We took another big step towards the loss of independent journalism with the story of the government seizing the phone records of the Associated Press.
This breaks new ground in so many ways:
1. I don’t recall the government being so blatant about seizing phone records of any organization, let alone the mainstream press. The government didn’t even pretend to have a good reason to do this – “In the letter notifying the AP, which was received Friday, the Justice Department offered no explanation for the seizure, according to Pruitt’s letter and attorneys for the AP.”
2.. No wonder there is no investigative journalism. Once a story is published that is critical of the government, the government can go through your phone records and find out who your sources are. As the ACLU stated: “..the use of subpoenas for a broad swath of records has a chilling effect both on journalists and whistleblowers who want to reveal government wrongdoing.”
3. This is essentially domestic spying by the CIA. The government’s concern was about sources the AP had regarding foreign terrorism. The justice department was just acting under the instructions of the CIA to collect this information domestically.
The huge terror plot that caused the government to infringe on freedom of the press? Another purported airline bomber. However, the letter sent to AP notifying them of the records seizure was sent after the government had thwarted the plot, and had the bomb in custody. There was no threat outstanding at the time of the records seizure.
Its clear the current administration is no different than the Bush administration when it comes to abolishing freedom under the guise of preventing terror. At least now we know that there is one news organization that is not yet in bed with the government – though it may not matter since no news organization will be able to investigate government wrongdoing in the future.