Friday, June 1, 2012

Joe Miller and Obama - BFF's When It Comes to Journalists and Journalism

In an article for the Alaska Dispatch by Craig Medred on Joe Miller's attacks on Andrew Halcro, Medred raises some interesting, valid points.  The article, published Thursday, is titled Joe Miller says Halcro's no 'journalist'? Fine. Neither am I

The eerily litigious Miller is going after former Alaska legislator Andrew Halcro, as Miller, in a very bizarre legal course that stems back to a column Halcro posted at his blog in 2010, titled Say It Ain't So, Joe. Here's a rundown on what that's about:
Joe Miller’s continued quest for answers about who knew what and when regarding his personnel files from his stint as a government attorney has found its way to Andrew Halcro, a wry blogger, business owner and former state lawmaker.
That’s according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, which reports a series of depositions Miller has sought in a lingering court case stemming from his unsuccessful run against Lisa Murkowski in the 2010 general election for U.S. Senate.
Halco has been summoned this week to answer questions from Miller’s attorneys, which he confirmed in two posts on his blog this week, here and here.
During summer 2010, Halcro posted a two-line blog entry -- “Say it ain’t so Joe” -- which read: “U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller was fired from his job as an attorney for the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Why?”
The News-Miner correctly points out that Miller was not fired from his job. He quit and was barred for three years from re-employment at the borough because he didn’t give enough notice prior to his departure. But the rumor floated in Halcro’s blog piqued the media’s interest, and it wasn’t long before Miller’s campaign was trying to dispel the firing myth.
According to the News-Miner, questions posed by Miller’s attorneys to his former borough colleagues have included whether they had any contact with Halcro. The paper also reports Halcro has been asked to bring nearly two year’s worth of communication records of conversations he may have had with borough staff, the media, political candidates and law enforcement.
Halcro's time has been so consumed on dealing with Miller's court case that he decided not to challenge Sen. Hollis French in the upcoming election:
I remain embroiled in a time-consuming, legal case litigating First Amendment rights of online journalists such as myself. (Editor's note: Alaska Dispatch is also wrapped up in this case, thanks to failed U.S. Senate candidate and tea party supporter Joe Miller. Give 'em hell, Andy -- Tony Hopfinger)

After months of reflection, discussions with my wife, and analyzing the legal obligations I face ahead, I've decided the best path forward is to maintain my focus on securing an appropriate resolution to my court case, which may end up in front of the Alaska Supreme Court.

For current and future online journalists in Alaska, the outcome of this legal case will either protect their constitutional rights or deny them. It is my highest priority to protect them.
Craig Medred, in coming to Halcro's defense, argues that Halcro does what a journalist does, or should do:
 No wonder Halcro is no journalist. He is and always was a "policy wonk," as they say. He has always been a lot more interested in ideas than the "objectivity" charade.

"Bloggers aren't journalists," he once wrote. "Having a blog simply means I'm a guy with time on my hands, thoughts on my mind and a computer within reach.”

This is the statement Miller, his attorney and Lamb appear to believe is the smoking gun that should lead a court to order Halcro to, in essence, work as a private investigator for Miller, who wants to know who -- if anyone -- in the Fairbanks North Star Borough revealed he'd been a bad, bad boy.

When Miller's coworkers went to lunch, the borough's part-time lawyer got on their computers to try and make it look like they were voting in his online poll on who should run the Alaska Republican party. Miller was caught in this subterfuge. His first response was to lie about it.

The borough eventually pried out the truth. Rumors of this surfaced when Miller ran for Senate. Halcro wrote about them. The full and unvarnished story finally came out for all to see after news organizations -- including Alaska Dispatch, but notably not some of the state's other high brow "journalists" -- sued the borough to gain access to Miller's personnel file, showing he'd cheated and lied. Miller believes this public exposure -- as opposed to his cheating and lying -- cost him the job of U.S. senator for Alaska, and he's been on a months-long, lawsuit-driven witch hunt to find out who exposed his cheating and lying.
I doubt Andrew Halcro, in spite of his statement "[f]or current and future online journalists in Alaska, the outcome of this legal case will either protect their constitutional rights or deny them. It is my highest priority to protect them," would readily come to the defense of Australian activist, Julian Assange.  Nor would Miller, whose position on lack of immunity from prosecution or litigation for bloggers is in close accord with that of President Obama.  Here's Glenn Greenwald:
A coalition of leading journalists and media outlets in Australia have explained: WikiLeaks “is doing what the media have always done: bringing to light material that governments would prefer to keep secret” and prosecuting them “would be unprecedented in the US, breaching the First Amendment protecting a free press“; they added: “To aggressively attempt to shut WikiLeaks down, to threaten to prosecute those who publish official leaks . . . is a serious threat to democracy.” 

