DOJThe extent of the administration of President Barack Obama’s attacks on the First Amendment has been confirmed to include having the Justice Department pursue a Fox News journalist as a “co-conspirator” in a leak investigation.

The investigation involves Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a State Department employee, who has been under investigation for possibly leaking classified information on North Korea to Fox News reporter James Rosen.

The Washington Post characterizes the case as one that “bears striking similarities to a sweeping leaks investigation disclosed last week in which federal investigators obtained records over two months of more than 20 telephone lines assigned to the Associated Press.” Except, it is worse.

The FBI conducted extensive surveillance of Rosen:

They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails.

An affidavit apparently indicates that Rosen communicated to Kim, “What I am interested in, as you might expect, is breaking news ahead of my competitors” including “what intelligence is picking up.” Also, “I’d love to see some internal State Department analyses.”

Not only did investigators seize “two days’ worth of Rosen’s personal emails—and all of his email exchanges with Kim,” but they managed to convince a federal judge he could be a “co-conspirator.” As the judge was convinced there was “probable cause” he had broken “the law against unauthorized leaks,” the judge approved a search warrant.

But, as the Post notes, “It remains an open question whether it’s ever illegal, given the First Amendment’s protection of press freedom, for a reporter to solicit information. No reporter, including Rosen, has been prosecuted for doing so.”

This is but another example of how the Obama administration is, as I thoroughly detailed last week, chilling the news gathering process through its actions. It may be even more zealous than the pursuit of New York Times reporter James Risen’s sources because it suggests journalists do not only have to fear being forced to give up their sources but could also be criminalized for “conspiring” with their source. (Risen won in court, but the Obama Justice Department appealed.)

If the Justice Department was willing to make this claim about a Fox News reporter in court to get to records that could bolster their case against Kim, there should be no doubt that they have used the same claims about WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange and its staffers to strengthen their case against Pfc. Bradley Manning but to also construct innovative cases against WikiLeaks that could be employed in defense of secrecy and the national security state.

Furthermore, there should be no confusion. The perverse decision by the Obama administration to back a re-introduced version of a media shield law has a broad national security exception. And, James Goodale, the former counsel to the Times, says:

I think if that shield law were passed it would reverse the victory James Risen won which permitted him not to disclose national security information leaked to him by Jeffrey Sterling. Without taking up more time than I have, the bottom line on Obama’s suggestion to reintroduce the shield law is that it is a snare and delusion.

The Obama administration considers shielding the national security state to be a higher priority than protecting freedom of the press. No one should be dissuaded otherwise because the administration’s record shows this is the case.

Photo by DonkeyHotey released under Creative Commons License

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."