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New press freedom "protections" from Biden's DOJ are shot through with loopholes that could allow prosecutors to go after sources and threaten reporters with jail.

This is Jim Risen, senior national security correspondent at The Intercept. In 2014, the Obama administration threatened to put me in prison for revealing CIA secrets and refusing to reveal my sources.

So when the Biden Justice Department announced new guidelines that they claimed would protect press freedom, I was interested — and more than a little bit skeptical.

Sadly, my skepticism was justified. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s new press freedom guidelines are shot through with loopholes that could allow prosecutors to go after sources and threaten reporters with jail. If Donald Trump ever returns to power, these new “protections” won’t be worth the paper they’re written on.

I know firsthand that journalism can be a... dangerous business, especially when you’re working to expose secrets that the government wants to hide. The Intercept was founded to empower reporters to do the hard-hitting investigations that other news outlets won’t. That means making sure our reporters have the security, legal backup, and other resources they need to take on the most powerful institutions in society, from the CIA to Wall Street.

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After Garland announced his new media guidelines, he received praise from media experts and journalists for “protecting the rights of news organizations reporting on stories of critical public importance.”

But the Garland guidelines come with potential loopholes — what the guidelines call exceptions in “certain circumstances.” Those exceptions could be defined strictly or loosely, and, depending on the person making the decision or the national climate, allow ample room for a new crackdown on the press. Case in point: Garland issued the policy even as the Justice Department is seeking to prosecute Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder.

Worse, the policy lacks the force of law, and can be changed or ignored by the next attorney general.

And of course, the Garland media guidelines will do little if anything for reporters if Trump ever returns to power, or if Republicans win control of Congress and a reporter is subpoenaed by a Trump-aligned House committee. Trump has made it clear that he will try to crush press freedom in America if he is elected president again; at a recent rally in Texas, he insinuated that reporters should be raped in prison to force them to reveal their sources.

So as a reporter who has faced possible jail time for uncovering government secrets and refusing to release my sources, I’m asking you to become a member of The Intercept. Your donation will make sure our investigative journalists have the security, legal, and other resources they need to tackle challenging stories that others won’t.


Thank you,

James Risen Senior National Security Correspondent

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The Intercept is an award-winning nonprofit news organization dedicated to holding the powerful accountable through fearless, adversarial journalism. Our in-depth investigations and unflinching analysis focus on surveillance, war, corruption, the environment, technology, criminal justice, the media and more. Email is an important way for us to communicate with The Intercept’s readers, but if you’d like to stop hearing from us, click here to r0 from all communications. Protecting freedom of the press has never been more important. Contribute now to support our independent journalism.

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