The Agenda Setting Power of Media in International Affairs

How Media Coverage on U.S. Surveillance Programs and U.S. Military Operations Prevent Us From Becoming a Distopic World

The Agenda Setting Power of Media in International Affairs : How Media Coverage on U.S. Surveillance Programs and U.S. Military Operations Prevent Us From Becoming a Distopic World - Gerd Gensbichler


This research sheds light on the U.S. government’s efforts to petition media professionals not to report on U.S. data surveillance and military engagements. After 9/11, warrant court based U.S. surveillance practices morphed into warrantless U.S. surveillance activities, and poor journalistic working standards led to a chilling effect in government-media relations during the Obama administration. This analysis illustrates the influence of media reports on the U.S. government in times of unclear U.S. policies. The findings of this paper underline the fact that journalistic non-compliance with governmental secrecy requests prevents our societies from becoming distopic democracies.


Edward J. Snowden’s media accounts on the global data surveillance activities of the U.S. government have reignited a heated debate about government-media relations. Already in the aftermath of 9/11, officials of the U.S. government have asked media professionals several times not to report on the U.S. administration’s surveillance programs and military activities. Such petitions for media secrecy are repeatedly brought forward with the concern that reports on U.S. surveillance and military activities give terrorist organizations an inappropriate warning bell and hence damage U.S. security interests abroad. Journalists who have been confronted with such requests, however, refuse such secrecy petitions on the basis of the right to freedom of speech as it is enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution. Following the rationale of this debate we have to ask: Does the public have a right to know about the U.S. government’s surveillance and military engagements? This article aims at giving an answer to this question. I argue that the media has to report on secretive U.S. surveillance practices and opaque military activities in order to prevent Western democracies from becoming dystopic communities, which develop into frightening societies with an authoritarian character. I will illustrate my argument by showcasing how the publication of two U.S. news stories led to a realignment of secretive U.S. surveillance activities with civil liberties rules and to a change within the U.S. military command. I have chosen Eric Lichtball’s and James Risen’s report on the obscure Swift-Bank-Data surveillance program in the New York Times (NYT), and Michael Hastings’s story on General McChrystal in Rolling Stone. The two stories illustrate well the agenda setting power of news reports during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

On June 23, 2006 Eric Lichtball and James Risen published the article “Bank Data is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror” in the New York Times (NYT). The article covered the secretive Swift program that was initiated by the Bush administration only weeks after the 9/11 attacks. By then, the Belgium based Swift data center routed international money transfers that were worth $6 trillion a day and mostly included overseas wire transfers into and out of the United States. With the Swift program, U.S. counterterrorism officials hoped to trace the financing channels of Al Qaeda by acquiring Americans’ financial records on broad administrative subpoenas instead of individual court-approved warrants which were standard in pre-9/11 surveillance practices.[1] By departing from basic transparency and accountability rules the Swift program had the potential to erode democratic processes in the United States. As a whole, this article and the subsequent reports in the NYT addressed the general question as to whether or not the United States had become a night-watchman state during the Bush administration. The fierce debate in the aftermath of Lichtball’s and Risen’s article led to the end of the criticized Swift program and to the implementation of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program with improved accountability, privacy and transparency rules. Lichtball’s and Risen’s article demonstrated well the watchdog function of the press when democratic processes in a country start to be impaired.[2] To understand better why Lichtball’s and Risen’s article had such a political impact and eventually led to the shut-down of the original Swift program, let’s look at the political dynamics and government-media relations in the weeks and months before the article’s publication on June 23, 2006.

