By Sherwood Ross
President Obama, who pledged to run a “transparent” White House, instead is threatening reporters with trial and imprisonment if they don’t reveal the identities of officials who leak information about government wrongdoing.
“I’ve felt the chill first-hand,” Pulitzer Prize-winner David Barstow of The New York Times says. “Trusted sources in Washington are scared to talk by telephone, or by email, or even to meet for coffee, regardless whether the subject touches on national security or not.”
He told “The Nation” (Oct. 27, 2014) magazine that the “vindictive” efforts of the Bush and Obama regimes, by trying to force New York Times reporter Jim Risen into betraying his sources, “has already done substantial and lasting damage to journalism in the United States.”
Not only is Obama out to punish reporters for writing up his regime’s failures but he is threatening any Federal employees who talk to the press with termination or worse. Sally Buzbee, the AP’s Washington Bureau Chief, said Transportation Department (DOT) employees are telling her reporters they will be fired “if they’re caught talking” to AP. Recently, Obama’s snoopers illegally tapped the phones of AP reporters.
Obama has also created the “Insider Threat” program, which The Nation co-authors Norman Solomon and Marcy Wheeler write is “insidious” as it “pressures federal workers to monitor and report fellow employees suspected of ideological or attitudinal deviance.” Not surprisingly, The Nation reports, “An atmosphere of fear has intensified inside government.” Their magazine article is titled, “The Government’s War on Whistleblowers.”
The lightning rod of the regime’s wrath is Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winner who revealed the vast scope of illegal secret domestic eavesdropping in his 2006 book “State of War.” A New York Times reporter who had covered the CIA, the Agency might just be angry at him for exposing its flawed intelligence work when it slipped nuclear documents to Iran it hoped would screw up their alleged nuclear ops.
What’s more, on July 6, 2004, Risen’s NYT article, “CIA Held Back Iraqi Arms Data,” showed the CIA likely had the data to show Saddam Hussein’s regime no longer had any plans to develop WMDs. “But the CIA kept mum about those findings, even as the Bush White House continued to proclaim that invading Iraq was necessary due to its purported WMD’s.”
“All too frequently, the government claims that publication of certain information will harm national security, when in reality, the government’s real concern is about covering up its own wrongdoing or avoiding embarrassment,” Risen told The Nation. Risen currently is under subpoena and faces possible jail time for his courageous reporting. Another Obama target was John Kiriakou, a CIA analyst and case officer. His crime, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, was to blow the whistle on secret CIA torture. A true pro-democracy president would have given him a medal. Instead, Kiriakou got 30 months.
“To date,” the magazine said, “The Obama administration has charged nine people with violating the 97-year-old Espionage Act—far more than all other administrations combined.” As Barstow of the Times observed, “My fellow investigative reporters commiserate about how we’re being forced to act like drug dealers, taking extreme precautions to avoid leaving any digital bread crumbs about where we’ve been and who we’ve met.”
Some people, Risen says, “don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistle-blowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”
While the views of reporters may be subjective, considering they are being harassed and threatened, the results of an objective global survey by Reporters Without Borders also finds Obama grossly deficient. Under Mr. Obama, press freedom in America this year plunged to an unenviable 46th in the world from 32nd. Some 180 countries were measured on how free reporters are to report.
Yet another blast against Obama’s handling of the press comes from the Committee to Protect Journalists. Rather than improving transparency, Obama’s waged an unprecedented fight to contain leaks and control his administration’s image, CPJ found
Overall,the press record of Obama’s presidency doesn’t resemble transparency as much as tyranny. #
(Sherwood Ross formerly worked for the Chicago Daily News, wire services, and holds an award for his civil rights coverage. To contribute to his Anti-War News Service, which depends on publishers and public support, reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)