If by “change” President Obama meant criminalizing journalism in the United States, then he’s succeeded.
Why should you care? The investigative journalism that Obama has silenced could have exposed more corruption in the U.S. government, military, banking industry; corruption that has caused anguish to numerous Americans. The reports that will never be heard, read, or seen on TV may have led to positive change.
The Obama administration is suffocating investigative journalism at an alarming rate through the abuse of the Espionage Act of 1917, an act more prone to be used to protect government secrecy than national security. Before Obama, the act had been used only three times total since 1917. The current administration has used it six times to go after whistleblowers and the journalists who protect and reveal their information.
President Obama was bold enough to use the Espionage Act to subpoena New York Times journalist James Risen in an attempt to force him to ‘give up’ information on a CIA whistleblower. Risen accused the administration of trying to silence journalists and refused to acquiesce stating,
“Can you have a democracy without aggressive investigative journalism? I don’t believe you can, and that’s why I’m fighting.”
Risen predicted Obama’s attack against him would have an unprecedented chilling effect on mainstream investigative journalism in the US. He was right.
On at least a weekly basis, and to my constant frustration, my superiors and CNN’s lawyers were quick to remind me that we need to be extra careful because “President Obama has gone after more journalists and whistleblowers than any president in history”. The leash around my neck began to tighten.
Whether I was allowed to embark on future stories or even interview sensitive sources for potential investigations, eventually became an ‘Obama subpoena risk assessment’ and potential court cost calculation, rather than a pure evaluation of the report’s contribution to public good or our journalistic duty to cover the story.
Some of my most crucial investigations were killed before they started because they were too high a risk of an Obama subpoena. One boss told me quote “we know how the FBI feels about your source, if we have information the FBI will want we become a target”.
David Carr of The New York Times noted Obama’s war on journalism may have more to do with secrecy than national security and is harming press freedom in the U.S.