The Editorials of E. Desiderius

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Menace to A Free Press, Society: Alberto Gonzales and Reporters

For civil libertarians, it is yet another dark day: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales now claims the authority to prosecute journalists and newspapers for simply receiving and publishing classified information. Further, he claims that he has no qualms about wiretapping reporters phones as part of criminal leak investigations.

In the months since his confirmation as Attorney General, Gonzales and the rest of the Bush Administration, have put forth a genuinely frightening view on the law. In their opinion, the constitution is a mere pleasantry; a nice thing to have laying around on paper and to pay lip service to, but the moment that national security is involved, the entire document is chucked out of the window. They believe the executive branch alone has the power to enforce, create and ignore the law (as demonstrated by the signing statements debacle reported by the Boston Globe). They believe in an Imperial Presidency, a branch elevated above the others and not bound by legislative or judicial oversight. They believe that national security is a carte blanche; that privacy is not a implicit right written into the constitution, and that their powers extend as far as necessary in the name of protecting the American people. And now, they believe that reporters can go to jail for the simple crime of receiving classified information from disgruntled government employees on questionably legal programs.

The Bush Administration has rampantly abused their powers in the War on Terrorism. National security is not a blank check, and the executive branch is responsible to the other two branches of government. It is time for Congress to remind the Administration. Reporters and the national news media play an important role in American politics: they too serve to check and balance the power of government. Without intrepid reporters, Nixon would have served his term and Watergate most likely would have gone unpunished. Without the media, the world would not know of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, or the deplorable conditions at Guantanamo Bay, nor of the Administration’s Warrantless wiretaps and massive data mining of telephone records.

It is time for Congress to pass strong shield laws, to protect reporters from government retribution and to ensure that they cannot be prosecuted for simply reporting on information that was given to them. Its time for Congress to re-affirm that there can be no prior restraint on speech or journalism by the government. And it is time for Congress to step up and put an end to the genuinely frightening Imperial Presidency that Mr. Gonzales, Mr. Yoo and Mr. Bush have cobbled together in the name of protecting the American people.

-E. Desiderius

Reuters - US Could Prosecute Reporters For Leaks: Gonzales
Slate – Listening to Leakers Could Land You In Jail
CNN – Gonzales: U.S. Could Track Reporters’ Phone Calls

Posted by George Gordon | Sunday, May 21, 2006 | E-mail this post

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