Now that a bi-partisan group of congressional intelligence committee members has brought Obama's hypocrisy on leaks to the forefront for American mainsteam media (MSM), the contrast between coverage from foreign press and American MSM has never been more stark.
The U.K.'s Guardian ran a lengthy article on the expansion of Executive power and the national security state under Obama. Civil Liberties advocates find themselves publishing abroad rather than in the U.S. The Guardian also ran a must-read opinion piece from the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) Jameel Jaffer and Nate Wessler on the Obama administration's drone propaganda: "First the 'Targeted Killing' Campaign, Then the Targeted Propaganda Campaign:"
Last week's New York Times article serves as a reminder that our public debate about the government's bureaucratized killing program is based almost entirely on the government's own selective, self-serving, and unverifiable representations about it.
This weekend, Al Jazeera English ran a long investigative piece on the whistleblower prosecutions, and the relative lack of coverage in the American MSM. Watch the entire segment here.
After the Justice Department's case against National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake collapsed in spectacular fashion days before trial, Drake's first T.V. appearance was on Russian Television.
In contrast, here in the U.S., it was the blogosphere – NOT the MSM – that focused on the Obama administration's record-breaking number of Espionage Act prosecutions against non-spies, who more often than not are whistleblowers. I called it "criminalization of whistleblowing," but Glenn Greenwald coined the less-wordy moniker "war on whistleblowers." I wrote two years ago that the Obama administration was turning sources and reporters into criminals. And, I received more HR's than ever before when I accused the Obama administration of playing politics with anonymous leaks on national security, an accusation members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have made repeatedly in the past week.
Despite the Justice Department's humiliating defeat in the Drake case, and a federal court's repeated rebuffs of the Justice Department's attempts to subpoena reporter James Risen to testify about his source, the Obama administration has not relented in its war on whistleblowers. What I wrote two years ago is more relevant today considering so much of the MSM is still slow to call out the administration on obvious propaganda:
If the media is to truly serve as the "Fourth Estate" when the Executive Branch and the legislature allow illegal conduct to occur, then both reporters and their whistleblower-sources (derisively labeled as "leakers") need to be protected.
There are certainly a few exceptional MSM journalists covering the war on whistleblowers. A few examples:
- Scott Shane and Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times wrote early on the whistleblower prosecutions.
- Jane Mayer's award-winning investigative piece in The New Yorker no doubt contributed to the demise of the criminal case against Drake.
- ABC's Jake Tapper questioned White House Press Secretary Jay Carney about the administration's contradicting messages on free press.
- Amy Davidson of The New Yorker published a stellar piece on the Obama administration's reaction to Congress' latest leak allegations:
This Administration has had more prosecutions of supposed leakers than any of its predecessors, making use of inappropriate tools like the Espionage Act and subpoenas of reporters. That’s not something to be proud of. The recent articles made those prosecutions feel selective; they supported the suspicion that the terms “secret” and “embarrassing” had become confused. But the better way to achieve consistency would be to chase fewer leakers, not more. Instead, the Administration seemed overly alarmed by goading from Republicans like John McCain—who talked about “gravely serious breaches of our national security” and wanted not just any old investigation but a special prosecutor—and treated this as a matter of pride. In trying to look tough, it gave into bullying, demanding to know who told rather than giving its own policies the hard look they need.
There are more examples of great American journalists reporting on the war on whistleblowers, but as a whole, it seems the foreign press is more consistently able to better report on the Obama administration's increasingly-hypocritical position of supporting disclosures of pro-administration information while using the criminal justice system and heavy-handed, archaic Espionage Act to silence dissent. If that's the case, the U.S. should do a better job of protecting reporters and sources, not seek to increase so-called "leak" prosecutions, which are used against "whistleblowers" more often than individuals disclosing legitimately-classified information.
Jesselyn Radack is National Security & Human Rights Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.