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Democrats Privacy The Media Government United States Politics

US Justice Department Dug Up Reporter's Phone, Bank Records 217

Posted by timothy
from the speak-loudly-into-the-wiretap-please dept.
tripleevenfall writes "A court filing provides new details about the extraordinary measures Justice Department prosecutors are using to identify government leakers. Prosecutors obtained a suspect's telephone, credit and bank records. Lucy Dalglish, of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said, 'This tells us the Obama administration will do almost anything to figure out who is leaking government information.'"
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US Justice Department Dug Up Reporter's Phone, Bank Records

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  • Uhm... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Nailer235 (1822054) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @06:29PM (#35326844)
    So the Justice Department used lawful means to obtain these records - records pertaining to an event that casts a shadow over the entire country - and we are supposed to be on her side for this one? I mean, it just seems we have warrants going out for all sorts of trivial stuff. Leaking government information, on the other hand, actually seems like something important that's worth investigating.
  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @06:42PM (#35326926)

    The summary says prosecutors obtained the suspect's records. But the title has it right; DoJ pulled bank and credit records on someone not suspected of a crime. If I were the news man, I'd demand to see the warrant.

    Not hundred percent sure how it works exactly, but I think only the suspect has protection of the law. If you are suspected of a crime, evidence of your crime is in my posession, and the police gets that evidence without a warrant, then my rights might be violated. So that evidence couldn't be used against me, but _you_ are not protected.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @06:43PM (#35326928)

    ...journalists should learn about Tor, email encryption, steganography, and other privacy protecting technologies.

    They should also be using their "bully pulpits" to argue against the ongoing centralisation of databases. If our society weren't so enthused with the centralized collection of as much data as possible about its citizens, these sorts of trawling expeditions would be much more difficult to pull off.

    We need policies and laws that restrict such databases to collecting and maintaining records to the minimum required for their primary purpose only. For example, call records that go back at least 6 years are completely unnecessary for billing purposes - 6 months, maybe a year at tops, should be the limit.

  • Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Saturday February 26, 2011 @06:45PM (#35326944) Homepage Journal
    Should read

    "This tells us the Obama Administration will do everything that the Bush Administration did"

    And that applies to a lot more than just matters of "national security".
  • Re:Okay, And? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @06:47PM (#35326946)

    How, exactly, is this news?

    I think this is supposed to be news because the President who did it wasn't named 'Bush'. Though we generally expected more from Obama (eg, less of this stuff) we're all being reminded that whomever runs the show acts more like the one they replaced then we wanted/hoped.

  • Re:Uhm... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Asclepius99 (1527727) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @06:47PM (#35326948)
    I have to agree with you here. This isn't about he DOJ bugging someone's phone or abducting them, they went to a judge and asked to get records which the article even indicates are a standard practice in criminal investigations. I don't see the big deal here, the CIA doesn't want people to publish books that include specific operations they've carried out against foreign nations, especially if it happened within recent memory (under Clinton, so at some point in the 90s).
  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Saturday February 26, 2011 @06:51PM (#35326960) Homepage Journal
    No, Obama hasn't been in for 6 years. However, we are in the start of the 11th year of the Bush Administration and their agenda.
  • Re:Okay, And? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by davecb (6526) <davec-b@rogers.com> on Saturday February 26, 2011 @06:56PM (#35326992) Homepage Journal

    It's a tiny bit dishonest to say "the X administration" unless it was a conscious policy of X, not something that you can expect to see from X-1 and x+1. It also appears in the topic sentence of the cited article, which is a tip-off:

    If someone wants you to believe something that isn't true, it will appear in the first sentence, even if it logically doesn't belong there or seems jarring. That's a psychological trick that dates back to the ancient Greeks. It was reputedly a specific teaching of the sophists[1].

    .--dave
    [1] citation needed, although it was on my Plato course several centuries ago...

  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Saturday February 26, 2011 @06:57PM (#35326998) Homepage Journal

    TFA specifically says that they haven't commented yet on which administration, Obama or Bush, was the one that actually began the investigation

    Why would it matter? The two administrations have repeatedly made the same decisions at every opportunity thus far. We were led to believe that Obama was going to do things differently, instead what we see is that Obama is doing things exactly the same as Bush. Had Bush managed to steal a third term in office, we would have likely seen the exact same policies come to fruit that we've seen since Obama's inauguration in 2009.

