News Release

“Wake Up!” Obama Nixonian, Shield Law Hollow Says Pentagon Papers Lawyer


JAMES GOODALE, via Devi Shah, dkshah at
Available for a limited number of interviews, Goodale represented The New York Times in the landmark Pentagon Papers case, when the Nixon White House attempted to stop the Times from publishing top secret documents about the Vietnam War leaked by Daniel Ellsberg. Goodale just wrote the book Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles.

He said: “If in fact he [President Obama] goes ahead and prosecutes Julian Assange [of WikiLeaks], he will pass Nixon [in attacking the First Amendment]. He’s close to Nixon now. The AP example is a good example of something that Obama has done but Nixon never did.”

Asked about the reporter “shield law” proposed by Sen. Charles Schumer and backed by the Obama administration, Goodale said: “I just thought that was quite ridiculous, because the bill that Obama asked Schumer to put into the House has an exception for national security. In other words, if you’re a reporter and you’re talking about national security, the law doesn’t apply. But what is the whole controversy about today with respect to AP? It’s about a national security exception to the privilege that you would think reporters would otherwise have. So, Obama puts it out, thinking the public doesn’t know what I know, and I’m really going to be good to reporters, but it doesn’t protect them at all in the AP situation.”

Goodale questioned the “national security” rationale invoked by the administration: “When you look back at the so-called secrets … it’s all a bunch of malarkey. … The case [of government claims] with the Pentagon Papers was a bunch of — bunch of hot air. So, therefore, when we hear today the attorney general saying, ‘This is the worst secret I have ever seen disclosed,’ you know, beware, because, invariably, these secrets turn out to be non-secrets. They are the ability of the government to protect themselves and their own information and their own political power.”

Goodale connected this to over-classification: “Obama has classified, I think, seven million — in one year, classified seven million documents. Everything is classified. So that would give the government the ability to control all its information on the theory that it’s classified. And if anybody asks for it and gets it, they’re complicit, and they’re going to go to jail. So that criminalizes the process, and it means that the dissemination of information, which is inevitable, out of the classified sources of that information, will be stopped.”

Goodale noted the threat to the First Amendment has been building: “My book is meant to be a clarion call to the journalist community: Wake up! There’s danger out there. You may not like Assange, but wake up! The First Amendment is really going to be damaged, if Obama goes forward [prosecuting Assange] and succeeds, he will have succeeded where Nixon failed.” See Goodale’s full interview on “Democracy Now!” and his piece at the Daily Beast “Is Obama Worse For Press Freedom Than Nixon?

MARCY WHEELER,  emptywheel at, @emptywheel
A noted blogger on legal issues, Wheeler writes at Her recent pieces include: “Obama’s Headlong Rush to Counterterrorism Transparency” and “AP President Focuses on White House Claims about OBL Anniversary Threats” which notes that AP head Gary Pruitt stated that as the AP had their story about a terror plot: “At the same time, the administration, through the Press Secretary and the Department of Homeland Security were telling the American public that there was no credible evidence of a terrorist plot related to the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. So that was misleading to the American public. We felt the American public needed to know this story.”

TREVOR TIMM, trevor at, @TrevorTimm
Timm is co-founder and executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. His latest piece notes that Sunday on “Face the Nation,” “President and CEO of the Associated Press Gary Pruitt called the Justice Department’s seizure of AP’s call records ‘unconstitutional’ and said it has already had a chilling effect on newsgathering.” Timm also recently wrote: “Justice Department Investigation of AP Part of Larger Pattern to Intimidate Sources and Reporters.”

The Bradley Manning Support Network notes that “June 1 will mark the beginning of Bradley Manning’s fourth year in prison and the start of his trial.” Manning has acknowledged being the source for WikiLeaks of the “Collateral Murder” video and a trove of documents WikiLeaks has made public.

See Guardian report: “Julian Assange Reveals GCHQ Messages Discussing Swedish Extradition,” which states: “WikiLeaks founder uses subject access request to access British agency chatter, which allegedly calls extradition ‘a fit-up'”