Among the scandals that have latched themselves to the White House, the worst is the Obama administration's spying on journalist James Rosen, who works for Fox News. In what seems both sinister and inept, Rosen was actually tagged as a "co-conspirator and/or aider and abettor" in a spying case. Rosen was then -- for 30 days -- spied on by the administration. His "offense" -- he was a reporter doing his job. Targeting him is an attack on the First Amendment. If you shut up a reporter's right to do his job and speak out via the press, such imposed silence can hamper all the other rights we have as Americans.
The FBI's decision to snoop on Rosen is based on logic more familiar to the Keystone Cops. Rosen was communicating with a source, State Department analyst Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, later charged by the U.S. government with violating the Espionage Act. The feds charge Kim with revealing classified information that North Korea was planning to test a nuclear bomb.
As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank notes, much of the "case" to spy on Rosen came from this email from Rosen to Kim: "I want to report authoritatively, and ahead of my competitors, on new initiatives or shifts in U.S. policy, events on the ground in [North Korea], what intelligence is picking up, etc. . . . I'd love to see some internal State Department analyses. . . . In short: Let's break some news, and expose muddle-headed policy when we see it, or force the administration's hand to go in the right direction, if possible." ... As Milbank dryly notes, "That is indeed compelling evidence -- of good journalism."
The whole rationale for peeking into Rosen's professional and personal life was ludicrous. Nevertheless, coupled with the Obama administration's earlier decision to snoop into Associated Press phone records, it shows a distressing trait. As the New York Times Editorial Board notes, "six current and former administration officials have been indicted under the old Espionage Act for leaking classified information to the press and public." Before President Obama assumed office, there had only been three indictments, and one was against Daniel Ellsberg, the Nixon-era whistle blower associated with the Pentagon Papers.
When a journalist provides information that the government doesn't want revealed, it is not treason. When the government uses its law enforcement powers to intimidate or jail journalists, it is an offense to our civil liberties.