Sessions threatens to rope media into his hunt for leakers

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is threatening to revise longstanding Justice Department policy giving leeway to the press. Though he justified his tightening of the screws by saying it is to protect “our national security and the lives of those who serve in our intelligence community, the armed forces, and all law abiding Americans,” the event that prompted his remarks — the leaking of President Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders — was merely embarrassing due to Trump’s own behavior.

“No one is entitled to surreptitiously fight their battles in the media by revealing sensitive government information,” Sessions said. “No government can be effective when its leaders cannot discuss sensitive matters in confidence or to talk freely in confidence with foreign leaders.”

Jeff Sessions on leaks (Getty pix)

Why? Isn’t Trump representing the citizens of this country? Shouldn’t they know how good a job he is doing, or not?

Many police departments are requiring cops to wear body cams this days — not to catch them being abusive, but to protect them from false accusations. Perhaps, the president and members of Congress should wear body cams while on duty and everyone would know everything is on the record, out front, subject to scrutiny.

Sessions said his agency is “reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas. We respect the important role that the press plays and will give them respect, but it is not unlimited. They cannot place lives at risk with impunity.”

Lives at risk when Trump tells Mexico’s leader he shouldn’t say he will not pay for the wall? In fact, that too involved the media. He told Mexican President ­Enrique Peña Nieto, “You cannot say that to the press.”

The Justice Department policy currently states:

Because freedom of the press can be no broader than the freedom of members of the news media to investigate and report the news, the Department’s policy is intended to provide protection to members of the news media from certain law enforcement tools, whether criminal or civil, that might unreasonably impair newsgathering activities. …

In determining whether to seek information from, or records of, members of the news media, the approach in every instance must be to strike the proper balance among several vital interests: Protecting national security, ensuring public safety, promoting effective law enforcement and the fair administration of justice, and safeguarding the essential role of the free press in fostering government accountability and an open society.

It is not carte blanche. It is a balance. But this policy has frequently been skirted or roundly ignored.

But apparently a supersensitive Trump is tipping the balance.

Been there, done that.

In 2009 the feds subpoenaed the Las Vegas newspaper for information about commenters on one of its stories. Some of the comments suggested violence might be visited upon certain feds involved in a high-profile criminal case. The paper resisted the fishing expedition, but conceded when the request was narrowed to a couple of people.

“We will give them what we have, which frankly isn’t much, since most postings are anonymous,” I said at the time.

I also said, “I’d hate to be the guy who refused to tell the feds (Timothy) McVeigh was buying fertilizer” used to make the bomb that blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Sessions concluded, “Finally, here is what I want to tell every American today: This nation must end the culture of leaks. We will investigate and seek to bring criminals to justice. We will not allow rogue anonymous sources with security clearances to sell out our country any longer.”
Just because something is classified doesn’t mean it is to protect national security. Too often it is keep it from the prying eyes of voters. Think: Pentagon Papers and NSA spying.

 

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