There has been increased criticism of the Obama administration for the use of the Espionage Act against whistleblowers. The Act was enacted against the backdrop of World War I in 1917 to punish those who gave aid enemies of the United States. The Act was used three times in all the prior administrations to bring cases against government officials accused of providing classified information to the media but has been used six times since President Obama took office in 2009. In a recent controversial case, John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. agent who became a Democratic staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was charged under the Act with passing on disclosed information to the media about C.I.A. interrogation methods. Mark Corallo, who served as the Justice Department’s spokesman in the George W. Bush administration, said he was “sort of shocked” by the volume of leak prosecutions under President Obama. “We would have gotten hammered for it,” he said. Dan Kennedy, an assistant professor at Northeastern University’s School of Journalism, notes, “I suspect Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have gotten a pass from many liberals because they believe a Republican president would be even worse on such matters.” Kennedy also notes that the administration’s use of the Act “has led to a virtual war on journalism and free expression.” The Obama administration has defended its aggressive approach by stating that the higher volume of prosecutions is just happenstance. The administration rejects assertions that the volume of prosecutions is politically-motivated. This aggressive approach will likely mean that government officials (both current and former) will use more secretive ways of providing information to the media.

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