Sick Sophistry – BBC News On The Afghan Hospital ‘Mistakenly’ Bombed By The United States

In Media Lens ALERTS 2015

One of the defining features of the corporate media is that Western crimes are ignored or downplayed. The US bombing of a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, on the night of October 3, is an archetypal example.

At least twenty-two people were killed when a United States Air Force AC-130 repeatedly attacked the hospital with five strafing runs over the course of more than an hour, despite MSF pleas to Afghan, US and Nato officials to call off the attack. The hospital’s main building, which contains the emergency operating room and recovery rooms, was heavily damaged. Dave Lindorff noted:

‘the hospital was deliberately set ablaze by incendiary weapons, and the people inside not incinerated were killed by a spray of bullets and anti-personnel flechettes.’

Lindorff added:

‘The AC-130 gunship is not a precision targeting weapon, but a weapons system designed to spread death over a wide swath.’

Shockingly, MSF had already informed US military forces of the precise coordinates of the hospital in order to prevent any attacks. Indeed, the hospital is:

‘a well-known and long-established institution with a distinctive shape operating in a city that until recently was under full [Afghan] government control. That the US/NATO command did not clearly know the function of that structure is inconceivable.’

MSF were unequivocal in their condemnation of the American attack. The hospital was ‘intentionally targeted’ in ‘a premeditated massacre’.  It was, they said, a ‘war crime’. The organisation rejected US assurances of three inquiries – by the US, Nato and the Afghan government. Instead, MSF demanded an independent international investigation.

In the days following the attack, the US changed its official story several times. At one point, as Glenn Greenwald observes, the dominant narrative from the US and its Afghan allies was that the bombing had not been an accident, but that it had been justified because the Taliban had been using the hospital as a base; an outrageous claim that MSF vehemently rejected. It was even reported that an American tank had later forced its way into the hospital compound, potentially destroying evidence of the war crime that had just taken place.

Yes, the bombing was reported in the ‘mainstream’ media; sometimes with harrowing footage of ruined hospital corridors and rooms. Hospital beds were even shown where patients had burned to death. But the US bombing did not receive the extensive headline coverage and editorial outrage that it deserved.

If you are unsure of that, just imagine the response of the British media if it had been a Russian gunship that had bombed a hospital with the loss of 22 lives, despite pleas from doctors to call off the attack. Western leaders would have instantly condemned the Russian bombing as a ‘war crime’, and the corporate media would have taken their lead from the pronouncements coming out of the offices of power in Washington and London.

By contrast, we have not found a single editorial in any UK national newspaper condemning the US bombing of the hospital or calling for an independent investigation. This is one more example of the dramatic subservience of the corporate media to the state and indeed its long-term complicity in state crimes against humanity.

In the meantime, with nothing to say on Kunduz, the Guardian has found space to publish editorials onhoverboards and the Great British Bakeoff, as well as Guardian editor Katharine Viner’s ‘grilling’ of George Osborne at the Tory party conference. To compound the paper’s ignominy, it still proudly carries Tony Blair in its Comment section where it describes him merely as ‘a former British prime minister’, rather than the notorious and unpopular war criminal he so clearly is. That accurate description is only emphasised by the weekend’s revelations of a memo written by Colin Powell, then George Bush’s US Secretary of State, that Blair had pledged his support for a US invasion of Iraq fully one year in advance, even while telling Parliament and the country that a ‘diplomatic solution’ was still being sought.

 Sopel’s ‘Mistake’

On BBC News at Ten on October 15, 2015, BBC North America correspondent Jon Sopel told viewers over footage of the ravaged Kunduz hospital that it had been ‘mistakenly bombed by the Americans’. Not intentionally bombed, as MSF were saying, but ‘mistakenly bombed’. BBC News were thereby adopting the Pentagon perspective presented earlier by General John Campbell, the US senior commander in Afghanistan, when he claimed that:

‘A hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility’.

