Justice Department Investigated NY Times Reporter Over Stuxnet Story

Saturday, 25 May 2013 09:41 PM

By Todd Beamon

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The Department of Justice investigated alleged national security leaks to a reporter for The New York Times over his story last year about the Stuxnet virus that was used to attack Iran’s infrastructure.

But, unlike the investigations involving Fox News journalist James Rosen and the Associated Press, DOJ examined email and telephone records of government officials who communicated with the Times reporter — David Sanger, the publication reported on Saturday.

“FBI agents asked the White House, the Defense Department and intelligence agencies for phone and email logs showing exchanges with a New York Times reporter writing about computer attacks on Iran,” the newspaper said. “Agents grilled officials about their contacts with him.”

Meanwhile, Fox News apparently knew nearly three years ago that the Justice Department had sought the telephone records of Rosen in a leak investigation, CNN reported on Saturday.

A law enforcement source told CNN that Justice notified a media organization almost three years ago of a subpoena for detailed telephone records, and another told the news agency that the organization was Fox.

“In the investigation that led to the indictment of Stephen Kim, the government issued subpoenas for toll records for five phone numbers associated with the media,” a law enforcement source told CNN. “Consistent with Department of Justice policies and procedures, the government provided notification of those subpoenas nearly three years ago by certified mail, facsimile and e-mail.”

The Times' Sanger reported last summer that the United States and Israel developed the Stuxnet virus, using it to attack Iran in an effort to destroy another country’s infrastructure. The report cited anonymous sources.

So far, it appears that officials did not seize Sanger’s electronic communications or monitor his activities with any potential sources, the Times reports.

The report, however, details how far DOJ goes with such investigations, even before the issue of subpoenaing a journalist’s emails and phone records arises.

“When an agency spots classified information in the news, officials file what is called a ‘Crimes Report’ with the Department of Justice answering 11 standard questions about the leak, including the effect of the disclosure ‘on the national defense,’” the Times reports.

“FBI agents then set out to find the leaker, a process that has become far easier in recent years as e-mail and other electronic records have proliferated.”

And the process has created a chilling effect — within the federal government, the Times reports.

“Some officials are now declining to take calls from certain reporters, concerned that any contact may lead to investigation,” the report says. “Some complain of being taken from their offices to endure uncomfortable questioning.

“And the government officials typically must pay for lawyers themselves, unlike reporters for large news organizations whose companies provide legal representation.”

In light of the outrage over the Rosen and AP cases, President Barack Obama ordered Attorney General Eric Holder to review Justice’s procedures for leak investigations. He cited a concern that such probes chilled reporters’ ability to hold the government accountable.

“But he made no apology for the scrutiny of the many officials whose records were searched or who had been questioned by the FBI,” the Times reports.


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