Why Won't Eric Holder Guarantee First Amendment Rights For Journalists?
from the shameful dept
On September 18th, John Cusak wrote a rather powerful open letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, asking if he’ll guarantee the First Amendment rights of Glenn Greenwald and Laura Potras, two American journalists at the center of the Ed Snowden leak reporting.
Put simply, will Attorney General Eric Holder, the US State Department, and the FBI promise safe passage to journalists, their spouses and loved ones, and vow not to interfere with their reporting on these NSA stories?
So far, the answer has been far from clear.
Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the two American journalists at the center of these stories, have been doing their reporting from Brazil and Germany respectively. The US government has not, so far, stated publicly whether they can enter the country without receiving the same outrageous treatment that Miranda received. Or worse.
Can they practice journalism in the United States, without their hard drives being confiscated, without an unconstitutional search-and-seizure taking place at the border? Are they free to enter the United States without being served a subpoena, or even jailed? Unlike the UK, the United States is supposed to be bound by the first amendment of the constitution, which exists to bar such treatment of journalists.
And, of course, it goes well beyond those two (as Cusack acknowledges). The recent story of On The Media producer Sarah Abdurrahman and her family and friends (all US citizens) being detained at the border for no real reason (other than the obvious: the fact that they were Muslims, which is not a reason to detain them), highlights how the Constitution-free situation at the US border is incredibly problematic and chilling for journalists.
At the very least, the US government should provide an answer as to whether or not it will respect the freedom of American journalists to come back into their own country, but so far, Holder has remained silent.
The federal government keeps talking about how it wants to regain the trust of the American people. One way to do that would be to stop intimidating and spying on journalists — even those critical of the administration’s practices — and to let them do their reporting. After all, the best way to build up the trust is to allow those journalists to do their jobs, only to discover that there’s nothing legitimate to attack. The only reason to go after them would be if the administration knows that there are plenty of things to hide that will make them look bad. And then we’re right back to the reason that there’s no trust.