Like the title of Bill Manny’s Aug. 5 commentary, I don’t want AG Jeff Sessions, or any other government head, to decide “what we know about the government.” I disagree, however, with Manny’s conclusion that Sessions “thinks” he can “stop unflattering or annoying stories” by “subpoenaing reporters or giving government employees lie-detector tests.”
When Sessions mentioned subpoenas in his Aug. 4 remarks about the National Insider Threat Task Force, he wasn’t taking about unflattering or annoying stories. He spoke about threats to national security stemming from criminal leaks of classified material. He outlined steps the DOJ is taking to “successfully investigate and prosecute these matters,” including “reviewing the policies affecting media subpoenas.” As Sessions correctly stated, the media’s role, while respected, “is not unlimited. They cannot place lives at risk with impunity.”
Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Branzberg v. Hayes (1962) that the First Amendment does not protect a journalist from the subpoena power of a grand jury’s criminal inquiry. Nor does the First Amendment protect from prosecution those journalists who commit crimes to obtain a news story. I just wish the First Amendment protected me from journalists who profess to know what someone else thinks.
Elizabeth Harvey, Boise