Spying on the Press

Well, the silver lining of this story is that the press, who until now have generally yawned at libertarian concerns about warrantless searches and national security letters, particularly since that power has been held by a Democrat rather than a Republican, will now likely go nuts.

You have probably seen it by now, but here is the basic story

The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news.

The records obtained by the Justice Department listed incoming and outgoing calls, and the duration of each call, for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP.

In all, the government seized those records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices whose phone records were targeted on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.

The AP believes this is an investigation into sources of a story on May 7, 2012 about a foiled terror attack.  This bit was interesting to me for two reasons:

The May 7, 2012, AP story that disclosed details of the CIA operation in Yemen to stop an airliner bomb plot occurred around the one-year anniversary of the May 2, 2011, killing of Osama bin Laden.

The plot was significant because the White House had told the public it had "no credible information that terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, are plotting attacks in the U.S. to coincide with the (May 2) anniversary of bin Laden's death."

The AP delayed reporting the story at the request of government officials who said it would jeopardize national security. Once government officials said those concerns were allayed, the AP disclosed the plot because officials said it no longer endangered national security. The Obama administration, however, continued to request that the story be held until the administration could make an official announcement.

First, it seems to fit in with the White House cover-up over Benghazi, in the sense that it is another example of the Administration trying to downplay, in fact hide, acts of organized terrorism.  I have criticized the Administration for throwing free speech under the bus in its Benghazi response, but I must say their reasons for doing so were never that clear to me.  This story seems to create a pattern of almost irrational White House sensitivity to any admission of terrorist threats to the US.

Second, note from the last sentence that the White House is bending over backwards to investigate the AP basically for stealing its thunder before a press conference.  Wow.  Well if that were suddenly illegal, just about everyone in DC would be in jail.

Update:  Some thoughts from Glenn Greenwald

how media reactions to civil liberties assaults are shaped almost entirely by who the victims are. For years, the Obama administration has been engaged in pervasive spying on American Muslim communities and dissident groups. It demanded a reform-free renewal of the Patriot Act and the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008, both of which codify immense powers of warrantless eavesdropping, including ones that can be used against journalists. It has prosecuted double the number of whistleblowers under espionage statutes as all previous administrations combined, threatened to criminalize WikiLeaks, and abused Bradley Manning to the point that a formal UN investigation denounced his treatment as "cruel and inhuman".

But, with a few noble exceptions, most major media outlets said little about any of this, except in those cases when they supported it. It took a direct and blatant attack on them for them to really get worked up, denounce these assaults, and acknowledge this administration's true character. That is redolent of how the general public reacted with rage over privacy invasions only when new TSA airport searches targeted not just Muslims but themselves: what they perceive as "regular Americans". Or how former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman -- once the most vocal defender of Bush's vast warrantless eavesdropping programs -- suddenly began sounding like a shrill and outraged privacy advocate once it was revealed that her own conversations with Aipac representatives were recorded by the government.


  1. mesaeconoguy:

    There’s another silver lining here: Eric Holder’s ass is in a very large frying pan (again) over this.

    It’s shameful that the media really didn’t care about any of Obama’s stonewalling and obfuscation until – gasp! – they were lied to by these amateurs.

    Now there is a pretty clear pattern of lying and deception. We’ll see if the media has any balls left (guessing not).

  2. Benjamin Cole:

    Americans will endure almost any amount of gun violence and yet demand their gun rights. Good.

    Americans turn into pansies at almost any niggling amount of "terrorism," and give away their rights immediately, in fits of "patriotism."

    Obama has been abusive of citizen rights many times, even ordered the assassination without trial of American citizens. And where does that slippery slope lead?

    And can we get out of Pakistan. Afghanistan and Iraq? Is sending drones into Pakistan sovereign airspace really going to make Pakistanis like us, or prevent terrorist attacks on US soil?

  3. James H:

    This seems like a pretty large unforced error. Obama depends on the media to look the other way, spin, and downplay all of jis big scandals - yet now he has stepped on them. In doing this he may have gotten some small bit of information to find the source of a leak or something, but he has blown his relationship with the media that he needs to cover his ass every day.

  4. marque2:

    Gun violence is down some 40% since the early 1990's.

    The rest of the stuff is too bizarre to comment on.

  5. dc:

    I agree, the patriot act is bizarre, droning a US citizen with no due process is bizarre, and its also bizarre why we're still carrying a military presence over there.

  6. cal_culus:

    Some people, even US citizens, are evil.

  7. HenryBowman419:

    The irony is that, as R. Lmbaugh has pointed out, the AP would gladly have turned over all the information to the Obama Admnistration, if only the Administration had simply asked for the records.

  8. HenryBowman419:

    True enough, but the statement does not seem to have anything to do with the issue, namely the lack of due process.

