WASHINGTON - In yet another Justice Department leak investigation of journalists, DOJ reportedly seized emails and phone records of Fox News correspondent James Rosen, and even tracked his comings and goings into the State Department by tracking when he scanned his ID at the building's entrance.
The story was first reported this morning by the Washington Post.
Court documents in the case quote extensively from Rosen's personal emails in making the case against the alleged leaker, former State Department adviser Stephen Jin-Woo Kim. The New Yorker has posted the documents online.
It was all part of an investigation into a story Rosen did in 2009 about intelligence officials warning that North Korea was likely to respond to U.N. sanctions with more nuclear tests. Kim was one of 95 people who saw the intelligence report.
For First Amendment advocates, the most chilling part of the court documents is the suggestion by DOJ that Rosen was "an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator in the crime" because he was trying to get the information, which was classified, from his source. Seeking sensitive and secret information is something reporters do every day.
The Rosen story, of course, comes after news the Justice Department had also subpoenaed the phone records of 20 employees of The Associated Press a different leak investigation.
White House spokesman Jay Carney was peppered with question after question about this at today's briefing, beginning with this exchange I had with him:
KARL: And just one more question. Does the president approve of the Justice Department's handling of the Jin-Woo Kim leak investigation? We now know that the FBI investigators in this case not only seized James Rosen's phone records, they went through and read his emails, they tracked his comings and goings inside the State Department. Does the president approve of that kind of action by the Justice Department against a reporter?
CARNEY: I will refer you to what the president said in response to a question about another matter along these lines, and that is that he is a strong defender of the First Amendment and a firm believer in the need for the press to be able to conduct investigative reporting and facilitate a free flow of information.
He is also, as a citizen and as commander in chief, insistent that we protect our secrets, that we protect classified information, and that leaks - that we take very seriously the leaks of classified information because leaks can endanger the lives of men and women in uniform and other Americans serving overseas for our country.
And that is a balance he seeks, and it is reflected in the media shield law that his administration negotiated with the Senate in 2009 and which the president is very happy to see the Senate take up again. That's a balance that was endorsed at the time by - you know, from media organizations to federal prosecutors. I cannot, of course, comment on a specific ongoing criminal investigation.
Q: Jay, do you, as a former reporter, approve of those kind of tactics - reading through the emails of a reporter?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I cannot comment on a specific ongoing investigation. I certainly share - and I think most Americans do - the president's belief that we need to have, you know, a press that is able to pursue investigative journalism and that we have to defend the First Amendment. I also think it's very important, as I think members of both parties have said, that we need to make sure that leaks are not tolerated, because leaks that can endanger the lives of our men and women and endanger our national security need to be taken very seriously.
But that is, again, not a comment on a specific case, because I cannot comment on a specific case.