Earlier today, Kossack Jesselyn Radack--who is, in my opinion, one of the bravest advocates for transparent government and an open press in this country, today--published this important post here at Daily Kos: “Wake Up Call: U.S. Government Targets Journalists, Happened to Me in 2003, Risen in 2006, AP in 2013.” Early this morning, the editors of the the NY Times echoed Ms. Radack’s sentiments on the matter in a Wednesday editorial in that paper: “Spying on The Associated Press.”
They open with the stunning comment that, “The Obama administration, which has a chilling zeal for investigating leaks and prosecuting leakers, has failed to offer a credible justification for secretly combing through the phone records of reporters and editors at The Associated Press in what looks like a fishing expedition for sources and an effort to frighten off whistle-blowers…”
The editorial then references the story, wherein the DoJ revealed, on Friday, “…that they had been going through The A.P.’s records for months. The dragnet covered work, home and cellphone records used by almost 100 people at one of the oldest and most reputable news organizations.”
The Times’ editors note that Attorney General Eric Holder stated that he couldn’t comment on the matter since it was an open investigation. They also reiterated that Holder and his deputy, James Cole, do not “take lightly” this “secretive trolling through media records.”
The editors continued, stating, “We are not convinced.” They went on to note…
“Spying on The Associated Press.”The editors note that the phone records in question spanned 20 phones lines, and the DoJ’s efforts included AP’s offices in New York City, Washington, Hartford, and the Congressional press gallery. Reference is then, once again, made back to the DoJ’s internal guidelines “…for such subpoenas, first enacted in 1972, require that requests for media information be narrow. The reporters’ committee said this action is so broad that it allowed prosecutors to ‘plunder two months of news-gathering materials to seek information that might interest them.’”
New York Times
May 15, 2013
…For more than 30 years, the news media and the government have used a well-honed system to balance the government’s need to pursue criminals or national security breaches with the media’s constitutional right to inform the public. This action against The A.P., as the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press outlined in a letter to Mr. Holder, “calls into question the very integrity” of the administration’s policy toward the press.
At this point in the editorial is where, in my opinion, it gets interesting, as the NYT’s editors state: “…the records sweep went far beyond any one news article. Gary Pruitt, the president of The A.P., said two months’ worth of records could provide a “road map” to its whole news-gathering operation.”
Readers are reminded that under DoJ guidelines…
…the administration should have sought information from other sources. Mr. Cole said it did. But the administration made the troubling and discrediting decision not to inform The A.P. in advance. The guidelines require investigators to provide notice unless it would “pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.” That is intended to prevent destruction of evidence, an impossibility in this case.And, here is where the Times’ editors mirror much of what Ms. Radack has been blogging about since she first started publishing her historically important posts within this community…
…The Obama administration has indicted six current and former officials under the Espionage Act, which had previously been used only three times since it was enacted in 1917. One, a former C.I.A. officer, pleaded guilty under another law for revealing the name of an agent who participated in the torture of a terrorist suspect. Meanwhile, President Obama decided not to investigate, much less prosecute, anyone who actually did the torturing.
The Justice Department is pursuing at least two major press investigations, including one believed to be focused on David Sanger’s reporting in a book and in The Times on an American-Israeli effort to sabotage Iranian nuclear works. These tactics will not scare us off, or The A.P., but they could reveal sources on other stories and frighten confidential contacts vital to coverage of government.
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