On Fox News Channel’s “Special Report” on Monday, network senior political analyst Brit Hume challenged the White House’s claim that it’s a supporter of freedom of the press.
Hume’s comments come in the wake of a Washington Post report that the Department of Justice had investigated Fox News’ James Rosen for his coverage of the State Department and North Korea.
“In the matter of Fox News correspondent James Rosen, the Justice Department has gone where federal prosecutors have rarely if ever gone before: To obtain a search warrant for Rosen’s personal emails they claimed to a federal court that by doing what journalists do, which is to try to ferret out secrets of government and report them, Rosen has committed a crime. Indeed they describe how he cultivated a State Department official as a source, set up a confidential method of communicating with him, flattered him, spoke to him on the phone — gasp — and asked him to provide information about State Department actions and intelligence on a foreign country now identified as North Korea.”
“All this, says the FBI in a 36-page affidavit is in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy to divulge classified information,” Hume continued. “Did Rosen do this to help an enemy? The FBI makes no such claim. Instead, it cites an email in which Rosen tells his source, quote, ‘I want to report authoritatively and ahead of the competition on new initiatives or shifts in U.S. policy, events on the ground and what intelligence is picking up.’ Oh, heaven forbid. The president and his attorney general can recite all the platitudes they like about their respect for press freedom and the need for investigative reporting. But this FBI affidavit contradicts them all.”
Host Bret Baier asked Hume what he thought an appropriate response from the government in these circumstances would look like. Hume said the government had a right and a duty to investigate, but its the focus should have been on the leaker, not the reporter covering the story.
“The government has a right indeed, arguably, a duty to protect the nation’s secrets, some of which are more secret than they ought to be,” Hume said. “But that aside, there are legitimate national security secrets that is the government’s job to protect. And when they leak out, the government has a right and a duty to investigate. But what the government has traditionally done in the past is to investigate the leaker and not, if you will, the leakee. That provides the balance between the government’s job to find out what happened and the press’ right to pursue information. That’s the way it’s been done before. That’s the way it seemed to have been going up until now. But it seems to me tonight there is reason to doubt that that is the approach being taken by this administration.”