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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/15/13

Chris Hedges: Monitoring of AP Phones a "Terrifying" Step in State Assault on Press Freedom

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So what they do is they pass, you know, for instance, Section 1021 of the NDAA. They pass it in the name of the war on terror, but then they can use it. Anybody can become a terrorist. I mean, in the trial in federal court, which we brought against -- in the Southern District, we used, in the Stratfor-leaked emails that were put out by WikiLeaks, where they were trying to link a group that was close to Occupy, US Day of Rage, and al-Qaeda. That's precisely what happened. So 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.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to another clip of the news conference of Attorney General Eric Holder being questioned on Tuesday.

REPORTER: The real question here, the underlying question, is the policy of the administration when it comes to the ability of the media to cover the news. And I think the question for you is, given the fact that this news organization was not given an opportunity to try to quash this in court, as has been precedent, it leaves us in the position of wondering whether the administration has somehow decided policy-wise that it's kind of going to go after us.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Well, that is certainly not -- I mean, I can talk about policy. That is certainly not the policy of this administration. If you will remember, in 2009, when I was going through my confirmation hearings, I testified in favor of a reporter shield law. We actually, as an administration, took a position in favor of such a law, didn't get the necessary support up on the Hill. It is something this administration still thinks would be -- would be appropriate. We've investigated cases on the basis of the facts, not as a result of a policy to get the press or to do anything of that nature. The facts and the law have dictated our actions.

AMY GOODMAN: That's Attorney General Eric Holder. Chris Hedges, I wanted you to respond to him and then talk about your recent trip. Well, you just came back from London, where you met with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorean embassy, and then you came here and went to Pennsylvania and met with Mumia Abu-Jamal.

CHRIS HEDGES: It was a good week. Yes. I mean, I find what's happening terrifying, truly frightening. And when you look closely at all of the documents that were purportedly given to WikiLeaks by Bradley Manning and published through Assange, none of them were top-secret. I mean, as a former investigative reporter for The New York Times, it was my job to go and find out often top-secret information. And that's why I can't understand the inability of the traditional press to grasp that we are now in the last moments of an effort to, in essence, effectively extinguish press freedom. And if you -- I mean, AP is an -- like The New York Times, an amazingly cautious organization, but read the comments. I mean, they get it, internally. But, unfortunately, you know, they have divided us against ourselves, and -- and this is -- you know, what we've undergone, as John Ralston says and as I've said many times, a kind of corporate coup d'etat.

What we are seeing is a system put into place where it's all propaganda. And anybody who challenges -- I mean, look, this constant reference to a shield law is absurd, because they just violated the shield law by not going to court and informing AP of a subpoena but doing it secretly. So, I mean, you've got to hand it to the Obama administration. They're far more clever than their predecessors in the Bush administration, but they're carrying out exactly the same policy of snuffing out our most basic civil liberties and our most important press freedoms. And that's because they know what's coming, and they are going to legally put in a place by which any challenge to the centers of corporate power become ineffectual or impossible.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: But how do you think this is already impacting the work of journalists?

CHRIS HEDGES: Well, talk to any investigative journalist who must investigate the government, and they will tell you that there is a deep freeze. People are terrified of speaking, because they're terrified of going to jail. And Kiriakou is now sitting for 30 months in a prison in Pennsylvania. So --

AMY GOODMAN: And Kiriakou is?

CHRIS HEDGES: That's the former CIA official who purportedly gave information to The New York Times. And, you know, they've subpoenaed Risen's records, both for his book and --

AMY GOODMAN: James Risen of The New York Times.

CHRIS HEDGES: Right, of the Times. I mean, so, it is --

AMY GOODMAN: For reporting on warrantless wiretapping.

CHRIS HEDGES: Exactly. And --

AMY GOODMAN: Which they held onto, a story they held onto for more than a year and that took the --

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