In the Arena

InAPpropriate?

The question is, how was this different from previous government attempts to track down inside sources who leaked secrets--as in the Valerie Plame/Scooter Libby fracas during the Bush Administration?

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Adrees Latif / REUTERS

A couple walk past the offices of the Associated Press in Manhattan, New York May 13, 2013.

Today’s scandal: the Justice Department targets the Associated Press in a search for government employees who may have leaked classified information.

The question is, how was this different from previous government attempts to track down inside sources who leaked secrets—as in the Valerie Plame/Scooter Libby fracas during the Bush Administration?

There is one glaring difference. In the Plame case, the Justice Department openly subpoenaed the records of the journalists who reported the story—Matt Cooper, then of TIME, was one—and those journalists had the option of given up their records or going to jail. That’s the way it has worked in the past. There is a disputed grey line within First Amendment rights—journalists have a responsibility to protect our sources, government has a responsibility to protect classified information (such as the identities of the CIA’s non-official cover operatives like Valerie Plame). It isn’t pleasant, and there are legitimate differences about where First Amendment rights end and national security begins, but it is open and straightforward process.

Apparently, what has happened in this case, is that the Justice Department short-circuited prior practices, received secret subpoena authority (from the FISA court?) and covertly went after the information that it had requested in the past. That seems to be a substantial rewriting of the rules, a significant truncation of First Amendment rights.

I’ve gotten flack from the civil liberties community in the past. I’m not a First Amendment absolutist. I believe that the government has a responsibility to prevent terrorist attacks, which includes the right to track the messages of suspected terrorists. It also has the responsibility to keep the secret technologies used in this effort secret—which was apparently the bright line in the AP story. (It may have revealed previously covert methods the government used to prevent an Al Qaeda attack.)

Before I pass judgment in this case, I need to know the following:

1. Why were the usual methods—public subpoenas etc—not used in this case?

2. Has the government changed the rules with regard to journalists seeking covert information?

3. If so, what are the new rules?

29 comments
ddcmall
ddcmall

I voted for President Obama in part because I believed that he would restore and uphold laws the Bush Administration either ignored or dismantled. So, it was more than a little disturbing to me when he publicly declared that no one in his administration would seek to prosecute anyone from the former Bush Administration for any abuse they may have undertaken. Then as if that was not enough he short-circuited the civil litigations process by asking the US Supreme Court not to hear appeals brought by former Ambasador Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame-Wilson in their civil litigation against members of the former Bush Administration. Those in power often publicly proclaim that no one is above the law but in reality what President Obama did was not only to excuse crimes which may have been committed by those at the top of past administrations but also to set the stage for those in his own administration to follow in the same footsteps without fear of being held accountable in any meaningful way. President Obama cannot excuse himself by claiming ignorance when he himself set the stage for continued abuse. Without the willingness of this administration to set things right it falls to us to put the pressure on. And I am not talking about just what has happened under Obama but also under Bush because it was the abuse of law under Bush where the powerful sought to expand their power into criminal conduct shielded under the authority of the office of the president. It did not work for Nixon and it should not work for Bush, Cheney or Obama.

DavidBell
DavidBell

This is the same guy that you touted last week as not having any scandals before the IRS thing.  Wow, what a week - three for sure, and maybe another.  That doesn't even count all the ones before last week that you ignored.

megapril
megapril

Hey Joe... Are you expecting us to go get those answers for you? Or were they rhetorical?

And of course you're not a First Amendment absolutist... I no doubt believe you are one who believes the Constitution is supposed to bend a little here, get tweaked a little here, especially when it comes to Obama. After all, he's got to be able to control us somehow right? Lest we challenge him...and we all know how testy he gets when that happens. Yikes! We can't have Mr. Cool look flustered up there at his big podium. Now how is he supposed to keep us quiet with all this dirty laundry getting out? Oh that's right, never mind, he already said "There's no 'there' there." That certainly makes me feel better, don't you?

j.villain1
j.villain1

How about addressing the fact that an FBI agent got on TV a week ago and said the US government is recording ALL telephone calls, emails and any other digital transmissions  in the US all the time. They can go back and get any conversation made with in the last few years.

