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article imageOp-Ed: Obama administration creates fear for journalists and sources

By Ken Hanly     Oct 12, 2013 in Politics
Washington - For some time now the Obama administration has often been hostile to reporters and even more hostile to whistle blowers, especially those who leak damaging classified information such as Edward Snowden.
At the same time the Obama administration has itself seemed to promote leaks of classified information such as those surrounding the Bin Laden raid, the Stuxnet virus and the president's role in the drone program. As a Mother Jones article pointed out in June of 2012: Obama's zeal in silencing leaks that don't make him look like a superhero extends beyond the deployment of the Espionage Act into a complex legal tangle of retaliatory practices, life-destroying threats, on-the-job harassment, and firings
James Goodale, who was formerly general counsel for the New York Times during the battles with the Nixon administration over press freedom said: "President Obama wants to criminalize the reporting of national security information...President Obama will surely pass President Richard Nixon as the worst president ever on issues of national security and press freedom."
A new report issued by the Committee to Protect Journalists surveys the numerous ways in which the Obama administration is creating a climate of fear for both journalists and their sources posing a severe threat to the news gathering process. The report notes in the first sentence that: "In the Obama administration's Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press."
The Obama administration has subjected six government employees together with 2 government contractors to criminal prosecutions under the 1917 Espionage Act. In all previous administrations there have only been three such prosecutions. Reporters phone logs and e-mails were subpoenaed by the Justice Department in two investigations. Obama wants to make it a crime to talk to a leaker. As the New York Times says of the case of a Fox news reporter: The search warrant filed to investigate the Fox News reporter James Rosen proved as many had suspected: President Obama wants to make it a crime for a reporter to talk to a leaker. It is a further example of how President Obama will surely pass President Richard Nixon as the worst president ever on issues of national security and press freedom.
The report claims that NSA revelations have made many journalists fearful of even talking to each other for fear they are under surveillance. Veteran national security journalist R. Jeffrey Smith, who works for an influential nonprofit government accountability news group, the Center for Public Integrity said that he worries about calling some people since it leaves a digital trail that would make it easy for the government to monitor his contacts.
The report quotes New York Times national security reporter Scott Shane as saying his sources are "scared to death". Another TImes reporter David Sanger claims "this is the most closed, control freak administration I've ever covered." Margaret Sullivan public editor of the Times wrote previously that "it's turning out to be the administration of unprecedented secrecy and unprecedented attacks on a free press."
The author of the report interviewed 30 experienced Washington journalists none of whom could recall any precedent for the degree of control of information that the Obama administration attempted to achieve. The control of information extends far beyond issues that might be considered related to national security: "Ellen Weiss, Washington bureau chief for E.W. Scripps newspapers and stations, said 'the Obama administration is far worse than the Bush administration' in trying to thwart accountability reporting about government agencies." It identifies at least a dozen other long-time journalists making similar observations."
During his presidential campaign Obama promised endlessly that he would bring in the most transparent administration ever and stressed government accountability as well. Even reporters from the New York Times, an outlet often used to indicate the official government position on issues or even promote the government through leaks, are quite critical of the government. Jane Mayer, an investigative reporter for the Times said of government attacks upon the press: "It's a huge impediment to reporting, and so chilling isn't quite strong enough, it's more like freezing the whole process into a standstill."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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