'Fired' NYT Editor Blasts Obama Administration for Criminal Prosecution of Journalists, Whistleblowers

By Barbara Boland | July 17, 2014 | 11:11 AM EDT

Former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, whose firing brought out nasty attacks and allegations of sexism at the Times, was interviewed by Greta van Susteren On the Record last night.

While she played close to the vest about the reasons for her firing, she didn't hold back on the Obama administration, defending her earlier branding of it as the "the most secretive" she has ever deal with since President Carter, and elaborated: "I have never dealt with an administration where more officials - some of whom are actually paid to be the spokesmen for various federal agencies - demand that everything be off the record. So, that's secretive and not transparent."

"But the most serious thing the Obama administration has [done is it's] launched eight criminal leak investigations against sources and whistleblowers," Ambramson said. "And they have tried to sweep in journalists, including - it's almost the one-year anniversary exactly that your colleague, James Rosen, had his record secretly looked at by the government in a leak investigation."

"You have said this administration is the most is the secretive. What is your support? Why do you say that?" asked Van Susteren.

"I think it's easy to demonstrate that that's true, starting with -- I love the name of your show, On the Record. I have never dealt with an administration where more officials -- some of whom are actually paid to be the spokesmen for various federal agencies --demand that everything be off the record. So that's secretive and not transparent," Abramson answered.

"But the most serious thing is the Obama administration has launched eight criminal leak investigations against sources and whistleblowers," said Abramson. "And they have tried to sweep in journalists, including - it's almost the one- year anniversary exactly that your college, James Rosen, had his record secretly looked at by the government in a leak investigation."

"Is it profoundly different, though, than the other administrations?" asked Van Susteren.

"It is profoundly different," Ambramson replied seriously. "Before these cases, these eight cases, and all of history, there have been fewer than half of those. And, so, it is different."

Abramson added that any efforts the Obama administration had made to be "transparent" by declassifying documents is "outweighed" by "these criminal cases, these criminal leak investigations....You said, in the lead in to the show, I'm not alone in pointing out how closed and difficult this administration is for reporters. Everyone from Bob Schaffer to Lynn Downy, who was top editor at The Washington Post, have commented at how secretive this White House is."

"I mean, all I can tell you is, until I was fired, I spoke every day almost to our national security team in Washington," Abramson said. "Almost all of the reporters said to me that there's never been a more difficult atmosphere in which to do the work that they do than now."

In reference to James Risen, a New York Times journalist who faces jail time for refusing to identify a source to the government, she said that "to criminalize just the work of journalists, I think, is not living up to what the founders, Thomas Jefferson -  not to get heavy on you - but the founders wanted a free press. They thought that you and I and our colleagues do, whether it's for Fox or The New York Times... that the work actually serves a purpose in holding the government accountable to the people. That's what we do."

While Abramson didn't hold back on her opinions of how the current administration interacts with journalists, she didn't say anything to enlighten the mystery of why she was fired - attributing it to "management style" (as had been widely reported) and added that women are sometimes perceived differently than men (which is certainly not newsworthy!)

She did, however, express her preference for the word "fired" as opposed to "former" editor, saying that, "I have devoted my career to truth-telling, so why hide that? There are an awful lot of people in this country who, like me, have been fired from their job."