On the heels of news that the Obama administration Department of Justice was spying on reporters at the Associated Press, Monday brought the startling disclosure by the Washington Post that the DOJ had also targeted Fox reporter James Rosen for surveillance in an effort to plug up leaks.
Additionally, the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza obtained the full application for a search warrant of Rosen’s personal email account, in which the DOJ accused him of being “an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator.” As Lizza put it, “Rosen was not charged with any crime, but it is unprecedented for the government, in an official court document, to accuse a reporter of breaking the law for conducting the routine business of reporting on government secrets.”
These investigations are shocking when taken alone, but as as Reason’s J.D. Tuccille notes, it’s important to consider these events in their broader context of the Obama administration’s long-running war against the free press. Last year, Bloomberg reported that Attorney General Eric Holder “has prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the World War I-era Espionage Act than all his predecessors combined, including law-and-order Republicans John Mitchell, Edwin Meese and John Ashcroft.” The administration has also received a failing grade for its ignoring of Freedom of Information Act requests.
Taken together, all such actions have a toll. They mean that federal officials are less likely to blow the whistle on government wrongdoing and that journalists are less likely to obtain damning information that they can pass along to the public. The suggestion by the DOJ that Rosen broke the law, if followed to its logical conclusion, would mean the end of investigative journalism in America.
During his first term, liberal journalists often remarked at how “scandal free” the administration was, despite Solyndra, Fast and Furious and other revelations. But maybe what really happened is that the administration’s concerted effort to suppress the reporting of news was actually quite successful.