Condemning Justice Department actions

It appears the Justice Department might have violated the First Amendment of the Constitution by secretly obtaining phone records of the Associated Press. More needs to be investigated as to why the feds acted secretly in an apparent attempt to find out AP’s sources. It is believed to be on a story run by the AP on a failed attempt of a terrorism plot in Yemen that they were seeking.

In trying to find out the leaks, the Feds secretly tracked more than 20 phone lines, offices, homes and cell phones of reporters and editors of the Associated Press, which represents thousands of journalists in the United States and Canada.

While the government has the right to investigate, they need to be sensitive and respectful of the First Amendment that extends to the business of newsgathering organizations differently than they do to other businesses.

Jay Carney, White House press secretary said, “The president feels strongly that we need the press to be able to be unfettered in its pursuit of investigative journalism. He is also mindful of the need of secret and classified information to remain secret and classified in order to protect our nation security interests. There is a careful balance here that needs to be maintained.”

We agree that it is a careful balance. The government’s job is to protect our national security but while following the rule of law that we know as the First Amendment. The job of the press is to gather news and protect its sources, whether it is from leaked documents or whistle blowers, the press needs this information. It can’t properly do its job if it can’t be free and without fear of being subjected to government surveillance.

We strongly agree with AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt who called the action a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather news. In supporting AP and news organizations nationwide, we would like to join the discussion and implementation of a federal shield law. The law would protect sources and documents, ensuring that journalists and confidential informants would not be silenced with threats of federal prosecution or subpoena. Under this law, the federal government must prove to a judge that the information sought outweighs a journalist’s need to keep the information confidential.

Furthermore, this is a sign that the Obama administration’s effort to eliminate leaks has become over-obsessive. Yes, in general, a good player on the national security team doesn’t blab, but these workers aren’t slaves – they’re Americans just like the rest of us. Let’s not forget that the point of all these security measures is Americans’ personal freedom. Responsible freedom, of course, requires some sacrifices, but if the Bill of Rights is sacrificed, that will not stand. The grievance will cry out of its own accord and will not be silenced.

If the press is to be the watchdog and invest gate the truth, then we need to uphold the rights of our Constitution in order to have justice.