Egypt to Media: Don't You Dare Distort Our War on Terror

CAIRO -- As the confrontation between Egypt's government and supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsy heats up, Cairo's new rulers have a new target for criticism -- the foreign press corps.

Egypt's State Information Service (SIS) released a statement Saturday criticizing some foreign correspondents for "steer[ing] away from objectivity and neutrality," which resulted in them communicating "a distorted image" of events in Egypt to their audiences. "Egypt is feeling severe bitterness towards some Western media coverage that is biased to the Muslim Brotherhood and ignores shedding light on violent and terror acts that are perpetrated by this group," the statement read.

The SIS laid out seven ways in which international coverage of Egypt was lacking. In addition to ignoring the Brotherhood's "thuggery and sabotage," the statement said, some media "are still falling short of describing the [anti-Morsy protests] of June 30 as an expression of a popular will." The Egyptian government, in other words, objects to international coverage describing Morsy's ouster as a military coup.

The statement also accused foreign press of ignoring the support that the Muslim Brotherhood is allegedly drawing from foreigners and jihadists. It accused the media of "completely ignor[ing]" that the Brotherhood had sought support from al Qaeda elements, alleging that five vehicles flying the Islamist "black flag" and armed with automatic weapons had driven into Cairo's Ramses Square during pro-Morsy protests there on Friday. "[The foreign press] also ignored making reference to the participation of non-Egyptian elements from Pakistan, Syria and Palestine in violent acts committed by the Brotherhood," the statement read.

Egyptian officials have also echoed the statement's criticisms in their public remarks. In a press conference yesterday, Egyptian presidency spokesman Mustafa Hegazy opened with remarks in English -- a sign that his message was geared to foreign media. He said that Egyptians were "bitter" that the foreign press had ignored stories of Brotherhood supporters killing soldiers, burning churches, and using women and children as human shields. The events in Egypt were not a political disagreement between two sides, he said, but a "war with terrorism ... and Egypt will defend its sovereignty."

Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy held a press conference on Sunday morning, before which journalists were handed a packet titled "Egypt Fighting Terrorism: 14th - 16th August." The foreign minister criticized some in the international community for calling exclusively for the Egyptian government to show restraint, while "ignoring all the violence and attacks on government buildings." 

The official criticism of the foreign press corps has coincided with an increase in attacks on journalists as they cover events in Cairo. The Guardian's Patrick Kingsley, the Washington Post's Abigail Hauslohner, the Independent's Alastair Beach, the Wall Street Journal's Matt Bradley, and McClatchy's Nancy Youssef were all threatened by Egyptian security forces or civilians in the past several days. Brazilian journalist Hugo Bachega was also detained while covering the protests on Friday, as was Canadian filmmaker John Greyson and physician Tarek Loubani, whose current location remains unknown

Read the SIS statement for yourself, here:

Egypt's State Information Service Statement to Foreign Correspondents


Lawton, Oklahoma: A Digit Away from Being Watched by the NSA

The Washington Post's blockbuster surveillance story Thursday night revealed that the National Security Agency violated privacy rules a total of 2,776 times over the course of a year, but one incident in particular stands out: the time in 2008 when a "communications switch" misread phone numbers with the area code 202 (Washington, D.C.) as coming from country code 20 (Egypt), and residents of the nation's capital had their call records swept up by the NSA without authorization.

The classified internal NSA report published by the Post indicates that 37 percent of the agency's violations of the FISA Amendments Act were due to this kind of "system error" as opposed to human error. Not all of those glitches were quite as memorable as the Great Area Code Mixup of 2008; some involved "system disruptions" and "data flow issues."

Still, the possibility remains that other Americans have made the grave mistake of living in parts of the country with area codes similar to the country codes of America's greatest rivals, enemies, and threats. Consider this: There are 24 area codes in the United States, marked in the map above, that share their first two digits with the country codes for either China, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, or Venezuela. The following is just a sampling of towns and cities across the United States who find themselves at the mercy of an NSA programming error.

China (Country Code 86)

Greenville, S.C., has the distinction of being one of Outside magazine's best towns, with "killer farmers' markets, quick access to adventure, and bike shares galore," but it also has the less-desirable distinction, with area code 864, of being one digit away from China.


Egypt (Country Code 20)

Yes, according to the NSA's internal audit, the agency's systems mixed up Washington, D.C. with Egypt. But the programming error gods could have targeted another part of the country as well: the entire state of Idaho. The state is famous for having potatoes with "dependable performance," and is billed as "a land that Lewis and Clark would still recognize." That might be another way of saying it does not have many people, which explains why the state has just one area code, 208. The similarity to Egypt's country code raises the question: Is this man, relaxing by the Snake River and featured on Idaho's tourism website, being watched? 

Iran (Country Code 98)

Houma, La., population 34,000, is "The Heart of Louisiana's Wetlands," featuring swamp tours that bring adventurous spectators up close to alligators. It also has an area code, 985, that's up close to Iran's.

Pakistan (Country Code 92)

We know that President Obama is a big Chicago Bears fan, but we didn't know that fans of their nemesis, the Green Bay Packers, could be under surveillance (accidentally). Green Bay, Wis., has area code 920, which isn't far from Pakistan's.   

Venezuela (Country Code 58)

Lawton, Okla., is home to the Museum of the Great Plains (new permanent display: artistic saddles) and The Holy City of the Wichitas, a replica of Israel during Biblical times that hosts the nation's longest-running passion play every Easter. It is also home to area code 580, which is uncomfortably close to Venezuela's.

Of all the places with unfortunate area codes, however, Tallahassee, Fla., may have it the worst. Its area code, 850, is not just close to North Korea's country code. It is North Korea's country code. Here's hoping the NSA has a way of telling the difference between the two.