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Would journalists support congressional investigation of Obama surveillance of … journalists?

Would journalists support congressional investigation of Obama surveillance of … journalists?

A good test for media bias, since Obama administration actions against journalists proven.

Donald Trump’s accusation that the Obama administration “wiretapped” his phones and/or Trump Tower, continues to reverberate.

The accusations have refocused the argument over Trump’s alleged Russia ties, which amount at this point only to innuendo, into a discussion of Obama surveillance practices.

As discussed in my prior post, which is getting a lot of attention, the focus on the term “wiretap” and whether Obama “ordered” surveillance under FISA, may be a distraction, Some curious language in both Trump’s “wiretap” accusation and Obama’s defense.

The media, however, is being dragged into another direction, one focusing on Obama administration surveillance practices.

This morning Donald Trump, through Sean Spicer, called for a congressional investigation of Obama administration election surveillance.

(added) It looks like that will happen:

Like moths to a fire, the media now is obsessed with Trump’s call for a congressional investigation of Obama.

The focus has changed, for sure.

I don’t expect a favorable reaction from the media to the call for an investigation of Obama administration surveillance of Trump.

But what if the investigation was of Obama administration surveillance of journalists?

There is plenty of evidence that took place, as HuffPo reported in 2013, Obama Administration Has Gone To Unprecedented Lengths To Thwart Journalists, Report Finds:

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based journalist advocacy organization, released Downie’s findings Thursday in its first comprehensive look at press freedom in the United States: “The Obama Administration and the Press: Leak investigations and surveillance in post-9/11 America.”

For 32 years, the Committee to Protect Journalists has been better known for investigating press freedom under authoritarian governments, or where journalists are killed with impunity or in war zones. But this spring’s revelations about the Justice Department secretly seizing phone records at The Associated Press and obtaining a Fox News reporter’s email account have increased concerns closer to home.

Downie, a journalism professor at Arizona State University, expressed concerns in late May about the future of investigative reporting in light of the AP and Fox News revelations. Shortly after that, the Committee to Protect Journalists asked Downie to investigate. Downie in recent months spoke with journalists, government transparency advocates and current and former government officials.

In the report, Downie examined a range of Obama administration tactics that hinder government transparency. These include unprecedented use of the Espionage Act in prosecuting media leaks, classifying government documents as secret when no harm could come from their release, increased government surveillance that jeopardizes the safety of news sources, Freedom of Information Act violations, and White House-produced content that can’t substitute for independent, accountability journalism.

Committee to Protect Journalists chairman Sandra Mims Rowe and executive director Joel Simon sent the report to Obama, along with a letter expressing concerns over a pattern of administration actions “that impedes the flow of information on issues of great public interest and thwarts the free and open discussion necessary to a democracy.” (The letter, published below, made six recommendations.)

Recall how the Obama administration secretly obtained AP phone records:

The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for the Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.

The records obtained by the Justice Department listed incoming and outgoing calls, and the duration of each call, for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP.

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.

In a letter of protest sent to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday, AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt said the government sought and obtained information far beyond anything that could be justified by any specific investigation. He demanded the return of the phone records and destruction of all copies.

So here is a test for media bias.

Put aside whether there should be a congressional investigation of Obama administration surveillance, if any, of Trump or the Trump campaign.

Would the media support a congressional investigation into Obama administration surveillance and intimidation of journalists?


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Reporters are not special. They are subject to the same laws that cover everyone else, and there’s no reason at all why, if their phone records are material to a legitimate criminal investigation, they should not be subpoenaed just like yours or mine would be. We must not play into their arrogant belief that they are special, that they have a constitutional role in our system of government. Political parties and candidates for office are special, and do have a constitutional role; reporters are not and don’t. If the administration was surveilling the Trump campaign this is a matter of concern; if it was doing so to some reporters I see no problem, so long as the proper warrants were obtained.

    Massinsanity in reply to Milhouse. | March 5, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    How does one determine if the warrants were proper without an investigation? While I too cringe at the thought of treating members of “the media” differently we must recognize that attempts to intimidate media members by politicians or their operatives is a tactic that should concern us all.

      Milhouse in reply to Massinsanity. | March 5, 2017 at 2:19 pm

      Why investigate these warrants when nobody thinks of investigating the thousands of other warrants, exactly the same as these, that are issued every month, throughout the US? We generally assume warrants are providently issued, so why question these ones?

    DaveGinOly in reply to Milhouse. | March 5, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    I think you’ve missed the point of the article. It’s not about whether or not such surveillance of journalists is warranted or has legitimate law enforcement value. It’s about how journalists would react to a proposal to investigate an administration’s possible abuse of authority to effect said surveillance. That is, it’s about the double-standard of most journalists today.

    Milhouse: Reporters are not special.

    Actually, the Bill of Rights specifically protects press freedom.

    Milhouse: They are subject to the same laws that cover everyone else, and there’s no reason at all why, if their phone records are material to a legitimate criminal investigation, they should not be subpoenaed just like yours or mine would be.

    Sure. Press phone records are subject to subpoena just like any other record when there is probably cause of a crime being investigated. However, Americans have decided to extend some legal protection to whistle-blowers and the press.

      Barry in reply to Zachriel. | March 6, 2017 at 6:08 pm

      “Actually, the Bill of Rights specifically protects press freedom.”

      No, millhouse has it correct.

      …or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;…

      The “press” is not a group of people, it is the machinery used to disseminate information.

