Sessions' Threat to Lock Up Journalists is an Attack on the First Amendment

Maybe he was doing it to get back into the good graces of his bully boss, but Attorney General Jeff Session’s announcement today that the Justice Department has increased investigations to find “leakers” even if it means jailing journalists is nothing less than an attack on the First Amendment.

“I strongly agree with the president and condemn in the strongest terms the staggering number of leaks undermining the ability of our government to protect this country,” Sessions told a press conference where he allowed no questions. This comes on the heels of bullying comments from Donald Trump calling Sessions “weak” because he’s been frustrated that the DOJ and the FBI haven’t been looking for who is sharing what happens behind closed doors.

Although Trump refers to these people as “leakers,” I think we need to clearly define the difference between someone who leaks information and a whistleblower. A leaker, according to the New York Times, is someone who provides “confidential information to the public in a surreptitious way and without official authorization.”

A whistleblower takes it up a notch. Whistleblowing is usually about abuse of power or illegality that involves governmental or corporate wrongdoing. Because the stakes are even higher, whistleblowers have a hellish time. I know because I was one and suffered the consequences, which I discuss in my book From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire. But imagine the consequences if Deep Throat hadn’t blown the whistle on Richard Nixon. Because of the necessity of keeping people in power honest, we should do more to support those who come forward. I fear Session’s actions will do just the opposite and make it difficult, if not impossible, to hold Trump accountable.

The irony here is that Trump himself is a leaker. Remember when he revealed sensitive intelligence about Israel to Russian officials? That might be a good place for Sessions and his department to start.

Photo credit: ABC News