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Ear to the Ground

Embattled Reporter: Obama’s Support for Press Freedom ‘Hypocritical’

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Posted on Aug 18, 2014

Photo by Mark Coggins (CC BY 2.0)

“The New York Times reporter James Risen, who faces jail over his refusal to reveal a source and testify against a former CIA agent accused of leaking secrets, has called President Barack Obama ‘the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation,’ ” The Guardian reports.

The paper continues:

Speaking to his colleague Maureen Dowd, Risen accused the president of aggressively pursuing journalists, including himself, who report sensitive stories that reflect poorly on the US government.

Risen faces jail over his reporting of a botched intelligence operation that ended up spilling nuclear secrets to Iran. The Justice Department has long been seeking to force him to testify and name the confidential source of the account, which is contained in his 2006 book State of War.

Risen recently failed in an attempt to have the supreme court review an order for him to testify, and acknowledges that he has exhausted all his legal options against the Justice Department’s pursuit of him under the controversial Espionage Act. In the face of incarceration that could come as early as this autumn, he is resorting instead to journalistic defiance.

The pursuit of Risen began under President George W. Bush. The Justice Department opened a prosecution under the Espionage Act for his 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning story about the illegal wiretapping of American citizens after 9/11 and for the revelations in his book. It then arrested Jeffrey Sterling, who has been referred to as a “disillusioned” former CIA operative, and accused him of being the source of the leak about Iran. The Obama administration continues the case begun by the Bush administration.

Over the last week, Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder spoke about supporting press freedom during the aggressive police response to riots in Ferguson, Mo., including the arrest of journalists working there. Risen, who could be behind bars in weeks for doing his job, called the statements “hypocritical.”

“A lot of people… don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistleblowers,” he continued. “But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”

Read more here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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