Politics Why the Biden administration must protect the press — even when it exposes government secrets
Biden stays mum on state abortion laws with major test ahead for Roe
As more Republican-led states pass abortion bans with the easing of the Covid-19 pandemic, a heated debate has returned to center stage with abortion rights supporters warning of a looming threat to access and anti-abortion activists determined to keep up the momentum. © Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images US President Joe Biden speaks about the May jobs report on June 4, 2021, at the Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, Convention Center. - The US economy added 559,000 jobs in May and the unemployment rate dipped to 5.8 percent, the Labor Department said on June 4, 2021, as Covid-19 vaccines helped businesses reopen and rehire.
Fifty years ago, on June 13, 1971, the New York Timesthe first in a nine-part series of excerpts from what became known as the Pentagon Papers. That publication to public view the pattern of secrecy and deception that led to American involvement in the Vietnam War, the same pattern that kept citizens in the dark as the war dragged on. It "the greatest journalistic catch of a generation," and one of the exercises of press freedom in American history.
In an ironic twist of history, the anniversary of the Pentagon Papers' publication comes in the wake of last month's revelation that Donald Trump's concertedincluded by secretly seizing their phone and email data.
Jill Biden to meet the Queen
Almost five months into her new job, Jill Biden is still revealing what kind of first lady she wants to be, but one thing is already clear: you can call her "Jill."Biden has insisted at just about every turn that people address her by her first name. She means it -- people actually call her that or, sometimes, "Dr. B." The familiar approachability is part of the Biden narrative, and an aspect of her personality into which she leans hard.
Responding to that revelation, the Biden administration and Attorney General Merrick Garland are nowwhat their posture toward leakers and journalists who publish leaked material will be.
As part of this process, Garlandon Monday with representatives of media organizations, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN, to hear their views. Such a meeting would have been unthinkable during the Trump administration.
It is not enough, however, for Garland tothat the Justice Department will not spy on reporters or for the president to such spying as "simply wrong."
They must change the law to help ensure that it never happens again.
Garland started that process by promising toand repeal the that permitted Trump's spying on reporters. These are important steps, but they can be reversed by a subsequent AG. The executive branch can't be left to police itself.
Most of the media will sleep through the Biden years
Violent crime in U.S. cities is soaring. Inflation is spiking. The Mexican border crisis is deepening. Cyberattacks against key infrastructure are surging. Gas prices keep increasing. © Provided by Washington Examiner Yet, a USA Today article recently proclaimed President Joe Biden an “elusive target for Republicans,” arguing that they “have had little success demonizing Biden with independent voters because so many people feel they know him.” No wonder Pulitzer-Prize-winning investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald calls the legacy media “stenographers for the state.” Press coverage of Biden isn’t just soft.
Preventing the abuses perpetrated by the Trump Justice Department requires that Biden and Garland seek congressionaland permanently banning covert surveillance of journalists for the work they do.
Battles between journalists and the government over the publication of leaked materialin 1971 when the Times published the fruits of Daniel Ellsberg's leak. They have continued unabated since then.
Every administration in Washington bemoans leaks. Eachfor itself how to respond when journalists expose government secrets. Each has to fight the tendency to blame leakers and journalists when information it wants to hide sees the light of day.
Video: In scathing op-ed, Governor Hogan calls for improvements dealing with ransomware attacks (WUSA-TV Washington, D.C.)
It will be no different as the Biden administration unfolds. The president will have to work hard not to allow hostility to the press to become part of his administration's DNA and to make sure it supports freedom of the press even when the press makes trouble for it.
Biden and his aviators greet queen on a sunny afternoon
WINDSOR, England (AP) — President Joe Biden and his aviator sunglasses met Queen Elizabeth II on bright Sunday afternoon. The queen hosted the president and first lady Jill Biden at Windsor Castle, her royal residence near London. Biden flew to London after wrapping up his participation in a three-day summit of leaders of the world's wealthy democracies in Cornwall, in southwestern England. He arrived at the castle aboard the presidential helicopter and was ferried to the queen in a black Range Rover.
As they consider what to do about leaks and the journalists who publish them, the administration would be well advised to revisit thewritten by Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black rejecting the Nixon administration's effort to stop further publication of The Pentagon Papers .
Black offered an eloquent defense of the press and a powerful argument that democracy can thrive only if it can keep citizens informed about what the government most wants to hide from them. He warned of the tendency of government officials to see danger everywhere, to fear the political ramifications of transparency, and to misuse classification and secrecy.
Black argued that the "Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government." The job of the press was, as Black saw it, "to bare the secrets of government and inform the people."
He concluded that even when military and diplomatic secrets are involved, guarding them "at the expense of an informed representative government, provides no real security for our Republic."
With US-Russia relations at low point, Biden, Putin each bring a wariness to Geneva summit
When Joe Biden meets Vladimir Putin in Geneva the West's favorite geopolitical bogeyman is not likely to get the easy pass he got from Donald TrumpThree years ago this July, former President Donald Trump stood side by side with the Russian autocrat at a press conference in Finland's capital and blithely dismissed assessments from his own intelligence agencies, defense officials and American lawmakers about Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
In the 50 years since Black wrote, the press that he venerated has gotten weaker, not stronger. Even as outlets for disseminating information have proliferated, the institutional media have lost bothand .
At the time The New Times published the Pentagon Papers, three quarters of Americans said that they trusted the news media. Today, that same number of peoplethat media bias is a major problem and only 40 percent of the population now in the media.
While readership of some newspapers grew during the Trump years, all over the country newspapers have been going out of business. Today, even the largest and best known publications arefewer resources to do the costly and expensive work of high quality investigative journalism. And there are fewer people in their newsrooms.
And, in recent years, the courts have not shown themselves to be bulwarks of press freedom. The Supreme Court itself hasa major press freedom case in more than a decade and is much less likely to support press freedom than it was when Black wrote his opinion in the Pentagon Papers case.
Ultimately, of course, the Biden administration cannot undo those troubling facts or ensure the health of the press. But it can and should adapt its policies to the new realities that have so weakened the American press and make supporting the press part of its agenda to protect democracy.
Biden-Putin summit: Key takeaways from their high-stakes meeting
Here are key takeaways from the high-stakes summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Both men called their meeting positive, but while Biden said he raised serious concerns and warned of consequences, he did not claim he got Putin to commit to changing his behavior and the Russian leader accepted no responsibility for cyberattacks on the U.S. or for anything else.
Last month, marking World Press Freedom Day, President Biden"the courage of truth-tellers who refuse to be intimidated, often at great personal risk, and we reaffirm the timeless and essential role journalism and a free media play in societies everywhere." It is now time to turn those noble words into action.
The president should call on Congress to enact new legal protections so that reporters can, as Justice Black said, expose the government's secrets without ever again having to worry that the government is spying on them.
Austin Sarat is associate provost and associate dean of faculty and the William Nelson Cromwell Professor Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College. He is author of numerous books including on topics of secrecy and press freedom: "" and " ."
Biden finds his comfort zone on the world stage in first international trip as president .
Even Queen Elizabeth II wanted to know: What would President Joe Biden say to Vladimir Putin? © Patrick Semansky/AP President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Geneva Airport in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Biden is returning to Washington as he wraps up his trip to Europe. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) "We had a long talk," Biden said of his tea with the monarch, who he was surprised to discover resembled his mother.