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Friday, September 30, 2016

WATCH: Joe Conason Asks Former Attorney General If Bush DOJ Subpoenaed Reporters

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Bush administration attorney general Alberto Gonzales visited MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday to offer insight into the Associated Press leak investigation. Gonzales said that the Obama administration likely knew about the subpoenaing of reporters’ phone records.

Our Editor-in-Chief Joe Conason asked Gonzales if he had any occasion to subpoena reporters records in a national security case while heading up the Department of Justice. The former attorney general said he considered doing so, but ultimately declined.

As Talking Points Memo‘s Brian Beutler noted:

In fact, as Charlie Savage reported in the New York Times:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation improperly obtained calling records for more than 3,500 telephone accounts from 2003 to 2006 without following any legal procedures, according to a newly disclosed report by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

Instead, according to the 289-page report, F.B.I. agents informally requested the records from employees of three unidentified telephone companies who were stationed inside a bureau communications office…

On four occasions, the bureau made inaccurate statements to a court that authorizes national security wiretaps about how it had obtained calling records, the report said.

And agents twice improperly gained access to reporters’ calling records as part of leak investigations.

  • Gonzales is shown to have lied again; what a shocker.

    • johninPCFL

      Umm…he says he considered it then declined. Possibly because he’d already gotten the phone records through the illegal back channels?
      Maybe it was just illegal behavior that let him avoid the lie. This time.

      • awakenaustin

        It seems pretty clear from the Charlie Savage article they were illegally getting the records directly from phone companies without the necessity of securing a subpoena or a warrant.

        So I guess it is only a problem if you go through legal channels to obtain records.

        I am not particularly happy with the idea of seeking reporter’s phone records in some broad sweeping investigation of the source of a leak, but prosecutor’s offices all over this nation do this on a daily basis to other citizens not affiliated with news organizations when investigating possible criminal activities. We have a legal process set up to do this. If they follow the legal process, then if folks have a beef with it being done, they should seek changes in the laws which permit subpoenas and search warrants to obtain this kind of information.

        If we wish reporters to be outside the scurtiny of law enforcement in circumstances such as these, then the Congress should pass a law (which it has consistently failed to do) shielding news organizations from investigations into the sources of leaks.

        I understand and agree in part with the high flown terms in which the news organizations complain about such activity, but much of their concern is driven by pure self-interest. If they could not conceal sources (i.e., guarantee anonymity) they wouldn’t get the stories they get. (They would have to work a lot harder at their jobs.)

        (This is not dissimilar to law enforcements not wanting limits on getting confessions. Their work is tons easier if they can beat or coerce a confession out of you. It doesn’t make the confessions any too reliable – just like leak sources, but it cuts way down on the hard investigative work.)

        • johninPCFL

          The thing the AP is complaining about is that the DOJ didn’t approach them first, allowing them to contest the subpoena. The subpoena is still a court-issued document, meaning that the DOJ made the case before a judge and the judge agreed with the reasoning.
          So, now, what they have are phone number lists. They will try to track back from the reporters’ calls to military or civillian personnel to see where the leaked data came from, and will ultimately fail. The case may come to fruition later, after the leaker blasts another gout of data and is found, then the records they just collected will be used to show the earlier connection.

  • I hope Joe finds a comfortable chair if he actually expects an answer from Alberto Gonzalez, the champion of enemy combatants, which is different from the WWII non-compatants we fought and the combatants that were not enemies…

  • atc333

    That was then, this is now,don’t c’ha know it!

    This is nothing but the GOP/Right Wing “Do as I say, not as I do” Prime Directive. along with a slight rewriting of history.

  • Allan Richardson

    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

  • The Bush family and those they surround themselves with, are nothing but a collection of vile scoundrels, they certainly went after anybody who dared to uphold the high standards of the fourth estate and we all know – there was a hell uv a lot to investigate. We need to demand more of our news agencies, citizens must do their part for ‘government maintenance’.
    “Democracy is not a vicarious experience” – Bill Bradley

  • Dems did it legally, Repugs did it illegally. Therefore, Gonzo can say he didn’t subpoena the records; he just got them through “back channels”, so didn’t need to subpoena. Did the AP get their feelings hurt? Get over it; how else can a leak be found and plugged? Will the R’s ever get back to job creation, immigration reform, health care reform, veteran’s issues, infrastructure, etc., etc.? Wise up Americans if you wish to retain any semblance of our former way of life.

  • RobertCHastings

    In 1998 (?) President Clinton proposed to a largely antagonistic Republican Congress a piece of legislation almost identical to the eventual “Patriot Act”, later passed under George W. Bush. The Republicans didn’t like it for all the normal reasons(invasion of privacy, turning citizens into spies on their neighbors,violation of civil rights, etc.), as well as the fact that it was proposed by a Democrat. Amazingly, within just a few months of 9/11 the Bush administration proposed the same set of legislation, and eventually established the Department of Homeland Security, two actions taken together that set back civil liberties several decades. And this from the party of -personal freedom? Of course we needed the Patriot Act, to protect the government from repercussions from its illegal activities but, really, to protect people like George W, Alberto Gonzalez, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz,etc. from future prosecution.