Attacks on the First Amendment Erupt from Leaked Information

Following what Attorney General Jeff Sessions has termed as an increasing number of times, information has leaked from the White House over the past months. Sessions said in a press conference on Fri, Aug. 4, 2017 that the Department of Justice was planning to pursue those behind the leaks.

According to Sessions, the Department of Justice has the intension of seeking to pursue and penalize not only the individuals who leaked this information, but also the media organizations that took the information and published it.

“The department will revisit its policies affecting media subpoenas,” Sessions said. His comments came after President Donald Trump condemned journalists and the media for the continued leaking of information, something that press freedom groups and journalists have seen as a contradiction of the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Sessions comments elicited a number of responses from advocators of press freedom. Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project responded, “Every American should be concerned about the Trump administration’s threat to step up its efforts against whistleblowers and journalists,” as it represents an attack “on democracy as a whole.”

Elsewhere, Jesselyn Radack, the director of the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program, said later that day at ExposeFacts that Sessions was encouraging a “McCarthy-esque culture within the federal government.”

“These first months of the Trump administration dramatically illustrate the importance of having a free press,’ Wizner said in conclusion before posing. “Can anyone seriously argue that our country would be better off if the public received all of its information through official channels alone?”

“The Justice Department’s crackdown on leaks wrongly targets and punishes national security whistleblowers, who have no meaningful internal channels for dissent or meaningful protection from retaliation,” Radack said. “The crackdown is a backdoor way of attacking journalists on whom the public relies to be informed about government misconduct.”

More opposition to Sessions’ comment came from the Freedom of the Press Foundation. In a press release following the comments by Sessions, the Foundation claimed, “Sessions’ suggestion that journalism is a threat to national security is particularly concerning. Journalists play a crucial role in our democracy, informing the public about the government’s activities.”

Even with the strong opposition of the crackdown of the people behind the leaks, Trump has maintained his stance, hinting at the possibility of revoking licenses as a way of punishing media houses that published leaked information. “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their license? Bad for country!” Trump said in a tweet on Wed,, Oct. 11, 2017.

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