It’s Called Freedom Of The Press For A Reason


In one of his final opinions as a Supreme Court Justice, Hugo Black in the 1971 Pentagon Papers case wrote that “The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.” The Court’s 6-3 decision granted the Washington Post and New York Times permission to resume publishing a comprehensive and classified government history of the Vietnam War. The permission was granted over the “national security” objections of the Nixon administration. Black’s opinion stressed that the “press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people.”

The Pentagon Papers case revolved around the more traditional press debate regarding prior restraint: if and when the government has the right to stop news organizations from disseminating sensitive information. The Supreme Court’s landmark 1931 media ruling, Near v. Minnesota, declared that almost all forms of prior restraint were unconstitutional. One of the few exceptions included issues of national security.*

Of course, the recent Obama administration controversies surrounding freedom of the press revolve around national security and the intense prosecutorial efforts by the government to weed out leakers of classified information. Rather than trying to stop journalists from reporting national security news, federal law enforcement seems preoccupied with snooping around, in increasingly clandestine ways, and ensnaring reporters in criminal investigations.

Whether it was the Department of Justice’s wild overreach in seizing phone records of more than 20 separate telephone lines used by Associated Press editors and reporters, or the Department’s more focused, yet even more troubling, information grab of a Fox News reporter, the practice is wrong and shortsighted. It’s also un-American.

The Founding Fathers had the foresight to carve out extraordinary privileges and protections for the press, and for centuries they have endured. So why now turn our storied First Amendment into the Sort Of First Amendment or the When It’s Convenient First Amendment?

Imagine what international observers must be thinking as they watch the U.S. government, in the name of leak investigations, chisel away at one of America’s most famous contributions to the democratic way of life: Freedom of the press.

Yet it’s also important to note that despite some of the heated rhetoric in recent days, there’s little evidence that the federal government is waging some sort of all-out war on journalism (that it’s “spying” on reporters), or that it’s set out a dangerous new policy to “criminalize” the craft. And no, Fox News certainly hasn’t been “targeted” by the Obama administration, despite Fox’s plaintive cries of victimhood in recent days. (There’s certainly no evidence to back up Shepard Smith’s baseless on-air claim that the Department of Justice “went into” Fox News computer servers and “pulled things out.”)

First Amendment alarms bells went off when it was revealed that Fox News’ James Rosen had been described as “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” in a 2010 FBI affidavit in support of warrant seeking permission to look through the reporter’s phone records as well as the contents of his Gmail account. The FBI was looking for correspondences with then-State Department security adviser Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, charged with leaking classified information to Rosen about North Korea in 2009.

Those First Amendment alarm bells were justified.

The Rosen warrant request appears to be the first time (that we know of) that the government singled out a journalist as a possible criminal during a leak investigation. In other words, it was the first time law enforcement in court proceedings suggested it was a crime to publish, or to try to obtain, classified information. (It is not.) The FBI’s targets in the past had always focused on the leakers, not those receiving the leaks.

And in the past, when law enforcement wanted to obtain phone records or other personal communications from journalists, they were supposed to issue narrow subpoenas after exhausting all other investigative avenues. (And only after the Attorney General personally approved of the move.) Prosecutors also notified the media company in question about the subpoena, unless notification threatened the integrity of the investigation.

Prior to the Washington Post story being published on May 20, Rosen knew nothing of the search warrant or that it had been acted upon. And that’s why the alarm bells sounded, and with good reason. The idea that federal law enforcement can simply grab a reporter’s private communication without the reporter or his news employer ever being notified — and without them given a chance to persuade a judge the stop the action (i.e. judicial relief) — is wrong and it’s dangerous and in the Rosen case it was unacceptable.

But also note that Rosen being unaware the FBI grabbed his emails was, in weird way, reassuring. It’s reassuring because despite the alarming wording of the warrant request (“abettor and/or co-conspirator”), no charges were ever brought against Rosen, and according to the FBI none are expected to be forthcoming.

Despite the disturbing language used in the single FBI warrant request, reportedly approved by Attorney General Eric Holder, the Rosen case not does appear to reflect a larger policy shift within the Department of Justice to “criminalize” reporting. Plus, there’s recent evidence to suggest the DOJ has declined to take drastic steps against the press during a national security leak investigation.

