A Department of Justice probe, affecting The New York Times, commenced after a Times investigative reporter ran an article in June about the U.S.’s role in developing a computer virus directed at Iran’s nuclear program.
Times journalist David Sanger’s post describing the computer worm, called Stuxnet, sent Obama administration officials scurrying to find and plug the leak that wound its way to the reporter’s computer and eventually onto the front page of the Times, according to The Atlantic.
This time the Obama administration “plumbers” got a bit more creative in finding the leak. Instead of pulling Sanger’s telephone and email records as they had with Associated Press reporters and Fox News’ James Rosen, it looked for the leak at their end. This meant pulling every communication record of every government employee having any knowledge of the program — including the White House, the Defense Department and other “intelligence agencies.”
The government probe was massive enough as to have a chilling effect on news gathering from government sources — government employees suddenly became squeamish when talking to reporters. As noted by the Times:
Some officials are now declining to take calls from certain reporters, concerned that any contact may lead to investigation. Some complain of being taken from their offices to endure uncomfortable questioning. And the government officials typically must pay for lawyers themselves, unlike reporters for large news organizations whose companies provide legal representation.
The Atlantic notes that the intense investigation into finding the government leak is curious, given the fact that the White House liked the story’s release because it depicted the president as getting tough with Iran at a time when he needed it the most — during his re-election campaign. There was even talk that the White House itself may have purposely leaked the story for this very reason.
If this is true, it demonstrates the Obama administration’s obsession with leaks has gone beyond paranoia to break into the schizophrenic stage.
In the following clip, radio talk host Hugh Hewett seeks outgoing Columbia School of Journalism Dean Dean Nick Lemann’s take on the Obama administration’s seizure of journalist’s communication records. The word is “outrage.”
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