Dispatches from the Creation Wars

This is a week old now but I missed it when it was posted. Glenn Greenwald writes about the Obama DOJ and their continuing war on whistleblowers and on the ability of the press to operate freely. They are trying to force James Risen, a brilliant New York Times reporter, to reveal his source for information on a story he did 6 years ago about a botched intelligence operation that took place 11 years ago.

Risen is the reporter, along with Eric Lichtblau, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for reporting on the NSA’s data mining program. He has done incredibly important investigative reporting that revealed the government’s violations of the constitution. And that, I suspect, is precisely why he’s being targeted.

The Obama DOJ’s effort to force New York Times investigative journalist Jim Risen to testify in a whistleblower prosecution and reveal his source is really remarkable and revealing in several ways; it should be receiving much more attention than it is. On its own, the whistleblower prosecution and accompanying targeting of Risen are pernicious, but more importantly, it underscores the menacing attempt by the Obama administration — as Risen yesterday pointed out — to threaten and intimidate whistleblowers, journalists and activists who meaningfully challenge what the government does in secret.

The subpoena to Risen was originally issued but then abandoned by the Bush administration, and then revitalized by Obama lawyers. It is part of the prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent whom the DOJ accuses of leaking to Risen the story of a severely botched agency plot — from 11 years ago — to infiltrate Iran’s nuclear program, a story Risen wrote about six years after the fact in his 2006 best-selling book, State of War. The DOJ wants to force Risen to testify under oath about whether Sterling was his source.

Like any good reporter would, Risen is categorically refusing to testify and, if it comes to that (meaning if the court orders him to testify), he appears prepared to go to prison in defense of press freedoms and to protect his source (just as some young WikiLeaks supporters are courageously prepared to do rather than cooperate with the Obama DOJ’s repellent persecution of the whistleblowing site). Yesterday, Risen filed a Motion asking the Court to quash the government’s subpoena on the ground that it violates the First Amendment’s free press guarantee, and as part of the Motion, filed a lengthy Affidavit that is amazing in several respects.

During the Bush years, Risen was one of the few investigative journalists exposing the excesses and lawbreaking that was the War on Terror — causing him to be literally hated by officials of the National Security State. Along with Eric Lichtblau, Risen most famously revealed, in 2005, that the NSA was secretly spying on Americans without warrants which — as he put it in his Affidavit — “in all likelihood, violated the law and the United States Constitution.”

The Bush administration originally tried to force Risen to testify but he fought the subpoena and it expired in 2009. The Obama administration, in a highly unusual move, then reissued the subpoena and is now threatening Risen with jail if he doesn’t reveal his source.

During the Bush years, many right wingers were calling for Risen to be prosecuted for espionage. I think he’s a hero. He is doing exactly what a free press is supposed to do, investigating and reporting on the government’s abuses of power. And what this says about the mendacity of the Obama DOJ is appalling.

Isn’t it interesting that Obama is forever telling us to look forward and not back when it comes to illegal actions by Bush administration officials, yet they’re still pursuing a whistleblower about revealing details about an operation that was undertaken by the Clinton administration?

The message is obvious: When the government engages in torture and illegal surveillance, no one should ever be prosecuted for those crimes because we must look forward and not back. But when a patriot in the government exposes those illegal actions to the public, he must be pursued to the ends of the earth and punished, along with anyone else involved in releasing that information.

Wasn’t Obama supposed to be the one who stopped that sort of thing? He has instead become its primary proponent.