Conflict, FBI, History, Human rights, Intelligence, Law, Obama, Politics, Protest, Scandal, Security, Snowden, USA, WikiLeaks
Outgoing US Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters Tuesday that his department has acted prudently in prosecuting government leaks. Journalist James Risen, a target of the crackdown, disagreed, calling Holder “the nation’s top censorship officer.”
Despite pursuing more World War I-era Espionage Act cases against
government whistleblowers than any other attorney general in
history, Holder indicated that his term leading the US Department
of Justice (DOJ) should be remembered for the leniency shown to
government employees, contractors, and journalists involved in
circulating unauthorized government disclosures.
“We have tried to be appropriately sensitive in bringing
those cases that warranted prosecution,” Holder said before
reporters at the National Press Club.
“We have turned away, I mean, turned away substantially
greater number of cases that were presented to us where
prosecution was sought.”
Whistleblowers charged under Espionage Act include John Kiriakou,
who was released
from prison this month after being the only government employee
to publicly disclose the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program; former
CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling; former National Security Agency
official Thomas Drake;
former FBI translator
Shamai Leibowitz; former State Department contractor Stephen
Kim; former US Army Private Chelsea
Manning; former Navy contractor James
Hitselberger; and former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
Holder defended the Justice Department’s revamped policies for
handling leaks, touting their implementation during Risen’s case
as an example of “how the Justice Department can
according to The District Sentinel.
New DOJ model: Harass and spy on journalist for years, make him
spend a fortune in legal fees, drop case last second https://t.co/tLTemIXz82
— Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) February
Risen, a New York Times reporter who drew the Obama
administration’s ire for revelations featured
in his 2006 book State of War, faced prosecution
until the last minute, as he refused to testify against his
alleged source, CIA employee Jeffrey Sterling. Late last month,
Sterling was convicted
of all charges against him under the Espionage Act.
Risen took to Twitter on Tuesday to tear into Holder, unloading
tweets claiming Holder had “wrecked the First
Amendment,” had destroyed reporters’ constitutional
privilege, and had signaled “to dictators around the world
that it is okay to crack down on the press and jail
Given Holder’s speech today, I repeat: The Obama Administration
is the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation.
— James Risen (@JamesRisen) February
Holder said Tuesday that the cases were vital for US national
security, as his DOJ pursued “people who are disclosing, for
instance, the identities of people who work in our intelligence
Holder then struck an intimidating tone, posing to the press
whether its coverage of America’s national security secrets was
“I also think there’s a question for you all, for members of
the press,” he said. “As we’ve asked ourselves when it
comes to national surveillance, simply because we have the
ability to do certain things, should we?”
Holder offered an admittedly “extreme example,” asking
whether a reporter should have revealed the Manhattan Project
regarding the development of a hydrogen bomb, later used on Japan
to punctuate an end to World War II, ushering in the Cold War.
“There’s a question the members of the press should ask about
whether or not the disclosure of the information has a negative
impact on the national security of the nation,” Holder said.
The Obama administration’s suppression of government
whistleblowers and news gathering in general have been
well documented by RT.
Outside of the Espionage Act cases and their ramifications for
journalists, the DOJ was found in May
2013 to have initiated a vast surveillance operation against
the Associated Press. Reacting to the revelations, the DOJ
policies legislating what constitutes a legitimate journalism
News photographers have been highly
limited in their access to the president, as the White House
has employed its own photographers that release photos to the
press, effectively tailoring Obama’s image with the public.
The White House has been accused of censoring
pool reports, circulated among thousands of recipients
ranging from news outlets and agencies to congressional offices,
but not before first being vetted by White House staffers ahead
October 2013, the Center to Protect Journalists criticized
the administration for curtailing press freedoms.
“Journalists and transparency advocates say the White House
curbs routine disclosure of information and deploys its own media
to evade scrutiny by the press,” the group wrote, adding,
“Aggressive prosecution of leakers of classified information
and broad electronic surveillance programs deter government
sources from speaking to journalists.”
I plan to spend the rest of my life fighting to undo damage
done to press freedom in the United States by Barack Obama and
— James Risen (@JamesRisen) February
In a July 2014 letter,
38 journalism groups criticized the administration for severely
curbing access to federal agencies and a general
politically-motivated suppression of information.
September 2014, the AP’s Washington bureau chief, Sally
Buzbee, pointed out several ways in which the Obama
administration is stifling public access to information –
including keeping reporters away from witnessing any military
action the United States takes as it battles Islamic State
extremists in the Middle East.
These efforts don’t even mention the government’s
handling of the Wikileaks disclosures or the
National Security Agency’s global spying regime, first revealed
through leaks made by former government contractor Edward Snowden
in June 2013.
On Tuesday, Holder was asked about a possible plea deal for
Snowden, currently in political exile in Russia.
“I’ll simply say no comment,” Holder said to laughter
among reporters in attendance.