The latest revelation about the government infringement on AP confirms what too many whistleblowers"and journalists"already know about the national security state: when you speak truth to power, the government will use every weapon in its arsenal to silence you. I've been saying [that] for years - shouting into the wilderness"If the American media and public want to keep what's left of their First Amendment rights, we need to wake up and see this latest attack on free speech for what it is: the government is using the criminal justice system to silence dissenters - a policy completely antithetical to a constitutional democracy that enshrines the freedoms of speech and the press.
Radack's experience is not unique. In 2004 FBI agents obtained the phone records of Washington Post staff writer Ellen Nakashima, "who was based in Jakarta, Indonesia, at the time," the Post reported in 2008, after FBI director Robert Mueller apologized. The FBI also obtained telephone records of an Indonesian researcher in the paper's Jakarta bureau, Natasha Tampubolon. According to the Post, "records of New York Times reporters Raymond Bonner and Jane Perlez, who worked in Jakarta in 2004, also were compromised."
In 2006, after ABC reporters Brian Ross and Richard Esposito broke a story about the CIA's secret prisons in Romania and Poland, a senior federal law enforcement official told them that the government is tracking their phone numbers in an effort to root out confidential sources. "It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told them in an in-person conversation.
In another leak case, New York Times reporter James Risen has been fighting a subpoena from Obama's Justice Department for years. The Obama DOJ was after his sources for a chapter in his book about the Bush administration, State of War .
The Obama administration inherited the case from the Bush administration, and despite the fact that the district court judge sided with Risen during both the grand jury and trial, DOJ has continued to appeal the case. Last May, the DOJ argued before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that reporters' privilege does not exist at all for national security reporters.
While reporters and news agencies are the focus of the AP scandal, they are by no means the only ones that are being targeted by federal agencies with surveillance tactics akin to those used by fascist and totalitarian regimes. The expansion of government surveillance power began in earnest with the USA Patriot Act and has been expanded ever since.
In 2005, the New York Times revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) was conducting a secret and illegal wiretapping program in search of terrorists. Instead of reprimanding the government, Congress passed the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which made the practice legal.
After an AT&T whistleblower revealed in 2006 that a staggering number of emails and phone calls were being surveilled under FISA, another amendment to FISA was passed In June 2008 to further expand the scope of the government's authority. A secret ex parte FISA court now exists solely to grant FISA warrants, which, as a lower court acknowledged, almost never denies a request.
Of course now, with the breaking news of the AP scandal, politicians and news agencies are expressing their shock and outrage at an unprecedented noise level. Yet years ago, when the measures that enabled the abuses were being put into place and codified under new laws, little if anything was heard in the press and there were no congressional hearings. Perhaps if something had been done before and not after the fact, Americans would not be at a point where many of their constitutional rights have disappeared.
Why the Double Standard?
There are many theories why Benghazi, the IRS and AP stories are getting so much attention in congress and the media when similar misconduct was largely ignored in the past. The partisan behavior of both parties suggests that few politicians care about a foreign policy that treats all nations in an unbiased manner, keeps Americans abroad out of harm's way, and provides equal protection under the law with impartial government agencies and services.
Many on the left claim that is simply because a non-white democrat is in the White House and the right is in attack mode, worrying about upcoming elections with nothing meritorious to run with. Many on the right claim it is because these "scandals" are worse than similar ones that occurred under the Bush administration.
While there may be some truth in both perceptions, politicians and the media fail to put the double standard of politicized government based on ideological bias into a larger context. Radack touched upon an overriding theme it when she wrote of "speaking truth to power" and one can expound on that concept in the context of the recent "scandals."
That context is better described as an ideological bias in Washington and the corporate media which tilts to the right in favor of the moneyed establishment over anyone or any group that challenges the status quo. Liberal groups who pursue causes such as the anti-war movement are not treated the same as conservative groups who pursue things such as the anti-tax movement because liberal causes tend to be at odds with the corporate oligarchs, while conservative causes tend to be aligned with the interests of the ultra-rich.
David Sirota, writing for Salon.com, sums it up very well: