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The president of Associated Press is warning that reporters’ sources already are drying up because of the threat posed by the Obama administration’s grab of news agency telephone records.
In a report by the news wire, AP President Gary Pruitt said the Justice Department’s seizure of the records was unconstitutional, and ultimately Americans may be uninformed or misinformed about their government as a result.
Pruitt told the CBS News Sunday morning program “Face the Nation” the government has no business monitoring news gathering activities.
“And if they restrict that apparatus … the people of the United States will only know what the government wants them to know and that’s not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment,” he told the network.
Meanwhile, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus charged that the AP, IRS and Benghazi scandals are manifestations of the “guerrilla warfare” atmosphere that Obama has created.
“This is the problem with this entire situation (with the telephone records), with the IRS, with Benghazi: you have all these situations – all these unprecedented scandals – yet the president knows nothing about it,” Priebus said.
Pruitt told his own news agency it’s “too early to know if we’ll take legal action but I can tell you we are positively displeased and we do feel that our constitutional rights have been violated.”
While investigations of security leaks are necessary, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said the focus should be on those who leak the information, not on journalists they talk to.
WND reported that the Obama administration said it pursued the news agency’s records because a double agent in the war on terror was compromised by a story. However, the news agency’s reporting on the issue didn’t mention the agent.
It was now-CIA Director John Brennan, who then was President Obama’s terror adviser, who told members of Congress that the U.S. had “inside control” of the situation. Media then reported on the use of a double agent.
That’s according to a profile of the government’s justification for pursuing the reporters’ telephone records published in the Los Angeles Times, which was one of the publications that reported on the double agent after Brennan documented the situation to Congress.
Government officials told the newspaper that it was an AP story May 7, 2012, about a foiled plot to blow up a passenger jet that prompted the controversy, a story the AP held for five days at the request of the CIA.
But the report said the story did not mention the informant.
Ultimately, the fallout from the revelation that a double-agent existed infuriated British officials, whose intelligence agency had developed the source. Saudi Arabian intelligence officials said they were “dismayed.”
Times writer Kevin Dilanian said the sequence developed like this: The informant was a British citizen who was born in Saudi Arabia and was recruited by Britain to work as a double agent inside al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. His information led to a drone strike by the U.S. that killed al-Qaida’s Fahd Mohammed Ahmed Quso on May 6, 2012. The informant also expressed a desire to blow up a U.S. passenger jet and was outfitted with a bomb. The informant left Yemen and delivered the bomb to authorities and intelligence officials hoped to send him back to Yemen. But al-Qaida covered its tracks when the information about a double agent surfaced.
The Times report, which did not identify the U.S. officials who were sources, said the Justice Department then went after the telephone records of more than 20 lines belonging to AP reporters to investigate the “leak” of details.
See the Priebus comments:
It was White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer who denied White House awareness of the situation.
"A cardinal rule is we don't get involved in independent investigations. And this is one of those," Pfeiffer said.
But Pruitt said the impact already is evident.
"Officials [who] would normally talk to us and people we talk to in the normal course of newsgathering are already saying to us that they're a little reluctant to talk to us," Pruitt said in an AP report. "They fear that they will be monitored by the government."
And the net widened.
The Washington Post noted the latest scandal for the White House is that the Justice Department also used security badge access records and other information to monitor three Fox News employees.
They were identified as reporters William La Jeunesse and James Rosen and producer Mike Levine.
The report said court documents reveal how they were was monitored.
"Search warrants like these have a severe chilling effect on the free flow of important information to the public," First Amendment lawyer Charles Tobin told the Post.
Reports say their emails showed up in an inspector's general report regarding the Fast and Furious gun-tracing scandal.
Breitbart reported: "What we have here is a case of the Obama administration criminalizing reporting. In June of 2009, James Rosen of Fox News reported that North Korea might respond to an increase in United Nations sanctions with even more nuclear tests. Rosen added that the CIA had learned this information from their sources within North Korea. According to the Washington Post, upon hearing ... of Rosen's report, the White House launched what many believe is an unprecedented leak probe that went so far as to criminalize standard newsgathering."
Shockingly, the report continues, "FBI agent Regineld Reyes claimed there was evidence Rosen had broken the law, 'at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator.'"
Rosen reported the Obama administration never contacted him.
"It is called everyday journalism; and the Obama administration is attempting to criminalize everyday journalism," the report said.