10.31.2013 0

None dare call it tyranny


By Rick Manning


It is an ugly word bringing to mind mobsters threatening to burn down a shop owners store if he doesn’t buy fire insurance, or a loan shark enforcers breaking legs to send a message to someone who bet the wrong horse.

It is even uglier when it is used in conjunction with the Presidency in a nation that has historically prided itself as being above the raw use of power to achieve one’s political ends.

CNN, one of the most vocal supporters of President Obama and his policies reported on October 30, that health insurers which are now heavily regulated under Obamacare “feared retribution” if they expressed their displeasure with the rollout of Obamacare.  Fearing retribution and not taking an action due to that fear is almost a classic definition of successful intimidation.

CNN News Anchor Carol Costello reported that she felt intimidated when reporting on the presidential race saying, “I mean President Obama’s people can be quite nasty. They don’t like you to say anything bad about their boss, and they’re not afraid to use whatever means they have at hand to stop you from doing that, including threatening your job [emphasis added].”

Now, Costello never claimed to have changed any story she produced as a result of this atmosphere of intimidation, but it is hard to imagine many reporters not choosing to present the campaign party line rather than give a more balanced perspective when their very jobs may have been at risk.

Earlier in October, an award winning freelance journalist who had written exposes about malfeasance at the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Safety Administration found her home raided by a combination of Maryland State Troopers and DHS agents over allegations that she had purchased a potato launcher over the Internet five years prior.  Apparently, the anti-potato launcher section of Homeland Security decided that a nice 4:30 am raid of the reporter’s home was needed five years after the purchase which was apparently illegal in Maryland, but legal under federal law.

While Marylanders were made safe from random potato attacks, DHS officials made off with all of the reporters notes on the TSA case, including the names of the whistleblowers who unveiled the illegal activity.

The Washington Times Editor John Solomon promised legal action against DHS stating, “While we  appreciate law enforcement’s right to investigate legitimate concerns, there is no reason for agents to use an unrelated gun case to seize the First Amendment protected materials of a reporter.”

Solomon continued by arguing, “This violates the very premise of a free press, and it raises additional concerns when one of the seizing agencies was a frequent target of the reporter’s work.”

In the months prior, the Obama Administration’s Justice Department admitted that they had tapped the phones of Associated Press reporters for months in an attempt to find reporter’s sources.

The Obama Administration even has gone so far as to contend that Fox News Washington’s James Rosen aided and abetted a breach of national security for doing his job and reporting information provided to him by a government official.  Unlike some cases in the past where reporters were put in jail for contempt of court for refusing to name a source, Rosen has come under legal jeopardy for simply reporting a story.

The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza succinctly summed up the abuse of government power tweeting, “If James Rosen’s ‘clandestine communications plan’ were illegal, every journalist in Washington would be locked up. Unreal.”

With this history can anyone still be surprised at Obama’s use of the IRS and other agencies of the federal government to intimidate political foes?

Can anyone remain naïve enough to believe that actions taken against True the Vote’s Catherine Engelbrecht by the IRS, OSHA and ATF was anything but a coordinated federal government wide effort to shut her up.  The inter-agency assault on Engelbrecht could only have been directed from the one place that breaks down the barriers between federal government agencies — the White House.

Intimidation is a standard tactic in NASCAR, the NFL, Major League Baseball, and most sporting events.  It is even attempted when elected officials try to stare down each other and interest groups with threats, voiced or veiled, of future ramifications for political actions.

But the brazen intimidation of the media and political opponents by this Administration goes far beyond the always implied threat that if I don’t like the story you write, I won’t give you the next one, to direct threats against one’s livelihood and indeed, freedom.

In America there is no place for raiding reporter’s homes, bugging their phones and threatening to indict them in order to obtain their sources.  The sanctity of a reporter’s source is well established in our nation’s courts, yet in Obama’s America, whistleblowers are nothing more than ducks in a shooting gallery.  This doesn’t just chill the ability of reporters to get information from the inside of government, but puts it in a deep freeze, because no whistleblower can ever again expect his or her anonymity to be protected, and without that protection, information dries up.

In Obama’s America, the Internal Revenue Service becomes what everyone has always feared, an Agency that selectively enforces the law based upon the politics of those in power.

None dare call it tyranny, but when freedom of the press comes under wholesale attack, and a government uses its vast resources to assault and intimidate its political enemies, what you call it really just comes down to semantics.

Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government.

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