The Justice Department investigated a Fox News reporter’s newsgathering activities as a possible crime during a probe of a leak, reports The Washington Post.
The reporter is James Rosen, Fox News’ chief Washington correspondent, and the revelation outraged journalists and advocates of government transparency, the story adds. The government suggested that Rosen was a "co-conspirator" for digging for classified information, a suggestion that critics said threatens to criminalize press freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.
"Others also suggested that the Justice Department’s claim in pursuing an alleged leak from the State Department was little more than pretext to seize his e-mails to build their case against the suspected leaker," the story notes.
"It is downright chilling," Fox News executive Michael Clemente said in a statement. He said the network will "unequivocally defend [Rosen’s] right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press.”
The investigation into Rosen came to light as part of a Washington Post story about the Justice Department’s investigation into leaks about North Korea in 2009. The publication posted a warrant for Rosen’s personal email account.
The affidavit included FBI agent Reginald Reyes’ comment that Rosen asked former State Department arms expert Stephen Jin-Woo Kim to pass on "sensitive United States internal documents and intelligence information" by "employing flattery and playing to Mr. Kim’s vanity and ego.”
Equating reporting practices with criminal activity particularly angered critics.
"Neither flattery nor an insistent tone rises to the level of a criminal offense,” said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.
According to the Post, "Investigators pulled Rosen’s security badge records, phone logs and his personal e-mails, but they never charged him with a crime. No reporter has ever been prosecuted for seeking classified information."