How often do we see Kirsten Powers, Eugene Robinson, and Brit Hume agree on a major issue? Not often, but when the government violates the First Amendment and in particular on reporting, probably more often than not. Let’s start with the least surprising criticism, which comes from Brit Hume, former Fox anchor and colleague of James Rosen, who was investigated as a co-conspirator in an espionage case for doing what reporters in Washington do all the time. Hume argues that the Obama administration’s actions speak a lot louder than their words about respecting the freedom of the press:
“In the matter of Fox News correspondent James Rosen, the Justice Department has gone where federal prosecutors have rarely if ever gone before: To obtain a search warrant for Rosen’s personal emails they claimed to a federal court that by doing what journalists do, which is to try to ferret out secrets of government and report them, Rosen has committed a crime. Indeed they describe how he cultivated a State Department official as a source, set up a confidential method of communicating with him, flattered him, spoke to him on the phone — gasp — and asked him to provide information about State Department actions and intelligence on a foreign country now identified as North Korea.”
“All this, says the FBI in a 36-page affidavit is in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy to divulge classified information,” Hume continued. “Did Rosen do this to help an enemy? The FBI makes no such claim. Instead, it cites an email in which Rosen tells his source, quote, ‘I want to report authoritatively and ahead of the competition on new initiatives or shifts in U.S. policy, events on the ground and what intelligence is picking up.’ Oh, heaven forbid. The president and his attorney general can recite all the platitudes they like about their respect for press freedom and the need for investigative reporting. But this FBI affidavit contradicts them all.” …
“The government has a right indeed, arguably, a duty to protect the nation’s secrets, some of which are more secret than they ought to be,” Hume said. “But that aside, there are legitimate national security secrets that is the government’s job to protect. And when they leak out, the government has a right and a duty to investigate. But what the government has traditionally done in the past is to investigate the leaker and not, if you will, the leakee. That provides the balance between the government’s job to find out what happened and the press’ right to pursue information. That’s the way it’s been done before. That’s the way it seemed to have been going up until now. But it seems to me tonight there is reason to doubt that that is the approach being taken by this administration.”
It’s probably not much of a surprise to see Powers’ criticism. Although a liberal in perspective, she also contributes at Fox News. At the Daily Beast, Powers notes that “hope and change” has given way to spying on reporters, channeling her inner Bonhoeffer:
First they came for Fox News, and they did not speak out—because they were not Fox News. Then they came for government whistleblowers, and they did not speak out—because they were not government whistleblowers. Then they came for the maker of a YouTube video, and—okay, we know how this story ends. But how did we get here?
Turns out it’s a fairly swift sojourn from a president pushing to “delegitimize” a news organization to threatening criminal prosecution for journalistic activity by a Fox News reporter, James Rosen, to spying on Associated Press reporters. In between, the Obama administration found time to relentlessly persecute government whistleblowers and publicly harass and condemn a private American citizen for expressing his constitutionally protected speech in the form of an anti-Islam YouTube video.
Where were the media when all this began happening? With a few exceptions, they were acting as quiet enablers.
Powers also points out that the usual suspects now have their guns aimed at Jonathan Karl over his reporting on the Benghazi e-mails. Be sure to read Powers’ blast at Media Matters and Fairness and Accuracy in the Media (FAIR) for their watercarrying on behalf of the White House, especially this part:
Because of this, FAIR declared Karl “a right wing mole at ABC News.” Setting aside the veracity of FAIR’s crazy claim, isn’t the fact that it was made in the first place vindication for those who assert a liberal media bias in the mainstream media? If the existence of a person who allegedly associates with conservatives is a “mole,” then what does that tell us about the rest of the media?
Indeed. For the most surprising take, though, we turn to Eugene Robinson, normally a reliable defender of the White House. The attack on Rosen went far enough to trigger Robinson’s outrage:
The unwarranted snooping, which was revealed last week, would be troubling enough if it were an isolated incident. But it is part of a pattern that threatens to redefine investigative reporting as criminal behavior.
The Post reported Monday that the Justice Department secretly obtained phone and e-mail records for Fox News reporter James Rosen, and that the FBI even tracked his movements in and out of the main State Department building. Rosen’s only apparent transgression? Doing what reporters are supposed to do, which is to dig out the news.
In both instances, prosecutors were trying to build criminal cases under the 1917 Espionage Act against federal employees suspected of leaking classified information. Before President Obama took office, the Espionage Act had been used to prosecute leakers a grand total of three times, including the 1971 case of Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Obama’s Justice Department has used the actsix times. And counting. …
Prosecutors examined Rosen’s phone records, read his e-mails and, using the electronic record left by his security badge, even tracked when he entered and left the State Department building. How did officials justify such snooping? By asserting in an FBI affidavit, according to The Post, that Rosen broke the law “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator.”
In other words, since there is no law that makes publishing this classified information illegal, the Justice Department claims that obtaining the information was a violation of the Espionage Act.
Rosen has not been charged. Every investigative reporter, however, has been put on notice.
And that was before we found out that Sharyl Attkisson might also have been targeted for some surveillance. If it happens to CBS News, expect the outrage to expand exponentially.
Via Morgen Richmond, here’s Barack Obama in 2008 insisting that the courts should have oversight on surveillance of the press for pursuing leaks, and that he wants to “protect and abide by the Constitution.” Where did he say it? Er … the Associated Press Annual Conference: