News

January 7, 2019

US - #WeeklyAddress: December 31 - January 6: Newly-declassified documents show FBI media leaks unit

NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP
Below are the most notable incidents regarding threats to press freedom in the US during the week of December 31 - January 6:

Newly-declassified documents unveil FBI media leaks unit

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) created a new unit to counter media leaks, according to documents obtained by The Young Turks through a Freedom of Information Act request and published January 2. The documents, which were partially declassified, allege a rapid rise in “media leak threats” as the reason for the unit’s establishment. The unit was created in November 2017, according to the documents, refuting former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ August 2017 claim that the FBI had already created a counterintelligence unit to handle media leaks. It was at this same press conference that Sessions said the Justice Department had more than tripled its number of leak prosecutions compared with the number of investigations that were open at the end of the previous administration. The number of media leak investigations had already rose significantly under the Obama administration, which prosecuted more whistleblowers under the draconian Espionage Act that any other US administration combined.

 

President Trump holds last minute press briefing, takes no questions

President Donald Trump gave an unexpected appearance at the podium of the White House briefing room on January 3 but took no questions. When Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced to the White House press corps shortly after 4 pm EST that there would be a briefing in five minutes, reporters rushed to the briefing room for this increasingly rare opportunity to ask questions. Instead of giving a typical briefing Sanders introduced President Trump, who was accompanied by members of the National Border Patrol Council and National Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Council, for his first-ever appearance at the briefing room podium. President Trump made a statement pushing for border security and the wall, the contentious issues that culminated in the 13-day-long partial government shutdown, and allowed DHS representatives to speak before exiting the briefing room. Reporters expressed their frustration as he exited, while others missed the briefing altogether due to the short notice. PBS Newshour reporter Yamiche Alcindor tweeted afterward: “A White House briefing is a time where reporters get ample notice to ask questions of the administration. That was not a briefing.” It is rare for a president to speak to the press in a briefing without taking questions.

  

The United States ranks 45th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index after falling 2 places in the last year.

 

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