Eric Holder Says Putting Reporter James Risen Through Hell Is A Good 'Example' Of DOJ Process For Leak Investigations

from the that's-one-way-to-put-it... dept

Attorney General Holder raised some eyebrows earlier this week when answering a question about his Justice Department's notorious crackdown on leaks, and by extension the press, most notably saying this about its notorious pursuit of New York Times reporter James Risen, while claiming the DOJ did nothing wrong:

If you look at the last case involving Mr. Risen, the way in which that case was handled after the new policies were put in place [is] an example of how the Justice Department can proceed.

The District Sentinel aptly took apart most of Holder's comments, and they also provoked a stinging rebuke from Risen himself last night on Twitter. However, I think the facts of Risen's case deserve a closer look to see just how unbelievable Holder's statement is.

Let's recap: since the very start of the Obama administration (read: for SIX years), the Justice Department was trying to subpoena James Risen. It fought for him to testify at a grand jury of CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, which he refused to do, and when they were rejected by the court, it fought to have him testify in Sterling's trial. They fought Risen on this all the way up to the Supreme Court.

Also, keep in mind, while the "new" media/leak guidelines that Holder bragged about are certainly a step forward, the old guidelines that applied to Risen's case should have protected him just the same from the start—if they were actually enforced. He doesn't get to pretend the preceding five and a half years didn't happen just because he stregthened the Justice Department's rules after public protest.

The case cost Risen and his publisher an untold fortune in legal fees, dominated his life, took away from time he could've spent reporting, and likely cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.

Along the way, we found out that the government had spied on virtually every aspect of James Risen's digital life from phone calls, to emails, to credit card statements, bank records and more. (By the way, we still have no idea how they got this information. That's secret.)

The Justice Department argued in court that not only was there no reporter's privilege whatsoever -- either embedded in the First Amendment or in Fourth Circuit common law -- but also that journalists protecting sources was analogous to protecting drug dealers from prosecution.

As a result, the Justice Department got an appeals court to destroy the previously established reporter's privilege in the Fourth Circuit. So now all journalists in the Fourth Circuit -- which covers Virginia and Maryland where the vast majority of national security sources live and work -- will have no protection if the government comes after them in future cases.

After all this (along with a large public outcry), the government decided to drop its pursuit of James Risen. And of course were able to easily convict Jeffrey Sterling anyways, using evidence gleaned from digital surveillance.

Now the Justice Department wants a pat on the back. While it is unequivocally excellent news that Risen will not be forced into jail, the DOJ's behavior in this case was and still is deplorable. It has done damage to long-term press freedom rights that will be very hard to undo, and the idea that this should be looked at as a "model" for future leak investigations is troubling to say the least.

Reposted from the Freedom of the Press Foundation


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 19 Feb 2015 @ 6:39am

    Reading between the lines

    I don't think he was making that statement to the general public at all, I think it was aimed at other potential future whistleblowers. The DoJ's actions here did indeed provide 'an example of how the Justice Department can proceed', and the message delivered by it's actions, and that statement, seems to be crystal clear:

    'If you make the government look bad, we will do everything in our power, legal and 'legal', to ruin you.'

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

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 19 Feb 2015 @ 8:26am

    DOJ officials say

    In a quote I just made up but am sure has run through several DOJ official's minds, "We didn't kill the guy! Praise us for our restraint!"

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2015 @ 9:16am

    It's sort of funny, because under Holder's watch, prosecutorial overreach has become considerably greater.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2015 @ 9:18am

      Re:

      It's sort of funny, because under Obama's watch, prosecutorial overreach has become considerably greater.

      TFTFY

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 19 Feb 2015 @ 9:28am

        Re: Re:

        I'm not sure how much you can actually lay at his feet regarding the 'Crush the whistleblowers' stance that's been in place since he came to office. He shares the responsibility for it to be sure, yet at the same time, I doubt Obama has any real prosecution power as president, so even if he said 'We need to crack down, hard, on anyone who reveals our activities', without an agreeable DOJ I doubt it would have gotten very far.

        As such I'd say the responsibility would be split about 50/50, both just as guilty as the other, as one ordered it done, and the other followed those orders.

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

        • identicon
          David, 19 Feb 2015 @ 9:42am

          Re: Re: Re:

          As such I'd say the responsibility would be split about 50/50,

          Nope, just like two murderers cannot claim to deserve only half the penalty for murder each. They are jointly and separately responsible for what they have done to the U.S. justice system.

