We Have A Right To Know …

“The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to bare the secrets of government and inform the people.” – Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black

If the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have their way, we may be seeing the beginning of the erosion of a free press, the very cornerstone of our democracy.

In a news conference on Friday*, Sessions said that Trump’s administration is pursuing three times the number of leak investigations as did the previous administration, and that the Department of Justice “is reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas.” Sessions claims the leaks coming out of the White House have breached national security, and he cited the two phone calls that Trump placed in January, one to Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and the other to Mexican President Peña Nieto.

I would agree that the president should be able to communicate with world leaders without the conversation being shared with the public.  BUT … here’s the thing.  There was no information contained in either phone call that would threaten national security AND more importantly, at least in the case of the conversation with the Mexican president, there was one tidbit that we had a right to know, for in that call, he admitted he had duped his followers during the election (see my post from August 3rd).

Sessions claims that in addition to leaks to the press, there have been leaks to our foreign adversaries.  Now, I do not have the information to which he refers, but one of our biggest foreign adversaries is Russia, and Trump and his advisors have been undisputedly spoon-feeding Russia information that should have been confidential for two years now!

The implication of Sessions’ statement is that the Justice Department will begin issuing subpoenas for journalists and also their records. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued the following response:

“Independent journalism in the public interest depends on reporters’ being able to communicate privately with sources,” said Alex Ellerbeck, senior Americas and U.S. researcher at the Committee to Protect Journalists. “Rolling back the limited protections on communication between journalists and their sources would lessen the public’s ability to hold their elected leaders to account and weaken hard-won standards of source protection around the world.”

In 2015, former Attorney General Eric Holder put in place guidelines that make it harder for the Department of Justice to subpoena journalists’ records. Will the DOJ now reverse those guidelines?  Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, warned that the administration’s approach to cracking down on leaks risks chilling debates about important issues in the public interest.

“Whistleblowers are the nation’s first line of defense against fraud, waste, abuse and illegality within the federal government. The last thing this administration wants to do is to deter whistleblowing in an effort to stymie leaks,” Brian said. “This administration must carefully tailor the parameters for this investigation with this important consideration in mind.”

The American Civil Liberties Union warned of the greater impact that the crackdown could have. “Every American should be concerned about the Trump administration’s threat to step up its efforts against whistleblowers and journalists,” said the ACLU’s Ben Wizner, who works primarily on national security cases for the civil rights organization. “A crackdown on leaks is a crackdown on the free press and on democracy as a whole.”

Donald Trump has denigrated the free press every chance he got, calling them ‘fake news’, and even referring to them as ‘the enemy of the people’.  They are not our enemy, they are our protectors.  They are the providers of information about what our government is doing.  The Trump administration is the least transparent in my memory, and press briefings have been a joke since the day Trump took office, with no real effort to inform, but rather used as a propaganda tool.  We need the free press to remain free to access whatever sources are available without the fear of repercussion.

The following is the response to Sessions’ announcement by former CBS Evening News anchor, Dan Rather:

dan-ratherWith all due respect, Mr. President and Attorney General Sessions, it appears you can’t handle the truth.

I understand that the press has been a mighty check on the lies, inconsistencies, and cynical ploys that have been coming out of this White House. I understand that it has led to public outcry and a wide ranging criminal investigation by a Special Counsel. I understand that much of this reporting has been based on leaks and unnamed sources, from inside the Administration and from especially the intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The exercise of a free and independent press has been the exact bulwark against a government in need of accountability – just as our Founding Fathers envisioned. I shudder to think where we would be without it today.

So the news that the Justice Department is devoting significant resources to tracking down leaks and changing the rules to target the press is a chilling development. There are certainly times when an issue of great national security should not be shared with the public. And most of the journalism organizations I have known or been a part of take that responsibility very seriously. There are some cases where prosecuting leakers may – may – be warranted. But that is not what is going on here. The goal is very clear. The President has complained bitterly of leaks because he doesn’t want to be questioned, even when he has been caught in lie after lie.

“We respect the important role that the press plays and will give them respect, but it is not unlimited,” Mr. Sessions said. “They cannot place lives at risk with impunity.” That is true. So the question is, what lives have been put at risk with all this reporting? And with impunity? Please save us the disingenuousness.

The free press is performing exactly as it needs to. And the proof of that is how seriously those who wish their actions remain undetectable consider the press to be their enemy.

Most reporters I have known take a naked threat such as this as further inspiration to dig even harder to expose the truth. News, as I have said, is what the powerful want to keep hidden.

Well spoken, Mr. Rather! Turkey had 240 journalists locked up behind bars as of May 12, 2017. Is this a path we wish to travel?  Let us all hope that Mr. Rather is right, that the threat by Sessions and the Trump regime will spur the press to begin digging even deeper, for I have no doubt that there is much we do not know … and we need to know … we have a right to know.

*   Transcript of Jeff Sessions news conference, Friday, 04 August 2017

26 thoughts on “We Have A Right To Know …

  1. Dear Jill,

    Here’s the rub. The biggest leakers in the White House are those racists, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorks with their friends like Hannity at FOX TV, those at Breitbart and Infowars.
    Jeff Sessions was putting on a show for the president.
    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I am inclined to agree that Sessions was putting on a show to try to regain his place in the cold heart of the prez, but still, if he feels a need to follow through, it could pose a danger. I think once we get rid of Trump, all the leakers should be given medals of honour!

