Posted by Brad @ 11:28 am on May 21st 2013

The War on the Press

A lot of the civil liberties abuses happening under Obama originated, by and large, with Bush – things like surveillance statism, torture legalizing, executive war powers including over the life and death of U.S. citizens, dismantling any transparency or accountability, etc. I think a lot of people are inclined to broadly lay the blame for at least getting the ball rolling on those things with Bush, despite it being Obama who has normalized and then escalated all those things. And that’s not wrong, despite it being rather missing the point.

But one pretty spectrum of abuse that really seems borne of this administration in particular is a tightening of the screws on freedom of the press. The Wikileaks witchhunts, the prosecution of leakers in cases where the leaked information is embarrassing to the United States government (not when it is top secret classified information that makes the U.S. look AWESOME), the AP wiretapping scandal that is now unfolding.

But this one may be the most tipping point of them all. The surveillance and now attempted criminal prosecution of Fox News’ James Rosen.

You can get into the details if you want, as it is indeed incredibly creepy.

But stepping back for a moment, here is what is so striking about it.

The government here is threatening a reporter with criminal prosecution for soliciting classified information. Not for publishing something per se or passing along, but for soliciting it.

What was Rosen’s actual conduct here?

He went to the Pentagon and asked a government official about North Korea, and that government official told him that in response to U.N. sanctions North Korea could do some more nuclear tests in protest.

As Gleen Greenwald summarizes:

Kim did not obtain unauthorized access to classified information, nor steal documents, nor sell secrets, nor pass them to an enemy of the US. Instead, the DOJ alleges that he merely communicated this innocuous information to a journalist – something done every day in Washington – and, for that, this arms expert and long-time government employee faces more than a decade in prison for “espionage”.

A Washington reporter went to a government source and asked about North Korea. Said source gave him blaise speculative boilerplate – something with absolutely not classified value, and something that any American citizen could speculate about independently (indeed, would I have been subject to surveillance if I speculated on the blog here that in response to sanctions North Korea could step up nuclear testing? Because clearly, I could have gotten that top secret info from a government source leaking classified speculation!).

Now not only is Kim (the official) possibly being charged with fing spying, but the reporter that sat in his office asking about North Korea can, the government thinks, be charged as a conspirator in that spying.

Think about all that for a moment.

1 Comment »

  1. That’s it, blame Bush.

    Comment by James — 5/25/2013 @ 7:12 pm

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