7:23 PM EDT, May 15, 2013
Every presidential administration hates leaks of classified or politically sensitive information and promises to put a stop to them. The Obama administration's baying-bloodhound chase of suspected leakers, however, is beyond the pale.
A prime example of its overreach: Federal investigators secretly seized records of personal and company phone lines used by about 100 reporters and editors in Associated Press offices including those in Hartford, New York and Washington.
The U.S. Department of Justice apparently wanted to learn the identity of sources who leaked information early last year about the CIA's thwarting of an al-Qaida plot to blow up a U.S.-bound jet.
How Justice went about it was an outrage.
Standard procedure is for government to first ask for information and then go to court if it doesn't receive it. Sometimes the news organization will cooperate with the government. The Obama Justice Department dispensed with such niceties in this case, quick-stepping federal agents armed with subpoenas into the phone company to seize the records — without first informing the AP. The subpoenas were unusually broad, experts say.
Attorney General Eric Holder, who heads the Justice Department, said the leak "put the American people at risk and that's not hyperbole." But AP CEO Gary Pruitt said the government had "assured us that the national security concerns had passed" before the AP ran the story.
"We value the freedom of the press," a Justice Department spokesman said. You can't tell it by this operation.
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