Obama leaves room for whistle-blower prosecution

Comments about AP scandal aligned with shield law caveats, made "no apologies" for national security concerns

By Natasha Lennard
May 16, 2013 11:51PM (UTC)
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In a speech Thursday, President Obama addressed the recent scandal in which the DOJ was found to have been spying on AP reporters' phone records. In line with the White House's push Wednesday to reintroduce a media shield law, Obama's comments made the administration's position clear -- a free press is supported, so long as that freedom is under its control.

Obama said that he made "no apologies" for being concerned about national security -- the context in which the Justice Department's surveillance of journalists was couched. The media shield law the White House has asked Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.,  to introduce specifically includes the caveat that the media shield will exclude reporters who publish leaks deemed to cause “significant harm” to national security. Obama commented today that while he valued a free, independent press, "Leaks related to national security can put people at risk, they can put men and women in uniform that I've sent into the battlefield at risk ... U.S. national security is dependent upon those folks being able to operate with confidence that folks back home have their backs, so they're not just left out there high and dry."


Both his comments and the media shield proposal serve as damage limitation attempts following the AP scandal, while preserving the executive power to prosecute whistle-blowers like Bradley Manning and desecrate the spirit of the First Amendment. Kevin Gosztola wrote earlier this week that "Few took notice of the Obama administration’s policies and how they threatened freedom of the press when leaks hysteria took hold of Washington. But, now that an entire establishment news organization is known to have been targeted by the nation’s surveillance state, perhaps, views toward the administration will rightfully sharpen." The concern now for civil libertarians, then, is that the administration is responding to the AP scandal by carefully forging a chasm, with words and policy, between journalists and whistle-blowers.

Watch Obama's full remarks below:


Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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