WH: Golly, if we had a shield law, we wouldn’t have broken the other laws in AP records scandal, or something; Update: SPJ not buying it

posted at 3:21 pm on May 16, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

More than a few people have claimed that the lack of a press shield law allowed the Department of Justice to seize phone records by the bushelful from the Associated Press.  David Ignatius made that claim in his lament over the impotence of a federal government that nevertheless managed to grab all of those records from the AP’s newsgathering operation, and who knows how many more media organizations (Eric Holder doesn’t).  Now the White House has rushed to champion the shield law that it long ago abandoned in order to mollify media outrage over the actions at Justice:

Facing questions about the Justice Department’s secret seizure of reporters’ phone records, the White House says that it will renew its push for legislation that would offer federal protections to journalists and their sources.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the White House has asked Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to reintroduce the so-called media shield bill, which would in some cases, prevent reporters from being compelled to name confidential sources.

Schumer’s last attempt to pass the bill faltered nearly four years ago with little aid from the White House and it has not been a priority for Congress or the president since then. But news that the government had secretly subpoenaed two months of phone records from more than 20 Associated Press telephone lines appears to have sparked new interest in the effort.

Even Obama tried to push this in today’s press conference, after saying “I make no apologies” for going after the AP:

McClatchy’s Kathleen Hennessey isn’t quite buying it.  After noting that Senator and Candidate Obama was a vocal supporter of the shield law in 2008, saying that “the courts, generally, are pretty good” at determining the balance between civil liberties and safety — ironically, at an Associated Press forum! — President Obama almost immediately acted in the opposite manner:

 But the president’s views on how best to protect journalists from prosecution and intimidation, while also balancing national security concerns, appear to have evolved in office. As a senator and candidate in 2008, Obama said he supported a shield law and specifically noted that he believed a court, not the executive branch, should determine whether a confidential source should be protected. …

But as president, Obama sought to curb the role of the courts and broaden the executive branch power.

So the sudden concern now is rather transparently hypocritical — and a way to pander to the media that the Obama administration has (potentially) alienated.  It’s also a shell game in terms of the current scandal, because existing law should have prevented the seizure in the first place, at least in the manner accomplished by Deputy AG James Cole and Justice.  The letter from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to Holder cites the relevant statutes in federal law and how Justice violated each of them:

Subpoenas of the news media for testimony and evidence are governed by theAttorney General’s guidelines found at 28 C.F.R. § 50.10 and incorporated into the U.S. Attorney’s Manual. See § 9-13.400. These guidelines were enacted in 1972 and were expanded specifically to cover telephone records in1980. They were developed to accommodate both the interests of the government in prosecuting crime and the First Amendment interests in reporting on issues of public concern. We know this to be true because theReporters Committee played a role in their promulgation. In this instance,where the Department subpoenaed two months of records related to 20telephone lines, including records from major AP bureaus and the home phone and cell phone records of individual journalists, the Department appears to have ignored or brushed aside almost every aspect of the guidelines. Each one merits specific review.

Narrow scope of the subpoena: Section 50.10(g)(1) requires that a subpoena “should be as narrowly drawn as possible; it should be directed at relevant information regarding a limited subject matter and should cover a reasonably limited time period.” The available evidence shows that no such constraints were applied here. Instead of being directed at relevant records on a limited topic for a closely circumscribed time period, the subpoena appears to have covered all records that could be relevant so that prosecutors could  plunder two months of newsgathering materials to seek information that might interest them.

Seeking information from alternative sources: Sections 50.10(b) and 50.10(g)(1) require the Department to take “all reasonable alternative investigative steps” before subpoenaing phone records. Although the public is not in a position to know what alternatives were pursued, the sheer breadth of this subpoena suggests that it was an initial investigative step taken as part of a prosecutor’s desire to gather up even the most remote materialwhen beginning an investigation.

Obligation to inform and negotiate: Section 50.10(d) requires federal prosecutors to disclose their intent to pursue a subpoena and negotiate with the news media in “all cases” involving telephone records. Only if prosecutors determine that such negotiationswould “pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation” are these obligations removed. The purpose of such an exception is to ensure, in the rare inquiry where there is a reason to be concerned about the preservation of evidence, that records are not lost or destroyed. By deciding in this case involving one of the nation’s oldest and most respected news organizations that a subpoena would pose such a threat, the Department has severely harmed its working relationship with the news media, which time and time again have undertaken good-faith efforts to cooperate with government lawyers in a way that protects the public’s interest both in law enforcement and in independent and autonomous newsgathering.

