The U.S. Attorney General’s office announced on May 10 that the government had secretly “tapped” the phone records of a large number of Associated Press reporters’ office and home phones over a period of two months in April and May of 2012.
“It was a very large number of records that were obtained including phone records from Hartford, New York, Washington, from the U.S. House of Representatives and elsewhere where AP has bureaus. It included home and cell phone numbers from a number of AP reporters,” said AP lawyer David Schultz. (NPR, May 14) No notice was given to the AP that this was being done.
The Attorney General’s office said that this was part of the investigation of a “leak” of information about an alleged failed Al Qaeda plot last year to place a bomb on an airliner. The Justice Department’s action in effect strengthens the capitalist state’s repressive apparatus at the expense of the media, in this case targeting a big corporate media organization, AP.
The United States’ form of government is a capitalist democracy. This means the very rich – the bankers, the corporation owners, the billionaire class — have been able to more or less openly debate U.S. imperialist strategies. The goal of each grouping or faction is to maintain U.S. imperialist dominance worldwide and keep the capitalist class in power.
Still, their economists, politicians and political scientists vie with each other to control the government — federal, state and local — to protect their wealth and increase their profit margins, as well as over strategy.
And what about the workers and the poor? To the capitalist class, they are the captive audience of this “democracy.” They are bombarded by the news business with arguments from the various political factions whose only true goal is to curry favor with the billionaire class that “butters their bread.”
Such a complex scheme requires a set of rules for even these capitalists and their minions to follow. One is to allow the news business to gather information without direct interference by the government. They euphemistically call this “freedom of the press.”
This is designed to prevent the faction in power from overriding the other factions in their struggle for control of the state and the government budget and over strategies and tactics.
All the major news organizations — the New York Times, the Washington Post and of course the Associated Press — rightfully howled in protest of this government “interference.” Of course, none of them has the slightest interest in the welfare of the workers. But this escapade does show that the government is perfectly ready to break any of its rules in order to repress the workers and oppressed.
From time to time brave individuals like Pvt. B. Manning and Daniel Ellsberg have exposed government lies, corruption, atrocities and other outrages, and have tried to use the press as a shield against government retribution.
This latest phone-tapping venture is an attempt to send a chilling message to potential “whistleblowers” that the U.S. government will break any law, any rule, any pledge to attack them. This is why the workers’ and anti-war movement is obliged to come to the defense of Manning and those who copy Manning’s example.
None of the media outlets that used the information that Manning provided has risen to defend this hero in court or any other arena. And so the government is becoming more and more aggressive in using its “intelligence-gathering” attacks against even media corporations like the Associated Press. In the end, only the struggle by the workers and oppressed can defend those who expose the capitalist government.