DOJ Unconcerned About The Constitution, Obtained AP Reporters' Phone Records

from the freedom-of-the-press?-ha!-what's-that? dept

We’ve talked quite a bit about how the federal government has been pretty aggressively shattering any remnants of the 4th amendment, and while there are some parts of the 1st amendment that are still respected, our government doesn’t always seem so keen on that one either. Apparently, they’ve decided to kill two birds with one stone recently, in obtaining a broad collection of phone records concerning Associated Press journalists, which is almost certainly in violation of the law. The AP only just found out about this on Friday, despite the data already being obtained, and covering more than 20 separate phone lines (including work, home and mobile phones) for multiple AP journalists — and a period covering approximately two months in early 2012. The AP has sent a quite reasonably angry letter to Attorney General Holder about this collection.

There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.

That the Department undertook this unprecedented step without providing any notice to the AP, and without taking any steps to narrow the scope of its subpoenas to matters actually relevant to an ongoing investigation, is particularly troubling.

The sheer volume of records obtained, most of which can have no plausible connection to any ongoing investigation, indicates, at a minimum, that this effort did not comply with 28 C.F.R. §50.10 and should therefore never have been undertaken in the first place. The regulations require that, in all cases and without exception, a subpoena for a reporter’s telephone toll records must be “as narrowly drawn as possible.’’ This plainly did not happen

The AP also (again, quite reasonably) notes that this appears to be a “serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news” and demand that the government destroy all copies of the data it received.

This really is an incredibly broad move by the government. Especially when it comes to reporters, the government has generally respected the right for reporters to keep their sources private, even if this administration has been known to threaten reporters if they won’t reveal sources. In case you’re wondering the law here is pretty clear about the limitations on getting this kind of info.

There should be reasonable ground to believe that a crime has been committed and that the information sought is essential to the successful investigation of that crime. The subpoena should be as narrowly drawn as possible; it should be directed at relevant information regarding a limited subject matter and should cover a reasonably limited time period. In addition, prior to seeking the Attorney General’s authorization, the government should have pursued all reasonable alternative investigation steps as required by paragraph (b) of this section.

I’m sure that Eric Holder will try to tapdance around this one as well, but the claims here are very serious. On the positive side, perhaps this will finally help the press wake up to the continued expansion of the federal government’s surveillance operations and their general disdain for the constitution if it helps them go after whoever they want. The press likes to go nuts when some startup accidentally leaks some data or tracks what people are doing online, but routinely ignores how the government seems to feel entitled to any bit of private data about anyone, often without a warrant. Perhaps having the press have their records taken will wake some of them up to the fact that it impacts them as well (perhaps even more than others).

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Comments on “DOJ Unconcerned About The Constitution, Obtained AP Reporters' Phone Records”

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44 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

We are now in a full-blown totalitarian state

…and nobody cares.

Eric Holder is at least busy when he is spying on the 4th estate. Not so busy when he is avoiding investigating and prosecuting Too Big To Prosecutve bankers for being instrumental in some $15 trillion in global asset transfers from the middle to the upper classes (and counting at a pace of $160 billion per month).

In summary: Obama has a free ride from the press and he is even going to fuck that up….classic

So, let’s see if the AP reporters finally take off their kneepads…

anonymouse says:

Re: We are now in a full-blown totalitarian state

The one problem is the press have not done there job in investigating and bringing fraudulent activity to the peoples attention and decrying it, they have protected the government on both sides of the isle by not investigating them, surely the press should be reporting the news and investigating it. I don’t feel sorry for them they have helped this situation we are in where spying on American citizens has been happening openly for many many years, they have even supported it .

They are the ones who should be screaming on the front pages about corruption and government blackmail and the fact that congress only has a 13% approval rating.

They should be explaining what this means to people and explaining how both sides of the isle are corrupt.

But no they don’t want to get involved because their financial backer are some of those involved in the corruptions.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Constitution or not?

As our government moves away from the people and adherence to the constitution the question becomes what does one do about it. Most folks do not know about these issues, mostly because soap operas and major media do not cover them. I have condemned PBS in the past for their stance in the obfuscation of these things, but there is an effort afoot.

http://www.pbs.org/tpt/constitution-usa-peter-sagal/home/

I hope they actually put some meat into it. I only saw portions of the first segment, and was interested. I will need to watch it, since I just found it above.

Along with information, there needs to be some plan, or as a strategist might say, plan of attack. There is only so much one can do as an individual, given the Citizens United decision. I would argue for taking ALL independent money out of politics and fund elections solely by the the government, whereby someone with no money could win the presidency solely by his positions and ability to expound that. Here’s another idea:

http://www.ted.com/talks/lawrence_lessig_we_the_people_and_the_republic_we_must_reclaim.html

I am not sure, yet, about all of his conclusions, but it is sure a hell of a lot simpler that what I envision.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Most folks do not know about these issues, mostly because soap operas and major media do not cover them.”

