public perception about surveillance technologies. That may recede, and probably post-Paris, it is receding a little bit. Are you frustrated that there isn’t more long-term impact? Do you feel the world has not changed quickly enough?

Snowden: I actually don’t feel that. I’m really optimistic about how things have gone, and I’m staggered by how much more impact there’s been as a result of these revelations than I initially presumed. I’m famous for telling Alan Rusbridger that it would be a three-day story. You’re sort of alluding to this idea that people don’t really care, or that nothing has really changed. We’ve heard this in a number of different ways, but I think it actually has changed in a substantial way.

Now when we talk about the technical press, or the national security press, and you say, this is nothing new, we knew about this, a lot of this comes down to prestige, to the same kind of signaling where they have to indicate we have expertise, we knew this was going on. In many cases they actually did not. The difference is, they knew the capabilities existed.

This is, I think, what underlies why the leaks had such an impact. Some people say stories about the mass collection of internet records and metadata were published in 2006. There was a warrantless wiretapping story in The New York Times as well. Why didn’t they have the same sort of transformative impact? This is because there’s a fundamental difference when it comes down to the actionability of information between knowledge of capability, the allegation that the capability could be used, and the fact that it is being used. Now what happened in 2013 is we transformed the public debate from allegation to fact. The distance between allegation and fact, at times, makes all the difference in the world.

That, for me, is what defines the best kind of journalism. This is one of the things that is really underappreciated about what happened in 2013. A lot of people laud me as the sole actor, like I’m this amazing figure who did this. I personally see myself as having a quite minor role. I was the mechanism of revelation for a very narrow topic of governments. It’s not really about surveillance, it’s about what the public understands—how much control the public has over the programs and policies of its governments. If we don’t know what our government really does, if we don’t know the powers that authorities are claiming for themselves, or arrogating to themselves, in secret, we can’t really be said to be holding the leash of government at all.

One of the things that’s really missed is the fact that as valuable and important as the reporting that came out of the primary archive of material has been, there’s an extraordinarily large, and also very valuable amount of disclosure that was actually forced from the government, because they were so back-footed by the aggressive nature of the reporting. There were stories being reported that showed how they had abused these capabilities, how intrusive they were, the fact that they had broken the law in many cases, or had violated the Constitution.

When the government is shown in a most public way, particularly for a president who campaigned on the idea of curtailing this sort of activity, to have continued those policies, in many cases expanded them in ways contrary to what the public would expect, they have to come up with some defense. So in the first weeks, we got rhetorical defenses where they went, nobody’s listening to your phone calls. That wasn’t really compelling. Then they went, “It’s just metadata.” Actually that worked for quite some time, even though it’s not true. By adding complexity, they reduced participation. It is still difficult for the average person in the street to understand that metadata, in many cases, is actually more revealing and more dangerous than the content of your phone calls. But stories kept coming. Then they went, well alright, even if it is “just metadata,” it’s still unconstitutional activity, so how do we justify it? Then they go—well they are lawful in this context, or that context.

They suddenly needed to make a case for lawfulness, and that meant the government had to disclose court orders that the journalists themselves did not have access to, that I did not have access to, that no one in the NSA at all had access to, because they were bounded in a completely different agency, in the Department of Justice.

This, again, is where you’re moving from suspicion, from allegation, to factualizing things. Now of course, because these are political responses, each of them was intentionally misleading. The government wants to show itself in the best possible light. But even self-interested disclosures can still be valuable, so long as they’re based on facts. They’re filling in a piece of the puzzle, which may provide the final string that another journalist, working independently somewhere else, may need. It unlocks that page of the book, fills in the page they didn’t have, and that completes the story. I think that is something that has not been appreciated, and it was driven entirely by journalists doing follow-up.

There’s another idea that you mentioned: that I’m more engaged with the press than I was previously. This is very true. I quite openly in 2013 took the position that this is not about me, I don’t want to be the face of the argument. I said that I don’t want to correct the record of government officials, even though I could, even though I knew they were making misleading statements. We’re seeing in the current electoral circus that whatever someone says becomes the story, becomes the claim, becomes the allegation. It gets into credibility politics where they’re going, oh, you know, well, Donald Trump said it, it can’t be true. All of the terrible things he says put aside, there’s always the possibility that he does say something that is true. But, because it’s coming from him, it will be analyzed and assessed in a different light. Now that’s not to say that it shouldn’t be, but it was my opinion that there was no question that I was going to be subject to a demonization campaign. They actually recorded me on camera saying this before I revealed my identity. I predicted they were going to charge me under the Espionage Act, I predicted they were going to say I helped terrorists, blood on my hands, all of that stuff. It did come to pass. This was not a staggering work of genius on my part, it’s just common sense, this is how it always works in the case of prominent whistleblowers. It was because of this that we needed other voices, we needed the media to make the argument.

Because of the nature of the abuse of classification authorities in the United States, there is no one that’s ever held a security clearance who’s actually able to make these arguments. Modern media institutions prefer never to use their institutional voice to factualize a claim in a reported story, they want to point to somebody else. They want to say this expert said, or this official said, and keep themselves out of it. But in my mind, journalism must recognize that sometimes it takes the institutional weight to assess the claims that are publicly available, and to make a determination on that basis, then put the argument forth to whoever the person under suspicion is at the time, for example, the government in this case, and go—look, all of the evidence says you were doing this. You say that’s not the case, but why should we believe you? Is there any reason that we should not say this?

This is something that institutions today are loath to do because it’s regarded as advocacy. They don’t want to be in the position of having to referee what is and is not fact. Instead they want to play these “both sides games” where they say, instead we’ll just print allegations, we’ll print claims from both sides, we’ll print their demonstrations of evidence, but we won’t actually involve ourselves in it.

Because of this, I went the first six months without giving an interview. It wasn’t until December 2013 that I gave my first interview to Barton Gellman of The Washington Post. In this intervening period my hope was that some other individual would come forth on the political side, and would become the face of this movement. But more directly I thought it would inspire some reflection in the media institutions to think about what their role was. I think they did a fairly good job, particularly for it being unprecedented, particularly for it being a segment in which the press has been, at least in the last 15 years, extremely reluctant to express any kind of skepticism regarding government claims at all. If it involved the word “terrorism,” these were facts that wouldn’t be challenged. If the government said, look, this is secret for a reason, this is classified for a reason, journalists would leave it at that. Again, this isn’t to beat up on The New York Times, but when we look at the warrantless wiretapping story that was ready to be published in October of an election year, that [election] was decided by the smallest margin in a presidential election, at least in modern history. It’s hard to believe that had that story been published, it would not have changed the course of that election.

Bell: Former Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson has said her paper definitely made mistakes, “I wish we had not withheld stories.” What you’re saying certainly resonates with what I know and understand of the recent history of the US press, which is that national security concerns post-9/11 really did alter the relationship of reporting, particularly with administration and authority in this country. What we know about drone programs comes from reporting, some of it comes from the story which The Intercept got hold of, and Jeremy Scahill’s reporting on it, which has been incredibly important. But a great deal of it has also come from the ground level. The fact that we were aware at all that drones were blowing up villages, killing civilians, crossing borders where they were not supposed to be really comes from people who would report from the ground.

Something interesting has definitely happened in the last three years, which makes me think about what you are telling us about how the NSA operates. We’re seeing a much closer relationship now between journalism and technology and mass communication technology than we’ve ever seen before. People are now completely reliant on Facebook. Some of that is a commercial movement in the US, but you also have activists and journalists being regularly tortured or killed in, say, Bangladesh, where it’s really impossible to operate a free press, but they are using these tools. It is almost like the American public media now is Facebook. I wonder how you think about this? It’s such a recent development.

Snowden: One of the biggest issues is that we have many more publishers competing for a finite, shrinking amount of attention span that’s available. This is why we have the rise of these sort of hybrid publications, like a BuzzFeed, that create just an enormous amount of trash and cruft. They’re doing AB testing and using scientific principles. Their content is specifically engineered to be more attention getting, even though they have no public value at all. They have no news value at all. Like here’s 10 pictures of kittens that are so adorable. But then they develop a news line within the institution, and the idea is that they can drive traffic with this one line of stories, theoretically, and then get people to go over onto the other side.

Someone’s going to exploit this; if it’s not going to be BuzzFeed, it’s going to be somebody else. This isn’t a criticism of any particular model, but the idea here is that the first click, that first link is actually consuming attention. The more we read about a certain thing, that’s actually reshaping our brains. Everything that we interact with, it has an impact on us, it has an influence, it leaves memories, ideas, sort of memetic expressions that we then carry around with us that shape what we look for in the future, and that are directing our development.

Bell: Yes, well that’s the coming singularity between the creation of journalism and large-scale technology platforms, which are not intrinsically journalistic. In other words, they don’t have a primary purpose.

Snowden: They don’t have a journalistic role, it’s a reportorial role.

Bell: Well, it’s a commercial role, right? So when you came to Glenn and The Guardian, there wasn’t a hesitation in knowing the primary role of the organization is to get that story to the outside world as securely and quickly as possible, avoiding prior restraint, protecting a source.

Is source protection even possible now? You were extremely prescient in thinking there’s no point in protecting yourself.

Snowden: I have an unfair advantage.

Bell: You do, but still, that’s a big change from 20 years ago.

Snowden: This is something that we saw contemporary examples of in the public record in 2013. It was the James Rosen case where we saw the Department of Justice, and government more broadly, was abusing its powers to demand blanket records of email and call data, and the AP case where phone records for calls that were made from the bureaus of journalism were seized.

That by itself is suddenly chilling, because the traditional work of journalism, the traditional culture, where the journalist would just call their contact and say, hey, let’s talk, suddenly becomes incriminating. But more seriously, if the individual in question, the government employee who is working with a journalist to report some issue of public interest, if this individual has gone so far to commit an act of journalism, suddenly they can be discovered trivially if they’re not aware of this.

I didn’t have that insight at the time I was trying to come forward because I had no relationship with journalists. I had never talked to a journalist in any substantive capacity. So, instead I simply thought about the adversarial relationship that I had inherited from my work as an intelligence officer, working for the CIA and the NSA. Everything is a secret and you’ve got two different kinds of cover. You’ve got cover for status, which is: You’re overseas, you’re living as a diplomat because you have to explain why you’re there. You can’t just say, oh, yeah, I work for the CIA. But you also have a different kind of cover which is what’s called cover for action. Where you’re not going to live in the region for a long time, you may just be in a building and you have to explain why you’re walking through there, you need some kind of pretext. This kind of trade-craft unfortunately is becoming more necessary in the reportorial process. Journalists need to know this, sources need to know this. At any given time, if you were pulled over by a police officer and they want to search your phone or something like that, you might need to explain the presence of an application. This is particularly true if you’re in a country like Bangladesh. I have heard that they’re now looking for the presence of VPN [virtual private network software] for avoiding censorship locks and being able to access uncontrolled news networks as evidence of opposition, allegiance, that could get you in real trouble in these areas of the world.

At the time of the leaks I was simply thinking, alright the governmentand this isn’t a single government now—we’re actually talking about the Five Eyes intelligence alliance [the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Canada] forming a pan-continental super-state in this context of sharing, they’re going to lose their minds over this. Some institutions in, for example, the UK, can levy D notices, they can say, look, you can’t publish that, or you should not publish that. In the United States it’s not actually certain that the government would not try to exercise prior restraint in slightly different ways, or that they wouldn’t charge journalists as accomplices in some kind of criminality to interfere with the reporting without actually going after the institutions themselves, single out individuals. We have seen this in court documents before. This was the James Rosen case, where the DOJ had named him as sort of an accessory—they said he was a co-conspirator. So the idea I thought about here was that we need institutions working beyond borders in multiple jurisdictions simply to complicate it legally to the point that the journalists could play games, legally and journalistically more effectively and more quickly than the government could play legalistic games to interfere with them.

Bell: Right, but that’s kind of what happened with the reporting of the story.

Snowden: And in ways that I didn’t even predict, because who could imagine the way a story like that would actually get out of hand and go even further: Glenn Greenwald living in Brazil, writing for a US institution for that branch, but headquartered in the UK, The Washington Post providing the institutional clout and saying, look, this is a real story, these aren’t just crazy leftists arguing about this, and Der Spiegel in Germany with Laura [Poitras]. It simply represented a system that I did not believe could be overcome before the story could be put out. By the time the government could get their ducks in a row and try to interfere with it, that would itself become the story.

Bell: You’re actually giving a sophisticated analysis of much of what’s happened to both reporting practice and media structures. As you say, you had no prior interactions with journalists. I think one of the reasons the press warmed to you was because you put faith in journalists, weirdly. You went in thinking I think I can trust these people, not just with your life, but with a huge responsibility. Then you spent an enormous amount of time, particularly with Glenn, Laura, and Ewen [MacAskill] in those hotel rooms. What was that reverse frisking process like as you were getting to know them? My experience is as people get closer to the press, they often like it less. Why would you trust journalists?

Snowden: This gets into the larger question—how did you feel about journalists, what was the process of becoming acquainted with them? There’s both a political response and a practical response. Specifically about Glenn, I believe very strongly that there’s no more important quality for a journalist than independence. That’s independence of perspective, and particularly skepticism of claims. The more powerful the institution, the more skeptical one should be. There’s an argument that was put forth by an earlier journalist, I.F. Stone: “All governments are run by liars and nothing they say should be believed.” In my experience, this is absolutely a fact. I’ve met with Daniel Ellsberg and spoken about this, and it comports with his experience as well. He would be briefing the Secretary of Defense on the airplane, and then when the Secretary of Defense would disembark right down the eight steps of the plane and shake hands with the press, he would say something that he knew was absolutely false and was completely contrary to what they had just said in the meeting [inside the place] because that was his role. That was his job, his duty, his responsibility as a member of that institution.

Now Glenn Greenwald, if we think about him as an archetype, really represents the purest form of that. I would argue that despite the failings of any journalist in one way or another, if they have that independence of perspective, they have the greatest capacity for reporting that a journalist can attain. Ultimately, no matter how brilliant you are, no matter how charismatic you are, no matter how perfect or absolute your sourcing is, or your access, if you simply take the claims of institutions that have the most privilege that they must protect, at face value, and you’re willing to sort of repeat them, all of those other things that are working in your favor in the final calculus amount to nothing because you’re missing the fundamentals.

There was the broader question of what it’s like working with these journalists and going through that process. There is the argument that I was naïve. In fact, that’s one of the most common criticisms about me today—that I am too naïve, that I have too much faith in the government, that I have too much faith in the press. I don’t see that as a weakness. I am naïve, but I think that idealism is critical to achieving change, ultimately not of policy, but of culture, right? Because we can change this or that law, we can change this or that policy or program, but at the end of the day, it’s the values of the people in these institutions that are producing these policies or programs. It’s the values of the people who are sitting at the desk with the blank page in Microsoft Office, or whatever journalists are using now.

Bell: I hope they’re not using Microsoft Office, but you never know.

Snowden: They have the blank page …

Bell: They have the blank page, exactly.

