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Ex-Obama adviser David Axelrod: Spying on journalists 'disturbing'

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Former White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the Obama administration has some “real issues” regarding its increasingly strained relationship with the media after recent reports that the Justice Department has spied on journalists in investigating national security leaks.

But Mr. Axelrod, who ran President Obama’s re-election campaign, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program that the Justice Department’s alleged targeting of journalists isn’t as egregious as the Nixon administration’s wiretapping efforts because that was done for the late president’s political benefit.

“I don’t think that’s happening here,” he said.

Revelations surfaced last week that Justice investigators targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen in 2010 by monitoring his telephone records and emails and tracking his movements in and out of the State Department. Investigators apparently were looking into how Mr. Rosen obtained information for a 2009 story on North Korea. 

The news came as the administration already was under fire for reportedly spying on reporters and editors at The Associated Press in probing another national security leak. 

While not condoning the actions, Mr. Axelrod said the White House must carefully balance how best to protect national security and the freedom of the press, saying that “the press plays an important role, and we need to honor that role.”

“We have to separate out how we deal with national security leaks and how we protect the freedom of the press and freedom of reporters to operate. And certainly this Rosen case raises some disturbing issues that we as a country have to confront,” said Mr. Axelrod, who now serves as a political analyst with MSNBC.

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