Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Other Opinion: Obama should stop attacking the press

  • Print
President Barack Obama campaigned on creating “an unprecedented level of openness in the government,” but  has instead created an unprecedented level of obliqueness and hostility toward the press.

OLIVIER DOULIERY/ABACA PRESS/MCT FILES Enlarge Image

President Barack Obama campaigned on creating “an unprecedented level of openness in the government,” but has instead created an unprecedented level of obliqueness and hostility toward the press.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week turned down the appeal of James Risen, a New York Times reporter who could go to jail for refusing to divulge a confidential source.

By declining to hear the case, the high court tacitly affirmed the chilling opinion of the appellate court that "there is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify" against confidential sources. It’s the latest in the barrage of attacks by the Obama administration on press freedom and an unconscionable blow to the national security reporting so vital for governmental accountability.

Ever since the 2006 publication of his book detailing a CIA operation to provide flawed nuclear blueprints to Iran, Mr. Risen has been hounded by federal subpoenas seeking his testimony against the alleged informant, Jeffrey A. Sterling. The most recent subpoena, personally approved by Attorney General Eric H. Holder, was quashed in District Court, with the presiding judge rightly noting, "A criminal trial subpoena is not a free pass for the government to rifle through a reporter’s notebook."

The Supreme Court’s controlling opinion on a qualified reporter privilege is cryptic, but appeals courts have historically hewed to a broad interpretation of the opinion that is protective of reporters. Now that the appeals courts are in conflict, the Supreme Court ought not to have shied away from its duty and should have stepped in to create a clear precedent.

But the court will be the court. At more fault is President Barack Obama, who campaigned on creating "an unprecedented level of openness in the government," but whose administration has instead created an unprecedented level of obliqueness and hostility toward the press.

Rather than adhere to his campaign pledge to strengthen federal whistleblower laws, Obama has aggressively pursued leak investigations and his administration has charged more people under the Espionage Act than all other administrations combined.

All this compromises the effectiveness of national security reporting, which relies principally on confidential sources in order to ferret out mistakes and deceit that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Holder has hinted that the U.S. Department of Justice might not seek to jail Risen for contempt if he refuses to testify — and it shouldn’t. Rather than attacking journalists for doing their jobs, Obama should make an effort to restore some accountability and transparency to his administration.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: Preparing for Boxing Day

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Two Canadian geese perch themselves for a perfect view looking at the surroundings from the top of a railway bridge near Lombard Ave and Waterfront Drive in downtown Winnipeg- Standup photo- May 01, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Aerial view of Portage and Main, The Esplanade Riel, Provencher Bridge over the Red River, The Canadian Museum for Human Rights and The Forks near the Assiniboine River, October 21st, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) CMHR

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

With the Canadian junior team off to such a great start, will you be watching the World junior hockey championship?

View Results

Ads by Google