Journalism in the Public Interest

Why Reporters in the U.S. Now Need Protection

The Obama administration has made the most concerted effort since the Nixon years to intimidate officials from talking to a reporter.


Last night, ProPublica founder and executive chairman Paul Steiger received the Burton Benjamin Memorial award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. Here are his remarks.

In recent days I thought a lot about the 16 previous recipients of the Burton Benjamin award, and re-read the words from this platform of some of them.

Their words are inspiring. Their deeds are awesome. I am humbled and deeply honored to be among them.

The first honoree, in 1997, was Ted Koppel of ABC, who for a significant time brought serious reporting to late-night TV with sustained high quality. The most recent, last year, was Alan Rusbridger of the Guardian, who has the vision to be a leader in reinventing journalism for the digital age and the courage to challenge both his government and ours on the extent to which they spy on us. Together, and with those in between, they inhabit an arc of profound change that I want to reflect on briefly tonight.

The arc actually goes back to 1981, when Michael Massing and other young writers with overseas experience founded CPJ.

American journalists were still basking in the reflected glow of All the President’s Men, the Robert Redford/Dustin Hoffman movie that five years earlier had won three Academy Awards and anointed Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and by implication all reporters as rock stars with typewriters. Yes, typewriters.

Woodward’s and Bernstein’s reporting in the Washington Post, based partly on tips from anonymous sources, helped drive President Nixon from office. This came only a few years after the Pentagon Papers case, in which the Supreme Court denied Nixon’s motion to bar the New York Times and the Post from publishing leaks of the papers, which detailed abuses during the Vietnam War.  

U.S. journalists, in other words, were riding high.

What Michael and his young colleagues saw was that journalists in America had it far better than those abroad, particularly in repressive states. Americans had the protection of the First Amendment and the backing of wealthy, committed, and lawyer-stocked news organizations. In vast parts of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, reporters, editors, and broadcasters could be bankrupted, beaten, thrown into jail, or killed, by powerful people offended by what they wrote or aired.

As the experience of our incredibly courageous honorees tonight demonstrates, in many places around the world the life of a journalist who is determined to find and report the truth is no better today than it was 32 years ago. Reporters, editors, photographers, and publishers are still threatened, beaten, and murdered, often with impunity. The core mission of CPJ is just as critical as it ever was, in many respects more so.

What has changed is the position of us, American journalists. We are still far better off than our beleaguered cousins in danger zones abroad, of course.

But financially, I don’t need to tell this group of the hammering our industry has taken in the last decade. Publications shrinking or even closing, journalists bought out or laid off, beats shrunk or eliminated.

And now, more recently, we are facing new barriers to our ability to do our jobs – denial of access and silencing of sources.

For the starkest comparison, I urge any of you who haven’t already done so to read last month’s report, commissioned by CPJ and written by Len Downie, former editor of the Washington Post. It lays out in chilling detail how an administration that took office promising to be the most transparent in history instead has carried out the most intrusive surveillance of reporters ever attempted.

It also has made the most concerted effort at least since the plumbers and the enemies lists of the Nixon Administration to intimidate officials in Washington from ever talking to a reporter.

Consider this:  As we now know from the Snowden documents, investigators seeking to trace the source of a leak can go back and discover anyone in government who has talked by phone or email with the reporter who broke the story. Match that against the list of all who had access to the leaked info and voila!

In my days editing the Wall Street Journal, I used to joke that no one in the Washington Bureau ever had an on-the-record conversation. Now I would have to wonder whether anyone was having any kind of conversation at all that wasn’t a White House-sanctioned briefing.

It isn’t just words. The White House has been barring news photographers from all sorts of opportunities to ply their craft. Routine meetings and activities of the president, of which they used to be able to shoot still and video images under certain constraints, now are often – not always, but often -- off limits, according to the American Society of News Editors, which is protesting the action, along with other groups.

The administration has invited news organizations to pick up images handed out by the press office or from the White House website. Sort of like saying, “just print the press release,” as some corporate PR people used to say to me years ago when I asked for an interview with the CEO.

I don’t mean to suggest that this administration is always and everywhere implacably hostile to journalists. After its snooping into communications of the Associated Press and of a Fox News reporter was revealed, the administration agreed to certain restraints.

It ostensibly agreed not to prosecute anyone for engaging in journalism.  News organizations will generally be given advance notice when the Justice Department wants access to their records, so that they can resist in court, and warrants for access to a reporter’s records won’t be sought unless the reporter is a target of a criminal investigation. Still, the government can waive these constraints if national security is involved.