The Committee to Protect Journalists sent a letter to Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder expressing “deep concern” over “reports about a potential WikiLeaks prosecution,” which “would threaten grave damage to the First Amendment’s protections of free speech and the press.” 

Although American journalists were reluctant at first to speak out, even they have come around to recognizing what a profound threat an Assange indictment would be to press freedoms, with The Washington Post Editorial Page denouncing any indictment on the ground that it “would criminalize the exchange of information and put at risk responsible media organizations,” and even editors of the Guardian and Keller himself — with whom Assange has feuded — are now vowing to defend Assange if he were to be prosecuted.
Obama has done the same with Assange as Miller has with Halcro:
Barack Obama has made his strongest condemnation yet of WikiLeaks, as supporters of Julian Assange demonstrated for his release.

In a call to the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the US President ''expressed his regrets for the deplorable action by WikiLeaks'', the White House said.

The comments, and similar statements in a call to his Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderon, were Mr Obama's most forceful yet against the website, whose disclosure of a trove of secret US diplomatic cables has won it international condemnation and praise.

Mr Obama's call to Mr Erdogan could be seen as an effort to smooth ruffled feathers in Turkey - a key regional US ally - where officials including the Prime Minister have railed against some of the information divulged by the documents.

Demonstrations took place across Spain on Saturday - including one by hundreds of people outside the British embassy in Madrid - calling for the release from a London jail of Mr Assange, the website's Australian founder, who is awaiting possible extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations.

There were also demonstrations in London and Amsterdam.

The Spanish website Free WikiLeaks called for demonstrations in Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Bogota and Lima. In a manifesto entitled ''For freedom, say no to state terrorism'', it demanded 

Mr Assange's release and ''restoration of the WikiLeaks domain''.

''Given that no one has proved that Assange is guilty of the offences he is accused of and that WikiLeaks is not implicated in any of those'', the website also urged that the credit card giants Visa and MasterCard rescind their decisions to cut off payments from the website's supporters.
Vice President Biden, on Assange:
The US vice-president, Joe Biden, today likened the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, to a "hi-tech terrorist", the strongest criticism yet from the Obama administration.

Biden claimed that by leaking diplomatic cables Assange had put lives at risk and made it more difficult for the US to conduct its business around the world.

His description of Assange shows a level of irritation that contrasts with more sanguine comments from other senior figures in the White House, who said the leak had not done serious damage.
Interviewed on NBC's Meet the Press, Biden was asked if the administration could prevent further leaks, as Assange warned last week. "We are looking at that right now. The justice department is taking a look at that," Biden said, without elaborating.

The justice department is struggling to find legislation with which to prosecute Assange.
Asked if what Assange had done was criminal, Biden seemed to suggest it would be considered criminal if it could be established that the WikiLeaks founder had encouraged or helped Bradley Manning, the US intelligence analyst suspected of being behind the leak. Biden claimed this was different from a journalist receiving leaked material.

"If he conspired to get these classified documents with a member of the US military that is fundamentally different than if someone drops on your lap … you are a press person, here is classified material."

Asked if he saw Assange as closer to a hi-tech terrorist than the whistleblower who released the Pentagon papers in the 1970s, which disclosed the lie on which US involvement in Vietnam was based, Biden replied: "I would argue it is closer to being a hi-tech terrorist than the Pentagon papers. But, look, this guy has done things that have damaged and put in jeopardy the lives and occupations of people in other parts of the world.

"He's made it more difficult for us to conduct our business with our allies and our friends. For example, in my meetings – you know I meet with most of these world leaders – there is a desire now to meet with me alone, rather than have staff in the room. It makes things more cumbersome – so it has done damage."
All of which led to Obama's almost year-long torture of Pvt. Bradley Manning, in efforts to force a false confession from the soldier.

Halcro may have won an award or two for his blog posts.  If not, he certainly deserves one.

