Nixonian or Obamaesque? Obama Administration Spied On Associated Press Editors and Reporters

220px-Richard_NixonPresident_Barack_ObamaI recently published a column on how Barack Obama has publicly assumed many of the powers that were once cited as the basis for the investigation and attempted impeachment of Richard Nixon. One of those areas was the Obama Administration’s crackdown on journalists. This week Attorney General Eric Holder appears to have yet again added to this ignoble record. It appears that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press. This disclosure follows another recent disclosure that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeted conservative groups associated with the Tea Party. Yet, once again, most Democrats remain silent in a type of cult of personality where principle is discarded in favor of loyalty to the President.

The spying on reporters by the Obama Administration included outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters. The seizure covered general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn. The Justice Department showed no restraint or concern, even including the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery. It now appears that in a few years historians could well be saying the Nixon was perfectly Obamaesque in his abuses.

AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt has written a letter to Holder objecting to the spying, noting that “[t]here can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters.” I would be equally upset with the mere fact of the spying as opposed to its breadth.

The spying may be part of a criminal investigation into a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. AP agreed to hold the story after an objection from the Administration but ultimately ran the story disclosing a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States. While working with the Administration in holding the story, the Administration apparently was moving to spy on five reporters and an editor who were involved in the story.

Holder would have to have personally approved the subpoenas under Justice Department regulations.  However, it is not enough to again criticize Holder (who has assembled one of the most abusive records on civil liberties in our history).  Obama is well aware of the objections by civil libertarians and personally approved such decisions as promising CIA officials that they would not be investigated for torture and the kill list policy.

What is most striking about this story is the sense of complete immunity and lack of concern shown by the Administration. That sense of impunity has developed over four years as Democrats have gone into radio silence over abuses by the Administration from Obama’s “kill list” policy to other rollbacks on civil liberties. There will come a day when this president is no longer in office and many Democrats and Liberals will be faced with the imperial presidency that he created in the hands of someone they do not revere. When that day comes, it will be hard to climb over the mountain of hypocrisy to find a principled ground for criticism.

Source: CNN

289 thoughts on “Nixonian or Obamaesque? Obama Administration Spied On Associated Press Editors and Reporters

  1. Bron, Absolutely correct. And we all know the reverse of the scenario you just described. You know, very bright people who go to grad school, law school,etc. and don’t even have a career, much less a successful one. I live in a college town[ U of Wi.] so I am surrounded by this mindset that academia is the be all and end all. My GPA, my college, had little to do w/ my success and offered virtually no practical info for me. I am not saying college isn’t good. I learned how to think in college. I learned about classical music, philosophy, history, etc. But the core classes, some interesting, didn’t teach me one iota about how to be an investigator. I’ve never read Sea Wolf, but I love London. I’m currently reading, Life, the bio of Keith Richards. What have you read lately that you like? I recently read a book about baseball and antitrust, The Baseball Trust. It was interesting for me since I’m a huge fan. But, it was tedious in parts..written by a law prof.

    lotta, We are sympatico. Gambling is entertainment, and if budgeted properly, wholesome entertainment. I play to win, but w/ a smile. And, I’m quiet by nature but gregarious in the casino and like yourself, I will yell those horses home in the homestretch. We would take family vacations to Saratoga Springs in August in my youth. Kids love the track. I would take my kids to Arlington Park when they were young, they loved it too.

  2. lotta, My mom used to pick horses like your mom. It drove my old man nuts. Particularly when she won, and he lost!

  3. Nick:

    I am reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, it is interesting and the portion on slavery in the US is worth the price of the book.

    It also seems to be the go to book for the left for history. It is, I think, the only book many have read about our history. Now that I am reading it, I see it referenced here quite a bit although not attributed.

    Another book I am reading is The First Tycoon about the life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Very interesting as it not only documents his life but chronicles the rise of capitalism in the US. It is quite fascinating to see how moneyed interests acted then as they do now to preclude the little guy from entering into commerce. Vanderbilt had to fight against government granted monopolies given to the rich for steamboat traffic rights. He was the little guy when he started out.