In essence, the new position for the White House on the shield law is this: We’d respect that law even though we clearly didn’t respect existing law. Anyone in the media who falls for this argument is courteously invited to the football field, where Lucy Van Pelt will hold the football for reporters to kick through ever-moving goalposts.

Update: The Daily Beast reports that the Society for Professional Journalists is already scoffing at the offer:

“It is a blatantly political move,” said Sonny Albarado, president of the Society of Professional Journalists. “I don’t know why anyone would think that this would appease those of us who are outraged. I think it is curious that the administration pushed for this the day after—the day after!—it got a black eye for secretly going around obtaining journalists’ work product.” …

“When I heard this came out of the White House, I went, ‘Yeah, so?’” said Lucy Dalglish, the dean of the Journalism School at the University of Maryland and someone who has pushed for a federal shield law for years. “They think, ‘Oh well, we threw this bone to them before and it sort of kept them happy.’ Give me a break. This doesn’t pass the smell test.” …

Dalglish said even a shield law probably wouldn’t have prevented the Justice Department from doing whatever it took to track down the source of the Associated Press’s leak. “This would not have stopped those guys from doing what they did,” she said. “I am glad they are talking about a shield law. That is a good thing. But I don’t see these guys in the Justice Department paying much attention to it.”

They had no trouble stomping all over the existing law that should have prevented the secret records raid. Adding another law won’t stop those intent on acting in a criminal fashion.

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In essence, the new position for the White House on the shield law is this: We’d respect that law even though we clearly didn’t respect existing law.

In other words the AP scandal is the Republicans fault. If we only had another law, darn it… Same goes for Benghazi. If only the Republicans had let us raise taxes revenues, those brave Americans wouldn’t have to had died.

These people should all go to jail.

EA_MAN on May 16, 2013 at 3:22 PM

after saying “I make no apologies” for going after the AP

So AP, you good with that ?
How do you feel after you did so much for your lord, you even
fact-checked Palin’s book for him !!
With 11 frikin ” reporters ” :O

burrata on May 16, 2013 at 3:24 PM

And the LSM/LIPs (Low Information Providers) are perfectly okay with this.

Liam on May 16, 2013 at 3:24 PM

But they love him…

d1carter on May 16, 2013 at 3:24 PM

In essence, the new position for the White House on the shield law is this: We’d respect that law even though we clearly didn’t respect existing law. Anyone in the media who falls for this argument is courteously invited to the football field, where Lucy Van Pelt will hold the football for reporters to kick through ever-moving goalposts.

And the Community Organizer’s thought on the position the media should take is – bend over and grab your ankles, this won’t hurt.

rsherwd65 on May 16, 2013 at 3:24 PM

Did you notice the crease in his trousers..?

d1carter on May 16, 2013 at 3:25 PM

So Hussein + Holder intimidated the AP because of that
CIA+Yemen story , right ? Or not ???

burrata on May 16, 2013 at 3:26 PM

so the journalists would now willing give up confidential sources because jail time is the only reason they kept them confidential in the first place?

rob verdi on May 16, 2013 at 3:27 PM

This is an admission of guilt.

INC on May 16, 2013 at 3:29 PM

As a senator and candidate in 2008, Obama said he supported a shield law and specifically noted that he believed a court, not the executive branch, should determine whether a confidential source should be protected. …

But as president, Obama sought to curb the role of the courts and broaden the executive branch power.

Woah, woah, woah. Are you saying that Obama says one thing but then does the opposite? Do tell.

Queasy on May 16, 2013 at 3:29 PM

This is the equivalent of the sleazy womanizer who’s gal-of-the-moment has just discovered he’s been cheating on her, trying to come up with some oily, insincere line that will sweet talk her back into his arms. We’ll see over the next 24-48 hours how cheap a date the Associated Press is, and if the AP will need to do a feature on itself and battered wife syndrome.

jon1979 on May 16, 2013 at 3:29 PM

And there ya go leftists… This is what a progressive government is all about.

There was no law stopping the government from doing so, so it was ok for us to do it. (First amendment? Fourth amendment? Nahh… Those apply to the little people… Not the US government…)

Skywise on May 16, 2013 at 3:30 PM

It’ll be different this time, Baby, I promise.