Assange has won several.  Here's Glenn Greenwald on one of the most recent:
The Walkley Awards are the Australian equivalent of the Pulitzers: that nation’s most prestigious award for excellence in journalism. Last night, the Walkley Foundation awarded its highest distinction — for “Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism” — to WikiLeaks, whose leader, Julian Assange, is an Australian citizen. The panel cited the group’s “courageous and controversial commitment to the finest traditions of journalism: justice through transparency,” and hailed it for having “applied new technology to penetrate the inner workings of government to reveal an avalanche of inconvenient truths in a global publishing coup.” As I’ve noted before, WikiLeaks easily produced more newsworthy scoops over the last year than every other media outlet combined, and the Foundation observed: “so many eagerly took advantage of the secret cables to create more scoops in a year than most journalists could imagine in a lifetime.” In sum: “by designing and constructing a means to encourage whistleblowers, WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief Julian Assange took a brave, determined and independent stand for freedom of speech and transparency that has empowered people all over the world.”

 What makes this award so notable is that the United States — for exactly the same reasons the Foundation cited in honoring WikiLeaks’ journalism achievements — has spent the last year trying to criminalize and destroy the group, with some success. Showing the true colors of America’s political class, U.S. politicians like Dianne Feinstein plotted to prosecute WikiLeaks for its journalism and Joe Lieberman thuggishly demanded that private corporations cut off all funds to the group (most of which complied), while others, like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, branded them Enemy Combatants and called for them to be treated like Terrorists. Meanwhile, the Obama administration — while parading around the world as defenders of Internet freedom and a free press — harassed its supporters with laptop seizures at airports and Twitter subpoenas. Recall that the Pentagon, all the way back in a top secret 2008 report, declared WikiLeaks — which also received the 2009 award from Amnesty International for excellence in New Media — an enemy of the state and plotted how to destroy it.

It is telling indeed that the U.S. — with the backing of its subservient allied governments — has devoted itself to the destruction of the world’s most effective journalistic outlet. It is equally telling that the Obama administration has subjected Bradley Manning — who is accused of (more accurately: credited with) having exposed to WikiLeaks and then the world endless amounts of illegality and corruption – to pre-trial detention conditions so harsh and inhumane that its own State Department spokesman vehemently denounced that treatment and ultimately resigned over it. As I argued last weekend in the UC-Davis pepper-spraying context, the U.S. loves to flamboyantly offer rights . . . provided they are not effectively exercised to challenge those in power; as soon as they are, the exercise of those rights is severely punished rather than protected.

That is exactly what has been done to WikiLeaks by the U.S. Government: serious threats and punishment meted out extra-legally to this group for the crime of adversarial journalistic exposure of government wrongdoing (in contrast to the large American media outlets that typically serve the Government’s interests and thus get patted on the head). The awarding of this prestigious journalism award in Australia makes that even more vividly clear. Equally telling is that while leading Australian journalists have vocally defended WikiLeaks for engaging in pure journalism, the American actors who play the role of journalists on TV in the U.S. have almost unanimously scorned and denouncedimprisons the Nobel Peace Prize winner, while the secrecy-obsessed U.S.  the group for the greatest sin in their eyes: undermining, exposing and defying political authorities. In sum, China revealingly

Government works to destroy the group that has uniquely displayed a “courageous and controversial commitment to the finest traditions of journalism: justice through transparency.”
I'm not holding my breath waiting for anybody in Alaska journalism other than Shannyn Moore or myself to write favorably about Julian Assange's journalism, or comparing his plight to that of Andrew Halcro.  The truth, however, is that both should be fully protected under the 1st Amendment, even though Assange is an Australian citizen.


Anonymous said...

Aloha, Philip...! Any thoughts...?

george said...

enjoyed this article with Assange and Halcro comparisons. lucky for Assange he doesn't live where the BO drones fly

Steve said...

Thanks Phil. An important issue here for journalists and bloggers (I'm not sure the distinction has much meaning any more - there are bloggers who are as good as the best journalists and journalists who are as bad as the worst bloggers). Serious writers, who try to publish information important to voters, are critical to preserving democracy.

Philip Munger said...

Thanks, george and Steve.

Romance in Ireland said...

journalism is a profession that requires being fearless, trying to highlight the truth and be honest with oneself. it`s hard, and difficult thing is to keep aside from "being bought" by any magnate.