Hedges reveals what’s behind Obama’s assault on whistleblowers and press freedom
No 749 Posted by fw, May 17, 2013
“So what they do is they pass [legislation] … in the name of the war on terror, but then they can use it. Anybody can become a terrorist…. So when we allow this kind of thing to go forward, we essentially shut down any ability not only to ferret out what’s happening internally within the mechanisms of power, but to protest or carry out dissent.” —Chris Hedges
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges and author of The Death of Truth talks to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now about the significance of the Obama administration’s continuing attempts to criminalize any form of dissent. “What we’ve undergone… [is] a kind of corporate coup d’état.”
What Obama is doing in the US is not unlike what Harper is trying to do in Canada.
Click on the following linked title to watch the interview and access the complete transcript. Or scroll down to watch an embedded copy of the 19-minute interview and read an abridged version of the transcript with added subheadings.
Chris Hedges Monitoring of AP Phones a “Terrifying” Step in State Assault on Press Freedom, Chris Hedges interview, Democracy Now, May 15, 2013
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges joins us to discuss what could mark the most significant government intrusion on freedom of the press in decades. The Justice Department has acknowledged seizing the work, home and cellphone records used by almost 100 reporters and editors at the Associated Press…. The action likely came as part of a probe into the leaks behind an AP story on the U.S. intelligence operation that stopped a Yemen-based al-Qaeda bombing plot on a U.S.-bound airplane. Hedges…calls the monitoring “one more assault in a long series of assault against freedom of information and freedom of the press.” Highlighting the Obama administration’s targeting of government whistleblowers, Hedges adds: “Talk to any investigative journalist who must investigate the government, and they will tell you that there is a deep freeze. People are terrified of speaking, because they’re terrified of going to jail.”
[Chris Hedges is the sole source for all following passages]
Monitoring of Associated Press staff cellphone records is part of Obama admin pattern to silence whistleblowers
Well, it’s part of a pattern. That’s what’s so frightening. And it’s a pattern that we’ve seen, with the use of the Espionage Act, to essentially silence whistleblowers within the government—Kiriakou, Drake and others, although Kiriakou went to jail on—pled out on another charge—the FISA Amendment Act, which allows for warrantless wiretapping, the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows for the stripping of American citizens of due process and indefinite detention. And it is one more assault in a long series of assault against freedom of information and freedom of the press. And I would also, of course, throw in the persecution of Julian Assange at WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning as part of that process.
Obama using Espionage Act to terrify investigative journalists
Well, it’s been used six times by the Obama administration. It was written in 1917 and was—is our Foreign Secrets Act. It is never meant—it was not designed to shut down whistleblowers, first used against Daniel Ellsberg in the Pentagon Papers. So, three times from 1917 until Obama takes office in 2009, six times. And if you talk to investigative journalists in this country, who must investigate the inner workings of government, no one will talk, even on background. People are terrified. And this is, of course—the seizure of two months of records, of AP records, is not really about going after AP; it’s about going after that person or those people who leaked this story and shutting them down. And this canard that it endangered American life is—you know, there’s no evidence for this.
Anyone who digs out cases of torture and war crimes is going to be ruthlessly silenced
Well, I find, you know, all of these measures to essentially shut down the freedom of information, including the persecution of Assange and Manning, as symptomatic of a reconfiguration of our society into a totalitarian security and surveillance state, one where anyone who challenges the official narrative, who digs out cases of torture, war crimes—which is, of course, what Manning and Assange presented to the American public—is going to be ruthlessly silenced.
The mainstream press has no conception of what this is all about – Obama’s attempt to criminalize any form of dissent
And I find the passivity on the part of the mainstream press, publications like The New York Times, The Guardian, El País, Der Spiegel, all of which, of course, used this information, and turning their backs on Manning and Assange, to be very shortsighted for precisely this reason. If they think it’s just about Manning and Assange, then they have no conception of what it is that’s happening.
And, you know, everyone knows, within the administration, within the National Security Council, the effects of climate change, the instability that that will cause, the economic deterioration, which is irreversible, and they want the mechanisms by which they can criminalize any form of dissent. And that’s finally what this is about.
Obama using war on terror as excuse to ferret out and destroy legitimate movements that challenge centers of power
Well, you know, it becomes the same paradigm in the war against communism. It’s an excuse to ferret out and destroy legitimate movements that challenge centers of power. And that’s, of course, how the war on terror has worked in exactly the same way. But we are seeing environmental activists, Occupy activists, people who function, like Manning, as a whistleblower being caught up in this war on terror and silenced through these rules.
So what they do is they pass, you know, for instance, Section 1021 of the NDAA. They pass it in the name of the war on terror, but then they can use it. Anybody can become a terrorist. I mean, in the trial in federal court, which we brought against—in the Southern District, we used, in the Stratfor-leaked emails that were put out by WikiLeaks, where they were trying to link a group that was close to Occupy, US Day of Rage, and al-Qaeda. That’s precisely what happened. So when we allow this kind of thing to go forward, we essentially shut down any ability not only to ferret out what’s happening internally within the mechanisms of power, but to protest or carry out dissent.
“We are now in the last moments of an effort to, in essence, effectively extinguish press freedom”
I find what’s happening terrifying, truly frightening. And when you look closely at all of the documents that were purportedly given to WikiLeaks by Bradley Manning and published through Assange, none of them were top-secret. I mean, as a former investigative reporter for The New York Times, it was my job to go and find out often top-secret information. And that’s why I can’t understand the inability of the traditional press to grasp that we are now in the last moments of an effort to, in essence, effectively extinguish press freedom.
Obama has succeeded in dividing members of the press against themselves
And if you—I mean, AP is an — like The New York Times – an amazingly cautious organization, but read the comments. I mean, they get it, internally. But, unfortunately, you know, they have divided us against ourselves, and—and this is—you know, what we’ve undergone, as John Ralston says and as I’ve said many times, a kind of corporate coup d’état.
Obama is carrying out policies Bush put in place, but with a difference – he’s smarter
What we are seeing is a system put into place where it’s all propaganda. And anybody who challenges—I mean, look, this constant reference to a shield law is absurd, because they just violated the shield law by not going to court and informing AP of a subpoena but doing it secretly. So, I mean, you’ve got to hand it to the Obama administration. They’re far more clever than their predecessors in the Bush administration, but they’re carrying out exactly the same policy of snuffing out our most basic civil liberties and our most important press freedoms.
What we’re witnessing is a corporate coup d’état
And that’s because they know what’s coming, and they are going to legally put in a place by which any challenge to the centers of corporate power become ineffectual or impossible.