Amid a growing scandal involving the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) investigation into Associated Press (AP) reporters, it has now been revealed that they also surveilled FOX news reporter James Rosen.
Reports indicate that Attorney General Eric Holder, who previously said he recused himself in the AP investigation, signed off on the surveillance affidavit for Rosen, which also labeled him as a possible “criminal co-conspirator” who may have violated the Espionage Act.
The incident is part of a wider leak investigation that involves a former US State Department official named Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, who has been charged with a crime for leaking sensitive information about North Korea.
The DOJ recently defended its actions by stating that Rosen was not being charged with a crime and likely would not be, but watchdog groups, politicians and powerful media professionals are not satisfied with the rationalization. They point to the characterization of Rosen as a co-conspirator to espionage and one who bribes officials for information as a critical error in judgment and an overextension of executive authority.
New reports show that the DOJ also collected data regarding Rosen’s parents’ phone line in Staten Island, which further illustrates the intrusiveness of the investigation. Analysts have pointed out that no calls were recorded, but that innocent people have been swept into the scandal has been enough to further raise the hackles of journalists and First Amendment watchdog groups.
President Obama has since readdressed the possibility of passing a shield law to protect reporters from legal harm, although his rhetoric pointedly leaves out the protection of their sources. Much hay has been made over the “chilling” effect these intrusions will likely have on reporters who are seeking the truth, but very little has been said about the effect it will have on those who hold the information needed to report that truth.