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Justice Department's actions are unconstitutional
May 21, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
It seems that the Justice Department has been making a habit of secretly subpoenaing email and phone records from journalists.
According to a report yesterday in the Washington Post, in 2009 , during an investigation of a security leak, the Justice Department obtained a search warrant for FOX News reporter James Rosen's personal e-mails. They tracked Rosen's comings and goings from the State Department, using a security badge, and the timing of phone calls Rosen made to State Department security adviser Stephen Jin-Woo Kim.
In an affidavit seeking the search warrant for Rosen's personal e-mail, an FBI agent claimed that Rosen had likely broken the law and was a possible "aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator" to Kim, who is set to stand trial in 2014 for violation of the Espionage Act. Kim has pleaded not guilty to a charge of leaking sensitive information in 2009 about North Korea and the possibility of a nuclear test in that country if the U.S. imposed further sanctions. Rosen was never charged.
What Rosen did, according to a CNN report, is standard news gathering that is almost never viewed as criminal by law enforcement. According to CNN, Michael Clemente, executive vice president of news at FOX, wrote that FOX News is "outraged" that Rosen was" named a criminal co-conspirator for simply doing his job as a reporter."
This now appears to be something of a pattern by the U.S. Justice Department, who appear to have scant respect for freedom of the press and constitutional freedoms. Last year, the Justice Department, under the leadership of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, seized two months of personal and business phone records from 100 reporters at the Associated Press, again investigating a national security leak. The head of the AP called these actions "unconstitutional" on Face the Nation on Sunday and also said that the government's actions are already making it harder for news reporters to gather information from sources.
Perhaps you believe that the government, which is attempting to plug national security leaks, might be justified. However, a free nation desperately needs a free press. A free nation needs a well-informed populace. This administration, which promised transparency, appears to be one of the most shuttered and controlling in recent memory. Without the news gathering by national reporters like Rosen and at the Associated Press, we would know even less about the workings of government than we do now. The actions of the Justice Department in both cases are not justified. I agree with the AP that they are unconstitutional and believe it is long past time that the Justice Department be called to account.
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