Snowden: In their content management system, or whatever. How is that individual going to approach this collection of facts in the next week, in the next month, in the next year, in the next decade? What will the professor in the journalism school say in their lecture that will impart these values, again, sort of memetically into the next cohort of reporters? If we do not win on that, we have lost comprehensively. More fundamentally, people say, why did you trust the press, given their failures? Given the fact that I was, in fact, quite famous for criticizing the press.

Bell: If they had done their job, you would be at home now.

Snowden: Yeah, I would still be living quite comfortably in Hawaii.

Bell: Which is not so bad, when you put it that way.

Snowden: People ask how could you do this, why would you do this? How could you trust a journalist that you knew had no training at all in operational security to keep your identity safe because if they screw up, you’re going to jail. The answer was that that was actually what I was expecting. I never expected to make it out of Hawaii. I was going to try my best, but my ultimate goal was simply to get this information back in the hands of the public. I felt that the only way that could be done meaningfully was through the press. If we can’t have faith in the press, if we can’t sort of take that leap of faith and either be served well by them, or underserved and have the press fail, we’ve already lost. You cannot have an open society without open communication. Ultimately, the test of open communication is a free press. If they can’t look for information, if they can’t contest the government’s control of information, and ultimately print information—not just about government, but also about corporate interests, that has a deleterious impact on the preferences of power, on the prerogatives of power. You may have something, but I would argue it’s not the traditional American democracy that I believed in.

So the idea here was that I could take these risks because I already expected to bear the costs. I expected the end of the road was a cliff. This is actually illustrated quite well in Citizenfour because it shows that there was absolutely no plan at all for the day after.

The planning to get to the point of working with the journalists, of transmitting this information, of explaining, contextualizing—it was obsessively detailed, because it had to be. Beyond that, the risks were my own. They weren’t for the journalists. They could do everything else. That was by design as well, because if the journalists had done anything shady—for example, if I had stayed in place at the NSA as a source and they had asked me for this document, and that document, it could have undermined the independence, the credibility of the process, and actually brought risks upon them that could have led to new constraints upon journalism.

Bell: So nothing you experienced in the room with the team, or what happened after, made you question or reevaluate journalism?

Snowden: I didn’t say that. Actually working more closely with the journalists has radically reshaped my understanding of journalism, and that continues through to today. I think you would agree that anybody who’s worked in the news industry, either directly or even peripherally, has seen journalists—or, more directly, editors—who are terrified, who hold back a story, who don’t want to publish a detail, who want to wait for the lawyers, who are concerned with liability.

You also have journalists who go out on their own and they publish details which actually are damaging, directly to personal safety. There were details published by at least one of the journalists that were discussing communication methods that I was still actively using, that previously had been secret. But the journalists didn’t even forewarn me, so suddenly I had to change all of my methods on the fly. Which worked out OK because I had the capabilities to do that, but dangerous.

Bell: When did that happen?

Snowden: This was at the height of public interest, basically. The idea here is that a journalist ultimately, and particularly a certain class of journalist, they don’t owe any allegiance to their source, right? They don’t write the story in line with what the sources desires, they don’t go about their publication schedule to benefit, or to detriment, in theory, the source at all. There are strong arguments that that’s the way it should be: public knowledge of the truth is more important than the risks that knowledge creates for a few. But at the same time, when a journalist is reporting on something like a classified program implicating one of the government’s sources, you see an incredibly high standard of care applied to make sure they can’t be blamed if something goes wrong down the road after publication. The journalists will go, well we’ll hold back this detail from that story reporting on classified documents, because if we name this government official it might expose them to some harm, or it might get this program shut down, or even if it might cause them to have to rearrange the deck chairs in the operations in some far away country.

That’s just being careful, right? But ask yourself—should journalists be just as careful when the one facing the blowback of a particular detail is their own source? In my experience, the answer does not seem to be as obvious as you might expect.

Bell: Do you foresee a world where someone won’t have to be a whistleblower in order to reveal the kinds of documents that you revealed? What kinds of internal mechanisms would that require on behalf of the government? What would that look like in the future?

Snowden: That’s a really interesting philosophical question. It doesn’t come down to technical mechanisms, that comes down to culture. We’ve seen in the EU a number of reports from parliamentary bodies, from the Council of Europe, that said we need to protect whistleblowers, in particular national security whistleblowers. In the national context no country really wants to pass a law that allows individuals rightly, or wrongly, to embarrass the government. But can we provide an international framework for this? One would argue, particularly when espionage laws are being used to prosecute people, they already exist. That’s why espionage, for example, is considered a political offense, because it’s just a political crime, as they say. That’s a fairly weak defense, or fairly weak justification, for not reforming whistleblower laws. Particularly when, throughout Western Europe they’re going, yeah, we like this guy, he did a good thing. But if he shows up on the doorstep we’re going to ship him back immediately, regardless of whether it’s unlawful, just because the US is going to retaliate against us. It’s extraordinary that the top members of German government have said this on the record—that it’s realpolitik; it’s about power, rather than principle.

Now how we can fix this? I think a lot of it comes down to culture, and we need a press that’s more willing and actually eager to criticize government than they are today. Even though we’ve got a number of good institutions that do that, or that want to do that, it needs a uniform culture. The only counterargument the government has made against national security whistleblowing, and many other things that embarrassed them in the past, is that well, it could cause some risk, we could go dark, they could have blood on their hands.

Why do they have different ground rules in the context of national security journalism?

We see that not just in the United States, but in France, Germany, the UK, in every Western country, and of course, in every more authoritarian country by comparison they are embracing the idea of state secrets, of classifications, or saying, you can’t know this, you can’t know that.

We call ourselves private citizens, and we refer to elected representatives as public officials, because we’re supposed to know everything about them and their activities. At the same time, they’re supposed to know nothing about us, because they wield all the power, and we hold all of the vulnerability. Yet increasingly, that’s becoming inverted, where they are the private officials, and we are the public citizens. We’re increasingly monitored and tracked and reported, quantified and known and influenced, at the same time that they’re getting themselves off and becoming less reachable and also less accountable.

Bell: But Ed, when you talk about this in those terms, you make it sound as though you see this as a progression. Certainly there was a sharp increase, as you demonstrated, in overreach of oversight post-9/11. Is it a continuum?

It felt from the outside as though America, post-9/11, for understandable reasons, it was almost like a sort of national psychosis. If you grew up in Europe, there were regular terrorist acts in almost every country after the Second World War, though not on the same scale, until there was a brief, five-year period of respite, weirdly running up to about 2001. Then the nature of the terrorism changed. To some extent, that narrative is predictable. You talk about it as an ever increasing problem. With the Freedom Act in 2015, the press identified this as a significant moment where the temperature had changed. You don’t sound like you really think that. You sound as though you think that this public/private secrecy, spying, is an increasing continuum. So how does that change? Particularly in the current political climate where post-Paris and other terrorist attacks we’ve already seen arguments for breaking encryption.

Snowden: I don’t think they are actually contradictory views to hold. I think what we’re talking about are the natural inclinations of power and vice, what we can do to restrain it, to maintain a free society. So when we think about where things have gone in the USA Freedom Act, and when we look back at the 1970s, it was even worse in terms of the level of comfort that the government had that it could engage in abuses and get away with them. One of the most important legacies of 2013 is not anything that was necessarily published, but it was the impact of the publication on the culture of government. It was a confirmation coming quite quickly in the wake of the WikiLeaks stories, which were equally important in this regard. That said, secrecy will not hold forever. If you authorize a policy that is clearly contrary to law, you will eventually have to explain that.

The question is, can you keep it under wraps long enough to get out of the administration, and hopefully for it to be out of the egregious sort of thing where you’ll lose an election as a result. We see the delta between the periods of time that successive administrations can keep a secret is actually diminishing—the secrets are becoming public at an accelerated pace. This is a beneficial thing. This is the same in the context of terrorism.

