Obama, 'troubled' by leak investigations, asks for review
May 23rd, 2013
02:50 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama, 'troubled' by leak investigations, asks for review

(CNN) – Justice Department probes leading to the seizure of journalists' phone and e-mail records have prompted a review of the government's practices in investigating leaks of secret information, President Barack Obama said Thursday.

In a speech that also detailed the government's use of drones to kill American citizens – acts which were originally made public through leaks of classified information – Obama said reports of investigations targeting journalists had him worried for the future of a watchdog press.

"I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable," Obama said, noting he had directed Attorney General Eric Holder to review the government's guidelines on such matters. Holder will convene a panel of media organizations as part of his review.

"Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law," the president said.

His remarks came after two high-profile cases of government investigators using phone and e-mail records of reports to try and ferret out leakers of classified information with the federal government.

FULL REMARKS: Obama makes changes to counterterrorism policies

In the first, two months of phone records for reporters and editors at the Associated Press were obtained by the Justice Department in a probe the news service said was centered on its account of a foiled plot to bomb a U.S. airliner in May 2012.

A second investigation utilized the phone records and e-mails of a Fox News correspondent who reported on classified intelligence about North Korea in 2009. Along with e-mails and phone records, Justice Department officials tracked the reporter's movements in the State Department using his ID badge.

In the investigation into leaks to the AP, employees of the news service were never singled out as potential criminals. But in an affidavit for a search warrant filed by the FBI, the Fox reporter, James Rosen, is described as potentially being an "aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator" to the crime of disclosing secret information. Charges were never brought against Rosen or Fox News.

The Obama administration has aggressively investigated and prosecuted suspected leakers who they say put the safety and security of Americans at risk. Obama and his aides have discussed the need for a "balance" between protecting citizens and upholding the constitutionally embedded right to a free press.

"As Commander-in Chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field. To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to protect classified information. But a free press is also essential for our democracy," Obama said Thursday.

READ MORE: Obama heckled by Code Pink leader

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. just sayin

    'troubled'??? why is trampling all over the freedom of the press troubling so much??? it is your guy doing it. fire him!

    May 23, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  2. Rick McDaniel

    That's so totally phoney, it isn't worth commenting on.

    May 23, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  3. Mike

    In other words, the wolf in the henhouse was just asked to look into what's been eating the hens. Just more BS from this administration.

    May 23, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  4. don in albuquerque

    Yes it is time to investigate the leaks, and the leakers. Not right that people can spout off any lie they want and then the GOTP hides them. If your going to say something you better be willing to stand behind it and prove it, or face prosecution. Otherwise we have what we have now, opinion, third party information, enuendo, and it is called the Court of Issa. Congress is not a court. If your going to charge people (from the POTUS on down) with something, put on your big boy pants and charge them. Otherwise get out of the way and stop obstructing the progress of the rest of the country. Thats all these hearings are is more obstructionism. They have so far proved nothing and probably will prove nothing.

    May 23, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  5. just askin

    so has he been troubled by all the leaks about the bin laden take down that were favorable to him??? didn't think so. probably because those gave out of the white house.

    May 23, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  6. Namecarol

    Great speech.

    May 23, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  7. Mel

    "Obama said reports of investigations targeting journalists had him worried for the future of a watchdog press."

    CORRECTION: The term should be "LAP DOG" press.

    May 23, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  8. Ed1

    Kind of like trying to close the barn door after the horse is already out.

    May 23, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  9. NameTodd A

    Barry the Muslims lips are flapping again, that means he's lied again, Barry the Muslim libtards god

    May 23, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  10. Michigan patriot

    Trouble???? Who is he kidding? He has to say something, because he got caught. What his administration is doing is illegal and they know it. If people don't pay attention to what's going on we are in deep trouble, and things could get a lot worse. We, just plain citizens are next. Remember when he said, this would be the most transparent administration ever, and he even says that it is, really? He keeps lying over and over again.

    May 23, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  11. don in albuquerque

    @NameTodd A–Careful the fact your a bigot is showing.

    May 23, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  12. djthp

    There's nothing wrong with pursuing the person who leaked the classified information to the reporter. As long as the reporter isn't prosecuted for "reporting" (even if he/she knew it was "classified" information, then the freedom of the press to seek information is protected. However, the criminal who violated his security clearance by leaking information to ANYONE, is open for prosecution. It's the same principle that is used for persons who leak information to spies for other government. Classified means classified... you are not permitted to speak of it since it would create a security danger. So, getting permission to collect info on the reporters phone records in order to apprehend the criminal who leaked the info is entirely right and proper. The reporters aren't being targeted, the criminal is.

    May 23, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  13. Wake up People!

    CNN, I know you will moderate this out but it bears saying. How dare you allow these uneducated hicks to defame our POTUS, but when I try to say anything good about him, you delete my comments.

    This site is no longer fair. You, CNN, are just as guilty as FOX for allowing this to go on. I have never in my years seen a POTUS so disrespected while the press just goes along with it.

    May 23, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  14. chill

    I fail to understand how this whole AP phone records things is considered a scandal. Some traitor has released classified information that put at extreme risk the life of an ally who had penetrated al-Quaeda and who had to be pulled out so that we lost access to that inside information. The fact that an American journalist would have printed this information is bad enough, but simply using records of whose phone called whose phone and not the content of those calls seems a tiny price to pay to nail a person who broke his oath and put our country at risk. And if this discourages people with a security clearance from breaking their oath by releasing such details to the press, then great!

    May 23, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  15. joe

    Poor man, he has lost all credibillity he has no idea what lie to tell next!!!!!

    May 23, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  16. BrianOC7

    There is a bigger problem here people. Put away your "left" and "right" hats for a minute. The government has sensitive information. "The other party" insists that they be told what is going on. That "party" then runs to the press because they are hoping that they finally have something that will get the President impeached. They don't care that other government officials, military, or private citizens are now in jeopardy. They may even be killed as a result of someone saying the wrong thing to the wrong person.

    NO I am not defending the President. I am simply stating how someone sitting in Washington needs to understand the consequences of their actions. But they don't care. Their son or daughter will never be in harm's way.

    May 23, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  17. GWells

    Where's the surprise? Obama has on his staff the immediate family members or relatives of the Presidents or CEOs of two major news networks...CBS being one of them...I believe ABC is the other. Go check it out.

    May 23, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  18. wishing us well

    How absolutely amazing that the far right and press would make such a fuss about the investigation into leaks of classified information, even if it means getting phone records to help locate the traitor. The press is still subject to the laws of this country regardless of their false sense of self. And for the press to play the "free press card" is astounding to me. Where were you when we were lied into the war with Iraq? Where were you when Wall Street and the banks and Enron all did their damage (as they still are doing)? Any major investigations by the MSM? Of course we would not expect any such investigstions from Fox news since it was their guy in the WH. The main street press has become a sorry lot; with no courage to speak truth to power; that consistently holds up one finger to see which way the wind is blowing. For you to now play the victim about these leaks is pitiful. Part of the job of the IRS is to investigate individuals and organizations as to the truth and legality of their filings with the government. The LAST thing the IRS needs is to be intimidated by the right OR the press from doing the job that it is mandated to do. If the tea party OR any organization is filing false returns or breaking the law, then it is their job to investigate and to bring the full force of the IRS to bear on that individual or organization. If there are individuals in the IRS that are too zealous in conducting their activities then get rid of them. But please stop whining about the IRS doing its job just because it was the tea party- there were democrat organizations that complained as well.

    May 23, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |