Monday, July 07, 2003

Homeland Security: Strange, but True

Imagine this: For whatever reason, you need to reach the US Gestapo -- aka the Department of Homeland Security (John Ashcroft's so-called Justice Department is its partner in crime). You look through DHS press releases for the name or phone number or fax number of a contact person for the department. But your search turns out to be in vain -- there is no contact person. Dig this, from the Hartford Advocate.

Does this set warning bells in your head? It does for me. So I conducted a search of DHS press releases and the departmental Web site -- nothing. There is no phone number listed, no fax number listed, only a snail-mail address (and we all know how useless sending mail to any gummint agency can be) and a Web-based feedback form.

State DHS offices have phone numbers, so citizens do have a place to go, and there is the DHS Fear and Loathing, um, site, which offers a toll-free number for US residents with questions. But the omission of phone numbers in departmental press releases presents a number of concerns, which are well articulated by Oregon-based journalist, grassroots activist, and organizer David M. Baker:
This story has VAST implications! I don't know about you folks, but this is the first i've heard that the venerable DHS is sending out press releases with no cotnact information. what's crazy here is that nobody, until this story popped up, NOBODY in the news media has said a thing about it!

Think about what this means, folks! It means that anything you've
  1. read in the paper,
  2. heard on the radio,
  3. seen on the television
citing information from the DHS could well be information that has not been verified, clarified, or otherwise vetted by the so-called journalists receiving it.

I'm trying not to freak out...really...but i think that this story should be used as a springboard for an action. I'm thinking that this could be a WONDERFUL opportunity to challenge local media outlets on how they handle information they receive from government sources. At the very least, it provides a point of interrogatory.

Again, imagine a tired reporter on deadline. Imagine she gets a press release from the Department of Homeland Security. Imagine her printing the information from the release without verifying the facts contained within, under the assumption that the news is accurate and reliably sourced. What if the info in the release is, in fact, untrue or nothing more than governmental propaganda?

Great. Another reason to question the integrity of the media and the government.

Want to discuss the matter, along with possible actions progressives could take along the lines of Dave's suggestions? Write us.

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