Last Friday the Department of Justice released a report on subpoenas and search warrants directed at members of the media in 2014. It revealed that only two subpoenas and one search warrant related to news gathering activities were approved last year — and none of them was actually enforced.
The most high-profile of these subpoenas was the one issued to New York Times reporter James Risen to compel him to testify at the trial of Jeffrey Sterling. Sterling is a former CIA official who was prosecuted for illegally leaking classified information to Risen about a CIA program to derail Iran’s nuclear ambitions. After battling for more than four years to win the legal right to compel Risen to testify, in the end DOJ chose not to enforce the subpoena and successfully prosecuted Sterling without Risen’s testimony.
In today’s on-line world, the media and journalism are bigger than ever and touch more and more aspects of our lives. Given this reality, the number of cases in which DOJ even considered seeking information from a journalist is truly miniscule. Yet Risen has called President Obama the greatest threat to press freedom in a generation, and the media in general has pushed a narrative that this administration’s actions involving the press routinely threaten the First Amendment.
In light of the new report from DOJ, it seems like a good time to revisit a post I first wrote last November taking a critical look at the claim that the Obama administration is engaged in a “war on the press.” You can find that post here.
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