CPJ chairman Sandra Mims Rowe noted in announcing the Downie Report last month that the founders of CPJ “did not anticipate the need to fight for the rights of U.S. journalists who work with the protection of the First Amendment.” Limited resources, she said, had to be directed at countries with the greatest need. Even with declining revenues at U.S. news organizations, the principal need is still abroad.

But, she added, the time has come for CPJ to speak out against excessive government secrecy here at home. As just one supporter of CPJ, I agree. If we are going to be credible admonishing abusers of journalists abroad, we can’t stand silent when it is going on at home.

One last thing.  I don’t want to leave the impression that I’m in despair. I’m definitely not.

A couple of billionaires, Jeff Bezos and Pierre Omidyar, have put up several hundred millions of dollars in funding to, respectively, rebuild one great old platform – the Washington Post – and erect an entirely new one.

From New York to Texas to California, and in scattered places in between, non-profit reporting teams, ProPublica happily among them, are enjoying increasing success with both their journalism and their fundraising.

And new forms of web-based reporting like Buzzfeed are both attracting young audiences and sliding towards profitability. I was at first cranky the other day when Buzzfeed stole one of our brilliant senior editors. But then I realized his new job is to recruit half a dozen reporters and start an investigations team. For society and for journalism, that is progress.

We can’t rest. We need to stand up in stout opposition whenever the First Amendment is challenged at home. We need to speak out, even more vigorously than before, when journalists are abused around the world. We need to keep finding and funding more inventive ways to carry out serious reporting.

There’s a gaping hole in this reasoning, I think, in elevating “reporters” as special people.  This isn’t why reporters need protection.  This is why everybody needs protection.  If everybody isn’t protected equally, then reporters can be relieved of protection by reclassifying them.

I suspect I’m preaching to the choir at ProPublica, but this is why the crusades against WikiLeaks, Manning, Snowden, and so forth are so frightening.  “They’re not reporters” is how the government and major media outlets framed it, and then the AP was shocked—shocked!—when the DoJ looked through their records.

When we only protect one group at the expense of others, it breeds corruption and it won’t last.

As to the government trying to push towards “press release journalism,” they’re late to the party.  ProPublica hasn’t often done this, but let’s be honest, most “news” is word-for-word identical to the press release, whether it’s the crack investigation of a new iPhone release, the strategies used in Iraq and Afghanistan as interpreted by retired generals, or how we should think about the nuclear deal with Iran or the name of “the royal baby” as if we’re ruled by an overseas monarchy.

The government provides (as do foreign governments and companies) the press releases because NBC and the New York Times don’t want the overhead of a bureau dedicated to the topic.  They’re assisting and exploiting the race to the bottom, not coordinating it.

Shannon Oberlien

Nov. 27, 2013, 1:54 p.m.

If outfits like ProPublica weren’t so obviously in the pockets of the current administration, the administration might not display so much hubris in the way it controls its compliant minions in the media. A partisan press corps chills a free press far more effectively than does a government that does what governments are wont to do - hide its business from the press. In fact, one way to tell when a government has a large portion of media in its pockets is when investigative journalism degrades to a dance of whining about how tight is the leash, and “exposes” based on leaks and stolen documents rather than on solid frontal assaults through determined legal campaigns to maintain freedom of information.

If reporters - journalists, that is - want protection from the American people then they better start plying their trade amongst their own ranks.

The number of “reporters” and “talking heads” who are obviously under the control of special interests is sickening.  The unspoken taboo against revealing just which news entities and staff are on the take needs to go.

In too many cases, the Fourth Estate is but the propaganda arm of a fifth column that seeks to destroy democracy in America.

@“Shannon Oberlien”, who asserts If outfits like ProPublica weren’t so obviously in the pockets of the current administration...

What you state as fact isn’t so obvious to me; in fact, it reeks of the Republican assault upon NPR and PBS because of their habit of telling the truth.

Pray tell:  Can you provide the reader with some substantial evidence that can be substantiated?

John: Spot on! Shannon: Not so much. “...determined legal campaigns to maintain freedom of information” are butting against policies conducted under the umbrella term, “the patriot act” - policies which are being invented on the fly and are unquestioningly accepted by most major media. Eliminates the work and expense involved investigating a topic which doesn’t carry the “entertainment” value they think they need to hook viewers. (As a result, more and more of us tune out altogether.)

