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Obama/Holder Try to Neuter Few Real Media Watchdogs Left

Daniel Ellsberg:

"The pursuit of Risen is a warning to potential sources that journalists cannot promise them confidentiality for disclosing Executive Branch criminality, recklessness, deception, unconstitutional policies or lying us into war."

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:

“For God’s sake, get off of e-mail, get off of your cellphone. Watch your credit cards. Watch your plane tickets. These guys in the National Security Association know everything.”

Roots Action has joined with other progressive entities to petition President Obama and Attorney General Holder to “BACK OFF” on forcing Pulitzer Prize winning journalist James Risen to disclose a confidential source. PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION, "We Support James Risen Because We Support a Free Press" HERE.

In 2006 James Risen, former New York Times journalist and a Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote an acclaimed book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.” Risen is being prosecuted (and persecuted) for not releasing the name of a confidential source -- who the Obama administration alleges is Jeffrey Sterling -- for some of the dramatic, illegal and embarrassing disclosures concerning CIA activities.

According to Ed Hightower and Tom Carter in “Obama administration indicts ex-CIA whistleblower” (February 4, 2011):

Risen ... describes in State of War a conversation with an unidentified former CIA agent who witnessed firsthand the extraordinary rendition of a suspected terrorist for the purpose of covering up his erroneous detention. The book also exposed CIA torture, rendition and other illegal and barbaric practices.


One of the more remarkable revelations in Risen’s book, based on information provided [allegedly] by Sterling, was that the US provided doctored nuclear blueprints to Iran in the late 1990s. A botched CIA program called “Operation Merlin” involved an attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program by giving flawed blueprints for key components to a Russian nuclear scientist who had defected to the CIA.

In “Court of Appeals rules Obama administration can force journalist to testify against alleged leaker" Eric London (July 2013) writes:

In a blow to the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of the press, two of the three presiding appellate judges—both Democratic appointees—reversed a lower court ruling and agreed that the government can jail journalists who refuse to reveal their sources.

A federal court earlier had "quashed" the Obama Justice Dept.'s subpoena of Risen, stating: “A criminal trial subpoena is not a free pass for the government to rifle through a reporter’s notebook.”

Then the Obama administration appealed the federal court ruling to the Fourth Circuit appeals court in Virginia, home of the CIA. In the majority opinion, Chief Judge William Traxler Jr. wrote: “There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify by the prosecution or the defense in criminal proceedings ...”

Matthew Rothschild in “Obama Threatens Pulitzer Prize-Winner”:

In a sharp dissenting opinion, Judge Roger Gregory, who was appointed both by President Clinton and by President George W. Bush, sided with Risen. Judge Gregory said the appellate court’s decision was “contrary to the will and wisdom of our Founders.”

London maintains the ruling is part of an ongoing campaign to intimidate and incarcerate journalists -- and anyone -- “who attempts to make public information about the secret and illegal actions of the US government.”


James Risen, as he was with the Bush administration, is in the cross-hairs of the anti-first amendment Obama administration. As is Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. As was Chelsea Manning.

In January 2014 Risen appealed the appeals court decision to the Supreme Court.

Matthew Rothschild quotes from Risen’s petition for a writ of certiorari (an order from a higher court to a lower one ordering transcripts and documents on a case for review):

“If I am forced to testify, it will immediately and substantially harm my ability to gather newsworthy information” and “to secure the trust of sources in the future.”


"Compelling journalists to testify about their conversations with confidential sources will inevitably hinder future attempts to obtain cooperation from those or other confidential sources. It creates the inevitable appearance that journalists either are or can be readily converted into an investigative arm of the government. This would seriously compromise journalists’ integrity and independence.”

The Obama’s Justice Department brief to the Supreme Court asserted that “no reporter’s privilege exists.”

If the Justice Department prevails and the Supreme Court decides not to take Risen’s appeal, he could be jailed for contempt of court. 

Eric London:

The Obama White House has carried out an unprecedented campaign against alleged leakers and whistle-blowers, prosecuting seven people for violating the Espionage Act of 1917--more than double the number of individuals prosecuted by all previous administrations combined.


The subpoena of Risen comes as part of a wider attack waged by the Obama administration against press freedom. The administration has obtained the telephone records of dozens of reporters in a program the Associated Press called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.” It has also seized the email of Fox News reporter James Rosen.


“A tipping point was reached in 2009,” an anonymous Senate aide told the [New York] Times. “There was an official change of policy” after Obama took office.

The article noted that added pressure was placed on the Department of Justice by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. She complained that the national security apparatus “had not adequately protected national security secrets.”

Obama back in 2004 campaigned to restore our civil liberties eroded by the Bush administration. Since his election Obama instead has been ruthlessly expanding their destruction.

Again, PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION, "We Support James Risen Because We Support a Free Press" HERE.

[cross-posted on open salon]

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