Saturday, June 22, 2013

Espionage And Leaks... And Presidents Who Cannot Or Will Not Tell The Difference

Leak stopper
With the laying of charges of espionage against Edward Snowden, Barack Obama joins Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush in the exclusive group of presidents who have used the Espionage Act of 1917 as a club with which to beat leakers of information that embarrassed their administrations. Kevin Gosztola of FDL, who actually can tell the difference between espionage and leaks, explores the likely consequences if this course of action... so far used by Obama eight times, more often than by all other presidents combined... becomes common practice.

Leak stopper
Gosztola's article is long and thought-provoking, and I will not attempt to summarize it. If you give a damn about whether the American press and media are able to operate to the advantage of an open and democratic American government and a passionately motivated American people, you need to read the whole thing. If you don't, and if Obama succeeds where the other above-named presidents failed in establishing espionage charges as a default brickbat against leakers, you may be literally asking for the consequences Gosztola outlines, quoting Jonathan Alter's words from the latter's book The Promise:
Obama had one pet peeve that could make him lose his cool. It was a common source of anger for presidents: leaks. Complaints about loose lips became a constant theme of Obama’s early presidency. At his first Cabinet meeting he made a point of saying that he didn’t want to see his Cabinet “litigating” policy through the New York Times and the Washington Post. At a Blair House retreat for the Cabinet and senior staff at the end of July he devoted about a quarter of his comments to urging his people to keeping their disagreements within the family: “We should be having these debates on the inside, not the outside.” And during his twenty hours of deliberations over Afghanistan in the fall, he returned repeatedly to the theme. Naturally in Washington nearly every time he got upset about leaks it leaked.

For all his claims that he didn’t want yes-men around him, no one on his staff was brave enough to tell the president that obsessing over leaks was a colossal waste of time. (Aides should have recognized that the age-old problem in Washington isn’t managing leaks, but managing the president’s fury over them.) But it wouldn’t have mattered: leaks offended Obama’s sense of discipline and reminded him of everything he disliked about the capital. He was fearsome on the subject, which seemed to bring out his controlling nature to an even greater degree than usual...
I am increasingly convinced, notwithstanding all of Obama's mitigating virtues, that his essence is the stuff of which totalitarian leaders are made. He needs to be watched closely, and prevented to the extent possible by the counterbalance of other branches of our government from enforcing an un-American discipline on the world of American journalism. Our nation's survival as a free and open society may depend on it.

Journalism, including the release and publication of leaks, is not espionage: it is an essential element in the ongoing battle against the actions of controlling presidents and their governments. It must never be shut down or chilled out of existence by threats, applied through archaic laws, to the lives and freedoms of journalists.


  1. Hi Steve!

    Obama: No warrantless wiretaps if you elect me:

    all the best

    1. Good to hear from you, Enfant! I hope you are still employed and eating regularly.

      Obama has proved himself a chronic liar as great as any past president. Whatever hopes we had for him and for America have long since been dashed by his urge to control everything. And to think we had hopes that he might be another FDR. How foolish of us to hope that!

      The last time I glanced at Greece, things were distinctly not good. I hope you are by now making some moves toward at least controlling your own currency. Good luck to all of you!

  2. With these sold politicians we have in Greeve, there is no hope of controlling our own currency!!
    Always more and more cuts and no way to trap tax-evaders!!

    Still employed and eating regularly, thanks.

    As for Ed. Snowden, he safely landed at Sheremetevo airport-Moscow yesterday and now is about to leave on his way to Havana.
    "..US air traffic control can legally ground the plane and take Snowden into custody on charges of espionage, theft and conversion of government property. However, the pilot may change the course of the flight so as not to pass through American airspace..."
    But: “The pilot of the plane is within his rights to change the course of the flight and there should be enough fuel to do so,” said the source to Interfax.



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