Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I come to defend Holder, not condemn him

The AP phone records story is still developing so I don't have much to say yet. Still waiting for more facts to emerge from the noise. So far I've seen nothing to suggest the government acted illegally. As a TPM reader points out:
More important it is clear to anyone who understands what happens in this type of investigation that the Justice Department subpoenaed phone records. Those records came from the phone company not from AP. They relate to dates and times of phone calls not content. Under the law such a subpoena is perfectly proper and under the law Justice and the phone company must notify the party (in this case AP) that records were subpoenaed.

I think AP protests just a bit too much and seeks to smear Justice (knowing full well that many Republicans will jump on this quickly).
Which of course will be great for traffic. This is Drudge bait as tempting as pure crystal coke from Columbia to a junkie.

To be clear, it's vitally important to protect the freedom of the press, especially in its social mandate to investigate government wrongdoing. While it's apparent our present day media had mainly failed in that mission, devoting most of their time to inventing psuedo-scandals in order to drive traffic and make profits for their wealthy owners, we nonetheless need to continue to protect the media from government intimidation and protect whistleblowers from retribution when they assist the media in exposing government malfeasance.

All that being said, let's review why the DoJ started the investigation on the AP and its inside sources. This scoop was not the Pentagon Papers. They weren't exposing something like bombing Cambodia and lying about it, or the cover-up of the Mai-Lai massacre. The AP exposed an undercover, anti-terrorist operation that thwarted a bomb plot which would have killed Americans. In doing so, the AP jeopardized the life of an inside US intelligence asset and effectively forced a CIA operation that could have netted vital intelligence in stopping future terrorism to shut down.

Sorry, if that strikes me as more self-serving than noble. Finding it difficult to couch this one as serving the public. Feels more like serving the bottom line of the AP with a sensational scoop that actually endangered the public. So while it's far too easy for the government to claim national security as a cover for secrecy, in this one particular case I see no evidence Holder can't claim national security concerns drove the investigation. At least not so far.

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