Once more in the name of national security, President Barack Obama's department of justice has curtailed the rights of the free press and thrust the unbridled weight of government intimidation upon a journalist. Just a week after Associated Press CEO Gary Pruitt blasted the Obama administration's crackdown on AP reporters as part of a leak investigation, the Washington Post has reported that the justice department has named Fox News reporter James Rosen as a law-breaking "co-conspirator" in another leak investigation.
Fox News executive Michael Clemente was understandably upset to learn that the private emails and telephone records of his chief Washington correspondent had been seized while the justice department also tracked Rosen's visits to the State Department. "We will unequivocally defend his right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press," said Clemente.
Rosen has been accused by the justice department of soliciting the disclosure of classified information from former State Department adviser Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, who is currently being prosecuted by the Obama administration for leaking classified information about North Korea in 2009. FBI agent Reginald Reyes has said that Rosen "asked, solicited and encouraged Mr. Kim to disclose sensitive United States internal documents and intelligence information. The reporter did so by employing flattery and playing to Mr. Kim's vanity and ego." In the real world, that is called a reporter doing his job. No reporter has ever been prosecuted in the United States for soliciting information.
An increasingly concerned media asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney if President Obama supported this kind of action by the Justice Department against a reporter. Carney reiterated the president's comments on the AP scandal, essentially: President Obama supports the freedom of the press, but will continue to prosecute any whistleblower or leaker and does not care if there is any collateral damage done to press freedoms, all in the name of national security.
Baffled by the Press Secretary's defense of this crackdown, ABC reporter Jonathan Karl asked a more pointed question: Jay, do you, as a former reporter, approve of those kind of tactics — reading through the emails of a reporter? Amazingly, Carney once again latched onto the national security answer and defended this crackdown on the First Amendment.
This continued offensive on press freedoms by the Obama Administration has rightly drawn criticism from all corners of the public. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists rightly pointed out that "asking for information has never been deemed a crime." Olivier Knox on Yahoo! news reported that it doesn't seem "Rosen did anything outside the bounds of traditional reporting." Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Eugene Robinson took to the Washington Post to accuse the Obama administration of mistaking journalism for espionage. Glenn Greenwald, a longtime progressive critic of the Obama administration, blasted the accusations all day on Twitter. Liberal pundit Keith Olbermann has called for Attorney General Eric Holder's resignation.
Many have said that President Obama's administration has been waging a war on whistleblowers, having prosecuted twice as many than every other president combined. Let us shrug off that facade, though, and realize what the administration is really at war with: journalism. Under the guise of national security, President Obama's Department of Justice has thrown whistleblowers into federal prison, supported the imprisonment of journalists who make his overreaching drone war look bad, and is now sending a clear message to the press: any reporter who pursues classified or embarrassing information against the federal government will be subject to potential prosecution by that government.
In vain attempts to soothe the press, Jay Carney and President Obama have been touting the so-called Media Shield Law. This law is meaningless if it contains a national security exception — the same one that the Obama administration is using to wage its current war on journalism.
Throughout the War on Terror, the executive branch has curtailed many civil liberties in the name of national security. Congress, for all of its moaning on the current scandals, has enabled this through legislation such as the PATRIOT Act and by staying silent as the White House flexes its muscles. It is high time that the American people demand our representatives reign in the Presidency and reexamine exactly what freedoms we are willing to give up for the notion of national security.
As Thomas Jefferson once said, "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost." It is time for the Obama administration to end this war on the press, and it is time for Congress to grow a spine and defend civil liberties in this country. Perhaps with the angry media now prodding them along, something might get done.
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