But the opposite has happened.
President Obama has embraced targeted drone assassinations. Bush operatives used waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” that some — mostly on the left — consider indistinguishable from torture.
Bush fought the eternal White House battle against leaks, but the Valerie Plame leak investigation that led to a single conviction — and that for an offense unrelated to the leak itself — now looks like a door-slamming French farce compared to the Obama administration’s latest stunt.
On Friday, the Associated Press, the U.S.’s largest news-gathering organization, and judging by its coverage, one that could hardly be considered as friendly to conservatives — found out that Obama’s Justice Department had secretly seized two months of its phone records.
The subpoena targeted the cell, office and home phones of six reporters and an editor. In all, at least 20 separate phone lines were monitored in April and May 2012, including the wire service’s New York headquarters, Washington bureau, Hartford, Conn., office and the main number for AP offices in the House press gallery. Potentially, the calls of more than 100 journalists were monitored.
To call this overly broad is to make an understatement.
The Justice Department has strict guidelines for wiretapping members of the press: The investigation must involve a serious crime; the information being sought is vital to the prosecution of the case; the information can be obtained no other way; and the attorney general must give his personal approval, often in writing.
Bush’s Justice Department, despite its alleged ethical lapses, adhered to the guidelines. Obama Attorney General Eric Holder says he played “no direct role” in the AP case. If he played any role at all in the episode, he should resign or be fired by his pal, the president. But don’t hold your breath waiting for either to happen.
Ostensibly, the investigation is to find out who leaked the details of a failed al-Qaida plot to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner last year. But the stated reason in an administration leak investigation is rarely the real reason.
It’s not aimed at the journalists for whom a subpoena is a badge of honor. Instead, it is meant to terrify into silence government employees who might deal with a reporter. The Obama administration relentlessly pursued current and former employees suspected of leaking secret material and prosecuted more of them than all previous administrations combined. (For further examples of this, see how it treated the Benghazi whistleblowers.)
Either Obama knew his administration was bugging the country’s most important news organization; knew that his Internal Revenue Service, at the direction of higher levels than previously disclosed, targeted conservative groups; and that the Benghazi diplomatic facility was dangerously vulnerable — or he didn’t. And the smart money as this is written is on the likelihood that he did.
Maybe exculpatory explanation is still to come. Until then, one way or another, the president is disastrously inept or dangerously misinformed.