Fox News on Monday accused the Department of Justice (DOJ) of completely disregarding fundamental press freedoms by secretly monitoring their reporter James Rosen as part of an investigation into a leak, calling the move "downright chilling."
The department closely followed Rosen's movements in Washington, particularly his interactions with the State Department, a court affidavit revealed on Monday, according to The Washington Post.
The documents list Rosen as a potential "co-conspirator" in the case, believed to be related to a possible 2009 government leak about North Korea. They include a search warrant for Rosen's email records, said Fox News.
A DOJ official told The Huffington Post on the condition of anonymity late Monday that the agency did not expect to press charges against Rosen.
“To our knowledge, the Department of Justice has never prosecuted a reporter," the official said, according to Huffington Post. "No reporter has ever been charged by the Department of Justice simply for publishing information obtained through an illegal leak of classified information by a government official. At this time, we do not anticipate bringing any additional charges in this matter.”
The DOJ is already in the hotseat in Washington over the agency's monitoring of 20 phones lines used by Associated Press reporters as part of a probe into a separate leak. Attorney General Eric Holder, the department head, had recused himself from the AP affair but not the Rosen probe, according to the Huffington Post.
More from GlobalPost: AP: Justice Dept monitored phone calls in 'unprecedented intrusion'
Ryan Gallagher argued in Slate that the Rosen upset is "even worse" than the AP phone scandal. Both incidents have raised serious questions about the government's relationship with the press — or, as Fox News' Michael Clemente put it, "of what up until now has always been a free press."
The comments came as part of an statement of protest released by Fox News on Monday:
"We are outraged to learn today that James Rosen was named a criminal co-conspirator for simply doing his job as a reporter. In fact, it is downright chilling. We will unequivocally defend his right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press."
It's a sentiment being echoed in free-speech quarters throughout the nation. “Asking for information has never been deemed a crime,” Steven Aftergood of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists told the Post on Monday, adding: “It’s a line that has not been crossed up until now.”
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida responded to the news in a statement saying he was "very concerned" about "possible criminal prosecution for doing what appears to be normal news-gathering protected by the First Amendment," reported Fox.
Watch the White House press conference on it here:
More outrage online: