More media outlets are debunking misinformation surrounding Hillary Clinton's use of private email, dismantling three main talking points used to accuse Clinton of malfeasance by highlighting that Clinton used her email in a "common" manner, that her situation isn't criminal, and that her handling of email is not comparable to what retired Gen. David Petraeus was convicted of.
Washington Post opinion writer David Ignatius checked the "overstated" uproar over Hillary Clinton's email use as secretary of state, citing national security legal experts who roundly dismiss the idea that any criminal mishandling of classified information occurred.
In an August 28 post describing "The Hillary Clinton e-mail 'scandal' that isn't," Ignatius cited legal experts and agency officials to explain how Clinton's use of a private server is "not something a prosecutor would take to court" and how transmitting unmarked, then retroactively classified emails does "almost certainly not" constitute a crime:
Does Hillary Clinton have a serious legal problem because she may have transmitted classified information on her private e-mail server? After talking with a half-dozen knowledgeable lawyers, I think this "scandal" is overstated. Using the server was a self-inflicted wound by Clinton, but it's not something a prosecutor would take to court.
"It's common" that people end up using unclassified systems to transmit classified information, said Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel who's now a partner at Arnold & Porter, where he often represents defendants suspected of misusing classified information.
Clinton's use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state has been a nagging campaign issue for months. Critics have argued that the most serious problem is possible transmission of classified information through that server. Many of her former top aides have sought legal counsel. But experts in national-security law say there may be less here than it might appear.
First, experts say, there's no legal difference whether Clinton and her aides passed sensitive information using her private server or the official "state.gov" account that many now argue should have been used. Neither system is authorized for transmitting classified information. Second, prosecution of such violations is extremely rare. Lax security procedures are taken seriously, but they're generally seen as administrative matters.
Informal back channels existed long before e-mail. One former State Department official recalled the days when most embassies overseas had only a few phones authorized for secret communications. Rather than go to the executive office to make such a call, officers would use their regular phones, bypassing any truly sensitive details. "Did we cross red lines? No doubt. Did it put information at risk? Maybe. But, if you weren't in Moscow or Beijing, you didn't worry much," this former official said.
Back channels are used because the official ones are so encrusted by classification and bureaucracy. State had the "Roger Channel," named after former official Roger Hilsman, for sending secret messages directly to the secretary. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had a similar private channel. CIA station chiefs could send communications known as "Aardwolves" straight to the director.
Are these channels misused sometimes? Most definitely. Is there a crime here? Almost certainly not.
Ignatius also knocked down conservative media's oft-repeated refrain that Clinton's email use was akin to David Petraeus' crimes, noting how intent to mishandle classified information is central to culpability:
Potential criminal violations arise when officials knowingly disseminate documents marked as classified to unauthorized officials or on unclassified systems, or otherwise misuse classified materials. That happened in two cases involving former CIA directors that are cited as parallels for the Clinton e-mail issue, but are quite different. John Deutch was pardoned in 2001 for using an unsecured CIA computer at his home to improperly access classified material; he reportedly had been prepared to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. David Petraeus pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in April for "knowingly" removing classified documents from authorized locations and retaining them at "unauthorized locations." Neither case fits the fact pattern with the Clinton e-mails.
Right-wing media slammed ESPN for suspending baseball analyst Curt Schilling over his tweet comparing Muslims to Nazis, calling Schilling's suspension "outrageous" and a "disgrace."
Fox & Friends joined The Daily Caller in an effort to make alleged terrorists Anwar al-Awlaki and Yaser Hamdi the face of birthright citizenship, falsely claiming the men were born in the U.S. to "illegal parents" and able to pursue terrorist activities without retaliation because their citizenship protected them.
The Washington Post called out "the myth of the 'anchor baby'" for being a "largely a mythical idea" with little basis in the law.
On August 17, Donald Trump released the details of his immigration plan, which calls for Mexico to pay for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and seeks to end birthright citizenship in the United States. The following night on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Trump defended his extreme immigration proposals by repeatedly referring to children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants as "anchor babies" and insisting that they are not U.S. citizens. Conservative media have since applauded the presidential candidate for using the derogatory term as other candidates such as Jeb Bush and Bobby Jindal also embraced it.
But, as The Washington Post explained in an August 20 article, "the anchor baby, while potent politically, is largely a mythical idea." Writing that the term has "little legal underpinning" as "being the parent of a U.S. citizen child almost never forms the core of a successful defense in immigration court," the articles notes that most children born in the U.S. to undocumented parents "must wait until their 21st birthday to begin the lengthy process" of helping their parents become citizens:
But usually the debate has been about the residency of the parents, who after all are supposed to be using the child as their "anchor."
This is the definition that has little legal underpinning. For illegal immigrant parents, being the parent of a U.S. citizen child almost never forms the core of a successful defense in an immigration court. In short, if the undocumented parent of a U.S.-born child is caught in the United States, he or she legally faces the very same risk of deportation as any other immigrant.
The only thing that a so-called anchor baby can do to assist either of their undocumented parents involves such a long game that it's not a practical immigration strategy, said Greg Chen, an immigration law expert and director of The American Immigration Lawyers Association, a trade group that also advocates for immigrant-friendly reforms. That long game is this: If and when a U.S. citizen reaches the age of 21, he or she can then apply for a parent to obtain a visa and green card and eventually enter the United States legally.
If a person has lived in the United States unlawfully for a period of more than 180 days but less than one year, there is an automatic three-year bar on that person ever reentering the United States -- and that's before any wait time for a visa. So that's a minimum of 21 years for the child to mature, plus the three-year wait.
And, for the vast majority of these parents, a longer wait also applies. If a person has lived in the United States illegally for a year or more, there is a 10-year ban on that person reentering the United States. So, in that case, there would be the 21-year wait for the child to mature to adulthood, plus the 10-year wait.
All told, the parents of the so-called anchor baby face a 24-to-31-year wait to even enter the United States, much less obtain a visa and green card or become a citizen.
From the August 19 edition of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports:
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Right-wing media figures jumped to the false conclusion that 305 Clinton emails contained classified information after the State Department announced that those emails were under review by intelligence agencies. In reality, it is not yet clear how many of the emails, if any, contained classified material, and such reviews are "common in large FOIA requests that involve documents from multiple agencies."
Conservative media outlets are praising Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's immigration proposals -- which include mass deportation and ending birthright citizenship -- despite mainstream and Hispanic media outlets pointing out that the plan would cost billions of dollars, dismantle the labor force across the country, raise the undocumented immigrant population exponentially, and be "clearly unconstitutional."
A Washington Post article headlined, "Minimum-wage offensive could speed arrival of robot-powered restaurants," alleged that increasing the minimum wage would accelerate automation in the fast food and restaurant industries, destroying jobs in the process, despite little evidence linking minimum-wage increases to decreased employment.
In an August 17 article, The Washington Post suggested that a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage in Washington, D.C., combined with similar efforts in cities around the country, could threaten millions of food service workers whose positions might be replaced by machines:
The industry could be ready for another jolt as a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour nears in the District and as other campaigns to boost wages gain traction around the country. About 30 percent of the restaurant industry's costs come from salaries, so burger-flipping robots -- or at least super-fast ovens that expedite the process -- become that much more cost-competitive if the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is doubled.
Many chains are already at work looking for ingenious ways to take humans out of the picture, threatening workers in an industry that employs 2.4 million wait staffers, nearly 3 million cooks and food preparers and many of the nation's 3.3 million cashiers.
The Post's decision to label minimum-wage campaigns -- like the Fight for $15 -- as a threat to fast-food workers is confusing. The Post quotes one kitchen equipment supplier as saying, "The innovation and the automation, they're going after it even before the wages go up. Why wait?" The article admits that productivity gains and increased efficiency have led to a decline in the number of workers per store for decades, noting that McDonald's restaurants in 1966 employed "70 or 80" staff members "as opposed to the 30 or 40 there today." The Post even cites market research showing a more than 10 percent decline in the average number of employees per fast-food restaurant over the last decade; the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour has been constant since July 2009.
The truth of the matter is that raising the minimum wage has a negligible effect on employment. In February 2013, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) published a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between employment and the minimum wage and concluded that "the minimum wage has little or no discernible effect on the employment prospects of low-wage workers." One study included in CEPR's analysis reviewed nearly 1,500 employment estimates from minimum-wage studies, finding that the overwhelming majority of "the most precise estimates were heavily clustered at or near zero employment effects":
A recent study from researchers at Purdue University found that increasing the minimum wage of fast-food workers to $15 per hour would only result in a 4.3 percent increase in restaurant prices. To put that in perspective, a 4.3 percent increase in the cost of a Big Mac would be roughly 20 cents.
