“When you have a voice, you also have a moral obligation to use that voice for good.”
With the constant barrage of lies, antics and actions outside the norm facilitated by the current president and members of his administration on an almost daily basis, it is easy to miss some of the more egregious actions that are changing American democracy and could have certain impacts on communities across the nation including here in the inland region.
Unbeknownst to many of us, one such effort actually began last fall in response to a mandate by U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. It called for a review of the US Attorneys’ Manual which includes official policy statements and provides real-world guidance to prosecutors around the country regarding how to do their jobs. The last major update to the manual occurred in 1997.
Although many for the changes so far have been purely administrative in nature including actions like updating contacts lists or the removal of repealed laws, the effort has also included changes that could have far reaching implications. Interestingly, according to a recent report by BuzzFeedNEWS, though it is not uncommon, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has failed to announce many of the recent changes.
One very important example of such failure occurred last November, in relation to the DOJ’s media contacts policy. A subsection titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial” was removed in its entirety. Before removal the section read:
“Likewise, careful weight must be given in each case to the constitutional requirements of a free press and public trials as well as the right of the people in a constitutional democracy to have access to information about the conduct of law enforcement officers, prosecutors and courts, consistent with the individual rights of the accused. Further, recognition should be given to the needs of public safety, the apprehension of fugitives, and the rights of the public to be informed on matters that can affect enactment or enforcement of public laws or the development or change of public policy.”
In lieu of this statement, revised language is now focused on balancing the right of the public “to have access to information about the Department of Justice” with other factors in decisions to release information.
The media policy was also amended to make it illegal to share classified information with someone who lacks authorization to receive it and further directs DOJ employees to report all contacts with the media about DOJ matters.
It is interesting that while the current administration is all-in on protecting perceived rights under the Second Amendment, it quietly and willingly whittles away at freedoms authorized under the First Amendment.
George Mason, a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, was prescient when he wrote, “The freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.”
This is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.