The Associated Press reported Monday that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of phone records belonging to more than 20 AP employees. The seizure of the phone records is believed to be related to a Justice Department criminal investigation into “who may have leaked information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot.”
Attorney General Eric Holder has spoken in the past in favor of laws to protect journalists from government overreach, such as being forced to reveal sources. A 2008 media shield law that passed the House of Representatives but died in the Senate would have protected journalists at the AP from seizure of phone records. Holder was asked about this law at his January 2009 confirmation hearing, where he said he supported the concept of such a law but with caveats for leak investigations that would not have protected AP.
In November 2009, Holder testified before Congress, saying he supported a media shield law that was working its way through the legislative body. The Obama administration originally opposed the law and in September of that year asked for sweeping revisions to the bill that would have not protected cases like the AP, if the administration deemed leaks to causes “significant” harm to national security.
Holder said he supported the bill because of the “concessions” made, which included revising the bill from the 2008 version that failed in the Senate to remove some protections for journalists.
Holder, in the same November 2009 hearing, said, “I don’t think that the steps that the government has to go through are necessarily going to frustrate our efforts to identify and to ultimately prosecute leakers.”