Tag Archive: Obama administration

Increased Criticism of Obama Administration’s Use of the Espionage Act

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.

Obama Administration Refuses to Defend All of DOMA

On February 23rd,  US Attorney General, Eric Holder, announced that the Obama Administration will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense Of Marriage Act as applied to same-sex married couples. Section 3 explicitly defines marriage for federal purposes as between a man and a woman. This declaration is important because two cases are currently pending in the Second Circuit,Pedersen v. OPM and Windsor v. United States. Because the Second Circuit has no established precedent for how to interpret sexual-orientation discrimination cases, the Department of Justice under the Obama Administration must now determine whether these cases are subject to a more heightened standard of review than the rational basis standard.

Holder made clear that while the DOJ would cease to defend Section 3, they would still represent the United States’ interest in other portions of the current litigation. Holder also stated the Administration, in what almost seems contradictory, intends to enforce the law “unless and until Congress repeals Section 3 or the judicial branch renders a definitive verdict against the law’s constitutionality.” On March 4, the GOP announced a plan to defend DOMA, but to date only a legal advisory group has been convened.

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