Santa Maria, CA — As the war on alleged ‘fake news’ wages on, the establishment is losing horribly. All the corporate media and government’s war on fake news has done is serve to expose the most guilty — the corporate media and the government. From the Gulf of Tonkin to Weapons of Mass Destruction — corporate media and government have colluded to perpetuate the death and suffering of millions.
Government constructed lies spread by their mouthpieces in the media isn’t solely limited to the Pentagon and their blowhards. As a new report from the Guardian shows, fake news is also put out by police departments.
When Santa Maria police chief Ralph Martin was caught last week in a conspiracy to deceive the press and the public through the release of a fictitious news story, he was unapologetic.
“It was a moral and ethical decision, and I stand by it,” Martin said. “I am keenly aware and sensitive to the community and the media. I also had 21 bodies lying in the city in the last 15 months.”
For the supposed greater good, Martin deliberately undermined the trust of the community and the press alike. According to the Guardian:
The fictional news release was found in court documents last week by the Santa Maria Sun, nearly 10 months after the local paper and television stations had reported the story as fact. Police had said officers had detained two cousins, 22-year-old Jose Santos Melendez and 23-year-old Jose Marino Melendez, on charges of identity theft and had given the men to immigration authorities.
The police had lied. For weeks, the department had been running a surveillance operation on a gang called MS-13, with active wiretaps. Listening to MS-13 conversations, the police learned that the Melendez cousins, members of a rival gang, were targeted for murders. Detectives took the cousins into protective custody, removing them from their home where the men and their family might have been targeted by the hitmen.
As a cover, the police wrote a fake news release to deceive the MS-13 assassins. When the would-be killers returned to look for the cousins, police eavesdropped on a phone conversation and heard the hitmen talking about local news reports of the arrests.
Martin said that the investigation, called Operation Matador, was able to continue thanks to the ruse, and that police eventually arrested 17 gang members on charges related to 10 murders. The police chief told the Associated Press he would not rule out fabricating another story to protect lives and investigations.
“This immediately and almost permanently undermines the credibility of an entire police department,” said Greg Leslie, the legal defense director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “Not only in the eyes of the public, but even the gang members won’t believe them in the future.”
“It’s worrying,” he added. “Who’s going to believe a police department statement about the status of anyone in custody or about who’s been arrested for a crime? A reporter might have to say, ‘The police say they have someone in custody, but they have been known to falsify information in the past.’”
According to the Guardian, Kelly McBride, a vice-president for the Poynter Institute, said the fake press release undermines trust in the police department and “sends a message to the officers in this department that falsifying information is OK if you have a good reason. That’s antithetical to the principles of law enforcement.”
“These are people who often have to testify that they are telling the truth,” she said. The police, she added, “achieved an important good for two people, and sacrificed the greater good for the citizens they serve.”
Unfortunately, this has been going on at the Federal level for years, and, just because this was the only department that was exposed, does not mean that this sort of lying doesn’t happen in departments across the country.
The state thinks it is okay to distort reality through mass deception to catch a ‘bad guy.’
In September, FBI agents conducting undercover investigations were given the green light to impersonate journalists — effectively legalizing the government’s most notorious propaganda program, Operation Mockingbird.
Months ago, the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General published what’s become the subject of outrage for journalists, civil and constitutional rights advocates, and legal experts — “A Review of the FBI’s Impersonation of a Journalist in a Criminal Investigation.”
The report centered around a case from 2007 in which an FBI agent pretended to be an Associated Press journalist to identify an elusive suspect online. At the time, the FBI “did not prohibit agents from impersonating journalists or from posing as a member of a news organization,” the report states.
During the case in 2007, the FBI constructed a plan, and, as the Intercept summarized, “An undercover agent sent the student email impersonating an editor for the Associated Press. The email included links to a fake news site designed to look like the Seattle Times.”
While cops and the feds have often devised sting operations involving fake prizes and bait to lure criminals in, the idea of mass public deception takes this tactic to an entirely new low — and a dangerous one.
“People have done stuff like this before to get criminals to show up to police departments, lures to get people to come in for free lottery tickets,” aid Jeffrey Seglin, an ethicist at the Harvard Kennedy School. “But I don’t know anything that’s gone this far.”
“That’s trying to get the criminals to believe something. This is different: it misleads the press and the public. It erodes trust in everything, right?”