White House press secretary Jay Carney began yesterday’s briefing by praising journalists who have died covering the unrest in Syria: Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik as well as Anthony Shadid. During the press briefing, ABC News’ Jake Tapper challenged Carney on the White House’s double standards.
TAPPER: The White House keeps praising these journalists who are — who’ve been killed –
CARNEY: I don’t know about “keep” — I think –
TAPPER: You’ve done it, Vice President Biden did it in a statement. How does that square with the fact that this administration has been so aggressively trying to stop aggressive journalism in the United States by using the Espionage Act to take whistleblowers to court?
You’re — currently I think that you’ve invoked it the sixth time, and before the Obama administration, it had only been used three times in history. You’re — this is the sixth time you’re suing a CIA officer for allegedly providing information in 2009 about CIA torture. Certainly that’s something that’s in the public interest of the United States. The administration is taking this person to court. There just seems to be disconnect here. You want aggressive journalism abroad; you just don’t want it in the United States.
CARNEY: Well, I would hesitate to speak to any particular case, for obvious reasons, and I would refer you to the Department of Justice for more on that.
I think we absolutely honor and praise the bravery of reporters who are placing themselves in extremely dangerous situations in order to bring a story of oppression and brutality to the world. I think that is commendable, and it’s certainly worth noting by us. And as somebody who knew both Anthony and Marie, I particularly appreciate what they did to bring that story to the American people.
I — as for other cases, again, without addressing any specific case, I think that there are issues here that involve highly sensitive classified information, and I think that, you know, those are — divulging or to — divulging that kind of information is a serious issue, and it always has been.
TAPPER: So the truth should come out abroad; it shouldn’t come out here?
CARNEY: Well, that’s not at all what I’m saying, Jake, and you know it’s not. Again, I can’t — specific –
TAPPER: That’s what the Justice Department’s doing.
CARNEY: Well, you’re making a judgment about a broad array of cases, and I can’t address those specifically.
TAPPER: It’s also the judgment that a lot of whistleblowers’ organizations and good government groups are making as well.
CARNEY: Not one that I’m going to make.
Although these are legitimate challenges Tapper is making, it’s hard not to feel that they might have more bite if the person he was directing them at was neither a former reporter nor married to a senior correspondent for ABC News. It’s easy to understand why the White House picked a journalist for this role, but the press and the press secretary should never be this close.