There is an interesting idea—when you were saying it’s sort of weird that the US has what you described as a collective psychosis in the wake of 9/11 given that European countries have been facing terrorist attacks routinely. The US had actually been facing the same thing, and actually one would argue, experienced similarly high-impact attacks, for example, the Oklahoma City bombing, where a Federal building was destroyed by a single individual or one actor.

Bell: What do you think about the relationship between governments asking Facebook and other communications platforms to help fight ISIS?

Snowden: Should we basically deputize companies to become the policy enforcers of the world? When you put it in that context suddenly it becomes clear that this is not really a good idea, particularly because terrorism does not have a strong definition that’s internationally recognized. If Facebook says, we will take down any post from anybody who the government says is a terrorist, as long as it comes from this government, suddenly they have to do that for the other government. The Chinese allegations of who is and who is not a terrorist are going to look radically different than what the FBI’s are going to be. But if the companies try to be selective about them, say, well, we’re only going to do this for one government, they immediately lose access to the markets of the other ones. So that doesn’t work, and that’s not a position companies want to be in.

However, even if they could do this, there are already policies in place for them to do that. If Facebook gets a notification that says this is a terrorist thing, they take it down. It’s not like this is a particularly difficult or burdensome review when it comes to violence.

The distinction is the government is trying to say, now we want them to start cracking down on radical speech. Should private companies be who we as society are reliant upon to bound the limits of public conversations? And this goes beyond borders now. I think that’s an extraordinarily dangerous precedent to be embracing, and, in turn, irresponsible for American leaders to be championing.

The real solutions here are much more likely to be in terms of entirely new institutions that bound the way law enforcement works, moving us away from the point of military conflict, secret conflict, and into simply public policing.

There’s no reason why we could not have an international counter-terrorism force that actually has universal jurisdiction. I mean universal in terms of fact, as opposed to actual law.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Inside The Assassination Complex by Edward Snowden

"Whistleblowers are outliers of probability, and if they are to be effective as a political force, it’s critical that they maximize the amount of public good produced from scarce seed."

"I've been waiting 40 years for someone like you.” Those were the first words Daniel Ellsberg spoke to me when we met last year. Dan and I felt an immediate kinship; we both knew what it meant to risk so much — and to be irrevocably changed — by revealing secret truths.

One of the challenges of being a whistleblower is living with the knowledge that people continue to sit, just as you did, at those desks, in that unit, throughout the agency, who see what you saw and comply in silence, without resistance or complaint. They learn to live not just with untruths but with unnecessary untruths, dangerous untruths, corrosive untruths. It is a double tragedy: What begins as a survival strategy ends with the compromise of the human being it sought to preserve and the diminishing of the democracy meant to justify the sacrifice.

But unlike Dan Ellsberg, I didn’t have to wait 40 years to witness other citizens breaking that silence with documents. Ellsberg gave the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and other newspapers in 1971; Chelsea Manning provided the Iraq and Afghan War logs and the Cablegate materials to WikiLeaks in 2010. I came forward in 2013. Now here we are in 2016, and another person of courage and conscience has made available the set of extraordinary documents that are published in The Assassination Complex, the new book out today by Jeremy Scahill and the staff of The Intercept. (The documents were originally published last October 15 in The Drone Papers.)

We are witnessing a compression of the working period in which bad policy shelters in the shadows, the time frame in which unconstitutional activities can continue before they are exposed by acts of conscience. And this temporal compression has a significance beyond the immediate headlines; it permits the people of this country to learn about critical government actions, not as part of the historical record but in a way that allows direct action through voting — in other words, in a way that  empowers an informed citizenry to defend the democracy that “state secrets” are nominally intended to support. When I see individuals who are able to bring information forward, it gives me hope that we won’t always be required to curtail the illegal activities of our government as if it were a constant task, to uproot official lawbreaking as routinely as we mow the grass. (Interestingly enough, that is how some have begun to describe remote killing operations, as “cutting the grass.”)

A single act of whistleblowing doesn’t change the reality that there are significant portions of the government that operate below the waterline, beneath the visibility of the public. Those secret activities will continue, despite reforms. But those who perform these actions now have to live with the fear that if they engage in activities contrary to the spirit of society — if even a single citizen is catalyzed to halt the machinery of that injustice — they might still be held to account. The thread by which good governance hangs is this equality before the law, for the only fear of the man who turns the gears is that he may find himself upon them.

Hope lies beyond, when we move from extraordinary acts of revelation to a collective culture of accountability within the intelligence community. Here we will have taken a meaningful step toward solving a problem that has existed for as long as our government.

NEW YORK-- MARCH 17:  Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (DCIA) under President Barack Obama, Gen. David Petraeus is interviewed for the documentary, "The Spymasters," about CIA Directors for CBS/Showtime. With producers Chris Whipple, Gedeon and Jules Naudet, New York, New York, July 22, 2015. (Photo David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Gen. David Petraeus.
David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

Not all leaks are alike, nor are their makers. Gen. David Petraeus, for instance, provided his illicit lover and favorable biographer information so secret it defied classification, including the names of covert operatives and the president’s private thoughts on matters of strategic concern. Petraeus was not charged with a felony, as the Justice Department had initially recommended, but was instead permitted to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. Had an enlisted soldier of modest rank pulled out a stack of highly classified notebooks and handed them to his girlfriend to secure so much as a smile, he’d be looking at many decades in prison, not a pile of character references from a Who’s Who of the Deep State.

There are authorized leaks and also permitted disclosures. It is rare for senior administration officials to explicitly ask a subordinate to leak a CIA officer’s name to retaliate against her husband, as appears to have been the case with Valerie Plame. It is equally rare for a month to go by in which some senior official does not disclose some protected information that is beneficial to the political efforts of the parties but clearly “damaging to national security” under the definitions of our law.

This dynamic can be seen quite clearly in the al Qaeda “conference call of doom” story, in which intelligence officials, likely seeking to inflate the threat of terrorism and deflect criticism of mass surveillance, revealed to a neoconservative website extraordinarily detailed accounts of specific communications they had intercepted, including locations of the participating parties and the precise contents of the discussions. If the officials’ claims were to be believed, they irrevocably burned an extraordinary means of learning the precise plans and intentions of terrorist leadership for the sake of a short-lived political advantage in a news cycle. Not a single person seems to have been so much as disciplined as a result of the story that cost us the ability to listen to the alleged al Qaeda hotline.

President Barack Obama talks with Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office, April 15, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.
President Barack Obama talks with Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office, April 15, 2015.
Photo: The White House

If harmfulness and authorization make no difference, what explains the distinction between the permissible and the impermissible disclosure?

The answer is control. A leak is acceptable if it’s not seen as a threat, as a challenge to the prerogatives of the institution. But if all of the disparate components of the institution — not just its head but its hands and feet, every part of its body — must be assumed to have the same power to discuss matters of concern, that is an existential threat to the modern political monopoly of information control, particularly if we’re talking about disclosures of serious wrongdoing, fraudulent activity, unlawful activities. If you can’t guarantee that you alone can exploit the flow of controlled information, then the aggregation of all the world’s unmentionables — including your own — begins to look more like a liability than an asset.

American veteran and political activist Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the 'Pentagon Papers' detailing U.S. policy in the Vietnam War, October 10, 1976.
Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers detailing U.S. policy in the Vietnam War, Oct. 10, 1976.
Photo: Susan Wood/Getty Images

Truly unauthorized disclosures are necessarily an act of resistance — that is, if they’re not done simply for press consumption, to fluff up the public appearance or reputation of an institution. However, that doesn’t mean they all come from the lowest working level. Sometimes the individuals who step forward happen to be near the pinnacle of power. Ellsberg was in the top tier; he was briefing the secretary of defense. You can’t get much higher, unless you are the secretary of defense, and the incentives simply aren’t there for such a high-ranking official to be involved in public interest disclosures because that person already wields the influence to change the policy directly.

