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Journalists and free press advocates are responding with alarm to newly released documents revealing the U.S. government’s secret rules for using Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court orders to spy on reporters, calling the revelations “important” and “terrifying.”
The documents – obtained and released by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University through an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed last November – confirm long held suspicions that federal officials can target journalists with FISA orders.
New documents – obtained by @knightcolumbia and @FreedomofPress – appear to confirm longstanding suspicion that government has relied on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor journalist communications. @2ramyakrishnanhttps://t.co/VFDjk9oJqq pic.twitter.com/ybnEeuNsby
— Knight 1st Amendment (@knightcolumbia) September 17, 2018
The two 2015 memos from former Attorney General Eric Holder to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) lay out procedures to ensure that the attorney general or deputy attorney general signs off on any FISA applications “targeting known media entities or known members of the media.”
These secret rules, as Cora Currier reported for The Intercept, “apply to media entities or journalists who are thought to be agents of a foreign government, or, in some cases, are of interest under the broader standard that they possess foreign intelligence information.”
“There’s a lack of clarity on the circumstances when the government might consider a journalist an agent of a foreign power,” Ramya Krishnan, a staff attorney with the Knight Institute told Currier.
“Think about WikiLeaks; the government has said they are an intelligence operation.”
Additionally, even if they aren’t personally targeted by FISA orders, Krishnan pointed out that “journalists merely by being contacted by a FISA target might be subject to monitoring – these guidelines, as far as we can tell, don’t contemplate that situation or add any additional protections.”
Freedom of the Press Foundation executive director Trevor Timm noted that while “the fact that these were kept secret during the Obama administration is cause for great concern,”
China’s terrifying ‘social credit’ system, which is a rating assigned to each citizen based on government data regarding their economic and social status, has effectively blocked more than 11.14 million flights and 4.25 million high-speed train trips at the end of April, according to a senior government official.
Government officials first announced the proposal for a social credit system in 2014 — where each Chinese citizen would be rated according to their online, social, financial, and legal behavior. Misdeeds, such as late credit card payments, criminal record, jaywalking, using fake IDs, refusal to sign up for required insurance, and failing to pay taxes, could result in a travel ban for an extended period. The penalty for misdeeds went into full effect in May.
China’s Social Scoring System
The government decides who gets these goods and services:
It is still unknown which misdeeds the government cracked down on to induce such a large number of travel bans within the country. Former deputy director of the development research center of the State Council, Hou Yunchun, is quoted by the Global Times as saying the system needs a few more tweaks so that “discredited people become bankrupt.”
“If we don’t increase the cost of being discredited, we are encouraging discredited people to keep at it,” Hou was quoted by Sina Finance at an annual credit development forum in Beijing on Saturday.
In addition to blocking the flights and trains, the Global Times noted that the names of 33,000 companies which violated laws had been shamed on a public list, said Meng Wei, spokeswoman for the National Development and Reform Commission, via news website chinanews.com. Those on the list could be denied loans, grants, and other forms of government assistance, Wei added.
“Hou’s phrase that the ‘discredited people become bankrupt’ makes the point, but is an oversimplification,” Zhi Zhenfeng, a legal expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times.
“How the person is restricted in terms of public services or business opportunities should be in accordance with how and to what extent he or she lost his credibility.”
“The punishment should match the deed.”
“Discredited people deserve legal consequences.”
“This is definitely a step in the right direction to building a society with credibility.”
Since the launch of the ‘social credit’ system,