If the government is going to have the right to kill so called "terrorists" with out any kind of over sight, shouldn't those who the government calls terrorists have the right to appeal to the public that they are not terrorists and shouldn't be killed. Say calling a news organization and giving them your side would be a good way to do that. 


When Americans become indistinguishable from the terrorists then the terrorists have won.

PatrickDanielFlynn
PatrickDanielFlynn

How about addressing the fact that this investigation and seizure wasn't targeted at all.  They used this non-story about a foiled plot as cover to secretly obtain thousands of records that have ZERO to do with the red-herring foiled plot.  This is an abject attempt to crush whistle-blowing and destroy the free press.  Intertestingly the "free press" has ushered for the Obama administration as Joe Klein continues to do.

paulejb
paulejb

Watergate II - The Sequel

Barack H Obama as Richard M Nixon

Eric Holder as John Mitchell

David Axelrod as  H R "Bob" Haldeman

Jay Carney as Ron Ziegler

Valerie Jarrett as John Erlichman

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

One other important detail which, like you shall regard as tentative before more is learned. The AP story involved the header data concerning communications, not it's content. (Phone Numbers and times) The ability to actually pull up voice call contents after the fact is the real chilling capability that's not being discussed.


grape_crush
grape_crush

> Before I pass judgment in this case, I need to know the following... 

Given the history of your various judgments on things, Joe, what you think about this really doesn't interest me. I mean, good on you for realizing that it is better to ask questions first and shoot later, but that realization is far, far too late.

Idle speculation:

1. Why were the usual methods—subpoenas etc—not used in this case?

a) Because other legal methods now exist and can be applied more liberally. Not saying that's a good or bad thing, just a thing.

b) Persons in a position to leak presumably classified anti-terrorism information to news organizations are probably not the people that you want to put on display in a courtroom, unless...

c) Said persons doing the leaking are politicians...and you don't want to invite that s**tstorm into your year when you have other legal means to conduct an investigation.

2. Has the government changed the rules with regard to journalists seeking covert information? 

Most likely not. Journalists can ask until they're blue in the face. It's what they do with the information they get that has always been the issue. No change there.

3. If so, what are the new rules?

Report the event and don't go heavy into the detail.

It's hard, by the way, to tell where the AP article may have crossed the line as the article is apparently no longer at the AP site.

quotesnotes
quotesnotes

Philosophically Speaking 

QUOTES&NOTES

www.qnpress.blogspot.com

quotesnotes
quotesnotes

As man is the best of all animals when he has reached his full development, so he is worst of all when he divorced from law and morals. ....Hence man without goodness is the most savage, the most unrighteous, and the worst in regard to sexual licence and gluttony. 


The Ethics

Book 1 Chapter 2

Aristotle

QUOTES&NOTES

www.qnpress.blospot.com



hivemaster
hivemaster

Subpoenas are as dead as dinosaurs ever since 9/11.  I find it comical that the press is so incensed about this, yet they've set the narrative that it's OK for the govt to listen in on the average Joe to keep us "safe".  If that's the case, why can't they listen in on the average reporter?

Mickey_Dugan
Mickey_Dugan

Joe will get his answers by noon and and come back before supper with another "Nothing to see here" "vast-right wing conspiracy, etc." column defending Dear Leader, who can't deliver on the "most transparent administration ever" promise because, because, because... national security! See, it's a secret. Sorry. Go back to bed.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

Holy cow, a legitimate reason to question something the Obama administration is doing.  The sad truth of all of this?  This will probably be drowned out in more of the IRS and BENGHAZI stuff.

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

"Before I pass judgment in this case, I need to know the following:"

C'mon, Joe, this hasn't stopped you in the past. You know the drill: Call it "Nixonian", bask in the swarm of locusts, then walk it back a few days later.
(Side note: "I need to know the following". Hmm... how does one obtain this "information"? If only there were a group of people who could "investigate" such things and "report" on them...)

terryclifton1
terryclifton1

Tomorrow, you will be singing a different tune. I'm sure you will be applauding Holder & Company for keeping us all safe from the Associated Press and their operatives that are undoubtedly obtaining some top-secret information from government sources..I'm also sure that you're working on your apology piece..You can't keep bashing your bosses, you're going to end up on Fox News..

