As war escalates in the Middle East, the Obama administration’s policies toward transparency and disclosure of key information are taking on heightened importance. Such issues will come into sharp focus later this week when Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg speaks at a rare news conference in Washington.
Praised as a “patriot” by Secretary of State John Kerry on national TV last spring, Ellsberg remains an outspoken critic of government actions that suppress information and punish whistleblowing. His news conference is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 18, at the National Press Club (1 p.m., Murrow Room). For background on Ellsberg, click here.
Binney is a former high-level National Security Agency intelligence official who, after his 2001 retirement after 30 years, blew the whistle on NSA surveillance programs. He said today: “The pattern with Ellsberg is remarkably similar to how virtually all whistleblowers are treated: They expose something that is illegal, criminal or just plain stupid. They get attacked. The problem isn’t fixed, it just gets perpetuated because there’s an entire complex that defends itself at all cost. You have so many culpable people in the executive, in Congress, in the courts that basically defend each other because they know if one goes down, they’ll all go. And they should all go down. One great irony is that under Executive Order 13526, sec 1.7 — this is the executive order that governs classification for the U.S. government — you cannot use classification to cover up an illegality or abuse in any form.”
Binney’s outspoken criticism of the NSA during the George W. Bush administration made him the subject of FBI investigations that included a raid on his home in 2007. Even before Edward Snowden’s NSA whistleblowing, Binney publicly revealed that NSA had access to telecommunications companies’ domestic and international billing records, and that since 9/11 the agency has intercepted some 15 to 20 trillion communications. The Snowden disclosures confirmed many of the surveillance dangers Binney — without the benefit of documents — had been warning about under both the Bush and Obama administrations.
Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He said today: “We’re at a pivotal historic moment, bringing to mind the comment that history doesn’t exactly repeat itself but it tends to rhyme an awful lot. Fifty years ago, the suppression of accurate information and the intimidation of would-be whistleblowers were integral to the escalation of the U.S. war effort in Vietnam. Today, such suppression and intimidation are integral to the escalation of the U.S. war effort in the Middle East. Obama is not Johnson or Bush, but fundamental and grim patterns are rhyming.”
The Ellsberg news conference is sponsored by ExposeFacts.org, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy. Ellsberg is a founding member of the ExposeFacts advisory board.
For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, (202) 421-6858; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167
USA Today reports: “President Obama spends Tuesday soliciting congressional support for expanded military action against the insurgent group known as the Islamic State.”
The Jacksonville Journal-Courier in Illinois reports today: “President Barack Obama’s plans to expand the U.S. military role against Islamic extremist groups could overstep his authority, according to a longtime Jacksonville congressman who helped write the law that keeps the president’s power in check.
“Obama is expected to announce plans this week to expand the military campaign against the Islamic State. According to the Wall Street Journal, that could include intensifying air attacks to target militant strongholds.
“Paul Findley of Jacksonville, who served in Congress from 1961 to 1983 and was a principal author of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, says the president could be usurping authority specifically given to Congress.
“‘President Obama stated on network television … that he ‘may’ have authority to order airstrikes in Syria. He does not. Moreover, bombing he ordered in recent days in Iraq by U.S. aircraft violated the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973,’ Findley said.”
Findley was a member of Congress from Illinois for 22 years. He is the author of six books including the bestseller They Dare to Speak Out. He resides in Jacksonville, Ill. The federal building in Springfield, Ill. is named for him.
He said today: “Our elected leaders are acting like jelly fish. Members of Congress must decide whether to bomb Iraq or Syria, or both. The president has no authority to bomb either country. He violates the Constitution with every bomb he sends to Iraq. Ordering acts of war is too serious a decision to leave to one man. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land.
“We just marked the 50th Anniversary of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which I voted for and which President Johnson used to dramatically escalate the Vietnam War. I never intended that Resolution to be a blank check for war against Vietnam. Yet that is exactly what Johnson used it for.
“As a consequence, in 1973, I helped draft the The War Powers Resolution and my vote helped override President Nixon’s veto.
