Subpoena a pen that’s mightier than a sword

May 22, 2013

journalistClear with a slightly-chilled breeze this Wednesday morning on California’s north coast as the work week grinds onward, and maybe downward.

In a somewhat good news, authorities in Oklahoma have dropped the number of deaths from Monday’s tornado to only 24 (though, seven were children) and a terrible clean-up begins. In the midst of all the shit, Grist in a video report had a most  telling headline: “Watching a tornado victim find her lost dog will make you feel at least a little better for at least a minute” — times nowadays make it so.

(Illustration found here).

Meanwhile, back in sweetheart DC, scandal is taking a backseat to something way worse — a national-liberty dysfunction.
President Obama in all his transparency just might might be a secret turd-knocker.
As a former journalist who was involved with investigative reporting — back in the day when such a pursuit was noteworthy — I’m sick of Obama’s self-serving blather about how we need a free and unfettered press. He’s been revealed as a guy who loves secrets and hates those who reveal them.
In the three-ring scandal circus the last couple of weeks, the one with the AP is the most feared and most loathsome. The other two, Benghazi and the IRS bullshit, are political and will fade with time, but the going after reporters is a bad news flash for things to come.
And it did. On Monday, it was reported Obama’s DOJ had investigated Fox News reporter James Rosen in the case against Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a State Department contractor, for a story about North Korea’s nuclear program. Kim has been charged with violating the Espionage Act for his contact with Rosen.
This entire bullshit does open an ugly can of worms for one of America’s most-cherished and most-needed wall against government malfeasance — freedom of the press.
Nick Gillespie at the Daily Beast explains:

To make matters worse in terms of press freedom, there are many reasons to assume the Obama administration is secretly spying on many other journalists and organizations).
With Fox’s Rosen, the administration got an actual warrant to read his email and contends that he has committed crimes by pursuing and publishing a story about North Korea, even though the story apparently doesn’t include any classified information per se.
Rosen hasn’t been legally charged as of yet but as Glenn Greenwald notes, the accusations against Rosen parallel government charges against Wikileaks honcho Julian Assange.
“Under U.S. law,” writes Greenwald, “it’s not illegal to publish classified information,” so the Obama administration is claiming that it’s illegal for journalists and publishers to “solicit” such information.
That doesn’t simply fly in the face of the First Amendment and Vietnam-era rulings guaranteeing press freedoms, it declares “ war on journalism” by essentially criminalizing the very act of investigative reporting.

And Dana Milbank at the Washington Post brings up history:

But here’s why you should care — and why this case, along with the administration’s broad snooping into Associated Press phone records, is more serious than the other supposed Obama administration scandals regarding Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service.
The Rosen affair is as flagrant an assault on civil liberties as anything done by George W. Bush’s administration, and it uses technology to silence critics in a way Richard Nixon could only have dreamed of.

And this tid-bit from The New Yorker:

In the search warrant for that request, the government described Rosen as “an aider, and abettor, and / or co-conspirator” in violating the Espionage Act, noting that the crime can be punished by ten years in prison.
Rosen was not indicted in the case, but the suggestion in a government document that a reporter could be guilty of espionage for engaging in routine reporting is unprecedented and has alarmed many journalists and civil libertarians.

There’s a good overall read on this media chase-down by Noah Rothman at Mediaite –  a media scorned will jump hard:

These are historic and troubling times.
The unprecedented and brazen efforts by high-ranking elements within the Obama administration to silence whistleblowers and intimidate any reporters that would speak with them have starkly framed the choice the political press now faces.
The administration has thrown the gauntlet down before the media with their display of abject disregard for the watchdog Fourth Estate.
To the White House’s chagrin, the media will respond.

Those that withheld judgment about the AP scandal in its earliest days were right to do so.
Attorney General Eric Holder assured the media that the leaker who spoke to the AP, whom the Justice Department was attempting to ferret out, “put the American people at risk.”
Such a grave charge demands caution.
The benefit of the doubt should be extended to the government before it is accused of overreach.
But, in the days that followed, it was discovered that the AP had cooperated with the DOJ to hold off on publishing the details of the story — a successful strike in Yemen which resulted in the death of a terror suspect — and only ran with the story after they were assured by federal officials that publishing the information would not jeopardize American national security.
“Officials that would normally talk to us and people we talk to in the normal course of news gathering are already saying to us that they’re a little reluctant to talk to us,” said AP chief Gary Pruitt on CBS News’ Face the Nation on Sunday.
“They fear that they will be monitored by the government.”

And the Rosen angle?

Because Rosen had committed the offense — not the crime — of developing a source within the nation’s diplomatic establishment.
The Justice Department labeled Rosen a “co-conspirator” in their leak investigation — another effort to criminalize reporting practices which is without parallel in the history of the republic.

The White House has greatly underestimated the press and their reverence for the sacred function they perform in a healthy democracy.
The political media’s admiration for the president, someone who largely shares their philosophy and pedigree, is a pale shadow in comparison to the esteem with which they hold their own institution.
A storm is coming for the Obama administration.
There is no stronger animosity than the one born of spurned affection.
Now legitimately mistreated and aggrieved, the press is coming for this White House.

This is indeed bad shit.
I don’t think the average Jack-and-Jill on the street has a real knowledge of how the press has operated in the US the last couple hundred years and what the effects are of Obama’s slow noodle on how (and on who) the fingers of government can reach.
And this is way-important and way-new — who would have figured just a few weeks ago, journalists of all stripes would defend a reporter for Fox News?
Only thing to do is use the pen like a big, nasty double-cutting sword.

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