June 20, 2024

Contempt For Press Freedoms: US Officials Bar Tucker Carlson From Interviewing Putin

Contempt For Press Freedoms: US Officials Bar Tucker Carlson From Interviewing Putin

Restrictions on the press grow ever tighter because there is more and more that the high and mighty don’t want us to know…

Tucker Carlson reports that the U.S. government prevented him from interviewing Russian President Vladimir Putin.  Carlson told the Swiss magazine Die Weltwoche that he had sought to arrange an interview with Putin, but U.S. officials blocked him.

“I tried to interview Vladimir Putin, but the U.S. government prevented me from doing so. Think about [the implications],” Carlson told the newspaper on September 24.  Worse, according to Carlson, no one in the U.S. news media supported his right as a journalist to report on the Russian leader’s views regarding the Ukraine conflict.

Such obstructionism reflects a growing contempt on the part of officials in the United States and other supposedly liberal democratic countries for freedom of the press.  It is merely the latest episode in a lengthening parade of restrictions, ranging from petty to truly alarming.  The highest priority targets are critics who dare condemn or even dispute the accounts that Western leaders put forth regarding key foreign policy objectives

European Union governments have been even more brazen than Washington in their efforts to impede critics.  Just days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the EU banned the two most prominent Russian outlets, RT and Sputnik.  The official rationale was that those organizations were Kremlin controlled and were disseminating “disinformation” regarding the war in Ukraine.  EU officials even ordered the removal of RT and Sputnik material from search engines.

More than 300 million inhabitants of EU countries were thus deprived from accessing Russia’s views about the war or its causes.  Conversely, EU authorities did not impose the slightest restrictions on the tsunami of propaganda coming out of Kyiv regarding the war.  Such gross imbalance has been a transparent effort to rig public opinion on a major international issue.

U.S. officials have been somewhat more subtle in their efforts to squelch dissenting views, especially on Russia, but they have been bad enough. The FBI, the CIA, and other agencies have engaged in a two-front assault on freedom of the press.  One method is to emulate the EU and take direct action against alternative news outlets and other dissenters.  The other strategy, which has become increasingly pervasive over the past decade is to pressure or collude with social media platforms to harass, marginalize, or eliminate sources that Washington dislikes.  Such censorship by proxy is both insidious and dangerous.

The FBI took a major step toward implementing the first approach in October 2017.  FBI leaders created a new Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF) in the bureau’s Counterintelligence Division. The FBI subsequently considered any effort by states designated by the Department of Defense as major adversaries (Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea) to influence American public opinion as a threat to U.S. national security.  Targets for suppression were not confined to publications and outlets that were indisputably under the control of one of those hostile powers.

However, censorship by proxy has become by far the U.S. national security state’s preferred method.  The U.S. national security apparatus has even actively assisted Volodymr Zelensky’s Ukrainian regime to undermine the constitutional rights of Americans.  CNN noted a worrisome revelations in a July 2023 report from the House Judiciary Committee.  “The committee says SBU [Ukraine’s top security agency] sent the FBI lists of social media accounts that allegedly ‘spread Russian disinformation,’ and that the FBI then ‘routinely relayed these lists to the relevant social media platforms, which distributed the information internally to their employees in charge of content moderation and enforcement.’”

In other words, the FBI served as a willing conduit and facilitator for Kyiv’s overseas censorship efforts.  Moreover, U.S. officials did not make even a minimal effort to vet Kyiv’s allegations before pressuring social media companies to shut down the accounts of targeted organizations and individuals.

Revelations from the so-called Twitter files, confirm the extent of such ideological collusion between federal agencies and social media companies.  Among other unhealthy aspects was that the FBI had paid Twitter $3.4 million.  In a so-called fact-check, USA Today conceded that “the FBI flagged Twitter accounts the agency believed violated Twitter’s terms of service. Second, another document shows the FBI paid Twitter $3.4 million for Twitter’s processing of information requests the FBI made through the Stored Communications Act.”  However, “fact-checker” Molly Stelino concluded that the FBI was not using Twitter for censorship purposes, insisting that “the $3.4 million is unrelated to the FBI flagging accounts.”  Such an argument deserves an award for gullibility.

