FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Worse Than The AP Phone Scandal

by KEN KLIPPENSTEIN

Before Attorney General Eric Holder oversaw a Justice Department that secretly seized AP journalists’ phone records, he was guilty of something even worse, and closely related to the AP scandal. He argued a little-known case before the Supreme Court called Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, which found that speech (and other forms of nonviolent advocacy) could be construed as material support for terrorist organizations. The case involved a U.S.-based non-profit organization, the Humanitarian Law Project, which, according to its website, is “dedicated to protecting human rights and promoting the peaceful resolution of conflict by using established international human rights laws and humanitarian law.” It also enjoys a consultive status at the UN; so, in other words, hardly a radical organization.

The Humanitarian Law Project advised groups designated by the Secretary of State as “terror organizations” to enter into peace negotiations and the UN process. Holder argued that such advice was the same as material support for terrorist organizations. Elena Kagan (at the time Obama’s Solicitor General appointee) formally assisted Holder in his argument. Holder and Kagan won the case. Shortly thereafter, Obama promoted her to Supreme Court Justice. Back when he was a Senator, Obama wrote, “There is one way, over the long haul, to guarantee the appointment of judges that are sensitive to issues of social justice, and that is to win the right to appoint them by recapturing the presidency”. To the layperson, social justice and civil liberties would seem to be related; but Harvard-educated constitutional law scholars know better.
The High Court’s decision in favor of the Obama administration prompted criticism from President Jimmy Carter:

“We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that inhibits the work of human rights and conflict resolution groups. The ‘material support law’ – which is aimed at putting an end to terrorism – actually threatens our work and the work of many other peacemaking organizations that must interact directly with groups that have engaged in violence. The vague language of the law leaves us wondering if we will be prosecuted for our work to promote peace and freedom.”

Noam Chomsky has described Holder v. Humanitarian Law as “the first major attack on freedom of speech in the United States since the notorious Smith Act back around 1940.” I emailed him, asking why things like Obama’s NDAA are getting so much more attention than far more harmful Holder v. Humanitarian Law. Chomsky wrote back, “I agree with you that this is far more important than NDAA, and have been arguing that for some time, with no effect.”

Just as the Obama administration stifled speech in Holder v. Humanitarian Law, they did the same thing when they targeted AP journalists. Quite likely, the journalist’s great sin was exposing the story of a CIA operation in Yemen. We don’t know why the administration needs to know the identity of the journalist responsible for the story, because they won’t say. However, Holder assures us that “This was a very serious—a very serious leak, and a very, very serious leak.”

Very well put, Holder.

Given Obama’s enthusiasm for prosecuting whistleblowers, one might be led to think that he’s opposed to leaks. Not so, as evidenced by Obama’s leak of his “kill list” to the Times for political gain—among other intentional leaks. The “kill list” represented a top-secret leak, unlike the lower security clearance level of so many leaks that the administration has prosecuted with alacrity. The effect of Obama’s leak prosecutions, coupled with his hypocritical employment of leaks, is to concentrate power in his own hands. (History shows how well it turns out when charismatic leaders are permitted to consolidate power.) As constitutional and civil rights litigator Glenn Greenwald’s careful analysis of the topic has argued,

“Their unprecedented attacks on whistleblowers ensures that only the White House but nobody else can disclose classified information to the public, which is another way of saying that they seek to seize the ultimate propaganda model whereby the president and he alone controls the flow of information to the public. That’s what their very selective and self-serving war on leaks achieves.”

By use of the term ‘propaganda model,’ Greenwald is probably referring to Chomsky and Herman’s landmark book, Manufacturing Consent. The book demonstrated empirically that the mainstream media are biased in the favor of elite interests, largely because the information it disseminates is subject to five different filters (things like corporate ownership). Obama is trying to introduce a sixth filter, namely himself. Simply put, Obama is attempting to acquire a monopoly on leaks—a chilling prospect.

The White House Press Corps is a well-groomed, attentive bunch that seems better suited to an iPhone press conference than sparring with the President’s press secretary. Yet the AP phone scandal was enough to get Press Corps members to roll up their well-tailored sleeves and, as in one heated exchange with Press Secretary Jay Carney, ask why “this administration in the last four years has prosecuted twice as many leakers as every previous administration combined.”

