Sunday, June 1, 2014


Then find evidence
The FBI, SEC way


The leedcq paragraph of a Reuter's report heded Mickelson plays on amid news of U.S. probe into possible insider trading< reads May 31 (Reuters) - If golf star Phil Mickelson is concerned by a federal probe into possible insider trading involving him, billionaire investor Carl Icahn and Las Vegas gambler William Walters, he did not show it on Saturday.

Gannett's USA Today headlines its story Report: FBI, SEC probe Icahn, Mickelson and Walters claims that Federal investigators have launched what the Wall Street Journal is calling "a major insider-trading probe involving finance, gambling and sports" that involves the trading of activist investor Carl Icahn, pro golfer Phil Mickelson and Las Vegas bettor William "Billy" Walters.

What's wrong with this picture?

Go back to the USA Today's leed paragraph: "a major insider-trading probe ."

Suspicions, but no evidence to present to a court - or even an easily manipulated-by-the-prosecution grand jury.

The FBI and SEC apparently are after a conviction in the media, and the media is willingly playing the role of judge and jury.

That is not supposed to be the "American way."

At one time I was an honest reporter. I'm still honest, but no longer a reporter.

I covered the courts for several newspapers.

For the most part, the newspapers for which I labored were reluctant to become tools of the government - at any level.

Still, the government - at all levels - uses the press to present its suspicions to the public, to potential jurors, as if their suspicions are solid evidence.

If an enemy did this it would be labeled what it is: propaganda. (Because it is "our" government, it is "public relations" or "media relations." The intent is the same no matter that the activity is called.)

Maybe there is some truth to the government's claims. Carl Icahn is hardly popular with a lot of people; he's called a corporate raider in a Wikipedia entry in part for buying companies and then selling them off piecemeal (e.g., TWA). To be fair, Icahn claims he does not deserve the title.

The USA Today article is based largely on a report in the Wall Street Journal that is heavily quoted by Today writers Beth Belton and Kevin McCoy.

According to the Today piece, Citing anonymous sources, the Journal story said the government probe started three years ago after Icahn accumulated a 9.1% stake in Clorox in February 2011. "Well-timed trading around the time of his bid caught the attention of investigators, who began digging into the suspicious trading in Clorox stock, the people familiar with the probe said," according to the Journal article.

Ah yes, the ubiquitous, infamous "anonymous sources" and "people familiar with . . . ".

"Anonymous sources" are the best kind when you want to pillory someone without getting any blame for false accusations pointed back to you. Not even "a government spokesperson" is blamed for this claim, just "anonymous sources."

The U.S. has a pretty good - not perfect, but "pretty good" - justice system when it is allowed to work as intended.

Trying a person in the media, with the media acting as judge and jury, is not how the U.S. justice system was intended to work.

Don't blame the media. It's just a tool of the government.

I'm glad I'm no longer a reporter; if I was, I'd be ashamed to admit it.

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