James Rosen

NY Times reporter calls Obama administration the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation

Recent reports from the Associated Press and Cause of Action have explained in great detail that President Barack Obama hasn’t come close to living up to promises of greater transparency, a result of the White House’s effort to control information requested by the press that could prove to be a political headache or embarrassing.

The administration’s obsession of controlling of information isn’t limited to what documents are released. It also extends to how the administration tries to control the press, as James Risen, a reporter for The New York Times, recently explained at a conference (emphasis added):

New York Times reporter James Risen, who is fighting an order that he testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer accused of leaking information to him, opened the conference earlier by saying the Obama administration is “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.” The administration wants to “narrow the field of national security reporting,” Risen said, to “create a path for accepted reporting.” Anyone journalist who exceeds those parameters, Risen said, “will be punished.”

The administration’s aggressive prosecutions have created “a de facto Official Secrets Act,” Risen said, and the media has been “too timid” in responding.

Declassified testimony reveals administration officials knew Benghazi was a terrorist attack

There’s been a lot of wrangling recently over Benghazi. At the end of December, for example, The New York Times ran a report stating that the attack on the American outpost in the Libyan city “was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.”

The Times report also suggested that al-Qaeda wasn’t involved in the attack, though that has been disputed by members of Congress from both parties, including Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

Whether or not the anti-Islam played a part in the attack or there was involvement from al-Qaeda affiliates will continue to be the subject of debate. But virtually everyone agrees that the assault on the compound, which lead to the deaths of four Americans, was a planned attack.

But questions, however, remain about the initial narrative that the White House and State Department tried to set about the attack. If you’ll recall, they blamed the incident on the anti-Islam YouTube video, calling it a protest gone awry.

James Rosen of Fox News has revealed declassified congressional testimony showing that top Defense Department officials knew from the beginning that the assault on Benghazi was a terrorist attack:

House Republican moves to impeach Eric Holder

Citing a scandals and failure to comply with congressional investigations, Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) has announced on Wednesday that he will introduce articles of impeachment against Attorney General Eric Holder:

A group of 11 House Republicans will introduce a resolution Thursday calling for the impeachment of Eric Holder, saying the Attorney General has lost credibility and trust over a string of issues in recent years.

The articles of impeachment, drafted by Rep. Pete Olson of Texas, faults the Attorney General for refusing to comply with a congressional investigation of the botched gun-walking operation known as “Fast and Furious,” led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
“This was not a decision that I made lightly,” Olson said in a statement. “The American people deserve answers and accountability. If the Attorney General refuses to provide answers, then Congress must take action.”

CNN reported last week that Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Florida, was highly involved in this new effort to try and impeach Holder.

Given the mood among House Republican leadership, which wants to avoid any big political battles with President Barack Obama between now and the mid-term election, this isn’t likely to get very far. CNN noted that it the impeachment effort probably won’t get a vote in committee.

Even if it did manage to get out of committee and pass the House of Representatives, the Senate, controlled by Democrats, would never bring it to the floor for a vote. The impeachment effort is, basically, a statement of disapproval against Holder than anything substantive.

Obama Administration’s war on leaks hurting press freedoms

The government’s prosecution of leakers and whistleblowers has undermined President Barack Obama’s promise of open government and transparency and undermined freedom of the press, according to a report from the Committee to Protect Journalists. The picture painted of the Obama Administration in the report is certainly a damning one.

“In the Obama administration’s Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press. Those suspected of discussing with reporters anything that the government has classified as secret are subject to investigation, including lie-detector tests and scrutiny of their telephone and e-mail records,” wrote Leonard Downie, Jr., a former executive editor of the Washington Post, in the report, The Obama Administration and the Press: Leak investigations and surveillance in post-9/11 America.

“An ‘Insider Threat Program’ being implemented in every government department requires all federal employees to help prevent unauthorized disclosures of information by monitoring the behavior of their colleagues,” he noted. “Six government employees, plus two contractors including Edward Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the press—compared with a total of three such prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations. Still more criminal investigations into leaks are under way.”

AP chief on “chilling effect” of DOJ crackdown, wants new protections for reporters

AP Chief Gary Pruitt

The Associated Press is pressuring the Justice Department to enact new protections for journalists in the midst of its war on whistleblowers and leakers.

During a speech on Friday at the National Press Club, Associated Press President and CEO Gary Pruitt again explained that the actions taken by the Justice Department to seize phone records of reporters were “so broad, so overreaching and so secretive that it violated the protective zone that the First Amendment provides journalists in the United States.” Pruitt also outlined five recommendations that he hope Attorney General Eric Holder would consider to ensure that this never happens again.

Last month, the Associated Press revealed that the Justice Department had secretly obtained phone records from four of its offices as part of an investigation into a leak of classified information about a foiled terrorist attack that was appeared in an AP story last May. In appearance on Face the Nation soon after the story broke, Pruitt said that the seizure of the media phone records is “unconstitutional.”

