By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

A new scandal worthy of our outrage

The problem with getting all worked up over the IRS scandal is that we don’t have any outrage left over for the stories that really matter.

Tonight we learn that President Obama’s Justice Department “secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a ‘massive and unprecedented intrusion’ into how news organizations gather the news.”

And here’s some context: a piece I wrote for the Huffington Post in February 2012 headlined “Obama’s War on Journalism.”

This is the one to watch.

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The missing context in the IRS scandal


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  1. Mary Helen Gillespie

    Without The First Amendment, all others pale. Especially The Second Amendment. Ahem. Thanks for this piece, Dan.

  2. LOL!

    Nah, the tax records of those nasty teabaggers don’t compare!

  3. lou Gawab

    Oh, I get it…
    “stories that really matter” = stories that affect you.
    “stories that don’t really matter” = stories that affect someone else.

  4. DK – your post really did make me smile. Depends upon the ox being gored, etc.

    BOTH are very, very wrong and say bad things about Holder and Geithner.

    What I am at a loss to understand is what they hoped to find with NUMBERS, rather than recorded conversations.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Cynthia: As I understand it, the numbers are all you can get without revealing your hand. So you look at the data and see if there’s anything that looks worth pursuing.

      I think it’s important to note that groups seeking tax-exempt status were going to the IRS, hat in hand, asking for goodies. The AP, by contrast, is being spied on for doing its job — even if it may not have been doing it very competently. This seems pretty devastating:

      It was later revealed that the “would-be bomber” [whose existence was reported by the AP] was actually a U.S. spy planted in the Yemen-based group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. On May 18, U.S. and allied officials suggested to Reuters that the leak to the AP had forced the end of an “operation which they hoped could have continued for weeks or longer.”

      That does not excuse the Obama White House’s disrespect for a free press, but if that’s true … wow.

  5. True enough. They forgot to bow as well as doffing the cap. I don’t think forelock pulls are required until formal certification.

  6. Hmm… Is that not doing their job, or doing it too well? If they had discovered the person in question was a spy, should that have been revealed?

    I’m quibbling, This is an awful development, and one we wouldn’t have tolerated fifteen years ago.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Deb: The AP was not being investigated. Receiving a leak is not a crime. Rather, its records were being secretly rifled through as part of an investigation into who had leaked to the AP.

      • Deb Nam-Krane

        I understand. I’m referring to your criticism about how badly they did their job.

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