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Obama's War on Leaks: Already Having 'Chilling Effect' on the Media? | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

Obama's War on Leaks: Already Having 'Chilling Effect' on the Media?

Attorney General Eric Holder (Associated Press)

It’s been slowly building for quite some time, but now the mainstream media is finally flashing a Red Alert concerning the Obama administration’s anit-leaks campaign. They used to refer to it as simply a “war on whistleblowers.” Now, after the Associated Press and Rosen/Fox News probes, they see it as a “war on the press”—with consequences already quite apparent.

Consider just the following:

A New York Times editorial today declared, “The Obama administration has moved beyond protecting government secrets to threatening fundamental freedoms of the press to gather news.” It concluded: “Obama administration officials often talk about the balance between protecting secrets and protecting the constitutional rights of a free press. Accusing a reporter of being a ‘co-conspirator,’ on top of other zealous and secretive investigations, shows a heavy tilt toward secrecy and insufficient concern about a free press.”

Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, added on Tuesday that going after “routine news-gathering efforts as evidence of criminality is extremely troubling and corrodes time-honored understandings between the public and the government about the role of the free press.”

And Greg Sargent at The Washington Post interviews Mark Mazzetti, one of the chief Times investigative reporters, who tells him, “There’s no question that this has a chilling effect. People who have talked in the past are less willing to talk now. Everyone is worried about communication and how to communicate, and [asking if there] is there any method of communication that is not being monitored. It’s got people on both sides—the reporter and source side—pretty concerned…

“It certainly seems like they’re being very serious about hunting down people talking to reporters. All we know are the results. The fact that you have so many [cases] now, it scares people who talk to us. [Sources] who might have talked to us once may not talk to us now… Those of us doing national security reporting feel it’s a very difficult climate to work in right now.”

Greg Mitchell’s current books are So Wrong for So Long (on media failures and Iraq war) and the wild tale of MGM and Harry Truman scuttling a 1947 anti-nuclear epic, Hollywood Bomb. His personal blog, updated several times day, is Pressing Issues.

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