Dear Commons Community,
Last Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the suggestion in a press conference that the Department of Justice would subpoena journalists in an attempt to prosecute leakers. House Speaker Paul Ryan criticized Sessions’ and took issue with Sessions’ characterization of journalists’ roles in reporting stories that include leaked information. While speaking at an event in Wisconsin, Ryan said it is “the problem of the leaker, not the journalist.”
“Leaks are concerning because leaks can often compromise national security, but that’s the problem of the leaker not the journalist,” Ryan said.
Sessions had said earlier on Friday “We respect the important role that the press plays and will give them respect, but it is not unlimited. They cannot place lives at risk with impunity. We must balance their role with protecting our national security and the lives of those who serve in our intelligence community, the armed forces, and all law-abiding Americans.”
A number of press-advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), criticized Sessions’ remarks. The ACLU’s privacy, and technology director, Ben Wizner, said: “Americans should be concerned about the Trump administration’s threat to step up its efforts against whistleblowers and journalists.”
Ryan, the ACLU, and others are absolutely right to question Sessions insinuations about the press. A a reminder, the First Amendment to our Constitution states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”