“Enforcement of limits on presidential employment of war powers deserves the vigilance of each member of Congress. Each member should consider enforcement a grave personal responsibility. War measures that today seem inconsequential can lead to larger involvements tomorrow. Their ultimate size and duration are unpredictable, as we found in our costly war experiences in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Just recently, Congress stood by as the President ordered bombings in Iraq. Then two U.S. citizens were killed. Rather than using their deaths as a rallying cry for more war, they should be a warning of the negative consequences of war. It’s no accident that the framers deemed the decision of war-making too important to be made by one person.
“If the president orders acts of war in the absence of congressional approval, he risks impeachment by the House of Representatives for usurping a power the Constitution reserves exclusively to the Congress. If Obama wishes lawfully to order airstrikes in the territory of Iraq or Syria, he must first secure a resolution of approval from Congress.”
June 5, 2014
In a sign of how absurd U.S. Middle East policy has become, the White House has characterized Palestine’s membership in international human rights conventions–which would entail new human rights obligations for the Palestinian Authority–as a “threat to Israel.”
The Obama administration deserves much of the blame for the failure of the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
It had originally been hoped that the United States would present a binding framework along the lines of what moderate Israeli and Palestinian political leaders had agreed to in unofficial talks in Geneva in 2003: Israel would recognize a Palestinian state based roughly on the pre-1967 borders with mutual territorial swaps, which would leave the Palestinians with 22 percent of historic Palestine and allow Israel to keep the remaining 78 percent; the Palestinian state would be demilitarized and all irregular militias disarmed; illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory near the Israeli border—encompassing close to 80 percent of the settlers—would be incorporated into Israel while settlers in the more remote settlements would be required to return to Israel; there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel, but there would be international assistance in helping them resettle in the new Palestinian state; and some Israeli troops would remain along border crossings between the Palestinian state and its Arab neighbors, eventually to be replaced by international forces.
The Palestinian government agreed to these terms. Israel rejected them. Rather than make public this framework, and thereby hope the Israeli public would pressure its right-wing government to compromise, the Obama administration instead insisted that “both sides” had shown a lack of will to compromise.
An interview with an anonymous U.S. official close to the peace talks in an Israeli publication confirmed numerous other reports that, despite the Obama administration’s claims to the contrary, the Palestinian side made major concessions while the Israeli side essentially refused to make any, generally refusing to talk about any substantive issues.
A host of Democratic and Republican former officials—including a former national security adviser, secretary of defense, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, trade representative, and undersecretary of state for political affairs—went on record arguing that the Obama administration would have to challenge the Israeli government’s hard line towards the Palestinians in order for the peace process to be successful. Unfortunately, the White House apparently had no interest in doing so.
Instead, Washington has focused on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to give in to U.S. and Israeli demands that he recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.” While the Palestinian government, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the ruling Fatah party have all recognized the state of Israel for more than 20 years, the Obama administration has effectively moved the goalposts by declaring that recognizing the Israeli government, acknowledging its right to exist, and providing security guarantees is not enough, insisting that the Palestinians explicitly recognize the state of Israel’s ethno-religious identity as well. No previous administration has put forward such a requirement. President Carter never made such demands on Egypt, nor did President Clinton require this of Jordan as a condition for their peace treaties with Israel. Abbas has said that Israel can identify itself however it wants, but—given that 20 percent of the Israeli population is ethnically Palestinian Arab—it would be politically impossible to agree to something that would acknowledge second-class status for other Palestinians.
Never in history has any country been required to recognize the ethnic or religious identity of another state as a condition for peace. It appears, then, that the Obama administration’s demand may have been an effort to destroy any chance of a peace agreement and leave an opening to blame the Palestinians—despite their agreement to virtually every other issue—for the failure of the peace process.
The failure may also come from President Obama’s trusting Secretary of State John Kerry, a longtime supporter of the Israeli right, to play such a key role in the peace talks. In 2004, Kerry unconditionally endorsed an Israeli plan to unilaterally and illegally annex large areas of the West Bank, leaving the Palestinians with only a series of small non-contiguous cantons surrounded by Israel as their “state,” a proposal denounced worldwide as a violation of the UN Charter, a series of UN Security Council resolutions, and basic principles of international law. Indeed, Kerry has long insisted that it was “unrealistic” to demand an Israeli withdrawal from its occupied territories. (By contrast, Kerry has demanded that Russia withdraw completely from Crimea, citing the illegality of any country acquiring “part or all of another state’s territory through coercion or force.”)
