May 20, 2013

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One of the countless unsightly blemishes upon the human condition’s soiled visage is that people tend to only get outraged about injustice when it directly affects them.

Witness the American media’s reaction last week after the Associated Press revealed on Monday that the US Justice Department had been secretly collecting the news agency’s phone records for a two-month period in 2012.

Suddenly, the same mainstream press that for a half-decade had served as Barack Obama’s hagiographers, water carriers, bootlickers, lawn jockeys, shoeshine boys, livery drivers, toadies, stooges, and secret election committee…the same ones who’d dismissed all criticism of their big-eared saint as smelly hillbilly racism…the same ones who’d previously scoffed at the New Black Panthers case, Fast and Furious, and Benghazi as Republican-manufactured piffle…suddenly, it seemed as if Obama had flashed his fangs and bit them on the buttocks, leading them to act like teenage girls whose lover had cheated on them.

“€œCognitive dissonance is a helluva drug, and it would take superhuman levels of introspection and honesty for the press to admit they”€™ve been hoodwinked for the past five years.”€

The sense of betrayal was profound. Those who seemed to have forgotten about Big Brother and civil liberties and constitutional overreach ever since George W. Bush staggered back home to Texas were smacked back into reality by the cold hand of governmental power.

All at once, it seemed to dawn on America’s journos that despite the Obama Administration’s long track record of aggressively prosecuting people who leaked government secrets to the press, it did not take kindly to whistleblowers”€”in other words, rather than blowing the whistleblowers, it was anally raping them.

On Monday, AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt fired off a stern and outraged letter to Attorney General Eric Holder:

There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters….That the Department undertook this unprecedented step without providing any notice to the AP, and without taking any steps to narrow the scope of its subpoenas to matters actually relevant to an ongoing investigation, is particularly troubling….We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.

The word “troubling” also appeared in statements by representatives for the ACLU and The American Society of News Editors. James Goodale, legal counsel to The New York Times during the Pentagon Papers imbroglio, wrote that Obama was worse than Richard Nixon when it came to honoring press freedom.

On Tuesday the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press”€”representing over 50 major newsgathering agencies”€”sent their own letter to Holder:

The nation’s news media were stunned to learn yesterday of the Department of Justice’s broad subpoena of telephone records belonging to The Associated Press. In the thirty years since the Department issued guidelines governing its subpoena practice as it relates to phone records from journalists, none of us can remember an instance where such an overreaching dragnet for newsgathering materials was deployed by the Department, particularly without notice to the affected reporters or an opportunity to seek judicial review.

The New York Times wrote that Obama’s administration “has failed to offer a credible justification” for what the paper called “Spying on The Associated Press.” The New Yorker referred to the Justice Department’s “cowardly move.” USA Today called it “another excessive use of government power by the Obama administration.” The Washington Post  opined that the scandal “challenged Obama’s credibility as a champion of civil liberties.”


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