The media's entirely appropriate outrage at the Justice Department obtaining Associated Press phone records potentially impacting 100 journalists, the premiere of Alex Gibney's new documentary "We Steal Secrets," and the upcoming Bradley Manning trial are three events that are branches on the same tree but that the media has viewed separately until now. Thanks to this timely convergence of events, the main-stream-media has finally woken up to the fact that the Obama administration's unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers is really a war on the First Amendment.
The media should be paying attention. The AP scandal has gone from bad to worse for the Obama administration and prompted the media to start asking the hard questions they should have asked when journalists first started showing up in Espionage Act indictments that the Justice Department brought against so-called "leakers," who are really whistleblowers.
In the wake of the AP scandal, The Washington Post reported on the Justice Department's accusations that Fox News journalist James Rosen was violating the Espionage Act by cultivating sources, in other words, by doing his job. Secrecy expert Steven Aftergood had an astute observation about the Justice Department's targeting Rosen:
But for today’s FBI, . . . everyday reporting techniques are taken as evidence of criminal activity and grounds for search and seizure of confidential email.The only silver lining in this bludgeoning of the First Amendment is that the media will realize it is not only their sources who will dry up, but it is now their necks at risk for criminal prosecution.
The Obama administration has been giving main-stream-media journalists the Wikileaks treatment by accusing the media of Espionage for gathering and reporting information. Alex Gibney's new movie on Wikileaks, "We Steal Secrets," is being screened in Washington, D.C. tonight. Meanwhile, a stone's throw from National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters at Ft. Meade, the government will put Army private Bradley Manning on trial for Espionage and Aiding the Enemy based upon his disclosures to Wikileaks. If the government can criminalize whistleblowing to Wikileaks, it can criminalize, and has criminalized if you consider the cases of NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, whistleblowing to the main-stream-media.
Manning's last pre-trial hearing is today, and there are finally more members of the main-stream-media present. Considering the still-worsening AP scandal, the Justice Department accusing Rosen of being a co-conspirator to Espionage charges, and a grand jury empaneled to investigate Wikileaks, the government is using the same arguments to attack the A.P. and Rosen that it used to attack Wikileaks.
The main-stream-media has attempted to distance itself from Wikileaks, but the latest events have shown that the Justice Department - despite its empty assurances to the contrary - has drawn no such distinction in targeting anyone, be it Julian Assange or James Rosen, who investigates and publishes information that the government would rather not be made public.
I've been explaining for years that the war on whistleblowers is a back door way of targeting journalists, and now that the water is boiling, the press should be on the front lines to beat back the government's relentless attacks on the freedom of the press.