The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

May 15, 2013

Our View: Big Brother looms large

— The federal government, working under the cloak of secrecy, has been having a heyday at the expense of all Americans.

First we learn the IRS has been targeting conservatives — applications for tax-exempt status by tea party groups were wrongly singled out for extra scrutiny.

Then on Monday we find out that the Department of Justice has committed an injustice by seizing phone records of journalists working for The Associated Press. The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for the AP in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.

Steven Miller, the IRS acting chief, said Tuesday the agency had demonstrated a “lack of sensitivity” in its screenings of political groups. What was really committed was a violation of personal freedom.

We agree with Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt. President Barack Obama should ask for Miller’s resignation or give Miller the boot.

“If the reports are accurate that Steven Miller knew about the IRS’s egregious targeting of conservative groups last year and misled members of Congress about those actions, he should step down or be removed immediately,” Blunt said Tuesday.

We also want to express our outrage over the government seizure of the records for more than 20 telephone lines assigned to the AP and its journalists in April and May 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown, but more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on stories about government and other matters.

The Associated Press Media Editors association, of which the Globe is a member, condemns in the strongest possible terms the actions of the Justice Department in seizing AP phone records.

APME is calling for discussion and implementation of a federal shield law.

We have noted for years that a shield law is needed to protect journalists from having to reveal their sources and documents, ensuring that journalists and confidential informants would not be silenced by the threat of federal prosecution or subpoena.

In both cases the government has used its authority with flagrant disregard for the people it serves.

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