May 14, 2013

White House Did Not Know of DoJ Secret Seizure of Associated Press Records

Attorney General John Mitchell [Correction: That's Eric Holder]
Update III: The attorney general seems to be proud of how little he knows about the AP and IRS scandals (though the IRS affair is no scandal), writes Milbank.

Update II: Holder says he recused himself from phone records seizure, begging the question who is running the U.S. DoJ. Greenwald calls the Justice Department's pursuit of AP's phone records both extreme and dangerous. Civil liberties groups and journalists blast the action.

Update: See Turley's Nixonian or Obamaesque? Obama Administration Spied on Associated Press Editors and Reporters

There came a man who did not know.

When President Obama nominated Eric Holder to serve as the 82nd attorney general of the United States in 2009, voters had every right to expect a jurist committed to the rule of law and protecting the liberties of American citizens.

As each story of DoJ prosecutorial misconduct appears amid the near abandonment of an activist U.S. Dept of Justice, Civil Rights division seeking out bad political players in protection of civil liberties, the latest revelation that the U.S. Justice Department secretly obtained the phone records of the Associated Press reporters and editors is more than troubling.

Wow, secretly obtaining records. How did the DoJ do that, one might wonder. Secret warrants?

As Buzzfeed's Ben Smith writes, "Less than four months into President Barack Obama’s second term, the hazy perception of a government reaching further and further into individuals’ lives in an era of broad new technological surveillance and power has turned into what may be the defining critique of his Administration."

Here's the Monday evening statement from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (from The Atlantic, and not to be found on the White House site) explaining:

Other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the AP. We are not involved in decisions made in connection with criminal investigations, as those matters are handled independently by the Justice Department. Any questions about an ongoing criminal investigation should be directed to the Department of Justice.
Who knew defending the Fourth Amendment and being President was so difficult?

As noted in The Hill, not our president and not our attorney general.

"The AP believes the records seizure was related to a leak investigation regarding a 2012 story about the CIA foiling a bomb plot in Yemen. The Obama administration has aggressively investigated the disclosure of classified anti-terror information in recent years, subpoenaing journalists from the New York Times and Washington Post."

A leak? So, the DoJ is like plumbers ... fixing the leaks.

Notes Philip Bump: "In a letter of protest sent to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday, AP President Gary Pruitt said there could be 'no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications.'"

Well, the Obama U.S. DoJ is better than a Romney-Ryan DoJ would be, I think.

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