Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Investigations: Your E-Trash's New Home in Ghana

Congrats to a team of enterprising UBC journalism students for their nomination for two Emmy Awards for this doc that tracked what happens to trashed computers, cellphones and TVs. Hundreds of millions of kilos of electronic garbage, which contains toxic material like mercury, lead and brominated flame retardants, have wound up in dumps in Ghana, where it is causing a big environmental mess, reported the doc, which aired on PBS Frontline/World.
The students, whose prof is former 60 Minutes producer Peter Klein, also discovered that gangs are going through discarded hard drives and finding all sorts of confidential personal information and in some cases classified government secrets. Peter also happens to sit on the advisory board of the Canadian Centre for Investigative Reporting (of which I'm the president). Good work!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Investigations: Out-of-Control U.S. Spy Apparatus

The U.S. government's intelligence apparatus has gotten so massive after 9/11 that even top-level insiders are expressing frustration about trying to keep tabs on it. This is the finding of a fascinating two-year Washington Post investigation into the exploding U.S. spy world. Among its findings: Over 1,200 government organizations and 1,900 private companies work in the U.S. intelligence machine. An estimated 854,000 Americans, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., have top-secret security clearances. Also, in Washington and surroundings, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since 9/11. They occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons.
One retired general tasked with reviewing how to track the Defense Department's most sensitive programs concluded: "I'm not aware of any agency with the authority, responsibility or a process in place to coordinate all these interagency and commercial activities... The complexity of this system defies description."