Thursday, April 24, 2014
The Associated Press
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Attorney General Eric Holder removed himself from a decision to subpoena phone records of The Associated Press.
The Associated Press
Declared the No. 2 Democrat in the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland: "This is activity that should not have happened and must be checked from happening again."
Two Senate Democrats from one of the states where the AP records were seized — Connecticut — also said it was important to address the reasons for an action that they said could have a chilling effect on freedom of the press.
"I am concerned that this investigative action may fail to meet the government's high burden when invasion of privacy and chilling effects on First Amendment rights are at risk," said Richard Blumenthal, also a member of the Judiciary Committee. "The Department of Justice must be forthcoming with the facts as soon as possible."
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., added: "It's incumbent on the Justice Department to explain why they've seized telephone records from reporters and editors at The Associated Press so that their actions don't have a chilling effect on the freedom of the press."
At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said the president had learned about the phone records only Monday, through news reports. Citing the ongoing criminal investigation, Carney said it would be improper for Obama or the White House to weigh in.
"The president feels strongly that we need the press to be able to be unfettered in its pursuit of investigative journalism," Carney said, noting that Obama, as a U.S. senator, had pushed legislation to protect journalists' freedom. "He is also mindful of the need of secret and classified information to remain secret and classified, in order to protect our national security interests."
"There is a careful balance here that needs to be maintained," he added.
In the 30 years since the Justice Department issued guidelines governing subpoena practices relating to phone records from journalists, "none of us can remember an instance where such an overreaching dragnet for newsgathering materials was deployed," said the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
Regarding the May 7, 2012 story, the AP delayed reporting it at the request of government officials who said it would jeopardize national security. Once officials said those concerns were allayed, the AP published the story and disclosed the plot, though the administration continued to request that the story be held until an official announcement.