Feds Got Reporter's Phone, Credit Card & Bank Records In Trying To Track Leaker

from the going-too-far dept

Back in January, when I saw Daniel Ellsberg speak, one of the things he noted was how much more aggressive the Obama administration appeared to be in going after leakers than any previous administration. Ellsberg’s theory — which he admitted was based on just his intuition — was that President Obama is actually quite embarrassed by some of the things he’s doing and is, thus, more aggressive in trying to stop leaks, knowing that his actions are damaging his reputation. I don’t know if that’s true, but there is growing evidence of the level of questionable activities from the Obama administration even in going after leakers. Ellsberg noted at the time that the Obama administration has brought more indictments for leaking than all other presidents combined before him.

The latest is the report that came out late last week that the government, in going after leakers, got access to reporter James Risen’s phone records, bank details and credit card statements. As the report notes, this is pretty extreme:

Although there have been other public controversies over subpoenas — real and threatened — to reporters in recent years, there have been few, if any, cases in which it has been documented that federal prosecutors obtained the bank records and credit reports of journalists.

It’s not entirely clear if all of these activities took place under the Obama administration or previous administrations, but multiple people quoted in the article say this kind of activity has been much more common in the Obama Justice Department. For a President who has positioned himself as being a big supporter of press freedoms, this looks really hypocritical. Spying on reporters is bad. As the report notes, Risen was subpoenaed directly twice, but both times a judge reasonably quashed the subpoenas. So, for the administration to basically go around all that and get records from others is pretty bad.

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Comments on “Feds Got Reporter's Phone, Credit Card & Bank Records In Trying To Track Leaker”

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cc (profile) says:

I’m not American, so perhaps it’s not my place to say this, but doesn’t anyone else feel that Obama is doing exactly the opposite things of what he promised during election time?

I mean, not just not keeping promises (as is the nature of most politicians), but turning around and kicking the people who voted for him in the groin…?

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re: Re:

but doesn’t anyone else feel that Obama is doing exactly the opposite things of what he promised during election time

Only those honest about reality. Sadly, most people have an “it’s okay if it’s my political party doing it” outlook, so they’ll march against something Bush does one week and then applaud Obama for doing the same thing next week.

Justin says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What? I’m guessing you didn’t FTFA?

“the Obama administration appeared to be in going after leakers than any previous administration.”

Man, liberalism really is a disease and once infected you are nothing more than a useful idiot. And I mean that in the most polite way possible.

What really gets me here is that apparently Daniel Ellsberg has caught it too (surprise!)

“Ellsberg’s theory — which he admitted was based on just his intuition — was that President Obama is actually quite embarrassed by some of the things he’s doing”

Yeah, I’m sure Obama is REALLY embarrassed! All that would tell me is that he’s either really stupid, or believes very little in what he’s going in the first place. What type of motive for doing “some of the things he’s doing” would he have to have to be embarrassed exactly? Do you think you would ever hear Bush or Cheney say they were embarrassed? I didn’t think so, because regardless of what you were brainwashed into believing they had resolve in the fact that (at least to them) what they were doing was the right thing to do.

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I’m not interested in getting into a fight or distracted, so I won’t follow this thread.

There is a lot more to a presidency than x or y. This admin has done badly in some areas and better than average (imo) in others. The next pres, one way or other, might do even worse in going after people.. or not. In any case, I’ll try to work with whatever we get.

cc (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

This two-party problem is not only endemic to the US, tbh. I think it’s a very dangerous problem to have, and I wish there were a way more people gave it some thought (can we put that down to lack of education, or too much indoctrination?).

While people keep voting for the same two (well-lobbied, well-funded, identical except in name, full of shit) parties, the same two parties stay in power. Kind of a truism there, I think, and I wonder if it’s the kind of thinking you just described that perpetuates the problem.

I mean, if people voted for others besides the two main parties, isn’t there a chance there are just enough disillusioned individuals out there to make a difference? Problem is, there’s no way to force people to think for themselves*, and the propaganda pushed out by the main parties seems to make people’s minds fizz out in the voting booth.

* Even if I’m wrong, and it’s true that it’s not worth voting for anyone except the two majors, I find the fact that I rarely see this issue debated online or offline to be quite worrying. But maybe it is being debated and I never noticed.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Thank you for your courage and for your bravery in the face of overwhelming odds. Thank you for standing up for your beliefs and standards.

When given the choice of which slave master you should bow down to, did you do something foolish like your forefathers who died fighting? No, you stood up and boldly asked, “Which one is more likely to give me health care?”

When decisions which would effect your life, your childrens’ lives, and so on down, were staring you in the face, did you back down? Absolutely not. No, you stood proudly and shouted, “Who is going to win? I’m behind that guy!”

When you saw a choice between two evils, did you cowardly shy away? Of course not. Not you. Why, you’re a man of fortitude! A man of lesser morals might have shirked those evils altogether. But not you; you stood faithfully to your ideals and said, “I pick the evil that is not quite so evil.”

Again, I salute you good sir. Your show of undaunted courage is an inspiration to us all.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

So what’s the solution then? Protest by not voting? Voting for a third party candidate who doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning?

Your choice is evil #1 (Republican), evil #2 (Democrat), potential, but unknown evil #3 (third party candidate), or giving up. I don’t have the time or the money to try to convince other voters to vote for a worthwhile candidate. Can’t afford to move, my family is here, not sure where I’d move to, so I can’t leave the country.

What’s your solution?

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“So what’s the solution then? Protest by not voting? Voting for a third party candidate who doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning?”

