Eric Holder finally held his off-the-record meeting yesterday with representatives from a small number of media organizations about how to provide, er, more transparency and greater ability for journalists to hold government accountable. The ironies don’t end there, either. What did the the Attorney General — who assured Congress that he’d never even heard of the suggestion that reporters might be prosecuted as spies less than two weeks before NBC reported that he’d signed a warrant naming Fox reporter James Rosen as a potential co-conspirator in espionage — tell these executives?
Essentially, the message was two words … trust me!
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. pledged Thursday to take concrete steps to address concerns that the Justice Department has overreached in its leak investigations and said officials would seek procedural and possibly legislative changes to protect journalists’ First Amendment rights.
Holder’s commitment came at a private meeting with news executives after criticism that the Justice Department had infringed on the news media in several high-profile leak investigations. Participants said he told them officials would revise guidelines for issuing subpoenas to obtain reporters’ phone records. …
Holder and aides “completely endorsed the president’s statement that reporters should not be at legal risk for doing their job,” said Martin Baron, The Washington Post’s executive editor, who was among the participants. “They acknowledged the need for changes in their own guidelines and the need to have a more rigorous internal review.”
The headline from the Washington Post says it all: “Attorney General Holder says he’ll protect journalists’ rights.” And they should believe him … why, exactly? Because he’s been so honest in his public statements? Because he’s been so good at following the existing processess and statutes governing the seizure of records from media organizations? The Department of Justice is already governed by statutes in gaining access to those records. In the case of the Associated Press, Justice simply ignored them. In the Rosen case, Holder signed a warrant trumping up an espionage case in order to get around them, and it took three judges to finally succeed.
No wonder Justice wanted the meeting off the record. The laughter alone would have taken pages to describe.