May 24 2013

Holder's Implausible Deniability Ripped Away by NBC

Charlotte Hays

Quote of the Week:

In a dramatic departure from existing White House procedures, President Obama requested today that his staff start cc’ing him on stuff.

“Look, I know a lot of you think I’m really busy and you don’t want to bother me,” the President reportedly told his staff in an Oval Office meeting. “But cc me anyway. It’s good for me to keep up on what’s going on around here.”

“Maybe put a Post-It note on your computer saying, ‘CC POTUS,’ so you don’t forget,” he said as the meeting broke up.

Afterward, the President told aides that he “felt really good” about the meeting and was “really looking forward to people looping me in on stuff.”

--Andy Borowitz in the New Yorker

First off, I am not sure our president keeps really busy. He seems to be a very vacationing chief executive.   

Second—and I just toss this out—am I suspicious or does this cc’ing leak look like just the latest gambit in an attempt to isolate the president from—well—from his White House?

It is important the the president be shown as a chief executive who could not possibly have known about the IRS targeting of conservative groups or the Justice Department's watchful eye on reporters.

Why, nobody cc'ed him! 

Meanwhile Attorney General Eric Holder’s veil of implausible deniability is crumbling rapidly in the wake of a report from NBC investigative reporter Michael Isikoff.

Isikoff quoted an unidentified law enforcement official saying that the attorney general had signed the search warrant that described Fox News’ James Rosen as a “possible co-conspirator” in an espionage case. That gave the government access to the reporter’s private information (and for good measure, his parents telephone records, too).

Let’s face it—the First Amendment, the leading right of the ten rights listed Bill of Rights, adopted in 1789, is under attack from the Obama administration.

For a reporter's ordinary work to be criminalized is chilling.  Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., a lawyer who has handled First Amendment cases, writes in today’s Wall Street Journal (sorry—subscription required):

No U.S. court has ever enforced the Espionage Act against a journalist. As its title makes clear, the statute targets officials who engage in espionage by disclosing government secrets to foreign governments or enemies. To stretch its amorphous language to apply to journalists would violate both the First Amendment and due process.

In short, the Justice Department knows better than to suggest that Mr. Rosen committed a crime. This claim was a pretext to get a search warrant and rummage through Mr. Rosen's emails without regard to constitutional and statutory restrictions and the department's own policy guidelines that govern the less invasive subpoena process.

This episode is part of a pattern. The Obama administration is prosecuting a record number of Espionage Act cases against alleged leakers, and along the way it is running roughshod over long-standing precedent and policies regarding journalists.

Fox chief Roger Ailes has a great statement defending freedom of the press. It is interesting that the Obama administration has gone after not only Fox but media outlets that have been, not to put too fine a point on it,in the administration’s pocket.  

The IRS scandal and the press scandal are two different scandals, but they have a lot in common: arrogance on the part of government and a desire to control the flow of information. These are antithetical to a democratic government and both posit a government beyond the reach of citizen control. With that in mind, I urge you to read Peggy Noonan’s column today.

It begins:

"I don't know." "I don't remember." "I'm not familiar with that detail." "It's not my precise area." "I'm not familiar with that letter."

These are quotes from the Internal Revenue Service officials who testified this week before the House and Senate. That is the authentic sound of stonewalling, and from the kind of people who run Washington in the modern age—smooth, highly credentialed and unaccountable. They're surrounded by legal and employment protections, they know how to parse a careful response, they know how to blur the essential point of a question in a blizzard of unconnected factoids. They came across as people arrogant enough to target Americans for abuse and harassment and think they'd get away with it.

Quick--somebody cc these bureaucrats!

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