“I’m amused,” Attorney General William Barr told CBS News’ Jan Crawford, “by these people who make a living by disclosing classified information, including the names of intelligence operatives, wringing their hands about whether I’m going to be responsible in protecting intelligence sources and methods.”

He went on after further questions: “Well, the media reaction is strange. Normally the media would be interested in letting the sunshine in and finding out what the truth is. And usually the media doesn’t care that much about protecting intelligence sources and methods. But I do, and I will.”

You don’t have to have been “in the business” for Barr’s nearly 50 years to understand what he means. Just flash back 13 years to June 2006 and read The New York Times’ revelations about the Swift bank procedures.

The Belgian-based Swift manages foreign currency transfers, and after 9/11, the CIA and Treasury conducted data searches to spot — and, ultimately, stop — terrorist financing. The Times’ story conceded that this program was successful in obstructing terrorist activity, and it identified no abuses.

Top administration officials pleaded with the Times not to publish the story, and then-President George W. Bush said the publication was “disgraceful.” Times editor Bill Keller’s justification was that “the administration’s” — not the government’s but the administration’s — “extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data ... is a matter of public interest.”

In other words, the Times didn’t care much about weakening America’s fight against terrorism by disclosing classified information and revealing intelligence sources and methods. It was more interested in letting the sunshine in on a program that, to the best of its knowledge, had infringed no one’s rights.

Some called for prosecution of the Times for violating the Espionage Act of 1917, which criminalizes the publication of classified information, signed by then-President Woodrow Wilson two months after the U.S. entered World War I. But as then-Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan pointed out in his 1998 book “Secrecy: The American Experience,” the Espionage Act is overly broad, and government tends to overclassify information, including even newspaper articles.

Accordingly, successive administrations up to and including George W. Bush’s have declined to prosecute news media for publishing stories, including leaks of classified information, that seem clearly forbidden by the words of Wilson’s Espionage Act.

Abandoning that precedent, perhaps surprisingly, was the administration of Barack Obama. He described himself as “a strong believer in the First Amendment” and dismissed “stories about us cracking down on whistleblowers or whatnot” as “a really small sample.”

Actually, they were an unprecedentedly large number. As James Risen, co-byliner on the Times’ original Swift story, wrote in December 2016, the Obama administration “has prosecuted nine cases involving whistleblowers and leakers, compared with only three by all previous administrations combined.”

Obama’s Justice Department subpoenaed Associated Press phone records — of AP trunk lines and 30 separate phones. It identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “co-conspirator” in an espionage leak case. The supposedly liberal and pro-First Amendment Obama administration was actively pursuing what the Columbia Journalism Review called “a massive intrusion into newsgathering operations.”

It’s true that Obama did not emit as many tart words for the press in his eight years as president as Donald Trump has in his two and a half. But it’s also true that Trump has come nowhere near to challenging Obama’s record as the president most inclined to sic law enforcement on the press since Woodrow Wilson himself. Liberal Democrats aren’t necessarily the best friends of press freedom.

Nor are they, it seems, friends of a citizen’s right to privacy or a candidate’s right to seek public office without government surveillance. In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, when Barr made the point that the government “spying” had occurred on the Trump campaign, Democrats and the press expressed horror. You’re not supposed to say “spying,” apparently, even though Democrats and media like the Times have routinely used it as a conveniently short and understandable synonym for surveillance.

As Barr told Crawford, spying is appropriate if it’s “adequately predicated” — and it’s unclear whether the spying on the Trump campaign was. Certainly, the use of the partisan and unverified Steele dossier is not adequate.

Barr is old enough to remember when liberals did not take government legal or intelligence agencies’ word that spying on an administration’s opponents was justified and did not attack those who questioned it as unpatriotic.

He may be amused that such doings are self-righteously justified today, but it’s good that he’s willing to ask questions most of the media don’t want asked, to determine how the Obama law enforcement and intelligence agencies set about spying on the opposite party’s presidential campaign.

Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.

(28) comments


I love the sound of liberals whining in the morning. Keep it up. And while you're at it, go for an impeachment trial. That will guarantee Trumps' re-election.


Have any of you Trump supporters heard anything he said that you might disagree with yet? Maybe during his interview with George Stephanopoulos tonight? Like it’s okay to get dirt on an opponent from a foreign Country? Even NORWAY. 🤣😂 And there’s no reason to call the FBI?? Is this mentioned in basic Homeland Security 101? Wouldn’t this be called COLLUSION?? Was it rikkkitytikkkitytakkkity or rb that talked about how much fun the next 18 mos. were going to be? 🎊🎉🎈And the Hits just keep on coming!!?? When will the BTT(BullyTagTeam) and the RRR(RadicalRightRepublicans) go back to being “Super Patriots” like they were during the Obama Administration?


"senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner." nuff said.


[thumbup][thumbup] richard... My reaction as well.


Agreed nuff said, they are one of the few outlets left that can be trusted.


[lol][lol][lol] wait, you actually believe that!


Some facts: 1) There were dozens of contacts between Trump's campaign and Russia before the 2016 election. Many of them lacked appropriate reporting and security. 2) Russia meddled in the 2016 on Trump's behalf. 3) Trump did business in Russia, including the planning of a Trump Tower. 4) Trump himself gave incorrect information to Muller. 5) Trump's people gave incorrect information to Muller and have been prosecuted for it. Here is a good report. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/why-numerous-links-between-trump-campaign-and-russia-didnt-add-up-to-conspiracy


It's not "spying" when it's legal surveillance authorized by a court and Barr knows it. Toady.


