Tuesday the Justice Department issued a statement saying that the search of AP phone records was conducted in the interest of national security.
The AP reported Monday that as many as 20 of their staff, both reporters and editors, had their phone records inspected by the federal government for as long as two months. They were unaware of any subpoena allowing them to do so. This criticism of Holder’s Justice Department comes at a time congress is holding hearings on the matter.
Attorney General Eric Holder is testifying before the House Wednesday about the phone records and other matters. He was asked why AP was not given advance notice of the activity.
”I do not know with regard to this particular case why that was or was not done….I am not familiar with the reasons why the email was disrupted in the way that it was,” Holder said. “I have faith in the people who would actually be responsible for this case they were aware of the rules and they followed them. But I don’t have a factual basis to answer the question because I was recused.”
Deputy Attorney General James Cole did have a response in a letter to Gary Pruitt, the president of AP.
“Any subpoena that is issued should be drawn as narrowly as possible, be directed at relevant information regarding a limited subject matter and should cover a reasonably limited period of time,” Cole wrote. “We are required to negotiate with the media organization in advance of issuing the subpoenas unless doing so would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation. We take this policy, and the interests that it is intended to protect, very seriously and followed it in this matter.”
The leak which inspired the search was not identified, but AP believes it is related to a story they ran about a foiled attempt to bomb a U.S. airliner in May 2012.
Pruitt was not satisfied with Cole’s letter. He said that government officials “assured us that the national security concerns had passed”, before it ran the story.
“Indeed, the White House was preparing to publicly announce that the bomb plot had been foiled,” Pruitt wrote. “The White House had said there was no credible threat to the American people in May of 2012. The AP story suggested otherwise, and we felt that was important information and the public deserved to know it.”
Holder and the Department of Justice are receiving scathing criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.
The toughest criticism on the Democratic side during today’s hearings came from Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California.
“It seems to me clear that the actions of the department have in fact impaired the First Amendment,” declared Lofgren. “Reporters who might have previously believed that a confidential source would speak to them will no longer have that that level of confidence because those confidential sources are now going to be chilled in their relationship with the press.”
“It seems to me the damage done to a free press is substantial and will continue until corrective action is taken,” she added. “I think this is a very serious matter that concerns all of us, no matter your party affiliation.”
An article in the Washington Times today, written by Peter Bella, is critical of the news media in general for not being more vocal about the matter. He said he believes the entire industry should be outraged and display it openly in their publications.
“A letter was sent by Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and signed by several major news organizations. They were too cowardly to publicly bash Holder and the Department of Justice in their headlines and editorial pages. So, they write him a letter. They may as well write themselves a letter.”
He accurately pointed out that the media is hoping for a breaking, all-encompassing news story, so this one will go away.
“This is the result of journalism’s self-inflicted malpractice and malfeasance. News gatherers and their entertainment counterparts on television became this administration’s lap dancers. They gave up their watchdog status to get access. They kept the blush on the rose and gilded the lily of this administration. President Obama and his bungling bureaucrats could do no wrong”, writes Bella.
I agree with him on every issue. Obviously, because this is my job, I read a lot of news stories and find many incomplete or lacking. But I believe the news services have given up writing the facts for many years through several administrations, afraid that if they print something unfavorable, their sources will dry-up.
Freedom of the Press must be respected by the authorities and by the media itself. The integrity of each and every story reported must contain accurate and informative material.
With that in mind, our government is obliged to work with the news services, and not against them. Mr. Bella is 100% correct in displaying anger and disappointment at the media for not continuing to make this Constitutional violation an issue.
The Guardian Express