Eric Holder: Sure, I’m Cool With Snooping Around in James Rosen’s E-Mails
Remember how Attorney General Eric Holder recused himself from the decision to seize the phone records of more than 20 office, home and cell phone lines of Associated Press reporters? (Holder never wrote down his formal recusal, of course, so we have to take his word for it.) The recusal was because the Attorney General was conceivably a suspect of leaking the classified information and was at one point interviewed by the FBI.
His recusal also seemed to suggest he realized the Justice Department looking through reporters’ phone records represented a dramatic expansion of government investigation into how reporters do their work, and that maybe some political survival instinct wanted to keep that controversial move a degree separated from him.
Thursday we learned that Holder doesn’t really have any objection to the government looking around in a reporter’s phone records or e-mails.
Michael Isikoff: “Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a ‘possible co-conspirator’ in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails, a law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday.”
Lest you think this controversy just represents privileged members of the national news media thinking of themselves as special, a quick refresher: Of course it is often wrong to leak classified information. (I say “often” because our government considers a lot of information “classified,” and one way government officials can keep embarrassing information away from a public that has a right to know is to declare it classified.) But even going back to the Pentagon Papers, the crime was committed by the leaker, not by the reporter who received the information and published it. Judges have put injunctions on publishing information, but there has never been an implication that a reporter commits a crime by publishing classified information.
Until now, with Rosen. And while the DOJ hasn’t pursued charges yet, by naming James Rosen a co-conspirator in their affidavit, Eric Holder and company are leaving the door open to charge Rosen with conspiracy, a federal crime with a penalty of up to five years in jail and $250,000 fine. This is why it’s a big deal — even if Rosen never faces charges, the door has now been opened for some future prosecutor to charge reporters with a fairly serious crime, just for reporting information to the public. This is why most journalists you know are freaking out.
Kristina Ribali: “Will Holder punish Holder with administrative leave?”
John Stanton, the DC bureau chief of BuzzFeed: “So Eric Holder, who signed off on spying on media outfits, is going to head up the Obama administration’s review of its media spying rules.”