Chief DC correspondent James Rosen is suddenly out at Fox News

After 19 years at the Fox News Channel, veteran political reporter James Rosen is leaving at the end of this year.  The announcement came as a surprise when it was first reported by TVNewser on Friday at 2:09 P.M. E.T.  Rosen currently serves as FNC's chief Washington correspondent and appears frequently on various programs across the channel, most often on Fox News's signature nightly news show, Special Report with Bret Baier.  Rosen is considered one of Fox News's best and most experienced journalists, and he is widely respected among his colleagues in the Washington, D.C. press corps.  He is also a well regarded historian, with books on Nixon's A.G. John Mitchell and V.P. Dick Cheney.

No further details about why Rosen is moving on or what his future plans are were immediately forthcoming.  A Fox News spokesperson emailed this writer FNC's only comment: "James Rosen is exiting the company at the end of the year."

As of early Saturday morning, Rosen had not referred to his imminent career change at his Twitter account.  Visitors to Rosen's Twitter feed are reminded by the header photograph that Rosen is Fox News's resident expert on the Beatles, notwithstanding the fact that, at age 49 now, he is too young to have experienced the 1964 "British Invasion."

James Rosen's Twitter page displays his dedication to the Beatles.

In May 2013, Rosen made news when, as first reported by the Washington Post, it became known that the Obama administration's Department of Justice had obtained a secret warrant from the FISA federal court allowing the government to spy on him.  The warrant permitted the government to access, copy, and read Rosen's private emails; record his phone conversations; monitor his movements; and covertly surveil his parents in New York as part of an investigation of an alleged leaker of classified information in the State Department.  Targeting a journalist in this way was unprecedented and was immediately criticized by most of the mainstream media.  As the Post reported on May 20, 2013 in a follow-up article, one day after it initially broke the news:

Journalists, First Amendment watchdogs and government transparency advocates reacted with outrage Monday to the revelation that the Justice Department had investigated the newsgathering activities of a Fox News reporter as a potential crime in a probe of classified leaks.

Critics said the government's suggestion that James Rosen, Fox News's chief Washington correspondent, was a "co-conspirator" for soliciting classified information threatened to criminalize press freedoms protected by the First Amendment. Others also suggested that the Justice Department's claim in pursuing an alleged leak from the State Department was little more than pretext to seize his e-mails to build their case against the suspected leaker.

"It is downright chilling," Fox News executive Michael Clemente said in a statement. "We will unequivocally defend [Rosen's] right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press."

Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, said, "Asking for information has never been deemed a crime."

Also on May 20, 2013, the Huffington Post ran a detailed story on the investigation of Rosen, which included a photocopy of the Department of Justice filing in United States District Court that successfully sought permission to search Rosen's emails.  On May 23, 2013, the Washington Post followed up with another story about how James Rosen's parents' home telephone in New York was also wiretapped as part of the Obama administration's investigation of Rosen.

In response to these goings-on, journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted on May 20, 2013:

To address a widely believed myth: except in very rare circumstances, it is *not* a crime for journalists to report classified information.

Coincidentally, May 20, 2013 – the day Greenwald tweeted in defense of Rosen – was the same day NSA contract employee Edward Snowden flew from Hawaii to Hong Kong with a trove of classified documents he had purloined, beginning his odyssey that ended with his asylum in Russia in the summer of 2013.  Greenwald, at the time a contributor to The Guardian (U.K.), was instrumental in bringing Snowden's story, and his classified documents, to international attention.

James Rosen on Fox News's Special Report, 2016.

The DOJ identified Rosen as a "co-conspirator" in the case against the leaker of classified material who was the subject of the government's probe.  The leaker later pleaded guilty to one felony count and was sentenced to 13 months in federal prison.  Rosen and his employer Fox News were never indicted or prosecuted for their alleged roles in the case.

Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran reporter and analyst of news on national politics, media, and popular culture.  A selection of Peter's recent video Skype interviews on The Hagmann Report is available at his new YouTube playlist "Between the Lines" here.  For announcements and links to a wide selection of Peter's published work, follow him on Twitter @pchowka.