Carney: White House Had No Idea Justice Department Was Secretly Monitoring Phones of Reporters

Posted: May 14, 2013 7:41 AM

As Guy detailed extensively yesterday, the Department of Justice has been secretly monitoring the phones of dozens of Associated Press reporters.

The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news. The records obtained by the Justice Department listed incoming and outgoing calls, and the duration of each call, for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. In all, the government seized those records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices whose phone records were targeted on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.

When asked about the extensive intrusion, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney pulled out the typical response to every Obama administration scandal, saying of course the White House knew nothing about this and only found out through news reports just like the rest of us.

Carney, in a statement sent through the pool reporter, said the White House was unaware of the DOJ’s actions.

“Other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the AP,” he said. “We are not involved in decisions made in connection with criminal investigations, as those matters are handled independently by the Justice Department. Any questions about an ongoing criminal investigation should be directed to the Department of Justice.”

The secret monitoring of press phones isn't something some low-level employee was doing inside the Department of Justice. Monitoring like this is only signed off on by the Attorney General and after all, Holder is longing for the day when he and Obama can just "hang out" as old friends. As the AP pointed out yesterday, this most likely has to do with national security leaks, leaks that made the Obama administration look bad.

The government would not say why it sought the records. Officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have provided information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.

In testimony in February, CIA Director John Brennan noted that the FBI had questioned him about whether he was AP's source, which he denied. He called the release of the information to the media about the terror plot an "unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information."

On June 8, 2012, President Obama vowed a zero tolerance policy when it came to national security leaks after his administration was accused of sending information to reporters in an effort to make his record on terrorism and foreign policy look better in an election year.

President Barack Obama indignantly hit back Friday at "offensive" charges that his administration disclosed vital national security secrets to beef up his image in an election year, insisting he has a "zero tolerance" approach to leaks that endanger America's interests.

And Obama, speaking at a hastily called session with reporters in the White House briefing room, defended his handling of the weak economy, insisting that "the private sector is doing fine." He blamed cuts in government spending and "head winds" from Europe for sluggish growth.

Leaks for me but not for thee is the Obama administration's policy.