A Conspiracy To Commit Journalism: The Justice Dept’s Dangerous New Argument Threatens Basic Reporting

Article published on May 20, 2013 by Freedom of the Press Foundation – Trevor Timm:

“Last night, the Washington Post reported on a little known leak case involving former State Department official Stephen Kim. In an alarming new extreme, the Justice Department and FBI argue there’s “probable cause to believe” Fox News reporter James Rosen “has committed or is committing a violation of [the Espionage Act], as an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator” by soliciting information from Kim for a story.

While Rosen remains unindicted, the consequences of this argument are breathtaking.

As secrecy expert Steven Aftergood wrote, the government’s argument “all but eliminates the traditional distinction in classified leak investigations between sources, who are bound by a non-disclosure agreement, and reporters, who are protected by the First Amendment as long as they do not commit a crime.” Aftergood continued, “What makes this alarming is that “soliciting” and “encouraging” the disclosure of classified information are routine, daily activities in national security reporting.”

Nothing Rosen did is out of the ordinary for good reporters, as New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza pointed out when referencing the alleged ways Rosen communicated with his source: “If James Rosen’s ‘clandestine communications plan’ were illegal, every journalist in Washington would be locked up. Unreal.”

While these new revalations are certainly disturbing, contrary to popular belief, they are not unprecedented. First, as Glenn Greenwald documented today (and has been documenting for years), this is the same argument the Justice Department has been using in their attempt to indict WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. This is why it’s always been so important for journalists to aggressively stand up for WikiLeaks’ rights because a WikiLeaks conviction would mean that the next ‘co-conspirator’ a.k.a. ‘journalist with a scoop’ may very well face indictment.

But the most starking parallel to this case comes in a new book by former New York Times chief counsel James Goodale, which details how the Nixon administration once convened a secret grand jury to indict New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan and his wife, New Yorker staff writer Susan Sheehan, for receiving and copying the Pentagon Papers from Dan Ellsberg.(…)”

Read full article:  https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/blog/2013/05/conspiracy-commit-journalism-justice-depts-dangerous-new-argument-threatens-basic

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