Poll: Plurality believes Eric Holder should resign

Looking back on his four-plus years as President Barack Obama’s Attorney General, one has to wonder if Eric Holder regrets taking the job. The job has its trials and and hardships, as does any political appointment or office, but Holder’s actions have frequently been the source of controversy.

The first significant controversy that Holder faced was over Operation Fast and Furious, the ATF’s now-infamous gunrunning scandal that led to the deaths of 200 innocent people, and the subsequent congressional investigation. The Justice Department was less than cooperative in the investigation and President Obama invoked executive privilege to block investigators access to documents relating to the scandal, an action that Americans opposed. Holder was eventually found in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the investigation.

White House Advisers to NY Times: Holder May Need to Step Down

Attorney General Eric Holder met with a handful of Washington bureau chiefs last week to try to allay concerns about the Justice Department’s chilling assault on the First Amendment after it has seized phone records from the Associated Press and named Fox News correspondent James Rosen as a “co-conspirator” in a subpoena.

During the off-the-record meeting, Holder apparently told the bureau chiefs that his office was reviewing its policies for dealing with the media when national security issues arise and expressed support for a “media shield law.” However, it wasn’t made clear how the Justice Department would change its policies in the aftermath of this scandal.

While he has enjoyed continuing support from President Barack Obama and prominent congressional Democrats, even as he conducts damage control, some White House advisers told The New York Times that White House’s patience with Holder may be wearing thin (emphasis mine):

Holder Wants Off-the-Record Meeting with the Press

Eric Holder

Under intense scrutiny over the Justice Department’s targeting of the Associated Press and James Rosen, Attorney General Eric Holder wants to meet with Washington bureau chiefs from major media outlets to discuss his department’s guidelines for dealing with journalists during leak investigations. The only catch, however, is that the meeting is off-the-record, meaning that the substance of the discussion can’t be made public.

That is a problem for many news agencies. The Associated Press, CNN, The Huffington Post, and The New York Times have all said that they will not attend the meeting unless it is on-the-record. The sentiment is that a discussion about the freedom of the press, which is protected by the First Amendment, should be open and transparent:

The Associated Press issued a statement Wednesday objecting to plans for the meetings to be off the record. “If it is not on the record, AP will not attend and instead will offer our views on how the regulations should be updated in an open letter,” said Erin Madigan White, the AP’s media relations manager.

The New York Times is taking the same position. “It isn’t appropriate for us to attend an off-the-record meeting with the attorney general,” executive editor Jill Abramson said in a statement.

Like the New York Times and the Associated Press, CNN will decline the invitation for an off-the-record meeting. A CNN spokesperson says if the meeting with the attorney general is on the record, CNN would plan to participate.

Did Eric Holder Lie to House Committee About Targeting of Media?

Attorney General Eric Holder is about to have a bad time. Nearly a year after the House of Representatives found him in contempt for failing to produce documents related to Operation Fast and Furious, the House Judiciary Committee has launched an investigation into whether Holder lied under oath when asked about the Justice Department’s recent war on the freedom of the press.

The House Judiciary Committee is investigating whether Attorney General Eric Holder lied under oath during his May 15 testimony on the Justice Department’s (DOJ) surveillance of reporters.

The panel is looking at a statement Holder made during a back-and-forth with Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) about whether the DOJ could prosecute reporters under the Espionage Act of 1917, an aide close to the matter told The Hill.

“In regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material — this is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy,” Holder said during the hearing.

However, NBC News reported the following week that Holder personally approved a search warrant that labeled Fox News chief Washington correspondent James Rosen a co-conspirator in a national security leaks case.

Holder has apparently expressed remorse over Rosen, which is to be expected since he got caught and it has created another cloud of controversy over himself and the Obama Administration.

Benghazi Reporter Says Her Computers were Compromised

Sharyl Attkisson

Could another reporter have been targeted by the Obama Administration? Sharyl Attkisson, the CBS News reporter who put the Benghazi scandal on the map, has confirmed that there has been a breach on her computers, though the source of the intrusion isn’t clear:

Sharyl Attkisson, the Emmy-award winning CBS News investigative reporter, says that her personal and work computers have been compromised and are under investigation.

“I can confirm that an intrusion of my computers has been under some investigation on my end for some months but I’m not prepared to make an allegation against a specific entity today as I’ve been patient and methodical about this matter,” Attkisson told POLITICO on Tuesday. “I need to check with my attorney and CBS to get their recommendations on info we make public.”

In an earlier interview with WPHT Philadelphia, Attkisson said that though she did not know the full details of the intrustion, “there could be some relationship between these things and what’s happened to James [Rosen],” the Fox News reporter who became the subject of a Justice Dept. investigation after reporting on CIA intelligence about North Korea in 2009.

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