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Editorial: Back Off

The Obama Administration needs to get serious about not harassing reporters for doing their jobs. That includes not pursuing them as accessories to espionage, or wholesale monitoring of their phone records. Investigative reporters should not be treated as criminals when they report classified information from sources. Collecting journalists’ phone records to try to find leakers shouldn’t be standard operating procedure.

The more we learn about government surveillance via the Snowden storm of revelations, the more concerned we get about the lengths to which the government will go to pursue leakers, which is of course ironic, considering those revelations are the product of leaks.

The White House has made the right noises about revising Justice Department guidelines. But that’s no consolation to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who complained about having her phone monitored. President Obama said the U.S. wasn’t monitoring her and wouldn’t monitor her…without saying we hadn’t. Further allegations came by way of more Snowden leaks — that some three-dozen world leaders, allies and not-so-much allies, had also been monitored.

One journalist, polled in a study conducted by the Committee to Protect Journalists about the administration’s relationship with the press, said that of the last seven presidents, Obama is the least transparent in daily White House business. And that citation comes from ABC News White House correspondent Ann Compton, who has covered them all. Another said this is the most aggressive White House in controlling information since Nixon’s. That’s the kind of company you don’t want to keep.