Governmental Pre-Publication Censorship and The Free Press Clause

Previous to the publication of Lichtball’s and Risen’s report in the NYT, the Bush administration had put significant pressure on the NYT editor not to publish the article. This is noteworthy because both authors were not looking to produce merely sensationalistic news.[3] As a consequence of the government pressure the NYT editors decided to delay the publication for a year. After additional journalistic investigation, the editors of the NYT finally decided to publish the report. The authors of the article relied on The Free Press Clause protecting them against pre-publication censorship based on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, while at the same time demonstrated responsibility by omitting elements of the article that might have endangered the lives of people or the effectiveness of the program.[4] The NYT insisted on publishing the article because it showed a pattern during the presidency of Bush to grow a powerful executive branch void of checks and balances that normally characterize democratic processes. But the Bush administration was not the first one that tried to overstretch its executive powers. Already at the beginning of the 1970s, Vietnam War protestors and civil rights activists in the United States learned that, under the presidency of Nixon, government officials had relentlessly eavesdropped on them. The reporting on the widespread eavesdropping abuses led to the introduction of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1977. Under FISA, U.S. intelligence surveillance activities had to be authorized by individual warrants through a FISA court.[5] Within the United States, FISA raised greater awareness of privacy concerns among its citizens.

The Swift Program - Unlimited Surveillance in The National Interest?

When 9/11 happened, millions of Americans watched on live TV as airplanes slammed into the towers of the World Trade Center (WTC), producing smoke columns, and the twin towers in downtown Manhattan collapsed. Immediately after the attacks the Bush administration raised concerns that US intelligence and law enforcement agencies were handcuffed by legal and bureaucratic restrictions and therefore could not react appropriately to the terrorist threat.[6] A well staged speech prepared the public for Bush’s declaration of a state of emergency on September 14, 2001, followed by the secret implementation of the financial data and communications surveillance programs via Swift (2001) and the National Security Agency (NSA – 2002).[7] Both of these programs worked under the assumption of a general surveillance warrant, a significant change compared to the FISA standards established before 9/11.[8] How can we interpret this significant change in surveillance patterns of U.S. intelligence since the WTC attacks?

Given the disastrous attacks of 9/11, it is understandable that the extraordinary security situation in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks required extraordinary measures by the U.S. government. However, it is remarkable that after five years the emergency practices of the Swift program still had not been realigned with the FISA rules. Another remarkable aspect lies in the fact that the Swift data project was led under the auspices of the CIA together with the U.S. Department of Treasury, although the competencies for intelligence in cyberspace lie with the NSA.[9] This sheds a light on the long lasting rivalries between the different intelligent services that seem to be based on a struggle of power between different pockets outside of the U.S. government, and which are detrimental to the national security of the U.S. According to the report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks (NCTA) of 2004, these rivalries are also in part responsible for not preventing the 9/11 attacks.[10] [11]

Igniting a Public Debate – NYT Report Stops Uninhibited Snooping on Confidential Data

Tightly connected to the question of the sometimes narcissistic competition between the various U.S. intelligence units is that of the massive scope of the Swift surveillance program, which approached the search for terrorists like a needle in a seemingly endless row of haystacks without court authorized individual warrants. The Swift surveillance practices relied on an enduring state of emergency that had lasted several years. Without democratic control mechanisms, at least at the Congressional level, such a state is potentially a step away from George Orwell’s dystopia. At the time of the publication of the above-mentioned article, the intelligence community on the Swift program had only briefed a limited number of Congressional leaders. Those that had been briefed still did not know what they did not know. Without congressional checks and balances, the Swift program had become a permanent and a dubious short cut for the executive branch of the government to bypass the U.S. legislature.[12]

The publication of Lichtball’s and Risen’s article in the NYT ignited a public debate on the principles of accountability, transparency, and the role of U.S. intelligence services in the United States. The NYT report from June 23, 2006 and the subsequent articles enabled the public to enter a vivid debate on governmental surveillance programs and raised awareness for the citizens’ right against undue searches by the government.[13] [14] The Swift program also raised international legal concerns because Swift, the Belgium based finance data platform, has international stakeholders from various countries. Under European law, personal data cannot be transferred to other countries unless that country’s privacy protections are perceived as adequate.[15] The Austrian and German governments, for example, favor stringent privacy protections because their citizens still remember the practices of the Nazis and Stasi, who used personal information to destroy people’s lives. The Europeans mistrusted the American intrusion into European citizens’ affairs. In 2010 the European Parliament stopped the Swift program.[16]

