1. Who called Fox News reporter a “co-conspirator”?
On the Sunday before last, the Washington Post broke a story providing details of the Obama Justice Department’s investigation into how Fox News reporter James Rosen obtained classified information about American intelligence gathering in North Korea. Coming on the heels of the news that the Justice Department had secretly conducted a massive sweep of the phone records of the Associated Press as part of another leak investigation, the Post’s scoop was big news and ignited complaints from the press and others that the Obama administration was engaged in an unprecedented dragnet that would chill basic reporting.
For many, including me, the most disturbing aspect of the Post’s story was that in an affidavit filed seeking a search warrant for the Fox reporter Rosen’s email records, the Justice Department told a federal judge that “there is probable cause to believe that the reporter has committed or is committing a violation of section 793(d) as an aider or abettor and/or co-conspirator.” In other words, the government was saying that Rosen’s act of seeking the classified information the way journalists do every day (there are no allegations that he bribed someone for it or stole it) made him guilty of a crime because he was aiding or abetting or conspiring in the leak.
That characterization, which presumably would generate multiple life sentences for Bob Woodward, was unprecedented and seemed, even to many Obama supporters, over the top.
But in a speech last Thursday outlining his administration’s anti-terror and national security policy going forward, President Obama said, “I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable. Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.” The president then promised that Attorney General Eric Holder would review Justice Department guidelines on dealing with the press in leak investigations.
So, was the president walking back his administration’s tough press leaks policy of calling journalists criminals? Maybe. But I have another suspicion.