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The ends don’t justify the means

Posted: June 2, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 2, 2013 2:00 a.m.

The Obama administration has finally touched a nerve of the mainstream American media.

Recent revelations about secretly obtained phone records of at least 20 Associated Press reporter and editor phone lines, including cell phones, has created an across-the-board media backlash.

The Justice Department attempted to justify its actions by saying it was trying to determine who leaked sensitive details about a failed terrorist bomb plot.

This was not the Justice Department targeting a clear-cut suspect or set of suspects.

This was a broadly defined fishing expedition aimed at possible recipients of the information. It violated not only the Justice Department’s own rules, but likely the Constitution as well.

The Justice Department rules stipulate, among other things, that subpoenas of any news organizations are required to be approved by the Attorney General personally, in this case Eric Holder.

The rules also demand that the subpoenas be narrowly drawn.

Phone records are deemed property of the phone companies and can be obtained with warrantless subpoenas by the Justice Department or any police agency.

This type of unchecked government power begs abuse.

Arguably, this would be an appropriate time to review the whole idea of warrantless subpoenas by any government agency.

We are not ready to hang this on the president, but clearly Attorney General Eric Holder took an oath to uphold the Constitution and has final responsibility.

He should be replaced for the integrity of the office.

The president’s senior advisers have done a very good job in insulating the president from transgression within his administration.

That may be a good thing politically, but it is not what we look for in a president.

Some readers may think this whole matter is amusing or trivial, but it is not.

Using the powers of the federal government in an attempt to intimidate reporters, whistleblowers or even political groups it doesn’t agree with poses a serious threat to the Constitution and the people it is inspired to protect.

While the president may not be directly linked to this matter or other important malfeasance attributed to his administration, he is nevertheless responsible of the culture in the executive branch that allows it. He can nurture it or change it with transparency and accountability.

Finally, the irony is not lost on us that a generally "free pass" mainstream press has now been abused by the very government function it allowed to grow without sufficient scrutiny.

Will this be a bump in the road for American media, or will this signal a change of direction for the media’s examination of government at any level?

Perhaps it will be left to historians to determine the appropriateness of this administration’s actions.

We don’t believe the "ends justify the means."


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