Confirming: Bamford’s report was completely ignored!


We had dumber things to discuss: Yesterday, we cited Walter Pincus’ reaction to the current NSA revelations. To read that post, click here.

This isn’t real new, Pincus seemed to say. He recalled an article from March of last year by James Bamford, a well-known expert on the NSA:
PINCUS (6/11/13): On March 15, 2012, Wired magazine published a long article by James Bamford, who has written books about the NSA. Bamford described the agency’s new $2 billion Utah Data Center and its ability to “intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks.”

He wrote that when the center is fully running at the end of this year, “stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter.’ ”

Was there any follow-up in the mainstream media to Bamford’s disclosure, or anything close to the concerns voiced on Capitol Hill this past week? No.
Bamford wrote the piece in Wired. The mainstream press corps just sat there and stared, Pincus said.

Later, we decided to check it out. How much did the mainstream press corps say about Bamford's report?

Judging from the Nexis archives, the press corps said virtually nothing. On March 21, 2012, the Salt Lake City’s Deseret Morning News did a 376-word report about what Bamford wrote. But that was mainly a short local story, connected to the Utah location of the NSA’s new center.

On March 20, Jon Carroll had discussed Bamford’s piece in a column about the Patriot Act in the San Francisco Chronicle. On March 25, the piece was mentioned in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, but that too was largely a local piece, tied to the Oak Ridge Lab.

In early April, civil libertarian Nat Hentoff wrote a column about Bamford’s piece. According to Nexis, the column appeared in a few tiny newspapers. When’s the last time you read the Herkimer (New York) Evening Telegram?

Wisely or otherwise, the New York Times didn’t mention Bamford. Neither did the Washington Post or the Associated Press.

Sorry, Charlies! The press corps had bigger fish to fry in March 2012. The GOP was conducting an endless series of utterly pointless primaries. Pundits and reporters alike were waiting for colorful, stupid or misquoted statements which they could pretend to dissect.

Also, Rush Limbaugh dropped his various bombs on Sandra Fluke at this time. In the process, Bamford’s report fell straight through the cracks.

When it came to those GOP primaries, attention did have to be paid! That said, the endless attention to colorful, stupid and misconstrued statements didn’t produce a lot of comprehension. At his first debate with Obama that October, Romney described the budget plan he had unveiled in February 2012 during the Arizona primary.

From Obama right on down, no one seemed to have any idea what he had initially said.

As Pincus noted, Bamford’s lengthy report produced virtually no reaction from the mainstream media. But then, your “press corps” had stopped responding to matters of substance at least by the time when Candidate Gore didn't say he invented the Internet.

We're going to admit it: We've never heard of Herkimer, New York. This proves that the town doesn't have a bar which does comedy one night a week.

Just this once, we decided to let you ask us about our business.


  1. Are you the new Carlin?

  2. As someone who's live in CNY for all his life, I know Herkimer! You can get diamonds there!


  3. Bamford seemed to be ubiquitous on C-SPAN back when we first heard about phone call sweeps during Bush 43. When I spied one of his books on a Waldenbooks shelf even more years before, it marked the first time I'd ever heard of the NSA. Boy was I embarrassed.

    I hope Howler is not the New Carlin. When (insert creative field here) become "important" or "political" their material tends to become less (insert adjective indicating quality work here).


  4. Was Pincus writing about Bamford in March 2012?

    Pincus kind of sails by the whole 2008 FISA Amendment brouhaha which featured the controversial flip-flop by candidate Obama. So the whole "nobody ever paid attention" argument isn't that convincing because it was a pretty hot topic for a while--at least among voters evaluating Democratic candidates.

    But once there is broad agreement across the mainstream political spectrum on a issue it won't likely get much media coverage. If Democrats had filibustered the 2008 FISA legislation there would have been a lot of fireworks. Should we be blaming the media or the candidates? While there is plenty of blame to go around, here it seems to be primarily a candidate fail.

  5. Since 2008 there have been a lot more examples reported about how the widespread dissemination of personal information via the internet can ruin someone's life. People are only gradually realizing that their sense of privacy is being challenged in many ways because of electronic media and the old ways of protecting oneself (e.g., staying out of trouble, keeping secret things secret) is not going to work any more. You can be falsely accused, stalked, misunderstood, and become unemployable these days because of chance activities that wouldn't have been noticed yesterday. When people realize their vulnerability perhaps they will care more about misplaced trust in our govt to protect our identities from online intrusion. These polls should be conducted with victims of internet stalking or identity theft and see how those folks feel about data mining of their personal info.

  6. Why are Canadian comics funnier than American ones?

    (To be honest, I already think it's because they don't focus so much on irony.)

    1. So both of them can watch the game, eh?