The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

May 16, 2013

Our View: Spying on us

— Editor’s note: Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. is the parent company of The Joplin Globe and offers today’s editorial. Our paper’s editorial denouncing the actions of the Department of Justice can be found in Wednesday’s edition.

Distrust of government secrecy has been elevated to an exceptional level with the disclosure the Justice Department covertly examined two months of Associated Press phone records to determine who leaked details to the AP about a foiled terrorist plot.

This amounts to spying on an American news organization — common practice in dictatorships but scary conduct in a democratic system that prizes the public value of an independent watchdog press.

What makes this case so egregious is the Justice Department went about securing an array of phone records from at least 20 AP phone lines, including reporters’ and editors’ personal cellphones, without allowing the news agency an opportunity to object.

Furthermore, it violates the department’s 30-year-old subpoena guidelines requiring it to make “every reasonable effort to obtain through alternative means” information that might be included in the media’s phone records.

The Justice Department’s explanation that it complied with national security laws, and limited its review of last year’s April and May records to the phone numbers of the callers and not the content of the calls, is thin cover for this affront to the free press clause of the First Amendment.

The motive for wanting to know who talked to the AP is clear but it is also irresponsible. Justice Department sleuths were hell-bent on hunting down the confidential sources for the May 7, 2012, AP story about a CIA operation to stop an airliner bomb plot in Yemen.

Why this obsession with nailing the leakers? The story was an embarrassment to the president, who had assured the American people there was no credible terrorist threat last May, around the time of the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The AP held the story for several days when told by the White House it would interfere with intelligence gathering. But after assurances any national security risk had passed, the news agency published the story. The Justice Department hound dogs were close behind.

You may be tempted to dismiss as gratuitous wailing the news media’s concern over this serious breach of the constitutional wall between government and the press. But the chilling consequences of the Justice Department’s overzealous intrusiveness could well impact your ability to know what your government is doing or not doing on your behalf.

Whistleblowers and confidential sources critical to keeping the government honest and transparent are sure to be discouraged from sharing what the public has a right to know if the government can cavalierly snoop into the work product of the press.

The Obama Administration owes Americans the public assurance that its pursuit of leakers will no longer extend to secretly culling through the news media’s private records.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Other Views Other Views: Eroding court’s authority

    While Kansans were focused on the twists and turns of school finance this past week, lawmakers made an unnecessary and historic change in how the state’s district courts operate, coercively tying the reforms to badly needed funding.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Your View: Travesty

    What a travesty that a terrific young man from Spain is on the verge of deportation even though he has proven his worth in America (Globe, April 13).

    April 18, 2014

  • Your View: Astonishing transformation

    The transformation of the Republican Party in the last decade is astonishing.

    April 18, 2014

  • Your View: The changing view

    It is heartbreaking to hear the decades old trees (which border on South Pennsylvania in Webb City) cracking and being bulldozed down.

    April 18, 2014

  • Our View.jpg Our View: Safe and sound

    Of the 7,500 Joplin and Duenweg homes hit by the 2011 EF-5 tornado, fewer than 20 percent of them had basements.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Other Views Other Views: Funding for state’s roads

    Missouri is finding there is no good alternative to growing the economy, adding new well-paying jobs and expanding the tax base.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Geoff Caldwell, columnist: Government without apology or explanation

    Americans feel closest to their Uncle Sam at this time of year as he extends his hand for his “fair share” to fund his numerous endeavors.

    April 16, 2014

  • Your View: Step aside

    The people of Joplin made it clear they wanted change at City Hall with their decisive votes to replace two council members.

    April 16, 2014

  • Your View: Serious drawbacks

    Joan Banks’ guest column (Globe, April 13) lays out clearly and persuasively the serious drawbacks with so-called right-to-work legislation.

    April 16, 2014

  • Your View: Free choice

    Joan Banks’ guest column (Globe, April 13) regarding right-to-work seems to assume that if workers are given the choice of joining a union, they won’t join.

    April 16, 2014

Local News
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Poll

Missouri Republicans are considering a new approach to prevent federal agents from enforcing laws the state considers to be infringements on gun rights: barring them from future careers in state law enforcement agencies. Do you think this proposal has merit?

Yes
No
     View Results
Facebook
NDN Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Sports