Few presidential candidates enjoyed better press than Barack Obama in 2008. He reciprocated by promising unprecedented “openness in government” and a new era of transparency.
He has fallen far short of the promise. This administration has prosecuted more whistle-blowers for leaks and gone after more journalists than any of its predecessors.
In a report last year, Leonard Downie, the former executive editor of the Washington Post, said the administration’s efforts to crack down on information seeping to journalists is “the most aggressive” since President Richard Nixon was in office.
The issue was crystallized anew last week when the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from New York Times reporter James Risen, who has been ordered to testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency official. Sterling is charged with giving Risen classified information about an attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. The Justice Department has relentlessly pursued Risen, and he could face jail time for failing to comply with the subpoena.
Why has this once-media-friendly administration turned neo-Nixonian? Insiders say it’s the pressure of the powerful national-security apparatus and the fear among Obama aides that the president could face the wrath of the intelligence community if he fails to act tough.