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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Kent Bush: How far do we allow the government to go?

  • I missed the part of the First Amendment where the government grants freedom of the press unless they have a really good reason not to.
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  • President Barack Obama is finding out that dodging bullets is hard. It is even harder when the bullets are coming from many different directions.
    The administration is facing not-so-friendly fire from enough controversies this week to keep even the best bullet dodgers busy. I can’t imagine a scenario where someone doesn’t have to take one for the team. His administration has certainly given their political opponents and the press plenty of ammunition.
    Attorney General Eric Holder did some dodging Wednesday as he appeared before Congress to discuss some recent scandals from his department.
    Holder opened a couple of investigations into leaked information that made its way from confidential sources to members of the media – especially the details of a case in Yemen that were leaked to the Associated Press.
    The Department of Justice obviously didn’t have a clue where the information came from. Otherwise, they would have searched the records of potential leakers instead of the reporters to whom the information was leaked.
    Apparently, the guys at the DoJ aren’t used to not knowing things so they decided to fix that.
    It seems like this information should have been easier to discover. If this is indeed serious, confidential information, how many people know about it that could have leaked it? More than 100 reporters had their phone records checked through subpoenas.
    That is egregious.
    Local judges wouldn’t grant warrants for general searches but they were able to get subpoenas for all of these phones with no evidence that the leaks came through those lines. How hard is it to believe the reporter didn’t get the call on a private mobile phone?
    Even in Augusta, Kan. – which makes Andy Griffith’s Mayberry seem like a rough place – I wouldn’t take a call like that on my office line.
    If I were leaking confidential information to the press, I think “get an untrackable disposable phone” would be near the top of my to-do list.
    Holder says the obvious violation of the First Amendment was necessary because it was one of the most serious leaks he has ever seen and it put American lives at risk.
    That’s funny, I missed the part of the First Amendment where the government grants freedom of the press unless they have a really good reason not to.
    “What The Associated Press calls a massive and unprecedented intrusion by the Department of Justice into its news-gathering activities is more than an affront to a free press — it's a direct challenge,” said Gene Policinski, executive director, First Amendment Center at the Newseum.
    Page 2 of 2 - The case forces us to ask how far we will allow the government to go. Are we willing to submit to warrantless wiretaps to “protect American lives.”
    You have to have a lot of trust and faith in your government to believe that “privilege” won’t be abused.
    Like most scandals, everyone is maintaining a level of plausible deniability. Holder knew of subpoenas. In fact, he stopped a few and edited a few. But he had nothing to do with these really bad ones. Those, he recused himself from and let a deputy handle them.
    Of course Obama said he knew nothing about the investigations. He may not have.
    But it is time for him to get involved. If those you manage are messing it up, you either have to solve the problem or do it yourself.
    As much as he wants to pass the buck, it really does stop at his desk.
    It is time for Obama to engage and start solving problems.
    It wouldn’t be a bad time to put an end to the practice entirely.
     
     
    Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: kbush@augustagazette.com

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