[…] During the meeting, participating media executives “reached an agreement with the Justice Department under which they could describe what occurred during the meeting in general terms.” That they would need permission from Holder to discuss the Obama administration’s attitudes around policies and procedures that have profound implications for freedom of the press is a sad statement on establishment media organizations.
James Warren, Daily News Bureau Chief, described how “press representatives” pushed Holder “to consider internal department changes that might prompt greater discretion and avoid what the media feels can be overly broad subpoenas.” There was a “forthright and civil back-and-forth” that “saw the two sides also discuss possible changes in laws relevant to seeking subpoenas of journalists’ phone records and emails.” Yet, they reiterated a favorite administration talking point, that “they seek a balance between protecting national security and honoring the role of a largely unfettered media in a democracy,” which media outlets are undoubtedly tired of hearing, especially since the administration’s record suggests that is not really true.
Politico offered a summary of the meeting, which included an anonymous quote from one of the five journalists at the meeting. It was further evidence of how some of the media organizations had decided to be fully compliant with the Obama administration in these meetings:
The guidelines require a balance between law enforcement and freedom of the press, and we all argued that the balance was out of kilter, with the national security and law enforcement interests basically overwhelming the public’s right to get information…The language concerning ‘aiding and abetting’ comes out of the Privacy [Protection] Act, and they discussed trying to revise that language so that reporters don’t need to be defined as co-conspirators in order to execute search warrants.
In other words, if the administration could do it all over again, they would not label Rosen a “co-conspirator” but they would still investigate him as if he were one. Anyone who finds this to be a reassuring “shift” is desperately searching for a silver lining.
[…] These meetings are not likely to lead to any meaningful change. The result of the review will, at best, advocate for cosmetic changes. The administration will still push a media shield law re-introduced in Congress that has a broad national security exception that would not have protected Rosen’s privacy. Actions will continue to favor national security agencies over journalists’ right to freedom of the press.
The Obama administration understands what is at stake here: the ability of government to control the flow of information and maintain the secrecy it wants to govern without being scrutinized. Whatever adjustments the Justice Department makes will be carefully calculated so the administration still has maximum authority to pursue leaks investigations as it puts in place guidelines to forestall any actions that could lead to outrage among the press. So, in that respect, media organizations, who wisely chose not to participate, are likely to be vindicated as it becomes more and more clear this was some public relations operation put on by the Obama administration.