Holder 2013
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Reuters
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in Washington on December 19, 2012. Reuters/Gary Cameron

Updated Monday 2:50 p.m.: Michael Clemente, executive vice president of news for Fox News, released the following statement:

“We are outraged to learn today that James Rosen was named a criminal co-conspirator for simply doing his job as a reporter. In fact, it is downright chilling. We will unequivocally defend his right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press.”

Original Post:

It sounds like the kind of Big Government paranoia you’d see on Fox News itself, but a Sunday report about how the Justice Department tracked and monitored a Fox News journalist came from the “liberal” media establishment -- and it’s stirring a fresh round of outrage over the Obama administration’s perceived disregard for free-press principles.

The Washington Post’s Ann E. Marimow reported that in 2009 the DOJ began investigating possible leaks of classified information about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The information was reported by James Rosen, Fox News’ chief Washington correspondent. To find out where Rosen was getting his information, federal authorities targeted the journalist in a widespread investigation that, according to the Post, mirrors and even exceeds the DOJ’s highly criticized seizure of phone records by Associated Press journalists.

Here’s how the Post described the DOJ’s methods:

“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.”

The DOJ suspected that the information was leaked to Rosen by Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a government adviser, who was eventually indicted under the Espionage Act of 1917. That’s apparently a favorite tactic of Eric Holder, attorney general under President Obama. According to Bloomberg, Holder has prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks than all of his predecessors combined -- and, yes, that includes John Ashcroft.

According to court documents, as reported by the Post, federal officials believed they had probable cause that Rosen was behaving as a co-conspirator, hence the search warrant. But no journalist has ever been prosecuted for soliciting information. Moreover, based on descriptions of the court documents, Rosen’s methods do not appear to deviate from traditional newsgathering procedures.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the revelation that the U.S. government targeted a Fox News journalist is not sitting well with conservative reporters.

Politics aside, however, the Post’s report is also stirring further outrage among journalists and journalistic organizations, many of which are already been up in arms over the government’s seizure of AP phone records. (Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, Gary Pruitt, president and chief executive of the Associated Press, called the seizure “unconstitutional.”)

Earlier Monday, the Huffington Post had this to say about the Post’s report.

Fox News is part of the Fox Entertainment Group, a unit of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation (Nasdaq:NWSA). A network spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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