Juan Williams: The Obama Administration Has Criminalized Journalism

On Tuesday's Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor and Emmy-winning journalist Juan Williams accused the Obama Justice Department of having "criminalized journalism" by investigating Fox News correspondent James Rosen. Williams claimed that such probing by the administration “makes it difficult for journalists to do business” and posed the question, “How do you do journalism if you are treated as a criminal for asking for information?” [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

This revelation, of course, comes close on the heels of the DOJ seizing phone and email records of several Associated Press employees during a leak investigation concerning a CIA operation to foil a terror bomb plot. However, in the Rosen case, the Justice Department has “specifically gone after Rosen and Fox as co-conspirators in the case,” according to Williams, whereas “there is no such listing of AP as a co-conspirator.” In all his years of reporting, Williams said that this particular case against Rosen “stands out in a bright way to me” because it shows that the administration is trying to criminalize certain types of reporting. 

Williams said the reason for this rash of DOJ investigations is because “Obama has been criticized for too many leaks coming out.” This criticism is causing “an effort to crack down on reporters,” and people in the administration “are picking on journalists, sometimes with political intent." He added that he “has never seen that before,” referring to the implication of Rosen as a co-conspirator in the leak of classified information.

Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy feared that such actions by the administration will cause “a lot of people...to clam up,” and not “tell the story that needs to get out.” This is a sentiment that Williams echoed when he asserted that “the idea that [Rosen] is listed as a co-conspirator is chilling to people who would leak and to reporters who pursue stories in Washington” which then impedes the ability of the media “to get information in a democracy to an informed citizen.” 


For reference, the transcript of the May 21 interview is included below:

8:45 AM Eastern

STEVE DOOCY: A new twist in the federal government's probe of American journalists. The Department of Justice wasn't just targeting the Associated Press. Apparently it also went after Fox News reporter, our very own James Rosen. They tracked Rosen's comings and goings and secretly obtained copies of his personal e-mail to build a case against one of his sources. Has the Department of Justice finally crossed a line? Joining us now, Fox News contributor Juan Williams. Good morning. 

JUAN WILLIAMS: Good morning. 

DOOCY: You know, it's one thing to go after the leaker. It's another to go after the reporter who gets the leaked information. 

WILLIAMS: It really is. I think what you've got here is a situation where somehow now journalism has been criminalized, especially in this Rosen case. There is just no justification for somehow making out that the reporter who is trying to cultivate a source by doing so is a coconspirator in terms of a leaks investigation. I have never heard that before, never seen that before. It's never been done before. 

GRETCHEN CARLSON: Well, I have a couple of questions for you, Juan. First of all, the judge had to sign off on this in seeing James Rosen as a criminal. That's point one. Who's the judge? Number two is how many other reporters are currently being followed with their comings and goings and their personal e-mail and their phone conversations? 

WILLIAMS: Gretchen, I don't know the answer to the first question about who is the judge. Clearly what the prosecutor and justice department did in signing off on the request for the subpoena was to support the idea that because Rosen had encouraged Stephen Kim, the state department official, to confess or to reveal information about the North Korean nuclear program, he was in a sense a coconspirator, and on that basis then they went after James Rosen's correspondence, e-mails, his comings and goings. They tracked his badge as he went in and out of the State Department and also phone records, you know, cell phone records and that kind of treatment of a reporter who is certainly doing journalism. I want to emphasize that; that's the craft we practice. It makes it difficult for journalists to do business. How do you do journalism if you are treated as a criminal for asking for information? 

CARLSON: How many other "criminals" are out there being followed now? He wasn't the only one working stories about North Korea. 

WILLIAMS: No, and the thing is there's been  an effort to crack down on reporters and this is bipartisan on the hill. There's been criticism of too many leaks. 

BRIAN KILMEADE: Nothing like this from this president. 

WILLIAMS: Nobody has prosecuted as many as President Obama. Even Obama has been criticized for too many leaks coming out in his administration. The point is that what you get here is an atmosphere that makes it difficult for reporters, especially those pursuing national security stories, to get information to the American people. 

KILMEADE: Are you going to be intimidated, Juan? Are your colleagues?

WILLIAMS: I have been around too long. I get beat up from all sides. I will tell you, this is different. This stands out in a bright way to me as what I call criminalizing journalism. I don't see how you can do this. You know, in a sense, I think people are picking on journalists, sometimes with political intent. I don't like it. I think this is when you start to make it difficult to get information in a democracy to an informed citizen. 

CARLSON: But is the attorney general, Eric Holder, able to say he recused himself from this case as well? That's what he said about the AP story.  

WILLIAMS: I don't know what the situation is with regard to Holder's participation, but I do think it's clear that the Justice Department signed off on having James Rosen listed as a co-conspirator when they went to the judge. In the AP case, for example, there is no such listing of AP as a co-conspirator, but there was a broad subpoena, and they wanted the phone records from AP reporters. In the Fox case, they have specifically gone after Rosen and Fox as co-conspirators in the case. 

KILMEADE: He could be looking at ten years. 

DOOCY: The thing about this is the fact that this administration, this president hates leaks, and now, given what's happening, a lot of people are going to clam up, and they are simply not going to tell the story that needs to get out. 

WILLIAMS: That's the thing. You know, it's one thing to go after legitimate leaks that endanger national security. It's another thing to say somebody reporting a story -- and I don't think the story had any grave national security implications -- is a criminal. The second thing is to specifically target the reporter and the organization, even though he wasn't charged with any crime, the idea that he is listed as a co-conspirator is chilling to people who would leak and to reporters who pursue stories in Washington. 

KILMEADE: President Obama may be doing the impossible, turning the press against him one person at a time. Juan Williams, thanks so much. 

WILLIAMS: You're welcome. Have a good day.