We have a majority of congress, the supreme court, and the executive branch working in tandem to shut down our access to knowledge about policies and actions being conducted in our name. The wheels of the justice system grind slowly - most recently seemingly stopped altogether - while decisions and events taking place in our name continue to rapidly unfold. We need more whistle-blowers.

Bruce J Fernandes

Nov. 27, 2013, 2:46 p.m.

You mean these same reporters that played dumb during the entire Obama presidency?

Now they are concerned for themselves as if they are a special class of citizenry?

All of us are afraid of Obama.  He conducts this presidency as if we elected a king and we are his stupid hayseed followers who should be eternally grateful because he will provide cradle to grave government.

Some of us have lived every day of our lives doing for ourselves believing the taxes we pay are for a class of Americans we used to call the truly needy.  Now, government is trying to create layers of dependency classes with the hope of creating a majority dependency class in this country who will vote for the party that promises to fund never ending dependency.

Reporters never wanted to get that story right and now they want protection from their messiah?

I agree we need to have more protection for journalist. I am personally at a loss as to why the Fukushima disaster is still not being reported, other than GE having the power to keep EVERYONE quiet, including Pro Publica. This disaster WILL affect the whole world and no one wants to report on it….... WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF????
Edward Snowden Is my hero, he gave up his whole life so we the American public could know what our government is up to. His sacrifice was HUGE, for us, the American people.
This is my opinion.

Charles Ebeling

Nov. 27, 2013, 4:12 p.m.

Paul acts as a good guardian of the press, and their need and right to access to “sources.” One reader points out that the public also has a need and right to direct access to “sources.” Maybe the HSA ought to become a public utility, and open up its access to all. While that would clearly be an excess of access, it does not counter the broad principle that in an open society, there should be mutual transparency between all vested parties, with rare exceptions for security purposes. That is why the press exists—to help the public screen for vital issues. Let’s keep the rights of man, and the principles of openness in focus.

with regard to the above comment: “He conducts this presidency as if we elected a king and we are his stupid hayseed followers who should be eternally grateful because he will provide cradle to grave government.”
Really? Maybe you and Rupert Murdoch believe that (and I have my doubts about RM), but the facts say otherwise. Obama is a huge disappointment, after the hopes most of us had, but he is hardly a king. In reality, he is an ineffectual president and a serial compromiser. He has done some good things (ACA), tempered by concessions that make that program more of the same-old. But this article is about press freedom, and there he seems to be ‘lower’ than GWB. I had fears that GWB would declare himself prezident-for-life, but there was some rationale there! Your rationale is not rational.

@Bruce J Fernandes - are you sure you aren’t confusing the reporters of the Bush era with the reporters of the Obama era? Because I don’t remember a damn reporter asking the Bush misAdministration a hard question even ONCE during the run-up to Bush’s fake war against Iraq. Or during that war. In fact, nothing but softball questions were asked until the recession in 2008 and Bush came out looking like a deer in the headlights. On the other hand, reporters during the Obama era have fallen all over themselves in an effort to emulate the “success” of Faux Noise.

As for reporters needing protection. If that were really the case, Steiger would have listed all the reporters who have been thrown in jail by this dictatorial and oppressive regime. He listed none. Because this Administration was after the leakers, not the reporters.

And people like Snowden - before this is over, who knows how many dead Americans and American allies he may be responsible for. He’s certainly not my hero.

Mike W: Agreed! It would seem there are some making comments that fail to read the articles they’re responding to. In the case of Fernandes it’s simply a venue to express unrelated views, apparently the “bootstraps vs socialism” rant.

In a previous post from “Shannon”, the comment is made that ProPublica is in the pockets of the current administration. The article apparently wasn’t read since the entire article expresses our rights and our need for the information that affects us, and make ourselves heard despite the clamp-downs on our first amendment rights being conducted by the CURRENT administration. Hardly an article which is “in the pockets of the CURRENT administration”.

I suspect any future whistle blowers out there will be using burner phones.

Bruce J Fernandes

Nov. 27, 2013, 5:04 p.m.

Mike and George,

At least Obamacare will offer both of you some serious counseling as you are both on the edge of delusional.

Bush was constantly hammered for producing burger flipping part time jobs.  Not one word about the impact on ObamaCare on employment.

