Steve Coll hints at something . . .

free pressFrom one of our best investigative journalists, here’s Steve Coll, today in The New Yorker:

It seems likely that Holder or his deputies have authorized other press subpoenas and surveillance regimes that have not yet been disclosed. The Justice Department has acted belligerently even in cases where no grave harm to the public interest has been demonstrated, or where, as in the A.P. case, the leaks under suspicion have served to publicize the Administration’s successes. . .

He allows that the increase in investigations by Justice in recent years may relate to this:

 Obama inherited a bloated national-security state. It contains far too many official secrets and far too many secret-keepers—more than a million people now hold top-secret clearances. Under a thirty-year-old executive order issued by the White House, the intelligence agencies must inform the Justice Department whenever they believe that classified information has been disclosed illegally to the press. These referrals operate on a kind of automatic pilot, and the system is unbalanced.

But ultimately, Coll says:

. . . The media are not just watchdogs barking at the White House and the C.I.A. The First Amendment aspires to a fuller compact among citizens, including between journalists and confidential sources, that is premised on the self-evident truth that secrecy and concentrated power are inherently corrupting.


18 responses to “Steve Coll hints at something . . .

  1. OK, so, if you boil it down it, Coll is saying this is bad but it’s Bush’s fault, not Obama’s. 😆 How boringly typical of the Left.

    The thing is that it IS Obama “fault.” Or, rather, it is to his credit and one of the few things he and his handlers have done that is marginally worthwhile. These leaks, irrespective of whether or not they’re critical, have to be stopped and one of the very few things that Obama has done that I approve of is his attempt to plug them.

    Remember, despite the moaning of those in media, there’s been no indication so far that there will be ANY move against the press (Sullivan would eat their asses) as opposed to their sources. Remember also that there is absolutely NO legal basis for the confidentiality of a reporter’s sources.


    • Bush’s fault??? Where the hell does Coll say that? Or me? The national security state Obama inherited has been in place – and growing – for decades. Every president has expanded it and protected it.

      You’re right about there being no legal basis for protecting sources, otherwise reporters wouldn’t have been going to jail over the years to do just that.

      But the legality aside, as Alan said, the broadness of the AP thing is way out of line. And as james said, the damage comes when sources dry up.

      A free press is supposed to ‘speak truth to power’. And to do that,, you gotta unearth the truth that power is hiding. And james is right too when he points out that EVERY corner of government leaks. It’s strategic and thank Elvis for it.

      At the core, it’s the national security state itself that is the problem.


      • I will grant you tyhis, Moe – too much is classified these days and seemingly for no real reason. That being said, the real damage doesn’t come when the sources dry up; the real damage comes when they are allowed not to do so and they’re leaking data that impacts national security / foreign relations.


        • I disagree jonolan – my civil libertarian weighs ‘Nat’l security’ vs civil rights and sorry, NSA doesn’t win. Preventing another Boston is not a good enough reason to launch such a massive sweep. (and yes, I know it’s been going on for ages) None of us needs to know everything our govt is doing, but that’s only acceptable when excesses are reported – and curbed.


  2. I read this early in the morning and went to sleep on it….

    I have a dual answer to this….

    First of all the 1st Amendment has NOTHING to do with the Governments leak investigations…NOTHING…
    The amendment just says in this country you have the right of FreeSpeech…And, as a matter of fact people get sued everyday for things they say in public….

    The media, which Moe and I are part of with our blogs enjoys No special protections as long as we print things reasonable that are public…..

    The Government has the RIGGHt to classify stuff…The media is NOT contesting this …..
    A point made above is the intel people telling the DOJ about leaks….In this case WHTF got the supeanoea’s?….The DOJ of-course…and they had them approved by a Judge!

    There is procedure for whistle blower to follow to give them coverage….That was NOT the case here…Someone LEAKED secret stuff…

    The Government has every right to find out who did it….
    The media of-course LIVES on leaks….
    Let us not forget that news organizations are FOR PROFIT CORPORATIONS…No leaks would have a negative financial impact on them….

    So far I’ve seen Holder pay lip service to this whole thing that doesn’t mean a damn think to the American Public….

    Now with all of that said…..
    America classifies entirely too much stuff…
    The lesson was shown clearly by the Wikileaks dumps….
    And a few years later all is well except that Julian Assange is holed up in an embassy in London afraid that he’ll be shipped off to Sweden where he will be quickly handed over to US Marshall’s for his free trip to a Court in Virginia to see a judge…..

    It is NOT any individual’s job to break they contract they signed with their government to keep even dumb outdated stuff secret….

