DOJ IG report rips former U.S. Attorney for leak designed to smear Fast and Furious whistleblower; Update: Two more Fox News reporters’ e-mails obtained by DOJ
posted at 3:21 pm on May 20, 2013 by Allahpundit
Remember Dennis Burke? Here’s a memory freshener from November 2011:
Former Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, who resigned in August, admitted late Tuesday that he leaked a document aimed at smearing Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent John Dodson, an Operation Fast and Furious whistle-blower.
“Dennis regrets his role in disclosing the memo but he’s a stand-up guy and is willing to take responsibility for what he did,” Chuck Rosenberg, Burke’s lawyer, said according to NPR. “It was absolutely not Dennis’s intent to retaliate against Special Agent Dodson or anyone else for the information they provided Congress.”
Today the DOJ’s Inspector General released his report and found, yep, it most certainly was Burke’s intent to retaliate against Dodson for whistleblowing. The findings begin on page 17, but here’s the key bit:
We also concluded that Burke’s disclosure of the Dodson memorandum to Levine was likely motivated by a desire to undermine Dodson’s public criticisms of Operation Fast and Furious. Although Burke denied to congressional investigators that he had any retaliatory motive for his actions, we found substantial evidence to the contrary…
In sum, we found that Burke violated Department policy when he provided the Dodson memorandum to Fox News reporter Levine without Department approval, and that his explanations for why he did not believe his actions were improper were not credible. We believe this misconduct to be particularly egregious because of Burke’s apparent effort to undermine the credibility of Dodson’s significant public disclosures about the failures in Operation Fast and Furious…
We found Burke’s conduct in disclosing the Dodson memorandum to be inappropriate for a Department employee and wholly unbefitting a U.S. Attorney.
Matt Boyle has another memory freshener at Breitbart, namely that Burke isn’t the only former DOJ employee accused of trying to smear the Department’s critics. The DOJ’s director of public affairs resigned a few months ago after Boyle revealed e-mails between her and the studiously nonpolitical 501(c)(3) Media Matters showing them colluding to attack various reporters and administration opponents. And these, of course, are “minor” scandals compared to the DOJ launching a fishing expedition of AP reporters’ phone records — which we’re now learning was even broader than first thought — and essentially accusing Fox reporter James Rosen of committing the crime of reporting. The twisted irony of the IG scolding Burke at this particular moment is that Burke, compared to Holder and his deputies, was relatively mild in how he chose to punish a leaker. I wonder if he regrets that he resigned; kneecapping a whistleblower is normally grounds for promotion under Hopenchange.
Try to imagine the tone of the coverage of Holder, with all of this as backdrop, if he served under a Republican president.
Update: Fox News pulls no punches in its defense of Rosen:
“We are outraged to learn today that James Rosen was named a criminal co-conspirator for simply doing his job as a reporter. In fact, it is downright chilling. We will unequivocally defend his right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press.”
If you’re wondering why Rosen was treated as a co-conspirator, Politico has the answer. Holder’s DOJ being what it is, they were looking for a way around a law that would have required them to let him know they were snooping on him:
It appears the prosecutors’ statements about Rosen having potentially committed a crime were aimed at allowing them to proceed through use of a search warrant rather than a grand jury subpoena or other means. Under the Privacy Protection Act of 1980, search warrants are only available to seize journalists’ work products under certain circumstances, such as when the journalist himself or herself is suspected of committing certain crimes.
If Rosen were considered simply a bystander, prosecutors might have had to use a subpoena, which would likely have involved notice to Rosen and a chance for him to fight the subpoena in court.
“Normally such searches require the approval of the attorney general,” Politico notes, which means we can look forward to another action-packed Eric Holder press conference soon. I asked on Twitter why O continues to keep Holder around given the stench of all this; the most convincing explanation came from Philip Klein, who argued (a) that firing Holder will only fan the “Scandal!” fire and (b) that it’ll give Obama a brand new headache in trying to have a new AG confirmed by the Senate. Fair points (as is the fact that Holder knows where the proverbial bodies are buried and might not appreciate O demanding his resignation), but the drip-drip-drip may force Obama’s hand. It’s one thing to anger tea partiers with IRS harassment; it’s another thing to anger reporters by snooping on them. He’s losing an important ally, at least on this narrow issue.
Here’s Brit Hume laying down the law:
Update: Via NRO, Fox News reported this afternoon that the DOJ has somehow been reading e-mails sent by two more of its journalists, William LaJeunesse and Mike Levine. They’re named in the IG’s report on Burke and Fast and Furious; scroll down to pages 11-14 for the key section. It’s not clear to me from reading it that their e-mails were obtained through snooping. It sounds like maybe Burke and Dodson simply gave the IG copies of the e-mails from their own accounts. But note the passage flagged by Shannon Bream in the clip about an “administrative subpoena.” Someone was identified as the owner of a private e-mail address without them knowing.