In fact, the US has done so before, many times. In November 2003, the first target of the huge American ground assault on Fallujah, following several weeks of bombing, was the city’s General Hospital. This was a ‘war crime’, Noam Chomsky noted, and it was even depicted on the front page of the New York Times, but without it being labelled or recognised as such by the paper:

‘the front page of the world’s leading newspaper was cheerfully depicting war crimes for which the political leadership could be sentenced to severe penalties under U.S. law, the death penalty if patients ripped from their beds and manacled on the floor happened to die as a result.’

Going further back in time, US veterans of the Vietnam war have reported that hospitals in Cambodia and Laos were ‘routinely listed’ among targets to be struck by American forces. In 1973, Newsweekmagazine quoted a former US army intelligence analyst saying that:

‘The bigger the hospital, the better it was’.

And now, in the case of the MSF hospital in Kunduz, Associated Press reported that:

‘US analysts knew Afghan site was hospital’.

Moreover, it has since emerged that the American crew of the AC-130 gunship even questionedwhether it was legal to attack the hospital.

Our repeated challenges on Twitter to Sopel and his BBC News editor Paul Royall were ignored. Is this really how senior BBC professionals should behave when publicly questioned about a serious breach of impartiality? Simply deign not to answer?

However, one of our readers emailed Sopel and did extract a remarkable response from the BBC North America correspondent which was kindly forwarded to us.

Sopel wrote in his email:

‘At this stage whether the bombing of the hospital in Kunduz was deliberate or accidental is the subject of an investigation – and I know there are doubts about the independence of the inquiry – but what it most certainly WAS was mistaken. Given the outrage the bombing has provoked, the humiliating apology it has forced the US into, the PR disaster it has undoubtedly been, how can anyone describe it as anything other than mistaken? If I had used the word accidentally you might have had a point.’

But this is, at best, disingenuous nonsense from Sopel. Most people watching his piece, and hearing him say that the hospital had been ‘mistakenly bombed by the Americans’, would have assumed he meant that the Americans had not intended to bomb the hospital rather than that bombing the hospital was misguided.

As we saw above, the notion that US forces did not know the target was a hospital is the Pentagon propaganda claim, and is not the view of MSF. Moreover, it contradicts the evidence that was both available at the time of Sopel’s BBC News report and what has since come to light (that the US aircrew actually questioned the legality of the strike on a hospital). Christopher Stokes, general director of MSF, told Associated Press that the US bombing was ‘no mistake’.

‘The extensive, quite precise destruction of this hospital … doesn’t indicate a mistake. The hospital was repeatedly hit’.

The rest of Sopel’s remarks in the exchange are irrelevant (the bravery of war journalists), verging on cringeworthy (his proud support of MSF with a standing order).

Sopel’s attempt to exploit ‘the outrage’, ‘the humiliating apology’ and ‘the PR disaster’ to justify his use of ‘mistakenly bombed’ is desperate sophistry. Is he really trying to say that a war crime is ‘mistaken’ because it is a ‘PR disaster’, requiring a ‘humiliating apology’?

Perhaps the airstrike was a ‘mistake’ in much the same way that the killing of eight Afghan schoolboys by US-led troops in 2009 was a ‘mistake’? This was a ‘mistake’ that Nato brushed away with payments of $2,000 for each dead child, in a kind of macabre ‘fire sale’.

Perhaps the airstrike was a ‘mistake’ in much the same way as the 2003 invasion of Iraq, in the eyes of Bridget Kendall, the BBC diplomatic correspondent. She declared on BBC News at Six:

‘There’s still bitter disagreement over invading Iraq. Was it justified or a disastrous miscalculation?’ (BBC1, March 20, 2006)

That the Iraq invasion was, in fact, an illegal and immoral war of aggression – indeed, the ‘supreme international crime’ judged by the Nuremberg standard of war crimes – was not a permissible description for BBC News.

But that is the ideological norm shaping corporate media output and ‘mainstream’ debate. Western political and military leaders may occasionally make ‘mistakes’ or ‘disastrous miscalculations’. But their essential intent is always honourable: to ‘keep the Taliban at bay’ (Sopel again), to destroy Islamic State or to ‘bring peace to the Middle East’.