Lily on May 16, 2013 at 3:31 PM

We have immigration laws , this regime does not enforce them.
What is the guarantee that this regime will follow or enforce the press shield laws ?

burrata on May 16, 2013 at 3:31 PM

“I make no apologies” for going after the AP:

Because no one steals Dear Liar’s thunder.

rbj on May 16, 2013 at 3:31 PM

“I make no apologies” for going after the AP:

Don’t make me beat you again. You know I love you. Now show me how much you love me too.

Lily on May 16, 2013 at 3:33 PM

Did Hot Air do a story about EPA selectively charging fees to conservative groups for FOIAs, etc.?

blink on May 16, 2013 at 3:22 PM

Yes.

GWB on May 16, 2013 at 3:35 PM

In essence, the new position for the White House on the shield law is this: We’d respect that law even though we clearly didn’t respect existing law.

Isn’t that the exact same argument the gun control people make for more gun control laws: The criminals/bad people will be prevented from obtaining/using guns with these new laws even though the criminals/bad peope are breaking the existing laws that are suppose to prevent them from getting/using guns.

parke on May 16, 2013 at 3:35 PM

No one has ever better earned the title: SCFOAMF!

lovingmyUSA on May 16, 2013 at 3:42 PM

Orwell, Lenin, Stalin, Pinocchio, Muenchhausen, Machiavelli, Goebbels are all married in one.

What a disgrace to the world the US is.

Zero moral authority left, zero.

Schadenfreude on May 16, 2013 at 3:44 PM

Bu what difference, at this point, does it make?

wyntre9 on May 16, 2013 at 3:44 PM

Based on the responses from journalists so far I think it is fair to characterize them as “disappointed”.

Welcome to the club.

EA_MAN on May 16, 2013 at 3:46 PM

In other words the AP scandal is the Republicans fault.

All of everything wrong is the republicans fault. I’m sure if you live in a large city with the one newspaper set-up they have blogs with “local” contributors. One of our more hilarious Soros puppets calls his “Building a Better GOP”. The writer goes by the name Chris Ladd and uses the handle GOPlifer.

Every article he writes is boilerplate dem talking points wrapped in the context of scolding the right for not seeing the beauty of liberalism while displaying his pining desire to return his old party to the glory days once it recovers it’s sanity.

Sure enough, todays post turns every Obama scandal into something the GOP will regret investigating because it will be proven to start with them.

Fast & Furious? – started as a repub plan to track cartels but our gun laws are too weak to allow us to follow through properly.
Benghazi? – GOP cut funding, hence disaster.
IRS shenanigans? – GOP will have to parade their legions of tax cheats, they better be careful of what they seek.
AP phone hacking – surprisingly not mentioned today.

You may have him contributing in your local rag since he’s from Chicago. In our case he claims he transferred for work but misses home yet he never makes a local reference in his posts.

DanMan on May 16, 2013 at 3:46 PM

Tingles has lost it. Says white race thinks it must rule and 20% of the population believe there should only be a white man in the WH.

The reason poor Bammy is having so many scandals is racism, straight up.

wyntre9 on May 16, 2013 at 3:46 PM

Surprised. The SPJ is extremely liberal. So they’ll be back in Obama’s lap again soon.

The Rogue Tomato on May 16, 2013 at 3:47 PM

Update: The Daily Beast reports that the Society for Professional Journalists is already scoffing at the offer:

Good on you and most of you, suffocate from what you’ve eaten, what you lived in, you derelict scum of the Earth. You let him get away with everything and you made him king, you Obama-shit-consumers, not Beluga caviar, you fools.

Schadenfreude on May 16, 2013 at 3:47 PM

These people should all go to jail.

EA_MAN on May 16, 2013 at 3:22 PM

Yes. For first degree murder to start. At my last estimate 34 counts of first degree murder.

What is so aggravating is that the Extortion 17 helicopter soot-down isn’t getting any press at all. The Benghazi incompetence is the same as this shoot-down that cost 30 US soldiers their lives.

hamradio on May 16, 2013 at 3:48 PM

Update: The Daily Beast reports that the Society for Professional Journalists is already scoffing at the offer:

Derelict ‘journalists’ is more like it.

Schadenfreude on May 16, 2013 at 3:48 PM

“If there hadn’t been interns under my desk I wouldn’t have been boinking them.”

—– Slick “First Sex Offender President” Clintoon

viking01 on May 16, 2013 at 3:49 PM

I’m beginning to think Ignatius’ IQ is not far above 70.

Dusty on May 16, 2013 at 3:49 PM

The other scandal of today – Obama blamed congress on Benghazi.