      Hugs!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. He just doesn’t get ‘it’ does he? If ‘Tricky Dicky’ Nixon or ‘Boss’ Lyndon couldn’t stifle the press, what hope does a bumbling ‘hick’ out of Shady Businessville have?.
    Oh sure he can go to a rally of the faithful (which incidentally he shouldn’t be doing considering all the ‘work’ there is to make America ‘great’ again), but do I hear chorus of approval from across the communities.
    Sheesh, The Wacky Races were better organised.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, my friend, he doesn’t get it and never will, for in his mind, there is only him. The rest of us are merely pawns for him to move around at his leisure.

      And as to all the work there is to be done … he is now taking a 17-day vacation … I just saw pictures of he and his fat embracing some half-naked female on the golf course and my supper threatened to exit. Blech. Anyway, he calls it a ‘working vacation’. Mmmm hmmmm . Ah well, best he just golf, for every time he tries to ‘work’, he breaks something. 😀

      Wacky Races … those sound like fun!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Jill.
        He has his followers, of course, but I doubt if he will find the rest of the USA so easy to move about.
        17 day vocation; of course it’s been a tough…errr….less than one….Still that’s 17 days when the professionals can do things without telling him. Oaf!
        Check YouTube for episodes of ‘Wacky Races’ and you’ll see what I mean 😃

        Liked by 1 person

        • I shall indeed check out Wacky Races!

          As re: the 17-day vacation. Yes, I am glad to see him safely out of the White House for 17 days, where hopefully he can do only minimal damage with his stuffy li’l tweeting thumbs, and the Gen’s Mattis/McMaster/Kelly can restore some semblance of order. But … what annoys the heck out of me is that I … WE … are paying for him to go try to hit a defenceless little white ball around for 17 bloody days, when I had to postpone my 3-day hiatus with Herb because I had an unexpected expense and could not afford to rent a car to go the short 500 miles! Okay, yes, I am whining and I shall shut up now. But still …

          Perhaps it is time for some sleep … 😦 or some Wacky Races … 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • It’s 17 days with him not in the Whitehouse Jill (think happy thoughts-sort of)….If he stays there much longer I shall be replace the ‘W’ with an ‘S’ which will result in a most uncomplimentary British word.
            No you’re not whinning, that’s a fair enough comments, I’ve been there myself…..once six years without a holiday (we never have regular holidays), then Life intervenes and what should have been a week of relaxing unwinding and getting over the death of my father and wallop! One week of hardest work ever and misery to show for it! Me and like umpteen millions others all with the same sort of story.
            Sleep is recommended but Wacky Races is a good unwind.😃 😄

            Liked by 1 person

            • True … we do all have those sorts of stories, and I am glad, for … and this may sound trite, but I do believe it … I think it is those things that contribute to our character. Perhaps that is why people like Trump have no character, well, at least not an honourable character. It takes a variety of experiences including adversity to make us well-rounded people who are able to have compassion for others.

              I opted for sleep instead of Wacky Races, for it ws 5:00 a.m. by the time I finished up here and my eyes simply wouldn’t stay open any longer, but Wacky Races are on the docket for bringing some shine into this rainy day!

              Liked by 1 person

  3. Jill, to me that press conference was for one person, Sessions’ boss. I am not the author of that quote, as it came from a White House correspondent, but I agree with it. There is so much chaos, disgruntled people, infighting and concern over what their bosses are doing, the leaks will continue. And, you must add the President is also a leaker.

    The best interview on the subject was between a former judiciary member and reporter, who both said the focus should be on national security leaks. It is incumbent on the reporter to apprise the executive office of the leak, but the reporter has to use his or her judgment. They said the AG will have s hard time plugging leaks. It should be noted, most White Houses use leaks constructively to let policy considerations out to test the waters. If backlash occurs, they walk it back. In Trump’s case, he often is that leaker, so it is more embarassing as the transgender military issue tweet was. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    • Good point! I did see the timing as interesting, considering that just a few days before, Trump had ranted about why Sessions wasn’t pursuing the leakers. Another boot licker, but I do not trust Sessions any further than I can throw a feather. And I do agree that genuine national security leaks must be pursued and plugged. But, as Dan Rather said, the press is pretty sensitive to those and will typically handle them properly. Interesting times, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It is well known that reduction of ‘freedom of the press,’ means increased, intentional corruption.
    Trumpets has been weaving his tale of ‘fake news’ for a long time in preparation for this chilling development.
    The US is developing rapidly into a severe Nanny State. Trumpeter will decide what is good for you…he doesn’t need your vote now. He just wants your fear and subservience to his dark desires.
    I think the press will carry on bravely… Freedom often comes at a big price but Trumpest cannot slap everyone away… there are just too many mosquito’s to risk life and limb for his blood!

    Liked by 1 person

    • He has put down the gauntlet…and the press have picked it up. There will be no more kind skirting of issues, no more benefit of doubt, as to Trumpest’s true intentions. The press will take him to task and chew him up on every issue they can find. Trumpets will soon find his path blocked by an angry brigade of his own voters. Raising their pitchfork’s they will oust him as the monster he is!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed on all points! I find his treatment of the press to be an insult to our intelligence. As you said, he will decide what is good for us. Just like when he said he would not release his tax returns because the American people did not care and anyway, would not understand them. B.S. And when he referred to the press as “the enemy of the people”, that really raised my hackles. Sadly, there are some who believed him. He told them they could believe Fox and Breitbart, so that is where they now get their “news”. He is in for a rude awakening when he finds out that some of us are actually capable of thinking and that we see the press as our salvation, not our enemy. Sigh … it shouldn’t have to be like this.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    ‘Freedom of the Press’ … the truth shall set you free!
    Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III and Drumpf want to keep things under wraps!!
    It won’t happen … dig deeper, press corps! The nation needs you … this time more than ever!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: We Have A Right To Know – The Militant Negro™

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