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Kiriakou writes: "The Central Intelligence Agency last week told a federal judge, in response to a lawsuit, that it had a right to leak classified information to selected journalists and then to deny release of exactly the same information to other journalists requesting it under the Freedom of Information Act."

Pedestrians pass in front of the New York Times Co. building in New York. (photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)
Pedestrians pass in front of the New York Times Co. building in New York. (photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

Why Does the CIA Prefer Corporate Media?

By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News

23 February 18


he Central Intelligence Agency last week told a federal judge, in response to a lawsuit, that it had a right to leak classified information to selected journalists and then to deny release of exactly the same information to other journalists requesting it under the Freedom of Information Act.

The suit was filed by independent journalist Adam Johnson, whose work is frequently published in The Nation, Alternet, and on other progressive sites. Johnson noticed that in a 2012 information release request to the CIA by then-Gawker journalist John Cook for correspondence between the CIA and a number of prominent journalists, many of the responses to those journalists were redacted. Why, Johnson wondered, would the CIA send emails to some journalists and then withhold the same information from others? Why was preferential treatment being given?

For the record, the journalists who received preferential treatment were Jo Becker and Scott Shane of The New York Times; David Ignatius of The Washington Post; Ken Dilanian and Brian Bennett of the Los Angeles Times; Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman of the Associated Press; and Siobhan Gorman and Evan Perez of The Wall Street Journal. Most have since moved on to other outlets.

In one example that Johnson cited in his suit, The Wall Street Journal’s Gorman wrote to the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs, “I’m told that on runs, Director Petraeus’s security detail hands him bottles of water, relay-style, so as not to slow him down. And you mentioned the director’s running a 6-minute mile, but I was told that the agency-wide invitation was that if you could run a 7-minute mile, you can come run with the director. I wanted to make sure both are is [sic] accurate. On the chart, it’s accurate to say that the congressional gym and the Pentagon gym ranked high, right? And I was just told that the facilities at the black sites were better than the ones at CIA. Don’t know whether that’s something you want to weigh in on, but I thought I’d see if you did.”

The CIA responded the same day. “Siobhan …” The rest of the document is redacted. In closing, the CIA added, “We can chat more on Monday, hope this helps.” That’s it. The entire response was deemed to be too classified for you and me. But it was okay for Siobhan Gorman. She quickly responded, “Thanks for the help. I hope I wasn’t the cause of your dental appointment delay. This is very helpful as I try to tie up loose ends on this story. Sometimes ‘fun’ stories take as much work as their ‘less fun’ brethren. Sorry for all the qus [sic].”

The CIA argued that limited, selective disclosures of classified information to journalists are perfectly legal. The National Security Act of 1947, they said, only requires protection of intelligence sources and methods from “unauthorized” disclosure, not from authorized disclosure. And because the disclosures at issue were actually intended to protect intelligence sources and methods, they were fully authorized.

That was nonsense, according to Chief Judge Colleen McMahon. She said that Johnson’s question “is a good one. The issue is whether the CIA waived its right to rely on otherwise applicable exemptions to FOIA disclosure by admittedly disclosing information selectively to one particular reporter or to three.” She ordered the CIA to prepare a “more rigorous” justification of its legal position. Johnson may then respond to the CIA’s response by March 1.

The CIA has a long and ugly history with journalists. From the early 1950s to the mid-1970s, the CIA carried out something called “Operation Mockingbird.” The purpose of the operation was, in part, to recruit journalists and to manipulate the news media for propaganda purposes, including the propagandizing of the American people. Then-CIA director George H.W. Bush restricted the program in early 1976, and by the time the Church Committee was ready to release its report on CIA wrongdoing around the world, Operation Mockingbird was over.

But routine and regular contact with journalists never ended.

If the CIA wants to be an equal opportunity leaker, well, I guess there’s not much to stop it. But the issue is far more serious, and that’s because the legal definition of espionage is “providing national defense information to any person not entitled to receive it.” That came from Judge Leonie Brinkema in US v. Kiriakou. She couldn’t have been any more clear about it.

So why does the CIA get to commit espionage? Because there’s nobody to stop them. I’ve said countless times in this venue that the Congressional oversight committees are cheerleaders and lemmings and will never challenge the CIA on these issues, at least not with the current lineup. Meanwhile, the CIA can leak whatever it wants to whomever it wants with impunity. There won’t be any espionage trials for the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs.