On May 17, The Smoking Gun reported that FBI counterintelligence agents had overseen a lengthy leak investigation after The Smoking Gun published a classified, 12-page CIA report detailing the organizing activities of al-Qaeda members imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Smoking Gun learned:

The case remained open for three years and eight months, spanning the Bush and Obama administrations. It was formally closed in March 2010 when, after much internal debate, the Department of Justice’s Counterespionage Section declined to authorize a subpoena–sought by the FBI–compelling [The Smoking Gun’s] editor to testify before a grand jury about its source.

Faced with taking the extreme measure of forcing an editor to testify before a grand jury about the identify of a source, the DOJ declined, and instead closed down an unsuccessful leak investigation. If there really were a top-down administration attempt to “criminalize” national security reporting, wouldn’t that editor have been compelled to testify?

Right now though, that remains a small consolation.

via It’s Called Freedom Of The Press For A Reason | Blog | Media Matters for America.

Advertisements

About Old Boy

Love the past and the future but live in the present

Posted on June 26, 2013, in Government, Human rights and Liberties and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. You’re a dipshit – nuff said

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The Essence Within

Silently, the grass grows.

FLOW ART STATION

THE CONTEMPORARY MAGAZINE

21st Century Films

Film Analysis, Essays, and Short Stories

swo8

Music means something

Discobar Bizar

Welkom op de blog van Discobar Bizar. Druk gerust wat op de andere knoppen ook, of lees het aangrijpende verhaal van Hurricane Willem nu je hier bent. Welcome to the blog of Discobar Bizar, feel free to push some of the other buttons, or to read the gripping story of Hurricane Willem whilst you are here!

Playing by My Own Rules

Cancer Messed with the Wrong Hellion

manologo

pienso y recuerdo...luego, existo

When the Whippoorwill sings

Queer Supernatural Romance and Horror Erotica

Noellie's Place

Life is brutal at times but always offers beauty and love to soften the blows if you open your hearts eye

After Credits Corner

There's a million films I haven't seen. Just you wait...

Reel Time Flicks

Film reviews and news, everyone's a critic! Welcome to the drinking blog with a film problem.

Baz Allen

Archive

Silents, Please!

interesting avenues in silent film history

Superduque

Mi patria es todo el mundo.

WRITE THEM ALL.

THOUGHTS. FEELINGS. MEMORIES.

Budget Traveler

Travel Guide, Blog & Reviews

The Conglomerate Lode

Mining thoughts, opinions, and experiences that enter the eyes the front door to the grey matter

La Audacia de Aquiles

"El Mundo Visible es Sólo un Pretexto" / "The Visible World is Just a Pretext".-

CINESPIRIA

Shining a light on the deep recesses of film history

Dr. Grob's Animation Review

The animation film review site

Genç Yazarlar Kulübü

Edebiyat burda, kahve tadında.

Alfred Eaker's The BlueMahler

Alfred Eaker's art (painting & film), reviews and essays. BlueMahler is a performance art character first created by Eaker at the John Herron School of Art in the early 1980s.

Master Mix Movies

One Movie at a Time

Jason's Movie Blog

A Movie Blog for the Latest Movie Reviews, Trailers, and More

Purple Pants

Presenting Life Delicacies with a Pinch of Salt

La Page @Mélie

Contre le blues, le meilleur remède, c'est le rock...!

simple Ula

I want to be rich. Rich in love, rich in health, rich in laughter, rich in adventure and rich in knowledge. You?

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.

Prestridge²

Independent journalism on the things we love - money, film and the arts

smithartonline

Art, education and ruminations

Exclusivito

Confessions of a book-traveller

Kitchen Scenes

Performance Art Based Video & Film

My Life as an Artist (2)

Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

Paperback Cinema

Never judge a book by its movie.

CURNBLOG

Movies, thoughts, thoughts about movies.

Widdershins Worlds

WRITING LESBIAN FICTION, SCIENCE FICTION, AND FANTASY, SINCE THE 20TH CENTURY

SKYLINE REPORTS

comedy magazine

Flicks and Pieces

Film & TV Reviews, News & Musings

MovieBabble

The Casual Way to Discuss Movies

seriesdefilms

Pour ceux qui se font des films en séries!

Plain, Simple Tom Reviews

Musings on film and TV, old and new.

Rarest Kind of Best

Talking about children's books and films. Useful information for parents.

Outspoken and Freckled

Kellee writes about classic & modern film, retro TV... and life's adventures, with a sassy Irish passion.

%d bloggers like this: