This is about human rights

Freedom from tyranny is not a conservative or liberal issue

Questioning authority and pushing back against a tyrannical government isn’t a conservative cause. Fact is, it has often been a liberal one.

It’s a human rights issue. It’s about freedom.

It is in this spirit that we implore our liberal friends to make common cause with conservatives in fighting the attacks on freedom coming from this presidential administration.

The Justice Department’s spying on journalists – at the Associated Press, Fox News and perhaps elsewhere – and the use of the IRS and other federal agencies to target conservative groups and individuals have to be seen as what they are: attacks on us all.

The reasons should be obvious, but to summarize:

1) If the government manages to track journalists’ interactions with their sources, that will cast a chill on the news-gathering process that has helped keep Americans free. It will undoubtedly intimidate sources into withholding vital public information. And we will all be diminished by that.

2) If this administration is free to use the awesome power of the federal government to cower and harass conservative opponents, then no one is safe. Another administration with a different ideological bent might feel free to single out liberal groups and individuals for harassment.

Besides, no fair-minded individual would want that kind of treatment extended to anyone, even a political rival.

At least, that’s the America we should all want.

We are encouraged that some very prominent liberals in the news and entertainment media have come forward, however reluctantly, to decry the Obama administration’s abuses of power, including Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and, to some extent, CNN’s Piers Morgan and even the late-night comedians.

“The Obama administration,” Robinson writes, “has no business rummaging through journalists’ phone records, perusing their e-mails and tracking their movements in an attempt to keep them from gathering news. This heavy-handed business isn’t chilling, it’s just plain cold. It also may well be unconstitutional.”

“Our job, simply,” he adds, “is to find out what the government doesn’t want you to know.”

If the Obama administration view of journalism “had been the view of prior administrations, surely Bob Woodward would be a lifer in some federal prison. The cell next door might be occupied by my Post colleague Dana Priest, who disclosed the CIA’s network of secret prisons. Or by the New York Times’ James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, who revealed the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping program,” Robinson writes.

CNN’s Morgan, who repeatedly mocked and attacked gun advocates after the Newtown shooting, admits he’s thinking differently these days.

“I’ve had some of the pro-gun lobbyists on here, saying to me, ‘Well, the reason we need to be armed is because of tyranny from our own government,’ and I’ve always laughed at them. And I’ve always said, ‘don’t be so ridiculous; your own government won’t turn itself on you,’” he told a recent guest. “But, actually, this is vaguely tyrannical behavior by the American government. I think what the IRS did is bordering on tyrannical behavior. I think what the Department of Justice has done, actually, to the AP is bordering on tyrannical behavior.”

Our only complaint with Mr. Morgan is his use of the words “vaguely” and “bordering.”

Freedom is a human issue, with no ideology.

Let’s fight for it together.

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