A brand new Politico poll of White House correspondents finds:
(1) 65% of reporters say that Obama is the least press-friendly president they’ve ever seen
(2) 78% of White House reporters believe “President Obama dislikes the press”
(3) 63% of the reporters have literally never asked Obama a question at any press conference
(4) 58% say they’ve never spoken to anyone at the White House other than a flack on the White House press team
(5) 5 times more reporters believe that Obama is becoming less and less open with the press than believe he’s getting more transparent with time
The Washington Post noted last month:
In the Committee to Protect Journalists report, former Washington Post executive editorLeonard Downie Jr. summarized the administration’s efforts to control information as “the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration.” Downie was one of the editors involved in The Post’s coverage of Nixon’s Watergate crimes.
Veteran New York Times reporter James Risen said:
[The Obama administration is] the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.
[The administration wants to] narrow the field of national security reporting to create a path for accepted reporting.
[Anyone journalist who exceeds those parameters] will be punished.
New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson agrees:
This is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved incovering, and that includes — I spent 22 years of my career in Washington and covered presidents from President Reagan on up through now, and I was Washington bureau chief of the Times during George W. Bush’s first term.
I dealt directly with the Bush White House when they had concerns that stories we were about to run put the national security under threat. But, you know, they were not pursuing criminal leak investigations. The Obama administration has had seven criminal leak investigations. That is more than twice the number of any previous administration in our history. It’s on a scale never seen before. This is the most secretive White House that, at least as a journalist, I have ever dealt with.
The Washington Post reported:
Journalists who cover national security are facing vast and unprecedented challenges in their efforts to hold the government accountable to its citizens.
Relying on the 1917 Espionage Act, which was rarely invoked before President Obama took office, this administration has secretly used the phone and e-mail records of government officials and reporters to identify and prosecute government sources for national security stories.
The Obama administration has drawn a dubious distinction between whistleblowing that reveals bureaucratic waste or fraud, and leaks to the news media about unexamined secret government policies and activities; it punishes the latter as espionage.
Every disclosure to the press of classified information now triggers a leak investigation, said Washington Post national news editor Cameron Barr. “Investigations can be done electronically. They don’t need to compel journalists to reveal sources.”
After the New York Times published a 2012 story by David E. Sanger about covert cyberattacks by the United States and Israel against Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities, federal prosecutors and the FBI questioned scores of officials throughout the government who were identified in computer analyses of phone, text and e-mail records as having contact with Sanger.
“A memo went out from the chief of staff a year ago to White House employees and the intelligence agencies that told people to freeze and retain any e-mail, and presumably phone logs, of communications with me,” Sanger said. As a result, longtime sources no longer talk to him. “They tell me: ‘David, I love you, but don’t e-mail me. Let’s don’t chat until this blows over.’ ”
Sanger, who has worked for the Times in Washington for two decades, said, “This is most closed, control-freak administration I’ve ever covered.”
A survey of government departments and agencies this summer by the Washington bureau of McClatchy newspapers found that they had wide latitude in defining what kinds of behavior constitute a threat. “Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material,” it reported in June.
Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.”
“People think they’re looking at reporters’ records,” Post national security reporter Dana Priest told me. “I’m writing fewer things in e-mail. I’m even afraid to tell officials what I want to talk about because it’s all going into one giant computer.”
“Whenever I’m asked what is the most manipulative and secretive administration I’ve covered, I always say it’s the one in office now,” Bob Schieffer, CBS News anchor and chief Washington correspondent, told me.
But it’s not just recent history … Several veteran reporters say this is the worst administration ever.
For example, long-time CNN (and now MSNBC) political reporter Bob Franken said:
Every administration tries to manipulate the press. But this is the most hostile to the media that has been in United States history.
Likewise, USA Today’s Susan Page said:
This administration has been more restrictive and more challenging to the press, more dangerous to the press, really, than any administration in American history.
After the government’s spying on the Associated Press made it clear to everyone that the government is trying to put a chill journalism, the senior national-security correspondent for Newsweek tweeted:
Serious idea. Instead of calling it Obama’s war on whistleblowers, let’s just call it what it is: Obama’s war on journalism.
Likewise, Washington Post writer Dan Milbank wrote:
There are various reasons you might not care about the Obama administration’s spying on journalist James Rosen and labeling him a “co-conspirator and/or aider and abettor” in an espionage case.
To treat a reporter as a criminal for doing his job — seeking out information the government doesn’t want made public — deprives Americans of the First Amendment freedom on which all other constitutional rights are based. Guns? Privacy? Due process? Equal protection? If you can’t speak out, you can’t defend those rights, either.
Indeed, the Obama administration is treating reporters like criminals … or terrorists:
– Obama has gone after top reporters. His Department of Justice labeled chief Fox News Washington correspondent James Rosen a “criminal co-conspirator” in a leak case, and for many years threatened to prosecute Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times journalist James Risen
– In fact, top NSA whistleblowers tell Washington’s Blog that the NSA has spied on reporters for well over a decade … to make sure they don’t reveal illegal government programs
– The Pentagon smeared USA Today reporters because they investigated illegal Pentagon propaganda
– Reporters covering the Occupy protests were targeted for arrest
– The government admits that journalists could be targeted with counter-terrorism laws (and here). For example, after Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, journalist Naomi Wolf, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and others sued the government to enjoin the NDAA’s allowance of the indefinite detention of Americans – the judge asked the government attorneys 5 times whether journalists like Hedges could be indefinitely detained simply for interviewing and thenwriting about bad guys. The government refused to promise that journalists like Hedges won’t be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of their lives without any right to talk to a judge
– In an effort to protect Bank of America from the threatened Wikileaks expose of the bank’s wrongdoing, the Department of Justice told Bank of America to a hire a specific hardball-playing law firm to assemble a team to take down WikiLeaks (and see this)
– The NSA and its British counterpart treated Wikileaks like a terrorist organization, going so far as to target its employees politically, and to spy on visitors to its website