YAEL T. ABOUHALKAH

Obama officials’ chilling decision to secretly seize AP phone records

Updated: 2013-05-14T23:30:38Z

By YAEL T. ABOUHALKAH

The Kansas City Star

The decision by President Obama’s Justice Department to secretly seize phone records from a large number of Associated Press reporters and editors is close to being unprecedented in a country where free speech is celebrated.

But sadly it’s not exactly shocking, given how ardently the Obama administration has sought to punish government whistleblowers who leak information to the media. It could be that Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder just don’t like secrets getting out.

This is a chilling development because it shows how far the Obama administration is prepared to go to look into how the press gathers sensitive information about the government.

And coming on the heels of the IRS follies, it’s been a very bad few days for Americans’ trust in a government led by Obama and his appointed officials.

In the case of the AP phone records, a lot is still unknown, especially the answer to the prime question: Exactly why did the Justice Department want the extensive records it obtained?

One possible explanation: The administration is trying to figure out who leaked information to AP reporters about a foiled terrorist attack in 2012. Indeed, the phone numbers of five reporters and an editor involved in an AP story about the plot were among those seized by the feds.

As this story in The Star notes, the records covered more than 20 lines, including work and personal phone numbers of reporters, along with phone numbers for AP offices in New York and Washington, D.C.

AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt was understandably outraged and wants all the records destroyed.

But Holder and his Justice Department in the past have been pretty much stone walls when it comes to giving out information in cases involving whistleblowers who provide to the media information the government doesn’t want the public to know.

Here’s a good rundown on exactly how tough the Obama administration has been in this field.

To reach Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. He blogs at voices.kansascity.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/YaelTAbouhalkah.

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