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Article posted May 21 2013, 4:14 AM Category: Big Brother/Orwellian Source: Techdirt Print

The War On Journalists: DOJ Claimed Fox News Reporter Was An 'Aider, Abettor, Co-Conspirator' With Leaker

by Mike Masnick

Following the DOJ's brazen collection of info on AP reporter phone calls, we noted that it was not the first time the DOJ had been overly aggressive in going after reporters. Now, the Washington Post has another horrifying story, talking about the DOJ's investigation into a leak from the State Department to Fox News concerning classified info on North Korea. That investigation resulted in charges against Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a State Department security adviser, but the investigation included heavy surveillance of James Rosen, the Fox News reporter. They obtained his phone records, security-badge data and email exchanges. In order to get all this, they claimed that Rosen wasn't just a reporter, but "an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator" in the crime itself. For doing basic reporting.

By now it should be abundantly clear that this has little to do with protecting national security, and everything to do with a war on investigative reporting about the federal government. Almost everything seems to be designed to threaten reporters, and to put the fear of the federal government into any whistle blower who might have information to pass on to a reporter. As people have pointed out, what Rosen did in this case is what any national security reporter does all the time. Others have pointed out that this shatters the basic concept that those who report on the news are protected by the First Amendment in doing so.
The Reyes affidavit all but eliminates the traditional distinction in classified leak investigations between sources, who are bound by a non-disclosure agreement, and reporters, who are protected by the First Amendment as long as they do not commit a crime. (There is no allegation that Mr. Rosen bribed, threatened or coerced anyone to gain the disclosure of restricted information.)
And, not surprisingly, this tactic of going to war with reporters appears to be working.
Mark Mazzetti, who covers national security for the New York Times one of several leading investigative reporters I reached out to today says he is experiencing a greater reluctance on the part of sources to talk to him.

"There's no question that this has a chilling effect," Mazzetti said. "People who have talked in the past are less willing to talk now. Everyone is worried about communication and how to communicate, and [asking if there] is there any method of communication that is not being monitored. It's got people on both sides the reporter and source side pretty concerned."
The end result, of course, is less ability to keep government abuses -- of which there appear to be many -- in check.

DOJ Versus James Rosen (PDF)

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