“We are now in the last moments of an effort to, in essence, effectively extinguish press freedom,” Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges told “Democracy Now!” in a conversation Wednesday about revelations of the Justice Department’s seizure of work, home and cellphone records of up to 100 reporters and editors at The Associated Press.

Knowing that the United States and the world are on a course toward instability and chaos ensured by irreversible climate change and economic deterioration, the Obama administration and those who expect to inherit its role and powers “want the mechanisms by which they can criminalize any form of dissent,” Hedges continued. The attack on the press, which the AP phone records scandal exposes, is “an excuse to ferret out and destroy legitimate movements that challenge centers of power” by scaring potential whistle-blowers and dissidents into silence.

It works like this, Hedges said: “They pass … for instance, Section 1021 of the NDAA [which allows the government to detain indefinitely anyone suspected of being connected to terrorism]. They pass it in the name of the war on terror, but then they can use it. Anybody can become a terrorist.” This has already happened. In a lawsuit against the Obama administration, Hedges and his co-plaintiffs used leaked documents to show that government officials had attempted to link a group that was close to Occupy, U.S. Day of Rage, to the terrorist group al-Qaida.

“That’s precisely what happened,” Hedges confirmed. “When we allow this kind of thing to go forward, we essentially shut down any ability not only to ferret out what’s happening internally within the mechanisms of power, but to protest or carry out dissent.”

Attorney General Eric Holder has defended the Justice Department’s invasion of press privacy by referring to a proposed national shield law that Obama publicly supported both as a senator and president. Such a law would protect reporters from having to testify in court about information and sources obtained during the course of their investigations. But Holder’s “constant reference to a shield law is absurd,” Hedges said, “because they just violated the shield law by not going to court and informing AP of a subpoena but doing it secretly.”

Hedges has devoted the last few years of his career to championing people who become enemies of the state for opposing its abuse of power. Those people include the accused WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whom he recently interviewed in Assange’s de facto prison in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, and Mumia Abu-Jamal, the former Black Panther who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer under fishy legal proceedings and is currently serving a life term in prison. In the persecution endured by those figures, Hedges sees the future of anyone who effectively opposes government and corporate power.

“Whether that’s Assange, whether that’s Mumia, let’s look at where all those three people are, because for all of us who speak out, that’s where they want us to be, as well,” Hedges told “Democracy Now!” “And that gets back to this AP story, because that is exactly the process that we are undergoing and where — if they win, where we’re headed.”

Read a transcript of Hedges’ appearance on the show here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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