We have previously discussed the attack of President Obama on press freedom. As with the comprehensive attack on privacy, there has been little outcry from Democratic or liberal voters to the placing of journalists under surveillance or the treatment of reporters as potential criminals for receiving information from whistleblowers. Even those who express disappointment have not let these policies alter their continued support for the Administration. Many simply buy the White House argument that the other guys are worse. Well, international groups view the matter a bit more objectively and this month released a report that should be an utter embarrassment for every American. The United States — once the world champion of press freedoms — have called to forty-sixth in the world, according to the World Press Freedom Index. The drop is tied directly to the anti-media policies of President Obama.
The report notes that George Bush also cracked down on reporters but that the situation has grown even worse under Obama:
There has been little improvement in practice under Barack Obama. Rather than pursuing journalists, the emphasis has been on going after their sources, but often using the journalist to identify them. No fewer that eight individuals have been charged under the Espionage Act since Obama became president, compared with three during Bush’s two terms. While 2012 was in part the year of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 2013 will be remember for the National Security Agency computer specialist Edward Snowden, who exposed the mass surveillance methods developed by the US intelligence agencies.
The whistleblower is the enemy. Hence the 35-year jail term imposed on Private Chelsea/Bradley Manning for being the big WikiLeaks source, an extremely long sentence but nonetheless small in comparison with the 105-year sentence requested for freelance journalist Barrett Brown in a hacking case. Amid an all-out hunt for leaks and sources, 2013 will also be the year of the Associated Press scandal, which came to light when the Department of Justice acknowledged that it had seized the news agency’s phone records.
Due to these policies and actions, the United States dropped 13 places and is now ranked behind behind the former Soviet republics of Lithuania and Latvia as well as Romania, Poland and Czechoslovakia (both the Czech Republic and Slovakia), Ghana, South Africa and El Salvador.
One could easily ask: how did we come to this? The answer is as obvious as it is shameful. We came to this place through the acquiescence or silence of many who refuse to oppose Obama despite policies that have led to repeated foreign military excursions, killing U.S. citizens on his sole authority, assault on privacy rights, refusal to investigate war crimes, and attacks on media and whistleblowers. As I have said before, there is a clear cult of personality surrounding this President that has insulated him from opposition by many Democratic and liberal voters. Worse yet, this silence has led to a massive increase in presidential powers that will continue beyond this President. He will leave a different system and a different country in the wake of his tenure. It will not only be difficult for many Democrats to criticize abuses in the future but even more difficult to regain ground that we have lost. The increasing national security and presidential powers asserted by Obama have become the new normal.
The report is a sad measure of our standing in the world. Obama had an opportunity to reverse many of the abuses of the Bush Administration. However, he chose to retain and expand on those abusive policies. Now the core rights that have long defined Americans — privacy and the free press — have been sacrificed with little more than a shrug of regret by Obama followers. For the first time, Americans must look at countries like Romania as example of greater support for press freedoms.
As I have previously discussed, our claims to be the world’s leader in civil liberties and constitutional protections is increasingly being challenged around the world. Indeed, the problems described in my earlier column on the “Ten Reasons Why The United States Is No Longer The Land Of The Free” have only grown worse. As our press and privacy rights fall, the White House continues to stress that we have to trust the President to do the right thing. As I discussed in another column, this is the very argument that the Framers warned us to reject as a siren’s call of every authoritarian in history.
So, in the end, I do not blame Obama who (like other leaders) has shown an insatiable appetite for unilateral power. I do not blame him for using his star power to distract from these policies. No, he merely demanded the powers but, to paraphrase Julius Caesar, “The fault, dear citizens, is not in our stars, But in ourselves.”