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.

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Comments on “Why Won't Eric Holder Guarantee First Amendment Rights For Journalists?”

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weneedhelp (profile) says:


Its like asking a little kid if he did it. You know he did. But the kid will say whatever comes to mind to divert the issue.

“The federal government keeps talking about how it wants to regain the trust of the American people.” Do you believe the prostitute that tells you what an animal you are and how big it is? (WTF with the hookers and me today. 3rd reference)At least when the hooker screws you there is a brief happy ending.

Anonymous Coward says:

i think the American people have been kept in the dark too long and have left things too late to be able to do anything much about what is going on in the USA, how it is being run, who is really in charge and what the true aims are. even when there were suspicions of ‘unsavory conduct’, either nothing was done or it was prevented from being done. when US Senators cant get answers, what chance has the people?

Anonymous Coward says:

has anyone thought about the fact that the government dont want the truth to get at all? that all it wants is to become a replica of the very regime it helped destroy 70 Years ago? as soon as it can achieve that, it will progress. it already has countries like the UK and Sweden shitting their pants, so are ‘carrying the flag further afield. instead of actually making a war by firing weapons, the USG is doing it via ‘Trade Agreements’. they are just as effective but destroy countries economically by removing their rights to use, purchase from anyone other than already US agreed countries or make their own, cheaper clones. there are already law suits going on by US companies against other countries for denying them the all clear to sell their products. when a country has to choose between looking after it’s citizens by preventing a certain medical drug, for example, from being available and being sued by a company that thinks it has the right to do what it wants, regardless of the consequences, simply because it wants to up it’s profits, things have gotten pretty bad! and it is now a clause that is being included in all ‘Trade Negotiation Documents’! and you can bet your ass that even if that ‘clause’ is removed as it is originally, it will be back in somewhere, worded slightly differently, but mean the same, with the same clout! and the only country that will gain is the USA! God Bless America! fuck the rest of the world!!

Anonymous Coward says:

The American public already has an answer to what the government is by the face shown them. All anyone has to do is look at Manning or Snowden to see just how it is. These are whistle blowers, plain out and simple like. That’s not how they’ve been treated.

Couple this is a surveillance agency gone rabid, the fact that it turns over evidence to be used by prosecutors and demands the source of the evidence be held secret, that nearly the entire government is trying to hide that and still at the same time claim it’s legal by attempting to change the meanings of the English language, the absolute refusal of owning up to exactly what it has been doing while claiming not to do it and to claim it’s being transparent in the process, and top it off with dancing around very valid questions, submitted in advance, with just plain out ignoring them as a way to refuse to answer.

Yeah, the American people get the picture. That’s why the government has lost the trust of the public. It’s going to take more than just wishing to get that trust back. It’s going to take actual doing, with verification of it done, with real (not make believe) oversight, and the heads that made this madness occur need to be removed from office and held accountable.

So far, being held accountable seems to be a foreign idea when it comes to bankers, politicians, and security. As long as it is, there is no trust in government.

ipgrunt (profile) says:

Us vs. Them

Like the Nixon administration, the Obama admin exhibits a certain paranoia, a siege mentality, a denial of legal and political reality, and an “us vs. them” attitude, while at the same time, the mainstream press ignores these issues, refuses to ask embarrassing questions, and tacitly cooperates with the general deception. Leading congressional democrats play doublespeak or offer deliberate misinformation, while insisting that there is nothing illegal about NSA’s spying.

Of course, there are another dozen three-letter agencies that also spy on Americans, with federal bureau of ineptitude having a long history of private files on many public figures dating back to the Hoover administration (and I don’t mean Herbert).

As already noted, most Americans are happily viewing Dancing with the Stars and couldn’t care less about invasions of privacy and the steady erosion of basic constitutional rights. We passed the second of the patriot acts almost ten years ago — Snowden’s “leaks” only skim the surface of its ramifications upon freedom in America.

Remember the talk of revoking Patriot II? It all disappeared when Obama threatened to bomb Syria. Mission accomplished.

The facts show that not only is the First Amendment in jeopardy, but also 2, 4, 5, 6 and 8.

And this trend did not start with Obama. The question is, who does he, and past presidents, serve? Certainly not the American people — only our “vital interests.”

There is certainly something fundamentally wrong about our government, but it goes much deeper than allowing 2 journalists to travel freely.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re:

The historical record clearly shows that the real american journalist wares a cape and gets changed in a phone booth.

Actually, Clark Kent is an illegal alien. I’m not familiar enough with the comics to know if Superman was ever granted US citizenship, but how would Clark ever be made a citizen without having to reveal his place of origin? Or did Superman reveal his identity at some point? Or was Superman given a pass both for himself and his unknown secret identity?

The Old Man in The sea says:

Why should he?

What is obvious from an outsider is that you have the government you deserve. How many of you even vote today for your representatives?

As each year passes, it seems like more and more of you fail to see that the power is actually in your hands. You actually have the ability to vote the turkeys out. It doesn’t matter how much money is backing these men and women for advertising, it just requires the electorate to think about the things that matter and apply their vote to bring about change.

Yet you are more concerned about your right not to vote than you are about using your vote and doing something about it.

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