It’s going to be hard for Attorney General Eric Holder to deploy his standard-issue Incompetence Defense to get out of this one. He can’t claim he never saw the paperwork when he’s signature is all over it. Unless maybe he’s going to drop the Sergeant Schultz routine and go for the Colonel Henry Blake gambit, and claim some Radar O’Reilly type at the Justice Department slipped the papers under his pen without telling him what he was signing.
At any rate, NBC News broke the big story:
Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a ???possible co-conspirator??? in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails, a law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday.
The disclosure of the attorney general???s role came as President Barack Obama, in a major speech on his counterterrorism policy, said Holder had agreed to review Justice Department guidelines governing investigations that involve journalists.
“I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable,” Obama said. “Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.”
How long would it have taken Eric Holder’s exhaustive review of the Fox News surveillance outrage to discover that Eric Holder was behind it, if a source hadn’t spilled the beans to NBC News? Does NBC News get bugged now?
Maybe Holder will put himself on paid administrative leave, just like key IRS scandal figure Lois Lerner, who was reportedly given that brutal punishment after refusing to resign today. He recused himself from the Associated Press investigation, without filling out the legally required paperwork. But he didn’t want to recuse himself from going after Fox News, eh?
After a bit of embarrassed silence, the Justice Department declared that everybody from the Attorney General on down thinks that freedom of the press is just gosh-darn wonderful, and they wouldn’t dream of doing anything to stifle it:
A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Department of Justice later issued a statement about the review of media guidelines: ???This review is consistent with Attorney General Holder’s long-standing belief that freedom of the press is essential to our democracy,” it said. “At the same time, the attorney general believes that leaks of classified information damage our national security and must be investigated using appropriate law enforcement tools. We remain steadfast in our commitment to following all laws and regulations intended to safeguard national security as well as the First Amendment interests of the press in reporting the news and the public in receiving it.”
The law enforcement official said Holder’s approval of the Rosen search, in the spring of 2010, came after senior Justice officials concluded there was “probable cause” that Rosen’s communications with his source, identified as intelligence analyst Stephen Kim, met the legal burden for such searches. “It was approved at the highest levels– and I mean the highest,” said the law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said that explicitly included Holder.
The surveillance of Rosen, incidentally, included pulling the phone records of his parents. “My son and his wife call us all the time, and we talk about grandchildren. We don’t talk about nuclear proliferation” said his father, attorney Myron Rosen. “The fact that they had our phone records, it shows how crazy they are, how desperate.”