Obama Defends DOJ In AP Scandal: ‘Leaks Related To National Security Can Put People At Risk’.
During a press conference within the Rose Garden of the White House on Thursday, The president addressed the controversy surrounding the Department of Justice’s obtainment of 8 weeks of phone records in the Associated Press. Obama asserted it is his responsibility to help keep the public safe and, thought the facts of the case were not yet fully known, the AP might have comprised national security by publishing sensitive information.
When I was a teen-ager and studying journalism in an after-school program, I had an instructor named Bill Farr. Bill was an L.A. Times reporter who had gone to jail for forty-six days in the early seventies for refusing to reveal his sources in a story about the Manson trial. He was a cheerful, easygoing guy, and even when he’d occasionally refer to himself as a jailbird, it was hard for me to imagine him going through something so extreme. Bill was also modest, in the way of certain old-school reporters. He hadn’t, he’s said, done anything that any decent reporter wouldn’t do. He hoped we wouldn’t have to, but he said he knew we’d be willing to do the same, because unless sources could trust us to keep them confidential, they wouldn’t tell us important things that the public had a right to know.
I found myself thinking about Bill this week. It seems clear that the Justice Department’s secret investigation of A.P. reporters’ phone records and the I.R.S.’s targeting of conservative groups have the potential to damage both the Obama legacy and the already-tattered public trust in the federal government for years to come. (The Benghazi scandal, by contrast, may cause more trouble for Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign.) What isn’t clear yet is how much either can be traced to the President himself or his approach to free expression.