    If the occupy wall st. crowd really understood, they would be pressing for laissez faire. If you want to screw the rich you dont give them more power, you make them compete for every dollar they earn. But then when one company is able to lower the cost of a steamboat ticket down to the point where anyone can afford one, the other companies start crying unfair business practice and predatory pricing. They scream Monopoly in fear for their money. Ah, the rich have had the little minded Marxists in tow for almost as long as Marxism has been around. Well the landed gentry did, after all, pay for Marx to produce the Manifesto, Das Kapital and other works.🙂

  4. Hillary Said Appoint a Gitmo Champion; The Opposite Happened

    Posted on May 17, 2013 by emptywheel

    There’s a weird detail in this Daniel Klaidman piece on Obama’s claimed newfound commitment to closing Gitmo.

    One of the new details in it describes a memo Hillary Clinton wrote just before she left the State Department.

    One recent plea, two sources told Newsweek, came from Hillary Clinton, who, just before she left office in January 2013, sent a two-page confidential memo to Obama about Guantánamo.


    Now, in one of her last moves as secretary of State, she was making a final effort to prod her boss to do more. Her memo was replete with practical suggestions for moving ahead on Gitmo. Chief among them: Obama needed to appoint a high-level official to be in charge of the effort, someone who had clout and proximity to the Oval Office. Further, Clinton argued that Obama could start transferring the 86 detainees who’d already been cleared for release. (Congress has imposed onerous restrictions on the administration’s ability to transfer Gitmo detainees—including a stipulation that the secretary of Defense certify that detainees sent to other countries would not engage in acts of terrorism. In her memo, Clinton pointed out that the administration could use “national-security waivers” to circumvent the restriction.)

    The Clinton missive perturbed White House aides, who viewed it as an attempt to put them on the spot, according to a senior administration official. It’s unclear how Obama himself reacted to the memo; there’s no evidence that it spurred him to action.

    I thought to myself as I read this, “but Clinton’s departure is precisely when the Administration moved backwards on this front, by reassigning Daniel Fried, who had been in charge of resettling detainees.” Fried’s reassignment was reported January 29. That was technically while Hillary was still at State — Kerry took over on February 1.

    Still, whoever transferred Fried, she must have written that memo (which pissed off Obama’s minders) at almost precisely the moment State eliminated the person most focused on working towards Gitmo closure.

    Klaidman doesn’t entirely ignore this detail. Six paragraphs later he mentions the transfer.

    For much of the past few years, without any signal that Obama was going to fight on Gitmo, the policy drifted. Daniel Fried, the veteran State Department official in charge of resettling detainees, was transferred to a different position.

    Still, there must be a story explaining why Fried got transferred at precisely the moment Hillary, technically still his boss, was calling to redouble the effort to close Gitmo.

  5. May 31, 2013

    Dealing With National Security Leaks: Obama’s “Plumbers”: Part One in a Two-Part Series of Columns

    by John Dean


    When Nixon resigned, the over-the-top pursuit of national security leaks ended, removing a chill on national security and foreign-affairs reporting in Washington. This did not result in a new flood of leaks. To the contrary, after Nixon, the number of national- security leaks seemed to be fewer and far between. In fact, until President Ronald Reagan arrived in the Oval Office, no president was inclined to go after leakers or journalists, and President Clinton pardoned a journalist/leaker that Reagan had successfully prosecuted. Clinton also vetoed the attempt by Congress to pass an American equivalent to the Official Secrets Act. But the Bush/Cheney Administration, and now, the Obama/Biden Administration, recruited their own teams of plumbers to go after leakers and journalists. Bush/Cheney took a very Nixonian approach. President Obama, while clearly and wisely eschewing the Nixonian style, has been far more aggressive than all his predecessors in prosecuting leakers. This has been troubling to those of us who want more, rather than less, government transparency. I believe I understand why this has happened, and I will explain both what has happened and why in Part II of this series of columns, which will appear here on Justia’s Verdict on June 14.

    End of excerpt

  6. […] The Atlantic Magazine has an interesting article out this week on a little known effort by the Administration to stop Americans from listening to a speech in Mexico by Leon Trotsky that would be transmitted over a telephone line. Assistant Solicitor General Golden W. Bell wrote the memo below stating that the Administration had no such authority. That was before the Office of Legal Counsel and the rest of the Department became more ambitious and less principled. Today they can find interpretations to allow the circumvention of the separation of powers, the assassination of citizens, the establishment of a torture program, and the maintenance of an Imperial Presidency. […]

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