Feds seize AP phone records

The Obama administration, already under fire for Benghazi and politically motivated IRS audits, is now being accused of infringing on freedom of the press by secretly seizing Associated Press phone records from last year to track down a leak.

The Washington Post reports that the Justice Department seized two months of telephone records as part of an effort to track down who disclosed classified information about a CIA operation in Yemen to foil an al-Qaeda plot to blow up an airliner bound for the United States. The Post says the phone record subpoenas fit a pattern, noting six government officials have been prosecuted by the Obama administration for releasing secret materials, more than under all previous administrations combined.

The Justice Department obtained the records of cell, office, and home telephones of individual AP reporters and an editor; the AP’s general office telephone numbers in Washington, New York, and Hartford, and the main number for AP reporters covering Congress. The Justice Department informed AP about the records seizure last Friday.

Gary Pruitt, the AP’s president and chief executive, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday suggesting the subpoenas violated federal regulations. He noted there was no advance notice to the AP and no steps taken to narrow the scope of the subpoenas to specific matters relevant to an investigation.

“We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news,” Pruitt wrote.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, in a blog post, says it is time to update the nation’s laws so a consumer’s information held by a third party is protected. “It’s clear that the government was able to get the calling record information, secretly and in large quantities, because it didn’t have to go to AP to get it,” the blog post says. “Instead, it went to the phone companies, who have little incentive to stand up for their customers.”

                                                                                                                                                            –BRUCE MOHL

BEACON HILL

An internal memo — which seems designed for external consumption during budget season — details a state public health department where budget cuts have made it impossible to keep up with everything from monitoring health care quality to ensuring summer camp safety to overseeing the proper disposal of medical waste.

The case against an alleged drug dealer gets dismissed because the evidence is ensnared in the Boston crime lab at the forefront of the state drug lab scandal.

MARATHON BOMBING

The Republican profiles Peter Stefan, the Worcester funeral director who aided the Tsarnaev family. He explains why he did not to speak to the media toward the end of the burial fracas. Meanwhile, he tells the Associated Press that Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s burial was legal.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A state auditor report says lack of oversight and inadequate planning by the quasi-public agency overseeing the redevelopment of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Base has put the mixed-use project in jeopardy.

A tense budget meeting in Weymouth exploded with anger after the town’s chief financial officer played a video spoof featuring Cub Scouts in the roles of school committee members and residents arguing over the budget.

A buried 12-foot statue of St. Joseph is discovered during construction of a new building on Lafayette Street in Salem, the Salem News reports.

Milton Town Meeting rejected a resolution for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The US Supreme Court rules an Indiana farmer violated Monsanto’s patent on soybeans by growing beans using the seeds from the patented beans, the Associated Press reports (via Telegram & Gazette).

The fallout from the scandal over the IRS investigations of the Tea Party and other conservative groups could deter other nonprofits from performing advocacy, says the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The author of a new book that airs the dirty laundry from the Romney campaign explains in a piece for the National Review his reasons for writing the tell-all tome and details the blowback he got from campaign insiders.

ELECTIONS

Going against the position of Mayor Tom Menino and several other candidates hoping to succeed him, Suffolk DA Dan Conley says a decision on a casino at Suffolk Downs should be put to a citywide vote and not just decided by East Boston residents.  Other candidates agreeing with Conley were health center founder Bill Walczak and former school committee member and Roxbury nonprofit leader John Barros.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Patrick administration has worked out details of a lease deal for a $500 million air rights development project over the Massachusetts Turnpike near Fenway Park.  CommonWealth profiled the project’s developer, John Rosenthal, earlier this year.

EDUCATION

An administrator at the Greater Lawrence Technical School in Andover is on leave after apparently issuing a dummy press release naming her as a New York City nonprofit’s educator of the year, the Eagle-Tribune reported.

As part of WBUR’s series on sports at Boston Public Schools, the radio station reports on two charities that spend more on athletics than the city does.

Salem State University honors the life of graduate and MIT police officer Sean Collier, who was reportedly killed by the Tsarnaev brothers in the wake of the Marathon bombings, the Item reports.

HEALTH CARE

Angelina Jolie, in an op-ed in the New York Times, says she had a preventive double mastectomy because a gene test indicated she had an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer.

The Massachusetts Medical Society adopts a policy that affirms the right of doctors to discuss gun safety with their patients as a component of preventive care, the Associated Press reports.

TRANSPORTATION

Younger Americans are driving less and seeking more transit friendly locales, according to a new report by the US PIRG.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Despite a recovering economy, electricity usage across the Northeast is expected to be down slightly this summer, the Associated Press reports (via WBUR).

The owner of a Kingston wind turbine issued a “cease and desist” press release threatening legal action against a complaining resident and added a snarky suggestion about dealing with shadow flicker “by using a simple device known as a ‘shade’ or ‘curtains.’”

RELIGION

Kevin Cullen says he has always been fond of Cardinal Sean O’Malley. But no more. Margery Eagan in the Herald has the same reaction.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

MEDIA

Former Reagan official Jeffrey Lord writes in the American Spectator that Cumulus Media’s battle with its stars, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, will not end well for the company.