Obama Targets Free Expression
by Stephen Lendman
Speech, press and academic freedoms are fundamental. They’re our most precious rights. Without them all others are endangered.
Candidate Obama pledged “change you can believe in.” He promised hope. He did Lincoln one better. He fooled most people enough times to matter.
“Yes we can” conceals his dark side duplicity. He made America look like Guatemala. He transformed NSA into America’s Stasi.
He promised transparency, accountability, and reform. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
He called it “the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse.” He said whistleblowing reflects “acts of courage and patriotism.”
“Often the best source of information about (government wrongdoing) is an existing employee committed to public integrity willing to speak out.”
“We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance.”
He promised “strengthen(ed) whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government.”
He stressed “(g)overnment should be transparent. (He claimed he) promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing.”
He said one thing. He did another. He broke every major promise made. He gave information control new meaning.
His administration is more Stalinist than democratic. He wants free flowing information stifled. He wants total control over what’s made public.
He wants unprecedented amounts of government information classified to conceal what’s vital for everyone to know.
He monitors journalists. He accesses their phone records. He reads their emails. He tracks their personal movements.
He’s gives police state control new meaning. He wants nothing he demands suppressed revealed.
He’s obsessed with secrecy. He wants government wrongdoing concealed. Whistleblowers are criminalized for doing their job. Independent journalism is threatened.
The late Helen Thomas (1920 – 2013) covered five decades of US administrations. She began during the Kennedy years.
In July 2009, she complained about Obama. She called his press-controlling efforts unprecedented.
“It’s shocking. It’s really shocking,” she said. “What the hell do they think we are, puppets?”
“They’re supposed to stay out of our business. They are our public servants. We pay them.” Press control is worse than ever before, she said.
“Nixon didn’t try to do that. They couldn’t control (the media). They didn’t try.”
“I’m not saying there has never been managed news before, but this is carried to (a) fare-thee-well for town halls, the press conferences. It’s blatant.”
“They don’t give a damn if you know it or not. They ought to be hanging their heads in shame.”
Obama disgraces the office he holds. He presides of a homeland police state apparatus. He exceeds the worst of his predecessors.
Mass surveillance became institutionalized on his watch. Rule of law principles don’t matter.
Business as usual takes precedence. Constitutional protections are irrelevant. Fundamental rights are dying.
Press freedom is endangered on his watch. It’s targeted for elimination altogether.
Obama wants Big Brother watching everyone. He wants content censored. He wants thought control.
He wants dissent crushed. He wants digital democracy destroyed. He wants truth and full disclosure suppressed.
He wants journalists closely watched. He wants their reporting monitored. He wants their dispatches censored.
An “Insider Threat Program” requires all federal employees help prevent unauthorized leaks. It’s done by colleagues monitoring each other.
Everybody is supposed to watch everyone else. Doing so gives Big Brother new meaning.
It heightens paranoia. It makes government employees cautious about who they see and what they say.
Since 2009, six government employees, two contractors, and Edward Snowden faced criminal prosecutions. They were charged with leaking classified information to the press.
Other federal employees are being investigated. A climate of fear exists. Journalists and sources are reluctant to share information.
New York Times reporter Scott Shane said he’s “scared to death. (W)e have a real problem.”
“Most people are deterred by those leaks prosecutions. There’s a gray zone between classified and unclassified information.”
“(M)ost sources are in it. It’s having a deterrent effect.”
“If we consider aggressive press coverage of government activities being at the core of American democracy, this tips the balance heavily in favor of the government.”
Times correspondent David Sanger called the Obama administration “the most closed, control freak (one he) ever covered.”
AP senior managing editor Michael Oreskes:
“Sources are more jittery and more standoffish, not just in national security reporting. A lot of skittishness is at the more routine level.”
“The Obama administration has been extremely controlling and extremely resistant to journalistic intervention.”
“There’s a mind-set and approach that holds journalists at a greater distance.”
