Following last week’s revelations that the Justice Department had spied on AP reporters’ phone records, a Washington Post report Monday reveals that the government has gone even further to track journalists when investigating information leaks. In the case of Fox News’ chief Washington correspondent James Rosen, the DOJ not only tracked his phone records, but obtained a warrant to view his personal emails and even obtained “security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department.”
Based on information from a court affidavit, WaPo details how the government surveilled Rosen’s every interaction with the State Department, suspecting that classified information about North Korea had been leaked to the reporter from State Department adviser Stephen Jin-Woo Kim.
The case of Rosen and Kim is somewhat murkier than the AP case, since there is some evidence that Rosen broke the law against unauthorized leaks (giving the government greater purview to search his otherwise protected work). However, as WaPo noted, “it remains an open question whether it’s ever illegal, given the First Amendment’s protection of press freedom, for a reporter to solicit information.” Furthermore, the case reveals the inner mechanics of what is clearly a problematic and all-too commonplace government practice — namely the extensive surveillance of journalists and their sources.
When the Justice Department began investigating possible leaks of classified information about North Korea in 2009, investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material.
They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails….
Court documents in the Kim case reveal how deeply investigators explored the private communications of a working journalist — and raise the question of how often journalists have been investigated as closely as Rosen was in 2010. The case also raises new concerns among critics of government secrecy about the possible stifling effect of these investigations on a critical element of press freedom: the exchange of information between reporters and their sources.