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Just as he did following the death of New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid in Syria, White House press secretary Jay Carney began his daily briefing by praising the work of Marie Colvin, the Sunday Times reporter who also was killed there on Wednesday.
Carney called their deaths "tragic," and "a reminder of the incredible risks that journalists take ... in order to bring the truth about what is happening in a country like Syria to those of us at home."
But, Obama's press secretary seemed unprepared for a hard line of questioning from ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper, who took issue with the administration's applause of aggressive reporting abroad while trying to silence it at home in the United States.
Here's a partial transcript of their exchange:
TAPPER: The White House keeps praising these journalists who are, who've been killed--
CARNEY: I don't know about "keep." I think--
TAPPER: You've done it, Vice President Biden did it in a statement. How does that square with the fact that this administration has been so aggressively trying to stop aggressive journalism in the United States by using the Espionage Act to take whistleblowers to court? You're--currently I think that you've invoked it the sixth time, and before the Obama administration, it had only been used three times in history. You're--this is the sixth time you're suing a CIA officer for allegedly providing information in 2009 about CIA torture. Certainly that's something that's in the public interest of the United States. The administration is taking this person to court. There just seems to be disconnect here. You want aggressive journalism abroad; you just don't want it in the United States.
CARNEY: Well, I would hesitate to speak to any particular case, for obvious reasons, and I would refer you to the Department of Justice for more on that. I think we absolutely honor and praise the bravery of reporters who are placing themselves in extremely dangerous situations in order to bring a story of oppression and brutality to the world. I think that is commendable, and it's certainly worth noting by us. And as somebody who knew both Anthony and Marie, I particularly appreciate what they did to bring that story to the American people. I--as for other cases, again, without addressing any specific case, I think that there are issues here that involve highly sensitive classified information, and I think that, you know, those are--divulging or to--divulging that kind of information is a serious issue, and it always has been.
TAPPER: So the truth should come out abroad, it shouldn't come out here?
CARNEY: Well, that's not at all what I'm saying, Jake, and you know it's not. Again, I can't--specific--
TAPPER: That's what the Justice Department's doing.
CARNEY: Well, you're making a judgment about a broad array of cases, and I can't address those specifically.
TAPPER: It's also the judgment that a lot of whistleblowers' organizations and good government groups are making as well.
CARNEY: Not one that I'm going to make.
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