The author and First Amendment activist made the remarks to Jerusalem Press Club on Wednesday evening. A Jerusalem Post correspondent who covered the event quoted her as harshly criticizing the Obama administration’s treatment of the media.
“Investigative reporting is dangerous and hasn’t been as bad as it is now with the Obama administration since Watergate,” she said. “Obama has the worst record of civil liberties of any president since Nixon.”
She said that the administration is “criminalizing news gathering,” pointing to the examples of the Justice Department’s “systematic targeting” of Associated Press reporters and gaining access to the personal emails and phone records of Fox News correspondent James Rosen by naming him as a “criminal co-conspirator” under the Espionage Act of 1917.
“Am I worried about what is going on in America?” she asked. “Yes. We have a president who is doing terrible things in the name of ‘national security.’”
“I have particular fury over what happened to James Rosen,” she said. “The Espionage Act has been used six times by Obama – he has used this act to criminalize reporting more than any other president in history and [he] gets away with it because he is a Democrat and African-American, which we’re proud of,” she said, according to the Jerusalem Post.
She said she’s also troubled by the Justice Department’s pursuit of possible charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing classified documents.
“For the U.S. government to be trying to go after him is very troubling,” she said. “[Assange] is a true publisher.”
The Pulitzer Prize winning reporter took the opportunity to tip her hat at Israeli journalists who frequently struggle with the dilemma of reporting freely in the face of national security considerations.
“The First Amendment is sacred, but security is more sacred, and Israeli journalists have struggled with this – to find the line between a threat to national security versus what is politically embarrassing,” she said. “You guys have wrestled with this much longer than we have.”
Answering the widespread criticism of the Justice Department’s investigation of journalists, Obama last month said, “As Commander-in-Chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field. To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to protect classified information.”
“But a free press is also essential for our democracy. That’s who we are, and I’m troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable,” he said.
“Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law,” Obama said.
Miller spent 85 days in jail in 2005 for refusing to name a source who leaked information that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative. It is a crime under federal law to deliberately leak the name of a CIA operative. As CNN reported at the time, Miller never actually wrote an article about Plame, but she was jailed for contempt for refusing to testify about the sources she had developed while researching.