The Obama Justice Department secretly accessed two months of telephone records of Associated Press reporters and editors according to AP lawyers.
The news-gathering organization calls this a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into its operations which has yet to be explained by the administration. Although the clandestine government activity dates back to 2012, AP only learned about it on Friday upon receipt of a letter from the Justice Department notifying the company of the secret phone records seizure.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder AP CEO Gary Pruitt maintained that “There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters.” Pruitt is demanding a return of the phone records that the federal government obtained and that any copies made by the government must be shredded.
AP apparently believes that the government snooping came as a result investigation into “how the AP found out about an al-Qaida bomb plot in Yemen.”
The Justice Department reportedly compiled phone records from the work and personal numbers of reporters as well as calls made to and from AP offices in New York, Washington, Hartford, Conn., and on the AP line in the House of Representatives press gallery. “In all, the government seized those 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 whose phone records were targeted on a wide array of stories about government and other matters,” AP clams.
This development that implicates potential First Amendment freedom of speech/freedom of the press violations is also interesting in that AP, as well as most of the mainstream media, is generally very supportive of the Obama administration.
This is the the latest scandal to emerge in Washington. The Obama administration already stands accused of improprieties in Benghazi, Libya, as well as in relation to how the IRS handled applications from Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status. As with those controversies, more revelations regarding the AP phone records will probably be emerging in the hours and days ahead.
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