According to our unique pageview statistics,* this year’s most popular posts were about whistleblowing, civil liberties and marijuana prohibition, and I was delighted to see a very strong interest in posts about important individuals like Aaron Swartz, John Kiriakou and Edward Snowden as well. From Jon Walker’s premier coverage of the rapidly-changing trends in marijuana legalization to Kevin Gosztola’s dissections of government propaganda and the war on whistleblowers, this list is also a testament to the popularity of our writers’ impeccable reporting and analysis around many of this years’ major news stories.
Check out the top 10 most-read posts at Firedoglake below, let us know your favorites and tell us which topics you’d like to see make next year’s list.
*NOTE: For those who are wondering, ‘Unique Pageviews’ count the number of unique visitors to access any given post on Firedoglake’s partner blogs. For example, if I load this post 3 times, that counts as 3 pageviews but is only 1 unique pageview. Also, this list excludes MyFDL posts, which will have it’s own top 10 list.
#10 Aaron Swartz’s FBI File by Daniel Wright
We were all deeply saddened to learn that hacktivist prodigy Aaron Swartz committed suicide this year after US District Attorney Carmen Ortiz threatened him with 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine under the draconian Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Swartz’ unforgivable crime? Downloading academic journals from the JSTOR database without permission.
Upon his death, FDL news desk writer Daniel Wright requested a copy of his declassified FBI file, which was returned in near-entirety with the exception of some curious redactions. For example, an entire page was excluded because it “[put] someone’s life in danger (U.S.C Section 552 (b)(7)(F)).” Be sure to check out Aaron Swartz’s FBI file alongside Daniel’s interesting analysis of his investigation and over-prosecution at the hands of the State.
#9 CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou’s Open Letter to Edward Snowden by Kevin Gosztola
John Kiriakou is the only CIA official to go jail over the agency’s torture program despite never having tortured anybody. His courageous stand against waterboarding earned him the government’s ire and, as is the case for most government whistleblowers these days, his life was systematically destroyed under the weight of his prosecution. He is now in the midst of serving a 30 month prison sentence at Loretto Federal Prison in Pennsylvania.
So when Edward Snowden’s disclosures began making their way into the headlines this summer, Kiriakou penned an open letter from prison with some friendly advice, including the memorable admonishment to never, under any circumstances, trust the FBI. We posted this and John’s other incredible “Letters from Loretto” (including another at #3 on this list) here at Firedoglake, and you definitely don’t want to miss them.
#8 Queen Elizabeth to Sign Commonwealth Charter Promoting Gay Rights And Gender Equality by Laurel Ramseyer
Back in March, Queen Elizabeth signed a Commonwealth Charter “designed to stamp out discrimination against homosexual people and promote the ‘empowerment’ of women – a key part of a new drive to boost human rights and living standards across the Commonwealth.”
This was important and welcome news given that many UK member-states are home to some of the most brutal and repressive anti-homosexual laws in the world. At Pam’s House Blend, Laurel Ramseyer broke down the various meanings behind the Queen’s support for ending LGBTQ discrimination and what it could mean for the equality movement the world-over.
#7 The Only CIA Officer Scheduled to Go to Jail Over Torture Never Tortured Anybody by Kevin Gosztola
In January, FDL investigative reporter Kevin Gosztola put together an incredibly comprehensive review of the story of CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou.
Whether you’ve read John’s “Letters from Loretto,” are loosely familiar with his story or have never heard of the man, this post is definitely worth a read. Kevin digs deep to present a vivid portrait of John, his courageous acts and his absurdly aggressive punishment at the hands of the government.
These NSA memos are so crass and misleading that some people didn’t believe they were real when we first published them. But the truth is that the NSA has been working really hard to nullify the fallout from Edward Snowden’s disclosures of dragnet surveillance on American (and global) communications, and sometimes (a lot of times) that work borders on the absurd.
This is the second letter from NSA leaders to staff published exclusively by Firedoglake. Released in early December, the NSA laid out what it believed to be acceptable talking points for their employees to use while visiting with their friends and families over the holidays. The NSA apparently thought the holidays were as good a time as any to disseminate their message among the masses and had no shame making their employees do it for them around the dinner table. Luckily, FDL’s Kevin Gosztola took the time to tear these talking points apart like presents on Christmas morning.
…and here is the first of the NSA’s talking points memos. This one came out a month before Thanksgiving, and Kevin wasted no time in taking them to task for their grossly misleading points.
This exercise in apologia (unlike its predecessor, which was more of a cut-and-dry bulleted list of propaganda points) likely earned the fourth spot on our list for its attempts to ignore the actual revelations of widespread, systematic governmental abuse and instead hone in on Snowden for being an icky traitor for spilling the beans about the NSA’s dirty work to the American public.
#4 The Five States Most Likely to Legalize Marijuana Next by Jon Walker
The inevitability of nationwide marijuana legalization grows with each passing year. Now that we’ve legalized marijuana in Colorado and Washington, many are rightfully curious as to where the dominoes will fall next.
Firedoglake’s Jon Walker has been carefully following the shifting trends in marijuana policy and attitudes since 2010, and in this post he walks us through a careful analysis of where we’re likely to see marijuana legalized next in the United States. Is your state on the list?
#3 Imprisoned CIA Torture Whistleblower John Kiriakou Pens “Letter from Loretto” by Brian Sonenstein
In his first “Letter from Loretto,” imprisoned CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou describes a situation in which prison officials attempted setup a confrontation between Kiriakou and a Muslim prisoner. Corrections officers told Kiriakou that the prisoner was the uncle of the Times Square bomber when he was actually in prison for refusing to testify in the Lackawanna Six case.
Unfortunately, this is just one of many points of intrigue in John’s letters, and I highly recommend reading them all for an inside look at what life is like for incarcerated whistleblowers.
#2 Californians Back Pot Legalization 54% to 43% by Jon Walker
This year’s 2nd most popular post was published all the way back in February, when Jon Walker shared a poll illustrating that support for marijuana legalization in the golden state had essentially flipped since Proposition 19 failed in 2010.
The poll found that 54% of Californians supported marijuana legalization — a number that continues to grow and solidify over time (a Field Poll from this month shows that number has risen 1% in the intervening 11 months to 55% supporting). Jon reminds us that “Marijuana now polls as well or better in California than it did in Colorado and Washington State before those voters legalized it. When a well-crafted legalization initiative next appears on the ballot in California it will likely be approved. “
This year’s #1 most popular post was Jon Walker’s discussion of strong attitudes against federal intervention into state marijuana laws.
A whopping 72% of poll respondents indicated they wanted the federal government to stop arresting people for using marijuana in the newly-legal states of Washington and Colorado. Additionally, over 60% said they didn’t want the feds arresting growers or vendors, either.
What were your favorite Firedoglake posts from 2013? What issues do you want to see get enough attention to make the list next year? Let us know in the comments, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!