Prosecute The Messenger, Part II

Deputy U.S. Attorney Matthew W. Friedrich appeared before the Senate Judiciary committee to reiterate the Justice Department’s threats to criminalize journalism. And he stayed just long enough to anger even the Republican members of the committee by stonewalling them.

Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) told Friedrich, that he should be ashamed of himself for, “…taking what would be called a testifying Fifth Amendment.” Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA), scolded Friedrich for spinning an answer to refer hypothetically to the past. “I’m not interested in history this morning,” Specter told him. “I’m interested in current events.” And Charles Grassley (R-IA) wondered aloud why the Justice Department would send a representative to testify who wouldn’t answer the committee’s questions if they had, “any respect for this committee whatsoever.”

What Friedrich did say was that the Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, was correct when he said that, with regard to prosecuting journalists who receive leaks from anonymous sources…

“There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that [prosecution] is a possibility.”

He would not say whether or not such prosecution had been considered, except for his cryptic reference to “historical examples.” He also wouldn’t comment on the JD’s attempts to seize records from the estate of investigative journalist, Jack Anderson.

One thing he did make a point of saying was that he doesn’t believe new legislation is needed to protect reporters. Protecting reporters is, in fact, the last thing this Justice Department is interested in. Their every occupation and utterance is directed at intimidating and emasculating what remains of an independent press, even unto the grave in Anderson’s case.

Some of the members of the Judiciary committee showed a little gumption by challenging Friedrich, but the media itself has been typically silent. It’s their asses in the sling, yet they still can’t bring themselves to fight for their honor and, by the way, the right of Americans to enjoy the benefits of our constitutionally guaranteed free press.


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