We asked John Pilger to comment on Jon Sopel’s report for BBC News and his subsequent remarks on email. Pilger told us (via email, October 19, 2015):

‘Serious journalism is about trying to set the record straight with compelling evidence. What is striking about Jon Sopel’s report is that he offers not a glimpse of journalistic evidence to support his assertion that the US attack on the hospital was “mistaken” – thus calling into question facts presented by MSF: facts that have not been refuted and he makes no attempt to refute. Neither is the dissembling by the US military challenged by Sopel. Instead, he is “certain” the attack was mistaken. What is the basis of his “certainty”? He doesn’t say; and he clearly feels under no compulsion to say. Instead, in full defensive cry, he tells us what an experienced frontline reporter he is, implying that his word is enough. Well, I have reported more wars than Sopel has had White House briefings, and I know – as he knows – that journalism of this kind is no more than a feeble echo of the official line. He does reveal his agency by telling us – quite unabashed — that President Obama has “very little option” but to continue his campaign of destruction in Afghanistan. Some might call this apologetics; actually, it’s anti-journalism.’

Perhaps it is not surprising that the header photo at the top of Sopel’s Twitter page should show him listening respectfully to US President Obama. The tragic irony is that Obama, the 2009 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has just committed a war crime in bombing Médecins Sans Frontières, the 1999 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

DC

Suggested Action

If you decide to contact a journalist in response to our alert, please keep the tone civil. We do not condone abusive language.

Jon Sopel, BBC North America correspondent
Email: jon.sopel@bbc.co.uk
Twitter: @BBCJonSopel

Paul Royall, editor of both BBC News at Six and News at Ten
Email: paul.royall@bbc.co.uk
Twitter: @paulroyall

Please forward any replies to us:
editor@medialens.org

An investigation by the Bureau’s CIA Torture project.

REVEALED: The boom and bust of the CIA’s secret torture sites

In spring 2003 an unnamed official at CIA headquarters in Langley sat down to compose a memo. It was 18 months after George W Bush had declared war on terror. “We cannot have enough blacksite hosts,” the official wrote. The reference was to one of the most closely guarded secrets of that war – the countries that had agreed to host the CIA’s covert prison sites.

Between 2002 and 2008, at least 119 people disappeared into a worldwide detention network run by the CIA and facilitated by its foreign partners.

A mammoth investigation by the US Senate’s intelligence committee finally identified these 119 prisoners in December 2014. But its report was heavily censored, and the names of countries collaborating with the CIA in its detention and interrogation operations were removed, along with key dates, numbers, names and much other material.

In nine months of research, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Rendition Project have unpicked these redactions to piece together the hidden history of the CIA’s secret sites.

Although many published accounts of individual journeys through the black site network exist, this is the first comprehensive portrayal of the system’s inner dynamics from beginning to end.

Read the full report here.

ELECTION 2016 Bernie Sanders Is Exceeding Obama’s Historic 2008 Run in Crowds, Donors and Polling

In three key areas, Sanders is actually ahead of the insurgent campaign Barack Obama ran in 2007 and 2008.

When Bernie Sanders announced he would be running for president late in the Spring of 2015, many observers didn’t take it seriously – making analogies to failed perennial candidates like Ron Paul, who had a fervent base but did not make traction in the election.

The problem with these early predictions is that it quickly became clear that they were underestimating the Vermont Senator’s campaign.

In three key areas, Sanders is actually exceeding the insurgent campaign Barack Obama ran in 2007 and 2008.

Record-Breaking Crowds

Over the summer, it became clear that Sanders was drawing some of the largest crowds in Democratic primary history – with tens of thousands pouring out into cities to see the senator.

Up until this point in 2007, the largest rally Obama had held was a rally in New York City, our nation’s most populated location, that brought out 24,000 people. Sanders has exceeded that in numerous locations that are actually much smaller in population – Boston, Portland, and Los Angeles.

Earlier this month, Sanders set a record for the largest Democratic primary rally in Boston’s recorded history.

