The chief White House correspondent for NBC News, which largely has been enthusiastic about Barack Obama's presidency, has delivered a stunning verdict on the latest moves to come out of the White House administration: It's trying to criminalize journalism.
Wrote Noel Sheppard at Newsbusters, "One gets the sense this White House has finally gone too far for even liberal media members."
It happened with MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, who noted that some people who definitely are not "tea party" types were expressing concern.
"We had Cokie Roberts and Al Hunt, Steve Rattner. And Cokie and Al, not tea party patriots, absolutely shocked as am I what this Justice Department did, not only to the AP, but now to Fox News," Scarborough said during his interview with Chuck Todd of NBC.
"Tracing five lines inside Fox News' Washington bureau. You add on top of that also people inside the White House talking about the Espionage Act against a reporter who did exactly what reporters have been doing for 200 years. It's almost as if Eric Holder and Barack Obama never read the Pentagon's Paper, Papers case. We’ve been having this fight for 200 years and they are talking about espionage?"
Todd responded, "What's funny is I think candidate Obama if George Bush and Dick Cheney were doing this, imagine what candidate Obama would say. Candidate Obama would be unloading. There'd be a lot of Democrats that would be unloading on the administration if they were this and they were trying to crack down on leaks. This is, you can't look at this and see it as anything other than an attempt to basically scare anybody from ever leaking anything ever again."
He got to the point, "So they want to criminalize journalism. And that's what it's coming down, I mean, if you end up essentially criminalizing journalism or when it comes to reporting on the federal government, particularly on national security, and the only place they can, they think they technically can do that is on the issues of national security. What it's going to do is the impact that we've heard, we heard the AP counsel say this over the weekend. It is going to make whistleblowers, and people that might leak, regular sources. You know, I’ve had different conversations with people over the last week who are sitting there not quite comfortable having certain conversations on the phone. I mean, it just completely, and maybe that's the intent. I can't think of any other intent of why they’re going about this in such a broad harassing sort of way."
The comments are just the latest in one of the latest scandals for the Obama White House. Others are the IRS strategy to deliberately target conservative organizations with harassment, and the still-unanswered questions on the fatal al-Qaida-linked terror attack on Americans in Benghazi.
Earlier, a veteran reporter warned that members of the news media aren't the only Americans who should be concerned about the privacy of their telephone conversations.
Gregory J. Millman of the Wall Street Journal, who says his telephone records were targeted by the IRS many years ago, writes that the communications of citizens could come to the attention of the government in a number of ways, including by getting a call from someone in whom the government has interest.
WND reported the Obama administration said it pursued AP's records because a double agent in the war on terror was compromised by a story. However, the news wire's reporting on the issue didn't mention the agent.
It was 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, according to a profile of the government's justification for pursuing the reporters' telephone records published in the Los Angeles Times.
Millman writes that his records were targeted in 1991 when he wrote a story citing an Internal Revenue Service memo.
However, he pointed out that when his records were taken by the IRS, he wasn't the only one.
"That's how they happened to scoop up the phone records of a home builder, a trade association of corporate finance officers, an old friend who happened to live in Washington, D.C., and the Alicia Patterson Foundation, which supports investigative journalism and which I had called to discuss a fellowship."
Millman says none of those people or organizations "had anything to do with the story at issue, and none learned until long afterward that IRS investigators had been secretly riffling through records of all their phone calls."
Millman explains he learned only by accident that the records had been given to the government.
It also was revealed that when the government started looking at the records for James Rosen, of Fox News, it scooped up the records for a home where his parents live.