Skip to main content

Revelations that the Justice Department authorized the seizure of Associated Press phone records have produced condemnation from Congressional Democrats and other Obama allies. But while Capitol Hill Democrats decried the tactics as "inexcusable" (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid), "troubling" (Senator Pat Leahy) and having "impaired the First Amendment" (Rep. Zoe Lofgren), Congressional Republicans have been largely silent. Silent, that is, with good reason. After all, their relative quiet isn't just due to the fact that they demanded the investigation into the 2012 Yemen leak and throughout the Bush presidency supported the prosecution of leakers, whistleblowers and reporters alike. As it turns out, when it came to justifying the unprecedented domestic surveillance of American citizens by the Bush administration, Republicans leaders claimed "you really don't have any civil liberties if you're dead."

Unlike their foaming at the mouth reactions to the Benghazi and IRS imbroglios, the GOP's best and brightest have in comparison exhibited an almost Zen-like patience over the AP affair. Former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales urged giving the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt. While John McCain explained, "For me, to rush to a judgment without knowing all the facts is just not appropriate," Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) defended the Justice Department by proclaiming, "they are doing what we asked them to do, investigate the leak." Meanwhile, the number two Republican in the Senate John Cornyn (R-TX) urged all to withhold judgment:

"Well, I think we need to see how this plays out. I have questions about it, but I'm willing to wait and see how this plays out, whether it was narrowly targeted or whether it was a net that was too broadly cast."
Of course, when Americans learned on December 16, 2005 that President Bush had ordered the National Security Agency (NSA) to undertake warrantless electronic surveillance of their communications, Senator Cornyn insisted that no net could possibly be too broadly cast. Echoing the talking point vomited forth by Kansas Senator Pat Roberts ("You really don't have any civil liberties if you're dead") and Alabama's Jeff Sessions ("Over 3,000 Americans have no civil rights because they are no longer with us"), John Cornyn declared:
"None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead."
As Timothy Lee explained in the Washington Post on Tuesday, the real scandal in the AP case may be that the actions of the Justice Department are legal. Despite the protests of Bush torture architect John Yoo, the same could not be said of the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program. After all, it wasn't just constitutional scholars arguing that the Commanded-in-Chief's Article II war powers or the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force did not allow the President to ignore the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). As it turned out, in March 2004 Acting Attorney General James Comey and FBI Director Robert Mueller threatened to resign if President Bush reauthorized a program they considered illegal without changes they demanded.

Continue reading below the fold.

President Bush was blissfully unaware of the looming resignations which almost resulted from that now infamous episode which occurred in the hospital room of a gravely ill John Ashcroft. Of course, the American people didn't learn about the existence of the NSA domestic spying program until December 2005, more than a year after George W. Bush narrowly secured reelection over Democrat John Kerry. Voters would have known sooner, but as the Times' Eric Lichtblau later revealed, "For 13 long months, we'd held off on publicizing one of the Bush administration's biggest secrets."

Nevertheless, the Bush administration and its allies in Congress and the conservative media showed great enthusiasm for prosecuting Lichtblau and his co-author James Risen, as well as NSA whistle-blower Thomas Tamm. (Risen would later be subpoenaed over his reporting on the Iranian nuclear program.)  After the revelations about the NSA program by the New York Times on December 16, 2005, President Bush three days later raged about what he deemed "a shameful act" that is "helping the enemy". Claiming he didn't order an investigation, Bush added "the Justice Department, I presume, will proceed forward with a full investigation" At a subsequent press conference that same day, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales suggested the retribution that was to come:

"As to whether or not there will be a leak investigation, as the President indicated, this is really hurting national security, this has really hurt our country, and we are concerned that a very valuable tool has been compromised. As to whether or not there will be a leak investigation, we'll just have to wait and see."
Leading the charge in the right-wing echo chamber has been Gabriel Schoenfeld, then editor of Commentary and later an adviser to Mitt Romney. On June 6, 2006, Schoenfeld appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to claim that the New York Times violated federal criminal statutes, if not the Espionage Act of 1917 by publishing its delayed story about NSA domestic surveillance. One month later on July 3, he laid out his case in the Weekly Standard, approvingly citing Gonzales' veiled threats towards the New York Times:
"There are some statutes on the books, which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility."
After news of the FBI's raid on Tamm's home in the summer of 2007, Schoenfeld again called for the scalps of Risen and Lichtblau:
"With the investigation making progress, the possibility remains that even if the New York Times is not indicted, its reporters - James Risen and Eric Lichtblau - might be called before the grand jury and asked to confirm under oath that Tamm, or some other suspect, was their source. That is what happened to a whole battalion of journalists in the investigation of Scooter Libby in the Valerie Plame fiasco.

If Risen and Lichtblau promised their source confidentiality, they might choose not to testify. That would potentially place them, like Judith Miller in the Libby investigation, in contempt of court and even land them in prison."

That didn't happen. As for Tamm, the DOJ dropped its investigation in 2011. But while President Bush may be gone, President Obama to the great consternation of many supporters and civil libertarians alike has pursued an even more adversarial posture towards press reporting of national security stories. As the New York Times editorial board lamented this week:
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.
And that should make John Cornyn and his Republican friends in Congress very happy, indeed. After all, Cornyn threatened to block Attorney General Eric Holder's nomination over the torture issue. Besides, when it comes to reporters in particular and American citizens in general, Cornyn insists, "None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead."
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Really? I thought GOP was all over this "scandal" (0+ / 0-)

    just like all the other "scandals"

    •  Guess I'm not surprised. (2+ / 0-)

      I thought a few of the Libertarians might make something out of it, but why would regular Repubs do anything when the Dems are in circular firing squad mode?

      Even if the Repubs were outraged -- which they're not because they hate the press even more than the general public -- they have nothing to gain by getting involved.

