Federal snooping into journalists’ phone records compounds Obama administration’s woes
For an already besieged President Obama, THIS STORY could not have come along at a worse time:
The Justice Department secretly collected two months of telephone records for reporters and editors at The Associated Press, the news service disclosed Monday in an outraged letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.
The records included calls from several AP bureaus and the personal phone lines of several staffers, AP President Gary Pruitt wrote. Pruitt called the subpoenas a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into its reporting.
“These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know,” wrote Pruitt, the news agency’s CEO.
The AP reported that the government has not said why it wanted the records. But it noted that U.S. officials have said they were probing how details of a foiled bomb plot that targeted a U.S.-bound aircraft leaked in May 2012. The news agency said records from five reporters and an editor who worked on a story about the plot were among those collected, but it said none of the information the government has shared with it suggested agents listened in on any reporters’ calls.
The convergence of this controversy with several others raises the spectre of deja vu all over again, as is noted HERE:
President Barack Obama learned on Monday what can happen to presidents caught up in allegations of scandal: they have to address them instead of anything else.
It happened when the president had to interrupt his news conference with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain to answer questions about the widening investigation into the Benghazi attacks in Libya and the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups.
By the end of the day he was facing a third major problem when the Associated Press said the Department of Justice had secretly seized some of its reporters’ phone records last year.
It is all leading to comparisons with the second term of President Bill Clinton, in which his agenda was severely disrupted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Obama, unlike Clinton, has not been accused of personal misconduct. But his ability to steer the Washington “conversation” could be compromised.
“I think the IRS scandal comes at a very inopportune time for the president and the Democratic agenda,” said Sarah Binder, a George Washington University scholar of Congress.
In and of itself, the so-called Benghazi scandal, as I’ve asserted here on previous occasions, amounts to little more than Republican politicians indulging their pathological Obamaphobia.
But the IRS and Associated Press scandals are the real deal, and as such, can lend the appearance of credibility to the otherwise ridiculous GOP rhetoric about Benghazi.
All in all, then, these are tough times for Barack Obama.