Monday, June 18, 2007

Reporters and Terrorists

“We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason.”
Edward R. Murrow

Never relax, never feel free. There is terror in your midst...forever.

The “San Francisco Chronicle” reported last Friday that Republicans were hampering efforts at legislating a “shield” to protect reporters from demands that they reveal their sources, because such a right would be EXPLOITED BY TERRORISTS!

Which begs the question: Aren’t all our rights exploited by terrorists to some degree? Which, in turn, begs another question: Does that mean we should do away with all our rights?

According to the article, someone named Rachael Brand from attorney general Gonzo Gonzales’ “office of legal policy” (Bushies offer the other kind, too) told the House Judiciary Committee it opposed a reporters’ shield because “terrorists might post documents or video on Web sites, then invoke the new protections for journalists in an effort to thwart prosecutors.”

Of course, that would involve a scenario where “suspected terrorists” and declared “enemy combatants” were actually given hearings instead of being locked up offshore at Camp Gitmo or one of the other secret prisons established in foreign countries for the same purpose.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called Brand’s assertions, “Absurd,” which is the proper response and one reason why Democrats were put back in control of the legislature last November.

Another was to stop the war, but we won’t get into that right now.

“Ever since 9/11, they [the Republicans] have used the incident to take things away from us,” Conyers said at the June 14 hearing. “We’re supposed to be afraid of terrorists. I mean who would believe that Hamas would be allowed in federal court to claim that they had the use of the shield to protect them?”

The Bush administration, that’s who.

Conyers, whom most people have never heard of, is not alone in these sentiments, enjoying concurrence from Al Gore, whom just about everybody in the world has heard of.

In his latest treatise, “The Assault On Reason,” Gore accused the administration of, “using the war against terrorism for partisan advantage and introducing far-reaching changes in social policy in order to consolidate its political power.”

The “changes in social policy” would appear to include this assault on the press. Which begs a third question: Does anybody expect the president to sign reporters’ shield legislation?

The consolidation of political power comes from the fact scaring people worked well politically, at least until 2006.

Gore noted in a chapter entitled “The Politics of Fear” that [in 2002], “the president went to war verbally against terrorists in virtually every campaign speech and fund-raising dinner for his political party. It was his main political theme. Democratic candidates like Senator Max Cleland in Georgia, a triple-amputee Vietnam vet, were labeled unpatriotic for voting counter to the White House’s wishes on obscure amendments to the homeland security bill.”

Whether they can ride another wave of fear to victory in 2008 remains to be seen.

“Washington Post” columnist E.J. Dionne, for one, is not so sure.

In a piece published the same day as the “Chronicle” article, he rendered a GOP apparatus lacking purpose and identity: “This could be the new Republican Party in the making: a disappointed, dissatisfied and inward-looking coalition that abandons Reagan’s hopefulness and tries to hang on by playing on fears of terrorism and anger about immigration.”

the highway scribe has more than a sneaking suspicion that, rather than terrorists or the immigrants it asserts represent a national security threat, what the Bush administration really fears is a leak to reporters of some new and hidden travesty cooked up by its terror warriors, that not only violates all notions of common decency, but the U.S. Constitution as well.

That’s how we found out about the secret prisons and the National Security Agency’s illegal wiretapping of American citizens.

When that happened, the administration started looking into ways they might screw reporters who fielded and amplified such leaks; reporters they despise only slightly less than the leakers themselves.

Even the dean of conservative hacks, William Safire, is appalled, having told the committee, (again according to the article), that “the Justice Department, federal prosecutors and judges were coercing journalists to reveal their sources -- with subpoenas, fines and the threat of jail time - at an unprecedented rate.”

Said Safire (and quoting him does not come easy): “The movement to force journalists to reveal their sources is an attempt to turn the press into an arm of the law. Believe me, when a journalist is threatened with jail, he or she feels a coercive chill.”

Overcoats all around, ladies and gentleman.

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