(RealClearInvestigations) When Facebook last fall said it would delete “any and all mentions” of the name of the CIA operative believed to be the “whistleblower” who sparked President Trump’s impeachment, it wasn’t kidding.
A number of Facebook members complain the social media giant has been taking down recent RealClearInvestigations stories about the whistleblower within hours of sharing them with friends.
Facebook had no comment. But in early November — a week after RCI first reported Oct. 30 that CIA analyst Eric Ciaramella’s name had been invoked in heated discussions about the whistleblower during closed-door House depositions of impeachment witnesses — the site warned it would scrub from its platform identifying posts on the whistleblower. It explained that outing the anonymous official violates its policy against potentially “coordinating harm” against witnesses or activists. Facebook users complain RCI’s original story, “The Beltway’s ‘Whistleblower’ Furor Obsesses Over One Name,” which quickly went viral after the Drudge Report linked to it, has also been wiped off their pages.
A Connecticut law school student was so incensed after Facebook deleted his whistleblower posts mentioning Ciaramella — again, without warning, notification or explanation — that he sued Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg for allegedly violating fair trade practices, as well as his civil liberties. “The plaintiff has been denied the ability to speak publicly on a matter of grave public importance,” Cameron Atkinson’s attorneys stated in his Nov. 12 complaint.
Atkinson argued that Facebook’s “censorship” of the whistleblower is “politically motivated” to preserve “the carefully crafted narrative around the attempt to impeach President Trump.”
During the 2016 election, the social network was accused of suppressing right-leaning publications and authors, along with positive Trump stories, in its “Trending Topics” news feature. FEC records show Facebook executives overwhelmingly back Democrats, including COO Sheryl Sandberg who made a $416,000 contribution to Hillary Clinton in 2016. So do Facebook employees: 87% of their political contributions have gone to Democrats since the company was founded in 2004, according to a 2018 study.
Many of Facebook’s 2.3 billion users rely on the platform for their political news. Others rely on traditional media, but they won’t hear about the whistleblower there, either.
The nation’s top reporters have taken a virtual oath of silence regarding his name, even though it’s an open secret inside their newsrooms. Suppressing their news instincts, they have been unified in complying with Democratic demands to back off identifying the whistleblower and exploring his motives.
As a result, they have left large gaps in reporting on the origins of this momentous story, only the third presidential impeachment in U.S. history. The Washington Post, which normally would own such a local story, has scarcely touched it. Instead of doing its own deep reporting, it’s assigned reporters to do media stories (here and here) questioning RCI for its journalistic decision to “unmask” the whistleblower, who enjoys limited, not blanket, anonymity.
Unlike the federal agency that fielded his complaint, the press is under no statutory obligation to keep his name secret, especially when it’s in the public’s interest to disclose it, along with his background and bias. Without him, there would be no investigation, no impeachment and no trial — to say nothing of the virtual halting of the nation’s business for the past six months…
On an official question card, GOP Sen. Rand Paul Thursday submitted a direct question for Schiff based on RCI’s story: “Are you aware that House intelligence Committee staffer Sean Misko has a close relationship with Eric Ciaramella when at the National Security Council together? Are you aware and how do you respond to a report that Ciaramella and Misko may have worked together to plot impeaching the president before there were formal House impeachment proceedings?”
However, the question was never asked. Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, blocked it after screening the card, ostensibly because it included the name of the official believed to be the whistleblower. “The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted,” Roberts declared in rejecting Paul’s query.
Earlier, Roberts had signaled to Senate leaders behind the scenes that he would not read aloud the alleged whistleblower’s name or otherwise publicly relay questions that might out the official.
Effectively silenced, Paul held a press conference Thursday afternoon in which he explained the significance of asking such questions: “It’s very important whether or not a group of Democratic activists, part of the Obama-Biden administration, were working together for years looking for an opportunity to impeach the president.”
He compared Eric Ciaramella and Sean Misko to disgraced FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page plotting to prevent Trump from being president.
With a paucity of information about the whistleblower forthcoming from both government and media, only one side has been allowed to do any real fact-finding during the impeachment process. And that’s left the defendant — Donald J. Trump — still unable to cross-examine his main accuser.