NYT Reporter Writes: "If Donald Trump Targets Journalists, Thank Obama"

Tyler Durden's picture

In an oddly self-reflective moment of realization, The New York Times' investigative reporter James Risen, writes an oddly un-liberal op-ed pointing out the hypocrisy of Obama administration proclamations with regard 'free press' and transparency and the awkwardly dismal facts on the ground.

If Donald J. Trump decides as president to throw a whistle-blower in jail for trying to talk to a reporter, or gets the F.B.I. to spy on a journalist, he will have one man to thank for bequeathing him such expansive power: Barack Obama.

Mr. Trump made his animus toward the news media clear during the presidential campaign, often expressing his disgust with coverage through Twitter or in diatribes at rallies. So if his campaign is any guide, Mr. Trump seems likely to enthusiastically embrace the aggressive crackdown on journalists and whistle-blowers that is an important yet little understood component of Mr. Obama’s presidential legacy.

Criticism of Mr. Obama’s stance on press freedom, government transparency and secrecy is hotly disputed by the White House, but many journalism groups say the record is clear. Over the past eight years, the administration has prosecuted nine cases involving whistle-blowers and leakers, compared with only three by all previous administrations combined. It has repeatedly used the Espionage Act, a relic of World War I-era red-baiting, not to prosecute spies but to go after government officials who talked to journalists.

Under Mr. Obama, the Justice Department and the F.B.I. have spied on reporters by monitoring their phone records, labeled one journalist an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case for simply doing reporting and issued subpoenas to other reporters to try to force them to reveal their sources and testify in criminal cases.

I experienced this pressure firsthand when the administration tried to compel me to testify to reveal my confidential sources in a criminal leak investigation. The Justice Department finally relented — even though it had already won a seven-year court battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court to force me to testify — most likely because they feared the negative publicity that would come from sending a New York Times reporter to jail.

In an interview last May, President Obama pushed back on the criticism that his administration had been engaged in a war on the press. He argued that the number of leak prosecutions his administration had brought had been small and that some of those cases were inherited from the George W. Bush administration.

“I am a strong believer in the First Amendment and the need for journalists to pursue every lead and every angle,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with the Rutgers University student newspaper. “I think that when you hear stories about us cracking down on whistle-blowers or whatnot, we’re talking about a really small sample.


“Some of them are serious,” he continued, “where you had purposeful leaks of information that could harm or threaten operations or individuals who were in the field involved with really sensitive national security issues.”

But critics say the crackdown has had a much greater chilling effect on press freedom than Mr. Obama acknowledges. In a scathing 2013 report for the Committee to Protect Journalists, Leonard Downie, a former executive editor of The Washington Post who now teaches at Arizona State University, said the war on leaks and other efforts to control information was “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.”

When Mr. Obama was elected in 2008, press freedom groups had high expectations for the former constitutional law professor, particularly after the press had suffered through eight years of bitter confrontation with the Bush administration. But today, many of those same groups say Mr. Obama’s record of going after both journalists and their sources has set a dangerous precedent that Mr. Trump can easily exploit. “Obama has laid all the groundwork Trump needs for an unprecedented crackdown on the press,” said Trevor Timm, executive director of the nonprofit Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Dana Priest, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Washington Post, added: “Obama’s attorney general repeatedly allowed the F.B.I. to use intrusive measures against reporters more often than any time in recent memory. The moral obstacles have been cleared for Trump’s attorney general to go even further, to forget that it’s a free press that has distinguished us from other countries, and to try to silence dissent by silencing an institution whose job is to give voice to dissent.”

The administration’s heavy-handed approach represents a sharp break with tradition. For decades, official Washington did next to nothing to stop leaks. Occasionally the C.I.A. or some other agency, nettled by an article or broadcast, would loudly proclaim that it was going to investigate a leak, but then would merely go through the motions and abandon the case.

