May 14, 2013

Justice Dept. secretly seized phone records of journalists

It may be part of an investigation into illegal leaking of classified material, but the AP says 'there can be no ... justification' for such a broad collection of communications.

The Associated Press

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The screen on the phone console at the reception desk at The Associated Press Washington bureau, Monday, May 13, 2013. The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

The AP delayed reporting the story at the request of government officials who said it would jeopardize national security. Once officials said those concerns were allayed, the AP disclosed the plot, though the Obama administration continued to request that the story be held until the administration could make an official announcement.

The May 7 story was written by reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman with contributions from reporters Kimberly Dozier, Eileen Sullivan and Alan Fram. They and their editor, Ted Bridis, were among the journalists whose April-May 2012 phone records were seized by the government.

Brennan talked about the AP story and investigation in written testimony to the Senate. "The irresponsible and damaging leak of classified information was made ... when someone informed The Associated Press that the U.S. government had intercepted an IED (improvised explosive device) that was supposed to be used in an attack and that the U.S. government currently had that IED in its possession and was analyzing it," he wrote.

He also defended the White House decision to discuss the plot afterward. "Once someone leaked information about interdiction of the IED and that the IED was actually in our possession, it was imperative to inform the American people consistent with government policy that there was never any danger to the American people associated with this al-Qaida plot," Brennan told senators.

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