Recognizing the failure of the United States to be an honest broker, the Palestinian government has been seeking to enhance its diplomatic leverage by redoubling its efforts to be recognized as a full state and acceding to a series of international conventions. The Obama administration and Congress have strongly condemned these moves, insisting that while Israel is free to join various international conventions addressing human rights and international law (despite the current right-wing government’s failure to uphold many of its required obligations), Palestine has no right to join these same conventions. In early April, Kerry cancelled scheduled peace talks with Abbas in protest of the Palestinian government’s efforts to join the Geneva and Vienna Conventions and UN agencies dealing with women’s and children’s rights.
As an indication of just how extreme U.S. Middle East policy has become, the administration has described Palestine’s efforts to join these 15 international conventions addressing human rights and international law as “a threat to Israel.” In reality, none of conventions impact Israel in any way. The Obama administration insists that allowing for any application of international humanitarian law—even Palestinian ratification of human rights treaties that would help end torture or attacks on civilians by Palestinians—would somehow interfere with the peace negotiations. As Bill van Esveld of Human Rights Watch observed, “By blocking accountability in the name of advancing the peace process, the U.S. has facilitated the settlements and other war crimes that are undermining the prospects for peace.”
The contempt the administration has for human rights could not be better illustrated than in a recent speech by Martin Indyk, Obama’s special envoy for Israeli–Palestinian negotiations, in which he criticized the Palestinian government’s “supposed pursuit of ‘justice’ and their ‘rights,’” in an apparent effort to ridicule the very notion. The words “justice” and “rights” are in quotation marks in the official transcript, and a video shows him making quote marks with his fingers.
In another move decried by U.S. officials, Fatah and Hamas announced the formation of a unity government in order to prepare for elections next year. Though no Hamas officials will serve in any cabinet posts and President Abbas has reiterated Palestine’s commitment to a two-state solution and to all previous agreements, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki defended Israel’s decision to suspend the talks by saying, “It’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist.”
Ironically, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party still rejects a two-state solution, and his cabinet includes parties even further to the right—including HaBayit HaYehudi, or “Jewish Home,” which essentially mirrors Hamas in rejecting previous disengagement agreements, refusing to accept Palestine’s right to exist, and supporting attacks against Palestinian civilians. However, the Obama administration apparently believes that while anti-Israel extremism in unacceptable, anti-Palestinian extremism can be tolerated.
Meanwhile, a broad bipartisan effort is growing in the Congress to blame the failure of the peace talks exclusively on the Palestinians and to force the administration to cut all ties with the Palestine Authority.
Unless and until the Obama administration decides to end its support for the Israeli right and support Israeli and Palestinian moderates, there will be no hope for peace.
Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Stephen Zunes is a professor of Politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.
Issues: Human Rights, War & Peace
Regions: Israel, Middle East & North Africa, Palestinian Territories, United States
From The Real News, a good five-minute video report:
Blowing the whistle on wrongdoing creates a moral frequency that vast numbers of people are eager to hear. We don’t want our lives, communities, country and world continually damaged by the deadening silences of fear and conformity.
I’ve met many whistleblowers over the years, and they’ve been extraordinarily ordinary. None were applying for halos or sainthood. All experienced anguish before deciding that continuous inaction had a price that was too high. All suffered negative consequences as well as relief after they spoke up and took action. All made the world better with their courage.
Whistleblowers don’t sign up to be whistleblowers. Almost always, they begin their work as true believers in the system that conscience later compels them to challenge.
“It took years of involvement with a mendacious war policy, evidence of which was apparent to me as early as 2003, before I found the courage to follow my conscience,” Matthew Hoh recalled this week. “It is not an easy or light decision for anyone to make, but we need members of our military, development, diplomatic and intelligence community to speak out if we are ever to have a just and sound foreign policy.”
Hoh describes his record this way: “After over 11 continuous years of service with the U.S. military and U.S. government, nearly six of those years overseas, including service in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as positions within the Secretary of the Navy’s Office as a White House Liaison, and as a consultant for the State Department’s Iraq Desk, I resigned from my position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the escalation of war in 2009.”