Sanders also has a campaign that is working hard to translate these crowds into volunteers. In late July, his campaign mobilized over 100,000 people for community meetings to support his bid; today, his campaign has developed a map that shows all of the organizing events currently planned:

Record-Breaking Donations

At the end of September, the Sanders campaign announced that it had hit one million donations – faster than any presidential campaign in history. This was a target that the Obama campaign did not hit until February 2008 during its own challenge to Hillary Clinton.

Perhaps even more remarkable is that this milestone was achieved with an average contribution of $24.86; although the Obama campaign was quick to boast of its sizable number of small donors, 47 percent of his money ended up coming from small donors, less than half.

Polling Stronger Than Barack Obama

Obama managed an upset of frontrunner Hillary Clinton that few believed to be possible. But at this point in his initial campaign, he was polling well behind her. Real Clear Politics has a chart showing polling averages among major pollsters for that primary. In early October, Obama was at 22.6  percent to Hillary Clinton’s 48.2 percent:

They also have one for this primary

Sanders is at 25.4 percent to 42 percent for Hillary Clinton, meaning that the gap is around 17 points, when it was 26 points between Obama and Hillary at this time.

Deciding Days

None of this is to say that Sanders will necessarily defeat Clinton. Much of that depends on his ability to defeat her in early primary and caucus states, which would give him the momentum for Super Tuesday and the rest of the nation’s primary elections. The Obama campaign’s strong ground teams in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina gave him the momentum to increase turnout and defeat the frontrunner who was trouncing him just a few months prior.

For Sanders, these early elections will be the deciding days, to see if he can continue on a viable path to the White House.

Congresswoman: Russia Bombs Al-Qaeda Terrorists. Why Is That A Bad Thing?

By MSNBC

A Democrat that makes sense. Wow. Wait till Hillary declares Hawaii the stronghold of terrrorists and Russians and will do another benghazi on it. She serves on the U.S. House Committee on Armed Services and Foreign Affairs.

Tulsi Gabbard tells Steve Kornacki: If we focus on overthrowing secular dictator Assad instead of defeating our real enemy, Islamic extremists who attacked us on 9/11, we’ll see a repeat of exactly what happened in Iraq, exactly what happened in Libya where ISIS, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, will walk in the front door, take over the country of Syria and they will be a greater threat to the people on the ground as well as the world with their heightened military capability.

Obama Says Russian Strikes On ISIS Are “Strengthening” ISIS

isis-oilBy Steven MacMillan

Welcome to Obamaland, the mysterious, schizophrenic world where the truth is inverted. Washington is rapidly losing the microscopic amount of respect it had around the world, as US propaganda is becoming more childish by the week. Any rational person who is even remotely informed just sits back in amazement at the volume of deceptive, deceitful, and outright ludicrous statements constantly spewing from the mouths of top US officials. One of the latest comical episodes was when the US President, Barack Obama, actually tried to argue that Russian airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS/IS/ISIL) are “only strengthening ISIL”:

The moderate opposition in Syria is one that, if we’re ever going to have a political transition, we need. And the Russian policy is driving those folks underground or creating a situation in which they are [debilitated], and it’s only strengthening ISIL.

So in Obama’s mind, Russia pounding key ISIS positions and other affiliated terrorist groups isn’t halting the groups rise, but “strengthening” it. In the real world, however, Russia has been severely weakening ISIS and fellow extremist forces in Syria through bombing terrorist command centers, weapons warehouses, training camps and other enemy positions. Russian airstrikes have illuminated the complete sham of the US-led coalition against ISIS, as Russian airstrikes have been far more effective already, comparative to America’s campaign.

Russia has once again outmaneuvered the West in relation to Syria, after a stroke of diplomatic genius from Moscow in 2013, which led to the Syrian government giving up their chemical weapons arsenal and averting a full-scale invasion by Western forces.

Obviously, the Western narrative that there are “moderate” terrorists fighting in Syria which we can trust and we should arm, is (and always has been), a total fallacy. “In reality, from the beginning, there were never any moderates,” as Tony Cartalucci wrote in his article for New Eastern Outlook: “US Complains As Russia Bombs its Terrorists”. “The Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI (al-Qaeda in Iraq), are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” was the assessment of the Defense Intelligence Agency in their declassified intelligence report from 2012. Just in case Obama doesn’t understand his own intelligence reports, al-Qaeda does NOT qualify as a “moderate” rebel group, they are as extreme as you can possibly get!

