The Norman Transcript

Opinion

May 26, 2013

Snooping threat to free press

NORMAN — In “All the President’s Men,” reporter Bob Woodward conducts late-night meetings with a source in a parking garage.

That source, Deep Throat (later revealed to be high-ranking FBI official Mark Felt), was worried that he would be exposed as a tipster in the Watergate scandal.

The idea of a clandestine chat in a dark, empty parking garage sounds a bit silly when you stop and think about it. One would suppose the two men could find some quiet, out-of-the way location to meet and still enjoy privacy.

But Felt wasn’t taking any chances. And perhaps he had good reason to be cautious. What’s happening now with the Justice Department and The Associated Press is a lesson in journalistic prudence and the power of government.

As you may know, Justice officials obtained a vast array of AP phone logs, without ever telling the news organization it was gathering the information. While these records did not reveal actual conversations, they show who was talking to who over a period of time.

The reason for the search involves a news leak last year regarding a terrorist case in Yemen, where an unidentified source told The AP about the thwarting of an attack and the infiltration of the al-Qaida organization in that country.

Supposedly, The AP report had the effect of exposing an undercover agent, thus threatening national security. This prompted the Justice Department investigation to identify the source and possibly charge that individual with violating national security laws.

Now, the government may have legitimate concerns about this leak. But what it did with the AP appears to be little more than a fishing expedition — except instead of using a hook, Justice employed dynamite — on the chance something might float to the surface.

This isn’t how law enforcement and criminal investigations are supposed to work in an America with a Bill of Rights. Such matters as probable cause and search warrants come into play. The power of government to gobble up private records and sift through them is supposed to be limited.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • Call up National Guard

    We’re not sure it will help, but you have to hand it to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. He deployed up to 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to help secure his state’s border with Mexico this week....

    July 23, 2014

  • It’s only getting worse

    Conditions for children in Oklahoma were starting to look up for a few years, according to the annual Kids Count reports. Now we know it wasn’t getting better. The recession was impacting the rest of the country, dropping their scores....

    July 23, 2014

  • Noting a life well lived

    James Garner never intended to be a movie and television star. He just kind of lucked into it, he would tell those who asked. If you have the itch to act, get a good-paying job and spend your free time at your local community theater, he ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Recount that really matters

    Americans have been hearing a lot about Congressional elections, but there’s another one halfway around the globe that will matter far more....

    July 22, 2014

  • Runoffs get no respect

    The Aug. 26 Republican runoff election for the Cleveland County District 3 commissioner post is one of only 18 races on ballots around the state. Only two races are statewide — the Democrat contests for U.S. Senator nominee and state ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Change some lines

    Editor, The Transcript: Looking at how our elected Republican friends are reacting to the refugee children crossing the border and now being housed in Lawton, I have a suggestion. Let’s edit the Christian Bible in several places to reflect ...

    July 21, 2014

  • New health care system demonized

    To the Editor: In October 2013, soon after we were asked to take over management responsibilities at our family business, we were visited by the company’s health insurance agent. She explained that a decision needed to be made regarding ...

    July 21, 2014

  • Norman Forward builds momentum

    The quiet campaign to build momentum for a citywide public works project is beginning to attract some attention....

    July 20, 2014

  • The longer the wait, the higher the cost

    Editor, The Transcript: Thanks for the great article of July 3 on the Norman chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby group that recently went to D.C. as citizen lobbyists, working to get a revenue-neutral carbon pollution fee, refunded in ...

    July 20, 2014

  • Tax those trees out of here

    I read your editorial “Pesky red cedars” in the Norman Transcript of Tuesday, July 15, 2014. I have attended two meetings where the problem of the eastern red cedar trees was discussed. Because of the drought conditions in Oklahoma, we ...

    July 20, 2014