Obama Administration seeks to chill press freedom

What freedoms are Obama trying to take away from us? Well, here’s one, and it’s not made up: The right of the press to aggressively investigate wrongdoing by the government.

This excerpt comes from a must-read article in the Huffington Post by Dan Froomkin and Michael Calderone about the Obama Administration’s repeated attempts to crack down on news leaks by attacking reporters’ privilege to shield their sources. The case in point involves James Risen, the New York Times reporter who reported on a failed U.S. plot against the Iranian government.  Former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling has been accused of leaking the information to Risen, and the Justice Department wants to force Risen to testify in Sterling’s trial. So far, federal judges have been unimpressed with the Administration’s arguments, as they should be.  Let’s hope the Obama administration fails in its attempts. 

What every happened to Hope and Change? On this issue, he’s worse than Bush.

Froomkin  and Calderone write:

While the Obama administration hasn’t prosecuted those responsible for torture during the Bush years, it is taking a strong stand against a former official believed to have supplied information to the media about use of torture and other controversial tactics during the previous administration.

In January, the Justice Department charged former CIA officer John Kiriakou with disclosing classified information to the media; The FBI claims to have evidence linking him to a 2008 New York Times story detailing the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah.

In another notable case, the DOJ charged Thomas Drake under the Espionage Act, claiming the former National Security Agency official provided classified information of gross NSA mismanagement to a Baltimore Sun reporter. The government’s case collapsed in 2011 and Drake pleaded guilty only to a misdemeanor.

The crackdown hasn’t gone unnoticed among reporters, with tension recently spilling out into the White House briefing room after the administration praised Anthony Shadid and Marie Colvin, journalists who died while covering the bloody conflict in Syria.

Jake Tapper, the senior White House correspondent for ABC News, asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney how public support of those journalists’ work “square[s] with the fact that this administration has been so aggressively trying to stop aggressive journalism in the United States by using the Espionage Act to take whistleblowers to court.”

“There just seems to be a disconnect here,” Tapper added. “You want aggressive journalism abroad; you just don’t want it in the United States.”

In April 2008, then-candidate Obama told the audience at an AP luncheon that he believed a federal judge, and not a sitting administration, should decided if a confidential source should be protected. Obama also supported a federal shield law, but during his first year in office, the White House sent Congress “sweeping revisions” to a proposed bill that “would significantly weaken its protections against forcing reporters to testify,” according to the Times. The White House did not respond to a request for comment about Obama’s current views on the matter. 

Read more.

 

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