Barack Obama was suppose to be a transformative figure in politics, but he's turned out to be just another liberal Democrat. The president's promises of openness and transparency have been replaced by scandal, especially the recent ones that popped up this past week with unfolding developments on Benghazi, IRS, the EPA, and the Justice Department's wiretapping of the Associated Press. On top of this, his administration has turned down 50% of FOIA requests from 17 different agencies, created special kill lists for drones, and has masterfully stonewalled any investigation into Fast and Furious. While some could see Benghazi as Republican political theater, although it isn't, the fiasco at IRS and the Associated Press ring of something different – and more pernicious.
Recently, it was reported that the government obtained two months' worth of phone records, and hasn't explained why they conducted what AP CEO and President Gary Pruitt described as a "massive and unprecedented intrusion into how news organizations gather the news." The AP reported that in all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown, but more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters."
This probe into the AP goes back to a May 7 story from last year, concerning a CIA operation that foiled a terror attack in Yemen. Federal authorities were asking who leaked the information and interviewed then-Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan to see if he was the leak, which he denied.
Requests for records aren't new, but "the seizure of records from such a wide array of AP offices, including general AP switchboards numbers and an office-wide shared fax line, is unusual." According to DOJ protocol, subpoenas for records by news organizations cannot be executed without the permission of the attorney general. On phone records, "all reasonable attempts" must be made before a subpoena can be issued.
All in all, a subpoena to the media must be "as narrowly drawn as possible" and "should be directed at relevant information regarding a limited subject matter and should cover a reasonably limited time period," according to the rules. It is unknown whether any protocol was followed in this gross abuse of government power. Democrats in Massachusetts, one of the nation's most liberal states, have said this scandal smells of Nixon.
The larger government grows, the more lawless it becomes – and this development should anger everyone. Journalists cannot function with the fear the government is looking over their back. This strikes at the heart of freedom of the press, which has been one of the many buffers keeping authoritarianism from becoming entrenched on our shores. Yet, at the same time, Obama has kept the tradition of most second-term presidents —a slow descent into scandal..