Washington-based Financial Times correspondent Richard McGregor said:
“Covering this White House is pretty miserable in terms of getting anything of substance to report on in what should be a much more open system.”
CBS Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer calls the Obama administration “the most manipulative and secretive (he ever) covered.”
On September 24, RT International headlined “White House accused of censoring dispatches from pool reporters,” saying:
Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi said White House staffers demand changes in press-pool content.
They “steer coverage in a more favorable direction.” Their meddling “represents a troubling trend…”
“(It) prompted their main representative, the White House Correspondents’ Association, to consider revising its approach to pool reporting.”
It was created a decade ago. A handful of reporters are proxies or “poolers.” They represent the entire press corp.
They’re chosen from among regular White House correspondents. They serve on a rotating basis. They share information with their colleagues.
Before doing so, they “send their files to the White House press office…(It) forwards them via email to a database of thousands of recipients…”
They include “news outlets, federal agencies and congressional offices.”
The process lets White House staffers read pool reports in advance, flag objectionable content, and demand removal before distribution to other recipients.
Obama wants final say on pool reporters’ content. His policy constitutes brazen censorship.
Longtime National Journal contributing editor Tom DeFrank said “the White House has no right to touch a pool report.”
“It’s none of their business. If they want to challenge something by putting out a statement of their own, that’s their right.”
“It’s also their prerogative to jawbone a reporter, which often happens. But they have no right to alter a pool report unilaterally.”
According to White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) president/Los Angeles Times reporter Christi Parsons:
“The independence of the print pool reports is of utmost importance to us. Our expectation is that the White House puts out the pool report and asks questions later.”
It compromises independent journalism. It micro-manages. It criticizes trivial details. It wants final say on content. It targets press freedom.
Last year, AP, the Washington Post, ABC News, USA Today, McClatchy newspapers and other news outlets wrote the White House.
They’ll no longer publish executive branch issued images, they said. They cited interference with their own photojournalists.
They’re unwelcome at official events. They’re increasingly shut out. Obama’s photography team alone gets free access.
Their letter read in part:
“As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government.”
Censoring content compromises pool reporting. Deputy press secretary Eric Schultz lied, saying:
“We value the role of the independent press pool, which provides timely, extensive, and important coverage of the president and his activities while at the White House and around the world.”
“That is why, at the request of the White House Correspondents Association, the White House has distributed 20,000 pool reports in the past six years, and we will continue to offer that facilitation for journalists as they work to chronicle the presidency.”
Pool reporters and other journalists explain otherwise. Obama is obsessed with secrecy.
He wants free-flowing information stifled. AP reporter Sally Buzbee complained about White House staffers blocking information they want concealed.
Buzbee commented on Obama’s Iraq and Syrian wars. White House staffers block information on them. “The public can’t see any of it,” she said.
“News organizations can’t shoot photos or video of bombers as they take off. There are no embeds. In fact, the administration won’t even say what country the (US) bombers fly from.”
In April, the Thomas Jefferson Center (TJC) for the Protection of Free Expression awarded the White House press office and Department of Justice its annual “Jefferson Muzzle.”
It “draw(s) national attention to abridgments of free speech and press and, at the same time, foster an appreciation for those tenets of the First Amendment.”
According to TJC director Josh Wheeler:
“From the White House to the statehouse, from universities to high schools, members of the press have had to defend against a variety of challenges, some never seen before.”
Prior muzzle winners included George HW Bush’s White House, Clinton’s administration, GW Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign and key members of his cabinet.
TJC’s web site says:
“Since 1992, it “celebrated the birth and ideals of its namesake by calling attention to those who in the past year forgot or disregarded Mr. Jefferson’s admonition that freedom of speech ‘cannot be limited without being lost.’ “
It’s eroding in plain sight. It’s headed for elimination altogether.
Police states operate this way. Obama gives rogue leadership new meaning.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
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