No Bad Days
Monday afternoon my stomach hurt, and not from anything I ate. I was reading, with fascination and outrage, various accounts of how the U.S. Justice Department secretly obtained the phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors over a two-month period. It was a blanket subpoena that included cell, office and home phones of AP journalists.
Home phones. Of working journalists.
AP President Gary Pruitt called it a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into newsgathering activities. I was thinking of other things to call it. Orwellian. Police state. Nixonian. McCarthy-like.
So yeah, I’m trying to find a place to land that’s somewhere between indifference and hyperbolic hysteria.
But this violation of the newsgathering process is horrific and serious, and not just for journalists. It demonstrates the so-called “chilling effect” of government attacks on the press and its operations. That kind of intimidation can hamper journalists’ ability to aggressively report about government doings. And if we’re not writing about that stuff, who do you expect to do it? Bloggers?
So far the Justice Department hasn’t specified what it’s looking for. By throwing out a huge virtual trawl net to capture every communication during a broad time period, Justice can clearly be said to be on a “fishing expedition” for information.
So what, you may say. Here’s what Pruitt had to say:
“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” Pruitt said in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. “These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”
Sonny Albarado, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, said “The Justice Department’s secret acquisition of two months of the business and personal phone records of AP’s reporters and other employees is shameful and outrageous. Attorney General Holder and President Obama have once again shown by their actions that their words about transparency and government openness are hollow.”
“This investigation is broader and less focused on an individual source or reporter than any of the others we’ve seen,” Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert at the Federation of American Scientists told the Washington Post. “They have swept up an entire collection of press communications. It’s an astonishing assault on core values of our society.”
It is indeed a broad sweep. And it raises the question: What are the limits of such authority? Who could be targeted? If the AP – a large and relatively powerful organization – can be so cavalierly ransacked, what about the rest of us?
That’s not an overreaction. Several times in my career I’ve had to fight off subpoenas for notes, sources and other materials from local law enforcement agencies that should have been doing their own investigations instead on relying on ours. The press is not the agent of the government in the justice system.
The apparent motive behind the subpoenas was to discover who provided information to the AP for a story about a failed al-Qaeda plot last year. In other words, they are looking for the leak – an obsession with the Obama administration that has resulted in the indictment of six “whistle-blowers,” more than all other previous administrations combined. Spooking the whistle-blowers keeps government missteps out of the press.
That’s the scary part. If reporters and their sources don’t know when the government might come swooping in on their conversations, the “chilling effect” could turn into an ice age.
Don Nelson is the publisher of the Methow Valley News.
Box 97: Letters to the editor
See our students
Hats off to Room One for pulling together Methow Voices, a powerful play based on interviews with local teens. Sharing community voices through events like this helps build understanding and awareness.
More events are worth the community’s participation. Today (Wednesday, May 15) at 6 p.m., Liberty Bell seniors will present their senior projects at the high school. These include a student trip to Africa, the dissection of cow hearts with a fifth-grade class, the composition of a piano solo, a research internship at Bear Fight Institute, and the refurbishment of a Chevy S10 pickup truck.
On May 20, 7 p.m. at the Merc Playhouse, the Liberty Bell Speech & Debate class will present work from throughout the year, including speeches on intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation, the Innocence Project, and how to increase community support for individuals with disabilities. Then on May 21 at 6 p.m. in the Liberty Bell cafeteria, the video productions class will present films they produced, along with a display of student artwork and construction projects.
Student voice is strong in this community. Having an audience for these events is huge, as it raises the bar for performance and signals to our young people that we care about their thinking and their work. Please come to these events, if you can.
I read with concern the recent Methow Valley News letter to the editor about how wolves help watersheds (May 8). I am not a doctor or scientist but I find it alarming some folks apparently still don’t know that hydatid disease tapeworms are carried and discharged along with their eggs in the fecal matter of foxes, coyotes, and wolves. Wolves are the apex canine predator; areas where they congregate will have concentrations of fecal matter, which will deteriorate leaving microscopic eggs to float like dust and be ingested into the lungs and digestive tracts of ungulates – cattle, elk, deer, etc. When ingested the eggs grow into individual cysts and/or clumps of cysts that decrease organ capacity and increase vulnerability if/when pursued. Published research suggests two thirds of Idaho big game killed have hydatid cysts in their organs.
I find the statement from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (below) particularly interesting though ambiguous, because European history suggests an understanding that tapeworm eggs could be ingested from casual contact with dogs that carried the eggs on their hair and feet. In Finland and other cold climates dogs were not allowed in living areas to prevent human infestation.
“Do wolves have tapeworms that can spread to other animals and people? ... Humans are very rarely infected, because they would have to ingest tapeworm eggs in canid feces or drink water contaminated with canid feces. The parasites are highly unlikely to be spread by handling ungulate capes or meat, unless those parts are contaminated with canid feces and handlers do not use good basic hygiene. Likewise, if a pet dog rolled in feces infected with tapeworm eggs, good hygiene is required after handling the dog. Humans cannot be infected by ingesting cysts found in ungulates. These parasitic tapeworms are not wind-born nor transmitted in any way other than direct ingestion of eggs in feces. All parasites or diseases harbored by any wildlife should be taken seriously. Good hygiene should always be used when handling live wild animals, dead wild animals, their secretions, or their products.”
The public needs to be aware.
About that sign
The information in your May 8 article on the removal of the “Welcome to Twisp” sign at the intersection of Highway 20 and the Twisp-Carlton road appears to have led some folks to believe that TwispWorks had something to do with the decision to remove the sign. This is not accurate.
While I am the executive director of TwispWorks, my comments regarding the sign were provided in the context of my role as a member of the Twisp Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
After the Washington State Department of Transportation notified the landowner that the sign must be removed from the right of way, the chamber was offered the opportunity to remove the sign itself, and given an extension of one month in which to make it happen. Paul Sudak of Wildcat Ridge Excavating generously offered to help us do so, and TwispWorks agreed to store the sign until it finds a new home. The chamber is considering options for placement of the sign in a location that will comply with all current state and local regulations.
If you are interested in hosting the “Welcome to Twisp” sign on your property, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Secretary, Twisp Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors
We just wrapped up a season of Earth Day events with another successful metal drive! Nearly 300 people came to Methow Recycles’ spring metal drive with loads ranging in weight from 20 to 2,400 pounds. Some people made multiple trips, including one happy guy (you know who you are) who I saw at least four times. The final tally for the day was just over 76,000 pounds, proving once again that it all adds up!
Twenty-seven hardy volunteers worked cheerfully and safely in the warm May sunshine to help their neighbors unload. We couldn’t have done it without them! Cascade Concrete provided the venue and assistance with marketing the metal. Proceeds from the sale of the metal collected will go directly to support Methow Recycles’ programs. Thank you everyone! (PS: We hope to do another drive before the snow flies.)
Executive director, Methow Recycles
We want to extend a very special thank you to the fourth-grade Math is Cool coaches, Pete DeLong, Eric Bard and William Worrell, and helper Emerson Worrell. Their dedication brought the fourth-grade team to a victorious second-place division win in the regional competition! In addition, three of our team members placed in the top 10 of all competitors in our division, including the No. 1 spot (which, by the way, was held by a third grader!).
The coaches brought an array of skills to the team. These skills helped bestow the team with a culture of kindness, a healthy competitive spirit, and incredible math know-how. Our coaches managed to accomplish all this alongside busy lives, including international travel, competitive soccer schedules, and the birth of a new baby!
Many thanks Pete, Eric, William and Emerson for your incredible efforts. It might be hard to make math cool, but you somehow managed.
The fourth-grade Math is Cool team and parents
A great derby
On April 27 the annual kids fishing derby sponsored by the Methow Valley Eagles was held at Pearrygin Lake. It was a success again as in past years. This derby has historically been held each year on the opening of fishing season set by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). There were approximately 60 entries and many prizes given out to these eager and excited anglers. There was even a 2-pound rainbow trout and a 2-pound German brown trout entered. Way to go, kids.
We here at the Eagles would like to thank the following businesses and individuals for their continued support of this worthy cause: The Methow Valley News, Hank’s Harvest Foods, Winthrop Ace Hardware, Winthrop Tenderfoot store, Twisp Do-It Center, Pearrygin Lake Store, Dick Hill, John Jensen, Todd Smith, Bob and Dorothy Kartcutski, Rick Lewis and Pearrygin Lake State Park. Also, a huge thank you to Mark Seguin and Dwain Hutson for running the whole derby. If I have left anyone out I sincerely apologize. Without these businesses and individuals it would be a flop. Thank you very much from the bottom of our hearts. See you at the park next year on opening day of fishing season.
Mike Hanley Sr.
Methow Valley Eagles
We want to extend our sincere appreciation to County Commissioners Jim DeTro, Sheilah Kennedy and Ray Campbell for their forward thinking approach to improved security in our courthouse. Rather than wait for tragedy to strike, our commissioners, in recognition of citizens’ needs to feel confident and safe in seeking access to courthouse services, adopted a resolution creating a courthouse security officer position.
The courthouse building serves voters, jurors, employees, litigants, victims, taxpayers, and people stopping in to get a passport, renew their tabs, record land documents, or get assistance from the noxious weed office. The courthouse is also where people come to resolve disputes and criminal charges, which can lead to volatile, sometimes dangerous situations. Time and again, we find that people act more civilly when there is an armed presence in the courtroom, and certainly our goal is to prevent problems and de-escalate situations when possible. If you see one of your county commissioners, please tell him or her thank you for making our courthouse a safer place for everyone.
Heidi E. Smith, Presiding Judge
Charles D. Short, Judge
Okanogan County District Court