Barr is not doing the job of A.G., he is a flunkie for Trump. He's a disgrace.


That may be your opinion Dick, but how about addressing the points made by the author in the article. The Steele dossier and subsequent investigation based on it are a problem. Also, while DJT bloviates about the press, BHO actually went after them.


Here’s the Mueller Report. https://www.justice.gov/storage/report.pdf The FBI’s investigation originated with George Papadopoulos, not Christopher Steele’s dossier. This is not my opinion but what is documented in the report.


Didn't say that the Steele Dossier started the investigation aw. I said that the dossier and subsequent (meaning investigations that stemmed from it) are a problem. How much of that evidence will be deemed "fruit of the poisonous tree" if it ever went to trial? Any prosecutor would then have to prove that the evidence would have been discovered anyway, which is a very high hurdle to overcome in court.


And before you ask, yes, I have read the entire Mueller Report that is available to the public.


From the Mueller Report which you read. Volume II, page 7. “ Although the series of events we investigated involved discrete acts, the overall pattern of the President's conduct towards the investigations can shed light on the nature ofthe President's acts and the inferences that can be drawn about his intent. In particular, the actions we investigated can be divided into two phases, reflecting a possible shift in the President's motives. The first phase covered the period from the President' s first interactions with Comey through the President's firing of Comey. During that time, the President had been repeatedly told he was not personally under investigation. Soon after the firing of Comey and the appointment of the Special Counsel, however, the President became aware that his own conduct was being investigated in an obstruction-of-justice inquiry. At that point, the President engaged in a second phase of conduct, involving public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation. Judgments about the nature of the President's motives during each phase would be informed by the totality of the evidence.â€


I’m not sure what your point is aw, or how it addresses my fruit of the poisonous tree (Steele Report) observation.


RE fruit of the poison tree. That might be another precedent that gets overturned. These conservative judges that are being appointed seem to be open to some expansive government powers when it suits their whim.


Thanks public. Could you give an example? Did you mean SCOTUS, or all of the judiciary?


As you know from reading the report, simply, the “Steele Dossier†wasn’t relevant to Mueller’s findings, or important to the investigation of Trump. It was a lot of distractive noise, an orphan lead, without merit. What has more merit are Trump’s reported words, From the Mueller Report Volume II, page 77. The Acting Attorney General appointed a Special Counsel on May 17, 2017, prompting the President to state that it was the end of his presidency and that Attorney General Sessions had failed to protect him and should resign.


Gabriel, In Volume II, Mueller notes the following instances of ‘obstruction of justice’ none mention the irrelevant “ steel dossier†but you know that? (p. 43) Trump’s instruction to the FBI Director to ‘let Flynn go’ suggests his awareness that Flynn could face criminal exposure for his conduct and was at risk of prosecution. (p. 60): directives to improperly interfere with the investigation. (p. 74): Firing Comey (p. 87): Don McGahn provides evidence that Trump attempted to fire Mueller. (p. 97): Trump’s effort to force Sessions to confine the investigation to only investigating future election interference (p. 105): Trump sought to prevent information about the Trump Tower meeting from reaching Congress or the special counsel’s office. (p. 111): effort to have Sessions unrecused himself to stop investigation. (p. 118): Trump orders McGahn to fire Mueller. (p. 131): Trump’s actions toward witnesses … would qualify as obstructive (p. 153): Trump directs and aided Cohen’s false testimony.


gabriel, The most recent that leaps to mind is SCOTUS upholding an Indiana law regarding cremation or burial for post-abortion tissue even if the person who had the abortion objects.


regarding was supposed to be requiring


AW, for whatever reason, the moderator chose to delete my response to you. I simply stated that I read the report, front to back, but I did not memorize it. You must have had the document open in front of you.


Does this make you happy, Gabe? https://www.factcheck.org/2019/03/dossier-not-what-started-all-of-this/ In an interview about the special counsel’s report, Rep. John Ratcliffe said that what “started all of this†was “a fake, phony dossier.†But a House Republican intelligence committee memo said it was information about a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser that sparked the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference in the election. " "Ratcliffe, March 25: That this was a fake, phony dossier that started all of this, funded by the Democrats. … It wasn’t real and now Bob Mueller says it wasn’t real."


Not real, as in fake, or not real as in doesn't exist? I also never said that it started the investigation Dick, it clearly did not, and I said so above. However, if it exists, and it was used to gather information via a FISA court warrant, that may put any findings gathered by using the dossier at risk. Not a hard concept to grasp. I read the Mueller Report, and agree there is smoke...lots of it. Not defending Trump if that is what you are thinking.


Gabe, are you saying if the police check out what they suspect is a crime scene and it is not a crime scene, they cannot investigate a real crime scene uncovered in a false crime scene? If so, I think you are wrong.


Dick, read what the concept of "fruit of the poisonous tree" is about. That was my concern, and my only concern. Here are some links to start you off. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/fruit-the-poisonous-tree.html https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/what-does-fruit-of-the-poisonous-tree-mean-in-criminal-proceedings-35403 https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/fruit_of_the_poisonous_tree#


I am confused as to why Barr has been such a flunkie for Trump. He must realize how history will look at him.


He said it in his CBS interview... to quote him "everybody dies sometime"..He's just committing professional suicide and wants to take the Rule of Law down with him.

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