Critics Charge Obama Justice Department's Collection of Journalists' Phone Records Undermines Press Freedom

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Posted June 5, 2013

Interview with Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, conducted by Scott Harris

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Last month, the Associated Press revealed that the Obama administration’s Department of Justice had secretly collected two months' worth of the news agency’s reporters’ phone call records from several bureau offices, the House of Representatives Press gallery and individual journalists’ home and cell phones. The Department of Justice collection of these phone records is linked to the agency’s investigation into a government leak which surfaced in a 2012 AP story about a foiled terrorist bomb plot in Yemen targeting a U.S.-bound airliner.

In a related development, the Department of Justice had recently admitted to spying on Fox News Chief Washington correspondent James Rosen to pursue a criminal charge under the Espionage Act against State Department advisor Stephen Jin-Woo Kim who had allegedly provided Rosen with confidential information on North Korea’s nuclear tests. What’s most disturbing to many First Amendment advocates is the FBI’s characterization of Rosen as possibly being an “aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator” in the leaking of classified information.

The aggressive pursuit of government leaks by the Obama White House has resulted in a doubling of the number of whistleblower investigations under the 1917 Espionage Act, than in all previous presidential administrations combined. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, who explains why he believes the Obama Justice Department’s surveillance of Associated Press reporter’s phone lines directly threatens American’s First Amendment rights and freedom of the press.

Find more information on the Bill of Rights Defense Committee at BORDC.org.

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