LYNDEN, Washington — Eric Posner hates freedom of speech.
The University of Chicago law prof made this clear in an article for Slate in 2012 titled “The World Doesn’t Love the First Amendment.” “Americans,” Posner wrote, “need to learn that the rest of the world — and not just Muslims — see no sense in the First Amendment,” and realize that “they might have a point.”
Posner, son of Judge Richard Posner and a former classmate of President Barack Obama at Harvard Law School, likened the First Amendment to a “dear old uncle who enacted heroic deeds in his youth but on occasion says embarrassing things about taboo subjects in his decline.”
Now Posner has weighed in on freedom of the press. Turns out he’s against that, too.
In the case in question, New York Times reporter James Risen is being ordered by the federal government to name his source for a story about an attempt by the CIA to scuttle Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
This is part of the Obama administration’s alleged “war on whistleblowers.” Risen is being ordered to testify in the government’s case against former CIA hand James Sterling.
Posner opines, again in Slate, “If Risen must testify, Sterling will probably go to jail, and maybe other sources will not talk to Risen or other reporters. Too bad…”
It must be nice to have tenure.
Journalists tend to hate the Risen case, for a number of reasons.
One, it shows that the Obama administration really doesn’t give a fig for civil liberties when these freedoms might make it look bad.
Two, it’s not like Risen’s testimony would be the only information the government has on Sterling. Why make another federal case out of it, if you don’t have to, especially as it threatens to hurt future journalistic efforts?
Three, journalistic freedoms are not as set in stone as reporters would like. A priest who is told a secret in the confessional has some legal protections. Reporters have fewer protections.
Pressmen have to rely on the general disinclination of prosecutors to compel testimony, buttressed by the example of the occasional stubborn holdout who goes to jail on contempt of court charges rather than reveal sources.
This case may push the issue all the way up to the Supreme Court. It is by no means certain that the Supremes will side with the journalists this time.
Posner, who must be one of Obama’s favorite law professors after he sided with the censors on Benghazi and argued the president could unilaterally lift the debt limit with few consequences, is very much rooting against the journalists.
The prof argues the press has “not earned our trust.” Why, “if the Supreme Court were to create a reporter’s privilege, it would encourage leaks that ought to be plugged.”
Official White House mouthpiece Jay Carney couldn’t have said it better.
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