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@DavidBellThat IRS scandal- Gone before we even got to know it.


This might shock you, but the politicos weighing in on the IRS scandal aftermath occasionally leap to conclusions. Over the weekend, the National Republican Congressional Committee issued attacks on Democratic incumbents because they (or more realistically, their spokesmen) had not issued responses to the scandal. (For example: "We all know that Tim Bishop could care less about crushing debt and wasteful government spending, but his failure to speak up on these issues on behalf of [his] constituents is flat out wrong.") A big assumption on the right is that Democrats spurred the IRS's bad behavior by banging the table about the Kochs and Karl Rove and all those rich people hiding money in tax-exempt "social welfare" groups.

Why assume? Because the IG report actually absolves the rest of the administration and the Obama campaign from the accusation of direct pressure. The key lines:

We asked the Acting Commissioner, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division; the Director, EO; and Determinations Unit personnel if the criteria were influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS. All of these officials stated that the criteria were not influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS. Instead, the Determinations Unit developed and implemented inappropriate criteria in part due to insufficient oversight provided by management. Specifically, only first-line management approved references to the Tea Party in the BOLO [Be on the Look-Out] listing criteria before it was implemented. As a result, inappropriate criteria remained in place for more than 18 months.

This is why, since the report came out, you've heard more questions about when/why/how key Democrats learned of the story, and why they didn't react until the AP broke the news last Friday. Recall that the IRS officials dinged here are often career officials and Bush appointees -- not great scalps. The IG's saying that they're the only scalps that deserved to be separated from their skulls.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@PatrickDanielFlynn Interestingly how the same thing was done by the former administration, challenged in court and found to be legal. So your point is what exactly?

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@kbanginmotown 

So after you spend yesterday ripping him, today he tries to be more responsible and you double down on the ripping you did yesterday?

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

@kbanginmotown

FTW! Big difference between being a journalist and being a columnist / pundit. Karen Tumulty and Kimberly Dozier (one of the AP targets) are journalists. (Who are not can be left unsaid) For all the Washington Post's flaws, they try to separate the two as columnpundits are lumped into the "Opinions" homepage - where I suspect most of the site's traffic is driven (except for Ezra Klein in the biz section) -  while poor KT is banished to the rest of the site's etherland: (Politics, She the People, wherever, anywhere ELSE but the high volume stuff, though once in awhile she gets 5000+ comments for select posts, most of it trollery. Not all of their columnists are useless. Alexandra Petri is funny and insightful (and yes, her dad is House Rep. Tom Petri from WI, a non-crazy Republican).

DavidBell
DavidBell

@mantisdragon91 @DavidBell I have always wondered why government agencies get to investigate themselves, through the IG process.  It's interesting that nothing substantive is ever discovered.   It's always low-level bureaucrats that take the fall, then are quietly returned to their jobs after a short paid leave.   I don't put much stock in IG reports. Oren Hatch claims to have asked over a year ago about targeting conservative groups and was told by the head of the section responsible that it was just nasty rumors.  Now we know it has been going on for at least 2 years.  


Has this happened with other administrations?  Certainly.   Nixon's most famously.  It doesn't make it justifiable to use a government agency to punish your political enemies, but it will always happen.   It continues to occur mainly because no one is ever accountable and no one ever goes to jail.

jim.satterfield
jim.satterfield

@grape_crush How dare you insult the memory of a clown who was much more entertaining than the political polemics of paulejb?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@DavidBell @mantisdragon91 I tend to agree with you. The problem is that we are coming of an unprecedented expansion of Presidential power overseen by Cheney and John Yoo. They provided blueprints for the legality of all sorts of Unconstitutional acts including torture, wire tapping, signing statements and expanded executive war time powers. For us to roll back this tide, we need to revisit that expansion of powers and prosecute the architects behind it. Do you believe either party has the stomach to do that?