Tag Archives: Newseum

Fourteen fallen journalists immortalized at Newseum

  • Journalists remembered at the Newseum. (Ramsen Shamon/MEDILL NSJI)
    Journalists remembered at the Newseum. (Ramsen Shamon/MEDILL NSJI)

WASHINGTON—The Newseum honored 14 journalists on June 8 for their courage while reporting under hostile conditions, representing all journalists who died in 2014.

Family members and friends of the fallen attended the museum’s annual Journalists Memorial, which recognizes the risks journalists face in getting the news.

“It has been a brutal time for journalists worldwide. Numbers vary, but according to most international media organizations, more than 80 journalists were killed last year,” said Kathy Gannon, an award-winning Associated Press correspondent who was shot at by an Afghan police officer in April of last year while in a car. Her colleague Anja Niedringhaus died in the attack.

Gannon was the recent recipient of the 2014 James Foley Medal for Courage in Journalism awarded by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

After her speech Gannon hugged friends, some were teary-eyed.

John Foley, father of the late James Foley, honored his son and all journalists killed last year.

In his last letter addressed to his family in captivity, James wrote: “I know you are thinking of me and praying for me. And I am so thankful. I feel you all especially when I pray. I pray for you to stay strong and to believe. I really feel I can touch you even in this darkness when I pray.”

Islamic State militants beheaded him in August.

“He left his mark as a wonderful human being,” Foley said. “He defended our right to know.”

Islamic State militants also murdered journalist Steven Sotloff in 2014.

While crossing into Syria from Turkey, Sotloff was abducted by the Islamic State in 2013. He was killed in September, the execution videotaped and released online.

Sotloff’s mother Shirley, accompanied by her husband Arthur, read her son’s handwritten words aloud. The words were also written while Sotloff was taken hostage: “Everyone has two lives. The second one begins when you realize you only have one.”

The 2Lives foundation was created in honor of Sotloff to “support aspiring young journalists,” according to his mother.

Shirley said Sotloff’s dedication to the Newseum’s Journalists Memorial held a special place in the their hearts.

Peter Prichard, chairman and chief executive officer of the Newseum, said that attention should be placed on why the journalists passed instead of how they passed.

“It’s certainly right and just that we pause today in our busy lives to remember what these journalists did and why they did it,” Prichard said. “And it’s also right that we should recognize and honor the family members who have lost their loved ones for what is, in the end, a noble cause.”

A hashtag –#WithoutNews –accompanied Monday’s event, urging news consumers to think about the threats experienced by journalists as they report.

The hashtag also asked individuals to envision a world without news.

VIDEO: ‘Reporting Vietnam’ a gritty look at reporting the war


Marking the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam War, a new exhibit allows visitors to take a retrospective look at the war’s legacy through the lens of American journalists.

It opened Friday at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

“With the exhibit,” said Curator Carrie Christoffersen, “we really hope that people will gain the better understanding of how and why journalists did what they did, how they brought coverage of the Vietnam War to a divided nation.”

The exhibit, called “Reporting Vietnam,” showcases historic photos, news footage, newspapers and magazines, evocative music and more than 90 artifacts that characterized the war era.

Challenging perceptions of America’s first televised war, it considers the question, “Did the press lose the war?”

The answer was “no” for Neil Lakdawala, a student at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

“The media was not always just trying to portrait what the government wants,” he said. “I think they did a good deal of work to bring the truth to the light.”

For both Lakdawala and Christoffersen, the highlight of the exhibit was the collection of Larry Burrows, an English photographer known for his pictures of the war.

On display is a helmet found at the site of the 1971 helicopter crash in Laos that killed Burrows and three counterparts.

There also are iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning pictures that symbolized the brutality of the war, such as “Napalm Girl,” which triggered worldwide controversy over the image of a nude, screaming South Vietnamese girl whose clothes and flesh were burned off by napalm.

“What’s a better way to learn about Vietnam and the war than by people who were actually in the war,” Lakdawala said.

The exhibit, accompanied by the screening of an original documentary chronicling the war’s key moments, continues through mid-September.

Published in conjunction with Military Times Logo

Former FISA court judge: changes to the court “not warranted”

WASHINGTON – Ever since Edward Snowden revealed National Security Agency programs that were collecting telephone metadata from millions of Americans, one of the entities whose name has appeared frequently in the news is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court—also known as the FISA court, or FISC.

