We’ve been covering the recent scandals with Benghazi and the investigation of the AP. Another scandal has emerged this week: the investigation of Jeffrey Rosen, a Fox News correspondent. The Administration tracked his movements in the State Department, tracked his calls and got a warrant for his e-mails. His alleged crime? Stephen Kim, a State Department Advisor, told Rosen that it was believed that North Korea would response to additional sanctions with more nuclear missile tests. Rosen then reported it. And the Feds are basically accusing him being a co-conspirator in a criminal leak case because he encouraged the source.
Read that last sentence again, because Obama’s defenders have been trying to muddy the waters. Obama did not just track Rosen to find out who the leaker was. He did it with the intention of bringing potential criminal charges against Rosen himself for being a co-conspirator.
There is an argument to be made that that the leak endangered a source (and that the AP leak did as well). If we want to have a debate about whether it is a good idea for journalists to acquire and leak classified information, I’m willing to have that. I tend to side against the government keeping secrets, but it’s a worthy debate.
But that’s not the important point here. The important point is whether our government should be investigating and possibly bringing criminal charges against journalists who publicize leaked info. Glenn Greenwald:
Under US law, it is not illegal to publish classified information. That fact, along with the First Amendment’s guarantee of press freedoms, is what has prevented the US government from ever prosecuting journalists for reporting on what the US government does in secret. This newfound theory of the Obama DOJ – that a journalist can be guilty of crimes for “soliciting” the disclosure of classified information – is a means for circumventing those safeguards and criminalizing the act of investigative journalism itself. These latest revelations show that this is not just a theory but one put into practice, as the Obama DOJ submitted court documents accusing a journalist of committing crimes by doing this.
This actually got its start with the prosecution of Wikileaks. While I’m no fan of Wikileaks (and especially not Julian Assange), the legal theory the Administration used to go after them was extremely broad. In fact, they admitted in court that the theory would have allowed them to prosecute the New York Times as well. But everyone ignored that ominous thundercloud because, well, it was Wikileaks. But now we’re seeing that theory extended into the mainstream media.
It is virtually impossible at this point to overstate the threat posed by the Obama DOJ to press freedoms. Back in 2006, Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales triggered a major controversy when he said that the New York Times could be prosecuted for having revealed the Top Secret information that the NSA was eavesdropping on the communications of Americans without warrants. That was at the same time that right-wing demagogues such Bill Bennett were calling for the prosecution of the NYT reporters who reported on the NSA program, as well as the Washington Post’s Dana Priest for having exposed the CIA black site network.
But despite those public threats, the Bush DOJ never went so far as to formally accuse journalists in court filings of committing crimes for reporting on classified information. Now the Obama DOJ has.
I have to give Greenwald credit, as always. Huge swathes of the Liberal Echosphere are either ignoring this story or siding with the government. Three acts in and they still have their head in the sand. I almost think that if Obama had Rachel Maddow dragged off the air in chains, a hundred liberals would spring up to defend the action.
The common thread that ties together the scandals on the AP wiretapping, Benghazi and the investigation of Jeffrey Rosen is the Obama Administration’s absolute obsession with message control. They have prosecuted more whistle blowers and leakers under the 1917 Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined. They have now opened up criminal investigations of journalists who revealed information they wanted kept secret. They not only process, clean and fillet every statement that comes out of their Administration, they want to do it for everyone else as well.
And really, can you blame them?
The press-punishing, speech-chilling, and unabashedly overreaching actions by the Obama administration against the Associated Press and Fox News Channel’s James Rosen lay bare the essential dynamic between any president and a press that is always more prone to being lapdogs than watchdogs: the president feeds or punishes them as he sees fit, while chanting a bogus rosary about “national security.”
Because they tend to share his broad outlook on politics, too many journalists for too long have been in the tank for Obama, explaining away or minimizing his policy failures and reversals. Remember Obama’s heartfelt insistence that he would run the most transparent administration ever? Take a look at this document about warrantless searches of text messages that his administration finally coughed up to the ACLU and get back to me. It’s 15 pages of completely redacted prose. Such a document would be funny if it wasn’t coming from a secrecy-obsessed administration that has put the brakes on fulfilling FOIA requests and has charged a record number of people under the Espionage Act.
Many of the media are still in the tank, trying to explain away or rationalize Obama’s behavior. But I expect with each revelation that comes out — and you know there’s more coming — that this refusal to engage will be chipped away at. Eventually, people are going to realize that when the President feels like he can investigate anyone, no one is safe.
Let me be clear: the President has a duty to protect classified information, especially when that information is critical to national security. But his duty is to find and plug leaks within the government. When he extends that authority to investigating and prosecuting journalists, he is endangering our most basic freedoms.