OTHER VIEWS: They've got some explaining to do

It's hard to think of any justification for the Justice Department to have snatched up thousands of phone records from The Associated Press, but there had better be a forthright explanation coming.
May 24, 2013

From Attorney General Eric Holder, and from President Barack Obama, who should probably be dusting off résumés of Holder's potential replacements.

This is government intrusion at a level that goes far beyond the issue of press protections. If federal law enforcement feels empowered to rifle through journalists' private phone records, ostensibly looking for evidence of a government leak, then nothing would restrain similar action against other citizens.

Nothing.

And that's not a comforting feeling in a nation whose bedrock principles have been tested and stressed by new debates over the balance between security and liberty. The Patriot Act. Secret federal courts. Endless detentions of American citizens who are deemed — outside a court of law — to be "enemies." None of it is consistent with the most basic notions of freedom or the proper limitations on government.

The question now has to be whether a new culture of hyper-aggressive attention to national security is green-lighting constitutionally spurious behavior, even at the top levels of our government.

A few things to keep in mind as the investigation unfolds here: This kind of "drag-netting" is legal, but requires a subpoena. And where news organizations are involved, federal regulations also require that the attorney general sign off on it.

Holder has a lot to answer for, one way or another. If he signed off on it, why? If — and right now this is unimaginable — he didn't, how on earth did it happen?

It's also true that this kind of broad sweep — a fishing expedition that reportedly included personal phones of AP staffers — is supposed to have a specific focus that justifies the extraordinary breadth of the records searched.

Holder confirmed that investigators were searching for the source of a "serious leak" of information that led to reports about a failed bombing attempt in Yemen. But it would seem that unless this action halted an emergent situation — like a pending terrorist attack — there's an important incongruity.

This issue surfaces alongside other indications that the Obama administration hasn't practiced the kind of care you would expect from those who wield tremendous government power. The issue with IRS officials singling out conservative groups for extra nonprofit scrutiny goes part and parcel with the Justice Department sweep of AP phone records.

Of course, some conservatives have leapt to an illogical conclusion: that Obama is President Richard Nixon, whose abuse of government power was his undoing. That's absurd, but so would any suggestion that these transgressions don't warrant serious inquiry, and serious consequences for those guilty of over-stepping their bounds.

Congress will be doing its job (welcome back to work, folks) by pursuing that inquiry. Meanwhile, the Obama administration needs to be forthcoming and cooperative, and ought to do some bigger soul-searching about the proper bounds and conduct of our federal government.

— FROM THE DETROIT FREE PRESS

Comments

Wingmaster

Funny how abuse of power means nothing to the main stream media until it affects them! Many examples have occurred during this administration and they are ignored. They refuse to report breaking stories and exercise "prudence or caution" for the stories that would put the Pres in a bad light. Look how long it took for this story to appear in our local paper! Look how quickly the press put the video story line out on Benghazi. We hear or see immediately when some issues appear regarding gun control! We hear how much he cares for the children. Never mind the attacks on constitutional freedoms and protections!

We need the press to report, not support one side or the other. The above article presents the info finally then in the last paragraph destroys all creditibility with that opinion! I realize it is a "view"piece, but that paragraph wipes out any attempt to present the story fairly

We are living in an amazing, dangerous time when the citizens are needed to hold their elected officials acountable. Unfortunately, and I fear by design there is ignorance of government shenniagans from all political parties. Civics requires that citizens keep themselves abreast and inform. The media is not helping. The dirty politics keeps many citizens disgusted and tuned out. Bias reporting keeps the fair weather citizens misinformed. We are heading to very dangerous times of turmoil for the country. "A republic if you can keep it."- Ben Franklin

Lanivan

Wing - Funny how you've been the only commenter on this subject. The AP "scandal" is the direct result of the powers provided by the Patriot Act (passed with bipartisan support) and utilized by the government over the last decade. Here's a good read on the subject: http://abovethelaw.com/2013/05/w...

One of the comments caught my eye - "Rather than seizing phone calls by AP reporters the gov't should just waterboard the reporters until they tell us who was the leak".

Wingmaster

Low information voters on this site don't care Lan. I'll say it again and again, if you don't think this kind of shennigans by the gubment is wrong, you are a part of the problem. I don't care if there is an R or a D by their name. They are attacking the press for crying out loud. If this stands what happens when the next politician comes along and pushes it a little further? You are just simply wrong not to be concerned over this.

Lanivan

Yes - this country sold it's soul to the devil in 2001, when still reeling from an unprecedented terrorist attack on US soil that killed 1,000's, passed the Patriot Act. We are now dealing with a subversive enemy that can acclimate into US society, almost anonymously infiltrate and destroy under the old radar. The Patriot Act was the lesser of two evils.

This is why I think the video of W sitting in the classroom looking like a deer in the headlights is one of the creepiest things ever. So much changed at that moment. It is very hard to take away once something is given. Efforts to tighten up restrictions and close loopholes when the Patriot Act was about to expire in 2011 were unsuccessful, and it passed again in it's original form.

Wingmaster

Just read your link and more convinced this is a serious problem for our country. Patriot act should not be cover for any party to pull this sh*$#. Mark my words, we are in serious trouble with the current state of politics. We have an event that causes financial turmoil, it will cause worst repercussion then we have seen in our life times.

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