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Hullabaloo


Sunday, April 27, 2014

 
A noble mission tainted by hypocrisy

by digby

So disheartening:
The US State Department announced the launch of its third annual "Free the Press" campaign today, which will purportedly highlight "journalists or media outlets that are censored, attacked, threatened, or otherwise oppressed because of their reporting." A noble mission for sure. But maybe they should kick off the campaign by criticizing their own Justice Department, which on the very same day, has asked the Supreme Court to help them force Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter James Risen into jail.

Politico's Josh Gerstein reports that the Justice Department filed a legal brief today urging the Supreme Court to reject Risen's petition to hear his reporter's privilege case, in which the Fourth Circuit ruled earlier this year that James Risen (and all journalists) can be forced to testify against their sources without any regard to the confidentiality required by their profession. This flies in the face of common law precedent all over the country, as well as the clear district court reasoning in Risen's case in 2012. (The government's Supreme Court brief can be read here.)

Associated Press reporter Matthew Lee commendably grilled the State Department spokesman about the contradiction of its press freedom campaign and the James Risen case at today's briefing on the State Department initiative, repeatedly asking if the government considers press freedom issues in the United States the same way it does abroad. (The full transcript.)

As Gerstein noted, "The Justice Department brief is unflinchingly hostile to the idea of the Supreme Court creating or finding protections for journalists," and if the Justice Department succeeds "it could place President Barack Obama in the awkward position of presiding over the jailing of a journalist in an administration the president has vowed to make the most transparent in history."
That ship sailed some time ago, I'm afraid. The most transparent administration has been as opaque as any and has defended its secrecy with more fervor than most. It has waged a war on whistleblowers unlike any we've seen before. But nonetheless, one might expect an allegedly liberal administration to at least allow the courts to have the last word. But then, they are trying to do an end run with a bogus
shield law" that makes them look like they're doing something while in reality creating a new legal roadblock that the court would have to consider:
The government does mention it is working with Congress to craft a reporter's shield bill, which should give you some indication that the proposed bill is at best a watered-down, toothless version of what many courts have offered journalists for decades, and that would be no help to James Risen—the exact type of reporter that we should be attempting to protect the most. It's important to remember that in Risen's case, the government has previously analogized reporter's privilege to a criminal receiving drugs from someone and refusing to testify about it.
That's disgusting.

It's also in line with decades of manipulative maneuvering in which the government (of both parties) gets caught doing something illegal and instead of stopping the illegal behavior, instead enlists congressional authoritarians in both parties to legalize it. (See FISA debacle, for which the allegedly transparency advocate Senator Obama voted even before he was elected.)The Deep State protects its prerogatives and expands the scope of its powers by consistently overreaching, then falling back a bit and only legalizing the pieces of its program it most values --- one step forward two steps back. It's the natural consequence of global military hegemony. Unless you are one of those who are under the illusion that American people are somehow more moral and principled than other human beings that's going to lead to more and more authoritarian power.

Until people decide to challenge this system we are looking at a nation of the future run by greedy billionaires who are buying the protection of a powerful global military empire. Sound good?


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