France Investigates Journalists For Exposing Alleged Lies About War In Yemen

We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Now France is adding an attack on the free press that parallels its growing intolerance for free speech. A reporter from Radio France and the co-founders of Paris-based investigative news organization Disclose are under criminal investigation for their reporting on France’s role in the war in Yemen with the use of leaked secret documents. In the United States, such journalism could get you the Pulitzer. In France, it could get you prison.

I wrote a column after French President Emmanuel Macron received a standing ovation in calling for the United States to follow France’s lead in stomping out some forms of free speech. This case is another example of why France is hardly a jurisdiction worthy of emulation.

The danger is that we are seeing attacks on the free press from not only President Donald Trump but cities like San Francisco.

The French journalists were targeted by the General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI), which handles terrorism, espionage, and other domestic threats. DGSI was upset about April stories that revealed the massive levels of French, British, and American military equipment sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. That material was then sent to Yemen. The stories documented alleged lies by the French government.

Press freedom has been strongly protected in France for more than 130 years under the Press Law of 1881, which gives journalists a right to protect the confidentiality of their sources. The French government is using a 2009 law that makes it an “attack on national defense secrets” to handle classified material without authorization.

It is disheartening to see France (the very bastion of fundamental liberties) to descend so rapidly into the criminalization of speech and journalism.

As with free speech, the United States is increasingly standing alone in the defense of defining rights like the free press. This is why President Trump’s attacks on the press as “the enemy of the people” cannot go without condemnation from both sides of our political divide. The Framers understood that a free press was an essential component to the preservation of liberty. That view has been proven repeatedly in our history as the press (not Congress or the courts) have disclosed great crimes and abuses by our government. France may be cavalier of living without the protections for speech and press, but the United States should never lose faith in these foundational rights if we are to preserve liberty in this country.

39 thoughts on “France Investigates Journalists For Exposing Alleged Lies About War In Yemen”

  1. Eugene Heitler Lehman MAY be Adolf Hitler. An odd story has this person’s records deleted from Yale AND Oxford yet Readers Digest and the New York Times confirm this person did exist and won the Rhodes Scholarship award for Oratory skills in 1903. With connections to a british lord redesdale, who was also a member of the British Union of Fascists. His daughter, Unity Mitford, was really close freinds with Adolf, so how did that relationship begin? Oxford? Have evidence IF interested, Thanks for your time. JJ

  2. In the United States, such journalism could get you the Pulitzer.

    Or as in the cases of Julian Assange and/or Chelsea Manning your life could be placed in permanent judicial purgatory via tyrants decree and pounced upon the full carceral power of a vengeful US government (aided/abetted by it’s European satrapies) seeking to shove the US war crimes genie back into it’s vile bottle in order to protect criminal fractions of human beings and even lesser fractions of Americans (eg Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Powell, McCain, Feith, Pearle, Rice, Wolfowitz, Yoo, Bybee, Gonzalez, Obama, Biden, Pelosi, Holden, Trump, Bolton, Pompeo, Graham, etal) from facing a jury trial of their peers (ie accountability) to answer for charges of torture, kidnapping, indefinite detention without charge, murder, launching wholly elective wars based upon lies, theft of trillions of dollars through various boondoggles, total surveillance state (etc) all the while attempting to hide their criminal acts behind the pitch dark under belly of national security and states secrets exemptions.

    In short the US is no paradise for freedom of the press as those who do not toe the state/corporate narrative it is:

    good bye – you have now been relegated to histories dustbin of innumerable heretics. That is if you have good luck.

    If your luck is bad then mayhap a bit of state sponsored extra-judicial tyranny which may include time in a cage, torture or even death.

    Is this freedom of the press?

    Or is it unrestrained freedom of action by criminals operating within the highest levels of government under cover of national security?

  3. “Had the ancients known then what we know now about the scientific evolution of the cosmos” – Had Darwin known about DNA he would not have come up with the Theory of Evolution.

  4. “President Trump’s attacks on the press as “the enemy of the people” ” – Trump means the commercial press. The guys in it for the money. The commercial press has divorced itself from the principle of impartiality, and everyone recognizes this, so no one respects it anymore.