The Runaway General - Uncovering a U.S. Military Policy Divide

On June 22, 2010 Michael Hastings published “The Runaway General” in Rolling Stone. In his article Hastings bluntly reported on the U.S. troops’ attitude that embraced a “disdain for authority,” and came to Afghanistan “halfway around the world to fight,” to “… drop a f…… bomb on this place.”[17] [18] The publication of the article shamed the attitude of American troops and put pressure on the U.S. military command for the betterment of actions and the mindset of U.S. troops that had already severely damaged the reputation of American forces in the Arab world since Abu Ghraib in Iraq in 2004.[19] [20] The publication of The Runaway General also led to the demission of the military commander of the U.S. troops in Afghanistan General McChrystal and engendered a public debate on the policy divide on Afghanistan between the U.S. military command and civil-commander in chief, and within the U.S. government itself.[21] The military commander of the U.S. troops in Afghanistan, General McChrystal, had proposed a fully fledged counterinsurgency (CoIn) strategy with the rise of U.S. forces in Afghanistan by 40,000 troops.[22] President Obama limited the rise of military forces to 30,000 troops and wanted this to be published as an transition effort to get out of Afghanistan with the strategy language “target, train and transfer.”[23] Vice-President Biden’s idea consisted of a more moderate rise of troops than Obama proposed, and the deployment of police forces to train Afghan police officers.[24]

The Threat to Liberty Comes From Within – Misled Petitions for Media Secrecy

Some protagonists of the public debate in the aftermath of the publication of The Runaway General argued, that the article should not have been published because it increased the reputation damage for the U.S. government and the American armed forces in Afghanistan. The U.S. Founding Fathers warned that the greatest threat to liberty comes from within the society, under the advances of misled petitions for secrecy.[25] In this understanding I argue that to publish Hastings’s article was in the public interest because if it had not been published it would have exacerbated not only America’s reputation damage, but also the failure of the U.S. securitization efforts in the Middle East. General McChrystal’s CoIn strategy, with the significant rise of troop numbers, did not sustainably curb Taliban terrorism, and put the lives of many at stake.[26] Publishing the article put public pressure on the U.S. military and civil commands to rethink their Afghanistan policy, and to change military personnel and to try to improve troop attitudes in Afghanistan in order to rescue America’s securitization and Soft Power efforts in the Middle East.[27] In this situation it was a democratic duty of the media to put the finger on the shortcomings of U.S. operations in the Middle East, disseminating important information that aimed at warding off further reputation damages for America and to prevent a U.S. securitization fiasco.[28] [29] [30] [31] Unfortunately, the author of this article achieved these goals by neglecting an important ethical rule in journalism and poor journalistic writing standards.

Breaking Journalistic Rules – Press-Military Relations and The Chilling Effect

The article succumbs to the habits of the glamour magazine Rolling Stone that is prone to framing hard political facts as entertainment in its few political reports. Rolling Stone’s infotainment approach tends to be more in the magazine’s own commercial interest than a service for the reader and sometimes rather peddles news.[32] [33] Rolling Stone’s approach to journalism also might attract readers that consider the political jokes of Jay Leno good information and do not search for information in traditional media.[34]  With The Runaway General, Hastings seemed to be a chip off the old block: the author strings together myriad politically incorrect quotes, pubescent gestures and the stereotyped lingo of junior military officers to provoke the feelings of the readers of Rolling Stone, to make them participate in the story.[35] Hastings emulates the language of the interviewed soldiers in his text bridges between the quotes. By using the prejudgemental and biased language of McChrystal’s aides’ also in his own text passages the author blurs the lines between the position of the reporter and the protagonists of the story. Besides, a good article embeds a personal story in a clear broader picture.[36] Although Hastings’s colorful descriptions of the conversations illustrate well the characters of his interview partners, the author fails to offer a clearer picture of the possible policies for Afghanistan and its populace. Last, but not least, Hastings broke one of the principle journalistic rules, which prohibits reporting on conversations that are declared off the record.[37] Following the old Roman question “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? – Who shall guard the guards?”, it would have been the responsibility of Eric Bates, the editor of The Rolling Stones, to make Hastings aware of these flaws in his article and to re-edit his story before publication.[38] Hasting’s breach of the off-the-record rule had implications for the press-military relations after The Runaway General had been published.

