Time to wrap up the second of the “scandals”; the one involving the Justice Department’s surveillance of two Associated Press reporters and James Rosen at Fox News. Recall from my last blog on June 6th that facts regarding the latter individual were still unfolding thus prompting a withholding of any sort of final judgment. Fortunately, we now have as near a complete set of facts as needed to put this issue to bed; thanks to a Walter Pincus, a courageous reporter and op-ed writer at the Washington Post.*
Follow the bouncing ball: Back on June 11th of 2009, Rosen posted on the Fox News Web site, a scoop based on a leak from inside our own State Department. It revealed that North Korean officials were preparing to conduct another nuclear test. This was supposedly being planned as a reaction to what was expected to be a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Pyongyang for similar tests, including ballistic missiles.
What got the attention of our Justice Department was not the leak itself, but that the source for Rosen’s article came from inside our own government, and put North Korea on notice that we had access to decisions being made by the country’s leadership, either by means of a “mole” or electronic intercepts. In effect then, not only was our national security compromised, but our intelligence-gathering capacity as well. Such being the case, Justice was well within its rights to track down the source for Rosen’s story. How to do that?
Simply put, the answer was to start by identifying all individuals at State who had access to the information about North Korea’s plans. Slowly, methodologically, Justice narrowed their focus down to one individual, a Stephen Jin-Woo Kim. Had there been contact between this person and Rosen? The only way to answer that query was to check Kim’s computer against Rosen’s, and to examine phone records between the two. Even more telling, security badge records at State revealed that there had actually been in face-to-face contact, and that they had created aliases to cover their identities and what they were doing.
Given all this, it bends credulity beyond the breaking point to even hint that Rosen was a victim of Justice Department over-reach and an infringement on his First Amendment rights. Once all the facts are assembled, nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, serious questions can be raised about our media’s rush to a decidedly wrong judgment when so much remained unknown. As Pincus asked “When will journalists take responsibility for what they do without circling the wagons and shouting that the First Amendment is under attack? I would add, “When will the media (more generally) wait for more facts before screaming ‘scandal’?”
The next blog, Part III of this Trilogy, will deal with the IRS imbroglio as it continues to unfold.
*Walter Pincus; “Circling the media wagons”. Washington Post; May 27, 2013.