Blaming increased wages for the adoption of so-called "labor saving technology" is misleading; employers have other costs to consider beyond entry-level wages, and the move toward automation has always been a staple of labor-intensive industries. The "burger-flipping robots" that The Post attributes to increased salaries actually already exist. Momentum Machines claims that its automated sandwich machine can produce "custom meat grinds for every single customer" at a rate of one burger every 10 seconds -- far faster than a human line cook. But, according to Business Insider, the company believes that any jobs displaced by the product will be more than made up by increased productivity in other areas:
The issue of machines and job displacement has been around for centuries and economists generally accept that technology like ours actually causes an increase in employment. The three factors that contribute to this are 1. the company that makes the robots must hire new employees, 2. the restaurant that uses our robots can expand their frontiers of production which requires hiring more people, and 3. the general public saves money on the reduced cost of our burgers. This saved money can then be spent on the rest of the economy.
Conservative media figures are attacking Fox News and Megyn Kelly to defend Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, claiming the network and Kelly were "out to get" Trump in Fox News' first Republican primary debate.
On MSNBC, Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker's pre-Republican-debate analysis pushed the conservative media myth that the deceptively edited videos attacking Planned Parenthood revealed that the women's health organization engaged in the sale of fetal tissue. In reality, the videos have been roundly debunked as showing no illegal activity on the part of Planned Parenthood, and the organization has been cleared of wrong doing in two state investigations.
Fox News has consistently helped Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush run defense for many of his controversial remarks, including his assertions that he would have authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, that Americans "need to work longer hours" to boost the economy, and that the federal government spends "too much" on women's health.
The curious revelation that reporters from nine news organizations recently attended Charles and David Koch's political summit and voluntarily agreed not to identify key donors in attendance provided a helpful look into the double standard that the media often use when covering conservatives vs. covering the Clintons.
Willing to temporarily look away from the donor news behind the Koch brothers push to remake American politics in their billionaire image (and to bankroll the GOP's 2016 nominee), several of the same outlets have spent months this year needling Bill and Hillary Clinton for not being transparent enough about donors to the charitable Clinton Foundation.
To hear much of the press' often fevered coverage of the Clinton Foundation, it's simply unacceptable and downright deceitful to hide the names of wealthy people who give. Yet many of the same class of reporters volunteered not to disclose Koch donors who mingled among journalists all weekend at the five-star GOP summit?
Given that willingness to look the other way, it's difficult to take seriously the media's incessant demands that the Clintons be more transparent about their donors; donors who give to a charity devoted to help poor people around the world, not devoted to electing U.S. politicians, which is what Koch donors are all about. (The Koch brothers, and affiliated groups, are expected to spend $889 million on the 2016 race, after having raised $400 million on the 2012 contests.)
Moreover, the Clinton Foundation has actually done more than most charities do to disclose their donors. Though a few of their affiliates have not revealed some donors (in part because of differing laws in other countries), the charity has gone to great lengths ever since Clinton first became secretary of state: "In posting its donor data, the foundation goes beyond legal requirements, and experts say its transparency level exceeds that of most philanthropies," the Post previously reported.
Yet try to image the universal, all-encompassing, hour-after-hour pundit outrage that would be unleashed if the Clinton Foundation held a political summit this year and demanded journalists hide the identity of key donors who attended. The same Beltway media have no problem with the Kochs hiding 450 of their big, dark-money donors -- and hiding them in plain sight.
The Huffington Post's Michael Calderone spelled out the obvious ethical troubles raised by stipulations attached to the formerly closed-to-the-press Koch summit, where key Republican politicians were invited to address conservative billionaires:
The problem is that the ground rules could restrict journalists from reporting what's right in front of their eyes. If, say, Rupert Murdoch, or even a lesser-known billionaire, walked by, they couldn't report the person's attendance without permission. So it's possible journalists end up reporting largely what the event sponsors want, such as fiery speeches and candidate remarks criticizing Democrats, but less on the power brokers attending who play key behind-the-scenes roles in the 2016 election.
By playing by the Koch's rules, the press left itself open to some sizeable bouts of hypocrisy.
Recall that in April, Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins published partisan author Peter Schweizer's Clinton Cash, a sloppy, book-length attack on Clinton Foundation donors. The book purported (and failed) to show how foundation donations corrupted Clinton's decisions during her time as secretary of state. Media Matters documented nearly two dozen errors and distortions in the book.
