James Goodale: Journalists should wake to Obama’s free speech record

The two men in charge. (Daniel Schwen/Wikimedia Commons)

The two men in charge. (Daniel Schwen/Wikimedia Commons)

James Goodale, the chief counsel to The New York Times when the paper published the Pentagon Papers, says that the Obama administration has been more restrictive of the First Amendment than any other president in history, even Richard Nixon. In his new book, Fighting for the Press, Goodale implores journalists to put pressure on Obama, who he believes gets a free pass a Republican president wouldn’t get from the press.

In a conversation with the Columbia Journalism Review, Goodale points to the administration’s use of the 1917 Espionage Act to sedate American journalism. “The biggest challenge to the press today is the threatened prosecution of WikiLeaks, and it’s absolutely frightening,” he said. During Obama’s two terms, the Espionage Act has been used to prosecute more alleged leakers than all former presidential offices combined.

Goodale said journalists don’t seem to consider this much of a problem. “They don’t believe it,” he told CJR. “I actually have talked to two investigative reporters who are household names, and I said, ‘Do you realize what’s happening to you if this goes forward?’ And I talk, I get no response, and the subject shifts to other parts of the book. No one seems to care.”

About Michael Juliani

Michael Juliani is a senior studying Print and Digital Journalism at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He's a senior news editor and executive producer for Neon Tommy and an associate editor and contributor for the Online Journalism Review. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Huffington Post, among other places.


  1. Jared Black says:

    Journalists beware: useful idiots become useless idiots.

  2. Tom Billings says:

    They like their jobs, and love their status. But, …”men who say they’ll stand on principle, under stress, will often default to the level of their training”. For those who were taught to despise or hate those in opposition to “progressive” government, that attitude will often trump any love they have for their status, their profession, or the Republic.

  3. PersonFromPorlock says:

    It may not be that journalists don’t care, so much as that – as they so often are – they’re oblivious.