This past week, lots of pundits from across the political spectrum have warned Republicans not to overreach on the AP story. They’re warning that this is a national security issue. That isn’t exactly accurate. It’s time to unravel the DOJ’s disgusting behavior.
At the heart of the scandal is this statement from Attorney General Holder:
Here’s what Attorney General Holder said that isn’t accurate:
HOLDER: This was a serious leak, a very, very serious leak. I’ve been a prosecutor since 1976 and I have to say that this is among, if it isn’t the most serious leak, it is among the top 2 or 3 leaks I’ve ever seen. It put the American people at risk. And that is not hyperbole. It put the American people at risk and trying to determine who was responsible for that required very agressive action.
First, this wasn’t a leak. Here’s the real story:
Although the Justice Department has not explained why it sought phone records from the AP, Pruitt pointed to a May 7, 2012, story that disclosed details of a successful CIA operation in Yemen to stop an airliner bomb plot around the one-year anniversary of the May 2, 2011, killing of Usama bin Laden.
The AP delayed publication of that story at the request of government officials who said it would jeopardize national security.
“We respected that, we acted responsibly, we held the story,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt said the AP published the story only after officials from two government entities said the threat had passed. He said the administration still asked that the story be held until an official announcement the next day, a request the AP rejected.
This wasn’t a leak. The AP apparently got word that the CIA asset wasn’t in danger. The CIA said they wanted another day to issue a press release on spoiling this terrorist plot. At that point, the AP decided that they didn’t need to hold their story any longer.
It’s believable that the CIA was upset that they didn’t get to issue their press release first. Based on the fact that the DOJ hasn’t disputed the AP’s statements, it’s fair to assume that the AP acted appropriately in terms of taking the national security and intelligence gathering needs of the nation into serious, sober consideration.
That’s the front end of this scandal. The next part is what makes this one of the most disturbing scandals in recent history. Based on what we know from the first part of the scandal, we know that there wasn’t a need for urgency in stopping a leak that might’ve compromised a CIA asset in the Middle East. That means the DOJ wasn’t entitled to grab the records it did without telling the AP about this massive grab of AP phone records. That means the DOJ was obligated to going to court to apply for a search warrant and for the AP to contest the scope of DOJ’s phone records grab.
The federal government’s need to protect intelligence-gathering assets in harms way isn’t disputed. In fact, the AP apparently acted responsibly in this respect.
Now that we’ve determined these basic, undisputed facts, it’s time to question DOJ’s actions. Did the DOJ need to sieze 2 months of the AP’s phone records? Did DOJ need 2 months of phone records of over 100 AP reporters and editors? If it didn’t, why did DOJ sieze these sensitive records, especially without giving the AP the chance to contest the DOJ’s actions?
Unless new facts emerge that support DOJ’s actions, Americans of all political stripes should question DOJ’s ham-handed behavior in this matter.
UPDATE: Follow this link to read more on the DOJ-AP scandal.