How far the mighty have fallen.
The U.S. dropped 13 places to end up 46th on the World Press Freedom index published annually by Reporters Without Borders (RWB).
If we translated our press freedom rating to a scale of military strength, we’d be on par with Croatia, Nigeria and Yemen.
Journalist Barrett Brown is currently in prison awaiting trial, and he faces a 105 year sentence for sharing a link to publicly-viewable leaked documents. His case is one of many RWB cites in explaining the drop in ranking.
Another offense against press freedom took place in 2012 when the Department of Justice pulled Associated Press phone records to try to uncover a source in the CIA.
According to RWB the Department of Justice has yet to provide legal support for the seizure.
If it’s bad to be a journalist under this administration, it’s even worse to be a whistle-blower.
When Obama took office his platform contained a passage on protecting whistle-blowers, which read, in part: “Barack Obama will strengthen whistle-blower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government.”
That language sharply contrasts with the fact that the Obama administration has already prosecuted 8 whistle-blowers under the Espionage Act—more than all previous administrations combined.
Private Chelsea Manning, who leaked a trove of documents to Wikileaks in 2011, is currently serving a 35 year prison term.
Rapists, child molesters and even murderers routinely spend less time behind bars.
Are those really the societal priorities we’re comfortable with?
Most of us know that Edward Snowden, who leaked information about NSA mass surveillance of U.S. citizens, is currently living in asylum in Russia to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison.
James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, told Fox News he thinks Snowden should be tried for treason and “hanged by his neck until he is dead.”
Other members of the intelligence community, including a current NSA analyst, were quoted anonymously by Buzzfeed as calling for Snowden’s death.
Glenn Greenwald, the reporter for The Guardian who broke the Snowden leaks, is also afraid to return to the U.S.
The New York native is currently living in Brazil.
Greenwald has good reason to be afraid.
James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, called Greenwald an “accomplice” to what he said is a treasonous crime.
In 2013, reporter Michael Hastings, who broke the Rolling Stone story that led to the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal, died when his car careened off the road and exploded on impact.
Is it just a coincidence that the journalist who took down one of the most powerful military men in the world, who was working on a similar piece about the current director of the CIA, accelerated his car through an intersection to his death, a day after trying to borrow his neighbor’s car to leave town after sharing with her a suspicion that his own had been tampered with?
What’s chilling about a case like Hastings’ is not what did happen, but what plausibly could have— the military and intelligence interests in this country have grown so entrenched, so massive and so secretive that even the most paranoid of conspiracy theories can no longer be entirely ruled out.
The most common defense of overbearing and draconian government policies is that they are necessary for our safety, but the truth is the dichotomy between liberty and security is a false one.
We are not safer when we submit ourselves to ever-increasing levels of scrutiny— we are in much graver danger of sliding toward effective authoritarianism.
Journalist and political commentator Dan Carlin has said that he doesn’t think our democracy could survive another attack on the scale of 9/11, and I’m afraid he might be right.
It isn’t the terrorists who are poised to destroy us, it is we who are poised to destroy ourselves.
Jefferson, Madison, Franklin and countless others since have warned us of the dangers of sacrificing essential liberty for a false sense of security.
We should know better.
We can do better.