Another former Department of State official, the ex-diplomat and retired Army colonel Ann Wright, who resigned in protest of the Iraq invasion in March 2003, is crossing paths with Hoh on Friday as they do the honors at a ribbon-cutting — half a block from the State Department headquarters in Washington — for a billboard with a picture of Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. Big-lettered words begin by referring to the years he waited before releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971.
“Don’t do what I did,” Ellsberg says on the billboard. “Don’t wait until a new war has started, don’t wait until thousands more have died, before you tell the truth with documents that reveal lies or crimes or internal projections of costs and dangers. You might save a war’s worth of lives.”
The billboard — sponsored by the ExposeFacts organization, which launched this week — will spread to other prominent locations in Washington and beyond. As an organizer for ExposeFacts, I’m glad to report that outreach to potential whistleblowers is just getting started. (For details, visit ExposeFacts.org.) We’re propelled by the kind of hopeful determination that Hoh expressed the day before the billboard ribbon-cutting when he said: “I trust ExposeFacts and its efforts will encourage others to follow their conscience and do what is right.”
The journalist Kevin Gosztola, who has astutely covered a range of whistleblower issues for years, pointed this week to the imperative of opening up news media. “There is an important role for ExposeFacts to play in not only forcing more transparency, but also inspiring more media organizations to engage in adversarial journalism,” he wrote. “Such journalism is called for in the face of wars, environmental destruction, escalating poverty, egregious abuses in the justice system, corporate control of government, and national security state secrecy. Perhaps a truly successful organization could inspire U.S. media organizations to play much more of a watchdog role than a lapdog role when covering powerful institutions in government.”
Overall, we desperately need to nurture and propagate a steadfast culture of outspoken whistleblowing. A central motto of the AIDS activist movement dating back to the 1980s — Silence = Death — remains urgently relevant in a vast array of realms. Whether the problems involve perpetual war, corporate malfeasance, climate change, institutionalized racism, patterns of sexual assault, toxic pollution or countless other ills, none can be alleviated without bringing grim realities into the light.
“All governments lie,” Ellsberg says in a video statement released for the launch of ExposeFacts, “and they all like to work in the dark as far as the public is concerned, in terms of their own decision-making, their planning — and to be able to allege, falsely, unanimity in addressing their problems, as if no one who had knowledge of the full facts inside could disagree with the policy the president or the leader of the state is announcing.”
Ellsberg adds: “A country that wants to be a democracy has to be able to penetrate that secrecy, with the help of conscientious individuals who understand in this country that their duty to the Constitution and to the civil liberties and to the welfare of this country definitely surmount their obligation to their bosses, to a given administration, or in some cases to their promise of secrecy.”
Right now, our potential for democracy owes a lot to people like NSA whistleblowers William Binney and Kirk Wiebe, and EPA whistleblower Marsha Coleman-Adebayo. When they spoke at the June 4 news conference in Washington that launched ExposeFacts, their brave clarity was inspiring.
Antidotes to the poisons of cynicism and passive despair can emerge from organizing to help create a better world. The process requires applying a single standard to the real actions of institutions and individuals, no matter how big their budgets or grand their power. What cannot withstand the light of day should not be suffered in silence.
If you see something, say something.
Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, which launched ExposeFacts.org in early June. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”
In a memoir published this year, the CIA’s former top legal officer John Rizzo says that on the last day of 2005 a panicky White House tried to figure out how to prevent the distribution of a book by New York Times reporter James Risen. Officials were upset because Risen’s book, State of War, exposed what — in his words — “may have been one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA.”
The book told of a bungled CIA attempt to set back Iran’s nuclear program in 2000 by supplying the Iranian government with flawed blueprints for nuclear-bomb design. The CIA’s tactic might have actually aided Iranian nuclear development.
When a bootlegged copy of State of War reached the National Security Council, a frantic meeting convened in the Situation Room, according to Rizzo. “As best anyone could tell, the books were printed in bulk and stacked somewhere in warehouses.” The aspiring censors hit a wall. “We arrived at a rueful consensus: game over as far as any realistic possibility to keep the book, and the classified information in it, from getting out.”
