Just when you thought another event was about to be added to the growing list of Obama ‘scandals’ – what with the Benghazi ‘cover-up’ (debunked by a single e-mail), the IRS surveillance of Tea Party-supporting groups (which flame-throwers like Allen West attempted to conflate into ‘conspiracies’ with no success), and the continuing heat on the military for its policies on sexual abuse – the Department of Justice investigation of Associated Press telephone records, widely expected to be another partisan blowtorch, has just been defended by a Republican congressman who claims it was the Republicans themselves who demanded the investigation last year.
Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) spoke to Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren about the issue, one libertarians, journalists, and freedom of information advocates all believe demands review and reform, and instead of using it to bludgeon the administration for overstepping (which most of his party, the media, and even the President’s own party are doing), he instead claimed it was the natural evolution of a GOP demand for a probe. From Think Progress:
“Greta, you were an attorney. There are lots of privileges — husband-wife, priest-penitent, attorney-client, none of them unqualified. So when you have a major national security leak, which is a compelling issue, and you juxtapose that with the right of the media to do its job and provide oversight, there’s a conflict. And there’s no federal statute on point. But the Supreme Court has said if there is a compelling interest, which there certainly is in national security cases, and the information is relevant which it has to be to justify a subpoena, and you have no alternative means of getting the information, then the Department of Justice had no choice. . . .
“Think back a year ago. We had the attorney general and other Department of Justice employees, and we grilled them over national security leaks. And here they are doing what we asked them to do, investigate the leak.”
So this becomes an interesting and oddly bipartisan dilemma. While journalists, particularly the AP, are demanding answers and Attorney General Eric Holder is in the position of defending the Justice Department’s rationale for the investigation, the expected anti-Obama caterwaul from the right has been muted by the facts of Gowdy’s statement.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the second highest ranking member of the Republican caucus, said that he has “questions” about the AP surveillance, “but I’m wiling to wait and see how this plays out, whether it was narrowly targeted or whether it was a net that was too broadly cast.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) similarly offered up an uncharacteristic willingness to wait “before offering an opinion.” [Source]
Oddly refreshing, isn’t it, that lack of pit-bull Obama-bashing?
But beyond the atypical bedfellowship of both political parties on the issue, there are many who see the conciliatory tone as a harbinger of doom for true reform. Those who believe the government has overreached from behind the veil of “national security concerns” see a scenario in which journalists’ sources will be too skittish about discovery to offer valuable information. Others feel the broad interpretation of what can trigger subpoenas and the accrual of phone records is detrimental to a free press keeping the public fully informed; a press able to investigate and report on stories that are controversial and may involve government malfeasance. Some believe the DoJ or any such agency should be required to get a warrant from a judge before obtaining journalists’ phone records or any other such materials, a standard that would also protect the agency should a ‘scandal’ arise out of the discovery of such an investigation. As this one is – was – poised to become.
Whether one’s concerns lie on the side of a government able to fully investigate and protect the country from national security leaks with the potential of danger, particularly during this “age of terrorism,” or whether one’s concerns lie with a free press and the unencumbered ability of journalists to pursue sources to tell necessary stories, this story has taken some interesting turns. While the lack of pervasive partisan outrage may diminish the push for reform, which would likely require an act of Congress, there is some relief to be found in at least one ‘scandal’ losing steam as a political wedge. Now let’s see if we can take a bipartisan approach to solve the problems the issue brought to the forefront.
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July 11, 2012 – Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), during a hearing of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, discusses subpoenaing reporters and throwing them in jail for contempt if they don’t answer questions about leaks. He says that going to jail for a source is what reporters aspire to.
Here is the video: