An Open Letter to the NSA, CIA, FBI, and DOJ (In Fact, You Have Probably Already Read It)

Column by Travis Irvine.

Exclusive to STR

Dear NSA, CIA, FBI, DOJ and any other U.S. intelligence entities that I do not know exist,

Congratulations! Edward Snowden is on the run, Bradley Manning is on trial, the AP’s emails have been hacked and Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings is dead. It seems like your attempts to stop intelligence leaks – via the whistleblowers who provide and the journalists who report them – are working. Loose lips, after all, sink ships!

Well, I’m sure you know how I feel about all this. It sucks, man! I mean, Snowden is being charged for telling Americans their own government secretly spies on them. Bradley Manning is possibly going to jail for life for leaking information about what he considered illegal war crimes committed by the U.S. military – you know, like when our soldiers killed innocent Iraqis and Reuters journalists? Sucks! I hope these whistleblowers are hailed as heroes and pardoned by the politicians of the millennial generation.

But the fact that the Department of Justice secretly hacked the AP’s emails to target their government sources as well is coincidentally disconcerting. Now the AP says their government sources have clammed up. And the death of Michael Hastings is bizarre on the level of a political thriller – a highly respected, mainstream journalist who covered the NSA, CIA, military and other “groups of dudes whose job it was to kill people” wrote to friends in an email that he was going “off the radat [sic]” and was “on to a big story”. Fifteen hours later, he blows up in his car after it crashes into a tree and catches fire. Of course, conspiracies are not to be seriously considered. When I even mention the blatant oddness of Hastings’ demise to fellow journalists, they always say anything could have happened to him. Perhaps he was drunk, perhaps he lost control. Yes, perhaps. But if I were Ben Smith or Jann Wenner, I would be making angry phone calls to important people to find out why the powers-that-be had to off one of my best reporters. Perhaps the beasts are showing their teeth, perhaps Hastings just f*cked with the wrong hombre.

It is not out of the question for government officials to do this. In their 2012 report, The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) deemed several countries extremely dangerous for journalists. Syria was one, where both the government and rebel forces target journalists for pro or anti-government reporting. In Mexico, drug cartels kill an unfortunate number of journalists for attempting to expose information that threatens the drug trade. In Brazil, corrupt government officials are likely the source of most journalist murders, when the journalists threaten to expose politicians’ illegal activities. It’s a story as old as authority itself – the power holders of the state always tend to persecute the opponents and critics of its regime. I guess I just didn’t expect it to happen in the United States.

So my question to you fine ladies and gentlemen of our country’s intelligence agencies is, what’s the point of it all? What’s the point of persecuting peers who have seen objectionable policies and practices and decided to inform the public about them? Why have you chosen not to do the same? Are you scared about your job, your family’s safety, or leaving your life behind like Edward Snowden had to do? Are you okay with a government that goes after journalists who report on government-sponsored atrocities? What is worth hiding and why? What secret is so important, what interest so clandestine, that to keep it from Americans, you must persecute, imprison and kill other Americans?

Feel free to email me.

All best,
Travis M. Irvine

You know my address
You probably know my phone number

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Columns on STR: 6

Travis Irvine is a stand-up comedian, independent filmmaker and unsuccessful politician. His campaign and comedy videos have been featured on The Jay Leno Show, PBS’s NewsHour, The Huffington Post and Funny Or Die. He was also once on The People's Court. A recent graduate of Columbia University's School of Journalism, he currently lives and performs in New York City.