President Joe Biden has assumed the role of defender of reporters’ privacy after news broke that the Trump administration allegedly seized the phone records of numerous reporters. Despite his recent assurances, the Obama administration spied on some of the very same reporters, and the Biden administration has even publicly defended Trump’s actions.
Last week, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked Biden his thoughts about “seizing reporters’ phone records and emails.”
The practice of secretly asking a court to give the administration access to such data, usually to find out who is leaking information to the media, is “absolutely, positively wrong,” Biden said.
“So, you won’t let your Justice Department do that?” Collins asked.
“I will not let that happen,” Biden promised.
“It’s simply, simply wrong. I will not let that happen,” President Biden tells me about the Justice Department seizing the records of reporters. pic.twitter.com/bRL88NssMr
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) May 21, 2021
The president clearly wanted to put himself in a positive light compared to his predecessor, whose administration obtained reporters’ private contacts. Under President Trump, the Justice Department secretly surveilled four reporters from The New York Times (Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eric Lichtblau, and Michael S. Schmidt); at least three reporters at The Washington Post (Adam Entous, Greg Miller, and Ellen Nakashima); and one reporter at CNN (Barbara Starr).
But Joe Biden’s record in the executive branch is hardly encouraging, whether as president or vice president.
The Obama administration snooped on five Associated Press reporters who broke a story about a foiled al-Qaeda plot in 2012, as well as their editor (Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Kimberly Dozier, Eileen Sullivan, Alan Fram, and editor Ted Bridis). You’ll note two of the names — Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman — are the same reporters whose surveillance Biden now calls “simply, simply wrong.”
To get their information, Obama grabbed records from 20 phone lines, including the reporters’ private numbers and the general AP number used by a total of 100 reporters in the House of Representatives.
The AP described the Obama administration’s actions as “serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.”
“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” AP CEO Gary Pruitt wrote in a letter to then-Attorney General (and self-described Obama “wingman”) Eric Holder.
They didn’t leave it at that. The Obama administration also spied on Fox News reporter James Rosen, prying into his personal phone line and private emails. To get the warrant for these records, the administration named Rosen a potential “criminal co-conspirator,” although he was never charged with a crime.
The Obama looked not only at the phone and email records, but even the personal banking and credit records of The New York Times reporter James Risen — a move that continued the actions of the George W. Bush administration.
“The Obama administration pursued leaks as vigorously as the Trump administration, in many ways, and actually used the Espionage Act to try to track down leakers and punish them more than all previous administrations put together,” said Eugene Robinson, a “Morning Joe” contributor and Washington Post editor, on Friday. “That was definitely a step down the slippery slope.”
Sitting on the “Morning Joe” panel, former Obama administration DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson admitted, “I would not rule out in all circumstances subpoenaing the records of a reporter who is the recipient of a major national security breach,” because “it can jeopardize national security, jeopardize foreign relations.”
Not only has Biden been part of an administration that aggressively looked into the private records of reporters but, as president, his Department of Justice has defended the actions of the Trump administration’s DOJ.
The process Trump’s DOJ used to obtain reporters’ records “follows the established procedures within its media guidelines policy,” said Biden Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi last month. “The targets of these investigations are not the news media recipients but rather those with access to the national defense information who provided it to the media and thus failed to protect it as lawfully required.”
The policy continuation has not been lost on everyone in the legacy media. CNN’s Brian Stelter asked a Washington Post reporter last month, “Does it strike you that it’s the Biden DOJ defending what the Trump DOJ did, and before it was the Trump administration, the Obama DOJ was engaging in this kind of subpoenaing of reporter phone records? In other words, whether it’s Democrat or Republican, when you’re in power, you use that power?”
Robinson rebuffed Johnson on the need to seize the records of reporters — especially a whole AP bureau — if the actual target is someone who works for the U.S. government.
“If you want to look at the phone logs of federal employees who you think are leaking, presumably as a federal government you have the right to do that as a condition of employment so, you know, be my guest,” Robinson said. “But to go after a free and independent press is really, really dangerous.”
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.