Two of the most important amendments of the constitution are the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. However, as the US government becomes ever more tyrannical, the constitution can do little to protect these long standing rights. In the same vein that Congress is currently seeking the imprisonment of Julian Assange for his role in WikiLeaks, they are also now trying to prosecute The New York Times as spies for their reporting on the Obama administration. The Electronic Freedom Foundation explains:
…at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on July 11th, some members of Congress made it clear they also want New York Times journalists charged under the Espionage Act for their recent stories on President Obama’s ‘Kill List’ and secret US against Iran. During the hearing, House Republicans “pressed legal experts Wednesday on whether it was possible to prosecute reporters for publishing classified information,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
In addition, the Washingtonian’s Shane Harris reported a month ago that a “senior” Justice Department official “made it clear that reporters who talked to sources about classified information were putting themselves at risk of prosecution.”
Leaks big and small have been happening for decades—even centuries—and the most recent are comparable to several others. No journalist has ever been prosecuted under the Espionage Act and it has generally been accepted, even by Congress’s own research arm, that the publication of government secrets by the press is protected speech under the First Amendment. Yet the government is actively investigating WikiLeaks and now threatening others for just that.
In this case, like many others, Congress has invoked the vague, catchall phrase “national security” in an attempt to curtail rights that have existed for decades. As we’ve previously pointed out, “national security” has been used as an excuse to weaken constitutional protections in laws such as the Patriot Act and CISPA, but it’s also been used in attempts to threaten press freedom.
Congress, for its part, is taking the exact opposite approach it should take. Instead of doubling down on secrecy, it should be working to fix our broken classification system and should be calling for fewer secrets. And instead of clamoring for more prosecutions, it should call for a halt to current prosecutions of whistle-blowers under the Obama administration—already twice the amount than all other administrations combined.