The ever-helpful folks at the Obama-friendly Media Matters gives cocktail-party-ready tips on how to talk about the Department of Justice's investigation of the AP in relation to stories about a failed al Qaeda plot in Yemen.
For those interested in pushing back against partisan attacks while the rest of us grapple with the larger questions, here is language to guide you….
- If the press compromised active counter-terror operations for a story that only tipped off the terrorists, that sounds like it should be investigated.
- It was not acceptable when the Bush Administration exposed Valerie Plame working undercover to stop terrorists from attacking us. It is not acceptable when anonymous sources do it either.
- Is this story about a government source blowing the whistle on government misbehavior, or about a source gratuitously exposing ongoing counter-terrorism operations?
- Did Republicans in Congress who are now exploiting the situation to score political points oppose the media shield law that likely would have protected the Associated Press in this situation?
- How should the Justice Department strike the balance between respecting our free press and investigating damaging leaks that jeopardize counter-terrorism operations?
I'll take a quick stab at answering the last of Media Matters' bullet points: The DOJ could strike a balance by pursuing first and foremost investigations within the Obama administration or the government, where by definition the leaks must have orignated. And when they get around to surveilling press organizations—especially independent ones that are at times critical of the Obama adminstration— they best tightly tailor their searches rather than create the equivalent of dragnets. As the National Journal's Ron Fournier has pointed out, the operation seems as designed to chill the press as discover anything in particular.
And given the willingness of members of the Obama administration to plainly act in partisan fashion (IRS, anyone?), it's best to tell Attorney General Eric Holder to stop bragging that
"We have tried more leak cases—brought more leak cases during the course of this administration than any other administration."