RNA - It’s all for distracting the attention of international civil society when the Trump administration imposes sanctions on Iranian entities and individuals for alleged human rights abuses and censorship. The United States engages in vast human rights abuses and injustice, and the evidence is plenty:
Journalists and free press advocates across the globe are responding with alarm to newly released documents revealing the US government's secret rules for using Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court orders to spy on reporters and arrest them, calling the revelations "important" and "terrifying."
The documents - obtained and released by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University through an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit - confirm long held suspicions that US government officials have been "targeting known media entities or known members of the media" with FISA orders for years.
These rules "apply to media entities or journalists who are thought to be agents of a foreign government, or, in some cases, are of interest under the broader standard that they possess foreign intelligence information." This includes those running the WikiLeaks; the US government says they are an intelligence operation too!
Additionally, even if not personally targeted by FISA orders, journalists merely by being contacted by an FISA target are subject to monitoring and abuse. The fact that these are kept secret under the Trump administration is cause for great concern. President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated his hatred for the media anyhow. As a consequence, press freedom is under threat from his administration, subjecting journalists to FISA court orders and more.
Indeed, no advocate of human rights, civil liberties and due process would defend the current surveillance regime in Washington – with its history of human rights abuses, police brutality and racism, wars and war crimes, clamping down on the press, persecuting black Americans, illegal immigrants, Muslim citizens and minorities, and of failing to offer legal protections and due process to those in detention.
According to Fars News Agency, the fact that the US claims the moral high ground when it comes to human rights and civil liberties, including press freedom, is one of the reasons why Trump’s own attacks on the media have been so horrifying. Indeed, the moral argument for sanctions against other countries, including Iran, similarly is not a tough one. For these illegal and unjustified measures to have any chance of achieving their aim, which is usually regime change, they inevitably result in the widespread suffering of ordinary people.
At the same time, these illegal sanctions are about US interests and foreign policy goals in the Middle East rather than they are about promoting press freedom and democracy in Iran. This hardly comes as a surprise, but it fails on its own logic.
The Trump administration has even removed language about freedom of the press from its own guidebook for US attorneys. The US Attorneys' Manual is a guide to Justice Department policies written for US attorneys and other department employees. It has been with significant changes to the “Media Relations” section – changes that reflect a larger Trump administration hostility towards members of the press.
Gone from the handbook is a section specifically reminding attorneys of the public's right to know. Gone is a section on the need for free press and public trial. In other words, the freedom of the press in the United States has declined dramatically, and the Trump administration officials are not fit to preach others on the subject. They are dismissive of the important work done by the press, and they have shown an unprecedented level of hostility to the press and the international rule of law. So, for those who are probably worried about human rights and freedom in the world, you'd better preach your own government first.