          Their depravity does not become any less because they could rely on coconspirators.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2015 @ 9:44am

          Re: Re: Re:

          If you haven't noticed, all of Obama's appointees tow the party line or they are replaced. So he is very much in control of the DOJ.

          as one ordered it done, and the other followed those orders.

          The thing I have learned while Obama has been president is that there is no end to the number of people willng to carry out a president's orders. When he ordered open air memorials shutdown, an elderly couple thrown out of their home on federal land, Old Faithfull Inn residents shuttered inside during the eruptions, privately leased inns on federal lands shutdown; he had people from all over the country executing the orders with glee.

          This saddens me greatly. It has really changed my mind to think that another holocust couldn't happen today. I could easily see it happening with many people willing to carry out the orders and many more watching from the sidelines while doing nothing.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2015 @ 9:43am

    Holder hasn't gone after banks with whistle-blowers and tons of evidence, he has done nothing about the CIA spying on the Senate, and he has done nothing about James Clapper lying under oath to Congress.

    What astounds me is anyone thinking he knows how to do his job in the first place...

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2015 @ 9:46am

      Re:

      What astounds me is anyone thinking he knows how to do his job in the first place.

      He knows his job very well. He is to go after people the president tells him to go after and leave people alone when told by the president to leave them alone. Take the IRS for example.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Feb 2015 @ 4:36pm

      Re:

      then he would have to go after himself for committing perjury

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2015 @ 10:04am

    >Along the way, we found out that the government had spied on virtually every aspect of James Risen's digital life from phone calls, to emails, to credit card statements, bank records and more. (By the way, we still have no idea how they got this information. That's secret.)

    No, we know how they got it, it just won't be released because it will make the government look bad or implicate themselves.

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 19 Feb 2015 @ 10:17am

    So basically

    he believes it is his duty to use extra-judicial punishments not handed out by a court or due process.

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

    • identicon
      David, 19 Feb 2015 @ 12:27pm

      Re: So basically

      he believes it is his duty to use extra-judicial punishments not handed out by a court or due process.

      Uh yes? Utterly insane and stackable maximum penalties are only moderately useful for blackmailing innocent people able to afford a competent defense into a plea deal.

      Without plea deals, the already overworked courts could not keep up with the work load and this could lead to acquittals which are a total waste of time for the court system since a lot of time and work and money is spent with the defendant being up for grabs on the street again right afterwards.

      So it is important that the blackmailing material for plea deals is not solely hinging on a jury's whim, making it impossible to properly plan conviction rates ahead.

      There must be tangible threats beyond the prospect of a jury trial to make the justice system capable of delivering a dependable and consistent stream of justice. "Justice" is the proper term, right? For a moment it looked a bit out of place, but I think that's the term for what the "Department of Justice" is responsible for.

      Even though the evidence for that is pretty flimsy.

      But that's par for the course.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Feb 2015 @ 4:34pm

    I would be willing to bet they threatened people with an unfortunate accident or life in prison to get their hands on much of that info. they have already proven they believe the laws don't apply to them. They have in the past threatened to kill people if they refused to do what they were told. They constantly illegaly spy on people.

    When your president acts like a criminal mob boss and runs his admi9nistartion as openly corrupt one what does the DoJ have to care when they openly break the law they are charged with upholding

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

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 22 Feb 2015 @ 4:31pm

    They the People of the United States of America

    You folks keep forgetting the one, single, most important factor in all of this.

    Nothing that Obama or his various agency crews do is considered to be criminal activity by the laws of the land, regardless of how criminal you might think such acts to be.

    Your Constitution has been re-interpreted due to 9/11 and so your laws no longer offer any real protections to the people of the United States.

    The new Corporate Constitution and thus the laws of the land, now offers protection only to the people who make the laws, enforce the laws and use the laws for profiteering and racketeering.

    The rest of you are now merely a resource commodity - a general purpose feedstock - to be utilized by those the Corporate Constitution does protect - for fun and profit.

    As long as the laws no longer mean what you think they mean, and as long as you are not allowed to learn what the new laws actually do mean, this situation will remain in place and escalate.

    To put it in the most general terms, the citizens of the United States are no longer consider citizens of the United States by the laws of the United States. You're all foreigners now, and only the 1% are considered to be American Citizens under the protections offered by the new Corporate Constitution of the United States of America.

    They simply changed the meaning of the word "We" to mean the members of the Ownership Society only.

    ---

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


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