Once again the ACLU points out a dichotomy presented by our times. And our President is caught between a rock and a hard place, largely of his own administrations making.
It’s not just the record breaking prosecutions of leakers. He is responsible for DOD policy that delineates what surplus equipment gets mothballed or distributed and why. His DOJ may need to be more proactive on police, the DOD and racial tensions and injustices. It’s not that I feel he should be excoriated, but I think we see a lot of room for improvement.
Addressing events in Ferguson, President Obama had some encouraging words last week that defended this country’s proud tradition of media freedom. “Here, in the United States of America,” he said, “police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground.”
But those strong words, a reflection of the foundational role of the media in our democracy, belie what has become a sustained attack by the government on press freedoms.
The Obama administration is the most aggressive in U.S. history when it comes to prosecuting journalists’ sources for disclosing unauthorized leaks. It has gone after the journalists, too. In just one example, it continues to pursue a Bush-era subpoena of James Risen, a New York Times journalist, to testify against a source accused of leaking information about CIA efforts to derail Iran’s nuclear program. In an effort to sever journalists from their sources, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently went so far as to sign a directive forbidding intelligence officials from talking to the press - even about unclassified matters - without securing permission in advance.
Widespread government surveillance, in addition to imperiling the privacy rights of millions of Americans, has also severely undermined the freedom of the press. A recent ACLU-Human Rights Watch report shows that many journalists have found information and sources increasingly hard to come by. To make matters more burdensome, they’ve had to resort to elaborate techniques to keep their communications secret. The result? We get less information about what our government is doing in our name.