Why You Should Care About Trump’s War on Whistleblowers

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by Super User, 4 weeks ago.
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By the time President Barack Obama left office, his Justice Department had indicted eight journalistic sources under the Espionage Act, more than all U.S. presidents before him combined. Among these cases was U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake, and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. In some of these cases, people were sentenced to lengthy prison terms. In others, the government ruined the lives of the targets.

Then Donald Trump took power and immediately began using the playbook refined and sharpened by his predecessor, President Obama. Donald Trump is now surpassing Obama’s eight-year record in just over two years in office.

We are at an extremely dangerous moment in the history of this country. Donald Trump is using the same rhetoric used by Nazi officials in the 1930s and '40s to attack the press. He has said he wants to jail journalists who publish stories he doesn’t like. And he is wielding the Espionage Act like a chainsaw against journalistic sources.

What makes it all so much worse is that it was the constitutional law scholar and Trump predecessor, Barack Obama, who teed Trump up, who laid the groundwork, who blazed the trail for this extremely deranged and dangerous man currently occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

But look at the way these stories are covered in the broader media. With a few notable exceptions, the lack of solidarity or just basic understanding of how dangerous these cases are is just largely absent. Instead, there are attacks on the news organizations or reporters. For all of the talk of how dangerous Trump is to a free press, why hasn’t the Reality Winner case been covered more extensively? Why is a CNN reporter losing credentials a national scandal and threatening alleged whistleblowers with 50 years in prison is a nonstory?

This is about criminalizing journalism. It is about increasing the secrecy and decreasing the transparency. It is an assault on the very idea of a democratic society. At these moments, silence is complicity.

This is a precedent-setting moment, not just legally, but morally. Because this is not the end. This is the beginning, and they will eventually come for other news organizations. Or they will scare news organizations from doing high stakes national security reporting.

It doesn’t matter what you think of any of these individual whistleblowers. But it does matter that we all recognize that this is an attack on our basic rights to information about what the U.S. government does in our names and with our tax dollars. It matters that people who blow the whistle on crimes and war crimes be defended and not abandoned or portrayed as violent criminals or traitors. All of us must ask ourselves where we stand. History will remember our answers.