Anorak News | Obama’s AP swoop ‘redefines investigative reporting as criminal behaviour’

Obama’s AP swoop ‘redefines investigative reporting as criminal behaviour’

by | 21st, May 2013

Eugne Robinson on Obama and the seizure of AP journalists’ records:

The Obama administration has no business rummaging through journalists’ phone records, perusing their e-mails and tracking their movements in an attempt to keep them from gathering news. This heavy-handed business isn’t chilling, it’s just plain cold. . . .The unwarranted snooping, which was revealed last week, would be troubling enough if it were an isolated incident. But it is part of a pattern that threatens to redefine investigative reporting as criminal behavior.

Jack Shafer:

The AP story that has so infuriated the government described the breakup of an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula plot to place an underwear bomber on board a U.S.-bound airliner. Published on the afternoon of May 7, 2012, the story patted itself on the back for having heeded the White House and CIA requests to not publish the previous week, when the AP first learned of the operation. The AP states in the article that it published only after being told by “officials” that the original “concerns were allayed.” In a chronology published in today’s Washington Post, we’re told that the CIA was no longer resisting publication of the AP story on the day it hit the wire (Monday) and that the White House was planning to “announce the successful counterterrorism operation that Tuesday.”

That may be the case, but the government was still incensed by the leak. In fact, it appears that officials were livid. As my Reuters colleagues Mark Hosenball and Tabassum Zakaria reportedlast night, the government found the leak so threatening that it opened a leak investigation beforethe AP ran its story…

…the perpetrators of a successful double-agent operation against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula would not want to brag about their coup for years. Presumably, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula will now use the press reports to walk the dog back to determine whose misplaced trust allowed the agent to penetrate it. That will make the next operation more difficult. Other intelligence operations — and we can assume they are up and running — may also become compromised as the press reports give al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula new clues.

Likewise, the next time the CIA or foreign intelligence agency tries to recruit a double agent, the candidate will judge his handlers wretched secret keepers, regard the assignment a death mission and seek employment elsewhere.


What makes the DOJ’s actions so stunning here is its breadth. It’s the opposite of a narrowly tailored and limited scope. It’s a massive, sweeping, boundless invasion which enables the US government to learn the identity of every person whom multiple AP journalists and editors have called for a two-month period. Some of the AP journalists involved in the Yemen/CIA story and whose phone records were presumably obtained – including Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo – are among the nation’s best and most serious investigative journalists; those two won the Pulitzer Prize last year for their superb work exposing the NYPD’s surveillance program aimed at American Muslim communities. For the DOJ to obtain all of their phone records and those of their editors for a period of two months is just staggering.

Kelsey D. Atherton:

When the Supreme Court set the legal precedent back in 1979, phone records contained much less information. Nowadays, a phone record’s metadataincludes not just the phone number, but the time the call took place, the call origin, the call duration, and the carrier.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the protection of digital rights, said in a statement released [Monday] that it “no longer makes sense to treat calling records and other metadata related to our communications as if they aren’t fully protected by the Constitution.”

Electronic communications have improved drastically since the legal precedent was set, and the amount of revealing data now transferred with a phone call is far greater than just a telephone number. But the law has yet to catch up with technology—which means the Justice Department has access to a lot more than just the numbers dialed by the AP’s journalists.

Massimo Calabresi nails Obama:

Obama came into office offering Americans a deal on secrecy. On the one hand, he promised to shrink the number of secrets created by the government, ending the problem of “overclassification” which produces so many secrets that few are well protected. At the same time, he said he would aggressively defend the secrets the government did need to keep by going after leakers and making them pay. Obama has delivered on the crackdown–he’s prosecuted twice as many leakers as all his predecessors combined–but he hasn’t delivered on the secrecy reduction.

Why the secrecy..?

Posted: 21st, May 2013 | In: Politicians Comment | TrackBack | Permalink