    The true free press these days is not the commercial sources, but rather the Internet like your blog here, for example. I do not think Trump has any issues with this true free press. Long live the free press!

  5. Darren, suddenly my details started to remain where they belonged. If you corrected my problem thanks. If not thanks anyway for your attention to the blog.

  6. here is a bigger threat to law and order coming from the press, they are encouraging UK people to throw milkshakes at right wing politicians

    this is despicable. throwing one is assault and hitting someone is battery.

    when a battery has a political motivation some people call that “terror”

    if they want to let this genie out of the bottle, the Left will sorely regret it.

  7. Declaration of Independence
    Published on July 4, 1776

    On the Origin of Species published on 24 November 1859

    Man thinks; man evolves.

    dennis hanna

    1. “Declaration of Independence
      Published on July 4, 1776

      On the Origin of Species published on 24 November 1859

      Man thinks; man evolves.”
      Das Kapital 1867 – or not.

  8. “This is why President Trump’s attacks on the press as “the enemy of the people” cannot go without condemnation from both sides of our political divide.”

    The President has a right to free speech as well. I haven’t seen him arrest any members of the press or close down any newspaper. There may be a good claim against Obama but I don’t see any claim against Trump for stating what he believes most of which is true.

    1. ha yeah they can exercise their free speech just not those who disagree with them
      see how it works?

  9. “(the very bastion of fundamental liberties)”

    This is a description I’d bestow on Britain well before France.

  10. The Framers understood that a free press was an essential component to the preservation of liberty.

    Yeah, the Framers understood a lot more than you’re letting on. Trump is no Jefferson when it comes to eloquence, but they certainly share the same sentiments on the so called free press.

    I deplore… the putrid state into which our newspapers have passed and the malignity, the vulgarity, and mendacious spirit of those who write for them… These ordures are rapidly depraving the public taste and lessening its relish for sound food. As vehicles of information and a curb on our funtionaries, they have rendered themselves useless by forfeiting all title to belief… This has, in a great degree, been produced by the violence and malignity of party spirit.

    I may say from intimate knowledge, that we should have lost the services of the greatest character of our country (i.e., George Washington) had he been assailed with the degree of abandoned licentiousness now practised… He would have thrown up the helm in a burst of indignation.

  11. People in France eat frogs. Some of us call french people: frogs. When you complain to them about eating frogs they shout: We are from France!

  12. I take note how some leftists constantly argue that all our European friends have some type of a national health insurance plan so we in the US should follow suit. The meathead(s) should review what France is doing to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The US is the outlier where free speech and free press are concerned but the meathead(s) like to say that we should follow our western allies. Maybe they wish to rethink this compulsion of theirs and say that maybe our western allies should be following the US.

    1. Question: can we in the US have a national health insurance plan without the criminalization of free speech and freedom of the press? Does it have to be black or white?

      1. Digby, my comment made long ago wasn’t dealing with free speech in relationship to national health insurance. It was dealing with the idea some people have that if the Europeans are doing something we must be wrong in not doing it.

        Free speech entered the discussion because France who some want us to emulate is abridging free speech. That led to my question, if one thinks that we should follow France (or the Europeans) should we also follow them in their abridgement of free speech?

        1. I’ll follow them in haute cusine and the pronounciation of their language. And that’s about it.

  13. Do you lefties really believe that censorship will stop with the censure of those who write about racial differences in average IQ or rates of black crime?

    1. Antonio, is this column about Black I.Q.’s?

      We’re aware of “The Bell Curve”. I’m just now sure how it relates to Arms Sales and Yemen.

  14. This is why President Trump’s attacks on the press as “the enemy of the people” cannot go without condemnation from both sides of our political divide. The Framers understood that a free press was an essential component to the preservation of liberty.

    I have news for you: Ted Koppel is retired and Mike Wallace is dead. The notion the actually existing media (other than local Patch sites) has a salutary effect on the common life is pretty rich. Maybe Pro-Publica on alternate Tuesdays, or niche publications like Education Week.

    When Trump calls the media, ‘the enemy of the people’, he is speaking a truth you don’t want to hear.

