10 big stories the nation’s major news media refused to cover
month, two news stories broke the same day, one meaty, one
junky. In Detroit, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled
that the Bush administration’s warrantless National Security
Agency surveillance program was unconstitutional and must
end. Meanwhile, somewhere in Thailand, a weirdo named John
Mark Karr claimed he was with 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet
Ramsey when she died in 1996.
Predictably, the mainstream media devoted acres of newsprint
and hours of airtime to the self-proclaimed beauty-queen killer,
including stories on what he ate on the plane ride home, his
desire for a sex change, his child-porn fixation, and—when
DNA tests proved Karr wasn’t the killer—why he confessed to
a crime he didn’t commit.
During that same time period, hardly a word was written or
said in the same outlets about Judge Diggs Taylor’s ruling
and the question it raises about why Bush and his power-grabbing
administration repeatedly lie to the American public.
The mainstream media’s fascination with unimportant stories
isn’t anything new. Professor Carl Jensen, a disenchanted
journalist who entered advertising only to walk away in greater
disgust and become a sociologist, says the media’s preoccupation
with “junk food news” inspired him to found a media research
project at Sonoma State University about 30 years ago to publicize
the top 25 big stories the media had censored, ignored, or
underreported the previous year.
That was the beginning of Project Censored, the longest-running
media-censorship project in the nation—and it drew plenty
of criticism from editors and publishers.
was taking a lot of flak from editors around Project Censored’s
annual list of the top stories the mainstream media missed,”
recalls the now-retired Jensen. “They said the reason they
hadn’t covered the stories was that they only had a limited
amount of time and space, and that I was an academic, sitting
But Jensen had an answer: There was plenty of time and space,
but it was just being filled with fluff.
Since 1993, Project Censored has been running not only the
stories that didn’t get adequate coverage but also the “junk
food news”—the stories that were way, way overblown and filled
precious pages and airtime that could have been used for real
While Jensen would love to be able to claim that Project Censored
solved the media’s problems with censorship and junk-food
news, that didn’t happen.
anything, it’s gotten worse,” Jensen says, pointing to increased
Project Censored’s current director, Peter Phillips, says
entertainment news may be addictive, but that’s no
excuse for the media to push it.
celebrity gossip—we’re automatically attracted,” Phillips
says. “It’s like selling drugs. But we don’t tolerate the
drug dealer on the corner. For the democratic process to happen,
we have to have information presented and made available.
To just give people entertainment news is an abdication of
the First Amendment.”
Art Brodsky, a telecommunications expert at Public Knowledge,
an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., says some of
the problems with censorship are a product of journalistic
laziness. Brodsky, who has written extensively on network
neutrality, which is the number one issue on this year’s list,
says the topic hasn’t received enough coverage, partly because
the debate has largely remained couched in telecommunications
neutralilty is a crappy term, other than its alliterative
value,” Brodsky says. “It’s one of those Washington issues
that gets intense coverage in the field where it happens but
can be successfully muddied, and it’s technical. So a lot
of editors and reporters throw their hands up in the air,
a lot like senators.
Following are Project Censored’s top 10 stories for the past
The feds and the media muddy the debate over Internet freedom
its relatively brief life, the Internet has been touted as
the greatest vehicle for democracy ever invented by humankind.
It has given disillusioned Americans hope that there is a
way to get out the truth, even if they don’t own airwaves,
newspapers, or satellite stations. It’s forced the mainstream
media to talk about issues it previously ignored, such as
the Downing Street memo and Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse.
So when the Supreme Court ruled that giant cable companies
aren’t required to share their wires with other Internet service
providers, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the major
media did little in terms of exploring whether this ruling
would destroy Internet freedom. As Elliot Cohen reported in
BuzzFlash, the issue was misleadingly framed as an argument
over regulation, when it’s really a case of the Federal Communications
Commission and Congress talking about giving cable and telephone
companies the freedom to control supply and content—a decision
that could have them playing favorites and forcing consumers
to pay to get information and services that currently are
The good news? With the Senate still set to debate the Communications
Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act of 2006, as the
network neutrality bill is called, it’s not too late to write
congressional representatives, alert friends and acquaintances,
and join grassroots groups to protect Internet freedom and
Source: “Web of Deceit: How Internet Freedom Got the Federal
Ax, and Why Corporate News Censored the Story,” Elliot D.
Cohen, BuzzFlash.com, July 18, 2005
Halliburton charged with selling nuclear technology to Iran
the notorious U.S. energy company, sold key nuclear reactor
components to a private Iranian oil company called Oriental
Oil Kish as recently as 2005, using offshore subsidiaries
to circumvent U.S. sanctions, journalist Jason Leopold reported
on GlobalResearch.ca, the Web site of a Canadian research
group. He cited sources intimate with the business dealings
of Halliburton and Kish.
The story is particularly juicy because Vice President Dick
Cheney, who now claims to want to stop Iran from getting nukes,
was president of Halliburton in the mid-1990s, at which time
he may have advocated business dealings with Iran, in violation
of U.S. law.
Leopold contended that the Halliburton-Kish deals have helped
Iran become capable of enriching weapons-grade uranium.
He filed his report in 2005, when Iran’s new hard-line government
was rounding up relatives and business associates of former
Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani, amid accusations of
widespread corruption in Iran’s oil industry.
Leopold also reported that in 2004 and 2005, Halliburton had
a close business relationship with Cyrus Nasseri, an Oriental
Oil Kish official whom the Iranian government subsequently
accused of receiving up to $1 million from Halliburton for
giving them Iran’s nuclear secrets.
Source: “Halliburton Secretly Doing Business with Key Member
of Iran’s Nuclear Team,” Jason Leopold, GlobalResearch.ca,
Aug. 5, 2005
World oceans in extreme danger
sea levels. A melting Arctic. Governments denying global warming
is happening as they rush to map the ocean floor in the hopes
of claiming rights to oil, gas, gold, diamonds, copper, zinc,
and the planet’s last pristine fishing grounds. This is the
sobering picture author Julia Whitty painted in a beautifully
crafted piece that makes the point that “there is only one
ocean on Earth . . . a Mobiuslike ribbon winding through all
the ocean basins, rising and falling, and stirring the waters
of the world.”
If this world ocean, which encompasses 70.78 percent of our
planet, is in peril, then we’re all screwed. As Whitty reported
in Mother Jones magazine, researchers at the Scripps
Institution of Oceanography and the Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory in 2005 found “the first clear evidence that the
world ocean is growing warmer,” including the discovery “that
the top half-mile of the ocean has warmed dramatically in
the past 40 years as the result of human-induced greenhouse
gases.” But while a Scripps researcher recommended that “the
Bush administration convene a Manhattan-style project” to
see if mitigations are still possible, the U.S. government
has yet to lift a finger toward addressing the problem.
Source: “The Fate of the Ocean,” Julia Whitty, Mother Jones,
Hunger and homelessness increasing in the United States
hunger and homelessness rise in the United States, the Bush
administration plans to get rid of a data source that supports
this embarrassing reality—a survey that’s been used to improve
state and federal programs for retired and low-income Americans.
President Bush’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2007 includes
an effort to eliminate the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income
and Program Participation. Founded in 1984, the survey tracks
American families’ use of Social Security, Medicaid, unemployment
insurance, child care, and temporary assistance for needy
With legislators and researchers trying to prevent the cut,
author Abid Aslam argued that this isn’t just an isolated
budget matter: It’s the Bush administration’s third
attempt in as many years to remove funding for politically
embarrassing research. In 2003, it tried to whack the Bureau
of Labor Statistics report on mass layoffs, and in 2004 and
2005 attempted to drop the bureau’s questions on the hiring
and firing of women from its employment data.
Sources: “New Report Shows Increase in Urban Hunger, Homelessness,”
Brendan Coyne, New Standard, December 2005; “US Plan
to Eliminate Survey of Needy Families Draws Fire,” Abid Aslam,
OneWorld.net, March 2006
High-tech genocide in the Congo
you believe the corporate media, then the ongoing genocide
in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is all just a case
of ugly tribal warfare. But that, according to stories published
in Z Magazine and the Earth First! Journal and
heard on The Taylor Report, is a superficial, simplistic
explanation that fails to connect this terrible suffering
with the immense fortunes that stand to be made from manufacturing
cell phones, laptop computers, and other high-tech equipment.
What’s really at stake in this bloodbath is control of natural
resources such as diamonds, tin, and copper, as well as cobalt—which
is essential for the nuclear, chemical, aerospace, and defense
industries—and coltan and niobium, which is most important
for the high-tech industries. These disturbing reports concluded
that a meaningful analysis of Congolese geopolitics requires
a knowledge and understanding of the organized crime perpetuated
Sources: “The World’s Most Neglected Emergency: Phil Taylor
talks to Keith Harmon Snow,” The Taylor Report, March 28,
2005; “High-Tech Genocide,” Sprocket, Earth First! Journal,
August 2005; “Behind the Numbers: Untold Suffering in the
Congo,” Keith Harmon Snow and David Barouski, Z Magazine,
March 1, 2006
Federal whistleblower protection in jeopardy
record numbers of federal workers have been sounding the alarm
on waste, fraud, and other financial abuse since George W.
Bush became president, the agency charged with defending government
whistleblowers reportedly has been throwing out hundreds of
cases—and advancing almost none. Statistics released at the
end of 2005 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
led to claims that special counsel Scott Bloch, who was appointed
by Bush in 2004, is overseeing the systematic elimination
of whistleblower rights.
What makes this development particularly troubling is that,
thanks to a decline in congressional oversight and hard-hitting
investigative journalism, the role of the Office of Special
Counsel in advancing governmental transparency is more vital
than ever. As a result, employees within the OSC have filed
a whistleblower complaint against Bloch himself.
