By Christopher B. Daly
It gives me no satisfaction to say that President Obama has been worse than disappointing when it comes to his treatment of journalists (and their sources) or his retreat from transparency (and thus accountability) in government.
It has to be said: The president has engaged in “a long train of abuses . . . pursuing invariably the same Object.”
The case against him is laid out in this open letter from whistleblowers, posted in the Guardian. This is the most comprehensive indictment I have seen to date.
In his lengthy speech yesterday about how he sees the war on terror, Obama threw in a brief passage near the end about the collateral damage that the war on terror is doing to the news media. It strikes me as too little, too late. Here it is:
The Justice Department’s investigation of national security leaks offers a recent example of the challenges involved in striking the right balance between our security and our open society. As Commander-in Chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field. To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to protect classified information. But a free press is also essential for our democracy. I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable.
Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law. That is why I have called on Congress to pass a media shield law to guard against government over-reach. I have raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concern. So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and will convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review. And I have directed the Attorney General to report back to me by July 12th.
We’ll see what Eric Holder comes up with. But based on his record, I don’t expect much. So far, Holder has been part of the problem, not part of the solution.