Bush Attacks Freedom of the Press

An article this morning in the Washington Post points out the extent to which the Bush administration is wiling to criminalize aggressive journalism.

The Bush administration, seeking to limit leaks of classified information, has launched initiatives targeting journalists and their possible government sources. The efforts include several FBI probes, a polygraph investigation inside the CIA and a warning from the Justice Department that reporters could be prosecuted under espionage laws.In recent weeks, dozens of employees at the CIA, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies have been interviewed by agents from the FBI’s Washington field office, who are investigating possible leaks that led to reports about secret CIA prisons and the NSA’s warrantless domestic surveillance program, according to law enforcement and intelligence officials familiar with the two cases.

This attack on freedom on the press is scary and can only be compared to the paranoia of the Nixon years.

Some media watchers, lawyers and editors say that, taken together, the incidents represent perhaps the most extensive and overt campaign against leaks in a generation, and that they have worsened the already-tense relationship between mainstream news organizations and the White House.”There’s a tone of gleeful relish in the way they talk about dragging reporters before grand juries, their appetite for withholding information, and the hints that reporters who look too hard into the public’s business risk being branded traitors,” said New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, in a statement responding to questions from The Washington Post. “I don’t know how far action will follow rhetoric, but some days it sounds like the administration is declaring war at home on the values it professes to be promoting abroad.”

Crooks and Liars has a video of David Gergen’s appearance on “Reliable Sources” this morning where he points out that this is worse than the Nixon years where the goal was to stop leaks from within the government. Now the goal is to drag journalists before grand juries and throw them in jail if they refuse to reveal their sources.
The New York Times gives details of the government’s attempt to use the Espionage Act to prosecute two members of a pro-Israeli political action group.

The prosecution has roiled the powerful organization, known as Aipac, which at first vigorously defended Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman and then fired them last March. And it has generated considerable anger among American Jews who question why the group’s representatives were singled out in the first place.Aipac would appear to be an unlikely target for the Bush administration; it is a political powerhouse that generally shares the administration’s hawkish views on the potential nuclear threat from Iran and the danger of Palestinian militancy. But the case does fit with the administration’s determination to stop leaks of classified information.Some legal experts say the prosecution threatens political and press freedom, making a felony of the commerce in information and ideas that is Washington’s lifeblood. Federal prosecutors are using the Espionage Act for the first time against Americans who are not government officials, do not have a security clearance and, by all indications, are not a part of a foreign spy operation.

Firedoglake wonders how the administration expects the public to take them seriously when they go after leakers who make them look back or who expose potentially illegal activities while at the same time engage in selective leaking (think Rove/Chaney/Libby) themselves.

Protein Wisdom argues, from the right, that the left wing media has “overstepped its bounds” and needs to be held to account.

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