Lawmakers jump on DOJ for AP spying

Politicians generally unconcerned by the government's vast spy dragnet are now speaking out

By Natasha Lennard

Published May 14, 2013 1:15PM (EDT)

Following news Monday that the government's vast surveillance dragnet also included the phone records of Associated Press journalists, Capitol Hill lawmakers -- largely unperturbed by First and Fourth Amendment abrogations when Muslims and activists have been targeted recent years -- are slamming the DOJ in defense of the Fourth Estate.

To be fair, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has built a reputation for defending privacy rights, especially online. He said in a statement, “The burden is always on the government when they go after private information -- especially information regarding the press or its confidential sources. I want to know more about this case, but on the face of it, I am concerned that the government may not have met that burden,”

Fox News pointed out that a number of Republicans also expressed concern, swift to make political meat out of an undeniable scandal:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said he plans to ask Attorney General Eric Holder “pointed questions” on the issue at a hearing Wednesday.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel also had pointed words for the administration.

“The First Amendment is first for a reason. If the Obama administration is going after reporters’ phone records, they better have a damned good explanation,” he said.

... House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy described the AP claims as another blemish for the administration.

These lawmakers are correct in their comments, but it remains noteworthy that many of the administration's other First Amendment-related blemishes (the persecution of whistleblowers, for one) have further stained our political system without invoking such outrage from Capitol Hill.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Ap Capitol Hill Department Of Justice Doj John Boehner Patrick J. Leahy Phone Records R-ohio Surveillance