Of course, reporters and sources still had to be careful to avoid detection by the government. But leak investigations were a low priority for the Justice Department and the F.B.I. In fact, before the George W. Bush administration, only one person was ever convicted under the Espionage Act for leaking — Samuel Morison, a Navy analyst arrested in 1984 for giving spy satellite photos of a Soviet aircraft carrier to Jane’s Defense Weekly. He was later pardoned by President Bill Clinton.

Things began to change in the Bush era, particularly after the Valerie Plame case. The 2003 outing of Ms. Plame as a covert C.I.A. operative led to a criminal leak investigation, which in turn led to a series of high-profile Washington journalists being subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury and name the officials who had told them about her identity. Judith Miller, then a New York Times reporter, went to jail for nearly three months before finally testifying in the case.

The Plame case began to break down the informal understanding between the government and the news media that leaks would not be taken seriously.

The Obama administration quickly ratcheted up the pressure, and made combating leaks a top priority for federal law enforcement. Large-scale leaks, by Chelsea Manning and later by Edward J. Snowden, prompted the administration to adopt a zealous, prosecutorial approach toward all leaking. Lucy Dalglish, the dean of the University of Maryland’s journalism school, recalls that, during a private 2011 meeting intended to air differences between media representatives and administration officials, “You got the impression from the tone of the government officials that they wanted to take a zero-tolerance approach to leaks.”

The Justice Department, facing mounting criticism from media organizations, has issued new guidelines setting restrictions on when the government could subpoena reporters to try to force them to reveal their sources. But those guidelines include a loophole allowing the Justice Department to continue to aggressively pursue investigations into news reports on national security, which covers most leak investigations. In addition, the guidelines aren’t codified in law and can be changed by the next attorney general.

More significantly, the Obama administration won a ruling from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in my case that determined that there was no such thing as a “reporter’s privilege” — the right of journalists not to testify about their confidential sources in criminal cases. The Fourth Circuit covers Virginia and Maryland, home to the C.I.A., the Pentagon and the National Security Agency, and thus has jurisdiction over most leak cases involving classified information. That court ruling could result, for example, in a reporter’s being quickly jailed for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the Trump administration’s Justice Department to reveal the C.I.A. sources used for articles on the agency’s investigation into Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential election.

Press freedom advocates already fear that under Senator Jeff Sessions, Mr. Trump’s choice to be attorney general, the Justice Department will pursue journalists and their sources at least as aggressively as Mr. Obama did. If Mr. Sessions does that, Ms. Dalglish said, “Obama handed him a road map.”

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ShortTheUS's picture

The failing (and fake) NYT can shift the blame to The Donald in a heartbeat if this happens, so don't give them too much credit for this.

SilverRhino's picture

These fucks aren't journalists, they are Obama's jesters.  


Fuck the MSM with a barbed wire covered baseball bat dipped in flaming napalm. 

VWAndy's picture

 They did it to themselves.

nmewn's picture

Their new found (albeit "transitory"...lol) belief in freedom of the press & speech, separation of powers, Constitutional republicanism and fighting the bureaucratic over reach of the federal government will last as long as Trump is in office ;-)

VWAndy's picture

 Yep ho's be like that.

RiverRoad's picture

The MSM is already a buggywhip industry, the threat from Obama or Trump notwithstanding.

When you can do shoot-from-the-hip "journalism" with Twitter any old time, who needs an Editorial board?  MSM reporters are the Walking Dead - they just don't know it yet.

So let's see the Justice Dept. go after alt-media.  Good luck with that.

Zero Point's picture

"Free press"? My ass. Those are the best whores money can buy.

Manthong's picture

They can write whatever they freaking want…

Nobody believes them anymore.


jeff montanye's picture

you can fool all the people some of the time . . . .

this last election may have been the tipping point for reaching the critical mass of disbelief by the electorate in the legacy media.

i hope very much that president trump does not even once stoop to the evil fascist shit obama did to journalists (the few) and whistleblowers.  if trump feels wronged, he should take his case to the people over the heads of the media of whatever stripe.  that's the way to do it: show some clinking brass balls.  any chickenshit can use the state's monopoly on violence to win an argument.

