(CNSNews.com) -- Juan Williams, a liberal commentator and a Fox News Channel contributor, criticized the Department of Justice (DOJ) for “criminalizing journalism,” when asked about Fox’s Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen being labeled as a possible co-conspirator in a government leak investigation.
“I think what you’ve got here is a situation where somehow, now, journalism has been criminalized, especially in this Rosen case,” Williams said on Fox & Friends on Tuesday.
“There’s just no justification for somehow making it out that a reporter, who is trying to cultivate a source, by doing so is a co-conspirator in terms of a leaks investigation,” said Williams. “I’ve never heard of that before. I’ve never seen that before. It’s never been done before.”
According to The Washington Post’s original report on the topic, when the DOJ investigated in the leaking of classified information in 2009 about North Korea, it not only obtained Rosen’s phone records, but his personal emails as well. It used security badge records to track Rosen’s visits to the State Department, and the DOJ also traced the timing of his calls to Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, the government adviser suspected of leaking information to Rosen.
In the court documents for the warrant to search Rosen’s personal e-mails – the “SUBJECT ACCOUNT” and “the Reporter” -- the FBI is cited as stating “there is probable cause to believe the Reporter has committed or is committing a violation of section 793(d), as an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator, to which the materials relate.”
“That kind of treatment of a reporter who’s simply doing journalism— I want to emphasize that, that’s the craft that we practice— makes it very difficult for journalists to do business,” Williams said. “How do you do journalism if you’re treated as a criminal for asking people for information?”
Williams further said that there has been a bi-partisan effort to contain government leaks, and that the current administration has been very active against reporters.
“Nobody has prosecuted as many as President Obama but, believe me, even Obama has been criticized for too many leaks coming out in his administration,” Williams said.
When asked whether or not he would be intimidated in light of the Rosen case, Williams claimed that he has been around for too long and gets “beat up from all sides,” but that this case was different.
“This stands out in a bright way to me as what I call criminalizing journalism,” Williams said. “I don’t see how you can do this. In a sense, I think people are picking on journalists sometimes with political intent, and I don’t like it. I think this is when you start to make it difficult to get information in a democracy to an informed citizenry.”
Williams said he thinks it is clear that the DOJ signed off on having Rosen listed as a co-conspirator when it took the case to the judge, unlike the seizing of the Associated Press phone records where no one was labeled as a co-conspirator in criminal activity.
“It’s one thing to go after legitimate leaks that endanger national security,” Williams said. “I think it’s another thing to simply say that somebody who’s reporting a story— and I don’t think this story had any grave national security implications— is a criminal.”