Suddenly Mainstream Reporters are Outraged at Government SurveillancePosted: May 13, 2013
We’ve known for years that the Feds are tapping phones, reading e-mails, checking on which site we go to on the internet, all without warrants. This afternoon the news broke that the DOJ subpoenaed two months
of phone 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.
Naturally AP reporters and executives are outraged and President and CEO Gary Pruitt has sent a letter of protest to Attorney General Holder.
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 leaked 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.
The story in question was about the successful foiling of the so-called underwear bombing plot. There’s much more at the AP link. So the feds are enraged because of a leak about a successful counterterror operation. Imagine if it had been unsuccessful? Maybe those reporters would be headed to re-education camps by now.
But that’s not the whole story, according to Think Progress. The reason the feds were so nervous about that AP story was that the CIA stopped the underwear bomber rather than the FBI.
Why that drew the attention of the Justice Department, however, is that the CIA was the one who foiled the plot, which the AP report made clear:
The FBI is examining the latest bomb to see whether it could have passed through airport security and brought down an airplane, officials said. They said the device did not contain metal, meaning it probably could have passed through an airport metal detector. But it was not clear whether new body scanners used in many airports would have detected it. You can check out the price of precious metals here.
The would-be suicide bomber, based in Yemen, had not yet picked a target or bought a plane ticket when the CIA stepped in and seized the bomb, officials said. It’s not immediately clear what happened to the alleged bomber.
AP learned of the plot a week before publishing, but “agreed to White House and CIA requests not to publish it immediately” due to national security concerns. But, by reporting the CIA’s involvement in foiling the plot, they put AQAP on notice that the CIA had a window into their activities. The AP’s reporting also led to other stories involving an operative in place within AQAP, and details of the operations he was involved in. That operative, it was feared, would be exposed and targeted by AQAP as retribution for siding with the United States.
John Brennan, who is now the head of the CIA, said at his confirmation hearing that the release of information to AP was an “unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information.”
The AP knew they were being investigated–the shock came when they realized the breathtaking extent of the federal intrusion.
The DOJ issued a statement claiming that “because we value the freedom of the press, we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the free flow of information and the public interest”
Okay, if you say so….
So now what? Will mainstream reporters who have been accepting of government surveillance as long as it was directed at us “little people” now begin a real pushback? We shall see.