Our board member John Cusack held an expansive Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) yesterday and took a variety of questions on freedom of the press, the Obama administration, acting, directing, and activism. Here are some of the highlights that touched on issues he is involved with at Freedom of the Press Foundation every day.
Question: “Hey John, I know previously you spoke out about your feelings towards the war in Iraq, and the Bush administration. It's wonderful how open you are about your political views. What are you feelings about how much progress has been made, and the steps being taken by today's government to end it?”
Complicated ...in many ways we have not righted the wrongs on the power grab made after the tragedy of 9/11...Obama took an oath to restore and defend the Constitution that was not written in a way the national security state and the neocons and Dick Cheney would openly prefer. He's failed miserably in that regard. We don't live in the country our fathers did…
The Bill of Rights is not written for the convenience or aspirations of presidents or their subordinates. It is meant to help us defend our freedoms from them: to prevent them from “doing their job” (even if they see that as “protecting us”) or from serving their own interests (consciously or not) in ways that impinge on our core freedoms.
Question: "John, I respect your support and work on the right to privacy and journalistic freedom. Does your organization extend its views on privacy rights to health and health care? And how do you, or do you see any similarities in terms of policy solutions?"
We're promoting a bunch of great encryption tools as a way for journalists and sources to talk safely to each other, but it's important to remember the tools can and should be used by everyone. Mass surveillance means everyone's communications are being collected. Doctor-patient privilege, lawyer-client privilege, and others are all being trampled. We focus on protecting press freedom, but we fight for the privacy rights of everyone.
Question: "How did you get involved with Freedom of the Press Foundation? Can you talk about something you're proud of as a result of your involvement?"
I'm proud of everything we've done. It was pretty awesome to get professional stenographers into the Chelsea Manning trial when the government refused to release their own transcripts. We forced transparency where there wasn't any before. We funded Alexa O'Brien to cover that trial too, who is amazing. Xeni and Rainey did amazing work for us to make it all happen too.
You can find ways to help by going here: https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/get-involved
Question: "Considering you're here to promote freedom for journalists I was wondering what your thoughts on the work of reporters like Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill is?"
Glenn and Jeremy are both friends who I admire very much, and Glenn and I sit on the Freedom of the Press Foundation board together. I think they exemplify what adversarial journalist should be as a check to power…
They understood as Hunter S. Thompson did—that the root of all corruption comes for journalism adopting a clubby country club insider type relationship with the individuals and institutions they cover...and that's bad for democracy.
Question: "What kinds of changes would you like to see made to US law to protect journalists?"
First thing we need to do is repeal the Espionage Act. It's a law intended for spies being used against journalists' sources. And as my friend Dan Ellsberg says (he was the first source prosecuted under the Act), it's blatantly unconstitutional. Here's something we wrote explaining why the law is inherently unfair: https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/blog/2013/12/if-snowden-returned-us-trial-all-whistleblower-evidence-would-likely-be-inadmissible
Another thing we need to do is guarantee the rights of journalists crossing the border. Right now, my two fellow board members, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, both US citizens, don't think it's safe to return to the US because they could be detained or arrested crossing the border. This is unacceptable, just as it's unacceptable for all the Muslim Americans that are unjustifiably detained every year. There's a great HuffPost piece on this, by one of their journalists who is regularly stopped for the crime of being Muslim: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ahmed-shihabeldin/why-i-hate-coming-home-to_b_4676404.html?utm_hp_ref=tw
Here's something I wrote for the Guardian about how Eric Holder needs to guarantee these journalists safe passage back to the US: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/18/eric-holder-guarantee-nsa-reporters-rights
Question: "Do you believe in conspiracies? I know you are political but I wonder about your conspiracy views."
I believe in these types -- open conspiracies to smear patriot whistleblowers and criminalize journalism http://boingboing.net/2013/06/17/the-snowden-principle.html
Question: "Can you tell us how you came to join the Freedom of Press Board?"
My friends JP Barlow and Xeni Jardin first got in contact with me and told me about the amazing idea behind FPF a few weeks before we ended up launching. We all similar political interests, and I either knew most of the people on the board or admired their work.
I've been writing and doing advocacy work around the same issues for a while. See these interviews I did with Constitutional law scholar and my friend Jon Turley:
And the interview with Naomi Klein on the Shock Doctrine while I was doing the satire film War Inc.: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-cusack/huffpost-exclusive-my-int_b_65990.html
I was also tight with Hunter S Thompson, so I've known writers and journalists most of my life.
Question: "John, you were a big supporter of Obama before he was elected, and I believe even attended his inauguration. Considering how disappointing he has been on so many levels (prosecution of whistleblowers, 'most transparent administration ever' etc), do you think the political process in this country is irreparably broken? Do you think a President has the power to keep the promises that Obama made pre-election?"
Our constitutional system, with its checks and balances and protection of rights, has been under attack since 9/11... The Fourth Amendment is near death; and President Obama’s remedies in his speech, are no better than band-aids and aspirin, are in reality even less than that. His speeches seem to be designed and intended only to improve the public’s mood about the way things are and will remain, to restore confidence in a system that does not deserve trust.
The president is showing no signs of being in control of the intelligence community; either it controls him, or they simply are in sync, and in full agreement-- he ended up rejecting even the recommendations of his own hand-picked panels. He gives lip service to the problems in his speeches but we know by now the vast difference between his rhetoric and policy…
Question: "Thank you for this John. I have two questions: 1) given that you are a HUGE supporter of journalistic freedom and restoration of privacy, how would you handle those that continue to invade our privacy online (read: criminals) and 2) can you give us a personal anecdote, or tipping point that led you to bring your voice to this cause?"
Interesting what Ed Snowden revealed was criminal activity at the highest levels of government.. Remember the hysteria and the slurs? They threw everything at him to discredit him and render him harmless. In a way the hysteria is a very reliable indicator of state abuse...who is abusing privacy the most? Now it's the state.
Question: "By 'Edward Snowden just joined our board' You mean what exactly? Have you been in communication with him and has he actually been helping with the Freedom of the Press Foundation or is he involved as a supporting name only? Sorry if my question is confusing."
He's going to help us spread the gospel about journalists protecting their sources with encryption. No one knows better than him.
We will be communicating with him of course. Still have to figure out how to hold secure board meetings though...
Ed is very interested in building a broad based movement to restore and defend our civil liberties.. the 1st and the 4th Amendments are under siege, he knows this and has sacrificed so much for this. It will be an honer to work with him.
Question: "I'm a starting journalist, what rocks should I turn over?"