Obama’s headaches 
originate at the top

Both Attorney General Eric Holder and a spokesman for President Barack Obama assured the public Tuesday of their commitment to maintaining a free press.

But that supposed commitment looks far less real in the wake of the news that Holder’s Justice Department had secretly subpoenaed more than two months of telephone records of Associated Press reporters in at least three different cities, including office, cell phone and home phone records.

The president of AP sent a letter to Holder Monday protesting the subpoena, which the news agency only learned of last week. Meanwhile, both Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress expressed anger over the revelation, as they should.

AP President Gary Pruitt noted, “There can be no possible justification for such an over broad collection of telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters.”

Furthermore, because the subpoena was filed with a federal court in secret, AP had no opportunity to contest it before it was carried out, as would typically occur.

The action may have a chilling effect on any government whistleblowers who want to work with news agencies to tell their stories. And many people believe that is the intent of the Obama administration, which has prosecuted more current and former government officials for releasing secret material than all of the previous administrations combined, according to The Washington Post.

In this case, the Justice Department is apparently investigating the disclosure of information about a failed al-Qaida plot.

On Tuesday, Holder said that the breach of security involved in the case is among the worst he’s seen during his many years as a prosecutor. But he declined to discuss the case further, basically using the “trust us, we’re doing what’s best for the country” argument to deflect questions.

And Holder, like Obama, washed his hands of any actual participation in the subpoena effort. He said he recused himself from the case last year and all decisions were made by the deputy attorney general. Obama spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that the president knew nothing of the events until news reports broke this week.

This repeated effort by Holder, and especially Obama, to deflect responsibility for every scandal by blaming underlings is getting old. While specific decisions may be made by those at a lower pay grade, the high-level policy tone comes from the top.

From the Fast and Furious gun scandal, to the repeatedly changing official stories about what occurred in Benghazi, to the IRS targeting of conservative groups to this broad attack on a news organization and its confidential sources within the government, the attitude of agencies in this administration seems to be to push the envelope as far as possible and to deny any malicious intent once their actions become public.

It’s a story even some Obama supporters are finding increasingly difficult to swallow.


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While the Sentinel’s self-righteous indignation at the Justice Department’s secret subpoena of telephone records of selected AP reporters/offices is to be expected, its penchant for distorting the facts to serve a biased editorial agenda is “getting old”.

In June 2012, with Congressional Republicans demanding action (including continued prosecution of leaks occurring during the Bush Administration), the Justice Department began investigating the AP’s revelation that the CIA had successfully infiltrated a mole inside Al Qaida in Yemen – who foiled a plot to blow up an airliner headed for the U.S. by giving the CIA access to the terrorists’ unique explosive device. 

Obviously, the AP’s reporting directly threatened national security—by compromising our ability to thwart “the next attack”.

President Obama had no knowledge of the inquiry’s details because—since Watergate (another Republican abuse) – Presidents are precluded by law from an involvement with ongoing criminal investigations.  Because AG Holder was privy to the highly classified intelligence regarding the mole and the plot, and was consequently interviewed by the FBI, he correctly recused himself from overseeing the continuing investigation.

Precisely because “the subpoena was filed with a federal court”, a federal judge will ultimately determine whether the Justice Department properly complied with both the law and its internal procedures.  Meanwhile, the Sentinel conveniently failed to mention that – during the Bush Administration—Republicans filibustered Democratic efforts to enhance “shield law” protections for the press.

Both “Fast and Furious” and “Benghazi” were/are faux “scandals” fueled by right-wing fanatics who subordinate both the facts and the national interest to partisan political gain.  Likewise, the “IRS scandal” is proving to be an inept effort by civil servants to deal with widespread abuse of nebulous tax exempt status – particularly by “Tea Party” groups falsely claiming to be “exclusively” or “primarily” engaged in “social welfare” activity.

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