Following a leaked transcript of a phone call Trump had with the leaders of Australia and Mexico earlier this year, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said his agency was “considering” a plan to subpoena journalists that publish White House leaks.
Curbing the White House Leaks
Critics reminded Sessions that that would be a violation of the First Amendment, and the end of blanket protection of the media in this country. The Justice Department argued that the move is necessary to curb the volume of leaks coming from the Trump administration.
We respect the important role that the press plays, and we’ll give them respect, but it is not unlimited,
Sessions said while announcing the plan.
He added that White House leakers and journalists that publicize their revelations “place lives at risk with impunity.” Sessions argued that limiting the press’ freedom is necessary for protecting the country’s national security, along with the lives of those in the military, U.S. spies, and law-abiding U.S. citizens.
Sessions said that the idea to revamp policies governing media subpoenas belongs to career officers in the FBI, prosecutors, and investigators. The AG, however, forgets that the First Amendment bars Congress from passing laws that abridge the freedom of the press in any way.
Sessions’ Plan Could Pave the Way to Authoritarianism
As a result, the Justice Department cannot enforce a law that isn’t there. Journalists’ job relies on sources and protecting those sources from retaliation. What’s more, Sessions’ plan could turn into a slippery slope as many authoritarian regimes started by silencing the press.
For instance, in Turkey, Recep Erdogan imprisoned journalists for the sake of national security. This is exactly what Sessions is making a case for – that White House leakers put the lives of Americans at risk, and journalists should be forced to name them at authorities’ request.
Image Source: Obamawhitehouse.gov