by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
doj, journalists, spying, surveillance

Think DOJ Spying On Reporters Was 'Unprecedented'? Think Again

from the common-practice dept

We've already written about how the DOJ has a bit of history of spying on journalists' phone records without following the rules, and that was only scratching the surface. On Monday we showed that to be the case with the revelation about the questionable spying on a Fox News reporter. The DOJ didn't just spy on him, but also suggested he was a co-conspirator, for merely doing basic journalism. Over at Mother Jones, Julian Sanchez has an article, which was written prior to the revelation about Rosen, but talking about how everyone claiming that the DOJ's actions with the AP are "unprecedented" is probably wrong. The Justice Department has a variety of loopholes it can jump through to claim spying on reporters is legal. Often, this seems to happen because the FBI/DOJ seem to believe that they get to interpret the rules however they want to interpret them with little or no oversight:
Only in January 2009 did the FBI think to ask the Justice Department's in-house lawyers whether the press restrictions apply when reporter records are obtained through indirect means such as community of interest requests. Government lawyers said yes, but the FBI concluded it didn't have to tell the press in the specific case it had inquired about, because agents had not "understood at the time the subpoenas were issued that the subpoenas called for reporters' records."
As he points out, the real story around all of this might not be the "unprecedented" nature of spying on reporters, but rather how common it is, without anyone knowing that it's happening (and while the DOJ's publicly stated rules suggest that this kind of spying won't happen).
The real scandal may be just how much snooping on the media the current rules permit. To fully understand the AP seizures, the media and the public need a clearer picture of the rules governing all forms of spying on media—and how often such info-grabs have happened. Maybe the seizure of AP records is an extraordinary case. Or maybe the only extraordinary thing is that we're hearing about it.
So, instead of being outraged about just how unprecedented these events appear to be, perhaps we should be outraged over how common they probably are -- and how the DOJ appears to have a totally cavalier attitude towards spying on journalists.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2013 @ 6:40pm

    That's only half of the story...

    Personally I'm glad to see some of these scandals are getting attention outside of Drudge.

    But along with how this administration, and in this case the DOJ seems to be able to write their own rules and do what they want are some facts that make this story a bit more chilling.

    Holder just testified last week to congress (under oath I believe) that he did not and would not do this...along with saying he recused himself from the AP scandal. Recused, but didn't write it down, remember when or tell anyone as far as I can tell.

    Now Obama had asked Eric Holder to investigate the situation, in effect to have Holder investigate Holder.

    These idiots must have a very large set to lie directly to congress and feel they are immune to any responsibility. To me that is so much more scary then saying they work in grey areas of the law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wally (profile), 24 May 2013 @ 7:17pm

    What is quite interesting is this issue still leads back to the Obama administration and totally suggests that this has been going on since he took office. I feel quite certain that it has been the case all along in spite of what political mouthpieces are saying. I don' care who you are but when you only go spying after the press when they start criticizing you,that should be grounds for an early retirement...too bad political mouth pieces are in majority against those who can actually think about what is right and wrong....Mike I will tell you that the worst of politics is being a political mouthpiece sheep no matter who you vote for...Being a political mouthpiece shows a huge lack of intellect and a lapse in free thinking. Total denial that their guy could be totally the wrong choice to run this nation when their guy is clearly royally screwing over the country you live in is the worst trait of the mouthpiece.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2013 @ 9:18pm

    One of the reasons we had a Revolution was over Writs of Assistance, now we have violations of the forth amendment used to violate the first amendment.
    This is Tyranny.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2013 @ 9:22pm


    I seem to recall that General Sherman had to be ordered not to execute reporters because reprort aren't spies. Sherman's response was, "They're worse than spies, because they'll tell anyone."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2013 @ 6:35am

    DOJ Oversight

    So, in our carefully considered system of checks and balances, who investigates and prosecutes the DOJ for their illegal actions.

    Interpret THIS DOJ!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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