      Milhouse in reply to Zachriel. | March 6, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      Barry is correct. The freedom of speech and of the press is the right to say or publish what we want. You and I, in commenting here, are exercising our freedom of the press, not that of speech. The newspaper trade has no special constitutional status and no privileges or special freedoms. That some legislators and judges have decided on their own accord to give it certain privileges is a big mistake, that ought to be reversed.

This is way too close to the desired “narrative” for the dinosaur media to want any real inquiry. Subpoena some “journalists” and see how quick they rush to shield sources.

James Rosen. There, I said it.

    4fun in reply to valegorge. | March 6, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    Sharyl Attkisson
    Added to it. I don’t think DOJ ever admitted to hacking her computer.

      Milhouse in reply to 4fun. | March 6, 2017 at 8:43 pm

      I don’t know that I believe anything that whacko says. If she’s delusional enough to be anti-vaxx, who knows what other delusions and hallucinations her brain serves up to her?

“Would the media support a congressional investigation into Obama administration surveillance and intimidation of journalists?”
The media is more vested in the Left than the 1st Amendment => no.

The word selection is interesting. The professor states “this morning Donald Trump, through Sean Spicer, called for a congressional investigation of Obama administration election surveillance.” I read this as a neutral reporting of Spicer’s tweets.

Specifically, Spicer used “is requesting”, “as part of “,and “exercise their oversight authority”. He also avoided using “Obama” and expanded to the “executive branch”. These tweets are more neutral and stating that both sides of the election process needs to be investigated.

In comparison, the media summaries use much harsher words such as “orders”, “demands”, “offers no evidence”. And, they are still using “Obama” which probably keeps some of the Ds agitated about their guy being accused of wrongdoing.

Looking at the long game, there are a few possibilities. Does Trump like the increased data sharing rule that was put in place in late January? Is this one way of getting Congress to review this new rule and make them decide about privacy rights? The left normally would be complaining about this expansion, but it also helps them with greater leaking sources. If Trump just reverses the rule, will the press say that he is going soft on national security. If he doesn’t reverse the rule, then he is abusing privacy. The press will conveniently forget that it was an Obama Administration rule. So, this is one way of getting Congress to make the decision.

And, if the media does not complain about looking into what happened with them and support a change, then, does that give the Trump Administration the ability to continue with such activities?

    Liz in reply to Liz. | March 5, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Via Instapundit

    It dates back to the Iran deal in 2015 and if reminded, the Congress critters should be upset. And it is referring to a WSJ article. Here is an interesting part…

    “According to the Journal article, to avoid a paper trail that would show that they wanted the NSA to report on Netanyahu’s interactions with Congress, Obama officials decided to let the agency decide how much of this intelligence to provide and what to withhold. The article cited an unnamed U.S. official who explained, “We didn’t say, ‘Do it.’ We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it.’”

Interesting logical progression here:

Trump: Obama administration tapped my communications at Trump Tower!
Media: Ha, ha, ha! Very funny.
Trump: There should be an investigation!
Media: What a joke!
Trump: And it should include the times when the Obama administration eavesdropped on the media too.
Media: Whoa, he may be onto something here…

Would JOURNALISTS support . . . . Why would our objective paragons of virtue and fair play choose to compromise themselves by taking sides on a policy decision? — even one that deals with treatment of their own brethren. It’s a trick question you pose Prof. It assumes the Press manipulates events to become a fourth branch of Government with a usurped power set priorities on policy. If they actually do presume to be among our governing overlords, then it would seem their reporting is a hypocrite’s mockery of the ideals expected of an American free press. It’s shock SHOCKING to consider that press reports are faked and distorted to favor certain policy choices and certain politicians over others.

Two points.
First, this alleged wiretapping should not be viewed in a vacuum. If you look at the paranoia and hate towards Trump by the Obama administration, Clinton, and the Democrats, it becomes clear that they were in this to win at any cost (the ends justifying the means). This meant manipulating the primaries such that Hillary would win, the baseless accusations of Trump colluding with the Russians, employing a dirty trick squad to sabotage Trump rallies, and so forth. Given all of this and Obama’s history of having his opponents wiretapped before makes the wiretapping of Trump clearly plausible.
But it gets worse. Once Trump won the election, Obama rewrote the rules for the dissemination of classified information. What he did was to change the process from a handful of people looking at the raw data and then determining who should get what to a situation where huge numbers of people, including our allies, would get the raw data en mass. Obama claimed to do this in an effort to preserve classified material, but who believed that Trump or his administration would be making en effort to destroy it? The real truth of the matter is that Obama knew that this new rule would result enormous numbers of leaks that would be far more difficult to track down essentially subverting Trump’s ability to lead the country.
Taken together, this all has the appearance of a coordinated attack to destabilize the Trump administration.
Second, most people do not understand the laws concerning wire tapping, FISA laws, and so forth. (I personally had no clue.) If these wiretaps were conducted after obtaining permission from a FISA judge, then was a crime committed? The answer appears to be “Yes”, but not for the reasons most would think. For a very good analysis read high-profile/yes-obama-could-be-prosecuted-if-involved-with-illegal-surveillance/ (Remove the space for the link to work) This is a long and complex article, but it is excellently written and offers a view not provided by anyone else so far.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to Cleetus. | March 6, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    Keep reminding President Trump of “No weapon formed against you shall prosper.”

William A. Jacobson: Would journalists support congressional investigation of Obama surveillance of … journalists?

Not sure an extensive investigation would be necessary, as the facts are fairly well known. However, hearings on whether greater protections should be afforded whistle-blowers and the press may be warranted.

If, on the other hand, you just want to Benghazi all over the place, then that is another matter.

“Would the media support a congressional investigation into Obama administration surveillance and intimidation of journalists?”

No. They are one and the same.