The extent of the government’s collusion campaign was even more apparent because Yoel Roth, the Twitter executive in charge of content moderation and members of his staff met weekly with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.  It is a safe bet that those meetings were not to discuss the weather.  Such meetings also cast even more doubt on the allegedly benign nature of the FBI’s $3.4 million payment to Twitter for processing “information requests.”  Yet even Roth apparently balked at some of the FBI’s more far-reaching demands.  Roth contended that the list of alleged Russian disinformation offenders even included “‘a few accounts of American and Canadian journalists (e.g. [Grayzone’s] Aaron Mate),’ and said that Twitter would focus on rule violations and inauthentic behavior (i.e., bots).”

One interaction between the FBI and Facebook was as alarming as the collusion with Twitter. The FBI worked to discredit the New York Post’s blockbuster story on Hunter Biden’s laptop.  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg later reported that FBI officials had approached him with a warning that Russia was conducting a concerted disinformation campaign during the 2020 U.S. election cycle, just as the Kremlin did in 2016.  It was hard to miss the government’s implication that the laptop probably was part of the latest disinformation effort, and that Facebook should take down posts or algorithmically throttle accounts contending that revelations contained in the files were genuine. Yet there was no evidence at the time or subsequently that the laptop involved Russian disinformation.  The allegation further poisoned relations with Russia, though, as well as stifled debate on a crucial issue.

In an early September 2023 ruling, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Biden administration’s meetings with social media companies had violated the First Amendment.   That is an encouraging development in the battle against censorship by proxy, but it is unlikely that agencies in the national security apparatus will abandon their efforts to curb dissent, especially on controversial issues related to Washington’s role in the world.  Freedom of the press clearly is under siege even in supposedly liberal, democratic countries.

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Michael Lewis says Sam Bankman-Fried paid Steph Curry $35M for 60 hours of work for FTX

Steph Curry reportedly made $35M for 60 hours of work for FTX

Author Michael Lewis just revealed how much Steph Curry and Tom Brady were allegedly paid to promote FTX to the public.

Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried reportedly paid Warriors star Steph Curry and former pro quarterback Tom Brady a combined $90 million to promote the failed cryptocurrency exchange, author Michael Lewis claimed.

Lewis, a Berkeley resident who wrote “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” and “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” was interviewed by “60 Minutes” on Sunday. The 62-year-old was on the show to promote a new book about Bankman-Fried that he wrote after tailing the ex-billionaire for several years. Bankman-Fried is currently facing federal charges, including wire fraud and money laundering. His trial begins Tuesday, the same day Lewis’ book hits shelves.

Lewis met with the now-disgraced ex-CEO more than 100 times over two years in the course of reporting this book, per “60 Minutes.” He said he sees the result “as a kind of letter to the jury” in Bankman-Fried’s trial. 

Brady and Curry’s connection to all of this is that they were each hired to star in commercials, and serve as spokespeople, for Bankman-Fried’s now-defunct exchange. Lewis said he got a look at internal FTX documents during his time shadowing Bankman-Fried that showed how much the two celebrity endorsers received.

“He paid Tom Brady $55 million for 20 hours a year for three years,” Lewis said. “He paid Steph Curry $35 million for [the] same thing for three years.”

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Stephen Curry FTX Crypto Commercial – “I’m Not an Expert in Cryptocurrency”

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Exclusive: Donald Trump Followers Targeted by FBI as 2024 Election Nears

Exclusive: Donald Trump followers targeted by FBI as 2024 election nears

The government believes the threat of violence and major civil disturbances is so great, it has quietly created a new category of extremists: MAGA.

The federal government believes that the threat of violence and major civil disturbances around the 2024 U.S. presidential election is so great that it has quietly created a new category of extremists that it seeks to track and counter: Donald Trump’s army of MAGA followers.

The challenge for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the primary federal agency charged with law enforcement, is to pursue and prevent what it calls domestic terrorism without direct reference to political parties or affiliations—even though the vast majority of its current “anti-government” investigations are of Trump supporters, according to classified data obtained by Newsweek.

“The FBI is in an almost impossible position,” says a current FBI official, who requested anonymity to discuss highly sensitive internal matters. The official said that the FBI is intent on stopping domestic terrorism and any repeat of the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. But the Bureau must also preserve the Constitutional right of all Americans to campaign, speak freely and protest the government. By focusing on former president Trump and his MAGA (Make America Great Again) supporters, the official said, the Bureau runs the risk of provoking the very anti-government activists that the terrorism agencies hope to counter.

“Especially at a time when the White House is facing Congressional Republican opposition claiming that the Biden administration has ‘weaponized’ the Bureau against the right wing, it has to tread very carefully,” says the official.

Newsweek spoke to over a dozen current or former government officials who specialize in terrorism in a three-month investigation to understand the current domestic-security landscape and to evaluate what President Joe Biden‘s administration is doing about what it calls domestic terrorism. Most requested anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly, were reluctant to stray into partisan politics or feared the repercussions of speaking frankly.GET THE BEST OF NEWSWEEK VIA EMAIL 

Newsweek has also reviewed secret FBI and Department of Homeland Security data that track incidents, threats, investigations and cases to try to build a better picture. While experts agree that the current partisan environment is charged and uniquely dangerous (with the threat not only of violence but, in the most extreme scenarios, possibly civil war), many also question whether “terrorism” is the most effective way to describe the problem, or that the methods of counterterrorism developed over the past decade in response to Al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups constitute the most fruitful way to craft domestic solutions.

“The current political environment is not something that the FBI is necessarily responsible for, nor should it be,” says Brian Michael Jenkins, one of the world’s leading terrorism experts and senior adviser to the president of the RAND Corporation.

In a statement to Newsweek, the FBI said: “The threat posed by domestic violent extremists is persistent, evolving, and deadly. The FBI’s goal is to detect and stop terrorist attacks, and our focus is on potential criminal violations, violence and threats of violence. Anti-government or anti-authority violent extremism is one category of domestic terrorism, as well as one of the FBI’s top threat priorities.” The FBI further said, “We are committed to protecting the safety and constitutional rights of all Americans and will never open an investigation based solely on First Amendment protected activity, including a person’s political beliefs or affiliations.”

The White House declined to comment. The Trump campaign was given an opportunity to comment but did not do so.

What the FBI Data Shows

From the president down, the Biden administration has presented Trump and MAGA as an existential threat to American democracy and talked up the risk of domestic terrorism and violence associated with the 2024 election campaign.

“Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans are a threat to the very soul of this country,” President Biden tweeted last September, the first time that he explicitly singled out the former president. “MAGA Republicans aim to question not only the legitimacy of past elections but elections being held now and into the future,” Biden said.

Biden’s Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall said: “The use of violence to pursue political ends is a profound threat to our public safety and national security…it is a threat to our national identity, our values, our norms, our rule of law—our democracy.”

For Attorney General Merrick Garland: “Attacks by domestic terrorists are attacks on all of us collectively, aimed at rending the fabric of our democratic society and driving us apart.”

Though the FBI’s data shows a dip in the number of investigations since the slew of January 6 cases ended, FBI Director Christopher Wray still says that the breach of the Capitol building was “not an isolated event” and the threat is “not going away anytime soon.” In a joint report to Congress this June, the Bureau and the Department of Homeland Security say that “Threats from…DVEs [domestic violent extremists] have increased in the last two years, and any further increases in threats likely will correspond to potential flashpoints, such as high-profile elections and campaigns or contentious current events.”

The FBI and DHS report concludes: “Sociopolitical developments—such as narratives of fraud in the recent general election, the emboldening impact of the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol, conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and conspiracy theories promoting violence—will almost certainly spur some domestic terrorists to try to engage in violence.”

The threats listed in that paragraph are all clearly associated with America’s right and in particular with Trump’s MAGA supporters. Right after January 6, the FBI co-authored a restricted report (“Domestic Violent Extremists Emboldened in Aftermath of Capitol Breach, Elevated Domestic Terrorism Threat of Violence Likely Amid Political Transitions and Beyond”) in which it shifted the definition of AGAAVE (“anti-government, anti-authority violent extremism”) from “furtherance of ideological agendas” to “furtherance of political and/or social agendas.” For the first time, such groups could be so labeled because of their politics.

It was a subtle change, little noticed, but a gigantic departure for the Bureau. Trump and his army of supporters were acknowledged as a distinct category of domestic violent extremists, even as the FBI was saying publicly that political views were never part of its criteria to investigate or prevent domestic terrorism. Where the FBI sees threats is also plain from the way it categorizes them—a system which on the surface is designed to appear nonpartisan. This shifted subtly days after the events of January 6 when it comes to what the Bureau calls AGAAVE.

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