President Donald Trump has routinely been criticized for waging a supposed “war” against the press, largely due to his critiques of “fake news” and his willingness to label dishonest media outlets as “enemies of the people.”
But former President Barack Obama waged a war against the press of his own — and a recent review of the Obama Justice Department’s surveillance of the Associated Press (AP) reveals that war is a lot more controversial than it once seemed.
Worse than we thought
The Columbia Journalism Review — which is by no means a conservative-leaning organization — recently reported on what they found following a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking documents related to the Justice Department’s subpoena of AP phone records in 2013.
Those subpoenas came about following the leak and publishing of classified information about a 2012 CIA operation in Yemen to thwart a terrorist bomb plot. But as it turns out, the subpoenas, granted to aide the Department of Justice (DOJ) in their search for the leaker, were much broader than initially reported.
The FOIA request unearthed a heavily-redacted internal DOJ report on the subpoenas produced by worried ethics lawyers at the Office of Professional Responsibility.
The report revealed that the Obama administration had actually issued 30 subpoenas on 30 separate phone numbers at the AP — though only 21 were actually obtained — that targeted 7 journalists and editors, and even included the main “trunk line” phone records of the AP, which would cover almost the entirety of the media organization.
On top of that, the report also revealed that there had been an internal discussion about issuing similar batches of subpoenas for phone records against ABC News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, though those subpoenas were ultimately never issued. DOJ attorneys had even gone so far as compiling a plethora of phone numbers and contact information for those would-be subpoenas.
Making matters worse is that it appears that either the DOJ violated its own media guidelines in issuing those subpoenas — or those guidelines are so weak that they offer little-to-no protection for journalists.
Unclassified but redacted
Ed Morrisey over at Hot Air noted that internal DOJ report was quite heavily redacted, particularly in comparison with the recently released report from special counsel Robert Mueller, which included only light redactions as required by law and Justice Department policy.
Interestingly, even as the report on the Obama DOJ made it clear that it was prepared “relying on only unclassified documents or unclassified portions of classified documents,” at least half of the report — if not more — was blacked out.
Considering the report was based solely on unclassified material, and was therefore unclassified as
Even the “purpose” and “recommendations” of the unclassified report based on unclassified material were redacted, leading to speculation that the only thing being blacked out was information that could prove embarrassing to the Obama administration.
Either way, it’s clear that Obama waged a secretive and subversive war against the media by way of his administration, which is a far cry from Trump’s tweets or snarky comments about “fake news.” It’s high time our current crop of “journalists” open their eyes and realize the difference between what actually constitutes an attack on the First Amendment and what doesn’t.