Sure, delivering a critique as belated as this is a bit like a puppy baring its teeth. But puppies turn into dogs very quickly, and the establishment media are nothing if not pack animals. Like the Press Corps, virtually all of the establishment press, from the Washington Post to the New York Times (and of course the Associated Press) are bitterly condemning the administration’s seizure of AP phone records. This is strikingly different from their usual complicity with presidential administrations in exercising selective attention to atrocities of official enemies (e.g. Syria, Iran, North Korea) and selective ignorance to those of our official friends (e.g. Israel, NATO).

The fact that the White House is now offering to reintroduce a press shield law shows how frightened they are. As with any negotiation, one offers as little as possible, in anticipation of counteroffers. That they’re leading with a press shield law is encouraging. Now would be the time to make demands, like a legislative repeal of Holder v. Humanitarian Law.

Ken Klippenstein lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where he edits the left issues website whiterosereader.org He can be reached at reader246@gmail.com

Ken Klippenstein is an American journalist who can be reached on Twitter @kenklippenstein or by email: kenneth.klippenstein@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 25, 2016
Mike Whitney
The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives up on Empire
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
The Louisiana Catastrophe Proves the Need for Universal, Single-Payer Disaster Insurance
John W. Whitehead
Another Brick in the Wall: Children of the American Police State
Lewis Evans
Genocide in Plain Sight: Shooting Bushmen From Helicopters in Botswana
Daniel Kovalik
Colombia: Peace in the Shadow of the Death Squads
Sam Husseini
How the Washington Post Sells the Politics of Fear
Ramzy Baroud
Punishing the Messenger: Israel’s War on NGOs Takes a Worrying Turn
Norman Pollack
Troglodyte Vs. Goebbelean Fascism: The 2016 Presidential Race
Simon Wood
Where are the Child Victims of the West?
Roseangela Hartford
The Hidden Homeless Population
Mark Weisbrot
Obama’s Campaign for TPP Could Drag Down the Democrats
Rick Sterling
Clintonites Prepare for War on Syria
Yves Engler
The Anti-Semitism Smear Against Canadian Greens
August 24, 2016
John Pilger
Provoking Nuclear War by Media
Jonathan Cook
The Birth of Agro-Resistance in Palestine
Eric Draitser
Ajamu Baraka, “Uncle Tom,” and the Pathology of White Liberal Racism
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt and the New Financial Imperialism
Robert Fisk
The Sultan’s Hit List Grows, as Turkey Prepares to Enter Syria
Abubakar N. Kasim
What Did the Olympics Really Do for Humanity?
Renee Parsons
Obamacare Supporters Oppose ColoradoCare
Alycee Lane
The Trump Campaign: a White Revolt Against ‘Neoliberal Multiculturalism’
Edward Hunt
Maintaining U.S. Dominance in the Pacific
George Wuerthner
The Big Fish Kill on the Yellowstone
Jesse Jackson
Democrats Shouldn’t Get a Blank Check From Black Voters
Kent Paterson
Saving Southern New Mexico from the Next Big Flood
Arnold August
RIP Jean-Guy Allard: A Model for Progressive Journalists Working in the Capitalist System
August 23, 2016
Diana Johnstone
Hillary and the Glass Ceilings Illusion
Bill Quigley
Race and Class Gap Widening: Katrina Pain Index 2016 by the Numbers
Ted Rall
Trump vs. Clinton: It’s All About the Debates
Eoin Higgins
Will Progressive Democrats Ever Support a Third Party Candidate?
Kenneth J. Saltman
Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success
Binoy Kampmark
Labouring Hours: Sweden’s Six-Hour Working Day
John Feffer
The Globalization of Trump
Gwendolyn Mink – Felicia Kornbluh
Time to End “Welfare as We Know It”
Medea Benjamin
Congress Must Take Action to Block Weapon Sales to Saudi Arabia
Halyna Mokrushyna
Political Writer, Daughter of Ukrainian Dissident, Detained and Charged in Ukraine
Manuel E. Yepe
Tourism and Religion Go Hand-in-Hand in the Caribbean
ED ADELMAN
Belted by Trump
Thomas Knapp
War: The Islamic State and Western Politicians Against the Rest of Us
Nauman Sadiq
Shifting Alliances: Turkey, Russia and the Kurds
Rivera Sun
Active Peace: Restoring Relationships While Making Change
August 22, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton: The Anti-Woman ‘Feminist’
Robert Hunziker
Arctic Death Rattle
Norman Solomon
Clinton’s Transition Team: a Corporate Presidency Foretold
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Hubris: Only Tell the Rich for $5000 a Minute!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail