Tag Archives: whistleblowers

Our Government is Devouring Our First Amendment

We just heard this week, that the Justice Department tapped the phones used by over 100 AP reporters and editors for 2 months, and they did this in complete secrecy.

Typically, a Federal Judge weighs national security vs 1st Amendment protection and rules.  The DOJ just thought they would skip all of that inconvenience.  Floyd Abrams, celebrated First Amendment attorney who, among other accomplishments, represented the NYT in The Pentagon Papers case, said today’s AP scandal “…is certainly one of the most intense intrusions by the government into a pressroom that I can remember.”

All incoming calls and outgoing calls at 20 phone lines were logged, at a minimum, revealing all sources of news for 100+ reporters.

Several reporters’ home phones were tapped.

Several reporters’ cell phones were tapped.

This is historically unprecedented.

In fact, Associated Press CEO, Gary Pruitt wrote a letter to Eric Holder objecting in the “strongest possible terms” to the “massive and unprecedented intrusion…”.  He is the head of the largest news organization in America, and maybe, the planet.  What happened this week needs to be reacted to strongly by the media and citizens.

The 1st Amendment is about the best antidote to totalitarian rule you can have, and I think we could use a bit of that medicine right about now.

The secret wiretapping of the AP’s phones is part of a pattern of brutal intimidation of the press, not an isolated incident.  This is not hyperbole or wild-eyed conspiracy, but fact.  This administration will go down in history as one of our most civil rights’ repressing regimes.

If the government can tap the AP’s phones, in secrecy, with impunity, do we as individuals have any hope of privacy?  Do we have any hope of a fully functioning press or are we consigned to mere propaganda?

The Obama and Bush administrations have declared war with whistleblowers, which should be a particularly protected class of citizens where the First Amendment is concerned.  We need people to be able to speak out against illegalities committed by our own government;  it is the essence of Democracy.  The NYT article above asks “what could be more destructive to an informed citizenry than the threat of the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole for whistle-blowers?”

Let’s just name a few  battles in Obama’s war on our 1st Amendment freedoms:

–  The torture of Bradley Manning,

–  The persecution-soon-to-turn-crucifixion of Julian Assange

–  The imprisonment of John Kiriakou in Pittsburgh for blowing the whistle on torture (note that no one who actually tortured or any architects of the torture program have even been charged…just whistleblowers that tell the world we tortured).

–  the attempted persecution of Thomas Drake for divulging NSA waste and abuse.

–  The fact that Obama has used the Espionage Act to punish whistleblowers twice as many times as all Presidents in US history combined

Chris Hedges, one of my heroes and a great example of a journalist who connects the dots and fiercely refuses to be cowed, appeared on Democracy Now today.  He and the hosts, Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, had an in-depth discussion that I highly recommend viewing.

We all should be scared as hell about what the government is doing.

They have seized the power to kill us, if they & they alone feel we meet certain criteria.

They have seized the power to detain us indefinitely.

They are recording 1.7 billion of our communications per day, and storing them indefinitely.

But, maybe there is good news.  Just a hint of silver perhaps.

As Glenn Greenwald points out, things have gotten so bad, that finally, there is some media scrutiny of President Obama’s handling of civil rights.

Maybe so.

Maybe the press is now awake and will stop bootlickingly trading access for real scrutiny.

Americans need to stand up, stop chanting “post 9/11 world“, and force our government to bow to our Constitution.