THE BLOG
05/31/2013 03:42 pm ET Updated Jul 31, 2013

What, the Department of Justice Actually Subpoenaed Reporter's Records... I'm Shocked, Shocked!

More than 45 years ago, when Lyndon Johnson inhabited the White House and scared the hell out of "leakers," Senator John Stennis leaked a story to CBS. It seems that Robert McNamara, then secretary of defense was proposing the construction of an electronic fence along the border between North and South Vietnam. Stennis thought it was a damn fool idea, but he also knew that if he went public with the story LBJ would never forgive him and Stennis would pay a heavy price. So he leaked the story to Roger Mudd's producer, Sylvia Westerman, who promised Stennis that she would do her best to protect him.

Westerman took the story to her boss to the head of the CBS Washington Bureau, Bill Small, and between the two of them they figured out that if they gave the story to Dan Rather, who then covered the White House for CBS, Johnson would think the leak came out of the White House and Stennis would be safe. They were right. Rather broke the story, LBJ went nuts. He was certain that some anti-war Kennedy holdover in the White House had leaked the story. Johnson called in the Secret Service. The Secret Service checked White House phone records to see who had been calling Rather, began to monitor phone calls and was reported to have tapped the phones of White House correspondents. Some people protested, but nobody was shocked.

Most people believed that Richard Nixon was tapping reporter's phones during his stay in the White House, and once again, nobody complained. I know, as a fact, that after 9/11 the NSA was listening without authorization to phone calls from one American citizen to American citizen. Not too many people know that, but there are very few who have never suspected it. Is the NSA still doing it? I would not be shocked.

So all this hoopla about the Department of Justice improperly obtaining two months of AP telephone records seems to me just as phony as Claude Rains' "I'm shocked, shocked" when he "discovers" gambling at Rick's Café in Cassablanca.

Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?