May 15, 2013

Dear Leader spies on the AP

Eric Hitler, er, sorry, Holder! Attorney General
and Lord High Protectors of eroding of our
American civil liberties/SocraticGadfly Photoshop
Yes, you read that right.

Apparently as part of doubling down, or tripling down, on its witch hunt against leakers, The.Most.Transparent.Administration.In,HistoryTM sucked up phone conversations of multiple Associated Press editors and reporters.

Here's the details:
The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls 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. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of calls.
In all, the government seized the 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 where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.
Wow. Just wow. More than 100 people may have been spied on. That's pretty "unfettered," eh, Jay Carney, but "unfettered" for snoops and not the press.

And, the AP gets the non-Kumbaya back of the hand from Team Obama. (Per first link, again.)
The government would not say why it sought the records. U.S. officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have provided information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.
Thinking about all this made me wonder if wingnuts aren't Photoshoppping Attorney General Eric Holder to have a much narrower moustache, and renaming him Eric Hitler. Oh, I guess somebody did that!

And now, Dear Leader is saying the White House knows nothing about Holder's snooping. Yeah, right. And, in a later presser, the White House is saying "no comment" because, you know, there's an investigation. And Holder continues to defend this.

Also, in an NPR interview I just heard, the plot thickens. (Also covered in second link, about Carney and his and Holder's pressers.)

Holder said he was interviewed last year by the FBI over leaks issues, so he had his assistant, Jim Cole, handle the AP snooping. But, he says he saw himself one letter Cole sent to AP. Either you recuse yourself or you don't.

The latest? Dear Leader revives calls for a media shield law, which he has never pushed for in the past himself, and which still probably wouldn't put actions like the Justice Department's totally in the out of bounds anyway, the way this administration works.

Here's why:
It is not clear whether such a law would have changed the outcome of the subpoena involving The A.P. But it might have reduced the chances that the Justice Department would have demanded the records in secret, without any advance notice to the news organization, and it may have allowed a judge to review whether the scope of the request was justified by the facts.  

Under the 2009 bill, which was negotiated between the newspaper industry, the White House and the Judiciary Committee, the scope of protection for reporters seeking to shield the identities of their confidential sources or the calling records showing with whom they had communicated would vary according to whether it was a civil case, an ordinary criminal case or a national security case. 

The most protection would be given to civil cases, in which litigants seeking to force reporters to testify or seeking their information would first have to exhaust other means of obtaining the information before making the request. The burden would be on the information seekers to show why their need for the information outweighed the public’s interest in unfettered news gathering. 

Ordinary criminal cases would work in a similar fashion, except the burden would be on the reporter seeking to quash the subpoena to show by a “clear and convincing” standard that the public interest in the free flow of information should prevail over the needs of law enforcement. 

Cases involving the disclosure of classified information — as in the investigation into The A.P.'s disclosure of a failed bomb plot in Yemen last spring — would be even more heavily tilted toward the government. Judges could not quash a subpoena through a balancing test if prosecutors could show that the information sought might help prevent a future terrorist attack or other acts likely to harm national security. 

However, the prospect that a confidential source might leak something else in the future would not be enough to invoke that exception under the 2009 compromise legislation. 

It remains unclear what kind of legal device the Justice Department used to obtain The A.P.'s calling records from phone companies. It is not clear how the standards established by the media shield legislation would apply to administrative subpoenas called “national security letters” that the F.B.I. may issue to obtain customer records from a business without a judge’s permission. 
Hence, the AP would be in limbo, and in the journalism equivalent of a FISA court, the burden would fall in it, not Team Obama.

And, for people who think this is a tempest in a teapot, National Journal says this has implications for the general public.

Also, to guard against the snoops, the New Yorker has launched a new electronic system for leakers.

Meanwhile, the whole Benghazi brouhaha?

Both Tweedledee Congressional Republicans and Tweedledum White House Democrats refuse to address what should be the real brouhaha, and that's that Benghazi site wasn't an embassy or consulate, but was a CIA operation through and through. What was the CIA doing there? Did the terrorists who attacked it have some inkling it was a CIA operation?

These are serious questions not being asked, let alone answered, by either "mainstream" party.

And, on the IRS rifling through Tea Partier type returns? Uhh, in the 1960s, it happened to the Sierra Club, before it ultimately had its nonprofit status jerked. Liberals should always take such things seriously, no matter who the target was. I'm not saying that the Obama Administration was involved on that one, because I know it wasn't. But, Democrats should welcome any reasonable investigation. That said, such investigation is not likely to come from House Republicans.

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