But that didn't stop key outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post from teaming up with Schweizer and helping to push his lines of attack. At the time, here's how the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza's defended the immediate embrace of Clinton Cash:
The most foundational principle of covering a presidential campaign (or anything, really) is trying your damnedest to give people the fullest possible picture of the candidates running to represent them. The more information you have at your disposal then, the better.
Added Cillizza, "We are information-gatherers at heart."
So when the issue at hand was donors to the Clinton Foundation, the Washington Post sounded a clarion call, urging reporters to look at the all the information in order to give readers the "fullest possible picture of the candidates running." (And who might be trying to buy their influence.)
But last weekend, when the issue at hand was Koch summit donors, the Washington Post quietly demurred and apparently concluded not all information needed to be shared with voters.
It seems clear that the Clinton Foundation feeding frenzy sprang from the media assumption that the Clintons are hiding something, they aren't truthful, and they cannot be trusted. As Vox's Jonathan Allen asserted, detailing the press corps' "unspoken rules" to covering Hillary, "the media assumes that Clinton is acting in bad faith until there's hard evidence otherwise."
By contrast, what explained the pass given to the Kochs? Was it fueled by an inverse press assumption that the Kochs are forthright, they're honorable men, and of course they play by the rules?
If donors are deemed the targets of intense media scrutiny, the press should apply the rules fairly to both sides
Major U.S. newspapers ran front page stories about devastating California wildfires alongside reports on the Environmental Protection Agency's newly-finalized Clean Power Plan, President Obama's flagship policy to address climate change. Yet with only one exception, these newspapers' wildfire articles ignored the documented role that global warming has played in worsening wildfires.
The Washington Post's George Will likened legal abortion to "barbarism" and "a limitless right to kill, and distribute fragments of, babies."
Will cited the debunked notion that Planned Parenthood profits from the sale of fetal tissue -- a smear manufactured from a conservative group's recent series of deceptively edited videos -- to accuse the women's health organization of running "federally subsidized meat markets" in a July 31 column. The Fox News contributor claimed that those who support women's ability to make their own reproductive choices see fetuses as lacking "a moral standing superior to a tumor or a hamburger in the mother's stomach." He went on:
The nonnegotiable tenet in today's Democratic Party catechism is not opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline or support for a $15 minimum wage. These are evanescent fevers. As the decades roll by, the single unshakable commitment is opposition to any restriction on the right to inflict violence on pre-born babies. So today there is a limitless right to kill, and distribute fragments of, babies that intrauterine medicine can increasingly treat as patients.
We are wallowing in this moral swamp because the Supreme Court accelerated the desensitization of the nation by using words and categories about abortion the way infants use knives and forks -- with gusto, but sloppily. Because Planned Parenthood's snout is deep in the federal trough, decent taxpayers find themselves complicit in the organization's vileness. What kind of a government disdains the deepest convictions of citizens by forcing them to finance what they see in videos -- Planned Parenthood operatives chattering about bloody human fragments? "Taxes," said Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., "are what we pay for civilized society." Today they finance barbarism.
Despite Will's declaration that taxes "finance barbarism," Planned Parenthood does not use any federal money for abortion procedures -- it's been unlawful for nearly 40 years.
His smears are further undermined by the Post's own editorial board, which called out conservative efforts to attack Planned Parenthood based on the deceptively edited videos:
That truths were distorted to paint an inaccurate and unfair picture of a health organization that provides valuable services to women -- as well as to demonize research that leads to important medical advances -- doesn't matter to antiabortion activists. Or, sadly, to the politicians who pander to them.
Planned Parenthood is under virulent attack for the role a small portion of its affiliates play in helping women who want to donate fetal tissue for medical research. The antiabortion group Center for Medical Progress has orchestrated a propaganda campaign accusing the nation's largest provider of abortions of profiting from the illegal sale of fetal tissue, a charge refuted by Planned Parenthood.
None of the videos released shows anything illegal and, in fact, the full footage of Planned Parenthood executives meeting with people presumed to be buyers for a human biologics company include repeated assertions that clinics are not selling tissue but only seeking permitted reimbursement costs for expenses. Indeed, the Colorado clinic featured in the videos refused to enter into a contract with the phony company because of its failure to meet its legal and ethical standards.