Obama Administration going overboard in use of Espionage Act

I’m no lover of Fox News, but for the Obama Administration to assert that a reporter could be a “criminal co-conspirator” under the Espionage Act for receiving and publishing leaked information deemed classified, is beyond the pale.

Today’s news stories reveal that the Justice Dep’t got emails of a Fox reporter on grounds that he might be a “criminal co-conspirator” in the leaking of classified info.  What was this important classified info?  A story about North Korea planning to respond to tighter U.N. sanctions with a nuclear missile test.  This is highly sensitive info whose publication will endanger U.S. security?  Give me a break!

More important is the fact that it is not illegal to publish classified information under U.S. law.  “[B]ecause of this, the DOJ appears to now be arguing that “a journalist can be guilty of crimes for ‘soliciting’ the disclosure of classified information” as a way to “[criminalize] the act of investigative journalism itself.” Reports the Huffington Post  of 5/20/13 quoting Glenn Greenwald, a Guardian columnist and former constitutional lawyer.

The Obama administration seems to be pursuing leakers and whistle-blowers to an extent not seen even in the Nixon administration, famous for its ‘enemies list’.  From the Huffington Post of 5/18/12 we learn:

The Obama administration has charged six government officials accused of providing classified information to the media with violations of the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law intended to prohibit aiding the enemy. That’s more uses of Espionage Act for that purpose than under all previous presidential administrations combined.

While the Obama administration hasn’t prosecuted those responsible for torture during the Bush years, it is taking a strong stand against a former official believed to have supplied information to the media about use of torture and other controversial tactics during the previous administration.

 In another notable case, the DOJ charged Thomas Drake under the Espionage Act, claiming the former National Security Agency official provided classified information of gross NSA mismanagement to a Baltimore Sun reporter.

Fortunately, it seems in some of these cases, the judges have a better sense of freedom of the press and the need for an informed public than the Administration does.  In the Dep’t of Justice’s third attempt to prevent a subpoena against N.Y. Times reporter James Risen from being quashed, Judge Gregory said  “The beneficiary of the privilege is the public … the people’s right to know. We need to know what the government is doing, . .. The king never wants anyone to disclose.”  Quoted in Huffington Post of 5/18/12.

 I strongly agree with a commenter on this 5/18/12 Huffington Post article who said “How refreshing it would have been if the government had put as much effort into looking into the records and prosecuting the banksters and fraudsters who caused the meltdown as they have in persecuting James Risen for his excellent and honest work as a journalist and protector of democracy.”

For more examples of the Obama Administrations’ war on whistle blowers, see” Obama Whistleblower Prosecutions Lead To Chilling Effect On Press,” in the Huffington Post of 4/16/13.

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