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February 1, 2015 / 12 Shevat, 5775
 
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Yes, They Really Are Very Big Deals

Trouble is, Mr. Holder personally approved the DOJ’s request for the Rosen subpoena, and the affidavit submitted in support contained the aforementioned probable cause reference concerning James Rosen. Was Mr. Holder’s answer misleading? Certainly. Perjurious? Arguably. But again, the overriding issue is the resulting chilling effect of going after journalists who don’t play ball with those in power. A free and vibrant press is fundamental to any democracy.

A gloss of sorts was put on this latter issue by Mr. Holder’s convening of a private meeting with the media to discuss the need for governmental access to reporters’ phone records as part of investigations into leaks. Some news organizations, including the Associated Press and The New York Times, refused to attend anything but a public session. The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Daily News did attend.

But in parody-like fashion – given the issue at hand is one of press freedom – the participants were sworn largely to secrecy. Here is part of what the Washington Post wrote about the session:

The 90-minute meeting was attended by a small group of journalists after several news organizations objected to the Justice Department’s insistence that it be held off the record. The participants, however, reached an agreement with the Justice Department under which they could describe what occurred during the meeting in general terms….

It would be comical if it were not so serious.

The circumstances of the Benghazi, IRS and James Rosen controversies have not yet risen to Watergate proportions and may never do so. But one senses that the emergence of a figure like the late Judge John J. Sirica – who broke open the Watergate scandal with his relentless pursuit of the facts and who ordered President Nixon to turn over tapes of his Oval Office conversations – may not be a long time coming.

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