President Obama had a reputation when he took office as a liberal former constitutional lawyer who had condemned Bush-era national security policies. NPR says he has proved to be tougher than President George W. Bush on prosecuting national security leaks. The seizure of Associated Press phone records is just the latest example. The administration has prosecuted six people for giving reporters information about secret national security operations — twice as many cases as all previous presidents combined. Matt Miller, who used to advise Attorney General Eric Holder, says government officials share a sense that there are more leaks than there used to be, and they must be stopped.
“It has nothing to do with stopping the press from doing their job,” he says. “The goal is to stop people who have taken an oath to protect national security from disclosing secrets that harm it.” Journalists’ groups say that’s a distinction without a difference. To First Amendment advocates, the explanation is like saying: “We’re not trying to prevent people from drilling for oil — we just want to keep the oil in the ground.” Lucy Dalglish, who runs the journalism school at University of Maryland, says the only reason to do this is to send a message. “You send a message to both the media and [ ] to federal employees: You leak — we’re going to get you,” she says. “And I’m being told by reporters it’s being pretty effective.”