Editorial: Obama has the nerve to lecture journalists

President Obama lecturing journalists on how to do their jobs is like Goldfinger lecturing James Bond.

This past week Obama presented a journalism award along with a 30-minute speech at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. In it he bemoaned the vulgar rhetoric and circus atmosphere of the current political campaign and talked about how important it is for professional journalists to do their jobs.

“Part of the independence of the Fourth Estate is that it is not government-controlled, and media companies thereby have an obligation to pursue profits on behalf of their shareholders, their owners, and also has an obligation to invest a good chunk of that profit back into news and back into public affairs, and to maintain certain standards and to not dumb down the news, and to have higher aspirations for what effective news can do,” Obama said. “Because a well-informed electorate depends on you. And our democracy depends on a well-informed

Obama lectures journalists

electorate.”

This is from a man, who as a candidate promised the most transparent administration in the history of the world, but, according to a recent Associated Press analysis, has delivered the most secretive and stonewalling administration on record.

The AP reports the Obama administration has set a record for rejecting Freedom of Information Act requests.

The story recounts that in more than one in six requests, or 129,825 times, FOIA requests resulted in federal searchers finding not a single page of records. “People who asked for records under the law received censored files or nothing in 77 percent of requests, also a record,” the AP report states.

The FBI couldn’t find any records in 39 percent of requests. U.S. Customs and Border Protection couldn’t find any records 34 percent of the time.

The administration rarely provides any detailed description of just how diligent their search efforts are.

Obama seldom holds press conferences and frequently refuses to answer questions or equivocates.

But in his admonition to reporters at the Syracuse award ceremony, Obama declared, “Good reporters like the ones in this room all too frequently find yourselves caught between competing forces, I’m aware of that. You believe in the importance of a well-informed electorate. You’ve staked your careers on it. Our democracy needs you more than ever.”

But his administration has blocked access to the information that would keep the electorate informed.

Not only has the Obama administration blocked access, it has blatantly gone after journalists’ sources and prosecuted people for daring to talk to reporters.

In 2013 it was revealed that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months’ worth of cellular, office and home telephone records of AP reporters and editors in Washington, New York and Connecticut, as well as the number for AP reporters covering Congress.

“The aggressive investigation into the possible disclosure of classified information to the AP is part of a pattern in which the Obama administration has pursued current and former government officials suspected of releasing secret material,” the Washington Post reported at the time. “Six officials have been prosecuted, more than under all previous administrations combined.” Charges against leaker Edward Snowden brought that to seven. Prior to that there had been only three indictments for leaks under the World War I Espionage Act.

AP’s president and chief executive, Gary Pruitt, wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, “There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters.These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”

Before relenting in 2014, the administration for years threatened to jail New York Times reporter James Risen for refusing to reveal a confidential news source.

“As I believe that that for all the sideshows of the political season, Americans are still hungry for truth, it’s just hard to find,” Obama lectured.

Why is it hard to find, Mr. President?

A version of this editorial appeared this past week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record. It ran as a column in the Elko Daily Free Press.

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21 comments on “Editorial: Obama has the nerve to lecture journalists

  1. Rincon says:

    The tacit assumption is that the nature of the requests made have been the same over the years. It is impossible for us to prove or deny this, but it is suspicious that the average number of FOI requests has more than doubled over those received by the Bush administration, with a rather sudden uptick as soon as Obama entered office. Why would the number of legitimate requests rise so suddenly? Is it possible that conservative wing nuts are flooding the system with illegitimate requests? Just wondering.

  2. nyp says:

    So Thomas Mitchell appears to be a member of the “Edward Snowden is a hero” crowd.

    I’m not.

  3. It is somewhat like what the WSJ says today about the Financial Stability Oversight Council.

    “The same people at the council write rules, interpret them, enforce them and adjudicate them. This makes Mr. Lew the Judge Dredd of the U.S. economy.”

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/jack-lews-metlife-tantrum-1460155357

    In most secrecy matters, the enemy is the taxpayer.

  4. Patrick says:

    Nice find Rincon!

  5. nyp says:

    I wonder what Mr. Mitchell thought about the Bush Administration’s decision to judicially subpoena James Risen? For some reason, I can’t find a record of any RJ editorials criticizing that decision.

  6. Because the R-J archives are nonexistent.

  7. Will a blog do?

    Posted date May 1, 2010 – 3:33pm
    Protecting sources of leaks: The two-faced New York Times
    Thomas Mitchell
    Writing in The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof found it “utterly disappointing” that the Obama administration’s Justice Department had subpoenaed fellow Timesman James Risen, demanding he reveal his sources for a new book about the CIA.

    A Times story said the prosecutors are seeking information about a chapter in Risen’s book “State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration” about the “C.I.A.’s effort to disrupt Iranian nuclear research.”

    This is just a bit ironic given that it was the Times that cheered the appointment of a special prosecutor to root out the source of a leak that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent.

    A Dec. 31, 2003, editorial in the Times crowed, “After an egregiously long delay, Attorney General John Ashcroft finally did the right thing yesterday when he recused himself from the investigation into who gave the name of a C.I.A. operative to the columnist Robert Novak. Mr. Ashcroft turned the inquiry over to his deputy, who quickly appointed a special counsel. There was little chance of a credible outcome for the investigation as Mr. Ashcroft had originally chosen to run it: under his personal supervision, using Justice Department lawyers whose futures are dependent on his good graces. Even the normal investigative units of the F.B.I. would have been cut out of the loop.”

    The editorial encouraged that law enforcement to go after those in the White House who might have “revealed the name of a C.I.A. operative for political reasons.”

