Obama Administration attempts to defend its war on investigative journalism

| May 18, 2012 | 7 Replies

The Obama Department of Justice continued its attack on news reporters trying to protect their confidential sources with regard to stories based on government leaks. Before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is a case concerning NYT reporter James Risen, who has refused to respond to a federal subpoena demanding that he provide the source of information on which he based a story about a botched CIA plot against the Iranian government. Oral arguments occurred this morning. Fortunately, several of the judges were not receptive to the arguments of the Obama Administration that there is no such thing as a “reporters’ privilege.”

Why is this issue critically important? James Risen explains in this Huffpo article by Michael Caldeone and Dan Froomkin:

“They’ve said in that there is no reporter’s privilege,” Risen said. “I think they want the court to rule on a fundamental constitutional issue of whether or not there is a reporter’s privilege in a criminal case, which makes this case kind of have a broader import than it might otherwise have.”

“That’s why I think it’s become a pretty important case,” he continued. “It’s a fairly basic constitutional issue for the press, whether or not there is a reporter’s privilege. It’s something a lot of people outside the press don’t really understand, don’t really care about. I think the basic issue is whether you can have a democracy without aggressive investigative reporting and I don’t believe you can. So that’s why I’m fighting it.”

The hardline stand against reporter’s privilege — the DOJ briefs always put the term in quotation marks — is a hallmark of the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown over leaks. So is trying to throw the book at the alleged leakers.

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Category: Civil Rights, Journalism, Law, Media, Secrecy

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (7)

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  1. Adam Herman says:

    Wow. This actually makes the Bush administration look good. When Seymour Hersh wrote a story about covert action in Iran in 2006, nothing was done to him.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Adam: The self-proclaimed liberals of the U.S. are extraordinarily hypocritical in this respect. If Bush had clamped down on First Amendment rights like this, they would be screaming. As Jonathan Haidt so eloquently points out, our groupishness bind and blind us. This Democrat hostility sets a precedent for the next Republican President too. There are very few people in the media hammering this development under Obama. Glenn Greenwald and Amy Goodman are exceptions to the rule.

  2. Adam Herman says:

    It’s tough to call out your own side. I had a hard time doing it during the early Bush years, until I realized just how awful he was.

  3. Tim Hogan says:

    Erich, there is no such thing as “Democrat” hostility. “Democrat” is to Democratic Party as “Teabagger” is to Tea Partier. Perhaps you like the rhetoric of the right in criticizing actions by a Democratic administration but, control of the rhetoric means control of the framing of the debate ala Lakoff.

    If one adopts the rhetoric of their opponents, they cede the framing to them and in many case have already lost the strategic cognitive high ground and the issue to the other side. More and more, precision in “languaging” will be both necessary and sufficient to merely keep the wolves at bay in this post-Citizens United world.

    I strongly urge you to drop the rhetoric of the right and to keep maximum precision in your languaging.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Tim: Show me the hordes of Democrats who are taking strong public stands against Obama express hostility toward meaningful journalism. I’m not playing that game. Obama has gone off the tracks in many ways, and MANY Democrats are staying quiet instead of speaking out. Most Democrats are no better than Republicans in this regard. I’m calling things as I see them, and I couldn’t care less about party politics any more. I’ve stepped off of that dysfunctional and destructive ride. It’s time for most people to join me in becoming Independents.

  5. Adam Herman says:

    The fact that Democrat Party and Teabagger are equivalents says a lot about the relative civility of the two sides. “Democrat Party” is a pretty mild epithet, it’s really not even an epithet at all if you aren’t familiar with why Democrats take offense to it. Contrast that to “Teabaggers”, “Rethuglicans”, “Conservatards”…. And conservatives take it better too! When was the last time a conservative went ballistic at being called names? But Democrats freak out when you say “Democrat party”, even if it wasn’t intentional. Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.

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