The little-known body often criticized as a rubberstamp for the intelligence wing of the government whenever the latter needs a warrant, FISC could undergo several changes in the coming months if Congress and the president feel enough pressure from the public.

But some insiders say change might not be necessary. U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, a former FISC judge and the current director of the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, said Thursday that the need to reform FISC is mostly overblown. Speaking at a Newseum event, Bates said the public debate about the FISC provides a chance to improve public understanding of what exactly the court does.

How was FISC created?

“The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [of 1978] was a result of a couple of things coalescing. One was in the legal world: the Supreme Court and lower court decisions on whether there should be a foreign intelligence exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment. And the other thing that was coming about, culminating in the midst of the 1970s, was the Church Committee review of intelligence abuses. And those two things led to FISA being enacted.”

[The U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, better known as the Church Committee for its chairman Frank Church (D-Idaho), was created in 1975 to investigate intelligence gathering activities by the FBI, CIA and NSA in the wake of the Watergate scandal.]

“The courts [were] created to give a judicial role for these foreign intelligence surveillance operations that the government was involved in. If you were going to give a judicial role, it had to be something a little different and spread out across all the federal courts of the country.”

Who sits on FISC?

“There are 11 judges on the court at any time, they serve for seven-year terms and they’re appointed by the chief justice. The court functions every day. One judge will sit for a week at a time, four or five weeks per year, spread out throughout the year.

“They need to be experienced judges with lots of judicial background, but they’re not necessarily going to have specific national security experience in these kinds of matters. They need experience, they need to be regarded as excellent judges by the community, and they need to have a workload that can accommodate the extra assignments, because it is an extra assignment—it doesn’t reduce the judges’ duties back in their home districts.”

How does the warrant application process work?

“A very close parallel is the Title III warrant application process—that’s the criminal law enforcement parallel to these foreign intelligence applications for surveillance. In that setting, the matter comes from a U.S. attorney’s office to a judge. There’s no additional advocate—the target [of the warrant] can’t be there because you’re not informing the target that they’re going to be the subject of surveillance. The judge reviews the materials and makes a decision whether to approve the application or not. So it’s a very similar [process].”

[Federal agencies must submit an application to FISC to obtain a warrant before they may engage in electronic surveillance of a specific target. The court meets behind closed doors to approve or reject the warrant application, with an agency advocate present and without representation for the target.]

What about the criticism that FISC is a rubberstamp for the intelligence community?

“There have been some concerns expressed, and I understand the concerns, that FISC routinely approves applications. In fact, the overwhelming majority of applications are approved. The idea that FISC is a rubberstamp and just does whatever the government asks it to do, I think that really has been taken care of by some of the revelations of the past few months.

“Statistically, the court did three months’ worth of study to see what happens to applications that were filed with FISC. It turned out that almost 25 percent of those apps were changed in some material way. That includes factual development, where the court was not satisfied with the facts as originally presented and asked for further development of the facts; dropping particular theories the government might have for why surveillance was permitted under the law; the government actually withdrawing applications because the court indicated a significant concern to the point where it might not be approved; and then those cases which were actually declined, which is a small category.”

“I think that’s a confirmation of the fact that you can’t just look at what happens with the final document. These applications come in, first, in what we call “read copy,” and only after they’re worked on and changed significantly does it end up being the final application, and that’s what those findings showing almost complete approval are based on. It’s what happens before that final application that really reflects the changes that are made.”

So the high rate of approval of warrant applications doesn’t concern you?

“It doesn’t trouble me that a low number were denied. It’s similar to the number of Title III [criminal law warrant applications that were denied], a single digit number any given year. I think you should expect that of our system.”

“These applications start in the field and are reviewed there—there’s pretty close scrutiny required at that stage. It then goes to [agency] headquarters, where there’s equal or greater scrutiny applied. After that, the application comes to the national security division of the Department of Justice where it gets further scrubbing. Many provisions of FISA actually require high levels of involvement from the director of [the agency] or the attorney general. So you gain really close examination of these matters even before it gets to the [FISA] court. With that process taking place, I’d be disappointed if a larger number of final applications were actually denied. There shouldn’t be.”