Obama and Boxer, go directly to Hades, you dirty filthy liars.

Schadenfreude on May 16, 2013 at 3:49 PM

someone stop me before I do bad all over again……

ted c on May 16, 2013 at 3:49 PM

I bet the secret service carries guns into gun free zones too…the nerve of this admin!

kirkill on May 16, 2013 at 3:50 PM

Isn’t that the exact same argument the gun control people make for more gun control laws: The criminals/bad people will be prevented from obtaining/using guns with these new laws even though the criminals/bad peope are breaking the existing laws that are suppose to prevent them from getting/using guns.

parke on May 16, 2013 at 3:35 PM

There should certainly be a 7 email limit. There is no reason for anyone to request more than 7 emails at one time is there? And why would anyone ever need more than 7 phone records? Hillary, Eric and The Won can’t even be bothered to read one or two that are pertinent to their jobs.

Lily on May 16, 2013 at 3:50 PM

Excellent article

Schadenfreude on May 16, 2013 at 3:50 PM

Adding another law won’t stop those intent on acting in a criminal fashion.

If gun control has taught us anything, its that more laws=less crime.

Gatsu on May 16, 2013 at 3:50 PM

The Crook of the World

Schadenfreude on May 16, 2013 at 3:51 PM

All we are witnessing are trial runs to gauge public reaction and outcry and find out how much they can get away with. And it’s working better than they hoped. The really nasty stuff is yet to come from the dictator wannabe.

bgibbs1000 on May 16, 2013 at 3:51 PM

—the day after!—it got a black eye for secretly going around obtaining journalists’ work product.” …

hey, there’s more where that came from!
@DOJ

ted c on May 16, 2013 at 3:52 PM

So AP, you good with that ?

burrata on May 16, 2013 at 3:24 PM

Why are you asking AP? The government has two months of wiretapped conversations of AP reporters along with their sources. Stick a fork in them. They’re done.

Burke on May 16, 2013 at 3:52 PM

A recap :

1. Hussein always wanted to unarm/disarm law abiding Americans, so he smuggled guns and caused death and mayhem to make
gun-control laws he wants.

2. Hussein has hated the SCOTUS for it’s Citizens United judgement, so he unleashed his thugs in IRS to intimidate TEA Partiers so that that ruling can never be used by his enemies against him.

3. Hussein always wanted the press Shield law, so he intimidated AP the first chance he got, and now he will get that Press Shield law.

4. Hussein wants to keep the country under debt so much so that he cut off little kids from visiting their White House so that Republicans surrender on sequester.

5. Hussein wants to smuggle guns for jihad so much so that he got 4 Americans assasinated after they were of no use to him and then blamed everyone and started a media circus so that the guns still keep flowing to his bretheren.

Anyone see a pattern here ?

burrata on May 16, 2013 at 3:53 PM

The Three Monkeys of Oblivion:

Obama
Holder
Hillary

Prove to me that they were incompetent.

They were either, or, or both. There is only a 3rd way, that they were thuggish charlatanic goons.

Schadenfreude on May 16, 2013 at 3:53 PM

Why the old laws didn’t stop DoJ… and they were designed to stop this sort of thing… so why would a brandy-new law solve this since it is already covered by requiring the DoJ to get a SEARCH WARRANT. The DoJ violated the US Constitution, what would a mere law do to stop them?

ajacksonian on May 16, 2013 at 3:58 PM

Charlie Brown equals CNN and msdnc

All hail dear leader he’s can do no wrong

cmsinaz on May 16, 2013 at 3:59 PM

Nice to see SPJ cited here. I have to wonder if the TDB link is a hat tip or Ed’s revulsion at the thought of linking to SPJ.

Capitalist Hog on May 16, 2013 at 4:01 PM

This is the equivalent of the sleazy womanizer who’s gal-of-the-moment has just discovered he’s been cheating on her, trying to come up with some oily, insincere line that will sweet talk her back into his arms. We’ll see over the next 24-48 hours how cheap a date the Associated Press is, and if the AP will need to do a feature on itself and battered wife syndrome.

jon1979 on May 16, 2013 at 3:29 PM

I’m already seeing evidence the rest of the MSM is not going to support AP. There haven’t been too many screaming front page headlines about the various scandals, and the articles that are being written carefully shift blame to the various agencies while making Obama appear as a “bystander.” I’ve seen a couple of people making fun of this meme and calling him “President Passerby.”

