More - Listening Post – US: Silencing news sources?
Debra Lewis said she was “not going to speculate on what may or may not happen in the future,” speaking of a possible change to the company’s policy on responding to government requests. …
US lawmakers questioned the attorney general at a House Judiciary Committee about the two months of AP phone records obtained by the Justice Department without permission. In a session that saw the attorney on the back foot amid calls for his resign, he maintained his ignorance in the “ongoing matter.” Flatly denying any prior knowledge to the subpoenas and who had issued them, he stated that he was 99 per cent sure that deputy attorney general James Cole had issued them.“The matter is being supervised by the deputy attorney general. I am not familiar with the reasons why the subpoena was constructed in the way that it was because I’m simply not a part of the case,” Holder told the committee, adding he was confident that the people who are involved in the investigation adhered to Justice Department regulations. Investigators wish to discern why it was necessary to gather so much information from AP phone records. The Justice Departments claims that the records were seized as part of an investigation into leaked data on a CIA operation in Yemen to stop an airliner bombing plot on the anniversary of the death of Osama Bin Laden. Holder stressed that the leak was very serious and had put the safety of the American people at risk and as such the Justice Department’s action was justified.Passing the buckThe Justice Department admitted its surveillance of AP’s phone lines in a letter to the organization’s heads last Friday. AP’s Chief Gary Pruitt reacted with ire, condemning the intrusion as a gross violation of press freedom that is inexcusable. AP estimates that over 100 of its journalists were affected by the phone surveillance and has implicated the involvement of the attorney general, alleging that subpoenas require his signature to be carried out. There was a degree of frustration at Holder’s answers during the hearing due to his inability to answer questions on the subpoenas and why the Justice Department failed to negotiate with AP prior to the subpoenas, which is usually standard practice in such situations.“There doesn’t appear to be any acceptance of responsibility for things that have gone wrong,” Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., told Holder. He suggested that Justice Department office should stop by Harry S Truman Presidential Library and take a photo of the famous sign, “The buck stops here.” The White House has also claimed ignorance, stating that it had no knowledge of “any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the AP.” …
RT: If indeed in the interest of national security surely the action against the Associated Press was justified in this instance?Norman Solomon: Well, a lot is done in the name of national security and protecting the public. Several decades ago spying by the Nixon administration on the press – dirty tricks and so forth – were also rationalized within the White House and later publicly as somehow protecting the public from subversive or other elements that threaten the republic. And that is, really, one of the last refuges of scoundrels, when it comes to top leaders who want to turn off the tap of information reaching their own public. That those leaders would rather the public be kept in the dark. And I think what we’ve seen with these revelations about the phone records of AP reporters is that this administration, which has already waged a larger war against more whistleblowers than any other in US history, has continued to push the envelope and tried to have a chilling event not only on journalists but to sources within the administration.RT: And targeting obviously a credible organization like the Associated Press, in some ways has it been a victory for journalists because it’s been a major embarrassment now for the Obama administration?NS: Well, I think it cuts both ways, because while the Obama administration in the last couple of days has encountered fierce criticism from very mainstream and even some conservative media outlets, the administration has also sent a very clear message to every employee of the US government. “You may think that you’re on your cellphone or your home telephone speaking to a journalist telling them something that perhaps we at the White House don’t want you to tell, but now you’re on clearer notice than ever that down the road your phone number may turn up in subpoenaed documents by the Department of Justice or some other agency, and then we can turn the screws on you and find out whether you’re a whistleblower.” That’s a very dangerous message, and in that sense this is a blow for freedom of the press, against freedom of the press.RT: But aren’t there rules though? If it is classified information that person is leaking to the press, then of course the White House would be saying that sort of information could compromise national security, then they’re in the wrong and they do deserve to be tracked down?NS: Well, that’s always the argument, but it turns out that there’s so much classification of information that the US public, not only has a right to know, but must know for democracy to function. And to be kept in the dark, to not know what is being done in our names, with our own tax dollars, by our elected leaders is to short-circuit our own capacity to be part of a democratic process.RT: So a fine balance, then, between the need for national security and for respecting freedom of speech and privacy rights. It’s going to be a long argument this one, isn’t it? And do you think there ever will be a balance found?NS: Well, the balance will be fought over, but until the US ends the perpetual war footing, this so-called War on Terror, then the domestic repression is going to be a major problem. …
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US tax agency chief Steve Miller has had to leave his job after it emerged his staff had singled out conservative groups for extra scrutiny.
President Barack Obama announced his departure on Wednesday.
Obama said the Treasury Secretary had asked for and accepted the resignation of Miller, who was acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
“I have reviewed the Treasury Department watchdog’s report and the misconduct that it uncovered is inexcusable. It is inexcusable and Americans are right to be angry about it and I am angry about it,” Obama told reporters.
“I will not tolerate this kind of behaviour in any agency but especially in the IRS given the power that it has and the reach that it has in all of our lives.
“Given the controversy surrounding this audit it is important to institute new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward.”
Requests for tax-exempt status by groups associated with the conservative Tea Party movement are said to have been subjected to “overly aggressive” reviews.
The US Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation.
The IRS controversy is one of several points of weakness in the Obama administration that Republicans are seeking to exploit. Senior Republicans such as former Vice-President Dick Cheney and one-time presidential candidate John McCain have slammed what they say was a government ‘cover-up’ of an attack on the US embassy in the Libyan town of Benghazi last September. The allegation is that Obama and his team downplayed the involvement of al-Qaeda cells in the attack in order not to harm Obama’s re-election chances. On Wednesday the White House released 99 pages of e-mails between various agencies including the CIA, the State Department and the FBI that government officials claim prove there was no organised cover-up.
And Obama is also under fire for restricting press freedom after it emerged the US Justice Department secretly seized phone records of Associated Press. It’s widely believed US authorities subpoenaed the records to try to identify who provided information about an alleged terrorist plot in Yemen. The US Attorney’s Office has said it values press freedom but is obliged to balance these with national security and public interest.
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http://www.youtube.com/v/cLQCzoNlD60?version=3&f=videos&app=youtube_gdata See the article here - ObamaGate: The new Watergate?
http://www.youtube.com/v/iomY4jPcDfU?version=3&f=videos&app=youtube_gdata Source: ‘US seeks to curtail civil liberties’