We can talk in more detail about former CIA director Leon Panetta leaking classified information to a Hollywood producer and writer and getting away with it. We can talk about Panetta publishing his memoir without putting it through the CIA’s Publications Review Board, leaving it chock full of classified information and paying no price. We can talk about former CIA director David Petraeus leaking classified information, including the names of ten covert operatives, to his girlfriend, who was writing his hagiography. He pleaded to a misdemeanor. And the list goes on and on.

But what good would that do? The fix is in. The CIA can do whatever it wants. The rest of us have to follow the rules. There is one glimmer of hope, though. It’s Judge Colleen McMahon and those jurists like her. Maybe she’ll use this case to give Washington a lesson in respect for the law, freedom of the press, and separation of powers. Maybe.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act – a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration's torture program.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+14 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-02-23 20:57
Yes, the CIA is a real problem. Major media and career driven journalists cultivate relations with people in the CIA and all other agencies of the American empire and then they allow themselves to become regular leak conduits. This is how these agencies manipulate what the public knows. This is not real journalism. It is stenography.

Yes, the CIA can do whatever it wants. Right now, what the CIA wants is to regime change Trump and ramp up a war against Russia and China. The major media is totally compliant. It prints whatever leaks are given to it.

On Operation Mockingbird, it is well to understand that this idea was cooked up by OSS buddies Frank Wisner and Philip Graham, who had just been given the Wapo as a wedding present. He originally wanted to work for the CIA but Katherine's father Eugene Meyer said that his daughter was not going to be married to a spook. But a publisher of a powerful newspaper was good enough. Philip Graham said that he could accomplish more of the CIA's goal via the Wapo than he actually could working inside the agency. Over time, Wisner and Graham controlled most of the prominent news media in the US. Now things are more subtle, but the control still exists.
+5 # economagic 2018-02-24 06:25
Hmmm, I wonder what The Agency will find with which to blackmail Her Honor.
+15 # tomtom 2018-02-24 08:06
Thank you John, it's so refreshing and necessary to have people monitoring our own leaders/rulers/ criminal organizations, for the sake of "justice for all".
+8 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-02-24 09:29
I also think it is important to understand the political economy of American mass media. It is all owned by billionaires and oligarchs. The CIA was created by billionaires and oligarchs. The CIA and US major media are related as a class privilege. The people who run the CIA are personally associated with the people who own the mass media. These people don't tolerate "renegades," or those who break class solidarity.

Rank and file journalists know what they have to write or say in order to keep their jobs in this sort of culture. Former journalist Kristina Borjessor has written two very good books on this subject, after she was

Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press

FEET TO THE FIRE: The Media After 9/11, Top Journalists Speak Out

I think it is really important to understand what the American news system is. It is intimately connected to agencies like the CIA, Pentagon, FED, and other agencies of oligarchy.
+5 # RLF 2018-02-25 07:54
I think Hollywood is intimately associated to the CIA also. Zero Dark Thirty and a couple other movies came out so quickly after the event that it was clear that there was inside information guiding the projects.
+17 # PABLO DIABLO 2018-02-24 10:08
Truman said the CIA was one of his mistakes. Kennedy said the CIA was out of control and irredeemable and he was going to dismantle it and cast it to the four winds. George H.W. Bush was the former head of the CIA. How many warnings do we need?
+13 # elizabethblock 2018-02-24 11:15
Why am I shocked?
This is the CIA, who murdered Frank Olson in 1953, because they feared he knew too much about US biological warfare during the Korean War, and about the torture and execution of Soviet agents and ex-Nazi "expendables" in Europe during the 1950s. They told his family that he "fell" or "jumped" from a window. The right word was "dropped." [New York Review of Books, Feb 22, 2018, page 42.]
Selective leaking? They must regard that kind of law-breaking as trivial.
+14 # yolo 2018-02-24 11:16
Truman, the original creator of the CIA warned us about them after the assassination of JFK ( Just like Eisenhower warned us about the military industry complex. Unfortunately even with the warnings, what we are learning is once these organizations/i nstitutions are created, no matter how small, they begin to take on a life of their own. And what is more, as they grow, it isn't into what their creators had intended. In the same way Frankenstein destroys everything his creator holds dear. While I'd like to hope Judge Colleen McMahon is a check and balance on the CIA, unfortunately she is but one person while the CIA is like a cancer intertwined throughout our entire system. You can cut it out in one place but it morphs and keeps coming back.

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