      "Michael Moore, who was filming a movie about corporate welfare called 'Capitalism: A Love Story,' sought and received incentives."

      by Bush Bites on Wed May 15, 2013 at 06:50:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Cornyn's right. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bush Bites
    "Well, I think we need to see how this plays out. I have questions about it, but I'm willing to wait and see how this plays out, whether it was narrowly targeted or whether it was a net that was too broadly cast."
    And I'm not sure what the count for prosecutions under the Espionage Act is supposed to prove.  Does it matter that they keep getting found guilty?

    "We're now in one of those periods when the reality of intense pressure on the middle class diverges from long-held assumptions of how the American bargain should work" --James Fallows

    by Inland on Wed May 15, 2013 at 06:34:35 PM PDT

  •  The DOJ (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lunachickie, happymisanthropy

    ...should start getting warrants from a court even when they aren't required by current law to have a warrant.  That would be protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States.

    Law enforcement takes too many questionable shortcuts that often wind up convicting innocent people out of expedience because law enforcement does not want its "facts" questioned.

    Add secrecy and national security to the mix and the possibility of injustice increases.

    And the GOP are going to be as quiet as churchmice.  They see this as a useful precedent.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Wed May 15, 2013 at 06:38:34 PM PDT

    •  Yeah, they should go through the motions (0+ / 0-)

      and have the courts rubber stamp everything.

      What was the FISA type record again - something like 18,237 to 0 for the government's requests being approved?

      So they have nothing to lose by keeping everything "constitutional"  (although I'm not sure that's exactly what the framers of the constitution had in mind, but we don't really worry about that type of thing these days!)

  •  gawd that's depressing.... (0+ / 0-)
    Unlike their foaming at the mouth reactions to the Benghazi and IRS imbroglios, the GOP's best and brightest have in comparison exhibited an almost Zen-like patience over the AP affair.
  •  This (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    doroma, Larsstephens

    is NOT a scandal.

    •  Remember what a leak is. (3+ / 0-)

      It's someone speaking to the press without permission.

      Speaking to the press is vital to democracy.

      Doing it without permission is an HR issue and it's already a scandal to misuse criminal investigation machinery over it.

      Driftnet collection of phone records, from an organization that needs confidential informants to do a job democracies can't live without, is damaging and dangerous.

      Freedom isn't free. Patriots pay taxes.

      by Dogs are fuzzy on Wed May 15, 2013 at 08:01:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Dog, I think you are being disingenious here. (0+ / 0-)

        This is not an ordinary leak.  This is a leak of classified information.  It is a crime - a crime - for any official to release it to the press without authorization.  It is not illegal for the press to report that information, which is why the journalists have not been arrested.  The DOJ was not going after the press; it was going after the person who spoke to the press.  

  •  I think they're keeping their mouths shut because (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dogs are fuzzy, myboo

    they are the leakers.  Yes, I am out on a limb and will probably come crashing down, but I just don't see the GOP passing up ANY opportunity to bash this administration, no matter how hypocritical it would be.

    Before the leak, Jay Carney was on record stating there were no credible leads on planned attacks for the Bin Laden death anniversary.  Then what happens?  The AP reports that, why, yes, the CIA had indeed foiled a planned terrorist attack so the administration was lying.  Wouldn't the main players in congress have been briefed about this operation?  So, they would have knowledge of it and could leak the information.

    I just see no reason for someone in the Obama administration to endanger such an important operative this way.  But I do believe the GOP is just craven enough to do it.

    •  But they were the ones making all the noise.... (0+ / 0-)

      ....about how the leak needed to be investigated in the first place.

      Why would they have insisted on an investigation if they knew the investigation would lead to them?

      "Michael Moore, who was filming a movie about corporate welfare called 'Capitalism: A Love Story,' sought and received incentives."

      by Bush Bites on Wed May 15, 2013 at 07:22:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Look at who was making the noise. It was the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        usual trio of McCain, Graham, and Ayotte.  They insisted on an investigation because they knew it would end up the way all these "leaking" investigations end up.  Who would have guessed that the DOJ would subpoena that many phone lines?  And still, even with that unprecedented action, there is no arrest or naming of a suspect.

        It is simply unbelievable to me that the GOP is so quiet about this.  In the midst of this shit storm, Morning Joke has not had a single elected GOP official on this week.  It's like they are in hiding or something.

        And the ones I see on the other shoes throughout the day, don't mention the AP "scandal."  They are happy to go off on the Benghazi and IRS stuff, but hardly a mention of the AP.

        Just very curious.

        •  They hate the press. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Stude Dude

          Heck, they probably think spying on reporters is the first thing Obama did right.

          (Now, if it was a Fox reporter.......)

          "Michael Moore, who was filming a movie about corporate welfare called 'Capitalism: A Love Story,' sought and received incentives."

          by Bush Bites on Wed May 15, 2013 at 07:49:41 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Case in point: (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Stude Dude

            Look at how Boehner and McConnell demanded that President Obama release all the emails to the American people so we could all see how the talking points were changed.  Remember, these documents had already been made available to them and they know without a doubt there was no smoking gun.  They were bluffing because they thought the administration would never release them (executive privilege and all that).

            Well, now they look crass and stupid.  Not to mention Jonathan Karl at ABC who was duped, obviously by a republican operative.

            I just don't put anything past these corrupt imbeciles.

  •  torture is a war crime & a crime against humanity (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    there is no statute of limitations under international law for those crimes

    perhaps we can arrange for a Spanish judge to issue arrest warrants for all involved that would have to be honored in the European Union which would then prevent some of those complicit, starting with Dick Cheney who signed off on it, from ever leaving the boundaries of the US.

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Wed May 15, 2013 at 07:18:44 PM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site