The NSA And The Government’s Public Relations ‘Journalist’

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On Sunday, CBS moderator Bob Schieffer invited former National Security Agency (NSA) head retired Gen. Michael Hayden to appear on “Face the Nation” to discuss privacy and government spying. Schieffer’s choice of interview subject should be both revealing and infuriating to any member of the American public who rejects the notion that government has the right to violate citizen privacy.

Hayden served as the NSA’s director under President George W. Bush, and was instrumental in setting up the agency’s behemoth and unConstitutional warrantless surveillance apparatus.

As the The Guardian’s Glen Greenwald pointed out in a piece Monday, “That’s the very same Michael Hayden who is now frequently presented by US television outlets as the authority and expert on the current NSA controversy – all without ever mentioning the central role he played in overseeing that illegal warrantless eavesdropping program.”

Greenwald also noted that not only was Hayden directly involved in setting up many of the NSA’s illegal surveillance protocols, but the retired general also has a financial incentive to ensure that public outrage doesn’t lead to the undoing of NSA spying.

Greenwald reported, “Hayden is a partner in the Chertoff Group, a private entity that makes more and more money by increasing the fear levels of the US public and engineering massive government security contracts for their clients. Founded by former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff, it’s filled with former national security state officials who exploit their connections in and knowledge of Washington to secure hugely profitable government contracts for their clients.”

And, “…Hayden has a clear financial stake in the very NSA debates he’s put on television to adjudicate. And while he’s sometimes identified as a principal of the Chertoff Group, what that means – the conflicts of interest it creates in the very debates in which he’s participating – is almost never mentioned. That’s because one inviolable rule for establishment TV hosts like Bob Schieffer is that US military officials must be treated with the greatest reverence and must never be meaningfully challenged…”

And the American newsman in Britain has a very valid point. Note the softballs Schieffer pitched for the former spy chief.

Discussing President Barack Obama’s announcement last week that his Administration would set up a group of individuals to act as a “privacy advocate” and challenge some of the FISA court’s rubber stamp approvals of NSA actions, Schieffer gave Hayden the wiggle room required to make slight hurdles to government spying seem dangerous:

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well— well let me just cite an example and let’s say that the NSA runs across something that they think an attack on the country is imminent—


BOB SCHIEFFER: —and they want to go into the court and say, “We got to do this right now.”


BOB SCHIEFFER: Is it feasible? Is it practical? Is it even possible to say, “Well, wait, let’s— let’s argue this a bit?” I mean it would seem to me that time was of the essence.

GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN: No, it is very much of the essence.

Schieffer spent much of the interview helpfully answering his own questions as he asked them.

Gawker blogger Hamilton Nolan mocked Schieffer’s interview style, suggesting that each question could easily have been phrased thusly, “Let me think of a remote hypothetical situation in which it sounds like privacy should not be respected. Isn’t it true that this hypothetical makes this reasonable and quite milquetoast proposal sound absurd?”

Schieffer went on to point out that the privacy-loving public doesn’t understand the NSA’s great responsibility.

That sparked this exchange:

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you— do you think, General, that the public understands what it is the NSA is doing?


BOB SCHIEFFER: They have this large collection of phone numbers, but if I understand it, they’re not listening in on people’s conversations.


BOB SCHIEFFER: They don’t do that until they do get a court order.

GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN: That’s correct, to an American, to target an American. And actually the President was quite candid in his commentary. He actually pointed out that when he was Senator Obama and wasn’t quite fully knowledgeable about these programs he was opposed to them and only becoming President Obama, when he actually saw what was going on that he become actually a very forceful advocate for them.

The rest of the interview followed a similar pattern of Schieffer asking easy questions and Hayden taking the opportunity to justify every one of the NSA’s unConstitutional methods.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) recently announced amendment proposals to a media shield law designed to protect journalists. Her amendment would place limitations on the definition of “journalist” because she is concerned “that the current version of the bill would grant a special privilege to people who aren’t really reporters at all, who have no professional qualifications.” Basically, the lawmaker’s goal is to make it dangerous for anyone who is not a member of the mainstream media (à la Schieffer) to inform the public of abuses carried out by those in power.

After all, Schieffer’s “professional qualifications” are vastly helpful to his journalistic integrity— especially if you’re a politician who needs a media puppet to cover your crimes.

Personal Liberty

Sam Rolley

Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After covering community news and politics, Rolley took a position at Personal Liberty Media Group where could better hone his focus on his true passions: national politics and liberty issues. In his daily columns and reports, Rolley works to help readers understand which lies are perpetuated by the mainstream media and to stay on top of issues ignored by more conventional media outlets.

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  • 1baronrichsnot1

    Boils down to a Bob schieffer interviewing himself, kind of a trick. Micheal has helped created a monster, Bob kinda led him through the “interview” blessed him for creating this behemoth of an eavesdropper, and declared, nothing to see here, I have inspected it, let’s move on to Lindsay Lohan. bye bye.

  • Warrior

    Dang. I missed another one of “boob’s” hard hitting interviews. I got caught up again watching that darn “infomercial” about the retractable hose. BTW, did wiener win yet?

  • Paul

    Anybody that think government can be trusted is a fool.
    Our Constitution made it very clear. The government’s job is to destroy our Constitution and take as much money from us as they can. Our job is to protect our Constitution and keep government poor. We are failing miserably.

  • red neck

    These scum suckers need to be shot!

    • perry

      yes you are right however you will not be the one to do it you just talk.A gun will not work you can only get one at a time.But with the vote you can get them all!

      • Gene Kapinos

        Votes don’t mean anything anymore.
        There was virtually no difference between Romney and Obama.

      • usaok59

        Voting used to work, but now they have figured out how to rig the votes and we lose. Besides I don’t think we’re going to get to vote on a new president in 2016. O is going to sign an Executive Order (after some made-up crisis) declaring himself “permanent” president.

    • Nadzieja Batki

      Do you really want to spend the rest of your life in prison over human trash even if they go about in expensive suits?

    • chris

      If it ever comes to an armed revolution they will be the main targets

  • Michael Shreve

    Though OBVIOUSLY the government’s LYING ABOUT THE SPYING and “national security necessity” is swallowed by many. It isn’t JUST “metadata” but Unconstitutional collection of ACTUAL conversions, emails, financial data and MUCH, MUCH more.

  • Gene Kapinos

    “And actually the President was quite candid in his commentary. He actually pointed out that when he was Senator Obama and wasn’t quite fully knowledgeable about these programs he was opposed to them and only becoming President Obama, when he actually saw what was going on that he become actually a very forceful advocate for them.”

    Now that the senator is ONE of US he’s seen the light.

  • 4USA2

    Bob Schaeffer has aged poorly as a legitimate reporter having integrity. Hard to watch him any more because he is so biased that he actually makes himself look pathetically stupid. He apparently never checks facts because he reports his news incorrectly. So it seems to go for all CBS reporters now days!

  • Mr T

    Bob “Scheiff for brains!”