James Rosen, chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, is the latest victim in a scandal, which has the Obama Administration behind it. Federal investigators from the Justice Department in pursuing the case went much further than in the AP case. First, they obtained work email records from Rosen. Also, agents kept records of his visits to the State Department headquarters by tracking security-badge information. Furthermore, investigators seized two days of Rosen’s personal emails, in addition to two months of personal phone records. The new crackdown on Fox News holds striking similarities to a sweeping leaks investigation disclosed last week in which federal investigators obtained records over two months of more than 20 telephone lines assigned to the Associated Press. AP CEO Gary Pruitt said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that the AP records grab was not only unconstitutional but damaging to the operation of free press. He continued, “I really don’t know what their motive was, but I know what the message they are sending is— if you talk to the press we are going to go after you.” According to Pruitt, the message is clear. If you are a journalist, then the federal government is targeting you.
What is unique about this particular case is how it was handled. The Justice Department secured a subpoena from a federal judge because according to the Justice Department the reporter had possibly engaged in ‘criminal conspiracy like behavior’. In the press, that behavior is termed investigative journalism. However, this simple spin on words has now opened a gate to where the Obama Administration’s Justice Department is preparing to treat news gathering activity as a crime. Because Rosen uncovered a story, he is now being considered as an aider, abettor and co-conspirator by the FBI.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” First Amendment lawyer Charles Tobin said, “Search warrants like these have a severe chilling effect on the free flow of important information to the public. That’s a very dangerous road to go down.”
President Obama last week defended the Justice Department’s handling of the investigation involving the AP. There is no response yet from Fox News executives or the President on this latest development.