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Associated Press Probe Seen as ‘Dragnet’ by GOP Lawmaker

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May 18 (Bloomberg) -- The Justice Department’s subpoena of Associated Press phone records appears to be “a large dragnet” that lacked a clear focus, Michigan Republican Representative Mike Rogers said.

“It doesn’t appear to me to be appropriate,” Rogers said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.

Rogers’ criticism of the Justice Department is significant because the lawmaker is chairman of the House Intelligence committee and a former FBI agent who had asked for an investigation into leaks of national security information.

The department informed the AP on May 10 that it had subpoenaed records from certain telephone numbers associated with the news organization as part of an investigation.

The AP is a nonprofit news cooperative owned by U.S. newspapers and broadcasters. AP officials said the review of its journalists’ phone records may be related to a federal probe into a May 7, 2012, news report about an intelligence operation in Yemen that foiled a plot to blow up an airliner around the first anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden in a raid into Pakistan by U.S. troops.

“It seems like it’s a year into the investigation, and they cast a very large dragnet, which tells me that they probably don’t know the answers quite yet,” Rogers said. “Normally, in an investigation like this, if you’re going to do something that’s that sensitive, you would have a very clear thing that you’re trying to determine.”

Cybersecurity Spying

On a separate matter, Rogers said the U.S. government should consider actions to punish countries such as China for carrying out cyber espionage, such as denying U.S. visas to those behind attacks.

Rogers said in an interview he plans to introduce a bill with Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, as soon as May 28 to counter cyber spying.

“It’s going to be pretty aggressive,” Rogers said, declining to discuss details. “It’s clearly designed for those people who are engaged in both military and intelligence cyber activities against the United States, both in spying and economic espionage.”

Rogers has said it appears the Chinese and Iranian governments are behind cyber attacks against U.S. agencies and companies. The House in April passed legislation, H.R. 624, sponsored by Rogers that would encourage governments and businesses to share information about cyber threats. The Senate failed to pass cybersecurity legislation last year and hasn’t taken up a new bill this year.

IRS Investigation

The Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of groups that had “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their names is “shocking” and more people at the agency should be fired because of it, Rogers said.

Steven Miller has been forced out as acting IRS commissioner, the Justice Department is conducting a criminal probe into what occurred, and congressional committees have started investigations. The matter was the focus of a hearing yesterday by the House Ways and Means Committee.

Rogers stopped short of calling for a special prosecutor, saying he wants to see what the congressional inquiries find.

“I do believe that they may have, you know, crossed the line and broke the law,” Rogers said of actions taken by IRS personnel. “We need to make sure that this isn’t a cultural problem across the IRS. This is as serious as it gets.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Strohm in Washington at cstrohm1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net

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