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The Associated Press Phone Records: Is It a Scandal?

Scandals are besetting the Obama administration so rapidly that it is hard to keep track of them. So far, I don’t believe we have said anything about the revelation that the Department of Justice secretly accessed several months worth of Associated Press telephone records. The AP is on the warpath:

Reporters across The Associated Press are outraged over the Justice Department’s sweeping seizure of staff phone records — and they say such an intrusion could chill their relationships with confidential sources.

In conversations with POLITICO on Tuesday, several AP staffers in Washington, D.C., described feelings of anger and frustration with the DOJ and with the Obama administration in general. …

[T]op executives from the wire service have mounted an aggressive public pushback against DOJ, calling its snooping a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” in a letter fired off to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Some are calling DOJ’s action “an unprecedented assault on press freedom.” But one thing I haven’t heard anyone say is that DOJ’s seizure of the AP phone records was illegal. I assume the department obtained whatever warrant was needed. Assuming that is the case, where, exactly, does the scandal lie? DOJ accessed the records as part of an investigation into who leaked classified information to the AP in connection with a story about Yemen. Eric Holder explained during a news conference today:

The leak that prompted the seizure of journalist phone records at a US news agency was a “very serious” matter which “puts the American people at risk,” Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday.

Responding to fierce criticism of a violation of news media rights, Holder said, “I’ve been a prosecutor since 1976. And I have to say that this is among, if not the most serious… leaks I’ve ever seen.”

“This was a… very, very serious leak,” Holder told reporters at a news conference.

“That’s not hyperbole. Puts the American people at risk. And trying to determine who is responsible for that, I think, required very aggressive action.” …

The AP said its story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an Al-Qaeda plot in 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.

This is one more in a long series of instances where the Barack Obama and his minions, now that they actually have responsibility for national security, have done a 180-degree turn. Remember during the Bush administration, when leakers fed the Washington Post and the New York Times classified information about the administration’s anti-terror techniques? And remember how the only consequence of those leaks, which damaged national security at least as surely as the AP’s Yemen story, was a series of Pulitzer Prizes? And remember how every single person on the Left–if there were any exceptions, you could count them on the fingers of one hand–applauded the newspapers and the leakers, and ridiculed the Bush administration’s efforts to keep secrets?

The shoe is on the other foot now, and I can’t say that I have a lot of sympathy for the Associated Press. No doubt the AP is shocked that its good friends in the Obama administration, for whom AP reporters have shamelessly shilled for the last five years, would double-cross them in this manner. But that’s life in the city, especially when the city is Washington, D.C. Reporters are up in arms now that their own First Amendment rights are allegedly threatened. But where were they when the administration was trying to take away our Second Amendment rights? They were part of the cheering section, for the most part.

So if there is any scandal associated with the administration’s seizure of the AP’s telephone records, I have yet to see what it might be.

PAUL ADDS: I agree with John, and had planned to make the same argument. I’m glad John went first because he states the case better than I would have.

It’s possible that, if we learn more, we could find that the Justice Department went beyond the bounds of a proper investigation. But I see no evidence of this now.

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