CPJ is disturbed by the pattern of actions by the Obama administration that have chilled the flow of information on issues of great public interest, including matters of national security. The administration’s war on leaks to the press through the use of secret subpoenas against news organizations, its assertion through prosecution that leaking classified documents to the press is espionage or aiding the enemy, and its increased limitations on access to information that is in the public interest — all thwart a free and open discussion necessary to a democracy.
Therefore, CPJ made the following recommendations in a letter to the White House:
- Affirm and guarantee that journalists will not be at legal risk or prosecuted for receiving confidential and/or classified information.
- Be more forthcoming about the scope and nature of the National Security Agency and other surveillance activities as they are being applied to domestic and international journalists. Develop policies to limit surveillance of journalists’ communications to ensure the integrity of a journalist’s right to protect his or her sources.
- Implement revised Justice Department guidelines and prevent the filing of unnecessary, overly broad, and/or secret subpoenas to obtain journalists’ records.
- End the practice of bringing espionage charges against people who leak classified information to journalists, which could create a severe chilling effect and thwart the free flow of information on matters of public interest.
- Make good on promises to increase transparency of government activities and end government intimidation of officials who might speak to the press. Enforce prompt and less restrictive responses to FOIA requests and more systematic and far-reaching efforts to reduce over-classification. Encourage administration officials to be open and responsive to press inquiries.
- Advocate for the broadest possible definition of “journalist” or “journalism” in any federal shield law. Any federal shield law should protect the newsgathering process, rather than professional credentials, experience, or status, so that it cannot be used as a means of de facto government licensing.
Read the full special report, “The Obama Administration and the Press: Leak investigations and surveillance in post-9/11 America.”