Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Should government keep some information secret?

By Sumesh Shiwakoty

NEW YORK, OCT 11 -- In U.S. politics, there is an ongoing debate about government keeping information secret. It is hard to choose a side in this discussion because right after you choose a side, it leads you to more debates about mass-surveillance and invasion of privacy by the government. This is because the government agencies conduct all these activities through a secret channel. Those who say the government should keep some information safe argues that mass-surveillance and invasion of American citizen’s privacy have helped law enforcement agencies to detect terror threat and keep the country safe. Thus, they claim that the act of keeping such information secret by government agencies far outweigh the cost of citizens losing their privacy. Other who says the government should not keep information secret argues that citizens should not lose their right to privacy and information for the sake of security. However, one thing that is missing from this debate is that to what degree the mass surveillance has helped the government to stop terror attack and to what extent government should keep information safe.

The New York Times reports that in the duration since the National Security Agency’s data collection programs became known to the public, the intelligence community has failed to demonstrate that mass surveillance has prevented any major terrorist attack. It has also been argued that during the Paris attack of November 2015, most of the terrorist involved were already under the radar of intelligence officials. However, they were still not able to act and prevent the attack. Thus, citing these facts, many argue that government mass surveillance program has not actually helped to prevent terror attacks as many politicians and policymakers suggest but rather has helped corporate America to get private information about the American public.

Another important point that need to be discussed is not that if the government should keep some information secret but the debate on how secret that information should be and who should have access to those information within government. It is true that government should keep some information secret for the interest of national security. However, democracy will die if only few handful people of government agencies will have access to classified information. Therefore, no matter how sensitive the information is, all three organs of government: executive, legislative and judiciary should have access to those information, and all that information should be released for public knowledge after a certain period when that information no longer possess any direct security concerns. This way we can keep government agencies liable while addressing security concerns.

“Never Forget” or “Forgive, Forget and Move Ahead?”

By Sumesh Shiwakoty

NEW YORK, SEPT 10 -- “It was a usual Tuesday morning. I was on my way from JFK airport to Brooklyn carrying passengers on my taxi when the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center”, remembered Malkeet Singh Khalsa, one of the several visitors visiting the 9/11 memorial on the eve of the 16th anniversary of that gloomy day. “Within few minutes, there started chaos in the city. People started screaming and running. That was a crazy day.”

Khalsa’s words scrambled as he added, “Coming here today, and seeing all the people showing homage gives me a feeling that no matter how much extremists try to threaten us, we Americans can always bounce back.”

To the question of how that tragic event touched his life personally, he became silent for a while and said that he never felt like an outsider in America before the 9/11 event. He shared the story of his parents who came to the United States from India to escape the violence after the India-Pakistan partition and while growing up in the New York City, he always felt that this country is his home.

“After that event, it was hard to drive taxi wearing a turban,” he said. “People will assume that I am a Muslim and you can feel what is in their heart through their eyes. That was just a hard time. I am glad that time is over”. 

Nearby an old couple was taking their selfies trying to capture the falling of water in the background. “What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you come here?” After staring at the falling of water for a while, the husband replied, “Coming here reminds me of just one thing, and that is all the innocent lives that were lost after that tragic event. Innocent lives on both sides. Actually, the loss is more to the Arab world than to us, and on both sides, the one who paid the price were innocent people like you and me”.

His wife interrupted: “How can such a massive building collapse simply because of the crashing of a plane. Didn’t a plane also crash into the Empire State building back in the 40's? I think there is something more to the 9/11 that we will never know.” Her husband responded, “I don’t buy those conspiracy theories. If Guantanamo and Abu Gharib can make it to media, if DNC (Democratic National Convention) and Podesta (John Podesta) emails can get leaked, then I don’t think the 9/11 can stay secret till this long. If there were truth to those conspiracy theories, someone would have leaked it a long time ago”.