  • by Israfels (730298) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @06:58PM (#35327010)

    Actually, as a military police officer, we have a saying shared by other police agencies, "Fruit of the poisonous tree". if the means in which the evidence is obtained is illegal, then the evidence cannot be used. The 4th Amendment protects every citizen, not just suspects. In fact, only suspects can be searched. Either by a warrant or a good faith search.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @07:14PM (#35327090) Journal

    They are investigating a crime. The guy they pulled the records on is directly linked to it (albeit not a suspect himself due to the nature of the law). They've got a warrant for it too, right and proper. And it's not something unusual in general - quote :

    because subpoenas for financial records are standard practice in criminal investigations, there is no reason for the Justice Department not to use them to obtain records from journalists in leak probes. The data from credit and bank records would allow prosecutors to home in on where journalists have traveled, lunches or dinners they might have paid for, and other information that could help identify their sources for a story, the former prosecutor said.

    So what's the big deal?

  • by Arker (91948) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @07:18PM (#35327102) Homepage

    The reporter did commit a crime he knowingly disseminated classified information, for whatever reason the DOJ has had a long standing tradition of not going after newspapers for committing this crime.

    Do some research. The reason they *never* file charges on this is because if they did it would be thrown out of court. We have something called the first amendment that trumps statute whenever the two conflict. You should also look up a guy named Daniel Ellsberg.

  • Re:Okay, And? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by starfishsystems (834319) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @07:47PM (#35327286) Homepage
    You're saying that Barack Obama instructed the Justice Department to obtain this information?

    Wow, that's like no other government I've ever seen, and I've lived and paid taxes in a lot of countries. Mostly, what I've seen is governments that are not under the effective control of any one person. Most large bureacracies are so ponderous that even very deliberate changes in official policy have marginal effect on entrenched attitudes and behavior. But I guess the United States must be an exception. Obama has some special power to change all this, a power that he's failing to exercise?
  • Re:Okay, And? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @07:48PM (#35327288)

    It's a tiny bit dishonest to say "the X administration" unless it was a conscious policy of X, not something that you can expect to see from X-1 and x+1. It also appears in the topic sentence of the cited article, which is a tip-off:

    Sorry but if someone is not prepared to take responsibility for the actions of their underlings then they are not fit to be in a position of authority. It's alright, plenty of people are not cut out for leadership just like plenty of people are not computer technicians. I don't buy the phony distinction of "conscious policies" and "unconscious policies". If you are in charge and you don't know what your underlings are doing, you're incompetent; if you're in charge and you know what your underlings are doing and you do not require them to change, it is because you approve whether this approval is stated or unstated.

    Anyone who thinks that's a tough standard is free to find a job less demanding than the Presidency.

     

    If someone wants you to believe something that isn't true, it will appear in the first sentence, even if it logically doesn't belong there or seems jarring. That's a psychological trick that dates back to the ancient Greeks. It was reputedly a specific teaching of the sophists[1].

    I would say that if that's all it takes to get someone to believe a lie, especially about anything important, then their love of truth and commitment to objectivity were non-existent anyway. They are soft-minded, naive, and their deceit is inevitable. The only question is who will fool them first. I wish it weren't so easy to deceive so many people but that's the reality.

  • by causality (777677) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @08:06PM (#35327392)

    Worse, all those screaming voices on the Democratic side of Congress are woefully silent with regards to everything our President chooses to do.

    Of course. These people have no principles. They believe in nothing other than their own indulgence and selfish advancement. Their most heart-felt beliefs are determined by the way the winds are blowing. They are utterly decadent and, if you will, soul-less. That's why the same police-state shit is okay if "their guy" is doing it, but a horrible outrage if the "other guy" does it. Really, the only thing they can't stand is that the puppet performing the action doesn't sport their logo.

     

    If the press rode his ass like they did Bush we would be better off, it might make him live up to his promises/promise. Now all I want is to see him a one term President so we have a chance of something better next time.

    It will be "change we can believe in!" all over again and people will eat that shit up because they so badly want to believe it. After the warm fuzzies start to fade away, it will be "meet the new boss, same as the old boss". The masses will be surprised by this because they are shallow, so they see that this puppet figurehead is different from the last puppet figurehead -- what they fail to see is that the exact same economic and political forces choose all of the puppet figureheads. Fish in a barrel is what they are. It is what they will remain until they wake up and start wanting something better for themselves.

    To further reinforce the point, I'll borrow a quote from Matthew Parris, regarding television shows:

    ...is it dishonest for the presenter to imply that the pundit in the chair is free to offer any opinion, when the truth is that fifty pundits were
    telephoned, but only the fellow prepared to offer the requisite opinion was invited?

    Yes, it is dishonest. They do that because it takes a lot of money and effort to produce a show and reach a large audience. The people who are putting up that money want some assurance that there will be a return on their investment. So they don't want just any person to offer just any opinion, because that's a wildcard, an unknown. They want exactly what they pay for.

