The Obama Administration is obsessed with leaks. Not the information it carefully leaks on its own, but the leaked stories which prove inconvenient for the Administration’s carefully crafted narratives. This serves as an extension of the White House’s emphatic desire to control all media accounts of itself, and craft a positive image before the public. Thus, even in the case of national security, leaks are designed to enhance the Administration’s profile. For those that aren’t, the reporters better watch out.
“Administrations have always done exactly what Obama’s has: condemn leaks in public while leaking for its own benefit,” asserted Trevor Timm in the June 2012 issue of Foreign Policy magazine. “America’s finest journalism is often produced with the aid of classified information; The New York Times’ report on warrantless wiretapping and The Washington Post’s exposé on CIA secret prisons, both winners of the Pulitzer Prize, are just two of countless examples.” He calls this Obama’s “secret hypocrisy.” Indeed, the Administration did not go after the leakers of the Stuxnet story, nor the leakers of the “kill list” story, because those were sanctioned leaks.
More than hypocrisy, the Administration’s recent actions border on being a vendetta. No better example exists than the recent Associated Press scandal, in which the Justice Department subpoenaed a sweeping two months of AP phone records from Verizon Wireless last year without notifying the news organization-essentially giving the AP no chance to fight back in the courts. “Even beyond the outrageous and overreaching action against the journalists, this is a blatant attempt to avoid the oversight function of the courts,” wrote Lynn Oberlander, general counsel for the New Yorker. Had the Administration come to the Associated Press and asked for the records directly, “they would have had an opportunity to go to court to file a motion to quash the subpoenas,” he writes.
“What would have happened in court is anybody’s guess-there is no federal shield law that would protect reporters from having to testify before a criminal grand jury-but the Justice Department avoided the issue altogether by not notifying the AP that it even wanted this information.”
What has happened as a result of the Administration’s circumvention of the courts? Associated Press CEO Gary Pruitt says that sources are now hesitant to talk to the AP because they’re concerned that they’ll be monitored by the government.
“Sources, just in the normal course of news gathering, recently, say we don’t necessarily want to talk to you,” said Pruitt. “We don’t want our phone records monitored by the U.S. government.” The CEO argued that the seizure of these phone records is “unconstitutional.”