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Security, at what price? Privacy concerns abound in DOJ power moves

The "scandals" that surfaced in Washington, D.C., last week may have nothing on the one that is currently brewing.

The "scandals" that surfaced in Washington, D.C., last week may have nothing on the one that is currently brewing.

The Washington Post reported Monday that in addition to the Department of Justice's controversial move to secretly seize the phone records of the Associated Press reporters, the DOJ is now moving on to target Fox News correspondent James Rosen. The Justice Department seized "two days’ worth of Rosen’s personal e-mails, documents, and attachments stored in a Gmail account," the Post reports. This investigation was reportedly conducted to find the source of yet another leak for Rosen's 2009 piece on North Korea.

On Saturday's show, host Melissa Harris-Perry and her panel focused not on the specific actions by the DOJ, but rather the scope of what it and other agencies are able to do when it comes to obtaining information.

Roosevelt Institute fellow and Bloomberg View contributor Susan Crawford expressed concern about government power in the discussion. "What this does is shed light on an enormous power of the Department of Justice to collect all kinds of information with almost no judicial oversight, no notice to the targets," she said on Sunday's show.

Attorney General Eric Holder defended his agency's investigation last week, which ostensibly was conducted to find the source of a leak for an AP story about a foiled Yemen terror plot. Holder noted that the leak was "serious" and "put the American people at risk." Ari Melber, co-host of msnbc's The Cycle, noted on Saturday's Melissa Harris-Perry that the benefits of leaks to the press. "A short answer to your question is Abu Ghraib. Pentagon Papers. Corruption in Tunisia. Each of those are from leaks."

A recent poll found that only four in 10 Americans are willing to give up "some" civil liberties in order to fight terrorism.

Is remains to be seen if what happened at the Associated Press is only the beginning of continued infiltration by the government into personal and private information. A recent New York Times report questioned whether or not President Obama's administration will back wiretapping instant messaging. Crawford was skeptical. "The FBI used the New York Times to float their internal proposal. The White House has not yet approved this."

Along with the scope of the DOJ's power when it comes to collecting our information is also the culture this invasion of privacy can create. "The larger point is when you gather all this information you create a tremendous temptation for profiling and for doing shortcuts and not necessarily doing traditional law enforcement investigation, gathering everything up with a pre-crime mentality," Melber said.

There's blame to go around for days for the DOJ, FBI, CIA and any other three-letter law enforcement organization. What about the role the consumer plays? According to Dan Ackerman, senior editor at, we play a big part in this. "We've actually been giving up a lot of this information for years." Ackerman goes on to say, "But when the government comes in and does it that's when we notice it. Maybe we should be noticing it a littler earlier in the chain."

Yet Crawford says it's not that simple. "The government uses the fact that we have to communicate through third parties to do everything in the digital age to say that there's a giant loophole in our expectation of privacy."

See the rest of the Saturday conversation below.