At the other end of the spectrum is Manning, a junior enlisted soldier, who was much nearer to the bottom of the hierarchy. I was midway in the professional career path. I sat down at the table with the chief information officer of the CIA, and I was briefing him and his chief technology officer when they were publicly making statements like “We try to collect everything and hang on to it forever,” and everybody still thought that was a cute business slogan. Meanwhile I was designing the systems they would use to do precisely that. I wasn’t briefing the policy side, the secretary of defense, but I was briefing the operations side, the National Security Agency’s director of technology. Official wrongdoing can catalyze all levels of insiders to reveal information, even at great risk to themselves, so long as they can be convinced that it is necessary to do so.

Reaching those individuals, helping them realize that their first allegiance as a public servant is to the public rather than to the government, is the challenge. That’s a significant shift in cultural thinking for a government worker today.

I’ve argued that whistleblowers are elected by circumstance. It’s not a virtue of who you are or your background. It’s a question of what you are exposed to, what you witness. At that point the question becomes Do you honestly believe that you have the capability to remediate the problem, to influence policy? I would not encourage individuals to reveal information, even about wrongdoing, if they do not believe they can be effective in doing so, because the right moment can be as rare as the will to act.

This is simply a pragmatic, strategic consideration. Whistleblowers are outliers of probability, and if they are to be effective as a political force, it’s critical that they maximize the amount of public good produced from scarce seed. When I was making my decision, I came to understand how one strategic consideration, such as waiting until the month before a domestic election, could become overwhelmed by another, such as the moral imperative to provide an opportunity to arrest a global trend that had already gone too far. I was focused on what I saw and on my sense of overwhelming disenfranchisement that the government, in which I had believed for my entire life, was engaged in such an extraordinary act of deception.

At the heart of this evolution is that whistleblowing is a radicalizing event — and by “radical” I don’t mean “extreme”; I mean it in the traditional sense of radix, the root of the issue. At some point you recognize that you can’t just move a few letters around on a page and hope for the best. You can’t simply report this problem to your supervisor, as I tried to do, because inevitably supervisors get nervous. They think about the structural risk to their career. They’re concerned about rocking the boat and “getting a reputation.” The incentives aren’t there to produce meaningful reform. Fundamentally, in an open society, change has to flow from the bottom to the top.

As someone who works in the intelligence community, you’ve given up a lot to do this work. You’ve happily committed yourself to tyrannical restrictions. You voluntarily undergo polygraphs; you tell the government everything about your life. You waive a lot of rights because you believe the fundamental goodness of your mission justifies the sacrifice of even the sacred. It’s a just cause.

And when you’re confronted with evidence — not in an edge case, not in a peculiarity, but as a core consequence of the program — that the government is subverting the Constitution and violating the ideals you so fervently believe in, you have to make a decision. When you see that the program or policy is inconsistent with the oaths and obligations that you’ve sworn to your society and yourself, then that oath and that obligation cannot be reconciled with the program. To which do you owe a greater loyalty?

One of the extraordinary things about the revelations of the past several years, and their accelerating pace, is that they have occurred in the context of the United States as the “uncontested hyperpower.” We now have the largest unchallenged military machine in the history of the world, and it’s backed by a political system that is increasingly willing to authorize any use of force in response to practically any justification. In today’s context that justification is terrorism, but not necessarily because our leaders are particularly concerned about terrorism in itself or because they think it’s an existential threat to society. They recognize that even if we had a 9/11 attack every year, we would still be losing more people to car accidents and heart disease, and we don’t see the same expenditure of resources to respond to those more significant threats.

What it really comes down to is the political reality that we have a political class that feels it must inoculate itself against allegations of weakness. Our politicians are more fearful of the politics of terrorism — of the charge that they do not take terrorism seriously — than they are of the crime itself.

As a result we have arrived at this unmatched capability, unrestrained by policy. We have become reliant upon what was intended to be the limitation of last resort: the courts. Judges, realizing that their decisions are suddenly charged with much greater political importance and impact than was originally intended, have gone to great lengths in the post-9/11 period to avoid reviewing the laws or the operations of the executive in the national security context and setting restrictive precedents that, even if entirely proper, would impose limits on government for decades or more. That means the most powerful institution that humanity has ever witnessed has also become the least restrained. Yet that same institution was never designed to operate in such a manner, having instead been explicitly founded on the principle of checks and balances. Our founding impulse was to say, “Though we are mighty, we are voluntarily restrained.”

President Barack Obama walks with U.S. Secret Service agents to Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Calif., May 8, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) </p><br /><br /><br /> <p>This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.
President Barack Obama walks with U.S. Secret Service agents to Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Calif., May 8, 2014.
Photo: The White House

When you first go on duty at CIA headquarters, you raise your hand and swear an oath — not to government, not to the agency, not to secrecy. You swear an oath to the Constitution. So there’s this friction, this emerging contest between the obligations and values that the government asks you to uphold, and the actual activities that you’re asked to participate in.
These disclosures about the Obama administration’s killing program reveal that there’s a part of the American character that is deeply concerned with the unrestrained, unchecked exercise of power. And there is no greater or clearer manifestation of unchecked power than assuming for oneself the authority to execute an individual outside of a battlefield context and without the involvement of any sort of judicial process.

Traditionally, in the context of military affairs, we’ve always understood that lethal force in battle could not be subjected to ex ante judicial constraints. When armies are shooting at each other, there’s no room for a judge on that battlefield. But now the government has decided — without the public’s participation, without our knowledge and consent — that the battlefield is everywhere. Individuals who don’t represent an imminent threat in any meaningful sense of those words are redefined, through the subversion of language, to meet that definition.

Inevitably that conceptual subversion finds its way home, along with the technology that enables officials to promote comfortable illusions about surgical killing and nonintrusive surveillance. Take, for instance, the Holy Grail of drone persistence, a capability that the United States has been pursuing forever. The goal is to deploy solar-powered drones that can loiter in the air for weeks without coming down. Once you can do that, and you put any typical signals collection device on the bottom of it to monitor, unblinkingly, the emanations of, for example, the different network addresses of every laptop, smartphone, and iPod, you know not just where a particular device is in what city, but you know what apartment each device lives in, where it goes at any particular time, and by what route. Once you know the devices, you know their owners. When you start doing this over several cities, you’re tracking the movements not just of individuals but of whole populations.

By preying on the modern necessity to stay connected, governments can reduce our dignity to something like that of tagged animals, the primary difference being that we paid for the tags and they’re in our pockets. It sounds like fantasist paranoia, but on the technical level it’s so trivial to implement that I cannot imagine a future in which it won’t be attempted. It will be limited to the war zones at first, in accordance with our customs, but surveillance technology has a tendency to follow us home.

Here we see the double edge of our uniquely American brand of nationalism. We are raised to be exceptionalists, to think we are the better nation with the manifest destiny to rule. The danger is that some people will actually believe this claim, and some of those will expect the manifestation of our national identity, that is, our government, to comport itself accordingly.

Unrestrained power may be many things, but it’s not American. It is in this sense that the act of whistleblowing increasingly has become an act of political resistance. The whistleblower raises the alarm and lifts the lamp, inheriting the legacy of a line of Americans that begins with Paul Revere.

