The Justice Department is under fire for obtaining two months of telephone records for twenty different lines used by reporters and editors for The Associated Press. Said data included phone numbers, names, calls made, and potentially call duration. The AP was informed of the data collection last Friday after the data was already obtained, and is calling the snooping
a "massive and unprecedented intrusion."
It's not entirely clear what the government was after, but the AP speculates that the DOJ is looking for a source who leaked details of a failed terror plot in an AP story on May 7, 2012. In doing so, they've triggered what will be a public relations and legal firestorm -- especially given the news comes as the IRS this week is under fire for targeting nonprofit groups critical of the government
It was already made clear that a supposedly left-leaning Obama administration wasn't at all that left leaning given their disregard for wiretap laws and their relentless assault on whistleblowers, and this rather ham-fisted trampling of the Constitution and the rights of the press to protect its sources only makes that clearer still.
"There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP's newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP's activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know," AP CEO Gary Pruitt said in a letter
to the DOJ.
Granted in an age where all data and conversations are tapped in real time with the help of the nation's carriers
, sadly the only thing surprising about this is that the Associated Press was informed at all. As I've noted time and time again
, the press generally operates with little context in discussing privacy issues -- responding hysterically when a small company like NebuAD or CarrierID snoops into your iPhone, but often somewhat apathetically when yet more evidence of real-time, massive carrier warrantless wiretaps are unearthed.
Perhaps this gobbling up of AP reporter information will result in a press that's slightly more attentive to the fact that we've got a serious, bipartisan problem on our hands -- and one that seriously impacts them as well.