NYT's David Sanger: Team Obama's 'The Most Closed, Control Freak Administration I’ve Ever Covered'

Veteran New York Times reporter David Sanger is a friend of Team Obama. He wrote an Obama-boosting book called  "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power." But now we learn that Sanger has proclaimed “This is the most closed, control-freak administration I’ve ever covered.”

Former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie quoted this in a Post commentary on how the Obama administration is prosecuting leakers. It’s titled “In Obama’s war on leaks, reporters fight back.”

That’s not exactly what we’ve seen in the papers since May ended.

Before the 2012 election, Sanger wrote a major scoop (a scoop that clearly came from Obama administration sources) explaining successful covert cyberattacks by the United States and Israel against Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities. Then “federal prosecutors and the FBI questioned scores of officials throughout the government who were identified in computer analyses of phone, text and e-mail records as having contact with Sanger.”

“A memo went out from the chief of staff a year ago to White House employees and the intelligence agencies that told people to freeze and retain any e-mail, and presumably phone logs, of communications with me,” Sanger said. As a result, longtime sources no longer talk to him. “They tell me: ‘David, I love you, but don’t e-mail me. Let’s don’t chat until this blows over.’ ”

Reporters are now talking to government sources through intermediaries so the officials can pass lie-detector tests that they haven’t talked to reporters. Downie added:

In November, a presidential memorandum instructed all government departments and agencies to set up pervasive “Insider Threat Programs”  to monitor employees with access to classified information and to prevent “unauthorized disclosure,” including to the news media. According to the policy, each agency must, among other things, develop procedures “ensuring employee awareness of their responsibility to report, as well as how and to whom to report, suspected insider threat activity.” Officials cited the Manning leak as the kind of threat the program is intended to prevent.

Downie concluded with concern:

Will Obama recognize that all this threatens his often-stated but unfulfilled goal of making government more transparent and accountable? None of the Washington news media veterans I talked to were optimistic.

“Whenever I’m asked what is the most manipulative and secretive administration I’ve covered, I always say it’s the one in office now,” Bob Schieffer, CBS News anchor and chief Washington correspondent, told me. “Every administration learns from the previous administration. They become more secretive and put tighter clamps on information. This administration exercises more control than George W. Bush’s did, and his before that.”

As Ed Morrissey ably put it over at Hot Air, “Does it even occur to Downie that Obama’s claim to deliver “the most transparent administration ever” (not just incrementally more transparent than before) was simply a load of hogwash?”

This entire leak-probe business could have broken out before Obama was re-elected. But that was apparently too dangerous to the statist quo for liberal reporters to force out into the open. They were more interested in selling Obama as a regular G.I. Joe commander-in-chief. 

Rich Noyes wrote a terrific summary of the Sanger scoop (and a Jo Becker-Scott Shane scoop just days before) and how 92 percent of the sourcing came from inside this administration. 

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis