Press Freedom: It Depends on What the Meaning of the Word “Is” Is

As we get further away from last week’s what’s-new-is-old counterterrorism speech, I’m increasingly convinced all that happened was the Administration yoked the word “continuing” onto the word “imminent” and declared an entirely new standard that just happens to replicate the existing one.

Which is why I think this detail, from Politico’s leaks-about-a-meeting-about-leaks story, is the most telling I’ve seen on the Holder meeting.

“The guidelines require a balance between law enforcement and freedom of the press, and we all argued that the balance was out of kilter, with the national security and law enforcement interests basically overwhelming the public’s right to get information,” one journalist at the meeting said. “The language concerning ‘aiding and abetting’ comes out of the Privacy [Protection] Act, and they discussed trying to revise that language so that reporters don’t need to be defined as co-conspirators in order to execute search warrants.”

This is a reference to part of the Privacy Act that prohibits the government from seizing media work product unless it is connected to a crime (see pages 5 ff for how it affected the James Rosen warrant application). After claiming Rosen was aiding and abetting a violation of the Espionage Act and therefore his emails could be seized, the FBI then said that since he was potentially criminally liable, he should not get notice. In other words, the aiding abetting was an investigative tactic DOJ used to get around protections put into place just for someone like Rosen.

And DOJ’s solution for abusing a protection meant to protect someone like Rosen is apparently to simply redefine the law, so it can overcome those protections without having to accuse Rosen of being a criminal.

The outcome would remain the same; DOJ would just avoid saying mean things about people associated with powerful media outlets.

And note, from the reports I’ve seen thus far, none of these crack journalists seem to have suggested to DOJ that even the way it was using the Espionage Act to go after sources (many of whom are whistleblowers) is a dangerous misapplication of statute, just like calling James Rosen a co-conspirator is. That is, DOJ’s use of the Espionage Act to give the clearance system more teeth than it was meant to have seems to have escaped these media representatives’ notice.

Ah well. If they had raised DOJ’s abuse of the Espionage Act, DOJ would just do what they appear to intend to do with its abuse of Privacy Act restrictions: redefine the terms and proceed as they had been.

Tweet about this on Twitter8Share on Reddit0Share on Facebook5Google+1Email to someone

7 Responses to Press Freedom: It Depends on What the Meaning of the Word “Is” Is

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7

Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel RT @mollycrabapple: all charges dropped against Moazzam Begg, former Guantanamo detainee and human rights activist, after 8months in jail h…
32mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV U.S. troops in Afghanistan - The Washington Post http://t.co/xarS4uZdFA
33mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @DavidCUnger And one of most basic principles of legislative democracy is to avoid voting at all cost what will be unsuccessful war.
33mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Prolly bigger part of it RT @patitoduke: PLUS Black Budget expenditures it does not want to disclose publicly @MarcusReports
34mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel I thought the Saudis were going to pay for The New War™. Why are we spending almost $60B?
41mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @DavidCUnger I guess his way of avoiding a supplemental, so he's not doing the same thing Bush did, even tho it's same thing Bush did?
41mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Apparently Obama is going to pay for his new war via slush fund. http://t.co/39hsQMAbWz
46mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV Nigeria’s Actions Seem to Contain Ebola Outbreak http://t.co/bEFC48m87J
51mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @billmon1: CNN: America's Most Trusted Name in Hysterical Fear Mongering --> https://t.co/xhiv2ZXv1G
5hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @seattletimes @nigelduara 30 hours overtime in a day?? "Lax" seems a wee bit 'o and understatement.
7hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @ArizonaLuke @brahmresnik @noprezzie2012 @cocoasaurus That's pathetic. Grow up little punk.
7hreplyretweetfavorite