VWAndy's picture

 I went down and checked out the place on foot. The official story is BS, bigtime imo.

Nobodys Home's picture

Did the missile hypothesis seem reasonable to you?

VWAndy's picture

 There was an explosion.

Nobodys Home's picture

It was just an accident ;)
edit: He wasn't driving a Pinto was he?

Holy hand grenade of Antioch's picture
Holy hand grenade of Antioch (not verified) Snípéir_Ag_Obair Jan 2, 2017 6:05 PM

Risen? [or 'Rosen']


Risen won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his stories about President George W. Bush's warrantless wiretapping program. He also contributed to the staff entry that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for coverage of the September 11 attacks and terrorism.


So this guy 'blew the lid' of accurately depicting that the Sept 11 attacks were the result of a terrorist network led by Bin Laden & partyers with boxcutters.

greenskeeper carl's picture

I agree. Despite his record breaking whistle blower prosecution, he was still loved by most of the press. The press doesn't fear persecution from trump, but a loss of relevance. Thats their real fear. Trump has mocked and marginalized them, and is at least partly responsible for the record low trust most people have in them, and they recognize this. They are fearful of his ability to cost them their coveted ivory tower status, and they are right to be scared.

RiverRoad's picture

The MSM is dead meat.  Finished.  Fini.

847328_3527's picture

When Cheny was asked his thoughts about trump using twitter all the time he said, "Trump does not need MSM anymore b/c of Twitter and all the social media he can speak directly to the American people. " He quipped that there'll be alot of reporters out of a job since there is no need for them anymore.



Cloud9.5's picture

Damn, the light bulbs are starting to come on in liberal land.  Now that they find themselves out of power they are starting to see the relevance of all those constraints on federal power that the framers built into the system.  We conservatives and civil libertarians have been screaming about the ever increasing, encroaching federal leviathan that grew leaps and bounds under liberal governments.  No one on the left said a word about the usurpation of power by Obama.  The left seemed to have a smug satisfaction that their anointed one had claimed for himself the power to detain without   due process any person he decided to label a terrorist.  Then, when he went one step further and assumed the right to summarily execute any person, American citizen or not, that he labeled a terrorist, their vicarious feeling of omnipotence simply swelled.  Well guess what boys and girls, you out maneuvered yourselves and inadvertently handed those powers to Trump.

War Machine's picture

Cloud - +100.

It's a very fair point and I'm reminded of an article by Glenn Greenwald (a likeable, genuine civil libertarian if 'left' of most here (?) called 'repulsive progressive hypocrisy' a few years back:


Perhaps with an eeeevil white male in office the Left might once again protest endless wars and the creeping police state.

But as someone in another great comment below noted... Trump does not need to persecute the agitpropalists: he can simply speak directly to the public, invite respectable alt media into the white house, and limit access to bastions of neocon and neolib bullshit like the NYT.

Why persecute what should be sidelined and mocked?

BarkingCat's picture

And that is how you separate the intelligent from the dimwitted. Can they look ahead and foresee the consequences of abuse of power taken by those they favor.

It is really very simple. If your guy set the precedent, eventually it can be used against you.

If you cannot see that, you are on the dumb side of the intelligence bell curve.

Lumberjack's picture

They shut down the new paper mill they quietly owned in Maine and sold it for scrap to another very obscure young woman who lives out of state with ties to california. Other mills were shut down and scrapped by a firm in california as well. Another very large forest land transaction (for preservation) was just completed to another very obscure young woman from Florida.

Folks are catching on...

RiverRoad's picture

Except presumably obscure young women.....   LOL

ronaldwilsonreagan's picture

very unfortubate and very true.

Grandad Grumps's picture

Journalists? What are those? They are as rare as unicorns.

Instead we have Rachel Moaddows and Wolf Blitzers, who are giat rich propagandists. If the propagandists lose power and have to work at McDonalds, then they will clearly not understand how they were simply useful idiots.

RiverRoad's picture

Assange is apparently the only journalist left with any integrity at all.

TheReplacement's picture

Don't forget Tiabbi and Greenwald.

devo's picture

Is this like how everything was Bush's fault, in reverse?

Clara Tardis's picture

There still is at least one Journalist George Webb, for anyone following his unraveling the entire deep state, his video's keep getting "removed" so watch (save) while you still can. this should have half of DC in orange jumpsuits.


Orly's picture

Indeed.  I hadn't seen the latest sleeze put together before. Appreciate it.


devo's picture

Look in the mirror. If anything happens it's because voters let it. We elected a clown, so we'll receive a joke.

Stu Elsample's picture

the good news is that the clown will be replaced in a couple of weeks

Publicus_Reanimated's picture

Please take your butthurt comments over to the HuffPo where you will get some sympathy.  The "clown" thing didn't work when you applied it to the entire field of Republican candidates, now it's just tired.

RiverRoad's picture

Devo:  "We elected a clown so we'll receive a joke."  >  "I voted Trump."


Why did you vote for a "clown"??????      Your comments are nonsensical.

devo's picture

It makes total sense. No party affiliation. And at the time, I was angry with social justice warriors and couldn't stand Hillary. He was amusing and seemed like a good "fuck you" to all that. So, I'll get what I deserve, as will everyone else. Now that I see his cabinet selections, his nuke antagonism, racists rallying around him, etc, I regret the vote (not that it would have mattered in my State). When I wrote we all have to look in the mirror and we'll get what we deserve, I'm including myself, hardcore style. I'll probably die in a nuke soon, so it's been nice chatting.

williambanzai7's picture

The mother of all fucktards is now engaged in the mother of all games of denial.

Stu Elsample's picture

uppity negroes don't like being 'dissed'....especially the insecure ones like Odumbo

i'm sure that you people who weren't fawning over the narcissist (as his koolaid drinkers were) remember him telling his press goons not to talk about his ears. What a petty little piece of shit that boy is.

angry_dad's picture
angry_dad (not verified) Jan 2, 2017 5:51 PM

Why would TRUMP even bother working through the  crooked MSM?

Their lies, mistatements, and frauds are well documented.

TRUMP is best served posting his unfiltered comments and observations directly on Twitter.

silverer's picture

Your negative poster wants the press to be the face of the presidency. Well, the MSM is not the president, is it?

MsCreant's picture

Yeah, like Obama went after poor Hillary for leaking government documents by not properly securing them...

Which was proven when Huma's Weiner had them on his computer...

Oh wait, that's not what you mean?

mkhs's picture

Just because she setup a personal server doesn't prove intent.   It was a miscommunication.  She meant personal assistant.  Someone to serve the drinks, sandwiches and pizza.

Snípéir_Ag_Obair's picture

The 2003 outing of Ms. Plame as a covert C.I.A. operative...

by Miller and Bob Novak, both Zionist Jews, was done because her husband had inconveniently indicated Iraq had no WMDS and thing was, Netanyahu and AIPAC and PNAC and all of Zionist Jewry wanted American Hulk to smash Iraq for Greater Israel.

Not my 'opinion' - that is what happened.

We were *lied* into Iraq by the likes of Miller and the Times.



The Times et al. are just as happy to lie about Russia and Syria and Iran and why Clinton lost.

Oh and as to covering Palestine????

>>> http://www.ifamericansknew.org/media/meet-nyt.html

Fuck 'em.

Wahooo's picture

Should have left the jews on their own after the war. Instead we pledged protection and look where it got us.

MsCreant's picture

The Don ain't in this culture dude. I don't know that he will even begin to think of the sinister shit that others take as SOP. He may do other stuff, overstep boundaries cause he is a power hungry newb, wanting to drain the swamp quick to show us results quick. But he would have to understand, fully, what Obama had been up to. Said differently, he needs govt. experience to build on the Obama legacy. Ain't gonna happen.