Sunday, November 6, 2011

Media's role in politics - Watergate and Operation SWIFT

Watergate Scandal and Operation Swift

Here are two scandals in which the media was involved and played a key role. The first scandal was when the media revealed that Nixon had been stealing money for his campaign, which lead to him being impeached.

The second incident, Operation Swift was when the media published an article that government begged it not to. It informed the american public that the government had gained access to database of the public's financial records to catch terrorist activity.

In the first case, i think most would agree that the media played the protagonist in which it informed people of things they needed to know. In the second, it is not so clear and not everyone will agree that the media was right for publishing that story. This is what I want to discuss.

The Watergate scandal reveals the need for intense Journalism. During this scandal Nixon was being investigated for stealing money to fund his election. Link were made between a robbery into the white house and a slush fund.

Woodward and Bernstein, the two journalists working writing about this case made links and even accusations. The public's opinion of the media declined after they heard about these accusations which basically called Nixon a thief that was covering up crime.

Afterwards when it turned out to be true, Woodward and Bernstein were hailed as great reporters and it reminded the role of the media in elections: to inform the public of things they need to know and assume everyone is horrible and tell people about it.

[side question - they became obsessed with this story, could they have published it out of ego?]

Like I said before to me, its obvious that they still did a really good job.

Operation swift however, I feel different about.

After 9/11 the government gained access to a database of financial records called SWIFT. In this database they could everyone's records. They were using it to look at international money transfers between people in the United States and terrorist organization overseas.

It worked, they made many arrests but there was still one problem: did they have a right to access the public's financial records, and did they abuse it? Technically they have a right to it, but only of records that have to do with terrorist activity, but that power can be abused.

The media got a hold of this information and published a story about it. The government begged it not to because the efficacy of the operation depended on it being a secret. If it were not a secret, terrorists with find other means of doing what they need to do and the guilty persons would not get caught.

This is where I begin to question the role of media in politics. It framed the government with imposing on my privacy. See, some people would say they they doing exactly what they should be doing. But me, if a government needs that access and needs to be private about it, to protect me and do it's job- then I don't care.

It is not the media's role to reveal information about security and jeopardize government operations.

FOLLOW UP TO SIDE NOTE: did they publish this story to be the first or show off to the public they were on their side? Or did they genuinely feel that this needed to be published?

Do I want to know that Herman Cain is harassing women? YEAH! Good job media!

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