    Politics works this way. Only the fellow with the requisite political beliefs and lack of principles will be invited. The monied interests that lobby and pay for campaigns do this because it takes a lot of money and effort to fund a campaign and provide the support it takes to get someone into high office. They want a return on their investment in the form of someone who represents their interests. The voters are taken for granted, for time after time it is the well-funded darling of the media who is never seriously scrutinized, who is always portrayed as a great guy, who gets the votes.

    Until you fix that it really doesn't matter what the President's name is.

  • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@NOspAM.gmail.com> on Saturday February 26, 2011 @08:21PM (#35327472) Homepage

    That's odd. I seem to remember Bush getting railed all the time for just about anything, including gas prices in the US. Obama seems to be living the easy life, with no tough questions, or even worrying about world issues(not that there's a shortage). Personally to an outsider, who pays attention to US news, this all reeks of media whitewashing their favorite kid, because well he can do no wrong. Unlike that other guy, who ended up not being as bad as everyone thought.

    Oh I'm sure people will be frothing at the mouth at that, but if you're so blinded by partisan ideology that you can't see it. You should be reviewing not only the news you watch, but how it's presented to you.

  • Re:Okay, And? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @08:31PM (#35327520)

    You're saying that Barack Obama instructed the Justice Department to obtain this information?

    Wow, that's like no other government I've ever seen, and I've lived and paid taxes in a lot of countries. Mostly, what I've seen is governments that are not under the effective control of any one person. Most large bureacracies are so ponderous that even very deliberate changes in official policy have marginal effect on entrenched attitudes and behavior. But I guess the United States must be an exception. Obama has some special power to change all this, a power that he's failing to exercise?

    In a word: yes. He has. The U.S. has three branches of government. The President has no direct control over the legislative and judicial branches. However, the President is the undisputed leader of the executive branch. Every other member of the executive branch is his subordinate. If the head of an executive department will not comply with the President's wishes, the President can fire that person and replace them with someone else.

    For example, Obama disagrees with what is called the "Defense of Marriage Act". Eric Holder is the Attorney General, that is, Holder is the head of the Department of Justice. The DoJ is part of the executive branch. Obama has directly instructed Holder to refuse to enforce this particular law. Holder has three choices in the matter: 1) comply with Obama's order, 2) refuse to comply and be fired and replaced, or 3) resign and be replaced. (Incidentally, this is an attack against the concept of rule of law -- the way we are supposed to deal with laws we don't like is to get them changed, not to selectively enforce them, but I digress).

    Obama could absolutely require the DoJ to stop obtaining this information. He doesn't do this for one reason and one reason alone: he does not wish to.

  • Re:Okay, And? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @09:33PM (#35327848)

    slightly off-topic, but what Obama did with regards DOMA was about as huge a grab on executive power as you can get. He's basically decided that he shall be King and decide which laws he likes to enforce and which he does not. We are now at the point that whatever political party comes to power will simply non-enforce laws with which they disagree. Even if Obama had legit concerns over this law (or any other) it is SCOTUS, not President, who determines the constitutionality.

    I predict that anyone with media presence who seriously raises that question will be portrayed in the rest of the media as some kind of irrational lunatic. Just like the smear job that was performed against those who wanted to know if this man who was completely unknown prior to suddenly becoming President and spent a great deal of his childhood in Kenya does, in fact, meet the Constitutional requirement of being a natural-born citizen.

    These days you're some kind of nutter if you want to know whether your elected leaders are legitimate. A nice catchy word will be coined for you, like "Birther", and by repeated association it will come to mean something like "devil". I say we should not have such unresolved questions about the holder of our highest office, and if someone wishes to have maximum privacy that person can always choose not to become a public figure with a great deal of political power. But what do we actually get? Excuses, obstruction, a "certificate of live birth" that means next to nothing, and a great deal of effort to make sure that attempts to resolve what should have been a simple and straightforward matter are widely ridiculed.

    It's a group application of a similar strategy to the one that was used on Joe the Plumber, if you remember him. He asked the President some decently tough, decidedly non-scripted questions. Next thing you know, the media starts trying to dig up dirt on him and leaves no stone unturned in an effort to make him look bad. It's a classic smear job. The message there is quite clear: sit down and shut up, applaud when we tell you to, and enjoy the pep rally, or we will invade your privacy and air your dirty laundry. It's disgusting.

  • Re:Okay, And? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @10:22PM (#35328138)

    The person who wrote the snarky comment wasn't the president, and I'm not the president, so suggesting he find an easier job is a bit off-topic.