US Bombs a Hospital One Day after Claiming Russia Targets Civilians

You just can’t make this stuff up. One day after numerous countries – including the US – accused Russia of targeting civilians in Syria; the US committed a war crime by bombing a hospital in Afghanistan, which was run by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)). This abhorrent, repugnant and inexcusable act, killed at least 19 civilians (including at least three children), and wounded 37.

The previous day, large sections of the Western media had been filled with false stories that Russian airstrikes had killed civilians in Syria, with the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, even calling on Russia to “cease attacks on civilians”. Quoted in an article by Sputnik, Putin replied to these accusations by stating:

As for any information in the media on civilians suffering [from Russian airstrikes], we were ready for such information attacks. I draw your attention to the fact that the first reports on civilian casualties emerged before our planes even left the ground.

Author and independent researcher, Vanessa Beeley, wrote an excellent article for 21st Century Wire where she dissects the humanitarian propaganda promulgated by the West, and the role played by organizations such as the George Soros connected group, the White Helmets, in spreading this disinformation. Beeley also documents the fact that the US-led coalition in Syria and Iraq has killed civilians, a reality that other news outlets such as the Guardian have reported on – the US-led coalition is accused of killing civilians in 71 separate air raids.

Could John McCain Be More Hawkish?

In an interview with Fox News, US Senator John McCain was asked: “If you were President… would you shoot down those Russian planes?” to which McCain said “no”, but he then went on to state that: “I might do what we did in Afghanistan many years ago, to give those guys the ability to shoot down those planes – that equipment is available.” I suppose US policy is quite consistent, as the US was also aiding extremists in Afghanistan by supporting the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets.

The interviewer then asks the US Senator “who would be shooting them down?” and McCain replied: “The Free Syrian Army, just like the Afghans shot down Russian planes after Russia invaded Afghanistan.” McCain also asserts that “we need to have a no fly zone” and “a buffer zone for refugees” in Syria.

The US Senator has been one of the most prominent public figures who has called for the overthrow of the Assad government. In 2013, he was accused of illegally entering Syria in violation of the country’s sovereignty to meet Syrian rebels, with McCain even being photographed talking with the so-called caliph of ISIS, Ibrahim al-Badri (who is also known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi).

Syria: Where the Wolfowitz Doctrine Dies!

There won’t be many people in Washington who are more distraught at the news that Russia is pounding the West’s proxy armies, than Paul Wolfowitz. Regime change in Syria has been an objective of Wolfowitz since as far back as 1991, a man whose previous roles include serving as the President of the World Bank, and the US Deputy Secretary of Defense. In a 2007 speech, former four star general and NATO commander, Wesley Clark, discusses a meeting he had with Wolfowitz in 1991:

It came back to me, a 1991 meeting I had with Paul Wolfowitz. In 2001 he was Deputy Secretary of Defense, but in 1991 he was the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy – it’s the number three position in the Pentagon… I said to Paul (and this is 1991): Mr Secretary, you must be pretty happy with the performance of the troops in desert storm? And he said: Well yes, but not really. Because the truth is, we should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein and we didn’t… But one thing we did learn; we learned that we can use our military in the Middle East, and the Soviets won’t stop us. And we’ve got about five or ten years to clean up those old Soviet client regimes – Syria, Iran, [and] Iraq – before the next great superpower comes along to challenge us.

Clark adds that the US “was taken over by a group of people with a policy coup; Wolfowitz, and Cheney, and Rumsfeld, and you could name another half dozen other collaborators from the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). They wanted us to destabilize the Middle East, turn it upside down, [and] make it under our control.”

I have previously written about the PNAC group, and their desire to topple the governments in “North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria”. How the neoconservative war hawks will respond to Russia’s policy in Syria is difficult to predict, but most probably it won’t result in the US peacefully backing down.

