THE BLOG
11/29/2016 04:42 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2017

The War on the First Amendment Didn't Start Last Week

For those who woke a week ago to realize the First Amendment is under attack, I lost my job at the State Department in 2012 for writing We Meant Well, a book the government did not like, and needed the help of lawyer Jesselyn Radack and the ACLU to push back the threat of jail.

My book was critical of actions in Iraq under both the Obama and Bush administrations. One helped protect the other.

Braver people than me, like Thomas Drake, Morris Davis, and Robert MacLean, risked imprisonment and lost their government jobs for talking to the press about government crimes and malfeasance. John Kiriakou, Chelsea Manning, and Jeff Sterling went to jail for speaking to/informing the press. The Obama administration tried to prosecute reporters from Fox and the New York Times for stories on government wrongdoing.

Ray Maxwell at the State Department went public with information about Hillary Clinton's email malfeasance before you had even heard of her private server. The media that covered the story at all called him a liar, an opportunist, and a political hack, and he was pressed into retirement.

Indeed, Obama prosecuted more federal whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all previous United States presidents combined, including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

The Obama administration also set a record (77%) for redacting government files or denying access to them in fiscal year 2014 under the Freedom of Information Act.

More than any previous administration, Obama took longer to turn over files, said more often it could not locate documents, and refused a record number of times to turn over time-sensitive files quickly, requiring years-long legal actions to be brought to force the government's hand.

Though the backlog of unanswered requests grew by 55%, the administration cut the number of full-time Freedom of Information Act employees by 7.5%. Despite the critical nature of the documents to the election, the State Department was allowed to do its Freedom of Information Act screening of the Clinton emails largely with an ad hoc crew of retirees. The impact on journalists, and the right of the people to know, was immeasurable.

The war on our freedoms was well under way before last week. Where were you then?