This is no excuse as the Criminality isn’t “hidden in plain view” anymore. It’s has been for quite some time now, out in the open for everyone to see.

Fast & Furious

Bengazi

Libor

MF Global

Torture

Rendition

NDAA / Patriot Act I II / John Warner Defense Act

Illegal Wire Tapping

Illegal Wars of Aggression

War Crimes / Murder

Arming, Funding, and Training AL CIA duh and destabilization campaigns into soverign countries

CIA drug running and arming the Sinoloa Mexican drug cartels to fund the Black Ops and laundering the money through the TBTF tax payer bail out Criminal Banksters.

ShellMG (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You can also add using the IRS to go after conservative and libertarian 501(c)(4) applicants. The IRS demanded their donor lists, names of friends and relatives, printouts of any and all social media account pages (Facebook and more), and so on. The demands were so twisted and unconstitutional the groups simply gave up and tried to shoulder the costs themselves.

Davey (profile) says:

Power corrupts

When the government is given the means and power to broadly investigation, they will investigate broadly. We’ve recently learned that the IRS probably abused its power to investigate non-profit organization. Today, this activity is news. I think we’d better get ready for a deluge of similar revelations… and the government will wave the fig leaf of a criminal investigation and claim that it is all legal, if not completely ethical.

ShellMG says:

Re: great big story

The best guess as to why the DOJ spied and the AP learned about it is press intimidation. Until very recently The Press has been marching to his tune, but Obama does not like to have his will questioned. It makes him angry.

Now let’s see if the press gets mad, turns and fights, or plays dumb and continues to dance along.

Crashoverride (profile) says:

I was actually going to submit this story but for a differing reason… the reason the Justice department was so upset with the AP was it revealed yet one more US Government would be bomber… as in the bomber was actually a good guy the whole time planted by the US.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/13/ap-phone-records-doj-leaks_n_3268932.html
“It was later revealed that the “would-be bomber” was actually a U.S. spy planted in the Yemen-based group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. On May 18, U.S. and allied officials suggested to Reuters that the leak to the AP had forced the end of an “operation which they hoped could have continued for weeks or longer.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Not news

I remind you, journalism is a form of stenography:

“Let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works. The President makes decisions. He’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ’em through a spell check and go home.”

Print approved leaks, and not unapproved leaks, or you will be punished. It’s simple.

silverscarcat says:

Re: Re: Re:

At least Nixon managed to get stuff done.

Got off the gold standard, got us out of Vietnam (though he did some stupid crap along the way with that), opened up relations with China, started the EPA, ended the draft…

And lots more.

Seriously, if you look at what he managed to accomplish in 5-6 years, it was a LOT more than most Presidents have ever done.

Criminal he might have been, but Nixon was actually a good President when he was doing his job.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘perhaps this will finally help the press wake up to the continued expansion of the federal government’s surveillance operations and their general disdain for the constitution’

even more important, perhaps it will wake up everyone else as well and make them realise that the things the USA was founded on are now just distant ideals and the country has become the very thing it fought against in the beginning

Anonymous Coward says:

i would imagine the main reason Holder is in the position he is, is because of his ability to dance around issues, never giving straight answers and being able to justify various happenings by giving the most vague and ridiculous excuses. when he is out of the privileged position that he currently occupies, he will still be one of those that dont have to contend with the surveillance, lack of privacy and freedom that ordinary people do, so he wont give a shit anyway. the way he managed to not answer questions put to him last year by Senator Wyden was amazing and how he didn’t get charged with anything is beyond me!

Kevin Flynn (profile) says:

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Just goes to show, no matter what the guy in the big White House says, it’s still business as usual in the offices inside the Beltway.

Although, those yelling ‘thanks Obama’ should probably remember that he doesn’t sign off, or even know about, everything the Government does. Most departments of which are still headed by Bush-era appointees, [that’s GW and HW Bush!] when they’re not being run by Regan or Nixon era guys. Hence the political inertia.

Still nothing new though… anyone else remember what Watergate was all about?

notalawyer (user link) says:

Re: 38

has to do with the current state of legal protection insuring a free press. not a set of rights to be abused, but one to be legally defended by the organizations that profit from our constitutionally protected right to and need for free press.

the court did not pursue to break the law here, the doj did.

now it is still a matter for the court system.

Ed the Engineer says:

The problem is at least partly one of continuity.

I will be the first to say that Obama is a disappointment, he is not the reformer I hoped for after Bush. However, one thing to remember, there is a great deal of continuity in the administration, president to president. While the chiefs are generally replaced, most of the indians are not. It is easy to imagine a lot of influence up the chain, as well as down. “Well, we always did it this way” and “Last time this came up, we…” That is what is so concerning these behaviors. Every time extreme measures are taken, a precedent is set. The next time, what was viewed as extreme, becomes normal. Our laws and regulations evolve in that environment.

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