Words Mean Something: How Eric Holder Pretends He Won't Put Reporters In Jail Without Actually Saying That
from the watch-those-caveats dept
The DOJ has been claiming that it will be more respectful of journalists and their rights after two scandals from last year, involving spying on AP reporters and claiming reporter James Rosen was a “co-conspirator” in order to get access to his phone and email records. However, it’s pretty clear that the DOJ still has no problem using questionable legal moves against reporters, such as in the ongoing situation with James Risen (note the one letter difference from the different reporter, Rosen, above). As we noted recently, the DOJ is still trying to send Risen to jail.
In a meeting with reporters (on a different topic), Holder was asked about Risen, and said: “no reporter who is doing his job is going to go to jail.” This resulted in the NY Times and others suggesting that the DOJ wouldn’t send Risen to jail if he continues to resist giving up his sources in one of the DOJ’s many “leak” investigations.
However, it’s important to note that Holder chose his words carefully, and might not actually be saying what some in the press seem to think he’s saying. Note the caveat: it only applies to a “reporter who is doing his job.” And, given the way the DOJ treats these things, it doesn’t seem to think that reporting on leaks is a legitimate part of a reporter’s job.
Kevin Gosztola, over at Firedoglake, further notes that the administration has been playing word games concerning Risen for a long time, including the repeated assertion that they’re not prosecuting him. He points to this interview between Ken Auletta and the top lawyer for the Director of National Intelligence, Robert Litt:
KEN AULETTA: Do you agree that Jim Risen ought to be prosecuted for…?
ROBERT LITT: Jim Risen is not being prosecuted.
AULETTA: …Not revealing his sources?
LITT: He’s not being prosecuted. He is being subpoenaed to give evidence as other people. The courts have determined that—to this day at least—that he doesn’t have a privilege against giving that information.
There was discussion in the last panel of a media shield law. That’s a law that President Obama has endorsed. I am not going to speculate as to how that would’ve applied to his particular case, but if there is a media shield law that’s passed, that’s another thing that the courts can do to enforce it.
There’s never been a reporter prosecuted. I don’t think there ever will be a reporter prosecuted because I think every president is aware of the adage about not getting into an argument with somebody who buys printer’s ink by the barrel. I think that as a practical matter, but it’s very different in my mind to go after the people responsible for leaking the information. [emphasis added]
So, he’s not being prosecuted, and he won’t go to jail if he only focused on “doing his job.” But as long as he’s involved in writing about leaks, he may not be “doing his job” and it seems quite likely that he may go to jail.