A middle-aged man named Austin Elliot from Chicago said the day should also be a reminder that politicians were able to use the fear and anger generated by 9/11 for other purposes. “It’s crazy how the Bush administration was able to persuade Americans to go to war with Iraq although the Iraqi had nothing to do with the 9/11.”

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Why The Government Is Only Allowed Certain Secrets

NEW YORK Sept. 26th- In a 2014 TED talk response to Edward Snowden’s case, the NSA deputy director Richard Ledgett confessed that “there are things that we need to be transparent about: our authorities, our processes, our oversight, who we are”. This may be one of the only agreeable things he said in a long televised conference call, but it is key. When it comes to transparency, and especially of the government, the former should be fully transparent in terms of process. This almost seems like an evidence when considering the definition of democracy. The people need to know what they voted for and how those to whom they gave power to are exercising it. However, when it comes to information, the government has a need to keep some information secret. This being for the public interest, not against. Snowden showed us that the government collects huge amount of data, especially through internet. This process of collecting (even stealing) data, should have been transparent. However, knowing that the government collects all this information, do we really also want to demand for the government to have all information public? Beyond the security argument, it seems that complete transparency contradicts the “right to privacy” which Snowden defends in his TED Talk. There would be no more privacy if the government was completely transparent. Between internet and reality TV, the right to privacy is already long forgotten. Especially after the Snowden case, we simply assume, and almost accept that the government knows everything about us. But if we want to fight for our right for privacy, then we cannot also demand for the government to not hold any information secret. And how would we limit transparency to simply the US?

Acknowledging that the government should keep information secret does not entail being against whistleblowers.On the contrary, whistleblowers, when playing their role in an intelligent way with the right process, releases crucial information which works towards holding government accountable. With whistleblowers such as Snowden ( and not Assange) it is also a matter of making the process more transparent. In Snowden’s case, the information given to the Guardian served as proof of the government’s actions but it was not about making the collected data public. This is what we need to fight for, not complete transparency. 

News Analysis

NEW YORK Sept. 18th - Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The New York Times and Bloomberg all have different approaches when it come to reporting on world issues.
Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs share the fact that they are both specialized on world issues, where as The New York Times and Bloomberg have a world section within the larger issue. Foreign Affairs strives to be an intellectual journal. It publishes a print magazine every two months but also publishes articles everyday on its website. They favor in depth reporting. Even on the website, the articles show up as big headlines, all taking up the same space showing that they are all analytical news article.Foreign Policy, on the other hand, presents itself much more as a puzzle of news where one can pick according to one’s interests. Foreign Affairs is more focused on world issues from a political studies perspective, where as Foreign Policy tries to be a world news bank accessible for anyone who is curious. Foreign Policy, which has a web platform and publishes 6 magazine issues annually, is interesting in how innovative its web platform is, exploring multimedia journalism. In the “Galleries” section they have photo essays, infographics, and a map room section, which moves away from the more traditional in depth reporting to multidisciplinary ways of seeing and learning about world news.  These multimedia presentations make the news a didactic tool which is not only theoretical but also experimental.  
Bloomberg is a business-oriented news source. Their world news is divided in one main “special report” and then the other news stories, which are more factual and concise. All their world articles talk about an issue which is related to economics or finance. The NYT is opposite of Bloomberg with an almost humanistic approach to world news. Their world section is divided by region as well as editorials and Op-Eds. The NYT also has very strong photography work which accompanies articles and supports the article as a report and not simply a news headline. Their world section doesn’t focus only on main events but also stories and niche topics. Where as Bloomberg has a more business practical approach, the NYT is more about storytelling.
All these news outlets, in their variations of presenting world news, reflect diverse journalistic methods of treating world news. The approach and presentation of the news depends on the mission of the individual outlet.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Remembering 9/11, Sixteen Years Later