The proxy armies of the West, Gulf states, Turkey and Israel, are getting annihilated by Russian airstrikes, which moves Syria one step closer to stability and a lasting solution to the refugee crisis.

Video: Israeli forces open fire on Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza killing seven

As Israel intensifies violence and uncoordinated multiple daily attacks are carried out by Palestinians, youth in Gaza have begun marching to the borders to express solidarity and their frustration.

Yesterday, Israeli soldiers clad in full combat gear shot protestors and occasionally fired tear gas canisters into the crowd of an estimated 1,000 young men and boys, killing seven and injuring 145 along Gaza’s border area. Layers of barbed wire and open space separated the soldiers from the protestors who threw rocks they found on the ground and molotov cocktails. Additional military installations and dirt mounds protected Israeli snipers as they picked off one protestor after the next with Ruger .22 rifles, hitting them in the head, chest, abdomen and limbs. Soldiers also fired explosive dum-dum rounds according to medical sources in Gaza. At no point did the protestors present any threat to the heavily armed soldiers. At least one protestor managed to plant a flag on the barbed wire.

Today, Israeli forces shot dead two children aged 13 and 15 as protests continue. Attacks were again reported at the Nahal Oz crossing east of Gaza City, east of Khan Younis, in the northern area of Beit Hanoun and at the Erez border crossing. THe demonstrations today reportedly drew smaller numbers than yesterday and Hamas security forces prevented some protestors from reaching the border area.

Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya’alon blamed his military’s killing of protestors on Hamas, saying that they didn’t prevent protestors from reaching the so-called “buffer zone,” a loosely interpreted three hundred meter stretch of agricultural land in the Gaza Strip from the border. He then threatened to escalate violence, referring to the 2014 massive assault on the Gaza Strip which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

While Israeli officials claim to not want an escalation – the military refrained from customary bombing of Hamas training sites after one rocket launched from Gaza landed inside Israel overnight – its forces continue to escalate violence by killing Palestinian children and unarmed civilians.

‘Classified Speech’: Purdue Destroys Video Of Presentation On Snowden Documents

By

 What you see when you try to load Barton Gellman's wiped presentation

Published in partnership with Shadowproof.

There are numerous examples of American colleges or universities invoking “civility” to stifle free speech, especially speech around the issue of Palestinian human rights. Multiple instances exist where students have demanded particular speech or acts of expression, which make them uncomfortable, be controlled or suppressed. On a lesser scale, there also appears to be a trend toward constraining “classified speech.”

“Classified speech” is speech containing or relying upon information, which is public but the United States government has not declassified yet. Colleges or universities that are part of the American security industrial-complex have “facility security clearances” or other obligations they have agreed to follow so administrators can maintain the stature of being a place that conducts classified U.S. government research.

Yet, the result of such arrangements is what happened to Washington Post journalist Barton Gellman, who produced Pulitzer Prize-winning work on documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Gellman was invited to Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, to give a keynote presentation on Snowden and “national security journalism in the age of surveillance.” The presentation was part of a colloquium called “Dawn or Doom” on the “risks and rewards of emerging technologies.” It was live streamed, and Gellman was promised a link for sharing his presentation after the event.

Purdue University emphasized in its description of the event that Gellman would offer a “fresh account of the disclosures and their aftershocks, drawing upon hundreds of hours of work with the classified NSA archive and scores of hours of interviews with Snowden.”

As Gellman has recounted, Purdue “wiped all copies” of his video and slides from university servers on the grounds that Gellman “displayed classified documents briefly on screen.”

“A breach report was filed with the university’s Research Information Assurance Officer, also known as the Site Security Officer, under the terms of Defense Department Operating Manual 5220.22-M. I am told that Purdue briefly considered, among other things, whether to destroy the projector I borrowed, lest contaminants remain,” Gellman added.

Gellman recognizes under a Pentagon agreement Purdue had to appear shocked when “spillage” was discovered at his presentation. The university ultimately determined three slides, which covered about five minutes in his presentation, tainted the talk so much that the entire keynote had to be erased so no student at Purdue would ever see the “breach.”

