Weeks ago, Attorney General Gonzales floated the idea of prosecuting the New York Times under the 1917 Espionage Act or other statutes for exposing the regime's wiretap program conducted by the National Security Agency. At the time he said the government would not hesitate to track telephone calls made by reporters as part of a criminal leak investigation. Now the President and VP have joined in the regime's attack on freedom of the press. These challenges to freedom of the press can not be allowed to stand. The media is one of the last checks on this imperial presidency. Congress caved in long ago and the regime largely bypasses the courts when it ignores the fourth amendment protection against illegal searches.
Has Congress conducted hearings on the latest Bush spy program? Is Congress alarmed that freedom of speech and the press are under attack? Far from it, instead they have joined the attack on the media. Congressional Representative Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee has asked the Justice Department to "begin an investigation and prosecution of the New York Times - the reporters, the editors and the publisher. We're at war, and for the Times to release information about secret operations and methods is treasonous." Others like House Speaker Dennis Hastert have condemned the leaks to the press with idiotic statements such as, "Loose lips kill American people." Representative J.D. Hayworth wants the Congressional press credentials of the New York Times to be pulled. In the Senate, Senator James Bunning also charged the Times with treason.
(Update: After I completed this article, the House of Representatives on June 29, 2006 passed a non-binding resolution in a vote of 227-183 praising the spy program on financial transactions. The resolution states that the program is a success that respects civil liberties and further states that Congress "expects the cooperation of all news media organizations in protecting the lives of Americans and the capability of the government to identify, disrupt, and capture terrorists by not disclosing classified government intelligence programs." In the debate on the resolution, Representative John Dingell accurately described the resolution, "This resolution is a clear attempt to silence the press. They want to deny the press the opportunity to come forward and tell the people the truth about what is going on under this administration.)
In addition to the administration and its Congressional allies attacking the media for exposing the regime's actions, the right-wing media has also predictably weighed into battle. The comments of Melanie Morgan, a KSFO radio talk show host, are typical of many in the right-wing media. She would like to see the New York Times editor, Bill Keller imprisoned for treason and maybe executed for authorizing the publication of the bank transfer story. She told the San Francisco Chronicle on June 28th, "If he were tried and convicted of treason, yes, I would have no problem with him being sent to the gas chamber." Of course, other reactionary commentators from Rush Limbaugh to Bill O'Reilly have also offered their condemnations of those who have exposed the Bush regime's most recent actions as well.
In The Weekly Standard, in an article entitled, "Leaks and the Law: The Case for Prosecuting the New York Times," Gabriel Schoenfeld, the senior editor of Commentary argues for going after the Times by using U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Section 798 which states in part, "Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States...any classified information...concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States...shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both." I guess we should be grateful that this law does not call for execution. In another article, The Weekly Standard branded the Times as a "national security threat."
My favorite quote came from the mouth of conservative commentator Morton Kondracke on the Fox News Channel. He suggested the New York Times assumes, "we've got more to fear from our government than we do from terrorist attacks." I can not speak for the Times, but that is exactly what I think. As long as the Bush regime remains in power we do have to fear the U.S. government. But it is not because the government is all-powerful. It is not. The Bush regime can and must be toppled.
It is important to understand why the Bush regime and its supporters are launching these attacks. It is not operating from a position of strength, despite appearances. The regime is in a position of weakness and it can not afford exposure of its illegal actions. It knows if most people become aware of what is being done to our freedoms under the guise of "protecting us" and our freedoms, that these actions will not be accepted by the vast majority. Like rats hiding in the dark, the regime can not stand light. Therefore it is desperate to do everything possible to keep the media quiet and acquiescent.
The recent attacks on the media are a continuation of other actions such as the smearing operation on Joseph Wilson and the outing of his wife as a CIA agent when Wilson exposed the lie about Iraq obtaining uranium "yellow cake" with his op-ed in the Times. The Bush regime had to conduct a campaign of lies about weapons of mass destruction to launch the war against Iraq. It has justified most of its actions here and around the world under the guise of conducting a "war on terror" while actually launching a war of terror against the people of the world. The regime even justified tax cuts for the rich and proposed drilling for oil in the Artic as part of the war on terror." It reminds me of the comedian Flip Wilson who constantly said, "The devil made me do it," but for the Bush regime the refrain is "I did it because of the war on terror." Like the "war on terror", the entire regime is built on lies and it can ill afford the exposure of these lies.
This is why the media must not be quelled by these political attacks. It must continue to expose all infringements on our freedom and all the lies of the Bush regime while we still have some freedom to protect. The Bush regime will only be driven from power if people are aware of what it is doing. The media is central to making people aware. The Bush regime is weak and the combined power of millions can drive it from power. To see what you can do to further the departure of Bush and his entire regime, see worldcantwait.org.
Kenneth J. Theisen is an organizer with THE WORLD CAN'T WAIT! DRIVE OUT THE BUSH REGIME! He writes about national and international issues.