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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    That One Guy (profile), May 29th, 2014 @ 1:06pm

    Small but important change:

    'Words Mean Nothing'

    Actions are all that matters. They can say whatever they want, what they've done is what people should be paying attention do, and based upon past and current actions, while they can claim to 'respect the rights of reporters', all that means is they'll classify cracking down on them as something other than 'prosecution', and continue on with it anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 3:11pm

    It's all "relevant", Mike. And no, we can't say what we mean by "relevant". That's a national security secret. Divulging it would warn the terrorists, and the terrorists will win.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 3:21pm

    Being so coy about this subject should only be interpreted as a threat.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 3:24pm

    Why even bother to play word games anymore when they've proven that they can get away with bold-faced lies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 3:34pm

    Does any one noticed a common thread in all these government actions on word games being employed? Take your pick, they are all playing them. Start at the top with POTUS, through the administration, including the DOJ, ICE, you name it, right on down to the security branches.

    All are saying one thing and meaning something else entirely. I would suggest that Obama is a large part of this redefining process without any actual proof. But it all ties together when you go looking.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 4:48pm

    Reporter who is doing his job

    I imagine a "reporter who is doing his job" is one who reports what they tell him to report. That's his job, in their view.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Jack Of Shadows (profile), May 29th, 2014 @ 6:15pm

    Re: Small but important change:

    Yeah, do notice that two letter difference, persecution vice prosecution.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 6:52pm

    They will not put journalists in jail just like they do not torture people by water boarding them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2014 @ 7:15pm

    and what about Holder?

    Did he take a different oath of office then others? Did he not swear to " uphold and protect the Constitution of the USA"? Exactly when is Holder going to either "do his job" or be thrown in jail? Lets not forget there is a whole gang of criminal co-conspirators in office now that deserve like treatment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    David, May 29th, 2014 @ 9:52pm

    Re:

    Oh. the terrorists have already won quite a few elections. And they don't want you to hope for change.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    David, May 29th, 2014 @ 9:56pm

    Re:

    Even if you rigged the game and greased the umpires, you want to dish out the hard fouls only occasionally or the spectators will leave.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    David, May 29th, 2014 @ 10:04pm

    Holder _is_ protecting the Constitution

    He's applying it sustainably so that it won't crumble from overuse. And he's erring on the safe side.

    First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth Amendment and a few others have been rounded up and secured already.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    David, May 29th, 2014 @ 10:07pm

    There’s never been a reporter prosecuted.

    Handy if one can keep them in jail indeterminedly and torture them without having to give them due process, isn't it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2014 @ 1:26am

    Re:

    Even during the Bush era some shitheads (sorry for the language)like Scooter Libby and a bunch of pedophile (R) members of congress were getting arrested.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Rick Caird, May 30th, 2014 @ 6:44am

    Re:

    Holder needs the threat. But, if he put Risen in jail, the whole of the press will turn on the Obama administration and this administration relies on the press to hide their scandals. That is why Holder is being so coy. do think Holder should be put in jail and disbarred for major dishonesty as AG.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Shalom Beck, May 30th, 2014 @ 8:10am

    Risen should obey the law or go to jail

    Risen should have gone to jail for his publications on the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program, which publications violated the 1917 Espionage Act.
    Holder, unfortunately, is not threatening to jail reporters for their crimes, but threatening them with contempt charges if they refuse to give up their sources. In this respect reporters have no constitutional privilege.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Tom Mink (profile), May 30th, 2014 @ 8:19am

    Of course reporters don't get prosecuted, they just go to jail

    If you're just some schlub without a corporate legal department backing you up, then you're not a reporter and so posting information about the government will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    If you're a REAL reporter, ie someone lucky enough to have lawyers on tap to resist charges, then you won't be prosecuted for properly exercising your constitutional rights because the First Amendment and such. Nope, you just have to forfeit your livelihood and reputation as a journalist by complying with a subpoena to give up your sources, or else go to jail for contempt. Real journalists doing their jobs always comply with court orders and the other kind are dangerous malcontents.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    OrganizedThoughtCrime (profile), May 31st, 2014 @ 2:37am

    Re: Small but important change:

    I think this is a good article, and I agree with Mr. Masnick that it's worth pointing out. If words meant nothing, they wouldn't spend so much time trying to redefine them, as is the case here. Another example is their attempt to redefine the mass surveillance in the US as 'bulk collection', as though to suggest that they only collect it, period.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Pragmatic, Jun 1st, 2014 @ 2:44pm

    Re: Of course reporters don't get prosecuted, they just go to jail

    Thank you for explaining Fox, MSNBC, and CNN.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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