In the aftermath of the publication of the Rolling Stones article, relations between the military and the press soured because of a loss of trust in the ways media reported on U.S. armed forces.[39] U.S. secretary of defense Robert Gates, for example, grew concerned about a too lax and flat-out sloppy engagement of military officials with the press. On July 2, 2010, he issued a Pentagon directive outlining how the military should and should not interact with the media. On the other side of the Rubicon, reporters covering the military voiced concern that the new Pentagon guidelines will have a chilling effect on access to military officials and information, which means that the public will end up getting less information than it needs build its own opinion about the operations of US troops.[40] How did the White House react on The Runaway General?

Fatal Media Affinities – A Magazine’s Story That Ends a General’s Career

President Obama had already had some experience with McChrystal’s affinity to wear his heart on his sleeve.[41] In 2009, for example, McChrystal had publicly lobbied for more troops for Afghanistan at a speech given in London.[42] Then on June 22, 2010, Hastings’s article was published. Obama was confronted with the bitter fact that McChrystal’s continued policy suggestions in the public had found a new climax, hollowing the president’s control of the military and eroding the trust among the members of the president’s war team. One day after the article’s publication, Obama commanded McChrystal to Washington for a personal meeting in which McChrystal resigned from his command of the Afghanistan troops. One day after, on June 23, 2010, President Obama named General Petraeus as the new commander in Afghanistan. Petraeus’s nomination found widespread support on Capitol Hill. The new Afghanistan military commander of the NATO troops established good relations with leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan.[43] Petraeus had also a better perception of the resonance of what he said and its effects on public opinion and the government, and was widely credited with creating the type of CoIn strategy that Obama said would win the war in Afghanistan.[44] Which effect did the article on the Afghanistan policy have on the U.S. government?

Directly after the change of military command, the White House’s policy on America’s engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan did not change significantly.[45] [46] In his first reactions in the public after the demise of McChrystal, president Obama emphasized that this “is a change in personnel, but it is not a change in policy.”[47] The lawmakers on Capitol Hill welcomed this statement.[48] Since Obama’s drawdown speech in 2011, however, U.S. troops in Afghanistan have continuously been reduced, with the aim of fulfilling one of President Obama’s election campaign promises to get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible.[49] The last regular American should have left Afghanistan by the end of 2014. But due to concerns that the Afghan government will not be able to guarantee stability in the country without a residual force in Afghanistan, 10,800 U.S. troops still remain in Afghanistan.[50] The U.S. military forces will stay in the country until a new NATO support mission can guarantee that Afghanistan does not suffer a similar military collapse as Iraq.[51]

First and Second Movers – When Media Puts a Negative Spin on The Government

The months before Hastings’s article appeared were perceivably characterized by a governmental uncertainty on the policy for Afghanistan. As I have already illustrated above, the media coverage before and after Hastings’s article on the controversies between Obama and McChrystal, which McChrystal - deliberately or not - took to the stage of the international media, eventually drove the agenda of the White House.[52] And when press puts a strong negative spin on news, the government has to react promptly and convincingly, or public support erodes, which then allows almost no time for contemplation for journalists and governments, which explains the quick and reaction of the president in his decision to find a new military commander for the U.S. troops in Afghanistan.[53] [54]

The two articles of Lichtball, Rosen, and Hastings brought stories out of the darkness and into the light, held the U.S. government accountable and provided space for public debate on the U.S. surveillance and military engagements, offering the U.S. government the possibility to change its secretive policies and programs.[55] [56] [57] In both cases the influence of journalism on public policy can be described with the agenda setting power of media: When policies of the government are not able to clearly shape the public opinion, media reports are able to shape the (re)actions of the U.S. government.[58] Hastings’s article led to the demission of General McChrystal and a change of attitude of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, which were a prerequisite to start to restore America’s Soft Power; to rebuild trust toward the United States in the Middle East.[59] Similarly the public debate after Lichtball’s and Risen’s report on the U.S. government’s surveillance activities led to modifications in the Swift program. After a new vote of the European Parliament, the Swift program was restarted as the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP). Its scope of data has been reduced, and according to the French counterterrorism judge Jean-Louis Burguière, the TFTP now complies with civil liberties protections rules.[60]  All things considered, it becomes clear that mounting governmental pressure on journalists to refrain from reporting on surveillance and military activities is more harmful to our society and our democratic values than dauntless media coverage.