In a statement provided to Inside Higher Education, the legal counsel for Purdue, Steve Schultz, defended the decision to wipe all copies of Gellman’s presentation:

We don’t view this episode as any sort of compromise of Purdue’s commitment to free and open inquiry. It was the university’s desire to raise awareness of Mr. Gellman’s area of expertise that brought him to campus in the first place. When the classified nature of some material was confirmed, Purdue’s security officer made a judgment call, based on a reading of regulations, that we shouldn’t disseminate it. Purdue’s DSS industrial security representative confirmed the propriety of this assessment. In the course of communicating the decision to the technical team, the entire speech was removed from the website. We have acknowledged that perhaps a better way to comply with the law would have been to block only the classified information in question. But we don’t make the laws; we only do our best to follow them.

This overzealous attitude was exhibited by attendees at Gellman’s presentation. Gellman was specifically asked if he had shown documents classified “TS/SCI” or “top secret/sensitive compartmented information.” No one asks a journalist that question unless they have a background in classified intelligence work and are concerned about protecting the sanctity of U.S. secrets.

The same questioner wanted to know if the NSA had declassified the documents in question. Gellman explained they were still classified and, for the most part, government employees have been informed they should not look at them. He added the government will not declassify information because it does not want someone else to decide what is classified and what is not. However, that ties them up in some “pretty bad knots.”

This was not a good enough answer. One post-doctoral research engineer asked a follow-up about whether documents were “unclassified.” Gellman answered, “No, they’re classified still.”

As became evident, a number of people in the audience (possibly “junior security rangers” on faculty and staff) had no interest in exploring the issue of over-classification or how the government absurdly claims to still have control over information after it has leaked. They were uninterested in debating the extent to which agencies fight to maintain an alternative reality among government employees.

This kind of zeal is not entirely new. It has been seen in response to the Snowden’s disclosures and the documents from Chelsea Manning, which were published by WikiLeaks.

A military defense university established by Congress and known as the Defense Acquisition Universityblocked access to the Post in order to prevent trainees and workers from exposure to “classified material being released.”

A State Department official reportedly warned students at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) that students applying for jobs in the federal government could see their prospects jeopardized if they were found to be reading and sharing documents from WikiLeaks or talking about WikiLeaks on Facebook or Twitter. (The university later reversed its position.)

But, most often, the zeal has been reserved for personnel working inside government agencies, like the Defense Department, which blocked The Guardian to shield employees from NSA documents, or the Library of Congress, which blocked access to WikiLeaks.

In fact, one of the oldest research libraries in the country reacted in a manner very similar to Purdue. The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) made a recommendation, and the Library of Congress claimed to be following “applicable law” that required them to “protect classified information.” They went along with the notion that “unauthorized disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.”

Such a posture toward information is less about security and more about loyalty. Students and faculty engaged in classified government research, who make up a very small part of the university, act as missionaries guarding against anyone who violates the blessedness of information marked classified by anyone from the vast security apparatus with such power.

Not only does a policy like this empower students and faculty to challenge a journalist for engaging in investigative journalism, but it makes it possible to take concrete action to effectively police speech.

As Gellman reflected, “Now the security apparatus claims jurisdiction over the campus (“facility”) at large. The university finds itself “sanitizing” a conference that has nothing to do with any government contract. Where does it stop? Suppose a professor wants to teach a network security course, or a student wants to write a foreign policy paper, that draws on the rich public record made available by Snowden and Chelsea Manning? Those cases will be hard to distinguish from mine.”

Or, take it a step farther. The documents are not classified to the government. The information contained in the document is classified.

If the policy is fully embraced by Purdue University is applied, when any of that information is discussed with a reporter and is published, it has now technically a “breach” that the university should protect itself from because the government did not classify the information. That means any major newspapers covering national security stories should probably be censored and/or removed entirely from campus.

Such a policy is incomprehensible and, contrary to the view of Purdue’s legal counsel, toxic to any institution claiming to value academic freedom and open inquiry. Nonetheless, it is what institutions think they must adopt in order to protect access and prestige, as a part of the American security industrial-complex.