The Washington Post on Monday reported that Obama’s Department of Justice was investigating journalists before they started wiretapping the Associated Press – for one, Fox News correspondent James Rosen in 2010. Their headline wasn't "Obama Team Also Spied on Fox News." Fox wasn't in the headline, on A-1 or on A-12, where the story continued.
Newly obtained court documents “reveal how deeply investigators explored the private communications of a working journalist — and raise the question of how often journalists have been investigated as closely as Rosen was in 2010.” Reporter Ann Marimow began:
When the Justice Department began investigating possible leaks of classified information about North Korea in 2009, investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material.
They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails.
The case of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, the government adviser, and James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, bears striking similarities to a sweeping leaks investigation disclosed last week in which federal investigators obtained records over two months of more than 20 telephone lines assigned to the Associated Press.
The Kim case began in June 2009, when Rosen reported for Fox online that U.S. intelligence officials were warning that North Korea was likely to respond to United Nations sanctions with more nuclear tests. The CIA had learned the information, Rosen wrote, from sources inside North Korea.
The story was published the same day that a top-secret report was made available within a small group inside the intelligence community, including Kim, who at the time was a State Department arms expert with security clearance. "FBI investigators used the security-badge data, phone records and e-mail exchanges to build a case that Kim shared the report with Rosen soon after receiving it, court records show."
In the documents, FBI agent Reginald Reyes described in detail how Kim and Rosen moved in and out of the State Department headquarters at 2201 C St. NW a few hours before the story was published on June 11, 2009.
“Mr. Kim departed DoS at or around 12:02 p.m. followed shortly thereafter by the reporter at or around 12:03 p.m.,” Reyes wrote. Next, the agent said, “Mr. Kim returned to DoS at or around 12:26 p.m. followed shortly thereafter by the reporter at or around 12:30 p.m.”
The activity, Reyes wrote in an affidavit, suggested a “face-to-face” meeting between the two men. “Within a few hours after those nearly simultaneous exits and entries at DoS, the June 2009 article was published on the Internet,” he wrote.
The court documents don’t name Rosen, but his identity was confirmed by several officials, and he is the author of the article at the center of the investigation. Rosen and a spokeswoman for Fox News did not return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.
The Post suggested that unlike the AP, Fox News was the likely target of the investigation:
Reyes wrote that there was evidence Rosen had broken the law, “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator.” That fact distinguishes his case from the probe of the AP, in which the news organization is not the likely target....
Privacy protections limit searching or seizing a reporter’s work, but not when there is evidence that the journalist broke the law against unauthorized leaks. A federal judge signed off on the search warrant — agreeing that there was probable cause that Rosen was a co-conspirator.
[U.S. Attorney Ronald] Machen’s office said in a statement that it is limited in commenting on an open case, but that the government “exhausted all reasonable non-media alternatives for collecting the evidence” before seeking a search warrant.
However, it remains an open question whether it’s ever illegal, given the First Amendment’s protection of press freedom, for a reporter to solicit information. No reporter, including Rosen, has been prosecuted for doing so.
The question now is whether other journalists will see Obama's Justice Department spying on Fox News as objectionable as spying on the Associated Press.
Perhaps the bland headlines meant to project Rosen as just another journalist on Obama's enemies list. The front-page headline was "Records offer rare glimpse at leak probe: Justice sought reporter's personal e-mails after N. Korea story in 2009." Inside the paper, the headline was simply "Badge data used to track reporter at State, records say."