By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
Critics on both the left and the right are lambasting President Obama for his ongoing policies restricting the freedom of the press, ostensibly in favor of national security, which in some cases amount to a vendetta against reporters who publish what leakers leak, rather than just going after what the leakers have done themselves. “The Obama administration’s unprecedented pursuit of criminal liability against security leakers threatens to rope in the Fourth Estate,” wrote Stanford’s Jennifer Granick and Morgan Weiland for Forbes. (Weiland used to work for the far-left Media Matters.) “The message? Don’t report national security stories or you will become a target.”
“The press does deserve contempt—but it should come from the public for dereliction of duty,” counters Investors Business Daily in a recent editorial. That’s because, they argue, the press has been largely indifferent to the inroads the administration has made against them: restricting FOIA requests and finding loopholes to deny them, scooping up the Associated Press records en masse, and ignoring how press freedoms in this country have diminished.
Even Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, a common accountability tactic used by journalists and citizens alike, now serve as a testament to the White House’s desire to control all messaging. Cause of Action, which describes itself as a non-partisan government accountability organization, recently released a 2009 memo by White House Counsel Greg Craig that instructs agencies to consider White House “equities” when processing FOIA requests, Government Accountability Office requests, and even judicial subpoenas. “The FOIA requires federal agencies to respond within 20 days of receiving a request, but the White House equities exception can make it impossible for an agency to meet that deadline,” reports Mark Tapscott for the Washington Examiner. Stonewalling becomes the answer to these public requests. Thus, with the normal avenues for gaining information closed off, and the secret ones penalized by the Espionage Act, the press is left to work off of one source—the Obama administration—through press releases, press conferences, and propaganda.