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Must Be Thursday

(or so fnord12 tells me) Cause Glenn Greenwald's upset with the press corps.

The Petraeus scandal is receiving intense media scrutiny obviously due to its salacious aspects, leaving one, as always, to fantasize about what a stellar press corps we would have if they devoted a tiny fraction of this energy to dissecting non-sex political scandals (this unintentionally amusing New York Times headline from this morning - "Concern Grows Over Top Military Officers' Ethics" - illustrates that point: with all the crimes committed by the US military over the last decade and long before, it's only adultery that causes "concern" over their "ethics").

As this scandal has been unfolding since last Friday, i've been trying to figure out myself just who the hell cares about these people having an affair? I get the "he put himself in a position to be blackmailed" angle, but once he admitted it, that should no longer be a problem. And barely any articles have really even mentioned that angle. They're more concerned with each juicy tidbit that happens to get leaked about who else is involved.

But, i'm with Greenwald in that i want to know why a complaint about harassing emails gets a full FBI investigation and why, when all they knew was that Broadwell had been exchanging sexual emails with some anonymous lover, the FBI continued reading them? Was there really info in those emails that made the FBI worried about a breach in national security or were they just 12 yr olds titillated by sex talk? If harassing emails actually were enough to get the FBI on the job, i think alot of teens would have alot less cyber-bullying with which to contend.

That is the first disturbing fact: it appears that the FBI not only devoted substantial resources, but also engaged in highly invasive surveillance, for no reason other than to do a personal favor for a friend of one of its agents, to find out who was very mildly harassing her by email. The emails Kelley received were, as the Daily Beast reports, quite banal and clearly not an event that warranted an FBI investigation:
"The emails that Jill Kelley showed an FBI friend near the start of last summer were not jealous lover warnings like 'stay away from my man', a knowledgeable source tells The Daily Beast. . . .

"'More like, 'Who do you think you are? . . .You parade around the base . . . You need to take it down a notch,'" according to the source, who was until recently at the highest levels of the intelligence community and prefers not to be identified by name.


So all based on a handful of rather unremarkable emails sent to a woman fortunate enough to have a friend at the FBI, the FBI traced all of Broadwell's physical locations, learned of all the accounts she uses, ended up reading all of her emails, investigated the identity of her anonymous lover (who turned out to be Petraeus), and then possibly read his emails as well. They dug around in all of this without any evidence of any real crime - at most, they had a case of "cyber-harassment" more benign than what regularly appears in my email inbox and that of countless of other people - and, in large part, without the need for any warrant from a court.

It's both outrageous (but not surprising) that the FBI is allowed to conduct this type of warrantless snooping, and disturbing that this type of surveillance has become so accepted in our society that it has caused barely a blip in any reports by the media. It's more important to talk about how many pages of emails were printed out than it is to talk about the invasion of privacy.

Greenwald offers a tiny sliver of hope, though. Or mebbe it's just schadenfreude.

With the private, intimate activities of America's most revered military and intelligence officials being smeared all over newspapers and televisions for no good reason, perhaps similar conversions are possible. Put another way, having the career of the beloved CIA Director and the commanding general in Afghanistan instantly destroyed due to highly invasive and unwarranted electronic surveillance is almost enough to make one believe not only that there is a god, but that he is an ardent civil libertarian.

It's a nice hope, but i think we've gone too far to come back from the brink, as evidenced by the small number of people pointing out how wrong this investigation was. I do hope that something will be revealed at some point that makes any of this the least bit important, because so far, it might as well be an episode of Jerry Springer without the secret baby reveal.

By min | November 15, 2012, 2:38 PM | Liberal Outrage