It was no doubt meant as an act of reconciliation and dialogue; but it backfired, and rightly so. If my emails had been searched by the DOJ, I’d be eager to talk to the man who authorized, in the case of James Rosen, a potentially criminal warrant. But I’d want that talk to be open, clear and accountable. To try to address the question of secret government intrusion into the press in secret is like something out of a John Le Carre novel.
I’m not qualified to judge the legal dimensions of Holder’s term as attorney-general. And it does seem to my eyes that he did nothing actually illegal in the leak cases, but rather pushed the boundaries of government monitoring of the press to new, invasive levels. Some of this is about technology – emails are far easier to monitor that previous communications. Some of it is about genuine issues of national security – the outing of a mole in North Korea, for example, which any government needs to keep secret. There is a mass of gray area in there that does not easily fit into a narrative of an outrageous abuse of government power.
But politically, Holder is now and long has been a dreadful communicator, appearing both weak and yet intrusive at the same time. That’s an awful combination, only underlined by this latest example of complete tone-deafness. Let’s have the meeting. It’s important to clear the air, clarify differences, and build consensus for a new media shield law.
But let’s do it in public and on the record. I seem to recall a candidate once promising a transparent administration. So why is the current air so thick with fog?
(Photo: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder attends a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Department of Justice May 28, 2013 in Washington, DC. By Win McNamee/Getty Images.)