James Ronson, the reporter in question, had his phone records seized by the government back in August 2010. The move was in response to a Fox News story he wrote in June 2009 alleging that U.S. intelligence officials believed North Korea would conduct more nuclear arms tests in response to sanctions from the U.N. The article included details about a secret U.S. report on North Korea.
While Rosen was not charged and prosecutors have no plan to charge him, his alleged source — Stephen Kim, a former State Department analyst — is scheduled to go to trial as soon as next year. Kim faces charges that he violated anti-espionage law, and he has plead not guilty.
This subpoena is just the latest development in a battle between the media’s right to publish, and the government’s desire to keep classified information under wraps by investigating leaks of sensitive information. The Justice Department claims that its seizure of Ronson’s phone records and email account were completely legal and followed all policies. The Associated Press, which recently revealed that the government secretly took phone records of several AP offices and employees, called the move a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”
Roger Ailes, chairman and chief executive of Fox News, sent an email to employees saying, “We will not allow a climate of press intimidation, unseen since the McCarthy era, to frighten any of us away from the truth.” The White House seems to have taken a different stance on the matter. Jay Carney, White House Press Secretary, said that President Obama “believes, I think, as all of his predecessors believed, that it is imperative that leaks that can jeopardize the lives of American men and women serving overseas should not be tolerated.”
Fox News, which is owned by News Corp., claims that it has never received a subpoena from the government. One law enforcement official said in a statement that all governmental policies were followed through, including providing Fox News notice of the subpoena via mail, facsimile, and email. Nathaniel Brown, a spokesperson for the company, said, ”While we don’t take issue with the DOJ’s account that they sent a notice to News Corp, we do not have a record of ever having received it.”
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