Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice secretly obtained two months of phone records of Associated Press reporters–the latest in a long line of attacks on an open and free media coming from this Department of Justice (DOJ).
“The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a ‘massive and unprecedented intrusion’ into how news organizations gather the news,” the AP reported on Monday.
“The records obtained by the Justice Department listed 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, according to attorneys for the AP. In all, the government seized those records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012.
“The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices whose phone records were targeted on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.”
These newly discovered intrusions on the media from Holder and the DOJ are just the latest in a litany of others. As this reporter uncovered before the election, emails between now former Holder spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler and the leftwing advocacy organization Media Matters for America show the administration colluding with the far left-wing group to smear media figures, whistleblowers and members of Congress like Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Schmaler resigned her position at the DOJ after the story.
Issa called those who were targets of the Media Matters-DOJ attacks Obama’s “enemies list,” a reference to political targets of former President Richard Nixon.
“Not since Richard Nixon have we seen a president who puts together an enemies list and has a whole team pursuing it,” Issa said on Fox News in September. “That’s what’s happened in this administration. It’s sad. It’s not the America I want to see going forward. I sincerely hope that after the election, regardless, the American people will have made a statement that they won’t tolerate this.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) told radio host Ginny Simone of NRA News at the time that, “I promise you, we are going to have a nice, full public hearing on that.”
Gowdy said he’s “delighted to know they [the DOJ] took time away from suing my home state of South Carolina to do something other than plan their next lawsuit. But, I’m very disappointed that they took time away to try to coordinate with the media on how to embarrass some of us who have been critical of them.”
Holder is scheduled to testify on Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee, and one can imagine these issues will come up.
According to the AP, Holder himself is required by DOJ rules to sign off on any records requests from the media. “Justice Department published rules require that subpoenas of records from news organizations must be personally approved by the attorney general but it was not known if that happened in this case,” the AP wrote.
It is unclear what the DOJ was after, as the AP notes the government would not specify what it was seeking in the records. But the AP suggests the records desired include those relating to a May 7, 2012, article about a CIA operation in Yemen.
The congressional probe into the Operation Fast and Furious gunwalking program was nearing its height in those months, too, so the records Holder’s DOJ was seeking could relate to that scandal too. During that timeframe, House Speaker John Boehner pressed President Barack Obama, himself Holder’s superior, to force Holder to release the thousands of pages of documents the administration continues to refuse to allow Congress to see.
Months later, the full of House of Representatives voted on a bipartisan basis to hold Holder in contempt of Congress after President Obama asserted executive privilege over the documents. The president continues to assert that privilege but the House of Representatives is challenging the assertion in federal court.
The AP recently reported that it appears the case’s judge, an Obama appointee, is leaning towards ruling in the House Republicans’ favor.