'Press freedom eroding': DOJ slammed for search warrant against 'spying' Fox reporter

With the AP wiretapping scandal still unfolding, it has emerged that a US search warrant has been issued against a Fox News journalist to go through his emails – in a case the DOJ described as spying. Fox maintains the reporter was “simply doing his job.”

James Rosen, Fox News's chief Washington correspondent, had a 44-page application for a search warrant filed against him, including for his personal emails, after publishing a report based on leaked security information in June 2009. The report revealed North Korea’s intention to conduct a nuclear test despite the US imposition of sanctions on the country.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) described Rosen “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator.” The accusation appears in a court affidavit first reported by the Washington Post on Monday.

The officials digging up the case were revealed to have been tracking the journalist's trips to and from the State Department as well as monitoring his communications, as a search warrant was obtained for the reporter’s personal e-mails.

Rosen's case has been linked with charges filed previously against a security adviser with the US State Department Stephen Jin-woo Kim for his role in leaking the classified information that appeared in the article. The search warrant application also revealed that investigators catalogued the number of times the password and profile affiliated with Kim had accessed intelligence reports.

The investigation into Rosen was described as “downright chilling” by Fox executive vice president of news Michael Clemente in a statement. He added the company was “outraged” to learn that he had been named a criminal co-conspirator for “simply doing his job as a reporter.”

We will unequivocally defend his right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press,” Clemente said.

The scandal comes on the heels of the exposure of a US government investigation into the Associated Press, in which it was acknowledged that over the course of two months, over 20 phone lines of journalists were tapped, prompting AP President Gary Pruitt to call the ongoing monitoring a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.

The AP believes that overall, more than 100 journalists are under the DOJ’s phone surveillance, which would have involved a wide variety of stories regarding government and other topics.

A view of the Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

The Obama administration’s crackdown on journalists has roused concern across the media.

The government is obviously stepping way outside of that balance. You’re talking about reporting news information that is critical for an informed populace,” Wide Awake News founder Charlie McGrath told RT.

“Yes, there’s going to be things that can’t be reported; that shouldn’t be leaked. But you’re going to go after the journalist who’s doing his job, and not the ineffective dysfunctional government that leaked the info in the first place,” he continued.

McGrath went on to predict that eventually news would be composed solely of government press releases, adding that inside sources are already very much less inclined to share any real information with the press.

The crackdown is intended to “scare... anybody who dares to stand up to the party line, to the agenda line. And this isn’t just the Obama administration. It was the previous administration, and it will be the next administration it’s out of control government. It’s hubris at its worst. And it’s going continue to erode the freedom of this country,” McGrath concluded.

Mark Karlin, an editor at the investigative journalism website Buzz Flash at Truthout, told RT the media crackdown from the Obama administration is “definitely part of a trend.” 

The Obama administration has really taken the executive branch’s power to intimidate the free press from the Bush administration and exponentially multiplied them,” he said. “More whistleblowers have been prosecuted, the most famous of them being Bradley Manning, under Obama than the Bush administration by far….There’s nothing in the United States that says a reporter should be prosecuted for disclosing information.”