Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Thuggery to Keep the Press in Line

I cannot work up a great deal of sympathy for a press association that has transgressed against responsible journalism as often as the AP has in the last decade or so.  But count me in the chorus of outrage against the Obama administration's Nixonian netful of subpoenaed records from 20 phone lines of the Associated Press and its editors and reporters.

My outrage is less on behalf of the AP than it is in mortal fear for the First Amendment, for the very notion of free speech, a free press, a free people. Obama and his henchmen have been ruthless in their use of laws of questionable constitutionality to suppress dissent, intimidate news media, squelch responsible whistle-blowing and operate an ever more despotic presidency in utter secrecy.

The secret subpoenas in the AP case affected the work of more than 100 journalists.  No administration in history has attempted such a bald-faced mass intimidation of the press.  Moreover, Obama's hoodlum administration has brought leak-related criminal charges against six present or former government officials -- twice the number of all previous administrations combined,  including Bushes I and II.

You have to go all the way back to the Nixon administration to find precedent for the climate of hostility against good reporting and the public's right to know.  We at the New York Times Washington Bureau who made Tricky Dick's famous "enemies list" considered it to be a badge of honor when it finally became public. Yet as recently as ten years ago, some of us were still feeling repercussions of being named on that list. James Goodale, the great First Amendment lawyer who defended us in the Pentagon Papers case, considers the Obama team to be a far worse threat to press freedom than Nixon was.

At a time when the Obama thugs had already been caught red-handed abusing IRS powers to suppress dissent by the Tea Party and other conservative political groups, an understandably jumpy Attorney General Eric Holder sought to justify the the AP raid by scaring the hell out of  the common folk.  There was, he said, "a very, very, very serious" national security leak which "put the American people at risk."  Bovine excrement of the most hyperbolic sort.

Holder is the very same former Wall Street lawyer whose DOJ refused to even consider criminal cases against his former employers and their bonus-bloated banker pals who almost destroyed the entire American economy.  Probable cause?  R.J. Eskow, a senior fellow at the Campaign for America's Future, suggests these for starters:

    •    Which bankers conspired to rig LIBOR pricing or fix other rates?  
    •    What discussions were held among MERS users about using the database and shell company to conceal the identity of mortgage lien holders or evade local taxes and fees?   
    •    What conversations were held between accounting firms such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and executives at AIG, Goldman Sachs, or other institutions about concealing their true financial status?
   •    How frequently was JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon in touch with the "London Whale" and his office, and how aware was Dimon of the extent of losses when he told investors the six-billion-dollar blunder was a "tempest in a teapot"? 
   •    When and how did CEOs and other senior bank executives learn of widespread fraud in the foreclosure process at their banks, and to what extent were they accessories after the fact in these crimes?

Holder has no prosecutorial stomach for such cases as these.  But he'll make an example of journalists doing their traditional jobs as a warning shot across the bow of other potential venturers into the deep dark secrets of the Obama White House.

No wonder so many of the mainstream media have shrugged and quit trying to do real journalism.