Sunday, October 12, 2014

Barack's continued war on the press

Big Brother is not just watching, he's also listening.

Monday, the US government accused the press of creating "a media outcry" about the Islamic State's seizure of Kobani.  As  Holly Yan, Michael Pearson and Ingrid Formanek (CNN) reported, the Pentagon was insisting if the media hadn't been present, it wouldn't be a problem.

Saturday, the administration was back at it, expressing their hostility towards the press. RT reported,  "American intelligence officials are trying to blame news reports for failed military attacks against shadowy jihadist groups, arguing that the articles alerted a new terror group to impending air strikes."

The administration's war on the press has included seizing AP's phone records, spying on Fox News' James Rosen and the non-stop attack on New York Times reporter James Risen.

Tonight on CBS' 60 Minutes, Leslie Stahl reported on the non-stop attacks on Risen and interviewed, among others, former NSA director Mike Hayden who told Stahl that he would not be prosecuting Risen in an attempt to force Risen to reveal his source for the 2005 report on the government's illegal spying.

Yet Barack Obama continues to attack the press.

Friday, Sara Rafsky (Committee to Protect Journalists) noted:

In May, my blog post looked at what had changed in the seven months since CPJ's first comprehensive report on press freedom in the United States, authored by former Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie, Jr. The answer then, as it is now, was not much. Though the cast of characters and the specific settings might have shifted, it feels like journalists are stuck in the same play with the president, who admitted in the "Meet the Press" interview that the "theater" of politics doesn't come to him naturally.

Attorney General Eric Holder, for example, may be on his way out, but the Justice Department has still not withdrawn a subpoena seeking to force New York Times journalist James Risen to give testimony that would reveal a confidential source. The Supreme Court said in June it would not consider Risen's appeal of a lower court ruling that he must testify, meaning the journalist has exhausted his legal avenues and could face jail or a hefty fine if he is found to be in contempt of court. And on Thursday, court papers unsealed at the request of The New York Times shed more light on the efforts of journalist Mike Levine, then of Fox News, to quash a grand jury subpoena in 2011 seeking his confidential source for a story about alleged supporters of terrorism in Minnesota, according to news reports. Levine lost the fight but The Justice Department ultimately did not call him to testify.

Both of these cases are exemplary of the government's will to aggressively prosecute alleged leakers of classified information and how the effort has ensnared the press. The government's pursuit of journalists' sources combined with the eight leak prosecutions under the Espionage Act; the implementation of programs designed to ferret out potential leakers, such as "Insider Threat;" and secret subpoenas of news outlets, have a created an environment in which officials are terrified to speak with reporters without explicit permission.

At what point does the press stop enabling Barack and start holding him accountable?

Reporters Without Borders' 2014 World Press Freedom Index covered 180 countries and noted that the US ranked number 46 when it came to press freedom.  That is shameful and embarrassing in a so-called democracy.  The report noted:

Freedom of information is too often sacrificed to an overly broad and abusive interpretation of national security needs, marking a disturbing retreat from democratic practices.  Investigative journalism often suffers as a result. 
This has been the case in the United States (46th), which fell 13 places, one of the most significant declines, amid increased efforts to track down whistleblowers and the sources of leaks.  The trial and conviction of Private Bradley Manning and the pursuit of NSA analyst Edward Snowden were warnings to all those thinking of assisting in the disclosure of sensitive information that would clearly be in the public interest.
US journalists were stunned by the Department of Justice's seizure of Associated Press phone records without warning in order to identify the source of the CIA leak.  It served as a reminder of the urgent need for a "shield law" to protect the confidentiality of journalists' sources at the federal level.  The revival of the legislative process is little consolation for James Risen of The New York Times, who is subject to a court order to testify against a former CIA employee accused of leaking classified information.  And less still for Barrett Brown, a young freelance journalist facing 105 years in prison in connection with the posting of information that hackers obtained from Statfor, a private intelligence company with close ties to the federal government. 

In the spring of 2014, the Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium was held.  James Risen was among those attending.  Sharyl Attkisson reported:

Risen, who faces the threat of jail time for refusing to turn ​over information about a confidential source, was one of ​the featured speakers. He is winner of the 2006 Pulitzer ​Prize for National Reporting and the Goldsmith Prize for ​Investigative Reporting.
"A Rip Van Winkle today would be shocked with what we accept in society and what we think of as normal," Risen told the audience of several hundred investigative journalists and Berkeley journalism graduate students. He said that there's been a "fundamental change in society" since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and that Americans have given up civil liberties and press freedoms "slowly and incrementally."
"We've been too accepting of rules and mores of, first, the Bush administration and, now, the Obama administration. We have to stand up and begin to fight back . . . we need to think about how to challenge the government in the way we’re supposed to challenge the government."
"[The Obama administration] want[s] to create an interstate highway for reporting in which there are police all along telling you to stay on that highway. As long as we accept this interstate highway of reporting, we are enabling and complicit in what’s happening to society and the press," said Risen.

The administration is out of control.  When Richard Nixon pulled similar moves, he was rightly called out.  Today, too many are willing to cover for Barack and to betray the Constitution.

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