  15. . This case is another example of why France is hardly a jurisdiction worthy of emulation

    And the US is?

    JT….you have truly jumped the shark. Move over Nancy and Jerold. Jonathan needs Fonzie’s water skis.

    1. Estovir:
      I’m no Franco-phile but JT is a tad over the top. However on the other hand, the Armée de Terre was overwhelmed in six weeks in a war they had 22 years to prepare for against a foe that had been effectively disarmed just 7 years before.

      1. I’m no Franco-phile but JT is a tad over the top.

        his bait/click headlines rival CNN.
        His lust for web traffic compromises the corpus of our scholarly contributions


      2. Napoleon instituted the practice of mass surveillance with his spying on the mails
        The French have a strong streak of authoritarianism
        it’s not always good nor bad, just a penchant for sticking together at the national level really
        this story is not a big deal i agree

  16. “This is why President Trump’s attacks on the press as “the enemy of the people” cannot go without condemnation from both sides of our political divide.”
    Would you agree that the attacks should only be condemned if they are false? What if we consider for a moment the historically manifested fact that any institutionalized power can be corrupt or corrupted. And if that same power attempts to subvert democracy by undermining — with lies, half-truths and innuendo — a duly elected leader and therefore the will of the people does that institution continue to enjoy the immunity conferred on it by the Constitution? Or has that historical protection, once premised on good faith and a notion of decentralized control no longer evident, become forfeit? Or put another way in so classic a form: Is the Bill of Rights a suicide pact?

    1. In the past 2 centuries the Bill of Rights has not caused the end of America. It won’t now, either. It hasn’t eroded our freedom for the past 2 centuries (in fact, the Bill of Rights is where we get most of our individual liberties).

      1. Andrea:

        Actually we get most of our rights from the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” not some time-worn parchment. At least that’s what Jefferson explained.

        And like any knowledgeable investor knows, “past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

        1. Mespo, funny, but humans have been on earth for several hundred thousand years and God and nature didn’t do a damn thing about our rights almost all that time, if ever.

          1. oh nature has always been with us and from it we come
            and nature is red of fang and claw
            rights come from organized force
            the press will find its “rights” curtailed if they keep on biting off more than they can chew
            their vaunted “rights” make them a class above other private citizens
            to that i object on “equal protection” grounds

          2. God gave humans their nature and free will. You need to take some personal responsibility for the security of those natural rights. Or perhaps you simply prefer a master to handle that heavy lifting for you. There are plenty of them willing to fill that void.

            1. Olly, are you saying slaves in America and Jews in Nazi Germany and untold others loving under tyranny across our long history on earth actually had rights of not for their own personal failings? Sounds like no rights at all to me.

              1. Absolutely. That’s what makes our DoI a document for all humanity. The people create government to secure those rights and they alter or to abolish it when they fail. If they lack the will to prevent the infringement of rights and/or a majority support the tyranny of the minority, then you effectively have no rights at all. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It just means it will take extreme action to secure them again. Venezuela is a great example.

        2. Who is Nature’s God?
          by David J. Voelker

          When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.[1]
          In the “Declaration of Independence,” the founding document of what would become the United States, Thomas Jefferson mentions “nature’s God.” Unfortunately, this phrase is unclear. The religious beliefs of Jefferson were much debated in his time and still are over two centuries later. Through the letters and other writings of Jefferson, it is possible to construct an outline of his beliefs. Although he supported the moral teachings of Jesus, Jefferson believed in a creator similar to the God of deism. In the tradition of deism, Jefferson based his God on reason and rejected revealed religion.
          Jefferson’s parents reared him in the Episcopal Church. Although there is no known record of him being baptized, it is almost certain that an Anglican clergyman baptized him. Records show that both Thomas Jefferson and his father Peter were elected vestrymen. These positions, however, merely reflected the Jeffersons’ social status; they were both land-owning and educated men. The positions were given “with small regard to their personal convictions or even their way of life.”[2]
          That Jefferson participated in the administration of the parish does not reflect his specific beliefs. Despite his social and familial ties to the Episcopal Church, Jefferson came to disbelieve its creeds and rejected most Christian doctrine. In his book The Religion of Thomas Jefferson, Henry Foote says that Jefferson did not believe in the divinity of Jesus but he viewed him as a “human teacher.”[3] He believed only what his reason allowed: “His knowledge of science led him to reject all miracles, including the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection of Jesus.”[4] By the time he was a young adult, Jefferson had developed his own religious views outside the framework of any sect.
          Jefferson believed that the various sects of Christianity had corrupted the original message of Jesus: “They [the teachings of Jesus] have been still more disfigured by the corruptions of schismatizing followers, who have found an interest in sophisticating and perverting the simple doctrines he taught.”[5] However, Jefferson did believe that the teachings of Jesus had some merit.
          Jefferson felt that religion was a deeply private matter. People did not need to proclaim their beliefs: “I never told my own religion nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wish to change another’s creed.”[6] Jefferson saw religion as private and therefore found priests unnecessary. He wrote in the same letter “I have ever thought religion a concern purely between our God and our consciences for which we were accountable to him, and not to the priests.”[7] He only spoke about his own religious beliefs when he was asked to, and only in his private letters did he speak clearly of his beliefs.
          Without supporting revealed religion, Jefferson subscribed to the moral teachings of Jesus. He stated this belief explicitly in a letter to John Adams in which he wrote that the moral code of Jesus was “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.”[8] Jefferson even made a collection of Jesus’ moral teachings from the Bible which seemed to be in their original simplicity. He used this collection as an ethical guide to his own life.
          Jefferson’s God was the source of moral values. In a letter to his nephew Peter Carr, he wrote that “He who made us would have been a pitiful bungler, if He had made the rules of our moral conduct a matter of science.”[9] Rather, God made man “with a sense of right and wrong.”[10] People were responsible for their actions on earth and would be rewarded or punished in some kind of afterlife.
          More important than beliefs to Jefferson was the way people lived their lives. “I have ever judged the religion of others by their lives . . . for it is in our lives and not from our words, that our religion must be read.”[11] In a letter to Adams, Jefferson concluded about religion: “the result of your 50 or 60 years of religious reading, in four words ‘be just and good’ is that in which all our inquiries must end.”[12] This emphasis on behavior over belief was at the core of Jefferson’s creed, although he did think that morality was connected to belief in God.
          Jefferson based his belief in God on reason. In a letter to John Adams, Jefferson wrote that he believed in God because of the argument from design:
          I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in it’s [sic] parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of it’s [sic] composition. . . it is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is . . . a fabricator of all things.[13]
          After applying his faculty of reason, in which he placed much faith, Jefferson found that he had to believe in a creator.
          Jefferson believed most aspects of the creator could not be known. He rejected revealed religion because revealed religion suggests a violation of the laws of nature. For revelation or any miracle to occur, the laws of nature would necessarily be broken. Jefferson did not accept this violation of natural laws. He attributed to God only such qualities as reason suggested. “He described God as perfect and good, but otherwise did not attempt an analysis of the nature of God.”[14] Also in a letter to Adams, Jefferson said, “Of the nature of this being [God] we know nothing.”[15]
          Although Jefferson never gave a label to his set of beliefs, they are consistent with the ideas of deism, a general religious orientation developed during the Enlightenment. Jefferson, being a non-sectarian, did not subordinate his beliefs to any label. He once said, “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion…or in anything else.”[16]
          Deism was not actually a formal religion, but rather was a label used loosely to describe certain religious views. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word deist was used negatively during Jefferson’s lifetime.[17] The label was often applied to freethinkers like Jefferson as a slander rather than as a precise description. Thus the deist label is not highly specific. Deists were characterized by a belief in God as a creator and “believed only those Christian doctrines that could meet the test of reason.”[18] Deists did not believe in miracles, revealed religion, the authority of the clergy, or the divinity of Jesus. Like Jefferson they “regarded ethics, not faith, as the essence of religion.”[19]
          “Nature’s God” was clearly the God of deism in all important ways. That Jefferson included God in the “Declaration of Independence” is very significant because it helped lay the foundation for a civil religion in America. Paul Johnson addressed the civil religion begun by the founders in his article, “The Almost-Chosen People,”[20] saying that the United States was unique because all religious beliefs were respected. People were more concerned with “moral conduct rather than dogma.” So Jefferson helped create a society in which different religions could coexist peacefully because of the emphasis on morality over specific belief.[21]


