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  (Source: Fits News)
Government hunts for source of leaks inside its ranks, tramples freedom of press

A federal judge approves sweeping subpoenas of over 20 phone numbers associated with a top national journalist organization, hunting for the source of government leaks to the press.  No, this isn't a tale of Soviet Russia (or Putin-era Russia); it's the story that's breaking here in the "land of the free".

I. Big Brother is Watching the Press

In an outraged letter to U.S. Attorney General (AG) Eric Holder, the Associated Press, one of the nation's largest news organizations, accuses the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) of a potentially serious violation of freedom of the press.  According to the letter from Gary Pruitt, records from 20 phone lines -- including personal phones of AP editors/columnists and AP business phone numbers in New York; Hartford, Connecticut; and Washington -- were subpoenaed in a "massive and unprecedented" attempt to monitor on the press.

Mr. Pruitt writes [PDF]:

These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP's newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP's activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.
We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP's constitutional rights to gather and report the news.

He demanded that the DOJ return all records collected and destroy all copies of them.

Associate Press
President Obama's Justice Department stands accused of spying on AP offices and staffers.
[Image Source: Getty Images]

The DOJ defended its actions in a statement, commenting:

We must notify the media organization in advance unless doing so would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.  Because we value the freedom of the press, we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the public interest in the free flow of information and the public interest in the fair and effective administration of our criminal laws.

The AP was not told why the records were subpoenaed, but it is aware that some of the employees whose records were subpoenaed were involved in a story in which an undisclosed government official leaked an account of a foiled May 2012 bomb plot on an aircraft flying into the U.S.

Eric Holder
Fresh off outrage over his support of drone death strikes on Americans on U.S. soil, AG Eric Holder has another controversy to contend with. [Image Source: AP]

Analysts say that the Obama administration has pushed the limits farther than any administration before it in hunting for leakers in its ranks with surveillance and subpoenas.

II. The Hunt for Leakers

In this case there has been no signal yet that the feds wiretapped the reporters in question.  However, some top politicians are already questioning the Obama administration's "Big Brother" tactics.  Comments Michael Steel, spokesperson for Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Speaker of the House, "The First Amendment is first for a reason.  If the Obama administration is going after reporters' phone records, they better have a damned (sic) good explanation."

President Obama
President Obama has been frustrated with leakers in his ranks. [Image Source: AP]
Ben Wizner, the head of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, also sounded off against the spying, commenting:

Obtaining a broad range of telephone records in order to ferret out a government leaker is an unacceptable abuse of power.  Freedom of the press is a pillar of our democracy, and that freedom often depends on confidential communications between reporters and their sources.

The development even made some members of the President's own party queasy.  Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Verm.) commented, "I am very troubled by these allegations and want to hear the government's explanation.  The burden is always on the government when they go after private information -- especially information regarding the press or its confidential sources.  I want to know more about this case, but on the face of it, I am concerned that the government may not have met that burden."

The Obama administration has dramatically increased warrantless surveillance in the U.S. on American citizens over the last five years in the name of fighting "crime" and "terrorism".  However, it came under scrutiny this last week when it was revealed that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeted members of the Tea Party and other pro-change groups with tax audits.  It should be interesting to see how the Attorney General and President Obama justify these latest actions in weeks to come.

Sources: AP [PDF], ACLU

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We have too many "secrets"
By GatoRat on 5/14/2013 9:42:51 AM , Rating: 2
The size of government makes is more amenable to corruption and hence to the need for secrets, most of which have nothing to do with real national security. The beauty of federalism is that is not only keeps the sizes of various government smaller, but by spreading out this power, it makes corruption more difficult. By simply not having much of this power to begin with, it makes corruption pointless.

RE: We have too many "secrets"
By karimtemple on 5/14/2013 9:55:19 AM , Rating: 2
Can't disagree with that. BUT, there are a lot of other factors at play as well, such as the design philosophy of the government, the designs themselves, the culture of the populace, etc. It's not quite as simple as "starve the government and propser."

RE: We have too many "secrets"
By lyeoh on 5/14/2013 11:01:16 AM , Rating: 2
Be careful what you ask for. Quality matters far more than quantity. Don't be surprised if you're not happy with the results if you keep trying to solve the wrong problem.

The FOIA only applies to the government. Not other entities like corporations. Same goes for many of the other nice things you take for granted. Anandtech can censor you here. Those precious amendments you all love don't apply whenever you're in Company Land. When you have a small government, the big corporations will be very happy to fill in the "gaps".

So you really think you have less to fear from corrupt large corporations working in league with a small corrupt government? As for "free market" do you think the voters will vote more wisely with their wallets every day than with their ballots every few years? Do you think those voters have much say over the CEOs of Monsanto or Bank of America? Fact is they collectively have more power over the President of the USA, than the Presidents of many Corporations that have power and influence over their lives.

Many of your leaders have been very happy to give you what you ask for - smaller government - they just outsource to companies run by their friends. There's often lots of work - because the other voters want the government to do lots of stuff. So everyone gets what they want... No wonder the Repubocrats keep getting 98% of the votes.

The voters are ultimately responsible for the quality of the government. And sometimes the People's Representatives are representative of the people.

RE: We have too many "secrets"
By karimtemple on 5/14/2013 11:10:19 AM , Rating: 2
This is a point I make all the time. What you want is a cultured populace.

RE: We have too many "secrets"
By Motoman on 5/14/2013 11:23:22 AM , Rating: 4
Democracy: a system by which the people receive a government no better than they deserve.

RE: We have too many "secrets"
By Spuke on 5/14/2013 11:54:18 AM , Rating: 2
Democracy: a system by which the people receive a government no better than they deserve.
Quote of the freakin year!!!!! PLEASE put this at the bottom of the page.

RE: We have too many "secrets"
By ebakke on 5/14/2013 1:07:56 PM , Rating: 2
Well, the majority. The minority gets stuck with whatever the rest of the plebs picked.

RE: We have too many "secrets"
By MrBlastman on 5/14/2013 2:58:29 PM , Rating: 3
That pretty much sums it up. :)

Pure democracies are doomed to the road of socialism, 100% of the time.

When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.

-- Supposedly said by Benjamin Franklin.

And it is very true.

RE: We have too many "secrets"
By FITCamaro on 5/14/2013 5:53:49 PM , Rating: 2
Hence why we're not a pure democracy and many liberals would like to make us more of one.

By inperfectdarkness on 5/16/2013 3:46:55 AM , Rating: 2
"We maintain that a nation trying to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket trying to lift himself up by its handle."

-Winston Churchill

RE: We have too many "secrets"
By Belard on 5/16/2013 4:53:46 PM , Rating: 2
a way to fix the system: no more private meetings with any lobbyist. NO more direct contributions to any campaign or party. everyone can donate, but its shared among those on the ballot.

then the govt is for the people, not the 1%.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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