  9. MountainHome:

    Good Lord!! America is now a banana republic dictatorship that will spy on the press and harass it's own people with the tool of the IRS.
    A TIME TO STAND by Oliver is the book to read about decent Americans taking a stand against federal tyranny as our ancestors did against King George III. It's a thriller about what is now happening in America so I recommend it.
    To see the AP upset, as they were so bias for Obama in the last presidential election, is almost funny if it wasn't so scary. We are all "Enemies of the State" through the eyes of our own government. God forbid if we even try to teach the U.S. Constitution to our children.

  10. mlhouse:

    Now, if Benghazi was a ROBBERY (and Obama a Republican) I am sure the media would be after his impeachment!

  11. Rich:

    "I have criticized the Administration for throwing free speech under the bus in its Benghazi response, but I must say their reasons for doing so
    were never that clear to me."

    The reason for the administration's lies regarding the Benghazi attack is simple, it occurred less than a month before the 2012 election.

  12. HenryBowman419:

    Yet another reason to dramatically reduce the amount of money being spent on thugs cops. Alternatively, permit citizens to bring criminal charges against cops (and prosecuting attorneys, as well). It is simply too easy to abuse one's power when placed in a position of authority: there has to be "blowback".

  13. marque2:

    Yeah it is almost random liberal thoughts strung together in search of some vague point

  14. Benjamin Cole:

    Maybe the thoughts were disjointed, but there are connections, and they are conservative in nature, if that label has any meaning anymore. The reason Obama is spying on reporters is his glorious fight against terrorism, just like Bush jr's glorious fight.

    Americans will tolerate anything, including the murder of US citizens, if the government says they are fighting terrorists. Right now, any phone call you make, e-mail you send, and even where you are can be recorded, and maybe is. You are supine in this regard.

    But Americans will tolerate huge amounts of violence and still (properly) demand their gun rights.

    Since and including 9/11, about 3,000 Americans have been killed by terrorists. About 300,000 have died in auto accidents, and another 120,000 in gun homicides.

    We are wasting $1 trillion a year on a Defense, VA, Homeland Security colossus, to fight against minute threats posed by terrorists.

    Now the "threat" is two nut-sickos armed with cooking utensils in Boston.

    But hey, you want to have the government snoop on your bank accounts, your e-mails, your phone calls, or decide to terminate you and they believe--or think--you are a terrorist? Or cough up $1 trillion a year to fight terrorists?

    Then call me a liberal....

  15. obloodyhell:

    }}} just about everyone in DC would be in jail.


    Shut your mouth!


  16. obloodyhell:

    }}} but he has blown his relationship with the media that he needs to cover his ass every day.

    This has yet to be shown. I predict lots of heat but no untoward consequences.

  17. obloodyhell:

    }}} The rest of the stuff is too bizarre to comment on.

    that's Benny for you...

  18. obloodyhell:

    ... lol, "that's benny to a 't'"

  19. obloodyhell:

    We call you a liberal, Benny, because that's what you are, as anyone who's familiar with your comments over on Carpe Diem is fully aware.

  20. obloodyhell:

    }}} Eric Holder’s ass is in a very large frying pan (again) over this.

    Yes, I predict the horrendous and ignominiously vile future as a highly overpaid DC lobbyist is soon to be his awful comeuppance. Woe to be him. :-S

  21. Bram:

    The real reasons for the Benghazi false story and continuing gag on the survivors is kind of a mystery. There was certainly some kind of CIA operation going on there. Maybe running Libyan guns to Syria. They may have been holding prisoners there too - that was the story Petraeus' girlfriend blabbed before they shut her up. What were they doing?

    Were the State Dept. personnel unknowingly put at risk being used as cover? Why was the Ambassador there instead of the Embassy?

    It sure looks like the Administration really really doesn't want these questions asked. I hope they are asked once they are called out on all the lies.

  22. marque2:

    Personally I think with Benghazi the administration did the coverup to get reelected and are now hiding so they don't show how much they covered up and lied.

    If they just admitted the op didn't go smoothly at the beginning no one would be I'm trouble bit Obama may not have been elected. As usual the care is in the coverup.

  23. Eris Guy:

    And I care that a bunch of ineffectual cretins will “go nuts” why?

  24. Jesse Nelson:

    I've always wondered what the administration was thinking when they tried to deny the terrorism aspect of Benghazi. Why try to attribute it to something else? Would it be some kind of a surprise that it was garden-variety political terrorism? Does Obama want to pretend that he has rode in on a white horse and ended all grievances Islamists have with the US? I don't get it.

  25. obloodyhell:

    BTW, someone said, commenting on how little the knowledge would affect the AP's actual behavior...

    "I predict little change. When your head is that far up someone's ass, it takes more than a single fart to dislodge it."