The latest Huffington Post headline reads: “WAR ON THE PRESS: Obama Administration Attacks Basic Reporting Right.”
A lawyer representing the Department of Justice is arguing that New York Times reporter James Risen should be forced to testify in the trial of former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, who is charged with leaking classified information to Risen about a botched plot against the Iranian government.
While it has somewhat become a struggle between the ‘reporters’ privilege’ and the Espionage Act – a World War I-era law intended to prohibit the aiding of enemies -, some, such as Lucy Dalglish from Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, are arguing that it is not even necessary to force Risen to testify, as the DOJ has the power to obtain all the evidence it needs to make a case (airline tickets, hotel receipts, etc.)
I wouldn’t pretend to know much about the inner workings of D.C., or Federal politics, or the correlation between the methods with which reports obtain classified information from government departments such as the Department of Justice, the C.I.A., or the N.S.A. I do think though, that it would be a shame if this issue with the press winds up becoming an election issue that comes back and bites Obama during the election.
While Fox News is the ultimate voice of American conservatism and Republican rhetoric, most other television news outlets are fairly centrists or liberal-leaning. As such, it would be very unwise for Obama to anger the part of the media that has largely been standing on his side (you really only need to adhere to the facts to be on his side). As Jake Tapper of ABC questions the inconsistency (bordering hypocrisy) as the Obama administration’s applauding of aggressive journalism abroad as highlighted by the recent passings of Anthony Shadid and Marie Colvin and its crackdown of aggressive journalism at home, it seems like the administration is struggling to find the right tone to approach the issue.
Or perhaps it is more clear-cut than that; somebody inside the administration is controlling which direction they would take with regards to cracking down on leaks. And that person, whom I doubt very much would be the President himself, is putting the notion that ‘there’s a reason classified documents are classified’ before ‘people have the right to know what the government is doing’.