    That said….
    One would hope that SOMEDAY the US Government would somehow unclassify most of the silly stuff that it hold’s locked away from a public who couldn’t care less….
    Aalong with a media hungry for money making headlines…


    • james, on wikileaks. the thing that knocks me out is that Bradley Manning was only a PFC and he had sufficient clearance to access that astonishing body of ‘secret’ (or was it ‘top secret’?) stuff. Proves there are no sensible standards when classifying info.

      And Assange? Oh yeah, that ‘Sweden want him’ is a ruse so they can send him to us, which they’ll do in about five minutes after they get him back.


  3. The question is not whether the authorities should protect us from leaks. It is not whether reporters who work for profitable corporations or unprofitable ones can have their communications spied on. These things have already been negotiated and settled. It is whether rules were followed. They were not. It is whether the truth about these actions was told. It was not.

    When you get a warrant to spy on a reporter it has to be narrowly focused. Someone went on a broad fishing expedition. That is against the rules. When you go before Congress and say you have no knowledge of pursuing reporters for potential prosecution, yet you know you have warrant on a reporter listing him as a co conspirator, then you have a problem with truth. When your defenders parse your words to say that you really are not a liar, they have a problem with reality perception.


    • So far there’s been no word of ANY idea that the Obama Regime was going to prosecute the reporters, hence, there’s no legal need for narrow warrants and, if they do decide to go after the press over this, their evidence won’t be admissible for exactly the reasons that you’ve cited.


  4. At what cost do we hold on to our ideological beliefs, just because it is what we belive in? And at what cost do we play politics? What do we give up when we do? TIRED of the voices who do not consider us as one people – who strive to seperate us to conquer us, to keep us voiceless! Do we give up all that makes us individuals when we settle for the party line? Where have all the people gone that get involved with politics, because they want to make our lives better? The ones that believe that serving the PEOPLE they represent, more important than serving an ideal or party line. At what cost does the present political system operate? The cost is YOUR FREEDOM as an individual with free thought, your rights as a citizen is what they take from you. NEVER forget that with every statement you make to support a political candidate, party or ideal, you may sacrifice your own voice.


    • Well Sandy, when all is said and done, First Amendment fights are at their core struggles over how we define freedom of the press. Some cases are valid, some are suspect and some are wrong. But each time, we touch on that very question.


  5. Jonolan,

    Holder can’t have it both ways. He obtained the warrant on his third judge attempt by naming Rosen as a co conspirator. That means potential prosecution. To then say to Congress that he never intended to prosecute any reporter is a contradiction. Someone got misinformed.

    I AM right.about the need for narrow warrants. The Justice Department spied on more than Rosen. It was not evidence against him they wanted. They were potentially fishing for other leakers from other scandals.


  6. Ok….
    I see we have a good conversation going on this…..

    Under NO circumstances is Holder gonna lock up a reporter on this ….
    He’s going after the source….
    The judge KNEW thiis….
    So does the media….
    Alan you are correct ….
    The Government was going after the STOOL PIDEGON……
    Very few of us like people who sign up NOT to tell our secrets and then do so, Right?

    So if the leaker ain’t following the rules ….The Government which should, may not…..
    And yea….Holder IS gonna try to get it ANY WAY he can….What makes anyone think that the Government isn’t gonna try ANYTHING it can if it thinks someone could putting American lives at risk with leaks to the media?

    Now again to make everyone crazy lets point out something else….
    EVERYBODY in Washington LEAKs….
    The White House , State, Congress ….EVERY DAMN BODY….
    And for VARIOUS reasons
    As I said before without leaks the Washington Post and the NY Times would starve from the lack of political news….

    So the media is doubly worried that these actions could be effective in what they where designed to do….
    CATCH LEAKERS and slow down others…..

    And on the narrow stuff….
    Lets NOT forget ….A Judge Oked them…..
    DOJ wasn’t stupid…..

    This about the Media keeping their sources open…
    Plain and Simple…
    If it was a fuss by anyone else (Except the banks) …
    They’s be in jain already…..


    • james, in his piece, Coll says he thinks there are many more cases like the AP one. And even though DOJ is acting mostly legally (mostly), if there are a lot more of these? Very bad. Very very bad.


  7. Of Course there are…..
    Then there is this….
    The NSA has been receiving ALL Verizon call records….


  8. Both things Legal….
    Both need to be brought down to size….

    But these are days when some of this stuff IS needed….
    And I STILL maintain the Media is just trying to protect it’s bottom line….

    Oh, and the NSA story may have been from a ‘leak’…..


  9. Oh, and one more thing to add….

    On the new NSA leaked story?
    The White House, The Congress and the FISA court ALL signed off on it…
    Making it a total Government OK…..


    • james, speaking of ‘total’, do you remember Poindexter’s plan for a program (in Bush days) called TIA? Total Information Awareness. Yikes. I think that raised a clamor and they backed off, but probably all they did was rename it.


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