Dear Mr Romero-
I'm writing to ask you to direct ACLU activities where stakes are highest, and opposition will be fiercest. Arguably, we're in a civil liberties emergency in this country, and it may be hard to know where to allocate resources. I wouldn't want to downplay the importance of any of the Union's work. But in my mind, the most effective, leveraged and important thing the Union can do is to defend journalists who have been fired, prosecuted, jailed without charge or murdered. A few well-publicized jailings serve to chill an entire community of muckrakers, and the worst elements in our government remain un-exposed.
Media consolidation has tamed the tiger that was once American journalism. Print and broadcast giants cover the stories they're supposed to and report the version of the facts that the Administration wants them to report. Most important, they refrain from asking pointed questions. But meanwhile, the internet has grown up as an alternative source of information, an anarchically-democratic mosaic of truth and nonsense. As the newspapers become at once sensationalist and insipid, readers are turning to the internet for their news. The Bush Administration was a criminal syndicate from top to bottom, and they saw clearly what was at stake in internet freedom. Surprisingly, horrifyingly, the Obama Administration has continued and intensified Bush's war against truth. They have murdered Al Jazeera reporters with drones
. They have simultaneously managed the news through leaking what they want the public to know, while prosecuting whistleblowers whose leaks embarrass their allies. Gary Webb and Aaron Swartz are dead. Julian Assange is a refugee in asylum, functionally a prisoner. Bradley Manning is in his third year of torture. I recently learned of the story of Barrett Brown
, who is being held without bail after posting in an e-chat room a link to documents that others had leaked. "Local" police have been recruited by Homeland Security to break the back of the Occupy movement
with violence and intimidation, while the movement's leadership has been thrown in disarray by infiltration and FBI agents-provocateurs. All this from the administration of a former Constitutional Law professor, who campaigned in 2008 promising a new openness and transparency in the White House. This all appears to be part of an initiative to smash dissent that was proposed and now is being implemented by the President's friend and program head, Cass Sunstein
If ACLU stands strong beside those who are courageously seeking to provide us with a window into government corruption and its corporate sponsors, then ACLU will have the allies in the press that it needs to win all its other battles. But if we lose our free press, we lose our democracy, and all the channels through which ACLU has been fighting its good fight become blind alleys.
- Josh Mitteldorf
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