Spoiler alert: The IRS scandal, the AP phone records scandal — they go nowhere. In September, we'll all be looking back thinking, "Huh, that was a big waste of time." It will be — in fact, it already is.
The president and chief executive officer of The Associated Press on Sunday called the government's secret seizure of two months of reporters' phone records "unconstitutional" and said the news cooperative had not ruled out legal action against the Justice Department.
Across the table at one of Washington’s classic power restaurants, my source sat smiling. We hadn’t seen each other for more than six years. After the usual opening small talk and pleasantries, I had just posed the question I had come to dinner to ask.“I’m curious. Why did you go cold on me all these years?” I inquired.“You were too hot,” the source shot back wryly, playing off my own words. “Honestly, we were concerned that after your phone records and mail was seized that you were still being monitored.”The source paused.“It’s too bad. There were a lot of great stories I wanted to give you.”That conversation from late 2007 still resonates in my memory, a vivid reminder of what can happen when the government exercises its awesome powers to try to secretly unmask reporters’ confidential sources.More than a decade before the Justice Department secretly collected the phone records of four of my former colleagues at The Associated Press, I was one of the first reporters to have both his home phone records and personal mail gathered by the Justice Department and FBI. It was a futile effort to find the sources of stories I had written.In the summer of 2001, the Bush Justice Department authorized a subpoena for my home phone records in an effort to locate confidential sources who had helped me put together a series of stories about what prosecutors knew about possible wrongdoing between then-Sen. Robert Torricelli and a major political donor before the case was dismissed.At the time, I was the AP’s lead investigative reporter and an assistant chief of bureau in its Washington bureau. The U.S. attorney manual’s rules required the Justice Department to notify AP in advance of taking a reporter’s phone records and to negotiate a possible solution.That did not happen. The Justice Department decided instead to subpoena and review my records and then notify me afterwards. I got the notification in the mail in late August 2001, months after prosecutors already had gone through my home phone records.The news media was outraged by the intrusion and for days after the revelation, there was a campaign by the media to demand answers and an end to such tactics, which fly in the face of the press freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment.But the story quickly faded on Sept. 11, 2001, when the country's attention was riveted to the arrival of large-scale international terrorism on U.S. shores. Gone was the momentum to pressure the government to answer some important questions about its assault on the First Amendment.I went back to reporting immediately, trying to tell the stories of what the government knew about threats of possible terror attacks in the days and weeks before 9/11. I managed to break some big stories, the infamous Phoenix memo warning of Arab pilots training at U.S. flight schools among them.But I noticed a marked difference in the way my long-time sources treated me. Most refused to talk on the phone for any length of time, and they almost never emailed me anymore.Anything sensitive had to be done by meeting in person. One source went as far as to require me to sit on a bench in a city park, where I could retrieve leaked documents hidden inside a folded newspaper. It was painfully obvious that the government’s intrusion had affected my ability to report hidden truths to the American people.
House Republicans want their party leaders to name a special committee to take control of the inquiry into the Benghazi terrorist attack, but House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, has resisted — largely, analysts say, because the long-term political risks of a high-profile probe could outweigh any short-term benefit.
News organizations are convinced that the Obama administration trampled on freedom of the press when the Justice Department seized Associated Press phone records in pursuit of a government source who leaked details of a thwarted terrorist plot last year.
Welcome to Whopper of the Week: Damage Control edition.
Barack Obama's second term may be remembered more for his scandals than for anything else he's done thus far in his troubled presidency.
While much of Washington was riveted Friday on a Republican-led congressional hearing into abuse of power by the IRS, President Obama traveled to Baltimore to promote a jobs plan and decry lawmakers for "chasing every fleeting issue."
If you're a president under fire, it's convenient to fire someone who's about to leave anyway. The president on Wednesday threw acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller under the hot dog wagon, or whatever convenient cliche was waiting at the curb.