Tags: Department of Justice

Justice Is Blind . . . and Sometimes Deaf and Mute


The scoreboard at the end of the week:

U.S. Marine Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi: Still jailed in Mexico.

Bowe Bergdahl: Back on active duty, now out in public.

The Taliban Five: At large.

Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas: Detained for several hours and then released with notice to appear before an immigration judge.

Obama critic Dinesh D’Souza: Awaiting sentencing for a guilty plea to a criminal count of making illegal contributions in the names of others.

Attempted presidential assassin John Hinckley Jr: Still dividing time between a mental hospital and 17 days a month visiting his mother’s hometown of Williamsburg, Va.

Tags: Department of Justice , Bowe Bergdahl

Reporters Should Just CC Eric Holder on
All E-Mails From Now On


The last Morning Jolt of the week features a look at Lois Lerner, and the cowboy hero that President Obama seeks to emulate, and . . . 

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.”

Eric Holder, second from left, at a ceremony earlier this year formally burying the traditional legal understanding of the First Amendment.

Tags: Eric Holder , Department of Justice , James Rosen , Fox News

All of Obama’s Scandals Are Ultimately About Information Control


There’s really no reason for the press to suggest that the recent slew of scandals involving the Obama administration — Benghazi, the AP phone-record seizure, the snooping in James Rosen’s e-mail, the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups, and so on — are a confusing jumble. There is a very clear thread running through all of the administration’s actions:

* The U.S. deputy chief of mission in Libya, Gregory Hicks, says that he was told not to speak to a member of Congress about Benghazi without a State Department lawyer present, that he received a phone call from Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff disapproving of his discussion with Representative Jason Chaffetz, and that he was “effectively demoted” afterwards.

* The controversy over the editing of the “talking points” revolves around the steady deletion of factual information from the explanation to the American people, leading to the emphasis of a protest that the U.S. personnel on the ground did not report.

* In an effort to ferret out leaks, the Department of Justice secretly reviewed the phone records of at least 20 phone lines of Associated Press reporters — their work, home, and cell-phone lines. The move is unprecedented and has journalists up in arms because it means that a journalist can no longer guarantee the confidentiality of any phone conversation with a source that wishes to not be publicly identified.

* The Department of Justice went before a judge and alleged that Fox News reporter James Rosen was a criminal “co-conspirator” in leaking classified information, in order to access his personal e-mail accounts. No reporter has ever been prosecuted as a co-conspirator under the Espionage Act; in all previous cases, it has been used to prosecute the leaker of classified information, not the recipient. The classified information in question was an analyst’s assessment that North Korea would respond to new U.N. sanctions with another nuclear test.

* In another bit of punishment for whistleblowers, the Department of Justice Inspector General determined that former Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke leaked a document smearing Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent John Dodson, an Operation Fast and Furious whistle-blower. The IG concluded that “his explanations for why he did not believe his actions were improper were not credible.”

* Despite all these ruthless efforts to stop leaks elsewhere in government, the Cincinnati office of the IRS leaked unapproved applications for nine conservative groups to the media web site ProPublica. The IRS separately released confidential information about the National Organization for Marriage. The IRS asserted, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration concluded, the releases were “inadvertent.” The problem with the “inadvertent” explanation is that the Human Rights Campaign said they were sent the private IRS filing from NOM via a “whistleblower.”

* The Environmental Protection Agency waived their fees for Freedom of Information Act requests from “green” or environmental groups while keeping them in place for conservative groups.

All of these actions involve an effort to control information.

Some parts of this administration focus on preventing information that is contrary to the administration’s agenda from getting out, or hindering its distribution, and making sure that the only information that goes out supports the perspective of the administration. Other parts leak confidential information designed to attack the reputations of those holding perspectives the administration opposes (NOM, the nine conservative groups) or other whistleblowers (ATF agent Dodson).

This administration prefers to keep the inconvenient parts of the story obscured in darkness.

Tags: Barack Obama , IRS , Benghazi , Department of Justice

Who Still Has Faith in Eric Holder?


From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Holder Melts Down

Can anyone, with a straight face, argue that Eric Holder should remain as Attorney General, and the country can have faith in his abilities and judgment in the coming months and years? I mean, apparently he doesn’t even write things down anymore:

Lawmakers skewered Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday over the Justice Department’s sweeping effort to snoop on Associated Press reporters and editors — while the embattled Cabinet secretary kicked responsibility down the chain of command.

Holder was in the hot seat for hours of testimony before the House Judiciary Committee just days after the scandal broke, telling lawmakers that his deputy, James Cole, was the one who authorized the sweeping subpoena that caused an uproar in both parties.

“It’s an ongoing matter and an ongoing matter in which I know nothing,” Holder said.

Holder says he recused himself from the matter completely — but in an embarrassing admission, he said he hasn’t found a written record of that action.

Dana Milbank rips Holder to shreds:

As the nation’s top law enforcement official, Eric Holder is privy to all kinds of sensitive information. But he seems to be proud of how little he knows.

Why didn’t his Justice Department inform the Associated Press, as the law requires, before pawing through reporters’ phone records?

“I do not know,” the attorney general told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday afternoon, “why that was or was not done. I simply don’t have a factual basis to answer that question.”

Why didn’t the DOJ seek the AP’s cooperation, as the law also requires, before issuing subpoenas?

“I don’t know what happened there,” Holder replied. “I was recused from the case.”

Why, asked the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), was the whole matter handled in a manner that appears “contrary to the law and standard procedure”?

“I don’t have a factual basis to answer the questions that you have asked, because I was recused,” the attorney general said.

On and on Holder went: “I don’t know. I don’t know. .  .  . I would not want to reveal what I know. .  .  . I don’t know why that didn’t happen. .  .  . I know nothing, so I’m not in a position really to answer.”

What do you know that Eric Holder doesn’t know? A lot, apparently.

Tags: Eric Holder , Department of Justice

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