No the solution is to defund the politicians by wiping out their sources of funding. Solve the energy crisis and push energy to $5 USD per Mwh, that wipes out the energy companies. Reverse the aging process, that wipes out pharma because most diseases are age related. Develop Quantum Entanglement Communications, that wipes out the telcom companies and the content industry. Develop educational games software for education and get it certified at high school and university levels, this removes the high cost of education.

So on and so forth … remove the monopolies one by one and the two party system comes crashing down. It also saves people a ton of money.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

You research the candidate you think most closely represents you the way you want to be represented. If none are found to your liking, you run yourself. Even if your candidate doesn’t win, the democrats and republicans are looking at who people are voting for and why. If they see a large group of people starting to vote for the green party (just to pick one random example), they will start to have more green party type policies in their agenda to try to win their vote before the other party does. Who you vote for can have an impact even if that person doesn’t win.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

That’s exactly the problem. You’re only one person. The guy I vote for (even if he wins) is only one person. Etc, etc. If everybody thinks like this we end up with what we have and we never get out. Start doing what you think is right, and tell others to do the same. Eventually we’ll get out of this trap.

As far as having time, start local. Most city or county politicians are not full time and only work a few nights per week, so consider it a second job. Plus it’s a lot cheaper to run. If you’re successful there you’ll have a better idea of whether you can be successful higher up. Or get together with other like minded individuals and promote someone who does have time and resources.

The point is that if you want politicians that represent you, you have to be politically active, whether that is running, supporting or just voting. If you aren’t willing to do those things, and continue to vote for the “lesser of two evils” when you know that they aren’t who you’d like to win, then don’t complain because you’re not helping out. At best you’re doing nothing to get us out of this trap, at worst you’re making the hole deeper.

Joe Publius says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’d really like a ‘reboot government’ button.

A couple spring to mind. There’s the amendment process to the Constitution. There’s also revolution.

Unfortunately, I don’t know if the average citizen has the wherewithal to insist on either one, even if they wanted it. Until then we ramble along on the system we have.

Though I’m pretty cynical about such things, when people have a good idea and genuinely care about it, this form of government still has the potential to surprise Then again, I think that citizen apathy and complacency, along with beauraucratic inertia have become far stronger forces.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Ahh, yes, reporters are immune to investigation. It’s right there in the constitution.

No one said that reporters are immune from investigation. Why would you make that up?

What is true is that reporters have certain privacy rights — particularly towards sources — which the government ignored here. And it wasn’t the *reporter* being investigated, but the leaker. And the reporter should have the right to protect his own privacy. That *is* in the Constitution.

ECA (profile) says:

Hard to think about

I was taught a few strange things while in school(long ago).
HOW Gov. was supposed to work.

Starting with small groups on the bottom..
Cities, counties, States..

Deciding and discussing things, and finally bringing it Forward to the Fed.

That each layer was VISIBLE and easy to see and KNOW what was happening.
That positions in the Gov. were MOSTLY an honored position. PAY wasnt that great and it was for the SMARTER/LEARNED persons.

Now we have Carrier politicians. People who REALLY havnt done much, EXCEPT run for offices.
WHAT education and abilities do you NEED to get those positions? 99% of Gov. jobs are not elected. But, we still have idiots In positions of power, that WERE NOT ELECTED.

Let us go back to the OLD days where working an elected position WASNT a job. Give a stipend(allowance) for room/board/travel…and THEN let them go home to a REAL JOB.

PlagueSD says:

Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

That’s the opening paragraph for the memo. He just forgot to tell us about the “brick wall” between us and his “transparent” administration…


Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies

No, no. You don’t get it. Being open and transparent is part of his intellectual property. These leakers are infringing on that. Transparency is his trademark, so he has to fight to keep it from becoming generic. All these people leaking stuff are diluting that trademark. They’re also infringing on his patented transparency. If they want to be transparent, they need to pay the license fee. This is how the budget will be balanced. You’ll see. He’d have filed the lawsuits already, but Texas being a red state, he’s unsure whether he should sue in east Texas or not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Anytime you demonize lobbyists while on the political trail, then turn around and hold meetings outside the White House were there won’t be visitor logs to be checked, you know someone is embarrassed. It’s called CYA. He needs the lobbyists to tell him what he doesn’t know since he doesn’t know crapola about running businesses. But he’s already on the record as not wanting them. He can’t now turn around and say lobbyists are cool or ok. To do so would toilet what little is left of his creditability.

Obama campaigned on Change. Boy it sure looks like the last administration from Gitmo to Afghanistan, from continuing to spy on the citizens to not really being serious about dealing with out of control spending.

As someone else mentioned, voting in today’s politicial candidates is akin to using the same sock puppet and reversing it to the other side of the glove. It’s still the same glove, only it looks slightly different. There is no real change in the sense of returning sanity to the field and actually working to improve or address the citizen’s lot.

Corporatism has purchased government and it will take a fight for the citizens of the country to get it back.

Philip (profile) says:

Leak to litigation ratio?

Something has been pawing in the back of my head, and i could be completely out of loop here.

Could the perceived aggressiveness be more related to the number of leaks? Quite frankly, we’ve seen more leaks in the past year than we had in the last 20 (or more) years. It’s nuts! It’s like the US government just popped a giant hemroid.

And something that was mentioned in the past, in defense of Bush; the president has little control over several aspects of the government. He’s just a figure head. As a matter of fact, this was brought up in defense of McCain, too. Saying it didn’t matter who got elected because of that.
I really, really wish our government was more transparent. I’d love to see how much actual interaction, and influence the president really has in these matters. Hell, it could be a positive factor for Bush if you can prove he didn’t have control.

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