    I was already quite confident that you're not Barack H. Obama. That's why it wasn't a literal suggestion. It was a way of making a point. The point is that anyone who wants to be President is going to have the entire executive branch at his or her disposal if they are elected. If that is too much for them, if it is beyond their leadership abilities, then there are better and more fit candidates available. I'll never understand why people are so eager to give Obama a pass on this when the inability to get your subordinates on board with your intentions is a very bad trait for a President.

    He (or she, some year or other) is legally responsible for everything his minions do, but unless he's omniscient and has infinite time, cannot be to blame for everything.

    (emphasis added)

    You don't understand why that statement contradicts itself, do you?

    Also, do tell me why he would need infinite time? The President interacts with members of his Cabinet to get these things done. In case you don't know, that's a small roomful of people. Each person in the Cabinet is the head of an executive branch department. All Obama would need to do is announce to his Cabinet "from now on, this is how we're going to operate". It would be up to each department head to either get it done or be replaced by someone who can. Have you never seen how any large institution is managed? By your logic no CEO could ever be expected to have any control over a company. You're clutching at straws here.

    Thus conscious, stated policies of president-and-administration X are legitimate targets for personal criticisms, but holdovers from X-1 are not.

    Why not? At nothing more than a whim Obama can remove and replace those holdovers. His request is all it would take. In light of the very well-established fact that the President commands the executive branch, there can only be two possibilities: he doesn't change those "holdovers" because he approves of them, or, he would disapprove of them and would change them except that he's unaware of their existence because he's incompetent.

    Bear in mind that his entire platform was "change". Specifically, he called it "change you can believe in". What part of retaining holdovers who still want to do things the way the old administration did things constitutes "change", exactly? One of the biggest reasons Obama was elected is because people were getting tired of the police-state bullshit Bush was doing. This is more of the same, only now it's not under Bush's watch. That means we can add hypocrisy to everything else I have already explained.

    Look, if you think no one should ever call out Obama's failures because he's such a great guy, so charismatic, because you like him so much, etc., that's fine, but call it the emotional argument that it is and acknowledge that you are disregarding the facts of the matter. If you want to be consistent, you can also view Bush's actions through such rose-tinted "but he couldn't possibly have done any better" glasses, but it's understandable if that is too much to ask since he's far less charismatic. That charisma is more important than a hard look at the facts of the matter, isn't it? If you're likable you get away with murder. If you're not, people question your every step. How typical.

    And people are more often ignorant than stupid...

    Ignorance alone isn't so bad. Ignorance that does not recognize itself is a great definition of naivete. When people are ignorant about a thing and proceed as though they were not ignorant about that thing, then they are being stupid. For example, I am quite ignorant about neurosurgery, and that's okay because I won't be operating on anyone's brain. It

  • Re:Okay, And? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @10:34PM (#35328208)

    Name one president who kept every promise, or even most of them?

    you can't because there are none.

    what does that say about our government?

    That it's the kind of government a bunch of fat, stupid, shallow, naive, emotionally childish busybodies have made for themselves.

    You may think that's malicious. When it's not what anyone would ever want to hear, the truth can seem that way.

  • by Lehk228 (705449) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @12:13AM (#35328618) Journal
    the reporter was caught in the splash because he was dealing with a criminal, also they would have been interested in whether or not the reported paid the leaker, in which case he would have been guilty of espionage.
  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @12:25AM (#35328664) Journal

    Sooooo, it would be okay then for the DOJ to have standing taps on all communications going to all reporters and reporting agencies? After all, criminals, including those illegally reporting illegal activity, would go to reporters.

    No, because you need to be investigating some specific crime first, one that you know has happened. Furthermore, you need strong evidence that the reporter in question has actually been in contact with the person who is either the perpetrator or an accomplice.

    Would the DOJ, or your local law enforcement, be okay to trail you, because you met with a suspected criminal?

    Depends. If, after said meeting, I have communicated some information that indicates that I have talked to him about criminal matters, and if they believe the subpoena may help pin the suspect down, then sure - so long as they get a proper warrant (i.e. can convince the judge that all of the above hold true).

    Back in the day, some (LAPD comes to mind first) agencies would tap pay phones, just trolling ALL of the conversations

    That is illegal.

    Maybe the first question ought to be do the ends justify the means?

    Depends on the ends and the means. Mass "preemptive" surveillance is never justifiable. Surveillance of one particular person, when the "end" is specific and not vague, and when there is reasonable belief that it may be of help, can be justifiable.

"Ignorance is the soil in which belief in miracles grows." -- Robert G. Ingersoll

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