Associated Press targeted in secret government probe

Eric Holder's Department of Justice secretly seized AP phone records with no explanation. Photo: AP

CHICAGO, May 14, 2013 — “Dear General Holder: I am writing to object in the strongest possible terms to a massive and unprecedented intrusion by the Department of Justice into the newsgathering activities of The Associated Press…

…We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.” (Associated Press

On May 7, 2012, Associated Press (AP) reported on a C.I.A. operation to foil the detonation of an explosive device to be placed on a jetliner in Yemen. The plane was scheduled to fly to the United States.

The C.I.A. was able to stop the plot and recover the improvised explosive device. The bombing was supposed to occur on or around May 2, 2012, the one year anniversary of the capture and death of Osama bin Laden. 

At the request of government officials, the story was delayed. Once government officials related to Associated Press there was no national security jeopardy, the story was filed. The story was significant because the “White House had told the public it had no credible information that terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, are plotting attacks in the U.S. to coincide with the (May 2) anniversary of bin Laden’s death.”    

This past Friday, Associated Press was notified by the Department of Justice that it had seized phone records of more than 20 separate phone lines assigned to AP and its reporters. It is unknown how many journalists used the lines during the time of the probe, but over 100 journalists work in the targeted AP offices. There is no indication that actual phone calls were monitored. 

AP reports “The Justice Department secretly obtained the records”. The Justice Department seized the records from phone companies but refuses to reveal how the records were obtained. Some of the records seized were incoming and outgoing calls of the reporters and editor of the story.

It is not known if a subpoena(s) or warrant(s) were issued or whether there is or was a grand jury investigation. The government refused to tell AP why the phone records were seized. 

There is a supposed investigation to discover illegal leaks of national security information regarding the plot. It is inferred the records were seized to determine who leaked information to the reporters. 

Normally, news organizations are given advanced warnings of investigations regarding illegal leaking of information. They are offered an opportunity to cooperate with authorities. Investigations of this nature and their resultant warrant and subpoenas must be well defined and narrow in scope. There is no federal shield law protecting reporters or their sources. 

Gary Pruitt, President and CEO of Associated Press wrote a strongly worded letter to Attorney General Eric Holder protesting the actions of the Department of Justice. 

“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,” Pruitt said.” (AP) 

Associated Press is not saying how their reporters obtained or verified the information for the story. The fact that the government asked the story to be delayed was verification in and of itself. 

While it is illegal to leak classified information, the courts have ruled that it is not illegal to report leaked classified information. Whether it is irresponsible is subjective speculation. 

The actions of the DOJ against AP could be viewed as the government crying over spilled milk, as the timing makes it suspicious. The story comes on the heels of the IRS finally acknowledging and apologizing for their actions against various groups filing for non-profit status prior to the 2012 election.

It also comes as more revelations about the Benghazi incident are contradicting the administrations accounts. The AP story contradicted the administrations spin on terrorism. 

Is this a case of national security or, once again, embarrassing the administration and its scripted narrative? If perception is the new reality, the latter may be truer than the former. This administration cannot handle all of their failures or scandals. Their consistent response is either to spin the story favorably without determining what went wrong and fixing it, or worse, claiming there is no story. 

Investigating and holding responsible the perpetrators of failure and scandal is out of the question. Investigating those who participate with the news media is the norm. Now the news media itself is being secretly investigated. That is chilling. 

Eric Holder’s stewardship of the Department of Justice will only be known for one thing and one thing only, protecting his boss, the president. Organized crime is running rampant in our large cities and other areas of the country. Major street gang organizations and their drug cartel partners are wreaking havoc, murder and mayhem. Eric Holder has done little or nothing to assist local law enforcement in crushing and dismantling these organized criminal enterprises. Doing that would not be politically correct or palatable. 

Instead, Holder is working overtime to give his boss cover or retaliate against any person or entity that exposes the failures and scandals of this administration. He is following the playbook of Robert F. Kennedy. Bobby Kennedy was made attorney general to protect his brother the president.

Bobby Kennedy was a serial civil rights violator. He authorized the use of illegal F.B.I wiretaps and had no qualms about the gaining illegally obtained information from F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover, a man he thoroughly despised. 

There is major difference between Eric Holder and President Obama, and Kennedy and Hoover. Kennedy and Hover were competent. Their activities were not discovered until long after they occurred.

Holder and Obama continually get caught like naughty little kids in short pants. The real scandal of the Obama administration is its sheer incompetence. They cannot even get the cover ups right. 

Eric Holder has no credibility as Attorney General of the United States. The nation should have no confidence in him. Instead of acting as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, he is the administration’s chief political enforcer and hit man. 

Any honest intelligence, counter intelligence or national security professional will tell you that no matter how tightly information is compartmentalized, guarded or deeply buried, there are no secrets. There is this funny little problem of recruiting people from the human race, with all its foibles and imperfections. 

The AP story was reported. There was no harm or foul. National security was not compromised, threatened or put in jeopardy. This is one case where Eric Holder and his political hatchet men should just move on. It happened a long time ago. What difference does it make now? Forward!






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Peter Bella

Peter Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance photographer, freelance writer, budding videographer, and passionate cook.  He aims to be the sharp stick that pokes and annoys.  The Middle Class Guy is a political column written from a center-right point of view.  While concentrating mainly on politics he will stray into culture, entertainment, sports, cooking, and humor from time to time, along with Memories of things Pabst.  All from a middle class perspective.

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