If Bush had done half the executive orders bypassing congress he would have been impeached by Harry Reid.  Bush fought changing Senate rules when his party was in the majority but Reid was more than willing to change the rules so King Barack I can have his way without advice and consent.

The problem you fellas have is Obama wasn’t elected to be a king and we are not his subjects.

All I care about is I pay my taxes and in return just leave me to take care of myself and if you believe in government Medicaid healthcare then accept the long term price you pay for it in terms of rationing and people like me who value healthcare and are willing to pay up for it on top of our taxes…. just let us… just maintain a two-tier system where those addicted to subsidies settle for Medicaid and those of us who pay up get the best.

But don’t demand to make everyone equally miserable because you don’t want to pay up for the best.  That is the seed of anger out there.  Obama was not elected to transform America into a Eurotrash country.

@Bruce J Fernandes:

Don’t believe anybody has criminalized directly paying their medical providers more cash for the gilt-edged medical hand-holding that you’re demanding.

@Bruce J Fernandes

re: If Bush had done half the executive orders bypassing congress he would have been impeached by Harry Reid.

See The American Presidency Project at UCSB

Total Executive Orders

George W. Bush 291 (13198 - 13488)
Barack Obama   161 (13489 - 13649)

through July of 2013, in President Obama’s case.

re: If Bush had done half the executive orders bypassing congress he would have been impeached by Harry Reid.

You might want to do a little research on impeachment, too…Article I of the Constitution says:

The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment.

Reid is a Senator.

Free advice:  It doesn’t pay to form opinions based upon websites and media sources controlled by the right; if a truth is inconvenient, they’ll do away with it or transform it into an outright lie.

At least this website tends to attract some intelligent conversation, unlike the many that speak in dithyrambic cacography with ne’er a thought to semiotics.  This approaches the Forum status of the Lyceum albeit with the usual left and right dialectic.  As formulated elsewhere, “A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged; a liberal is a conservative who’s been indicted; a passionate prison reformer is a conservative who’s in one”.  Fact Check would be a rational place to start.  As Paul Simon sang, “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”.  Cheers all.

I think American reporters want more information, and I don’t think American journalists need “protection” in the way journalists do in other countries do.

And Obama is responsible for this? Really?

To non-Americans, the view of America is much different.

‘Why reporters in the US now need Protection?’ In a word: obama.

He hounded Aaron Swartz literally into his grave.

He put Bradley Manning, naked, in solitary confinement for 8 months. That’s the work of a thug. A corporate thug.

Jeremy Hammond got 10 years for exposing cooperation between private corporations, the White House and DHS (NSA, FBI, CIA, local police) in order to stifle dissent and defeat citizen movements.

Obama has let it be known that if he ever gets his hands on Edward Snowden, it will get even uglier.

Thanks to ProPublica for their work in exposing government mobsters of both major parties.

A vote for either party in the future is a vote for silencing us all.

In Latin America a progressive government gets flack from much of U.S. media’s professional class because that government decides to take on corporate media that is biased, viciously lies, and promotes a political agenda.  That same American media demonstrates a breathtaking spinelessness when it comes to pushing back on the Obama administration’s fascist moves.  Wimphishly asking for permission to ask for access to news sources.  They feel they won battles by obtaining agreement from the Obama administration to abide by “certain restraints” and “not to prosecute anyone for engaging in journalism.”  Meanwhile, U.S. journalism is getting the George Carlin treatment and all the profession can do is try to persuade Obama to be more transparent.  Sickening and an embarrassment to the 1st Amendment.  Thank god there are still news alternatives to mainstream media.

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Nov. 27, 2013, 10:51 p.m.

Ever wonder why recently the major mainstream news people have been attending secret meetings with the administration? We know the meetings occur, but we haven’t heard ANYTHING about the content. Journalist? Yeah, right.

Another note not really touched on in the article is the trend from “Lady Feinstien” (D. Calif.) and others, for some type of “license” for newspeople, journalist or reporters. If and when this does pass as law, then the rest of us have lost our first amendment rights to free speech. Watch and see if I’m not right. The law will probably be tacked on to the end of some other great legislation. The license will serve as their protection. (Papers, Pleeeze)

I sift through a lot of news to try to figure out what the real truth is. I do my best to use some critical thinking to come to some kind of conclusion. Sometimes some of the news I find is totally unbelievable.

We seem to have become a nation of sheeple that are being led to the slaughter by those talking heads with a teleprompter.

Our country has crossed a line from being unsatisfied with our government to being afraid of our government. This is a dangerous precedent. Some of the blame for this falls right into the laps of the newspeople, no matter which side of the isle they support or lean toward.

If We, The People cannot see, and refuse to understand what is taking place right before our eyes, if we cannot muster the courage to change things, we deserve what is coming to us.


Nov. 28, 2013, 2:17 p.m.

Nothing New, Just Some Observations

In my younger years there was this ‘Oh My Gosh’ saying that went something like this: What if you wake up in the morning, open the curtains, only to see 60 Minutes waiting!  This implied investigative journalism so deep, thorough and efficient that they beat the Department of Justice to the punch.  Nowadays when you open the curtains you’ll be lucky to see the newspaper delivery person flinging your paper onto the roof or into a puddle.

Journalist (Journalism) is a misnomer; they’re (it’s) long gone or have been replaced by pseudo-citizens (corporatocracy) that occupy a comfy chair in an air-conditioned office where they keep an eye on incoming faxes, while they ‘process’ official stuff from AP or other faith-based sources.  Is it any wonder why newspapers—particularly the ones so dependent upon news-article mills—produce warmed-up pancakes, diluted orange juice and half-baked bread pretending to be news.  The really ‘outstanding’ papers will, on occasion, completely rewrite a letter to the editor, and even sign your name to it. [ DBN-J before I cancelled my subscription ].

@OneSovereignCitizen who, in part, said: 

Journalist (Journalism) is a misnomer; they’re (it’s) long gone or have been replaced by pseudo-citizens (corporatocracy) that occupy a comfy chair in an air-conditioned office where they keep an eye on incoming faxes, while they ‘process’ official stuff from AP or other faith-based sources.

I would disagree…

America is still producing “journalists” my opinion, one should reserve their scorn for the owners, CEOs, and editors who grant themselves the “right” to dictate the “tone”...scorn instead they who say “How should we approach this?” while knowing full well that they will only permit a particular “slant” to hit the press/air….scorn those who choke the truth out of a story before it hits the press/air.

The printed press killed itself by kowtowing to its major advertisers; TV media seems to desire the same fate - a fate which I suspect will arrive even swifter for Citizens United represents a lot of money…a lot of “slant” and “tone”.  Dollars that TV will fight over…dollars that will drive TV sources to try to out-corrupt each other…dollars that will destroy what remains of “journalism” in TV, and so will cause ever more Americans to find TV…revolting.

Particularly when you combine the increasing lack of journalism in televised news with the other factors at work:

Just as forced oil addiction, voodoo economics, deregulation, and inequitable free trade/offshoring made a newspaper subscription a “luxury”, so TV suffers as the great and artificial transfer of wealth in America from the many to the few forces ever more Americans to seek cheaper replacements…to redefine what they can do without.

All while TV makes the same stupid mistake the newspapers did:  Telling their audience to kowtow to the desire of America’s wealthy to further enrich themselves at the expense of the majority of TV’s viewers.

lolll…now that’s genius…are the few wealthy who benefit from the lies of a Fox or the anti-Obama rhetoric of The CBS Evening News going to replace the buying power of the American people?  Have they since the first lie of “trickle-down”?

Media’s decision to ignore the fact that “labor” is synonymous with “consumer” must rank as one of the most ill-informed and self-destructive acts made in the centuries since Gutenberg.

Above opus reduced to one sentence:  With the possible exception of those who frequent the ladies of the evening, who likes being lied to - especially when those lies cost you at least your money?

Why did Propublica’s coverage of Fukushima end after 2011?  Now that is an underreported story that is really in the public interest to know the truth about.  And it’s not going away… it’s only getting bigger.  In fact, it is the biggest story of my lifetime (I’m 60).  So how proactive are you people, now really?  I’m not going submit articles to you.  And I am a real journalist.

Journalism in it’s purest form has been dead for quite some time.  If you don’t play ball with this regime you are going to get a nasty call.  To come close one must read the truth from those outside the regime’s sphere of influence.

Pity America, for too many not only write/report only that which conforms to their desires, they will only read/view that which conforms to their desires.

A shame, for once upon a time in America that was impossible; any would-be “journalist” knew that they could face a demand for substantiation and so be forced to reveal the truth…or the lack thereof…and the penalty for lying was ostracization…disgrace, and the end of their career.

Then along came “opinion as capital-N-news”...and suddenly payment for lying to America was…acceptable.

What, pray tell, is the difference between they who take money for lying to America and they who worked for Stalin’s Pravda?  I ask only because I am eager to tell you:  They who worked for Stalin’s Pravda lied to the people under duress…in fear of imprisonment, torture, and death.

They who lie to America fear not physical harm; rather, they fear a reduction in the rate at which they accumulate wealth and power…and so are contemptible…

And so are far less than American.

I’ll give reporters their first amendment, when they give us back our second….


Talk about not getting it. Without the first amendment, those reporters who would break stories that help your case, will also be stymied.

James M Fitzsimmons

Dec. 2, 2013, 12:44 p.m.

Get “analysis of news” off the front pages and report instead who, what, where, when, why, how and how the writer came to know these purported facts. Keep opinions and analysis in the section labeled as such. This would be a good start.

@pov:  I suspect Mac is taking the same approach Republican politicians do when it comes to NPR/PBS:  They want selective censoring…that is (to use the Bush Administration’s words) they expect the media to stay “on message”.

I.e., if information might contradict their message, then it should be censored - as in reporters should stop making such a big deal about the harm inflicted with firearms; e.g., reporting the tears of parents who are permanently deprived of their children.

(I say that from the perspective of someone who thinks all Americans who believe in individual liberty should have firearms…a necessity driven by my perception of the desires and actions of “the right”.)

Jenna LaFleur

Dec. 2, 2013, 5:10 p.m.

Excellent article.

How can we have a conversation about media suppression without mentioning Micheal Hastings. Yes other countries beat and imprison good journalists, the US govt. way of handling it is out and out assassination. This corrupt government will go down and all the dirty secrets will be drug out for all to see in fact Mr. Snowden has most certainly been a huge catalyst for that. American’s are waking up more and more from a deep slumber of lies and propaganda and are becoming horrified of what our government does in our name everyday. I believe the last form of mass hypnosis the world has seen was Nazi Germany and our rouge government has adapted many of their tactics. There is a growing hatred of the government that will not be able to be suppressed. But for healing to begin the wound must be opened and justice must be served to the guilty as a warning to future abusers.

This is the best example I have seen about how scripted American “news” is across the board. Truly frightening.

Why are these tech companies going after the NSA?  They are partners, it doesn’t make sense.

Kurt, it is called plausible deniability, a little tactic our government uses.

@Kurt & Tessa:

Good question, Kurt - but I would disagree with Tessa’s answer in that the real answer is far more craven:  Many tech companies have monetized collecting and storing data about you by selling it to whoever has the money to buy it.

The government obviously could go the Patriot Act route - but they could also just buy data from the tech corporations.  As could the government of the PRC, the government of Cuba (been yacking about Cuban independence, have you?  Sending cell phones to Cuba?), etc.  Perhaps they’d need a front corporation…perhaps not.

I.e., by forcing the government out of the data collection game before the American people get thoroughly mad and force their Senators and Representatives to represent them rather than the corporations for a change, the tech companies would merely be protecting their monopoly on “consumer data”...their ability to manipulate the American people…and so, bottom line, protecting their “shareholder value”/(compensation in the executive suite).

Of course the truth is that crippling the NSA’s abilities would unavoidably mean that the American people would also be forced to continue to tolerate corporations spying on them…to which we would have to add the real and present danger of e-spies and the threat of terrorism using the internet for both distributing “educational material” (e.g., how to make things that go “Boom!”) and command and control of remote operatives/cells.

Isn’t it curious that Corporate America failed to get upset about the invasion of your privacy when only they were invading your privacy - but now that what they do or fail to do to make money or avoid profit-inhibiting regulations might be going onto NSA hard drives, suddenly your privacy matters?

If you have the tech know-how, as an exercise in removing blinders install the free Mozilla organization open source browser Firefox and then install the free Firefox add-on Ghostery.

Then when you visit a website, you have only to click on the little “ghost’ icon to see what/who is watching you

lolll…I suspect that it would be an education for many, for there is a whole lot of people - on a whole lot of websites - watching you, analyzing what you do, and even recording what you do…

For money, though…which is supposed to be “different” and even “better” that protecting the lives of you and yours.  So I’m told.  Just because that makes it possible to pin down your political inclinations ain’t anything to worry about…so I’m told.

This article is part of a series:

A Closer Look

A column by ProPublica's editors.

Get Updates

Our Hottest Stories