Last spring, Washington was stunned by the way the Obama administration shamelessly leaked information about drone strikes and cyber-warfare tactics employed by the U.S. against Iran to leading media outlets. The leaks led to a number of flattering stories that bolstered the president’s pose as a tough military leader, including some that somehow found themselves above the fold on the front page in the Sunday edition of the New York Times. This caused a furor that forced Attorney General Eric Holder to name two special prosecutors to investigate the leaks. At that time I wondered whether this would mean some in the president’s inner circle would be subjected to the same treatment that was doled out to Scooter Libby as part of the bogus Valerie Plame investigation. But nearly a year later we’ve heard nothing about whether the obvious targets of scrutiny, top figures in the Obama White House and the Defense Department, have been ferreted out as the leakers.
Fast-forward to today and we learn that in a separate case involving the leaking of an account of an alleged foiling of a terrorist plot, the DOJ has carried out an unprecedented fishing expedition secretly seizing the phone records of what may turn out to be more than 100 editors and reporters at the Associated Press. Virtually the entire national press corps agrees this is an attempt to intimidate journalists in keeping with the fact that this administration has prosecuted twice as many leaking cases as all of its predecessors combined.
Without learning more about the case in question, it’s impossible to judge just how much of an overreach the DOJ has engaged in here. Attorney General Holder, who held a news conference today only to tell us that he had recused himself from the investigation, didn’t add much to our knowledge other than to say it was serious and lives were endangered. But what we do know is that although this administration thinks nothing of engaging in such high-handed tactics, we’ve yet to see any highly placed member of Obama’s team be called to account for leaks that were clearly intended to puff the president’s reputation.