The individuals who make these disclosures feel so strongly about what they have seen that they’re willing to risk their lives and their freedom. They know that we, the people, are ultimately the strongest and most reliable check on the power of government. The insiders at the highest levels of government have extraordinary capability, extraordinary resources, tremendous access to influence, and a monopoly on violence, but in the final calculus there is but one figure that matters: the individual citizen.

And there are more of us than there are of them.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

So who should be the next president of the football family that is FIFA?

The football world's governing body is enduring the worst crisis of its 111 year history and yet none of the five candidates to replace Sepp Blatter is likely to save the sport from the disaster capitalism that underpins the body.

Bribes, kickbacks, matchfixing, ticket sale scams, cash for votes, non-independence of committees, coercion, fake proxy voters, opaque accounting practices, money laundering, mafiosi realpolitik and criminal structures will continue to dominate FIFA whoever wins the election...
... particularly if the reforms to be voted upon prior to the presidential election are diluted any further than is already the case.

When businesses dissolve into corruption and criminality, they are liquidated but FIFA's bigwigs still think that they might reform their family from within.
But they have already lost the fans with 70% of global supporters saying that they no longer trust the organisation.

If you have read 'The Secret World of FIFA' or 'The Dirty Game' by Andrew Jennings, it is astonishing that this figure isn't nearer to 100%.

Jennings concluded his recent BBC Panorama programme by referring to Sepp Blatter: "I told you he was a crook."
And he is.

And yet many national football associations around the world are contacting Blatter asking him which candidate they should support as, like all former bosses of crime families, Mr Blatter possesses a lot of information about a lot of people.

First we will take a look at the inadequacies of the five candidates, then we address the limitations created by essentially all primary bosses of global football before finishing by offering some solutions and a suggestion for who should really run FIFA in the period ahead.

Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa

When not starring as Dr Strangelove or identifying Bahrain pro-democracy footballers for torture, the good sheikh is robbing £1.6 million of FIFA sports development monies to fund his unsuccessful campaign to be elected onto the FIFA Executive Committee in 2009.
Sheikh Salman wants voters to ignore the views of Human Rights Watch and to turn a blind eye to his exceptionally close relationship with Sepp Blatter - he once wrote to Blatter: "Dear Sepp... rest assured, the Asian football family stands firmly behind you."
Salman has no interest in the FIFA reform process, even avoiding travelling to Malaysia to hear his own confederation promote such plans.
Salman claims, however, that he wishes to bring "moral, ethical" change to FIFA and, to this end, he has signed Amnesty International's human rights pledge, albeit after amending references to Russia, Qatar, women and LGBT groups - "we must not be selective when it concerns human rights" he blurted after this striking example of being selective when it concerns human rights.
There are strong rumours that Sheikh Salman is working in cahoots with another candidate, Gianni Infantino, to divide the roles of president and general secretary between them. As Salman is Blatter-lite and Infantino is Platini-lite, this is an interesting version of the word "change".
Salman is 4/7 favourite and most bookmakers are refusing to price him up as they perceive his election to be a certainty.

Gianni Infantino

Has worked closely alongside Platini during the Frenchmen's mismanagement of UEFA and only stood for election once his former boss was banned from the game for accepting a highly dubious payment of £1.3 million in 2011 for work undertaken for Sepp Blatter between 1999 and 2002.
There was no invoice for this 'work'.
Infantino is offering a systemic bribe to solicit votes by offering $5 million per year in development grants to all 209 national associations. FIFA's current reserves are $1.5 billion so this annual payment suggests a failure to understand the structure of FIFA finances.
Additionally, he stands accused of failing to address the matchfixing scandals in Turkey and Greece which, no doubt, has helped to gain the support of the English and Scottish FAs who also wish for their systemic matchfixing corruptions to remain hidden in perpetuity.
Journalist Sid Lowe: "Matchfixing is the ultimate crime in football. If it is not a competition, it is nothing."
To further attract voters, Infantino has suggested that the World Cup Finals be extended to 40 teams and be spread across whole regions.
Born just down the road from Sepp Blatter, Infantino has refused to rule out making Sepp Blatter an honorary life president of FIFA if his systemic bribes win the day.
This caring Swiss gentleman is 15/8 second favourite.

Jerome Champagne, Prince Ali bin Hussein and Tokyo Sexwale

Surprisingly not an underground rap band straight outta Compton but the other three candidates for the FIFA presidency.
Champagne thinks that "history will judge Sepp kindly" which is only to be expected as Champagne was one of Blatter's rottweilers beginning from his election as president in 1998.
More credibly he states that Infantino's programme "is smoke and mirrors".

Sexwale has slid from being one of the heroes of the ANC anti-apartheid movement to a monstrosity who received $210 million in kickbacks during a 2007 mining deal out of which he generously purchased himself a $45 million tropical island where, presumably, he buried the other £165 million.
Understanding that he will not win, Sexwale shouts "I am open to alliances. I am open to negotiations", before leaving his bank account details for all to see.

Prince Ali is the most reform-minded candidate and consequently has no chance of winning.
Excellently, he landed in Switzerland for the vote with 209 transparent voting boxes which he hoped would serve as both a real and a representative aid to democracy. But FIFA and the CAS, both disliking the very thought of transparency, squashed that idea and the 209 booths will stand outside the congress hall as a surreal reminder of what might have been.
Ali has also called for the presidential election to be cancelled over numerous irregularities and has asked that additional "independent scrutineers" be employed to prevent shenanigans.
This latter call was also addressed separately by Champagne who popped his cork when he discovered that 20 extra passes for "observers" from UEFA and 7 from the Asian Football Confederation will "swamp the congress hall with confederation employees able to access" voters in a "gross violation of the principle of fairness."
That's the FIFA Family!

The FIFA Holistic

Andrew Jennings has shown that FIFA essentially functions as a mafia group (much like the rest of global football).
Currently 27 FIFA executives past and present have been indicted by Swiss and US authorities and there are an indeterminate number of national association representatives who won't be attending the presidential vote for fear that they too might be arrested in dawn raids at the Baur au Lac hotel and who are sending proxies to vote in their place.
The reform process is already a shadow of that intended and the vote on Friday will make the whole kaboodle a marketing exercise promising self-regulation and self-separation of powers and other fatuous Sicilian constructs.
81% of national football associations have no publicly available accounts according to Transparency International, that is the same Transparency International who were engaged by Blatter in 2011 but who cut their ties months later when it became obvious that FIFA had no intention of implementing any reforms.
Moreover, a coalition of NGOs that wrote to all five candidates concluded that not one of them had pledged adequate steps to prevent human rights abuses and corruption.
And, just ahead of the election, Blatter and Platini, partners in crime since they stood together at Blatter's inauguration in 1998, had their 8 year bans from football reduced to 6 years by a FIFA appeal committee for their "services to football" - what "services" exactly?.
The investigating arm of the ethics committee had wanted the 8 year bans increased to life for corruption.

And the voting process itself is primed for corruption.
It would be feasible in the age of space probe travel to the Kuiper Belt at the outer extremities of the Solar System for each national association to have a pad with A, B, C, D, E upon it and for voting to be instantaneous and simultaneous.
But by creating a time delay of several hours between the voting of Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, FIFA establishes the opportunity for countries later in the alphabet to sell their vote to the highest bidder, because if anybody still believes that a mafia body engages in secrecy of voting totals then they have missed the whole point of Havelange and Blatter.

This incentive for time-based corruption is even more persuasive in a tight race as at this FIFA Extraordinary Congress.

FIFA is systemically rotten...
... but the decay spreads further down the football hierarchy.
Blatter, Platini, Webb, Warner, Teixeira, Valcke, bin Hammam, Havelange, Niersbach and Blazer might be gone but a whole host of other degenerates remain.

