Ambers adds some vital context to the debate:
Why was this leak so bad, then? Why pursue these leakers so aggressively?
Because Brennan might have been implicated and may have spoken off the cuff or too hastily in his briefing, and because he was slated to be the president’s next CIA director (everyone assumed this in Washington but it hadn’t been confirmed), and because Congress demanded an investigation of this particular leak, and because (I’ll grant) the information released could well have been harmful, a perfect storm arose, and the Justice Department found it had the political backing to aggressive and unflinchingly pursue the leakers.
Hence the GOP’s reluctance to take this one on. They wanted an investigation in the first place. And the question of harming national security in this case was a real one:
On May 7, 2012, the AP ran its story; the perpetrator was in custody over the objections of the White House. Other parts of the national security machine were attempting to pursue the loose ends of the plot to see whom it might ensnare, and that effort was apparently cut short.
Greenwald’s column notes that the investigation was legal, but way too broad:
What makes the DOJ’s actions so stunning here is its breadth. It’s the opposite of a narrowly tailored and limited scope. It’s a massive, sweeping, boundless invasion which enables the US government to learn the identity of every person whom multiple AP journalists and editors have called for a two-month period. Some of the AP journalists involved in the Yemen/CIA story and whose phone records were presumably obtained – including Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo – are among the nation’s best and most serious investigative journalists; those two won the Pulitzer Prize last year for their superb work exposing the NYPD’s surveillance program aimed at American Muslim communities. For the DOJ to obtain all of their phone records and those of their editors for a period of two months is just staggering.
Still we have been told that the AP email search came after 500 field interviews, did not include all AP emails from April and May 2012, and was trying to protect future anti-terrorist actions from premature public scrutiny, after being told to by the Congress. I find the whole thing troubling – but not outrageous. There’s a trade-off here, as Ambers fairly notes, that Glenn doesn’t acknowledge. Massimo Calabresi notes that Obama promised more transparency:
Obama came into office offering Americans a deal on secrecy. On the one hand, he promised to shrink the number of secrets created by the government, ending the problem of “overclassification” which produces so many secrets that few are well protected. At the same time, he said he would aggressively defend the secrets the government did need to keep by going after leakers and making them pay. Obama has delivered on the crackdown–he’s prosecuted twice as many leakers as all his predecessors combined–but he hasn’t delivered on the secrecy reduction.
Agreed. The administration’s abuse of the state secret loophole has been off the charts. While I’m at it: release the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the Bush-Cheney torture program!
(Photo: US President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder (R) attend the National Peace Officers Memorial Service, an annual ceremony honoring law enforcement who were killed in the line of duty in the previous year, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, May 15, 2013. By Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.)