Why is FISC just making news now?

“Historically, until the last year or two, the court didn’t really have a series of issues that created a need for judicial conference involvement—judicial conference being the governing body of the federal court system. That changed last summer when the post-[Edward] Snowden world led to a lot of legislative activity, media inquiries, and other communications with the FISA court.”

What do you think of some of the proposed reforms, like a more transparent and less centralized appointment process?

“I understand the concerns about the appointment process, but I don’t think that change is really warranted. There are problems with any change that I’ve seen suggested. First of all, you can’t afford to have vacancies on the FISA court because of the way the court operates, the fact that it’s an extra duty for the judges. Spreading the [appointment] responsibility out among the circuit judges or even associate justices of the Supreme Court might lead to more delays.”

“There’s also a problem with refocusing [appointment power] somewhere else other than the chief justice. [Potential FISC] judges are subjected to a very intense security routine, more intense than they previously have faced. Sometimes, a judge just doesn’t make it. It would be really unfortunate if the names of judges who were being considered got out, and then that judge was not approved through the security clearance process for the court. Other means of selecting judges might increase the chance of that.”

“There’s also a fairly strong logic to having the chief justice make the appointments. He is the presiding officer of the judicial conference, and this is what he does for all the committees of the judicial conference, with the assistance of the Director of the Administrative Office and the presiding judge of FISC, and all the resources they draw upon. It would be difficult for anyone else to really do that as efficiently.”

What about having a public advocate present during FISC proceedings?

“The public advocate idea has some merit in specific circumstances, but not generally. Most of the cases before the court are very fact-based. A public advocate wouldn’t add much to that process because they can’t really get into the facts. They can’t communicate with the target. They don’t have a means to develop any further facts. And it would detract from the efficiency of the process substantially. You’d have further delays, if that institutional advocate had to look at all the applications that were filed.”

“I think most people who thought about this carefully agree that an advocate would only be worthwhile in a smaller slice of the cases. Those cases might include some of the bulk collection [cases], and they certainly would include cases that have novel legal or technological issues. In those cases, there might be some benefit to an additional perspective than what is being received from the government through the Department of Justice.”

AP reporters discuss investigation into nuclear arsenal security lapses

WASHINGTON — Two journalists from The Associated Press say recent AP disclosures about personnel problems among the military personnel in charge of the U.S. U.S. nuclear arsenal say the stories raised questions about the Air Force’s commitment to mission.

Robert Burns, national security reporter from the AP, and Wendy Benjaminson, AP Washington assistant bureau chief, spoke at a Newseum panel discussion about Burns’ series of reports exposing systemic issues with the Air Force personnel managing America’s nuclear weapons, including burnout, disciplinary problems, allegations of drug use and cheating on proficiency tests.

Since May 2013, Burns has reported on numerous transgressions at the nuclear base that put the nation’s security at risk, including leaving a blast door open on two occasions, failing security tests and poor handling of the weapons, which have the capacity to cause massive amounts of destruction.

An unprecedented 17 people were initially decertified due to the problems, which strained the unit’s capabilities, Burns said. That number later rose to 34 decertified launch officers. The AP series resulted in Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordering a full investigation into the unit managing the missiles.

The series also exposed poor morale among those managing the missiles, which first came to light when Burns obtained an internal Air Force email last year. Much of the infrastructure related to the missiles and their capsules are out of date, having been first deployed in 1970, Burns said.

“The people who are doing these jobs are questioning whether the Air Force has a proper commitment to doing it, when they look at this stuff and say, ‘It’s so old. Why don’t you upgrade it?’” Burns said.

With the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the recent revelations of the National Security Agency collecting Americans’ phone records and other online data at the forefront of most people’s minds, the problems at the arsenal may not be getting the attention they deserve, Benjaminson said.

“America isn’t scared of nuclear weapons anymore,” she said. “Our children, grown and not grown, don’t even think of nuclear weapons. They’re something from an old movie.”

However, the recent appointment of a new secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, shows promise for resolving some of the issues plaguing the unit, Burns said.

“[James] called it a systemic problem, meaning not just an episodic, random problem,” he said. “It’s a problem that’s ingrained, it’s widespread, it’s real and we need to do something about it. And we never heard that from the Air Force until she said that.”