Take Britain.
Geoff Thomson at the very least has offered no obstruction to corruption during his time as vice president at FIFA; Greg Dyke pledged support for Platini when it was known that the Frenchman was damaged in transit before transferring his allegiance to Infantino who is similarly marred by his close linkage to Platini; Stewart Regan, who long ago lost any association with reality, has also dragged Scottish FA support behind Infantino, no doubt being concerned that UEFA knowledge of his historical mismanagements of the Scottish game might otherwise surface; there are numerous examples of England undertaking matchfixing both under the current and previous management (including matches at World Cup Finals); Roy Hodgson has been shown to show bias in selection towards certain football agents in a mutually beneficial circularity of minimal meritocracy; Lord Coe of WADA was hilariously appointed as the first chairperson of the FIFA ethics commission in 2006 before moving on to ruin athletics; while the English bleating over the integrity of World Cup bidding processes is somewhat undermined by the England bid team (fronted by David Cameron, Prince William. Lord Coe and David Beckham) considering the use of bribes to win rights to the FIFA 2018 World Cup.

So Who Should Be Elected FIFA President?

When Andrew Jennings outed the attempt by the English bid team to offer bribes to FIFA Exco members, national treasure Gary Lineker chastised him for potentially ruining England's chances.

When the Swiss and US authorities swooped on Zurich to arrest FIFA executives last May, Andrew Jennings should have been all over the British media following his two decades of bringing a global mafia family to book. But British football is absolutely corrupt and Jennings knows that it is so and instead we were presented with Greg Dyke who wouldn't understand integrity if it came over and sat on his lap.

According to Jennings, the only media in Britain that have effectively covered the FIFA crime story have been BBC Panorama and the Sunday Times.
We agree.

And spreading the net further to global football bosses, there are no safe pairs of hands to repair football from within the national associations.

So, the obvious solution is this - cancel the presidential election and place Andrew Jennings in control of FIFA with the mandate to bring in people to clean up the sport and return it to the fans.
Nobody understands the ills of the global game better than Jennings and he has stood up to threats for 20 years in order to bring these crime bosses to book.
He has shown that he is a man of the utmost integrity and who better to save football from the mob?
Furthermore, it would allow him to continue his forensic exploration of past crimes at FIFA with access to the documents that are hidden away in safes in the FIFA archives.

The other option is merely to transfer power to a new set of mafia men who will raid the coffers of the game for their own proprietary financial gain.
And, anyway, to proceed with the election in the current atmosphere is a high risk strategy as both the Swiss and the US authorities have indicated that their enquiries into past crimes are continuing.


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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Off The Radar

                         Descending Into The Depths Of The Dark Pools Of Football Trading

Of the 10 Premier League matches this midweek, 8 are matchfixing events.

Now you might think that Sportradar (who gather 'intelligence' on suspect betting markets), the FA Sport Betting Integrity Forum, Federbet, Early Warning Systems GmbH (who claim to spot evidence of matchfixing), Europol/Interpol and members of the UK mainstream media (some of whom have first hand knowledge of these rigged events) would be disclosing this mass corruption to the fans.

Dream on.

And to understand why...
... read on.

Firstly, let's take a glance at the bodies allegedly addressing matchfixing and money laundering in world sport.

1. Federbet - set up by bookmakers for bookmakers. Their biggest scoop this season was the detection that Sporting Clube de Portugal versus Skenderbeu in the Europa League (and three other of the Albanian team's games) were fixed. As virtually every Skenderbeu match is corrupted, this hardly adds to the public's knowledge of the vice of matchfixing. This selective disclosure suggests that matchfixing higher up the food chain is only disclosed to Federbet's partners or that Federbet are entirely incompetent - either logic undermines their raison d'être.
ESSA Sports Betting Integrity (sic) are a similarly pointless grouping of European bookmakers working together to enhance market control.

2. The FA's Sport Betting Integrity Forum - the futility of this talking shop is proved by some of the membership. The British Horse Racing Authority (conspicuous money impacts on outcome in UK racing); the England and Wales Cricket Board (matchfixing in English cricket dominated by Dubai/Mumbai mafia); the FA (not fit for purpose as shown in numerous previous posts); the Tennis Integrity Unit (see Djokovic revelations below); 5 bookmakers (most of whom allow insider trading); Association British Bookmakers; Association of Chief Police Officers, Police Scotland and National Crime Agency (none of whom have disclosed any of the huge body of fixed football matches in the Barclay's Premier League, the Skybet Championship or the Ladbrokes Scottish Premier League).
FASBIF makes the FCA look robust!

3. Europol/Interpol - Ronald Noble, former Secretary-General of Interpol, is exposed in Andrew Jennings' book 'The Dirty Game' as, at the very least, a facilitator of the burying of bad matchfixing news relating to FIFA. Additionally, Europol direct any enquiries regarding matchfixing back to the local police authorities, like any Albanian citizen is going to go to Tirana police to report Skenderbeu games!

4. Early Warning Systems - established by that body of colossal integrity FIFA to expose matchfixing, yet somehow have failed to spot the three World Cup matchfixing events disclosed by Jennings and the dozens of events (including 5 at World Cup Finals in Brazil 2014) disclosed by Football is Fixed.

5. Sportradar - claim to reach deep into the underground markets but merely skim the surface of the Dark Pools that dominate matchfixing globally. When Sportradar detect a suspect event, do they go to the media? No fucking chance. In effect, they sell their analyses (sic) back to the sports betting industry so that markets might be made more efficient and mugs might be mugged - the suspect markets aren't suspended but traded aggressively with patsies being unaware that their leisure punt is a certain loser. No improvement in integrity. No support for the punter.
One of Sportradar's marketing slogans is "realise opportunities - everywhere" which says it all really.

Let's take tennis as an example.

On the eve of the ITF Australian Tennis Open in Melbourne last month Novak Djokovic disclosed that he had been offered considerable money to throw a tennis game earlier in his career.
The ITF and other tennis boards quickly moved to state that there had been no suppression of evidence of historical matchfixing in tennis http://www.itftennis.com/media/221271/221271.pdf.

But Australia's anti-doping chief Richard Ings has claimed that when he worked at the ATP tennis organisation, the body buried a report disclosing extensive matchfixing in the sport over a decade ago.

Four Corners, an Australian investigative journalist group, disclosed on ABC website yesterday that more than 40 tennis matches were flagged as matchfixing events in just three months last year http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-01/40-professional-tennis-matches-flagged-for-match-fixing/7127240
Furthermore, 350 tennis professionals are on a blacklist of matchfixers.

One of Sportradar's partners is the ITF.

So when Sportradar detect corruption, one of the following scenarios is played out:

a) Sportradar inform governing body who then take no action or,

b) Sportradar inform bookmakers who trade the information and adjust their internal markets but make no public disclosure or,

c) Sportradar inform both governing bodies and bookmakers and all enjoy privileged inside information at the public's expense with no release of the corruption to the press.

Whichever of these constructs is the reality, Sportradar are exposed as charlatans who are a problematical input to integrity in world sport.

As they scream on their website - ITF and Sportradar: A Unique Partnership.

Additionally, virtually all tennis coaches in the UK have contracts with British territory bookmakers that enables private information regarding player form, injury, psychological state, fitness to be shared for mutual gain.

Yet players themselves and family members/friends have to sign non-disclosure contracts to prevent them from utilising private information in the betting markets!

Top-down insider trading is allowed...
... bottom up trading is banned.

Which is where we come in - we copwatch.

We are trusted as purveyors of integrity which means that we are given highly privileged market information at least two levels deeper than the stratum reached by Sportradar in the Dark Pool trading platforms that dominate global betting markets.