Notes & References

  1. Lichtblau, Eric, and James Risen. “Bank Data Is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror.” The New York Times, June 23, 2006, sec. Washington.
  2. The press is “a watchdog, ... and a citizen’s guide to action“. Like in the times of the civil rights movement, or the McClure Magazines at the beginning of the 19th century that forced legal standards against corruption into being. Bennett, W. Lance, William Serrin, Geneva Overholser, and Kathleen Hall Jamieson. The Watchdog Role; in: The Press. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  3. Lippmann, Walter. “Public Opinion.” London, New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922.
  4. New York Times Co v United States (Supreme Court 1971).
  5. Risen, James, and Eric Lichtblau. “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” December 16, 2005.
  6. Entman, Robert M. The Nature and Sources of News; in: The Press. Edited by Geneva Overholser and Kathleen Hall Jamieson. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press 2, 2005.
  7. “Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Certain Terrorist Attacks,” 2007.
  8. Risen and Lichtblau, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts.”
  9. Michael Hayden narrated an anecdote at the Cybersecurity Students Challenge 2013 on how he had to explain and defend the NSA’s activities to his CIA counterpart when he became director of the NSA. “Inaugural Student Competition Features Day-after Responses to Major Cyber Attack.” Atlantic Council. Accessed February 20, 2014.
  10. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, 2004.
  11. Giraldi, Philip. “Deep Background.” The American Conservative. Accessed February 20, 2014.
  12. Calame, Byron. “Secrecy, Security, the President and the Press.” The New York Times, July 2, 2006, sec. Opinion.
  13. Cook, Timothy E. The Function of the Press in a Democracy; in: The Press. Edited by Geneva Overholser and Kathleen Hall Jamieson. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  14. The right against undue searches by the government is enshrined by the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. “Fourth Amendment.” Accessed February 22, 2014.
  15. Bilefsky, Dan. “Data Transfer Broke Rules, Report Says.” The New York Times, September 28, 2006, sec. International / Europe.
  16. Lichtblau, Eric. “WikiLeaks Archive - Europe Wary of U.S. Bank Monitors.” The New York Times, December 5, 2010, sec. World / Middle East.
  17. “The Runaway General.” Rolling Stone. Accessed March 20, 2014., 4.
  18. Ibid., 10.
  19. Hendler, Clint. “What We Didn’t Know Has Hurt Us.” Columbia Journalism Review, February 2009.
  20. Schmitt, Eric, and Carolyn Marshall. “In Secret Unit’s ‘Black Room,’ a Grim Portrait of U.S. Abuse.” The New York Times, March 19, 2006, sec. /.
  21. A classical Clausewitz versus Jomini route of discussion that has determined debates within Western governments for the last 200 years. Most military officers do not sympathize with Karl von Clausewitz’s (1780-1831), but Antoine-Henri Jomini’s  (1779-1869) notion of war. Jomini’s maxims many times provided the military arguments it needed against the subordination of military authority to higher political authority. This is what Clausewitz’s writing did not do: “War [is] merely the continuation of policy by other means.” Here, the military takes its direction from the state. Cf. in this context the reaction on the Rolling Stone story of House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (Democrats): “Since General MacArthur, General LeMay, there is a list of reckless generals who did not understand that their role is to implement policy, not design it.” Davis, “Reactions to the Rolling Stone Report on General Stanley McChrystal”; Hench, Thomas J. “Clausewitz Vs. Jomini: Putting ‘Strategy’ Into Historical Context.” Academy of Managment Annual Meeting Proceedings, 2009, 1–6. Hench, “Clausewitz Vs. Jomini: Putting ‘Strategy’ Into Historical Context”; Davis, Susan. “Reactions to the Rolling Stone Report on General Stanley McChrystal.” WSJ Blogs - Washington Wire, June 22, 2010.