But more than eight years later, the Obama White House is seeking a different form of retribution. The people running the current administration don’t want to pulp the book — they want to put its author in jail.
The Obama administration is insisting that Risen name his confidential source — or face imprisonment. Risen says he won’t capitulate.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation calls the government’s effort to force Risen to reveal a source “one of the most significant press freedom cases in decades.”
Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg says: “The pursuit of Risen is a warning to potential sources that journalists cannot promise them confidentiality for disclosing Executive Branch criminality, recklessness, deception, unconstitutional policies or lying us into war. Without protecting confidentiality, investigative journalism required for accountability and democracy will wither and disappear.”
A recent brief from the Obama administration to the nation’s top court “is unflinchingly hostile to the idea of the Supreme Court creating or finding protections for journalists,” Politico reported. The newspaper added that Risen “might be sent to jail or fined if he refuses to identify his sources or testify about other details of his reporting.”
This threat is truly ominous. As Ellsberg puts it, “We would know less than we do now about government abuses, less than we need to know to hold officials accountable and to influence policy democratically.”
So much is at stake: for whistleblowers, freedom of the press and the public’s right to know. For democracy.
That’s why five organizations — RootsAction.org, The Nation, the Center for Media and Democracy / The Progressive, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) and the Freedom of the Press Foundation — have joined together to start a campaign for protecting the confidentiality of journalists’ sources. So far, in May, about 50,000 people have signed a petition telling President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to end legal moves against Risen.
Charging that the administration has launched “an assault on freedom of the press,” the petition tells Obama and Holder: “We urge you in the strongest terms to halt all legal action against Mr. Risen and to safeguard the freedom of journalists to maintain the confidentiality of their sources.”
The online petition — “We Support James Risen Because We Support a Free Press” — includes thousands of personal comments from signers. Here’s a sampling of what they had to say:
“Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are the cornerstones of our democracy. Stop trying to restrict them.” Jim T., Colorado Springs, Colorado
“Protected sources are essential to a real democracy. Without whistleblowers, there is no truth.” Jo Ellen K., San Francisco, California
“Enough of the government assault on freedom of the press! Whistleblowers are heroes to the American people.” Paul D., Keaau, Hawaii
“It seems our government is out of control. The premise of deriving power from the people would appear to be a quaint notion to most within the three branches. Instead they now view us as subjects that must bend to their will rather than the other way around.” Gary J., Liberty Township, Ohio
“‘Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.’ — George Orwell” Todd J., Oxford, Michigan
“As a writer, I support freedom of the press around the world as a vital first step toward regaining control of our compromised democracies.” Patricia R., Whitehorse, YT, Canada
“You promised an open and transparent administration. Please keep that promise.” Willard S., Cary, North Carolina
“Without a free press, we really have nothing.” Robin H., Weehawken, New Jersey
“The Obama administration’s attack on press freedom is an issue of grave concern. Why are we spending billions of dollars going after supposed ‘terrorists’ when the greatest threat to democracy resides right here in Washington, DC.” Karen D., Detroit, Michigan
“Damn you, Obama! You become more like Nixon daily!” Leonard H., Manchester, Michigan
“Congratulations, Mr. Risen!” Marian C., Hollister, California
“The U.S. is becoming an increasingly frightening place to live, more than a little like a police state. President Obama, you have been a huge disappointment. I expected better from you.” Barbara R., Newport, Rhode Island
“Come on, President Obama… you’re a Constitutional scholar. You know better than this. Knock it off.” James S., Burbank, California
“There can be no true freedom of the press unless the confidentiality of sources is protected. Without this, no leads, informants or whistleblowers will be motivated to come forward. Reporters should not be imprisoned for doing their job.” Chris R., North Canton, Ohio
“You took an oath to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,’ freedom of the press!” Diane S., San Jose, California
“Whatever became of the progressive Obama and the change you promised? Evidently it was a load of campaign bull puckey, making you just another politician who says whatever it takes to get elected. In other words, you and your administration are a complete sham. As for your constitutional scholarship, it would appear to be in the service of undermining the Constitution a la Bush and Cheney.” Barry E., Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
“Without a free press, our republic is paper-mache. Remember John Peter Zenger! We must not shoot the messenger — we must raise the bar for conduct and probity!” Lance K., Chelsea, Massachusetts
“A free press is the only counterbalance to crony capitalism, corrupt legislators, and a pitifully partisan Supreme Court, that continues to destroy our Constitutional protections.” Dion B., Cathedral City, California
“I implore you to RESPECT THE FIRST AMENDMENT.” Glen A., Lacey, Washington
“Did you not learn in grade school that freedom of the press is essential to a free country?” Joanne D., Colorado Springs, Colorado
“We’ve been down this road before. What amazes me is that we condemn other countries for stifling freedom of the press, then turn around and do the same thing to advance our own purposes. Are we proponents of democracy and a free press or not?” William M., Whittier, California
“Journalism is a vital component of a democracy, and it is a core function protected by the freedom of expression enshrined in both international and domestic law. You must stop harassing and persecuting journalists and their sources who are providing a vital public service in prying open the activities of governments that are illegitimately concealed from the public. If the public is not informed of state actions executed in their name, they cannot evaluate and render consent to those actions through the vote. This secrecy therefore subverts democracy, and you must stop using police powers to destroy the whistleblowers who enable government accountability to the public.” Jim S., Gatlinburg, Tennessee
“I support freedom of the press, not the attorney general’s vicious abuse of his position!” Bettemae J., Albuquerque, New Mexico
“Compelling reporters to reveal their sources just means that sources will stop talking to reporters. That will cripple the free press. If you think that’s not important, please resign immediately.” Stephen P., Gresham, Oregon
“As an old woman who remembers the lies of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush (especially) and the current administration, I do not trust my own government to tell me the truth anymore. Freedom of the press is my only chance [to] find out what the truth is. Protect reporters’ sources!” Monica O., Lomita, California
“Without freedom of the press, we might as well kiss democracy goodbye!” Melvin M., Vashon, Washington
“I am ashamed of this administration, its policies and its Department of Justice — what a travesty of criminal turpitude and mass media complicity. ‘Transparency’ — hah! Cheap campaign rhetoric.” Mitch L., Los Altos Hills, California
“Walk the walk or stop talking about democracy. Free press is the basis of our constitution.” Carl D., Manassas, Virginia
“No free press, no democracy!” James F., Moab, Utah
“If you force the media to reveal its sources, no one will ever come forth with a news story or lead again. I’m sure this is precisely what the politicians and big business want. Then there’d be absolutely no accountability. We need an effective shield law rather than persecuting journalists and news organizations for reporting the news.” Jim S., Ladera Ranch, California
“Freedom of the Press is the hallmark of a free society. Your administration has done everything in its power to subvert Freedom of the Press by jailing whistleblowers and reporters who uncover wrong doing. This must stop!” Ed A., Queens, New York
“We have very few real journalists left. Let’s not jail them!” Karen H., West Grove, Pennsylvania
“As the press goes, so goes citizens’ rights.” Kathy F., West Bend, Wisconsin
“I have been shocked at how this administration has treated the American people’s right to know, prosecuting reporters, whistleblowers, and others who have had the temerity to cast light into the dark corners of our government. You bring the whole concept of democracy into disrepute and set a bad example for the rest of the world.” Marjorie P., Montpelier, Vermont
“We need our investigative reporters more now than ever in history. Keep our press free.” Joan R., Novato, California
“Investigative reporting is becoming too rare in the U.S., and compelling J. Risen to reveal his sources will only make such reporting even rarer. Is this your deliberate intent?” Elaine L., Elk Grove, California
“I am responding in support of James Risen. Freedom of the press is one of the cornerstones of our democracy and should never be trampled on by government.” Lois D., San Jacinto, California
“Freedom of the press is more important than some stinking government attempt to find out how bad shenanigans made it into the press. Quit this crap about trying to make a reporter reveal his or her sources. We need good reporting a lot more than lousy stinking politicians trying to shut up the truth.” Ralph M., Bakerstown, Pennsylvania
“Without a free press tyranny will ensue.” Bob P., Holland, Pennsylvania