    That cheered on the special prosecutor who wound up jailing fellow Timeswoman Judith Miller for 85 days for refusing to reveal her sources, even though she never wrote about the matter.

    Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it — good and hard.

    http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/news/protecting-sources-leaks-two-faced-new-york-times

  8. Patrick says:

    Interesting Thomas. Maybe you have similar posts regarding the bush administration secretly meeting with energy companies that Cheney told us were none of our business? Or how about bush denying access to White House records that showed who visited and when? Or maybe any stories about whether it was appropriate to deny the press access to US troops killed in Iraq arriving at Dover? Or maybe any commentary about how the process of “embedding” the press was corrupting the news? Or, heck, any stories at all about how illegal and immoral it was for The bush administration to do to Valarie Plame and Wilson what they did?

    And, if not, perhaps you’d be willing to share your opinions about those issues now (assuming the RJ archives aren’t accessible)

  9. Nyp says:

    BTW, was there anything the President said in his speech that you actually disagreed with?

  10. It was lip service.

  11. Anonymous says:

    In other words, no.

    Neither did I

  12. Patrick says:

    And this is why the story above comes off as just another political attack.

    What happened to that love of principles? The love that ought to have forced you to be as outraged about the examples of a “conservative” acting in unprincipled ways as you profess above Thomas.

  13. I love principles, but not hypocrisy.

  14. Patrick says:

    I appreciate the sentiment, I was just looking for some evidence of yours in print is all. I mean, not that you owe anyone anything here, but in my years of reading your work at the RJ I formed my opinions that you….let the right go, on these issues, far more often than what you would describe as the left. No matter I suppose, everyone has their favorites after all, but it’s why I just can’t give this kind of writing much credit for being principled; seems much more of an attack on the favorite left target is all.

    But, I would be interested in seeing, or heck even hearing, how upset you were about even the few examples I cited above. I mean, you so often talked about “open government” and “transparency” and yet I don’t remember you writing much harsh criticism of Cheney for claiming his secret meetings with energy executives was heinous, or that bush’s policy of keeping the press out of Dover when the fallen were brought home was wrong, or that bush should be strung up because he refused to disclose his visitors at the White House. Heck, in my foggy memory there seemed to be a greater tendency to rationalize those actions than I expected from someone that seems rather staunch in his views like yourself.

  15. Attorney General Ashcroft: Ducking the serious questions

    You are not paranoid if they really are out to get you.
    U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft brought his touring USA Patriot Act dog-and-pony show to Las Vegas in August 2003, displaying all the subdued demeanor of the 1936 Berlin Olympics by wrapping himself in a backdrop of wall-to-wall flags and preceding his rousing, cadenced remarks with both the Star Spangled Banner and the Pledge of Allegiance. It is called the Patriot Act.
    The attorney general’s 90-minute layover was just enough time for him to give the same 30-minute spiel he’s been giving in cities across the country, allow 10 minutes with the local feds and a series of carefully orchestrated three-minute one-on-one chit-chats with personalities from the local television stations, leaving no time whatsoever in his “tight schedule” for any annoying questions from the print media. You know the only ones who’ve raised serious and specific questions about how the act comports with the Bill of Rights on free speech, free press, unreasonable search and seizure, fair and public trials, right to an attorney.
    Though Ashcroft could’ve combined all those “exclusive” interviews into one 15-minute free-for-all press conference, his spokesman told Review-Journal reporter Jane Ann Morrison that his boss commonly gives television reporters quick interviews and rejects newspaper interviews.
    He probably prefers to bunt softballs like the one from KVBC-TV, Channel 3’s Nina Radetich who asked, “Bottom line, how much power should we as citizens be willing to relinquish in the name of protecting against terrorism?”
    Ashcroft reached into his bag of rhetorical rejoinders and came up with this platitudinous whiff, “We ought to make sure we have adequate power to prevent terrorist activity, but we ought to have adequate safeguards to make sure that the liberties of law-abiding citizens are in fact protected.”
    I wonder how he might’ve answered a query about Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows government agents to secretly search businesses for “any tangible thing” relating to terrorism. Said business also is prohibited by law from revealing to anyone that such a search even took place.
    So, Mr. Ashcroft, would that section of the law allow you to send FBI agents — without evidence of probable cause or even reasonable grounds, as the law allows — to paw through the files of Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith and the other newspaper reporters who worked on the stories about five of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers visiting Las Vegas in the summer of 2001? And would the newspaper be prohibited from exercising its free press right to tell its readers that the search ever happened?
    Also, might the Justice Department be tempted to use the so-called “sneak and peek” provisions of the law to just surreptitiously come in and riffle such files without telling anyone?
    Here’s a question the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press recommends reporters ask: “Has the government used its increased power to conduct wiretaps and computer taps to intercept communications between reporters and their sources? Would investigators notify reporters if such surveillance had taken place?”
    My follow up question would be: Please explain why the FBI intercepted an unclassified FBI document mailed by an AP reporter in the Philippines to another AP reporter in Washington. And why did Federal Express at first say it fell off a van, only to have the FBI admit six months later its agents confiscated it?
    Questions not asked; answers not given.
    Sometimes propaganda is what is said, and sometimes it is a stiff arm.

  16. Nyp says:

    Good for you b

  17. Michele Mueller says:

    Case in point : Sheryl Atkinson’s book Stonewalled describes how her investigative reporting made her the target of government surveillance.

  18. nyp says:

    But Sharyl Attkisson is a loon and her book is nutty.

  19. Steve says:

    and the DOJ couldn’t crack an Iphone without reducing security for everyone who uses them….oh, wait……

    You are so predictable nyp.

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