Seriously? Last time I checked Houses does not talk; but the administration does. Of course the White House has no knowledge…. Duh?
The White House on Monday denied having any prior knowledge of the Justice Department’s criminal probe of the Associated Press, but lawmakers appalled by the revelation are nonetheless lashing out at United States President Barack Obama.
Just hours after the AP reported on Monday that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors employed by the news agency, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, “Other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the AP.”
“We are not involved in decisions made in connection with criminal investigations, as those matters are handled independently by the Justice Department,” said Carney. “Any questions about an ongoing criminal investigation should be directed to the Department of Justice.”
But by the time the White House responded to the news on Monday, the AP had already authored a letter to Eric Holder, the US attorney general appointed by Pres. Obama and ergo the top official within the Department of Justice. According to the AP’s initial report on the investigation, AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt wrote Holder to condemn the probe as a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations operate.
“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” Pruitt wrote.
The Justice Department has yet to weigh in on the scandal and will likely defer questions for the time being since official policy prohibits the agency from formally discussing criminal investigations that are ongoing. Members of Congress, on the other hand, can’t say they’ve remained silent. Within hours of the AP story going live, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were up in arms over the news.
Even if the administration attests that the White House and Justice Department weren’t in cahoots, politicians that are peeved by the matter are making it known that the Obama administration isn’t off the hook. Regardless of whether the probe were approved by Attorney General Holder — or, for that matter, if it was even necessary — many are saying the blame ultimately falls on the president, who campaigned on a promise of transparency yet oversees an administration that investigates journalists.
Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), a staunch constitutionalist, told Fox News on Monday, “This sounds like a president somewhat drunk on power, not cautious about how he uses power.”
Obama, Paul told Fox host Sean Hannity, is “using the power of his government to investigate his enemies, he’s tapping the phones of the press, and it turns out last year he signed legislation that allows him to detain an American without a trial and send them to Guantanamo Bay.”
The White House is indeed currently fighting a lawsuit filed by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges and others that challenges that law, the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. Under Section 1021 of the NDAA, the president can authorize the indefinite detention of US citizens based off of vaguely defined associations with terrorists. Hedges said the NDAA puts him at risk of being sent to a facility like Guantanamo because his line of work regularly requires him to correspond with persons considered terrorists by the US government.
“I met regularly with leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. I used to visit Palestine Liberation Organization leaders, including Yasser Arafat and Abu Jihad, in Tunis when they were branded international terrorists. I have spent time with the Revolutionary Guard in Iran and was in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey with fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. All these entities were or are labeled as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government,” Hedges wrote in protest last year. “I have had dinner more times than I can count with people whom this country brands as terrorists. But that does not make me one.”
The Obama administration’s attorneys have fought relentlessly to keep the NDAA on the books, even filing appeals to petition a federal judge after Section 1021 was deemed unconstitutional. Now with the AP’s latest revelation, though, members of the same Congress that approved of that bill only a year-and-a-half ago are attacking the White House.
“This is obviously disturbing,” House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-California) told reporters. “Coming within a week of revelations that the White House lied to the American people about the Benghazi attacks and the IRS targeted conservative Americans for their political beliefs, Americans should take notice that top Obama administration officials increasingly see themselves as above the law and emboldened by the belief that they don’t have to answer to anyone.”
In a tweet, Issa added that he found the revelation “disturbing.”
Whether it is secretly targeting patriotic Americans participating in the electoral progress or reporters exercising their First Amendment rights, these new revelations suggest a pattern of intimidation by the Obama Administration,” weighed in Douglas Heye, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia).
Michael Steel, a representative for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said, “The First Amendment is first for a reason. If the Obama Administration is going after reporters’ phone records, they better have a damned good explanation.”
Even members of Obama’s own Democratic Party were disturbed by the AP’s report.
“The burden is always on the government when they go after private information – especially information regarding the press or its confidential sources,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) told reporters. “I want to know more about this case, but on the face of it, I am concerned that the government may not have met that burden. I am very troubled by these allegations and want to hear the government’s explanation.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) told the AP the Justice Department “must be forthcoming with the facts as soon as possible.”
Holder’s office has not said why the investigation was ordered, but the AP suggested it’s likely in regards to a May 2012 exclusive the agency published in which a covert CIA operation was exposed. Earlier this year, CIA Director John Brennan told Congress that the FBI asked him if he was the source for the AP article. Brennan denied the allegation and said the release of information pertaining to a terror plot was an “unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information.”
The AP wrote Monday that the letter notifying the agency of the investigation arrived last Friday, and acknowledged that subpoenas were used to obtain phone records from reporters and editors.
Matthew Miller, a former top spokesman for Holder, defended the department’s actions to reporters for the Huffington Post.
“This is how leaks get investigated,” Miller said. “Leaking classified information is a crime, and there are usually only two parties who know who committed the crime, the leaker and the reporter. Getting access to phone records allows investigators to see who the possible source might have been and confront them with evidence of a crime.”