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Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who personally signed off on the decision to examine the phone records of the AP’s reporters and editors, said the story’s release endangered the nation’s security. Emerging details suggest that is not even remotely true.

During a series of meetings between AP editors and the government about plans to release the story, the CIA tried to hold up the story. At a meeting on May 7, 2012, “CIA officials reported that national security concerns were ‘no longer an issue,’ ” The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Nevertheless, the White House, looking for any political advantage it could find in the midst of Mr. Obama’s campaign, said it wanted to put out its own version first, and offered to let AP release its story a few minutes before the White House announcement. AP flatly rejected the offer and published its exclusive.

Mr. Holder’s claim this week that the AP’s disclosure “put the American people at risk” has absolutely zero credibility. The day after AP ran with its story, John O. Brennan, then the White House’s counterterrorism adviser, went on TV to say the plot posed no active threat to the American public.

The administration’s seizure of the AP’s private phone records to find out its sources was a petulant act of revenge for not getting its way — and a chilling warning to the Washington news media not to dig too deeply into the administration’s activities — or else.

It’s clear the West Wing is at the center of this scandal that may well be headed to the courts. Only tyrants think they can thumb their nose at the Constitution and ride roughshod over a free press.

The Nixonian use of the Internal Revenue Service to punish and persecute Mr. Obama’s political opponents may be the worst of these abuses because it strikes at the heart of our democratic, political system.

These scandals will define Mr. Obama’s presidency throughout his second term. Hearings are lined up as far as the eye can see, and if there is any justice left in this government, the perpetrators will “go to jail,” as House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, suggested Wednesday.

The big questions of who is to blame and how far up the chain of command it goes remains to be answered.

The president denies all responsibility in any of this, but Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, says, “the president bears responsibility for what his government officials can and should do.”

As Mr. Romero says, “The tone is set at the top.” It’s time to come clean, Mr. President.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.