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AP: DOJ Collection Of 20 Phone Records ‘Unusual’

From the Associated Press:


Gov’t obtains wide AP phone records in probe

By MARK SHERMAN | May 13, 2013  

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.

The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of the calls.

In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown, but more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.

What kind of “probe” could this be? Why is it so absurdly broad? And why include the AP’s number for the House of Representatives?

In a letter of protest sent to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday, AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt said the government sought and obtained information far beyond anything that could be justified by any specific investigation. He demanded the return of the phone records and destruction of all copies. “There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters.

He’s right, of course. This kind of a dragnet would have made Joe Stalin blush.

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,” Pruitt said.

The government would not say why it sought the records. Officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have provided information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States

What would the AP’s reporters in the House have known about such a plot?

In testimony in February, CIA Director John Brennan noted that the FBI had questioned him about whether he was AP’s source, which he denied. He called the release of the information to the media about the terror plot an “unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information.”

Prosecutors have sought phone records from reporters before, but the seizure of records from such a wide array of AP offices, including general AP switchboards numbers and an office-wide shared fax line, is unusual.

And if it were done by a Republican administration, the AP would call it a lot worse things than “unusual.”

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.

Be fair. It takes a while to concoct a cover story. Or, failing that, they will say they can’t comment while there is an investigation underway. And then when the investigation is over, and finds no hard, they will say it is old news.

The records were presumably obtained from phone companies earlier this year although the government letter did not explain that. None of the information provided by the government to the AP suggested the actual phone conversations were monitored.

Among those whose phone numbers were obtained were five reporters and an editor who were involved in the May 7, 2012, story.

Well, given the scope of the collection, that could just be an accident.

The Obama administration has aggressively investigated disclosures of classified information to the media and has brought six cases against people suspected of providing classified information, more than under all previous presidents combined…

But only if the information if unflattering to Obama. Otherwise, such as in the case of the reporting on the mission to kill Bin Laden, they are only to happy to help with disclosure of classified information.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Tuesday, May 14th, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

2 Responses to “AP: DOJ Collection Of 20 Phone Records ‘Unusual’”

  1. Bovine(cough)

    Everything transmitted by electronic means … and I mean everything has been captured, analyzed and stored since the mid-1960s since the first SIGNIT, COMINT, MASINT and the like. When Americans first became aware of ECHELON they were already 20 years behind the curve … and here’s how it’s done.

    Britain’s GCHQ spies on us and collects our radiated SIGINT. We do the same to the Brits. Then we exchange datas collected. Everyone’s hands are clean and no laws technically broken.

    Know your enemy.

    • captstubby

      “captured, analyzed and stored …”
      did i ever tell you how i think hes the best president ever?

      no,forget it.
      they already got enough on me by now.
      i think i will just wait for the black helicopters.


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