Department of Justice

Now that the Obama Administration Has Alienated Most Journalists, Does the Phone Privacy Bill Have Legs?

It probably won't really help protect leaks, but it's a start


Let's set this aside as "Plan B"
Credit: Dori / / CC BY-SA

At the White House press corps briefing this afternoon, Jay Carney steadfastly declined to comment directly about the DOJ investigation of a leak that treated Fox News correspondent James Rosen as a potential criminal because it is an "ongoing investigation." So that probably failed to comfort any journalist anywhere, even with his limp effort to invoke President Barack Obama's support for a watered-down press shield law full of all sorts of national security loopholes.

For Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan), the news might help garner support for the legislation he introduced with Zoe Lofgren (D-California), Jared Polis, (D-Colorado) and Mick Mulvaney (R-South Carolina) to require a court order to get telephone records.

Like the proposed press shield law, the legislation probably wouldn't have stopped the federal government from getting the information it had gathered about Associated Press and Fox journalists, but at least there would have been another step involving some oversight from the judiciary. It may not have been much oversight, given the deference the judiciary gives to the executive branch in these matters, but at least it's a start.

According to Michigan Live (which seems to just now be reporting on the bill's introduction), the bill has picked up two more Republican supporters and Amash is hoping for the legislation to take off:

In a statement last week, Amash blasted federal officials for the AP case, saying the seizure "raises serious First and Fourth Amendment concerns."

"Regardless of whether DOJ violates the legitimate privacy expectations of reporters or ordinary Americans," Amash said, "we deserve to know that the federal government can't seize our records without judicial review."

Because of the high-profile nature of the Justice Department's seizure, [Amash Spokesman Will] Adams said the bill stood a good chance of passing quickly in the House.

It helps, he added, that cosponsor Lofgren is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which would be the first body to take up the bill.

"We think there's a lot of momentum," Adams said.

NEXT: IRS Faces Lawsuits From Tea Party Groups

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  1. If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to hide.


    1. The first time I ever heard that mantra was from two armed IRS agents standing on my front porch claiming they didn’t need a warrant to enter. Even after all these years I feel my pulse and blood pressure rise.

  2. Since reporters have decided that that tapped phone lines and harassment of political opponents by the IRS are a small price to pay for the well being of their fearless leader, I don’t see the passage of this bill wil make a lick of difference. This week it was formalized. No abuse of government is worthy of real outrage.

    1. You know who else was beloved?

      1. Theo Epstein?

  3. Why wouldn’t they need a court order to get phone records? How did we get to this point where we are begging the government not to violate the integrity of our electronic “papers?”

    Amazing how far we’ve fallen since 9/11.

    1. The terrorists are getting what they wanted. Sick.

    2. They’ve been claiming (and getting) phone records without a court order since before 9/11, just like they’ve been get email left on servers for more than 60 days without a court order since at least a court case in the ’80s.

      People like to point to 9/11 and the PATRIOT Act and such, but it was only relatively small change in the trend.

  4. “Alienated most journalists.” Ha, ha, ha… that’s funny! Even with all the meaty scandals to chew on, the media is still carrying the Obama administration’s water for it. Nobody has even bothered to harass the President in the mildest terms with simple, direct questions about any of the scandals. They’ve let him skate with completely unbelievable claims of “outrage” and “firing” an interim director who was leaving next month in any event and who clearly didn’t have any major role in initiating the scandal since he wasn’t in charge then.

    But not a single reporter thought to ask those follow-up questions. Really, since Clinton took office the media has been cowed into submission by the office of the President. When Reagan made them quit barking questions like crazy people and raise their hands and wait to be recognized you’d have thought that he banned the free press. Then Clinton introduced the scripting of questions and pretty much eliminated the possibility of unscheduled follow-ups when Christiane Amanpour asked her follow-up question on Clinton’s unfulfilled campaign promises on Bosnia.

    Since then every reporter is toeing the line – even Fox. Blue or red, they all play the game of pretending that they are attending a press conference when they all sat through the press secretary’s briefing where he tells everyone who is going to get questions, in what order, and on what topics. No real journalist would accept that nonsense.

  5. OK I never thought about it like that, I like the idea.

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