Obama’s Efforts to Control Media Are ‘Most Aggressive’ Since Nixon, Report Says
- 2:57 PM
The report from the Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-profit dedicated to global press freedoms, said Obama has “fallen short” on his promises of a transparent government while at the same time forging ahead with an unprecedented effort — the “most aggressive” since the President Richard M. Nixon administration — to silence government officials and the media at large.
“Six government employees, plus two contractors including Edward Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the press—compared with a total of three such prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations,” said the committee’s report, prepared by Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor of The Washington Post.
In a 2008 campaign speech, however, Obama said: “I’ll make our government open and transparent so that anyone can ensure that our business is the people’s business. No more secrecy.”
Downie wrote that, because of the revelations of the NSA’s surveillance efforts by Snowden, government officials are “reluctant to even discuss unclassified” information amid fears that “leak investigations and government surveillance make it more difficult for reporters to protect them as sources.”
The White House objected to the report, the first time the committee has examined the press climate in the United States. The administration said Obama has given more interviews than his two predecessors combined, has placed online more government data, and has moved to limit the amount of classified government secrets.
But Downie disagrees in what is perhaps his most scathing comment in the report, which includes interviews with several Washington reporters.
“The administration’s war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration, when I was one of the editors involved in The Washington Post’s investigation of Watergate,” Downie said.
Among other conclusions, the report found that the White House:
*Employs the internet to “dispense” favorable information while hindering efforts of a “probing press.”
*Often calls reporters and editors complaining about news stories.
*Spokesmen are “often hostile or unresponsive to press inquiries.”
*Has secretly seized telephone records from The Associated Press and Fox News.
*Declared in an affidavit for telephone records that a Fox News reporter may have breached the Espionage Act in reporting about the United States’ monitoring of North Korea’s nuclear program.