          1. Thomas Jefferson, The Complete Jefferson, ed. Saul K. Padover (New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1943), 28.
          2. Henry Wilder Foote, The Religion of Thomas Jefferson (Boston: Beacon, 1947), 6.
          3. Ibid., 57.
          4. Ibid.
          5. Ibid., 55.
          6. Jefferson, 955.
          7. Ibid.
          8. Ibid., 951.
          9. Arnold A. Wettstein, “Religionless Religion in the Letters and Papers from Monticello,” Religion in Life, 46 (Summer: 1977): 158.
          10. Ibid., 154.
          11. Jefferson, 955.
          12. William B. Huntley, “Jefferson’s Public and Private Religion,” South Atlantaic Quarterly, 79 (Summer 1980): 288.
          13. Lester J. Clapton, ed., The Adams-Jefferson Letters (New York: Van Rees, 1959), 592.
          14. Huntley, 79: 288.
          15. The Adams-Jefferson Letters, 592.
          16. Wettstein, 152.
          17. J.A. Simpson and E.S. C. Weiner, eds., Oxford English Dictionary (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1989), s.v. deism.
          18. Marvin Perry, Western Civilization (Houghton Mifflin: Boston, 1990), 280.
          19. Ibid., 280.
          20. Paul Johnson, “The Almost-Chosen People,” American History, R.J. Maddox, ed., vol.I, 10th ed. (Guilford, Conn: Dushkin Publishing Group, 1989): 34-37.
          Ibid., 37.

          dennis hanna

        3. And if one has abandoned the irrational belief in the supernatural and no longer clings to the myth of God-given Natural Law? Had the ancients known then what we know now about the scientific evolution of the cosmos, humanity would not have had cause to invent gods to explain the inexplicable.

      2. Go back further. The Bill of Rights wasn’t given to the Framers by Yahweh from atop Mt Vernon. Know your Western History.

        “In 533, Justinian, one of Constantine’s successors, ordered the first major compiling of Roman laws. Christian canonists (those who assembled the canons) added many legal concepts from Justinian’s code of Roman law to their own collections of church laws.
        By the seventh century, canon law included legal ideas from all over Christian Western Europe.”

        “In the mid-12th century, an Italian monk named Gratian completed the first systematic organization and analysis of Catholic canon law. Gratian’s work is known as the Decretum, a Latin word that refers to the collection of canons. He intended not only to summarize canon law but to resolve apparent contradictions within it. Gratian studied the summaries of canon law and documents from other church authorities that extended over a thousand years of Christian history. He also examined parts of Roman law. Gratian’s method of analyzing canon law was revolutionary.”

        “Gratian looked to natural law to resolve the disharmony. This called for humans to use their God-given ability to reason to discover God’s will. Using his reasoning, Gratian worked out resolutions to the disharmonies.”

        “In the 1500s, the Protestant Reformation brought an end to the Catholic canon law monopoly in Western Europe. In England, King Henry VIII broke from the church after the pope refused to annul his marriage so he could marry another. In 1534, King Henry declared the supremacy of king over the pope in England. Other European nations followed suit. Although Catholic canon law no longer controlled Western Europe, nations adopted many of its legal principles and procedures. Medieval canon law helped preserve Roman and other ancient law sources and also developed a comprehensive modern legal system. In many ways, Catholic canon law became one of the foundations for secular law systems in the West today.”

        1. Estovir, wel said, that’s right, Catholic canon law builds on Justinian Code, the Corpus Iuris Civilis, and that like many other codices built upon older traditions of law (including Mosaic law)(including the twelve tables of ancient rome) (including classical Greek codes)(and long before them Hammurabi a deep influence of all subsequent codes) which in nearly every instance had some consecrated origin going right back to Melchizedek, who was both king and high priest of Salem, and the Egyptian pharoahs likewise before them.

          but modern day secular obsessives dismiss that all as superstition. which is nothing more than their own superstition passed off as enlightenment

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