MAY 14, 2013
The Obama administration’s atrocious violation against the nation’s free press is the sort of thing you see in communist regimes or dictatorships (like China and Cuba), a deplorable act few imagined would ever take place in the United States.
For a period of two months, the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) secretly obtained the phone records of reporters and editors at one of the nation’s largest news organizations, The Associated Press (AP), in an apparent effort to pin down the source of a leak. This includes records for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters and editors as well as general office numbers for the news organization in several states.
It constituted a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather news, according to the AP’s president. In a letter to Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, the AP’s top executive blasts the DOJ saying “there can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of telephone communications” and that the communications disclose information about the AP’s operations that the “government has no conceivable right to know.”
No one ever imagined that Big Brother would watch this closely. Even the president’s staunchest supporters, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has colluded with the DOJ on a variety of matters, chastised the administration. In a statement posted on its website the famously liberal civil rights group reminds that the media’s purpose is to keep the public informed and it should be free to do so without the threat of unwarranted surveillance.
“The Attorney General must explain the Justice Department’s actions to the public so that we can make sure this kind of press intimidation does not happen again,” said Laura Murphy, the director of the ACLU’s Washington D.C. branch. The head of the group’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, Ben Wizner, called the DOJ’s violation “an unacceptable abuse of power,” pointing out that freedom of the press is a pillar of our democracy.
Indeed the Obama administration’s actions “shock the American conscience and violate the critical freedom of the press protected by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights,” according to the Newspaper Association of America, the nonprofit that represents thousands of publications in the U.S. and Canada. “Americans demand a full accounting,” the group’s president says.
Here are a few excerpts from newspaper editorials—big and small—across the nation; The Dallas Morning News writes that the DOJ broke political, legal and ethical rules and wonders if Attorney General Holder signed off on the tactic. The Connecticut Register Citizen writes that the administration attacked the “basic First Amendment right to a free press” and the San Francisco Chronicle accuses the DOJ of a “serious overreach of government power and a genuine threat to independent journalism in the United States.”
Ironically, President Obama loves to celebrate World Press Freedom Day by calling on governments around the globe to protect the ability of journalists, bloggers and dissidents to write and speak freely without retribution. In fact, around the time that his Justice Department was violating—rather than protecting—those rights the commander-in-chief issued a statement chastising governments that commit any indirect forms of censorship to suppress the exercise of the media’s “universal rights.” After all, Obama believes a free press plays a huge role in “creating sustainable democracies and prosperous societies.” At least that’s what he says during World Press Freedom Day celebrations.
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