Allahpundit may have been joking about this last night, but it’s no joke to the Obama administration, apparently. NBC’s Pete Williams reported on Morning Joe earlier today that the Department of Justice will “definitely” open an investigation into the leak of the NSA’s data-mining efforts with Verizon — and who knows how many other telecoms — that ended up in the Guardian last night.
A “senior administration official” tells the Huffington Post that Williams’ report is, er … premature. Williams later dialed “definitely” back to “highly likely”:
However, a senior administration official told The Huffington Post Thursday morning that it’s premature to suggest an investigation is certain to take place.
“There’s been no referral yet from the intelligence community,” the official said.
On MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” later Thursday morning, Williams walked back his earlier comments. “It seems highly likely this will trigger a leak investigation,” he told host Chuck Todd.
Of course there will be a leak investigation. After all, there was a leak, no? Leak investigations in and of themselves aren’t all that controversial — it’s the method of investigation that has been the scandal. Williams reports that Eric Holder told him that he’s not interested in prosecuting reporters as leakers, which is the opposite of what the Holder-approved warrant on James Rosen claimed in three different federal courts, which named him as a co-conspirator in espionage in order to gain unlimited access to his e-mail and other communications records. On the AP case, the DoJ bypassed the federal regulations covering media records seizures, which is why someone on the Morning Joe set sardonically comments that this isn’t likely to make reporters feel any better.
Will the DoJ name Glenn Greenwald a spy in their warrant when they get around to investigating the leak? After all, the leak put counter-terrorism strategies into the open, which is the core of the “aiding the enemy” construct in the Bradley Manning trial, and the nature of the material is much more sensitive than Rosen sought in the Kim case. Stay tuned, and maybe Glenn should start thinking about covert communication strategies, too.
Meanwhile, Ron Fournier has a must-read analysis of the NSA story today, welcoming us all to the 16-year era of the Bush-Obama White House. He gives five reasons the development is “chilling,” and why Barack Obama turned out to be such a hypocrite on privacy and civil rights. He’s not the only one, either, Fournier writes:
- Verizon probably isn’t the only company coughing up its documents. Odds are incredibly strong that the government is prying into your telephone records today.
- Issued in April, the NSA order “could represent the broadest surveillance order known to have been issued,” according to the Washington Post. “It also would confirm long-standing suspicions of civil liberties advocates about the sweeping nature of U.S. surveillance through commercial carries under laws passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”
- This appears to be a “rubber stamp,” order, reissued every few months since 2001. As is the case with all government programs, the systematic snooping into your telephone records is unlikely to ever expire without public outcry.
- Congress is full of hypocrites. Liberals who criticized Bush are less incensed with Obama. Republicans who bowed to Bush are now blasting Obama. The next time your congressional representative criticizes Obama for curbing civil liberties, ask if he or she would vote to repeal the Patriot Act, the post-911 law that handed unfettered power to the intelligence and military bureaucracies. Most won’t.
- The Bush-Obama White House hates transparency. President George W. Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney, were justifiably criticized by Democrats (none more successfully so than Obama himself) for their penchant for secrecy. Obama promised that he would run history’s most transparent administration. By almost any measure, on domestic and well as foreign policies, Obama has broken that promise.
Be sure to read it all.