The AP Scandal Shows That the Obama Administration Is Going Rogue By Jacob Heilbrunn
May 13, 2013
The Obama administration is mired in a fresh scandal of its own making. The revelation that the Justice Department has been snooping into the phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors indicates that the administration's ruthlessness when it comes to trying to protect its reputation and sources knows no bounds. Attorney General Eric Holder, always a poor choice for a cabinet post, should resign. Coupled with the revelation that the IRS has been selectively targeting Tea Party groups and the botched handling of the Benghazi terrorist attack, the administration confronts a second term that appears to be ending even before it has even really begun.
Obama has always prided himself on being squeaky clean when it comes to governing. He campaigned for transparency in government. He said he was against soft money. He said that members of his administration would have to demonstrate the highest ethical standards ever. Well, that was then. He has nominated the tax-dodging billionaire Penny Pritzker, who bankrolled his political ascendancy, to serve as his Commerce secretary. He has hoovered up any and all funds he can attract, infuriating proponents of campaign finance reform. And now his administration, in its mad and obsessive and destructive pursuit to quash any leaks, has besmirched itself by targeting journalists for investigation.
Leaks have always plagued presidents. They are a function of a national security state that has always aspired to total control in the post-World War II era—in 1986, Ronald Reagan's Chief of Staff Don Regan proposed creating a standing cadre of FBI agents to ferret out leaks. But the ability of the state to exercise surveillance over its citizens was always limited. No longer. Technology has marched on. The president who can order an assassination by using drones—and initially claimed that he could target a U.S. citizen in America until Sen. Rand Paul denounced him—is also busily snooping on the media. The Associated Press says that Holder and his minions ran amok: They monitored
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.
Was Obama aware of this program? Did he order it? Or was it done solely on Holder's initiative? White House press spokesman Jay Carney says it had "no knowledge" of the secret program. If it didn't, maybe the White House should pay more attention to what is going on in the ranks of its administration.
It seems that the investigation of the AP journalists was prompted by the revelation that a U.S. spy inside the ranks of a Yemeni Al Qaeda group had helped to foil an airliner bomb plot. An aggrieved administration went on the offensive to try and discover who leaked the information. Instead, it has only embarrassed itself.
The fixation with leakers is counterproductive. The problem with targeting leakers, of course, is that they often play a valuable role in helping to inform the public about what, exactly, is taking place in the government when it comes to foreign affairs. Sometimes leaks redound to the benefit of an administration or allow it to spin the news. Obama, however, has displayed a kind of compulsive desire to stifle leakers from the outset of his presidency.
The result is what AP chief Gary Pruitt is calling a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into civil liberties and press freedoms. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists told the Washington Post, "“This investigation is broader and less focused on an individual source or reporter than any of the others we’ve seen. They have swept up an entire collection of press communications. It’s an astonishing assault on core values of our society.” It is no small irony that Obama, who declared that he would halt the George W. Bush administration's violations of personal freedoms, has exceeded the mendacity of his predecessors in creating a new star chamber to hunt down his detractors and enemies. Obama isn't protecting American freedoms. He's going rogue. If this keeps up, Obama may accomplish the impossible and create a wave of nostalgia for Mitt Romney.
How Prosecutors Fought to Keep Rosen’s Warrant Secret By Ryan Lizza
May 24, 2013
The Obama Administration fought to keep a search warrant for James Rosen’s private e-mail account secret, arguing to a federal judge that the government might need to monitor the account for a lengthy period of time.
The new details are revealed in a court filing detailing a back and forth between the Justice Department and the federal judges who oversaw the request to search a Gmail account belonging to Rosen, a reporter for Fox News. A 2009 article Rosen had written about North Korea sparked an investigation; Ronald C. Machen, Jr., the U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a former State Department adviser who allegedly leaked classified information to Rosen, insisted that the reporter should not be notified of the search and seizure of his e-mails, even after a lengthy delay.
E-mails, Machen wrote, “are commonly used by subjects or targets of the criminal investigation at issue, and the e-mail evidence derived from those compelled disclosures frequently forms the core of the Government’s evidence supporting criminal charges.”
He argued that disclosure of the search warrant would preclude the government from monitoring the account, should such a step become necessary in the investigation. Machen added that “some investigations are continued for many years because, while the evidence is not yet sufficient to bring charges, it is sufficient to have identified criminal subjects and/or criminal activity serious enough to justify continuation of the investigation.”
Machen insisted the investigation would be compromised if Rosen was informed of the warrant, and also asked the court to order Google not to notify Rosen that the company had handed over Rosen’s e-mails to the government. Rosen, according to recent reports, did not learn that the government seized his e-mail records until it was reported in the Washington Post last week.
The new details indicate that the government wanted the option to search Rosen’s e-mails repeatedly if the F.B.I. found further evidence implicating the reporter in what prosecutors argued was a conspiracy to commit espionage.
According to recently unsealed documents in the case, the Obama Justice Department sought an extensive amount of information from Rosen’s e-mail account. In addition to Rosen’s correspondence with Kim, the government wanted to know about Rosen’s contacts with other government officials, including “records or information relating to the Author’s communication with any other source or potential source of the information disclosed in the Article.”
The government, which accused Rosen of being an “aider, abettor, and/or co-conspirator” in the Kim case, cast a wide net in its search of Rosen’s e-mail. Among other things, the search warrant requested access to:
—“Records or information related to Stephen Kim’s or the Author’s knowledge of laws, regulations, rules and/or procedures prohibiting the unauthorized disclosure of national defense or classified information.”
—“Any classified document, image, record, or information, and any communications concerning such documents, images, records, or information.”
—“Any document, image, record, or information concerning the national defense, including but not limited to documents, maps, plans, diagrams, guides, manuals, and other Department of Defense, U.S. military, and/or weapons material, as well as sources and methods of intelligence gathering, and any communications concerning such documents, images, records, or information.”
—“Records or information related to the state of mind of any individuals seeking the disclosure or receipt of classified, intelligence and/or national defense information.”
In addition, the Justice Department searched the account for any Internet services Rosen may have accessed and records of “data transfer volume,” suggesting the government was looking for evidence that Rosen downloaded large quantities of potentially classified information.
The new documents show that two judges separately declared that the Justice Department was required to notify Rosen of the search warrant, even if the notification came after a delay. Otherwise: “The subscriber therefore will never know, by being provided a copy of the warrant, for example, that the government secured a warrant and searched the contents of her e-mail account,” Judge John M. Facciola wrote in an opinion rejecting the Obama Administration’s argument.
Machen appealed that decision, and in September, 2010, Royce C. Lamberth, the chief judge in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, granted Machen’s request to overturn the order of the two judges.
Rosen was not indicted in the case. Kim was indicted for making unauthorized disclosures of national defense information and for making false statements to F.B.I. agents about his contacts with Rosen.
Yesterday, hours after President Obama said, in a speech at National Defense University, that he had asked Attorney General Eric Holder to review the Justice Department’s policies concerning investigations of the media, NBC News reported that the warrant to search Rosen’s e-mail account was personally approved by Holder.
Photograph by Maria Lokke.
CBS News: Someone was pulling data from Sharyl Attkisson’s computer; Update: CBS report added By Ed Morrissey
June 14, 2013
Remember this from last month? On the heels of the revelation that the Department of Justice had been snooping on James Rosen’s e-mails because of his attempt to gain classified information on the administration’s efforts on North Korea from a leaker, Sharyl Attkisson told Chris Stigall on his radio show that her computer had been mysteriously hacked. Attkisson, who has reported on Operation Fast and Furious and Benghazi and sparked ire from the White House while doing do, demurred on the source of the hacking but said CBS News was investigating it.
Erik Wemple reported earlier that CBS has corroborated Attkisson’s claim, and that whoever conducted it went after her material:
“A cyber security firm hired by CBS News has determined through forensic analysis that Sharyl Attkisson’s computer was accessed by an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasions late in 2012. Evidence suggests this party performed all access remotely using Attkisson’s accounts. While no malicious code was found, forensic analysis revealed an intruder had executed commands that appeared to involve search and exfiltration of data.
This party also used sophisticated methods to remove all possible indications of unauthorized activity, and alter system times to cause further confusion.
CBS News is taking steps to identify the responsible party and their method of access.”
Attkisson took to Twitter to report the official statement herself:
CBS Statement: A cyber security firm hired by CBS News has determined through forensic analysis that Sharyl Attkisson’s computer…
— Sharyl Attkisson (@SharylAttkisson) June 14, 2013
…was accessed by an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasions in late 2012."
— Sharyl Attkisson (@SharylAttkisson) June 14, 2013
What was going on in “late 2012″? Well, that would have been the controversy over the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi. And, checking the record, we see that Attkisson had a very interesting scoop on October 20th, relying on anonymous military sources that called into question the Obama administration’s claim that they couldn’t have responded in time to assist in the attack:
CBS News has been told that, hours after the attack began, an unmanned Predator drone was sent over the U.S. mission in Benghazi, and that the drone and other reconnaissance aircraft apparently observed the final hours of the protracted battle.
The State Department, White House and Pentagon declined to say what military options were available. A White House official told CBS News that, at the start of the attack, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “looked at available options, and the ones we exercised had our military forces arrive in less than 24 hours, well ahead of timelines laid out in established policies.”
But it was too late to help the Americans in Benghazi. The ambassador and three others were dead.
A White House official told CBS News that a “small group of reinforcements” was sent from Tripoli to Benghazi, but declined to say how many or what time they arrived.
Retired CIA officer Gary Berntsen believes help could have come much sooner. He commanded CIA counter-terrorism missions targeting Osama bin Laden and led the team that responded after bombings of the U.S. Embassy in East Africa.
“You find a way to make this happen,” Berntsen says. “There isn’t a plan for every single engagement. Sometimes you have to be able to make adjustments. They made zero adjustments in this. They stood and they watched and our people died.”
Until CBS News releases more from its investigation, we won’t know who hacked into Attkisson’s computer. It could have been a competitor, or someone else with a grudge against her, although one would expect that kind of hack to go after personal details rather than work product. Before the Rosen revelation, the DoJ would have been unthinkable as a suspect. If I were CBS now, though, I’d be executing a FOIA demand to know whether Eric Holder and the Department of Justice acquired a Rosen-like warrant on Attkisson in the days after that scoop went live.
Several months ago, Attkisson had reported suspected intrusions of her computers, including her CBS News work computer, prompting CBS News to hire a firm to look into the hacking.
Friday’s announcement comes on the heels of last month’s revelation that the Justice Department had seized the emails and phone records of Fox News correspondent James Rosen.
To be clear, the federal government has not been accused in the intrusion of Attkisson’s computer; CBS News is continuing to work to identify the responsible party.
To be sure, it doesn’t pay to jump to conclusions, but it also doesn’t pay to dismiss possibilities, either.