The Justice Department's decision to subpoena a New York Times reporter this week has convinced some press advocates that President Obama's team is pursuing leaks with the same fervor as the Bush administration.For the most part the White House press corps is shying away from criticizing their hero, since they crave a daily pat on the head and being given inside access, so in the end they could care less if one of their own is thrown under the bus.
James Risen, who shared a Pulitzer Prize for disclosing President George W. Bush's domestic surveillance program, has refused to testify about the confidential sources he used for his 2006 book "State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration."
"The message they are sending to everyone is, 'You leak to the media, we will get you,' " said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. In the wake of the Bush administration's aggressive stance toward the press, she said, "as far as I can tell there is absolutely no difference, and the Obama administration seems to be paying more attention to it. This is going to get nasty."
Kurt Wimmer, a Washington lawyer who helped win White House approval for a proposed federal shield law, called the move against Risen "disappointing" after "we had positive discussions with the Obama administration" on the need to give journalists a legal foundation for protecting their sources in most cases.
In the Risen case, Attorney General Eric Holder had to approve the subpoena under Justice Department procedures. The subpoena, disclosed Thursday by the Times, comes two weeks after the administration obtained an indictment of a former top National Security Agency official, Thomas Drake, for allegedly providing classified information to a Baltimore Sun reporter.
If this were the Bush Justice Department, though, there's be 24/7 howls of outrageously outrageous outrage.