Back in January, when I saw Daniel Ellsberg speak, one of the things he noted was how much more aggressive the Obama administration appeared to be in going after leakers than any previous administration. Ellsberg’s theory — which he admitted was based on just his intuition — was that President Obama is actually quite embarrassed by some of the things he’s doing and is, thus, more aggressive in trying to stop leaks, knowing that his actions are damaging his reputation. I don’t know if that’s true, but there is growing evidence of the level of questionable activities from the Obama administration even in going after leakers. Ellsberg noted at the time that the Obama administration has brought more indictments for leaking than all other presidents combined before him.
The latest is the report that came out late last week that the government, in going after leakers, got access to reporter James Risen’s phone records, bank details and credit card statements. As the report notes, this is pretty extreme:
Although there have been other public controversies over subpoenas — real and threatened — to reporters in recent years, there have been few, if any, cases in which it has been documented that federal prosecutors obtained the bank records and credit reports of journalists.
It’s not entirely clear if all of these activities took place under the Obama administration or previous administrations, but multiple people quoted in the article say this kind of activity has been much more common in the Obama Justice Department. For a President who has positioned himself as being a big supporter of press freedoms, this looks really hypocritical. Spying on reporters is bad. As the report notes, Risen was subpoenaed directly twice, but both times a judge reasonably quashed the subpoenas. So, for the administration to basically go around all that and get records from others is pretty bad.