SPJ national update: More spying than first thought?; no, Clinton and Carter didn't do the same thing; and press leak about bin Laden cellphone "urban myth." President Bush has acknowledged that several hundred Americans were wiretapped without warrants by the National Security Agency, but some U.S. officials and outside experts say the operation could be far broader. They note that with the high-tech tools at its disposal, the NSA could eavesdrop on a much larger cross-section of people in the United States. More here and here and here and here and here. ... Bush's spy program allows warrantless surveillance inside the United States. Executive orders by Presidents Jimmy Carter on May 23, 1979, and Bill Clinton on Feb. 9, 1995, did not do that. More here. ... The Washington Post refutes the president's continued assertion that the media published a leak in 1998 alerting al Qaeda to U.S. monitoring and causing Osama bin Laden to abandon his cellphone. A Post story Dec. 22 says bin Laden's use of a satellite phone had already been reported in 1996 and that the source of the information was another government, the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan at the time. More here and here.
SPJ national update II: Columnist resigns, admits he was paid off; "a total waste of money" and crooked, too; and un-embedding the photojournalist. Doug Bandow, a senior scholar at the respected Cato Institute, resigned after revelations that he took payments from the lobbyist Jack Abramoff in exchange for writing columns favorable to Abramoff's clients. Abramoff is at the center of a criminal investigation involving several members of Congress over whether the lawmakers took bribes in exchange for legislative help. More here and here. ... U.S. military officials in Iraq knew that a Pentagon contractor regularly paid Iraqi newspapers to publish positive stories and made it clear that none of the stories should be traced to the United States, according to current and former employees of Lincoln Group, the Washington-based contractor. A number of Lincoln Group workers involved in a $20 million, two-month contract to sway public opinion describe a costly and ineffective campaign. "This stuff ... is a total waste of money," said a former employee, echoing the sentiments of several colleagues. "Every Iraqi can read right through it." More here and here and here and here. ... The expulsion of two embedded journalists in Kuwait, reportedly for photographing a shot-up military vehicle, prompted outrage from Military Reporters and Editors. MRE president Sig Christenson, a military writer with the San Antonio Express-News, said no rule barring photos of damaged vehicles existed when he embedded in 2003. More here.
SPJ national update III: Riled at O'Reilly; riled over respect shown fallen soldiers; and, riled at Sinclair, TV reporter files countersuit. The Plano school district says talk show host Bill O'Reilly falsely accused the school of outlawing the colors of Christmas. O'Reilly told his television audience Dec. 9 that a Plano school informed students they could not wear red and green because those are Christmas colors, a decision he called "flat-out fascism." Richard Abernathy, an attorney for the school district, e-mailed O'Reilly that his "slur smacks of McCarthyism and represents yellow journalism at its best." More here. ... Dead heroes are supposed to come home with their coffins draped with the American flag and greeted by a color guard. But many are arriving as freight on commercial airliners, stuffed in the belly of a plane with suitcases and other cargo. San Diego residents John Holley and his wife, Stacey, were stunned when they learned that the body of their son would arrive at Lindbergh Field as freight. Matthew Holley, a medic with the 101st Airborne unit in Iraq, was killed Nov. 15. More here. ... Jonathan S. Leiberman, Washington bureau chief for the Sinclair Broadcast Group until his dismissal in October 2004, has filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit. Leiberman had objected to Sinclair's plans to pre-empt programming at its 62 TV stations less than two weeks before the 2004 presidential election to air "an extremely one-sided and negative" piece on Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, "tricked out as news," the suit says. Leiberman was fired after he told The Baltimore Sun that the piece was "biased political propaganda." More here.