The president of the Associated Press has lashed out at the United States government in his first interview since it was revealed that the AP was being investigated by the US Department of Justice.
More than one week after the AP announced that the Justice
Department subpoenaed two months of phone records in an apparent
attempt to discover the source of an intelligence leak, the
president and CEO of the news agency attacked US President Barack
Obama and his administration for what he considers an
unconstitutional intrusion on the way journalism is conducted.
Speaking to CBS News on how the Justice Department secretly
sought months’ worth of phone records, AP President Gary Pruitt
said the government has “no business” interfering
“I don’t know what their motive is, but I can tell you their
actions are unconstitutional,” Pruitt said on Sunday’s Face the
On the record, the government has yet to explain why they
requested the logs for 21 different phone lines used by the AP. But
according to the company’s top executive, the government is doing
everything in its power – and some things that aren’t – to learn
the identity of the source that went to the media about a foiled
terrorist attack thwarted by the CIA in 2012.
“We don’t question their right to conduct these sorts of
investigations, we just think they went about it the wrong
way,” Pruitt said. “So sweeping, so secretively, so
abusively, and harassingly and overbroad that it is an
In spring of that 2012, the US Department of Homeland Security
and the White House independently said there was no credible
evidence of a terrorist plot aimed at an American target to
commemorate the anniversary of the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama
bin Laden. Pruitt told CBS that wasn’t true, though, and during an
interview over the weekend he explained why it was important to
explain the administration’s mistake – and the mistakes the
government made as a result.
“We felt the American public needed to know this story,”
Pruitt told CBS, calling claims from Washington that there was no
credible evidence of a terrorist plot “misleading to the
Pruitt said the AP went to the government and intelligence
agencies to make sure there would not be a national security risk
by publishing news of the foiled terror plot. After five days, they
went live with their scoop after being told any risk had been
“We acted responsibly. We held the story,” Pruitt said.
“We held it for five days. On the fifth day, we heard from high
officials in two parts of the government that the national security
issues had passed, and at that point we released the
In doing so, Pruitt believes the AP prompted a probe of the news
agency that has crossed the boundaries of what the government can
and can’t do. After the story was published, nearly two dozen
direct lines, cell phones and home phones were subpoenaed by the
Justice Department for offices in New York, Washington and
“Approximately 100 journalists used these telephone lines as
part of newsgathering,” said Pruitt, who added that
“thousands upon thousands” of work-related calls by AP
journalists were made on those numbers.
Speaking to CBS, Pruitt said he believes the administration
violated their own guidelines by gunning straight for a subpoena
without trying to work out an investigation with the AP.
“The rules require them to come to us first. But in this case
they didn’t, claiming an exception, saying if they had it would
have posed a substantial threat to their investigation. But they
have not explained why it would, and we can’t understand why it
would,” pleaded Pruitt. “We never even had possession of
these records. They were in the possession of our telephone service
company, and they couldn’t be tampered with. So usually they would
come to us, we would try to narrow the request, the subpoena, if we
didn’t come to an agreement we could go to a judge and an
independent arbiter could decide on the scope of the subpoena. We
never got a chance.”
The result, warned Pruitt, has been a chilling effect that is
already impacting the way journalists report news. “Already,
officials that would talk to us and people we would normally talk
to in the normal course of news gathering are already saying to us
that they are a little reluctant to talk to us. They fear that they
will be monitored by the government,” he said.
In the days since the AP disclosed that they were targeted by
the Justice Department, other reports have surfaced as well. On
Sunday, the Washington Post revealed that a Fox News journalist was
investigated by the DoJ after he published classified intelligence
that was believed to have been leaked by a State Department
official. To investigate a June 2009 article, the Justice
Department obtained the records of Fox reporter James Roser and a
State Department advisor, Stephen Jin-Woo Kim.
“Rosen was not charged with any crime, but it is
unprecedented for the government, in an official court document, to
accuse a reporter of breaking the law for conducting the routine
business of reporting on government secrets,” The New Yorker’s
Ryan Lizza reported on Sunday.
Abbe Lowell, who is defending Kim on federal charges that he
disclosed national defense information by going to Roser, told the
Post that “The latest events show an expansion of this law
Should the government continue to corner the Fourth Estate,
Pruitt warned that future results could be catastrophic for the
state of free speech.
“And if they restrict that apparatus … the people of the
United States will only know what the government wants them to know
and that’s not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind
when they wrote the First Amendment.”
“It’s too early to know if we’ll take legal action but I can
tell you we are positively displeased and we do feel that our
constitutional rights have been violated,” Pruitt added to an
AP article on the scandal.
This article originally appeared on : RT