Ironically, Bloch has now decided not to disclose the number
of whistleblower complaints in which an employee obtained
a favorable outcome, such as reinstatement or reversal of
a disciplinary action, making it hard to tell who, if anyone,
is being helped by the agency.
Sources: “Whistleblowers Get Help from Bush Administration,”
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Web
site, Dec. 5, 2005; “Long-Delayed Investigation of Special
Counsel Finally Begins,” PEER Web site, Oct. 18, 2005; “Back
Door Rollback of Federal Whistleblower Protections,” PEER
Web site, Sept. 22, 2005
U.S. operatives torture detainees to death in Afghanistan
Gagged. Strangled. Asphyxiated. Beaten with blunt objects.
Subjected to sleep deprivation and hot and cold environmental
conditions. These are just some of the forms of torture that
the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan inflicted on detainees,
according to an American Civil Liberties Union analysis of
autopsy and death reports that were made public in response
to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
While reports of torture aren’t new, the documents are evidence
of using torture as a policy, raising a whole bunch of uncomfortable
questions, such as: Who authorized such techniques? And why
have the resulting deaths been covered up?
Of the 44 death reports released under ACLU’s FOIA request,
21 were homicides and eight appear to have been the result
of these abusive torture techniques.
Sources: “US Operatives Killed Detainees During Interrogations
in Afghanistan and Iraq,” American Civil Liberties Union Web
site, Oct. 24, 2005; “Tracing the Trail of Torture: Embedding
Torture as Policy from Guantánamo to Iraq,” Dahr Jamail, TomDispatch.com,
March 5, 2006
Pentagon exempt from Freedom of Information Act
2005, the Department of Defense pushed for and was granted
exemption from Freedom of Information Act requests, a crucial
law that allows journalists and watchdogs access to federal
documents. The stated reason for this dramatic and dangerous
move? FOIA is a hindrance to protecting national security.
The ruling could hamper the efforts of groups like the ACLU,
which relied on FOIA to uncover more than 30,000 documents
on the U.S. military’s torture of detainees in Afghanistan,
Iraq, and Guantánamo Bay, including the Abu Ghraib torture
ACLU lawyers predicting that this ruling will likely result
in more abuse and with Americans becoming increasingly concerned
about the federal government’s illegal intelligence-gathering
activities, Congress has imposed a two-year sunset on this
FOIA exemption, ending December 2007—which is cold comfort
right now to anyone rotting in a U.S. overseas military facility
or a secret CIA prison.
Sources: “Pentagon Seeks Greater Immunity from Freedom of
Information,” Michelle Chen, New Standard, May 6, 2005;
“FOIA Exemption Granted to Federal Agency,” Newspaper Association
of America Web site, posted December 2005
World Bank funds Israel-Palestine wall
2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the wall
Israel is building deep into Palestinian territory should
be torn down. Instead, construction of this cement barrier,
which annexes Israeli settlements and breaks the continuity
of Palestinian territory, has accelerated. In the interim,
the World Bank has come up with a framework for a Middle Eastern
Free Trade Area, which would be financed by the World Bank
and built on Palestinian land around the wall to encourage
export-oriented economic development. But with Israel ineligible
for World Bank loans, the plan seems to translate into Palestinians
paying for the modernization of checkpoints around
a wall that they’ve always opposed, a wall that will help
lock in and exploit their labor.
Sources: “Cementing Israeli Apartheid: The Role of World Bank,”
Jamal Juma’, Left Turn, issue 18; “US Free Trade Agreements
Split Arab Opinion,” Linda Heard, Aljazeera, March 9, 2005
Expanded air war in Iraq kills more civilians
the end of 2005, U.S. Central Command Air Force statistics
showed an increase in American air missions, a trend that
was accompanied by a rise in civilian deaths thanks to increased
bombing of Iraqi cities. But with U.S. bombings and the killing
of innocent civilians acting as a highly effective recruiting
tool among Iraqi militants, the U.S. war on Iraq seemed to
increasingly be following the path of the war in Vietnam.
As Seymour Hersh reported in The New Yorker at the
end of 2005, a key component in the federal government’s troop-reduction
plan was the replacement of departing U.S. troops with U.S.
Meanwhile, Hersh’s sources within the military have expressed
fears that if Iraqis are allowed to call in the targets of
these aerial strikes, they could abuse that power to settle
old scores. With Iraq devolving into a full-blown Sunni-Shiite
civil war and the United States increasingly drawn into the
sectarian violence, reporters like Hersh and Dahr Jamail fear
that the only exit strategy for the United States is to increase
the air power even more as the troops pull out, causing the
cycle of sectarian violence to escalate further.
Sources: “Up in the Air,” Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker,
December 2005; “An Increasingly Aerial Occupation,” Dahr Jamail,
TomDispatch.com, December 2005
Phelan is a reporter for the San Francisco Bay Guardian,
where this story first appeared. For the next 15 of Project
Censored’s top 25 stories, go to www.sfbg.com.