Justice Dept. Secretly Obtained Phone Records of News Reporters

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.
The records obtained by the Justice Department listed incoming and outgoing calls, and the duration of each call, for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP.

In all, the government seized those records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices whose phone records were targeted on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.
In a letter of protest sent to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday, AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt said the government sought and obtained information far beyond anything that could be justified by any specific investigation. He demanded the return of the phone records and destruction of all copies.

“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know,” Pruitt said.
The government would not say why it sought the records. U.S. officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have leaked information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an Al Qaeda plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.

In testimony in February, CIA Director John Brennan noted that the FBI had questioned him about whether he was AP’s source, which he denied. He called the release of the information to the media about the terror plot an “unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information.”

Prosecutors have sought phone records from reporters before, but the seizure of records from such a wide array of AP offices, including general AP switchboards numbers and an office-wide shared fax line, is unusual and largely unprecedented.
In the letter notifying the AP received Friday, the Justice Department offered no explanation for the seizure, according to Pruitt’s letter and attorneys for the AP. The records were presumably obtained from phone companies earlier this year although the government letter did not explain that. None of the information provided by the government to the AP suggested the actual phone conversations were monitored.

Among those whose phone numbers were obtained were five reporters and an editor who were involved in the May 7, 2012 story.
The Obama administration has aggressively investigated disclosures of classified information to the media and has brought six cases against people suspected of leaking classified information, more than under all previous presidents combined.
Justice Department published rules require that subpoenas of records from news organizations must be personally approved by the attorney general but it was not known if that happened in this case. The letter notifying AP that its phone records had been obtained though subpoenas was sent Friday by Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney in Washington.

Spokesmen in Machen’s office and at the Justice Department had no immediate comment on Monday.
The Justice Department lays out strict rules for efforts to get phone records from news organizations. A subpoena can only be considered after “all reasonable attempts” have been made to get the same information from other sources, the rules say. It was unclear what other steps, in total, the Justice Department has taken to get information in the case.
A subpoena to the media must be “as narrowly drawn as possible” and “should be directed at relevant information regarding a limited subject matter and should cover a reasonably limited time period,” according to the rules.
The reason for these constraints, the department says, is to avoid actions that “might impair the news gathering function” because the government recognizes that “freedom of the press can be no broader than the freedom of reporters to investigate and report the news.”

News organizations normally are notified in advance that the government wants phone records and enter into negotiations over the desired information. In this case, however, the government, in its letter to the AP, cited an exemption to those rules that holds that prior notification can be waived if such notice, in the exemption’s wording, might “pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.”

It is unknown whether a judge or a grand jury signed off on the subpoenas.
The May 7, 2012, AP story that disclosed details of the CIA operation in Yemen to stop an airliner bomb plot occurred around the one-year anniversary of the May 2, 2011, killing of Usama bin Laden.
The plot was significant because the White House had told the public it had “no credible information that terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, are plotting attacks in the U.S. to coincide with the (May 2) anniversary of bin Laden’s death.”

The AP delayed reporting the story at the request of government officials who said it would jeopardize national security. Once government officials said those concerns were allayed, the AP disclosed the plot because officials said it no longer endangered national security. The Obama administration, however, 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 leaks 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 said.

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  • randall22000

    Hahahahaha! And the AP is one of the biggest but kissers of Obozo!!!!! Remember a recent AP convention when Obozo spoke and was introduced by the CEO in the most glowing, butt kissing, sugary, disgusting terms ever??? AP will get some fascist thrown bone by Obozo and thugs to just shut up! Just watch!!

  • Buford

    So they know who was called and how long but not the content? Maybe they can’t use what they overheard in a court of law, but there is little doubt in my mind that they did listen in and information will be used up to and not excluding blackmail.

  • David

    Osloba wants to make sure there is no right leaning newsperson so he needed to check out the records. holder and osloba are nothing but communists and there is nothing that can a person can do. Catch a organization or persons wronging the rights? Call the attorney General to investigate. That’s a laugh since holder and obama are both enemies of the right. They do what they wish and make the decisions for the government so they can get away with anything. Both communists!

  • And with AP just taking all those nasty words that Obama did not like off their list of acceptable words. These people also know how to hold a grudge and with everything that is going on Obama has just pissed more friends that now have a ax to grind.

    • billygeturgun

      Yes, and let’s hope they start grinding that axe real soon and make it sharp as a razor blade!

      • And as rusty as a chevy in Minnesota after thirty winters.

  • yaki534

    How i it any surprise that the press is in bed with Obummer? They have been for about six years or better. Myself I haven’t watched liberal news shows for years. They only broadcast opinion and no news. They are not reliable.

  • billygeturgun

    As much as I hate to agree with the AP on the fact that this appears illegal, it always amazes me when the media quotes an unnamed source who spoke of condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information. Hey AP and every other “news” source, if the information is unauthorized, why do you publish it? If the person says don’t identify me, then there is likely a reason they don’t want people to know who they are because they are not authorized. That should be what we call in police work A CLUE that something is amiss. Much of the time, you bozos publish the information without a fact checking investigation and then look like idiots when it is proven to be mis-information. And the fact that nobama has investigated more reporters than all the other POTUS’s combined, that again should be a clue that he has much to hide. How about publishing a story listing all, and I mean ALL, of the treasonous acts he has committed in the past 4 1/2 years. I know you would have to have an expanded edition to cover it all but many Americans still can’t figure out why he has not been impeached yet!

  • Any of you Obamalovers woke up yet? You could be next!

  • RW

    This is a red herring. It’s designed to make Nobama look good. Did you watch the LML? His “Grace” was totally “outraged” that DOJ would even think to stoop so low. Don’t forget Fast and Furious by DOJ.

  • Joe Lettieri

    I have no tolerance for a media that publishes more lies than news.Our Government is corrupt,and the president is a traitor no matter how many lies you publish.I only hope the American people wake up before its too late.

  • DE Navarro

    This guy deserves to be jailed forever.