The balance between a free press and national security is an important and precarious one, but the current presidential administration may be tipping the balance in favor of security. The administration of President Barack Obama is being condemned for tracking the movements of a journalist who worked with a State Department contractor to report on North Korea’s nuclear program. James Rosen, a reporter with Fox News, received information about North Korea from government contractor Stephen Jin-Woo Kim. Kim has been charged by the Justice Department for violating the Espionage Act by providing information to Rosen, and a recent article from the Washington Post revealed that the Department of Justice has also been tracking Rosen and reading his emails.
Rosen has also been charged as a co-conspirator, which is related to the fact that he developed a plan for covertly communicating with Kim in order to obtain information.
Kim, who was working as a weapons contractor for the State Department and had security clearance, is accused of providing information about North Korea’s nuclear testing policies to Rosen, who reported the information in an article published in 2009. Kim has since been charged by the Department of Justice, and, seeking to obtain access to Rosen’s phone records and email correspondence with Kim, charged the reporter as a co-conspirator to Kim’s crimes in 2010.
The Obama administration’s investigation and prosecution of Rosen is comparable to another recent scandal in which the Justice Department obtained the telephone records of more than 20 Associated Press Journalists. While this investigation was on a larger scale, the government only investigated the reporters’ phone records and not their personal email.
Responding to the outrage of journalists across the country, President Obama said that press freedoms must be balanced against the protection of U.S. personnel overseas. The Justice Department said that it obeyed “all applicable laws, regulations, and longstanding Department of Justice policies intended to safeguard the First Amendment interests of the press in reporting the news and the public in receiving it.”
Information leaks have been an enormous problem for the current administration, and it has been aggressive in investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the leaks. The Obama administration pursued more information leak-related cases than all previous administrations combined.
Fox News, which employs Rosen and published the article that caused the investigation, released a statement saying, “We are outraged to learn today that James Rosen was named a criminal co-conspirator for simply doing his job as a reporter. In fact, it is downright chilling. We will unequivocally defend his right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press.”