If Donald Trump targets journalists, thank Obama

James Risen writes: If Donald J. Trump decides as president to throw a whistle-blower in jail for trying to talk to a reporter, or gets the F.B.I. to spy on a journalist, he will have one man to thank for bequeathing him such expansive power: Barack Obama.

Mr. Trump made his animus toward the news media clear during the presidential campaign, often expressing his disgust with coverage through Twitter or in diatribes at rallies. So if his campaign is any guide, Mr. Trump seems likely to enthusiastically embrace the aggressive crackdown on journalists and whistle-blowers that is an important yet little understood component of Mr. Obama’s presidential legacy.

Criticism of Mr. Obama’s stance on press freedom, government transparency and secrecy is hotly disputed by the White House, but many journalism groups say the record is clear. Over the past eight years, the administration has prosecuted nine cases involving whistle-blowers and leakers, compared with only three by all previous administrations combined. It has repeatedly used the Espionage Act, a relic of World War I-era red-baiting, not to prosecute spies but to go after government officials who talked to journalists.

Under Mr. Obama, the Justice Department and the F.B.I. have spied on reporters by monitoring their phone records, labeled one journalist an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case for simply doing reporting and issued subpoenas to other reporters to try to force them to reveal their sources and testify in criminal cases. [Continue reading…]

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One thought on “If Donald Trump targets journalists, thank Obama

  1. hquain

    There’s an interesting hint of what might be going on. “Under Mr. Obama, the Justice Department and the F.B.I. have spied on reporters …[etc.]…”

    It seems clear after all these years that Obama conceives of himself as a mediator rather than a leader. [Omitted: a litany of the dreadful consequences.] If he’s inclined to let the various units go their own way, and he seems to be, then we should be looking inside the DOJ and FBI for the source of these policies, not imagining that Obama-the-person has developed and encouraged them. Given strong evidence that a seriously rightist faction is active enough in the FBI to change the course of a presidential election, we have to ask what else they’re up to. Particularly when they’re likely to be working more closely with the incoming forces, who are more compromised than compromising.

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