Doomberg on May 16, 2013 at 4:03 PM

They had no trouble stomping all over the existing law that should have prevented the secret records raid. Adding another law won’t stop those intent on acting in a criminal fashion.

Sort of like its push for gun control laws.

Even though 93% of ALL guns used in gun-related crimes are obtained ILLEGALLY and there’s been a 45% drop in gun crime prosecution under this administration, let’s pass MORE GUN CONTROL LAWS for Obama NOT TO ENFORCE!!!

Resist We Much on May 16, 2013 at 4:03 PM

“I don’t know why anyone would think that this would appease those of us who are outraged.”

Because you’re pathetic bootlickers who do whatever he asks?

spinach.chin on May 16, 2013 at 4:13 PM

Screw the Society of Professional Journalists. If this were illegal wiretapping of, say, some conservative organization, they would be falling all over themselves to “explain” why it was the right thing to do — national security, you see, saving American lives, dontcha know. Hell, if it were Fox News instead of the AP, the SPJ would be writing ream after ream about how “irresponsible” Fox News had been.

Useful idiots only cry when they get gobsmacked with the news that their fascist heroes intend to treat THEM just as shitty as they treat “all the people who deserve it.” A fact, I would add, that any 6-year-old with a history book could have told them would happen.

So, yeah. Screw ‘em.

Rational Thought on May 16, 2013 at 4:13 PM

The SPJ are the typical useful idiots.

burrata on May 16, 2013 at 4:15 PM

Tingles has lost it. Says white race thinks it must rule and 20% of the population believe there should only be a white man in the WH.

The reason poor Bammy is having so many scandals is racism, straight up.

wyntre9 on May 16, 2013 at 3:46 PM

Our ass-maggot trolls have been saying that for years.

slickwillie2001 on May 16, 2013 at 4:21 PM

I’m not sure why the EPA actions aren’t being included in the list of potential, ongoing scandals.

blink on May 16, 2013 at 4:23 PM

Waiting for another shoe to drop, I think.

It’s like being outside Imelda Marcos’ room when she’s cleaning out her closet: always more shoes dropping.

ajacksonian on May 16, 2013 at 4:26 PM

They had no trouble stomping all over the existing law that should have prevented the secret records raid. Adding another law won’t stop those intent on acting in a criminal fashion.

Sounds remarkably familiar. Adding more laws will not prevent criminals from ignoring/breaking existing laws. It’s a lesson gun control advocates need to learn. And now AP has its own object lesson to show that the principle applies to politicians as well.

Harrell on May 16, 2013 at 4:37 PM

I’m reminded of a line from an old X-Files episode: “Did you really think you could call up the Devil and expect him to play nice?”

Nuts to the American press. They helped create this monstrosity. They can suffer the consequences.

RobertE on May 16, 2013 at 4:39 PM

Adding another law won’t stop those intent on acting in a criminal fashion.

yeah, the “journalists” would get that. oh, unless we aplied that logic to background check legislation…..

t8stlikchkn on May 16, 2013 at 4:41 PM

Adding another law won’t stop those intent on acting in a criminal fashion.

Laws do not stop people.
Fear of apprehension and punishment sometimes stops people.
No apprehension & no punishment = no fear.
No fear of the existing law = no need for new ones
unless there is something in the new law that creates a fear that this one might possibly be enforced.

And when the person charged with enforcing the laws is the one accused of breaking them …

What difference does it all make?

AesopFan on May 16, 2013 at 5:13 PM

I’m reminded of a line from an old X-Files episode: “Did you really think you could call up the Devil and expect him to play nice?”

Nuts to the American press. They helped create this monstrosity. They can suffer the consequences.

RobertE on May 16, 2013 at 4:39 PM

Another quote, with a slightly different twist, is also apropos to the situation of the Administration, the MSM journalists, and the Left in general, who are willing to break any law to put down the “Right-wing Devil”.
From Robert Bolt’s play “A Man for All Seasons”,

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

AesopFan on May 16, 2013 at 5:20 PM

Liberals are always satisfied with passing a new law when the old law isn’t enforced. Why not this time?

If Sandy Hook is reason to pass gun control, then these scandals are reason enough to get rid of the IRS by passing a flat tax and repeal Obamacare. Get busy Republicans!

lea on May 16, 2013 at 6:26 PM

The latest: The wicked B!TCH of the west blaming Bush for the IRS debacle. Shulman was a Bush appointee.

Note to LIBTURDS: You are in a hole. Please keep digging

hamradio on May 17, 2013 at 12:46 AM