We still have no answers why the Obama “Justice” Department targeted James Rosen of Fox News or tapped the phone lines of the Associated Press. And clearly the media is too afraid to speak up. America, it was a fun experiment while it lasted.
Many reporters covering national security and government policy in Washington these days are taking precautions to keep their sources from becoming casualties in the Obama administration’s war on leaks. They and their remaining government sources often avoid phone conversations and e-mail exchanges, arranging furtive one-on-one meetings instead.
“We have to think more about when we use cellphones, when we use e-mail and when we need to meet sources in person,” said Michael Oreskes, senior managing editor of the Associated Press. “We need to be more and more aware that government can track our work without talking to our reporters, without letting us know.”
These concerns, expressed by numerous journalists I interviewed, are well-founded. Relying on the 1917 Espionage Act, which was rarely invoked before President Obama took office, this administration has secretly used the phone and e-mail records of government officials and reporters to identify and prosecute government sources for national-security stories.
If the media had any dignity they’d boycott this administration and skip the daily Jay Carney briefings. But breaking up is so hard to do.
After The New York Times published a 2012 story by David Sanger about covert cyberattacks by the United States and Israel against Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities, federal prosecutors and the FBI questioned scores of officials throughout the government who were identified in computer analyses of phone, text and e-mail records as having contact with Sanger.
“A memo went out from the chief of staff a year ago to White House employees and the intelligence agencies that told people to freeze and retain any e-mail, and presumably phone logs, of communications with me,” Sanger said. As a result, longtime sources no longer talk to him. “They tell me: ‘David, I love you, but don’t e-mail me. Let’s don’t chat until this blows over.’ ”
Sanger, who has worked for the Times in Washington for two decades, said, “This is the most closed, control-freak administration I’ve ever covered.”