There is also extensive chapeau blanc detection and intercept abilities in our network.

Hence the eight Premier League matches that are matchfixing events this midweek.

We know of only one other British entity that has similar access to these markets.

Yet this deeper access cannot be used as an excuse for the inaction of the bodies detailed above - although they might not witness the specific £### million trades, the market structure means that this information floats to the surface of the public markets where, with bespoke analysis, it is detectable.
Furthermore, many bookmakers operate in both the Dark Pools and in the public markets and are fully aware of the matchfixing.

Think of this when at your Premier League ground of choice tonight and tomorrow evening.

NB: We released our information relating to Dark Pool betting patterns and our other modes of extracting insider trading information 5 hours prior to the Tuesday Premier League kick-off's to engender a response in the market from the matchfixing operations. And a response is exactly what we got! If we had delayed our post to kick off (the original intention), we would not have garnered this extra information.
And the matchfixing that we exposed?
All eight matches were indeed matchfixing events.
These criminalised people are not very bright.

© Football is Fixed 2006-2016

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Racism In English Football

                     Britain's First Black Footballer Andrew Watson Played 3 Times for Scotland

One of my colleagues takes it upon himself to analyse the output of the English football press - a sort of mainstream media meta analysis.

Collation of the negative column inches compared with positive regarding players in the top flight of the English game for season 2015/16 is revealing.

Here are the fifteen most dissed players this season:

1. Raheem Sterling
2. Saido Berahino
3. Eliaquim Mangala
4. Christian Benteke
5. Diego Costa
6. Marouane Fellaini
7. Yaya Toure
8. Ashley Young
9. Wilfried Bony
10. Memphis Depay
11. Eden Hazard
12. Victor Wanyama
13. Jeremain Lens
14. Bafetimbi Gomis
15. Diafra Sakho

Spot anything?

Of the last 11,520 refereeing appointments in the Premier League, not one Black face (although lots of white men with shaved heads).

Not one Black manager in the Premier League.

Not one Black senior administrator in the Premier League.

Not one Black media anchor or primary commentator in the Premier League.

But lots of very white journalists.

Andy Watson made his football debut in 1874.
He was the son of a slave owner.
He studied natural philosophy, mathematics and engineering at the University of Glasgow.

Today widespread Third Party Ownership of African players and sporting and cultural apartheid in the Premier League continues England's shameful racism.


© Football is Fixed 2006-2016

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

The Men Who Sold The World

The Rise And Fall Of Richard Scudamore And The Referees From Mars

              Mike Dean Got All Three Major Decisions Wrong in Newcastle v Man Utd Tonight

Where have all the good times gone?

Prior to the 3rd Round of the FA Cup, all the madmen at the FA announced plans to trial a video technology review system in the competition from next season.

About time, as God only knows the extent of the criminal world in British football.
But the intended technology is just a blackout, a charade.

Firstly, these changes will have to survive the quicksand of the IFAB annual meeting in March (http://footballisfixed.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/the-ifab-four.html).

And, as our last post showed, the FA Cup is no longer magic. (http://footballisfixed.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/stickybeaking-standover-man.html).

Under the proposed review system the referees will be able to refer themselves to a big brother in the EPL Match Centre if they require confirmation of penalties, red cards, goals or cases of mistaken identity.
Offsides are to be excluded due to the second tier of matchfixing by match officials being for the assistant referees to be the scary monsters and super creeps of choice (as recently demonstrated very publicly in La Liga).

Critically, managers will not be able to appeal incorrect decisions (as allowed in cricket) and nor will any sound and vision be available for the scrutiny of fans (as allowed in rugby and cricket).

1984 then.

Just as self praise is no recommendation, self regulation is no regulation.
The technology will not affect the corruption.

Imagine an investment banker reporting his insider trading and market rigging to his superiors who had told the said trader to undertake such strategies in the first place - always crashing in the same car.

The Superman Manuel Pellegrini thinks the proposed new rules are insufficient: "Each manager should have one play in 45 minutes to review" when there is a sense of doubt about a referee decision.
In a short time, the correct decision could be made for all to hear and witness and the game would be able to move on without red money dominating the integrity of the sport.

The cracked actors at the EPL, being voyeurs of utter destruction, are dead against any video technology anyway anyhow anywhere.

But the EPL have already been breaking the rules since the beginning of last season.

All of the unwashed and somewhat slightly dazed pgMOB referees are now miked up to the EPL Match Centre where unknown faceless manipulators decide on what's really happening without any public scrutiny.
When so many incorrect match decisions correlate positively with insider trading on games, we are looking at dollar days in the subterranean markets as football climbs up the hill backwards to kingdom come.

Additionally, certain referees in the Moss garden have selective communication routes eg referee/ 4th official/ EPL Match Centre with only the 4th official being linked to assistants. Why?

And why the media blackout of these illegalities?

Some of our contacts have been gazing a gazely stare using bullet shotgun microphones within Premier League grounds to watch that man and hear the word on the wing from pgMOB officials. Although crowd noise has historically been an issue, a combination of sound compression and the disappearance of the chant of the ever circling skeletal football family allows detection of something in the air in the white light white heat of the game.

We addressed the neighbourhood threat of the lack of technology in our post How To Solve Matchfixing Once And For All (http://footballisfixed.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/how-to-solve-match-fixing-once-and-for.html).

"It is more critical for football to have video technology than cricket, tennis or rugby yet the authorities refuse to introduce anything more than goalline technology. Why?

An incorrect wicket in cricket, line call in tennis or try in rugby is rarely match changing yet those sports guard against such occurrences by using technology ...
... in football a goal or a penalty or a sending off very frequently is a match changing event and yet we have virtually nothing.

Up to 40 wickets in a Test Match, 240 points in a tennis match, half a dozen tries in a game of rugby...
... and one goal. 

The argument that it would slow down the game is fatuous.

It would add excitement if marketed correctly. 
UEFA and the Premier League would be able to bombard us with messages from their media partners while we waited to see if it is a penalty or not!"

Video technology was successfully trialled in the Dutch Eredivisie in 2013/14 and both the German Bundesliga and the USA support implementation immediately and yet the FA announcement suggests that there is still doubt before a better future.

So where are we know?
How does the grass grow?

The very earliest introduction into the EPL will be five years from the trial in the Netherlands.
This should be seen as a simple delaying tactic to enable those corrupting our sport for proprietary gain to bury deep their Diplock gold in offshore territories outside the financial system with no control across the universe of tax evasion.

Referees are just nobodies who like dancing with the big boys.
The EPL utilises only 19 refs and virtually all big betting turnover tv matches go to an inner core who should be seeking a new career in a new time.

Queen Bitch Howard Webb might be a starman and certainly has power and fame but what in the world has become of our beautiful game?
Such sorrow makes one want to scream like a baby.

In future with the speed of life, fans will look back in anger at the repetition of corruption as football lurches from ashes to ashes from station to station before heroes address the tumble and twirl and win the day against Aladdin Sane, Richard Scudamore.
Until then you better hang on to yourself if continuing to watch the beauty and the beast.

In the words of the wild-eyed boy from Freecloud Jean Baudrillard, football is undergoing a "perfectly undeserved sacrificial death".

But the game will eventually resurrect like Lazarus as a Black Star shouting "we are the dead".

Javi Poves, the Sporting Gijon defender who retired at the age of 23 due to matchfixing in the game, said: "Football is cash and corruption. It is capitalism. And capitalism is death".

Follow us on Twitter @FootballisFixed or at http://www.matchfixinganalytics.org/

Our book on systemic corruption and matchfixing in English and Scottish football will be published on November 11th 2016 - the tenth anniversary of this blog.

© Football is Fixed 2006-2016