Censored — or bogus?

Some stories get ignored by the mainstream media because they're too controversial, or too much of a challenge to the rich and powerful, or just too hot to handle.

But some stories get dismissed because they're just not credible — and unfortunately, one of the pieces Project Censored cites this year appears to fall into that category.

Almost everything on the Project Censored list is well sourced and, at the very least, plausible. But one of the stories listed under "Surveillance Society Quietly Moves In" is a piece titled "Where Big Brother Snoops on Americans 24/7." Written by Teresa Hampton and Doug Thompson, the piece was published on www.capitolhillblue.com, a Virginia Web site that's been around since 1994.

Hampton and Thompson claim not only that the Pentagon is defying Congress and covertly operating the notorious Total Information Awareness program (which Congress explicitly killed), but also that the feds now monitor "virtually every financial transaction of every American," in real time (that is, as it's happening). They also maintain that the Pentagon uses the information to launch investigations of "persons of interest" and as a basis for adding names to the Transportation Security Administration's "no fly" lists.

It's pretty far-fetched to think that the Pentagon could review almost every financial transaction in the country, as it happens. But the American Civil Liberties Union has filed two suits against the feds trying to pinpoint just how it collates TSA's "no fly" lists and still hasn't been able to figure it out.

The principal sources Hampton and Thompson base their story on seem to be an anonymous "security consultant who worked on the ... project" and an "Allen Banks" — identified simply as a "security expert," without any detail as to how he would be privy to such information.

Thompson, who is the site's publisher, defended the story, saying that he'd spoken with "over 30 sources" — police, banks, credit card agencies — and that he reached his conclusions based on those sources as well as on the fact that there were "too many coincidences." (None of that is explained in the story.)

"To some extent," he added, "it was a conclusion by me, looking at the links." Banks and other private industries had been instructed to e-mail data to the feds under TIA, and they continued sending data to the same places after TIA was killed because they never received orders to stop, Thompson said. His caveat: "If I had to go into court and prove this, there's no way I could prove it."

We're still dubious.

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