Why Are Democrats Helping Trump Crack Down on Press Freedom?
nPresident Donald Trump’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is attempting to vastly expand a controversial secrecy law that would shield it from accountability and even leave journalists vulnerable to prosecution for publishing the names of agents who engaged in illegal torture. And some Democrats appear totally on board.nEvery year, Congress has to pass the Intelligence Authorization Act, which funds the intelligence agencies for the following fiscal year. (The House is expected to vote on its version as early as next week.) The CIA successfully pushed for a provision that would expand a little known law called the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA).nCurrently, the IIPA provides restrictions on disclosing the names of covert CIA officers who have served overseas sometime in the past five years. It is already controversial. When it passed in 1982, then-Senator Joe Biden warned that it could provide the government with ammunition to indict journalists who have reported on leaked information.nBut now, the CIA wants to broaden its reach even further. As noted this week by Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a journalism watchdog group, “if the changes advocated by the CIA are adopted, the law would indefinitely criminalize the disclosure of the identity of anyone with a classified relationship to an intelligence agency regardless of whether they have ever served abroad.” In other words, CIA officials could commit illegal acts at home or abroad and could classify the identities of who did it — and anyone who revealed such information, even decades later, would be subject to prosecution.nDemocratic Representative Adam Schiff, who heads the House Intelligence Committee, reportedly inserted the provision into the Intelligence Authorization Act on behalf of the CIA. This has press freedom groups and transparency organizations incredibly worried — and for good reason.nWhen you take a good look at his record, Schiff has always favored the secrecy of intelligence agencies over journalists’ rights.nUnder the proposed law, any journalist who, say, revealed the names of “covert” CIA officers that had engaged in torture or ordered drone strikes on civilians would now be subject to prosecution — even if the newsworthy actions occurred years or decades prior or the officer in question has always been located in the United States.nIn fact, the CIA explicitly referenced the revelations of the agency’s Bush-era torture program in its argument to Congress for IIPA expansion. The New York Times’s Charlie Savage obtained the CIA’s private memo in which it lobbied members of Congress. Under the memo’s “justification” section, the CIA wrote:nParticularly with the lengths organizations such as WikiLeaks are willing to go to obtain and release sensitive national security information, as well as incidents related to past Agency programs, such as the RDI investigation, the original congressional reasoning mentioned above for a narrow definition of ‘covert agent’ no longer remains valid.nThe benign-sounding “RDI” acronym, by the way, stands for “Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation” — a euphemism used to describe the CIA’s illegal torture program.nPresident Trump has repeatedly stated his wish to bring back torture under his administration, and his current CIA director was intimately involved in the agency’s torture program during the Bush administration. House Democrats would potentially be handing Trump and the CIA a dangerous weapon to hide similar illegal conduct in the future.nWhat makes Democrats’ capitulation on the issue particularly egregious is that it’s Schiff, a man who fashioned himself a hero of the #resistance movement, seemingly leading the charge. Schiff has gained a massive social media following and has regularly appeared on cable news since Trump became president. How is handing the Trump administration additional powers to abuse government secrecy and potentially open up avenues to prosecute journalists covering him “resisting?”nSchiff has also portrayed himself as a defender of press freedom for years. He’s a co-founder of the Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press, and this year he even introduced a resolution highlighting the importance of press freedom. He’s even called Donald Trump, the man he’s going to hand over these expanded secrecy and prosecutorial powers to, “a clear and present danger to press freedom.”nHere, Schiff has a direct means to protect journalists from what’s sure to be a clear and present danger: He could refuse to insert the provision the CIA has requested into the intelligence bill. Instead, at least so far, he’s done the complete opposite.nSo why is Schiff okay with giving the Trump administration a tool to further hide illegality and potentially prosecute reporters at the same time? Sadly, when you take a good look at his record, Schiff has always favored the secrecy of intelligence agencies over journalists’ rights. Just a few weeks ago, he pushed Democrats to vote down a bill that would cut funding for one of the NSA’s controversial surveillance programs that collect Americans’ data without warrants.nThe good news is it’s not a done deal. The House isn’t expected to vote on its version of the IAA until next week. Up until yesterday, there has been hardly any press coverage of this dangerous provision, but that has now changed since the New York Times covered the controversy on Thursday. So there is still time for Schiff and other Democrats to change their mind oppose this provision before it comes up for a vote.nNo administration — let alone Donald Trump’s — should have the power to prevent journalists from publishing illegal acts undertaken by our government. It’s stunning that this is something that some Democrats apparently still do not understand.n
I don’t agree with Schiff on much. However, I do agree that Trump is a danger to press freedom. Especially after what’s happened to Assange over the past 3 months.nPlease donate to Wikileaks, or the official defense fund. You can do so by going to https://wikileaks.org/donate, or https://defend.wikileaks.org/donate/n I need a notification of this donation, so I can track the totals raised by this event. You can do so by emailing antipentrap(at)protonmail.com, or sending a direct message to @antipentrap on Twitter. You can also fill out the donation notification form I created, it’s right here.n#vigil #CIA #Wikileaks