NEW YORK, Sept. 10 - “I was in high school, I was in gym class. I remember hearing the first crash and thinking it was a truck crashing outside,” Staten Island native Mario Belluomo remembers as he casts his mind back to the events of 16 years ago. Hours later, he learned the news that two airliners had crashed into the World Trade Center towers, another into the Pentagon and a fourth into a field in Pennsylvania in the most lethal terrorist attack to ever occur on US soil.
The following days in New York were described by Belluomo as “silent. Everyone was glued to their TVs.”
Nearly two decades later, inspired by the events of that day, Belluomo is an officer in the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) counterterrorism unit. He said he enjoys working as security at the memorial.
“I like the memorials. I think they brought new life to the area,” he said during a visit to the site on the anniversary. It's something that affected every American so it's a very powerful place.”
Many gathered at the memorial in the days before the 16th anniversary. One of these visitors, Leah Berkevile of Cleveland, Ohio, visited the memorial 10 years ago when the holes for the memorial fountains had just been dug. Now she wanted to come back to see the completed monuments and to commemorate the anniversary. “It's really beautiful, it just shows that after an event like this we really came together.”
To memorialize the 16th anniversary of the attacks, starting at 8:46 am, a ceremony in which the names of the victims of the attacks will be read and four moments of silence will be taken to commemorate when each of the towers were struck and when each tower fell. The ceremony is open only to the families of victims but will be livestreamed on the 9/11 memorials website.
Additionally, the Tribute in Light, in which two beams of light reaching four miles in the air occupy the void where the towers once stood, will remain lit from sunset to sunrise Monday night.
Another visitor, Susan Peterson won’t be attending Monday’s events in New York but will watch it on the livestream. Her family in Connecticut also has their own prayer ceremony and moment of silence.

“It’s so sad, seeing all the names, some of them I still recognize from the news. But I think it shows that life goes on and were showing them were stronger than ever.”

Saturday, October 7, 2017


How to Make Sense of All What Has Happened

By Karmen Kollar

NEW YORK, Sept. 10 – Sitting calmly on one of the benches around the 9/11 memorial, John Share, a retired British schoolteacher, was observing the people around him. He has already seen this place twice; he visited both before and after the attacks. Now he is here one day before the anniversary as part of a cruise trip, waiting for his tourist group to gather. He still has vivid memories about his previous visits.
“We discovered the remains of a human body.” – he heard a police officer saying on his radio a few months after the event, when he was visiting the site. Recovery works were only finished on June 10, 2012 and later a sculpture was erected from the remains of the crashed planes near to where the World Trade Center stood. Even though New Yorkers have organized many talks, exhibitions, concerts and plays these days to commemorate the event, John likes to remember in his own way: going back in his memories and comparing his experiences from before and after the towers fell.
During a visit approximately a year after the events, he and his wife came by the subway and as he explained, it was extremely difficult to relate the situation as they were finding it to what this place has previously been. Just as they were leaving the subway, they came by all that was remaining of an entrance, flawed. It had a legend on it: “Welcome to the World Trade Center”. That really brought it home for them. Assuming that once it was the floor of the entrance, now there was nothing else, just this legend, “Welcome”. It was quite saddening.
“Even though we are not Americans, we are British, but we still feel for you as we have particular feelings towards America”, John said. “I think that we have been very important in each other’s history.”
“I wish they were all still here.” As he pronounced these words he stopped for a while and his voice sounded weak. With all those names on the memorial it felt intensely personal to him. After all, the people who died here were fellow human beings and their progress was halted very abruptly. According to him, nobody deserves that.This is man’s inhumanity to man, isn’t it?”
He still tries to make sense of how it is possible for someone to commit an act like that. But he came up with an explanation for himself.
“If there are two people, one will be jealous, won’t they? And in some cases those jealousies become so engraved and so setting concrete that they can’t go away.”
In John’s opinion 9/11 is a terrible example of the excess that people are prepared to go to if they think they are right. Whether they possess sufficient mentality to understand whether their cause is right or wrong seemingly doesn’t matter, does it? It’s just hit and hurt.”
His group has already gathered and as he was preparing to leave, he added: “Activity, physical or mental is life. I think that your nation has done well to overcome this situation which is progress.”