Some Advice to the Washington Post's New Owner

Today, in the Guardian, former CIA analyst John Kiriakou accuses the Obama Administration of abusing the 1917 Espionage Act, claiming that “only 10 people in American history have been charged with espionage for leaking classified information, seven of them under Barack Obama”.

From Day One, the Obama Administration sought to plug any leaks. What’s said in the Oval Office stays in the Oval Office. That’s context for understanding the aggressive approach to whistleblowers. It’s philosophical. The current White House sees leaks as betrayals, so why not view whistleblowing as treason?

Just ask Washington journalists about access under Obama compared to past presidents. Look at the tepid news coverage about government, as sign.

I’ve long suspected, but can’t confirm, a culture of fear among Washington news bureaus, that they’ll be cut off if overly aggressive, investigated or prosecuted.

Writing in May for the National Review, Michael Barone gives a brief history of the Espionage Act and its use by the Obama Administration against the news media. He writes:

Presidents and attorneys general of both parties have been reluctant to use the Espionage Act when secret information has been leaked to the press because they have recognized that it is overbroad. They have understood, as [Daniel Patrick] Moynihan argues in Secrecy, that government classifies far too many things as secrets, even as it has often failed to protect information that truly needs to stay secret. Barack Obama and his Justice Department seem to be of a different mind. They have used the Espionage Act of 1917 six times to bring cases against government officials for leaks to the media — twice as many as all their predecessors combined.

Context for Barone’s commentary: “The Justice Department’s snooping into the phone records of multiple Associated Press reporters and Fox News’s James Rosen”.

Yesterday, the Washington Post announced its sale to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for $250 million. Some advice to the new owner: Put in editors and reporters who will investigate and report with vigor. The U.S. government is paralyzed; just look at the House of Representatives and Senate, which seemingly can’t agree on anything. Where are the investigative reports that expose corruption and hold every elected or appointed official accountable?

The Fourth Estate has failed its public trust. Should I pay the Guardian around $18 per month for real news reporting about Washington, rather than get the Washington Post? That’s the scenario I see.

Mr. Bezos, give people something they can’t help reading, by making real reporting top priority no matter the risk.

Is that too much for an American to ask?

Photo Credit: Amazon