WashPost's Pincus Steadfastly Defends Obama/Holder DOJ's Handling of AP Probe

At this point it's become abundantly clear that the Obama/Holder Justice Department went overboard in its overzealous, subpoena-happy probe of Associated Press journalists. We also know from the Washington Post's reporting, that the administration was peeved about the timing of the AP story in question, not so much the content, and that the AP's president is on record slamming the  DOJ for an "unconstitutional" seizure of phone records.

But all that doesn't matter to the  Post's Walter Pincus, who dutifully defended Team Obama in his May 21 column, "AP leak investigation less clear-cut than the uproar." It seems the national security correspondent and columnist doesn't mind an intrusive, secret investigation, now and then, so long as it's in service of aiding a liberal president or undermining a conservative one as in the now-infamous Valerie Plame case (emphasis mine):


It was inevitable that the leak to the AP would generate an FBI probe. Given past leak investigations in the Bush and Obama administrations, journalists at the AP and elsewhere know they could face scrutiny. Like it or not, they are part of a crime. The leaker or leakers had taken an oath under the threat of prosecution to protect the information.

The current probe, after almost a year of exhausting other avenues, followed Justice Department guidelines and issued grand jury subpoenas for AP phone records. Did they overreach? There were five reporters and one editor listed on the initial story working out of different AP offices.

Should the AP have been told in advance so it could try to quash the subpoenas? It could delay the inquiry possibly for years if the AP went to court.

Having found my phone records caught up in criminal and civil case probes, such actions from government officials should not be a surprise.

But how many times can the media claim such an action is “chilling sources?” That was a claim during the Valerie Plame case under the Bush administration and repeatedly invoked as the Obama Justice Department has pursued leakers.

The risk of breaking the law apparently didn’t chill those who leaked the information to the AP. That’s what should be considered chilling.

The reality is that this is not a whistleblowing case. There are no heroes here, and the press in this instance was not protecting individuals trying to expose government malfeasance.

Of course, there's a world of difference between phone conversations with journalists or email correspondence being brought to light because of a subpoena of a government worker's phone records and emails and the DOJ going on a fishing expedition by secretly subpoenaing phone records of journalists, including home and cell phones as well as their office lines.

Pincus is correct that government workers with access to classified material are under oath to not leak such material. But journalists do not take such an oath, and it's patently absurd to insist that they should meekly accept such intrusions into their work product, especially when that work is reporting on and ostensibly working to keep the government honest.

By definition, top secret material has only a limited number of personnel with knowledge thereof who could possibly leak, and that is where the government would best focus its resources in finding, prosecuting, and hence deterring leaks.

Pincus should frankly be ashamed of himself for becoming an Obama stooge on this matter.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters