A Must-Read: Obama v. Freedom of the Press & Whistleblowers - Report - Committee to Protect Journalists

It is an obvious fact that Edward Snowden has forced the Obama administration and others to move in the right direction. For that, he is a hero. Anyone who wants to go after him to prosecute him or punish him or the like (for turning over the NSA information to journalists; for exposing the lies, deception, and unconstitutional acts of the Obama administration) is the exact opposite, an enemy of truth and light and the people as a whole.

Some highlights from a very long, thorough, and critically important article:

"Jeffrey Sterling is not a whistle-blower," Miller, the former Justice Department spokesman, insisted to me, even though Sterling, whatever his motive, apparently was knowledgeable about significant problems plaguing the CIA at the time. "He was fired for cause. He went to court and the case was thrown out. No waste, fraud, or abuse was involved."

This is a disturbing distinction that the Obama administration has made repeatedly. Exposing "waste, fraud and abuse" is considered to be whistle-blowing. But exposing questionable government policies and actions, even if they could be [or clearly are] illegal or unconstitutional, is often considered to be leaking that must be stopped and punished. This greatly reduces the potential for the press to help hold the government accountable to citizens.
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Obama and Holder have both expressed support for congressional passage of a federal reporter shield law. A compromise bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 12 would make it more difficult for the government in federal investigations to compel reporters to reveal their sources except in "classified leak cases when information would prevent or mitigate an act of terrorism or harm to national security." It would require a judge, not the attorney general, to approve subpoenas for reporters' records or sources.

A potential sticking point for the shield law had been how Congress should define who is a journalist in this participatory digital media era. The compromise language in the Senate bill would cover anyone who had an employment relationship with a news organization for at least one year in the past 20 years, or three months in the previous five years; student journalists; anyone with a substantial track record of freelance journalism in the previous five years; and anyone else regarding whom a federal judge "determines that such protections would be in the interest of justice and necessary to protect lawful and legitimate news-gathering activities under the specific circumstances of the case." Journalists and press freedom advocates are divided over whether the federal government should define who is a journalist at all, even though many state shield laws already do. They are concerned about any restrictions on whose journalism would be protected.

"You give us a definition of what a journalist is, you define exemptions, you're painting us into a corner," Scott Armstrong, an independent investigative journalist and the executive director of the government transparency advocate Information Trust, said of the reporter shield legislation at a Newseum Institute panel discussion in Washington in September. Armstrong said that, as a First Amendment absolutist, he opposes any congressional legislation governing the press. He added that the national security exemption means that the legislation "won't protect national security reporters. Federal agencies can still investigate us."
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Senator Wyden told me that he has studied the intelligence agencies' personnel rules and found that whistle-blowers "have to go first to the people perpetrating the problems they want to expose, before they can come to Congress, for example. There are a mountain of barriers and hurdles for intelligence agency whistle-blowers," he said.

"We have a president with two minds in regard to whistle-blowing," said Angela Canterbury, director of public policy for the Project on Government Oversight. "He deserves credit for doing more than any other president, but there's a different policy for classified information whistle-blowers."
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"The system is bent deeply in the direction of over-classification of information," Senator Wyden said. "If done properly to protect only genuine national security information, it would be easier to protect government secrets." He said it seemed as if classification were being used more to protect people from political embarrassment.

The Obama Administration and the Press - Reports - Committee to Protect Journalists

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  • Tom Usher

    About Tom Usher

    Employment: 2008 - present, website developer and writer. 2015 - present, insurance broker. Education: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Science in Political Science. City University of Seattle, graduate studies in Public Administration. Volunteerism: 2007 - present, president of the Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project.
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