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The Obama Administration's Assault on the First Amendment

Obama Visits Belfast

Glenn Reynolds has penned an op-ed for USA Today that takes a close look at the Justice Department’s new guidelines on how to deal with journalists and leaks of sensitive information. He comes away with a bad feeling that the Obama administration is waging a war on the First Amendment:

Does this policy [The DoJ’s new guidelines] protect anyone doing journalism, or just members of the establishment? The Justice Department talks about protection for “news media” (the guidelines don’t use the word “press”) but doesn’t provide any guidance on just who that is. Presumably, if you’re drawing a paycheck from the New York Times or Gannett (the parent company of USA TODAY), you’re covered. (But note that, not too long ago, the Obama administration was claiming that Fox News, home of James Rosen, one of the key targets of recent Justice Department snooping, was not a “legitimate news organization.”) If the Justice Department can pick and choose in this fashion, the guidelines don’t mean much.

But even if the guidelines extend to everyone who draws a paycheck as a reporter or pundit—hey, I guess that would include me—that’s still not enough. In this era of blogging, social media and independent journalism, there are an awful lot of people doing serious journalism who aren’t drawing a paycheck from a media organization. They deserve protection, too. Journalism is an activity, not a profession.

Exactly right. The Obama Justice Department wants to arrogate the right to define who is a journalist and who is a pesky fly to be swatted at will. The move to allow the federal government decide who is and who isn’t a “legitimate news organization” is a direct assault on the essence of the First Amendment.

Sadly, this is not an aberration. Modern nanny state liberalism is all about restricting speech. University campuses, where the spirit of progressive repression has gone furthest, are now among the least free places in America. These new DoJ rules are bringing the same spirit to Washington.

[Obama photo courtesy of Getty Images]

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  • bpuharic

    Nanny state liberalism? Like trans vaginal ultrasounds that are legalized rape? Oh…sorry…conservative. Conservatives love big govt as long as God wants it, it seems.

  • Corlyss

    The aspects of American society under assault from this Administration their fellow travelers in the media defy enumeration. One wouldn’t have imagined how awful this crew, with their vicious activism and their burrowing deeply into government agencies, could wreak such havoc in such a short time.

    • Jim__L

      I never thought that after the Bush Jr. administration, anything could convince me to vote Republican. But the Obama administration has succeeded.

  • Andrew Allison

    Coming as it does hard upon the heels of “recess” appointments, lawmaking by executive order, and the surveillance scandal, this is very distressing.

  • Boritz

    Don’t forget McCain Feingold which attempted to restrict political speech even though the first amendment contains the five most beautiful words in the English language ‘Congress shall make no law…’

  • Jim__L

    It’s a tricky balancing act, trying to formulate laws that keep critical military secrets safe, while preventing those laws from being used to hide ongoing unconscionable acts.

    Certainly, casual and indiscriminate dispersal of sensitive military and diplomatic information needs to be clamped down on, hard, and we need laws that support that. Those laws must be as narrow as possible, though, to prevent abuse.

    I’m not sure a general rule will ever be established — case by case may be the best that we can do. Military secrets have to be maintained, for the security of the country. People who do the right thing may have to sacrifice for their principles.

    • Senor Equis

      We do need spy agencies to defend us, but I would prefer to see most of the spying done by the Dept. of Defense as before 1947. The combination of computing power and potential to blackmail away oversight has become too great to trust CIA/NSA with at the current pitiful state of oversight much less hundreds of thousands of contractors.

  • Senor Equis

    This is my fundamental problem with everyone bending over backwards to give NSA the benefit of the doubt that neither they nor their contractors would participate in politically motivated mass surveillance of ‘enemies’. Except that there’s a growing body of evidence they’ve done it:

    If NSA only existed in a vacuum aside from Fast and Furious, IRS, Benghazi cover ups/gag orders, then it would be easier to stomach the arguments of the NSA’s apologists, which is most of the MSM Left and Right. Unfortunately I cannot, and generation has little to do with it. I simply don’t trust many people in gov and even some of the contractors I see on Twitter not to cooperate with even politically motivated domestic spying and repressive measures so long as they get to strut around with their fat greater D.C. area paychecks.

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