“I thought Mr. Obama was supposed to be a Constitutional lawyer and swore to uphold it. I thought the Attorney General was supposed to also protect the Constitution. It seems you both have abandoned those duties. Prove you hold the Constitution as the authority from which you derive your own and cease this persecution of a reporter who epitomizes one of the crucial things the Constitution stands for — a truly free press.” Michael S., Tukwila, Washington
“I’ve seen mud more transparent than the Obama admin.” Paul H., Carlton, Oregon
“Wow, this coming from the Obama administration who supposedly is for open govt. Isn’t it a police state when the govt cracks down on reporters for telling the truth? James Risen is a hero who will go to jail before revealing his source and the fact that you want to throw him in jail is the real crime here.” Gayle J., Seattle, Washington
“Shocking.” Peggy K., Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin
“You have way overstepped your authority. I consider myself a moderate, but your aggressive pursuit of journalists and whistleblowers strikes fear in my heart. Your use of intimidation to weaken the press is contributing to the dismantling of our democracy.” Marcia B., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
“Quit trying to silence journalists! This is a Vladimir Putin approach to government. Hope and Change? Get Real!” Rich W., Grass Valley, California
“Stop destroying our heroes, the courageous whistleblowers and journalists, including Risen and others who should be thanked, not prosecuted! You know damn well that the People want these people honored!” Nancy G., Palm Desert, California
“Please recognize the need for a journalist to be free of coercion to reveal confidential sources. Bravo to James Risen for having the courage to resist this onerous government intimidation.” Thomas S., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
“We are already seeing freedom of the press undermined by consolidation of media ownership. The founding fathers believed that we could only keep this republic if we have free press and an informed public. Stop the suppression of information. Free access to information is not an optional ingredient.” Janelle J., Buffalo, Missouri
“Stop persecuting journalists and whistleblowers. Information is the lifeblood of a democracy.” William C., Sherman Oaks, California
“Our government has become big brother. Journalists must not be forced to name their sources if we are to know the truth.” Carolyn S., Los Angeles, California
“A free press is gone if confidential sources are revealed.” Vincent H., Rutledge, Tennessee
“Frankly, Mr. President, I’m surprised at you, and I have to say, disappointed. This seems like something that happens in totalitarian countries.” Karen B., Felton, California
“Freedom of the press is already under siege because big business controls so much of the message. The Obama administration must respect James Risen’s right to withhold his source.” Patricia B., Marco Island, Florida
“Whistleblowers are vital to keeping our democracy from turning into a police state. And a free press is vital to keeping us informed. Drop this case, and uphold the principles of our Constitution.” Cynthia D., E. Boston, MA
“The press should be free to do its job! How about some of that ‘most transparent administration’ stuff. If an administration has nothing to hide it has nothing to fear.” Mike H., Terre Haute, Indiana
“James Risen is an investigative reporter of high repute who should not be subjected to state harassment and punishment for upholding his pledge of confidentiality to his sources. These encroachments on our Fourth Estate’s watchdog function as a check on the abuse of power must not stand.” Barbara K., Santa Fe, New Mexico
“You both have to stop talking out of both sides of your mouth, i.e. lying. We are fighting for freedom of the press. Stop being enemies to us people.” Judith N., North Bonneville, Washington
“Please don’t trash the Bill of Rights. Protect the freedom and independence of the press. Drop the case against James Risen.” Andrew M., Lower Gwynedd, Pennsylvania
“Daniel Ellsberg was right. James Risen is right.” Leonore J., Toledo, Ohio
“When the light of free press is no more, darkness prevails and evildoers flourish. I know this is what this corrupt government wants but over our dead bodies.” Felix C., San Antonio, Texas
“What Mr. Risen did in this instance, was not criminal. Rather it was EXACTLY what a free press should do, without fear of reprisal. Stop the strong arm tactics.” John S., Trumbull, Connecticut
“The investigative work of journalists sheds light on the world and what is happening. The increasing punishment of journalists is pushing our world and news into a scary age of non-information. Safeguard the confidentiality of journalists and their sources.” Christin B., Barnegat Light, New Jersey
“Stop persecuting journalists and truth tellers.” Phyllis B., Desert Hot Springs, California
Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.org. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.