DOJ Spying on Journalists

Case bears striking similarities to AP leaks investigation

Eric Holder / AP

The Washington Post this weekend detailed a 2009 Department of Justice investigation that used a wide array of tracking methods to target not only a State Department employee but also a Fox News reporter.

The investigation revolves around a 2009 story that Fox News’ James Rosen broke about North Korea’s nuclear program and the regime’s intentions to conduct a nuclear test in response to United Nations sanctions.

The Department of Justice began tracking the supposed originator of the information, the State Department’s Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, and Rosen to determine their relationship following the article’s publishing.

According to the Post, which obtained court records for the case, the FBI tracked Rosen’s movements out of federal office buildings, phone records, and the private email accounts of Kim and Rosen to build a case against them.

A federal judge granted the DOJ permission to include Rosen in the investigation since there was evidence that Rosen was a "co-conspirator" in releasing classified information.

As the Post points out, these actions are quite alarming:

However, it remains an open question whether it’s ever illegal, given the First Amendment’s protection of press freedom, for a reporter to solicit information. No reporter, including Rosen, has been prosecuted for doing so.

The 2009 investigation is similar to the latest news that the DOJ has been tracking Associated Press reporters, but the breadth of the investigation of James Rosen raises new questions of how many journalists have been the targets of these searches.

While the Department of Justice maintains it followed all applicable laws in their investigations of government leaks, they have been criticized for the number of investigations carried out since 2009:

The Obama administration has pursued more such cases than all previous administrations combined, including one against a former CIA official charged with leaking U.S. intelligence on Iran and another against a former FBI contract linguist who pleaded guilty to leaking to a blogger.