The seizure of Associated Press phone records is just the latest of apparent efforts by the Justice Department to discourage leakers, which in 2009 led FBI agents to track the telephone calls and emails of Fox News Washington correspondent James Rosen to a government adviser.
According to the Washington Post
, the department obtained a warrant to access Rosen's emails and also tracked his comings and goings at the State Department, all in an effort to investigate Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, who was charged in 2010 with disclosing national defense information.
The latest events with The Associated Press, Kim's defense attorney Abbe Lowell told the Post, show just how far the Obama administration is willing to go in taking action against the media to get to suspected government leakers of information.
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But, he said, the seizure of phone records covering dozens of AP reporters and editors definitely marks an expansion of that effort to stamp out leaks of any kind with no "obvious attempt" to narrow or target the focus of its leak investigations.
The Kim case began in June 2009, when Rosen reported that U.S. intelligence officials were warning that North Korea was likely to respond to United Nations sanctions with more nuclear tests. He published his story the same day a top-secret report was making its way through the intelligence community, including the State Department, where Kim was an adviser with security clearance.
FBI agents traced Rosen's security-badge data, phone records, and emails to build the case against Kim, and learned of a face-to-face meeting between the two shortly before Rosen's article went online, the Post reported. The emails also revealed covert messages sent between the two men, and court documents show abundant evidence gathered from Kim's office computer, the Post noted.
Privacy protections limit searching or seizing a reporter’s work, but not when there is evidence the journalist broke the law against using unauthorized leaks. According to the Post, a federal judge viewed Rosen's attempts to solicit unauthorized intelligence information as those of a co-conspirator and signed off on federal search warrants of emails and phone records.
While Rosen has not been charged with a crime, Kim is facing numerous federal charges. His case is scheduled to go to trial next year.
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