  22. After General McChrystal assumed the command of NATO operations in Afghanistan, the largest offensive operation and the deadliest combat month for NATO troops in Afghanistan started in June 2009. Furthermore: Sanchez, Rick. “Scott Ritter, Former Chief of UN Weapons Inspectors in Iraq: General McChrystal Should Be Fired for Insubordination,” November 3, 2009.
  23. Chapters 18, 22, 25, 26 and 27 of Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars describe further internal differences between the supreme military and civil-command: Obama’s national security advisor Jones demanded a civilian/good governance approach, especially at the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, which were considered as safe havens for Taliban fighters. Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chefs of Staff, general Petraeus and general McChrystal were locked into the counterinsurgency policy with 40,000 more troops. According to Obama, the Generals should not use the counterinsurgency language anymore. Pentagon officials wanted to tie up again on what had been agreed with the president: 40,000 instead of 30,000 troops. Colonel Tien of the NSC recommended the President to fire Petraeus presenting the argument that the military command proposes 40,000 troops, but will be gone when Obama faces re-election; and retired General Colin Powell reminded Obama that Obama is the commander in chief. Woodward, Bob. Obama’s Wars. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.
  24. Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars presents in chapters 19 and 20 a good oversight on the Afghanistan policy competition between the different personalities in Obama’s administration: Richard Holbrooke, then Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, described a Freudian giveaway of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which, according to Holbrooke, pointed to a still existing rivalry between Secretary Clinton and Obama, and to the fact, that Clinton felt detached from the policy process. General Lute proposed a counterterrorism plus (CT plus) strategy. Ibid.”
  25. Gup, Ted. Nation of Secrets, The Threat to Democracy and The American Way of Life, The Growth of Secrecy in America. New York: Doubleday, 2007.
  26. Davis, “Reactions to the Rolling Stone Report on General Stanley McChrystal”
  27. According to Nye, the power of states underlies a change in our days. In the information age is important to win the hearts of people. The latter is possible through the second face of power, through values, that are admired by other countries. Soft power rests on the ability to shape preferences of others. Nye, Joseph S. Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. New York: Public Affairs, 2004.
  28. There is myriad of examples where governmental officials asked media outlets not to publish information for the sake of public security and public interest. Like in spring 2004, when Pentagon officials appealed to CBS Nightly News not to air its story on the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib; or in October 2005, when local authorities asked WNBC TV not to air immediately information on an attack warnings on New York’s subway system. Pentagon and New York City municipality officials feared an inflammation of the emotions of Iraqi people and public hysteria in New York City’s public life. Keeping Abu Ghraib secret and not to air terrorist threats would have made the press complicit in an abrogation of human rights and would have taken citizen the ability to make its own decisions in order to protect themselves from imminent security threats. Gup, Nation of Secrets, The Threat to Democracy and The American Way of Life, The Growth of Secrecy in America.
  29. Ibid.
  30. Cook, The Function of the Press in a Democracy; in: The Press.
  31. Gup, Nation of Secrets, The Threat to Democracy and The American Way of Life, The Growth of Secrecy in America.
  32. Entman, The Nature and Sources of News; in: The Press.
  33. Leigh, Robert D. A Free and Responsible Press; A General Report on Mass Communication: Newspaper, Radio, Motion Picture, Magazines, and Books. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974.
  34. Seib, Philip. “Politics of the Fourth Estate. The Interplay of Media and Politics in Foreign Policy.” Harvard International Review, no. Why Is Foreign Policy So Hard? (Fall 2000).
  35. Lippmann, “Public Opinion.”
  36. Gutman, Roy. The Elements of A Good Newspaper Story. Mr Roy Gutman’s visit in class, March 3, 2014.
  37. According to the editor of Rolling Stone, Eric Bates, McChrystal’s staff authorized the article prior to its release. Bates said he respected the boundaries by taking out some anecdotes and quotes from McChrystal because they were off the record. According to McChrystal’s staff, however, the quotes that appeared in the article were made in “off-the-record” settings; Hastings misrepresented the communication, and Rolling Stone did not return a call seeking comment for this story, neither. “McChrystal Story Now on Rolling Stone Site.” WSJ Blogs - Washington Wire, June 22, 2010.; “Sources”; “BBC - Newsnight: Mark Urban: What’s behind McChrystal Obama ‘Rolling Stone’ Row?.” Accessed March 18, 2014.
  38. Gup, Nation of Secrets, The Threat to Democracy and The American Way of Life, The Growth of Secrecy in America.The Growth of Secrecy in America.
  39. “McChrystal Takes Blame for Rolling Stone Article.” Accessed March 19, 2014.
  40. “Military-Media Relationship Examined After McChrystal’s Ouster | Video | PBS NewsHour | PBS.” PBS NewsHour. Accessed March 19, 2014.
  41. Washington, by Alex Spillius in, “White House Angry at General Stanley McChrystal Speech on Afghanistan.”, 17:58, sec. worldnews.
  42. In chapter 32 of his book Obama’s Wars Woodward described the messiness and mistrust that had been building up between the White House and the military. According to Woodward this rift was a consequence of the prolonged Afghanistan/Pakistan strategy review by president Obama before McChrystal’s speech in London in 2009. Woodward, Obama’s Wars.
  43. “Afghan Shift: McChrystal Out, Petraeus In.” Accessed March 19, 2014.
  44. Ibid.
  45. By then, Obama still had in mind his 2008 elections campaign promise to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in July 2011; and state department officials proposed a swift deal with the Taliban, and to find a better plan to deal with the difficult relation with Afghan president Karzai who undermined American efforts in the region. “Afghanistan, After McChrystal.”
  46. Ave, 1775 Massachusetts, NW, Washington, and Dc 20036. “U.S. Policy toward Afghanistan—Suddenly in Serious Trouble.” The Brookings Institution. Accessed March 18, 2014. Ave et al., “U.S. Policy toward Afghanistan—Suddenly in Serious Trouble.”
  47. “Afghan Shift.”
  48. Ibid.
  49. Landler and Cooper, “Obama Will Speed Pullout From War in Afghanistan.”
  50. “CFR Media Call on U.S. Policy in Afghanistan Post 2014 with Seth G. Jones.”
  51. Ryan, “Hagel Says U.S. to Leave up to 1,000 Extra Troops in Afghanistan.”
  52. Robinson, The CNN Effect: The Myth of News, Foreign Policy and Intervention.
  53. Seib, “Politics of the Fourth Estate. The Interplay of Media and Politics in Foreign Policy.”
  54. The Afghan president Karzai respected Petraeus. Other personnel decisions, however, were still pending. Ambassador Eikenberry, for example, lacked of enthusiasm for the CoIn strategy, and was barely on speaking terms with Afghan president Karzai. Richard Holbrooke, responsible for the civilian and political aspects, also had troubles with getting along with Karzai and Pakistani leaders. “Afghanistan, After McChrystal”; Goldman and Gienger, Goldman, Julianna, and Viola Gienger. “Obama May Gain `Breathing Room’ on Afghan Strategy.” Bloomberg, June 24, 2010.
  55. Seib, “Politics of the Fourth Estate. The Interplay of Media and Politics in Foreign Policy.”
  56. Entman, The Nature and Sources of News; in: The Press.
  57. Kovach, Bill, and Tom Rosenstiel. The Elements of Journalism, What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2007.
  58. Lippmann, “Public Opinion.”
  59. “Afghan Shift.”
  60. Schrank, Leonard H., and Juan C. Zarate. “Data Mining, Without Big Brother.” The New York Times, July 2, 2013, sec. Opinion.
Gerd Gensbichler is from Salzburg, Austria, and has lived in Austria, Italy, Spain and the U.S., working as a teacher, university lecturer, and in media. Gerd graduated from SAIS in Washington DC in May of 2014.