“As usual, few things are as unreliable as Obama’s speeches and rhetoric…”

At the Big G’s Comment is Free, Glenn Greenwald follows up on his excellent analysis of US President Barack Obama’s recent ‘war on terror’ speech to focus in on one of those domestic political problems I mentioned – “the serious threat posed by the Obama administration to press freedoms”.  From Glenn Greenwald’s post

Outside of the most hardened Obama media loyalists, it’s virtually impossible to find any defenses or even offers of excuses or mitigation for what the Obama administration has been doing in this area. As the New York Times documented this week – and has been extremely obvious for years for anyone who does investigative journalism or talks to those who do – an unprecedented climate of fear has emerged that has, as the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer put it, all but brought the newsgathering process to a “standstill”. It’s genuinely hard to overstate how frightened people are who want to reveal incriminating government secrets and those who want to report on them. That is by design.

As a result of all this, the administration has offered characteristically symbolic gestures to placate the growing media anger, but those gestures actually solve nothing. Obama announced he was once again supporting a shield law that provides some protections to journalists, but media outlets quickly pointed out that, by design, it would have done little if not nothing to prevent any of these abuses, and could arguably empower the DOJ even more to invade journalists’ communications. Then the Obama White House proudly announced that there would be an “investigation” into the DOJ’s treatment of whistlelbowers and journalists, an investigation that would be led by . . . Eric Holder himself; that’s DC oversight: we’re going to conduct a robust investigation of ourselves.

Those steps prompted more mockery than anything else. So yesterday, Holder’s friends and “associates” ran to the Daily Beast’s Daniel Klaidman to assure us that the Attorney General “has been particularly stung by the leak controversy” and that – get this – “his own personal soul searching has already begun, with, among other things, the question of why he signed off on an affidavit that in retrospect he believed may have crossed the line.” He’s also opening a “dialogue” with media outlets to see how he can do better. Apparently, Holder didn’t realize why it was so menacing to accuse a reporter of committing felonies for doing what reporters do, and now feels “regret” over what happened, now that it’s been publicly exposed (amusingly, the hardest-core Obama media loyalists decided that now that even Eric Holder is expressing regret for what he did, they have permission to change their views from a defense of the DOJ’s conduct to criticism of it).

That “dialogue” with the media, it emerged, was conditional on it being off-the-record… 

As ever, read the whole thing.

Because Glenn Greenwald goes on to ask “what journalists will do to compel the administration to cease these attacks on core press freedoms”.  And he wasn’t optimistic.  But there may be signs of a backbone after all…

Media outlets that refuse to participate in an off-the-record meeting with Attorney General (AG) Eric Holder about the Justice Department’s surveillance of journalists surrender their ‘right to gripe’ about the government investigations, according to a Democratic spokesman.

The New York Times announced that it will not send a representative to the meeting. “POTUS asked AG to review how leak investigations are done but some in the media refuse to meet with him,” Democratic Party Communications Director Brad Woodhouse tweeted. “Kind of forfeits your right [to] gripe.”

From Glenn Greenwald’s CiF post updates

To its credit, the New York Times announced, through its Executive Editor, Jill Abramson, that it “will not be attending the session at DOJ” because “it isn’t appropriate for us to attend an off the record meeting with the attorney general.” Indeed it is not. It will be interesting to see which media outlets nonetheless do attend under this completely inexcusable off-the-record condition.

On a different note, one related to Tuesday’s column about the substantive meaningless of Obama’s terrorism speech: the New York Times’ Editorial Page editor, Andy Rosenthal, who previously praised the Obama administration for announcing an end to signature strikes, today re-considers that claim in light of clear evidence brought to his attention that contradicts it. Read his analysis here. As usual, few things are as unreliable as Obama’s speeches and rhetoric.

If you haven’t already, read the whole thing.

Adds  And Glenn’s latest post, on Obama’s nominee to be the next FBI director, a former deputy attorney general in the Bush administration, James Comey, is also well worth reading in full.

In other words, there was something the NSA was doing for years – that we still don’t know – even more extreme than the illegal NSA program revealed by the NYT in 2005. It was Comey, along with Ashcroft, Mueller, and Goldsmith, who threatened to resign if it did not stop, and they deserve credit for that. But the reason they didn’t end up resigning was because Bush officials “modified” that NSA program into something those lawyers could and did endorse: the still-illegal, still-radical NSA eavesdropping program that spied on the communications of Americans without warrants and in violation of the law. And this was accomplished by inventing a new legal theory to accompany the old one: that Congress, when it enacted the 2001 AUMF, silently and “implicitly” authorized Bush to eavesdrop in exactly the ways the law expressly forbade.

Thus, it was Comey who gave his legal approval to enable that NSA eavesdropping program to spy on Americans without warrants: the same program that produced so much outrage and scandal when revealed by the NYT. How can any progressive who spent the Bush years vehemently denouncing that domestic spying program as the symbol of Bush radicalism and lawlessness now cheer when the lawyer who approved it is about to be put in charge of the FBI?

And he has another update to a previous point

Following up on yesterday’s column about Eric Holder’s attempts to meet with media outlets over the leak investigations controversy and his demand that the meeting be off-the-record: several organizations have commendably refused to attend under those conditions, including the New York Times, Associated Press, the Huffington Post and (even) CNN. Unsurprisingly, both Politico and the Washington Post will eagerly submit to that condition and attend the meeting, even though they’ll be barred from telling their readers what was discussed.

Again, read the whole thing.