The Justice Department spied extensively on Fox News reporter James Rosen in 2010, collecting his telephone records, tracking his movements in and out of the State Department and seizing two days of Rosen’s personal emails, the Washington Post reported on Monday.
In a chilling move sure to rile defenders of civil liberties, an FBI agent also accused Rosen of breaking anti-espionage law with behavior that—as described in the agent's own affidavit—falls well inside the bounds of traditional news reporting. (Disclosure: This reporter counts Rosen among his friends.)UPDATE: Fox News responds with a blistering statement that asserts Rosen was "simply doing his job" in his role as "a member of what up until now has always been a free press.”
The revelations surfaced with President Barack Obama’s administration already under fire for seizing two months of telephone records of reporters and editors at the Associated Press. Obama last week said he makes “no apologies” for investigations into national security-related leaks. The AP's CEO, Gray Pruitt, said Sunday that the seizure was "unconstitutional."
The Obama administration has prosecuted twice as many leakers as all previous administrations combined.
“The president is a strong defender of the First Amendment and a firm believer in the need for the press to be unfettered in its ability to conduct investigative reporting and facilitate a free flow of information,” White House press secretary Jay Carney insisted last week. “He also, of course, recognizes the need for the Justice Department to investigate alleged criminal activity without undue influence.”The details of the government's strategy against Rosen sound like something out of a spy novel.
Investigators looking into disclosures of sensitive information about North Korea got Rosen’s telephone records and a warrant for his personal emails but also used his State Department security badge to track his movements in and out of that building, the Post reported, citing court documents.
The case began when Rosen reported on June 11, 2009, that U.S. intelligence believed North Korea might respond to tighter United Nations sanctions with new nuclear tests. Rosen reported that the information came from CIA sources inside the hermetic Stalinist state.