While he was out “pushing for press freedoms” in China and Burma, President Obama “pledged” that here in the United States, reporters will not go to jail for “doing their job.” The president declined to comment on the ongoing investigation involving New York Times reporter James Risen, who was subpoenaed to testify against a CIA operative accused of leaking, but repeated Attorney General Eric Holder’s pledge that “no journalist is going to go to jail for doing their job.”
Despite Obama’s remarks, his administration has a very sketchy track record on the First Amendment. James Risen, the New York Times reporter mentioned above, told Maureen Dowd: “I was nervous for a long time, but they’ve [the Obama administration] been after me for six years so now I try to ignore it.” Risen went on to tell Dowd: “A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin. They don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistle-blowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”
And then there was that time when the DOJ bugged the cloak room in the House of Representatives. Representative Devin Nunes told radio show host Hugh Hewitt:
DN: No, I absolutely do not, especially after this wiretapping incident, essentially, of the House of Representative. I don’t think people are focusing on the right thing when they talk about going after the AP reporters. The big problem that I see is that they actually tapped right where I’m sitting right now, the Cloak Room.
HH: Wait a minute, this is news to me.
DN: The Cloak Room in the House of Representatives.
HH: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
DN: So when they went after the AP reporters, right? Went after all of their phone records, they went after the phone records, including right up here in the House Gallery, right up from where I’m sitting right now. So you have a real separation of powers issue that did this really rise to the level that you would have to get phone records that would, that would most likely include members of Congress, because as you know…
DN: …members of Congress talk to the press all the time.
The Obama administration also went after the Associated Press’s phone records. “In a sweeping and unusual move, the Justice Department secretly obtained two months’ worth of telephone records of journalists working for the Associated Press as part of a year-long investigation into the disclosure of classified information about a failed al-Qaeda plot last year.”
Let’s not forget the situation with James Rosen of Fox News: the Department of Justice branded the journalist a co-conspirator in order to obtain his emails.Wrote the Washington Post: “Critics said the government’s suggestion that James Rosen, Fox News’s chief Washington correspondent, was a ‘co-conspirator’ for soliciting classified information threatened to criminalize press freedoms protected by the First Amendment. Others also suggested that the Justice Department’s claim in pursuing an alleged leak from the State Department was little more than pretext to seize his e-mails to build their case against the suspected leaker.”
Said Obama today in Burma: “I’m pretty blunt and pretty frank about the fact that societies that repress journalists ultimately oppress people as well. Societies that are free and vibrant and successful, part of that formulation is the free from of information which requires a free press.”
I think he may be on to something.