U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will conduct a review of the rules that guide prosecutors in investigations that include journalists.
President Barack Obama announced the review today less than two weeks after the Associated Press was informed by the Justice Department that its telephone records had been seized in a national security leak investigation. Holder will report back his findings by July 12, Obama said.
“I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable,” Obama said during a speech today about counterterrorism policy at the National Defense University.
The Justice Department, led by Holder, has faced a backlash from U.S. lawmakers and media organizations for its decision to subpoena the AP’s telephone records as part of its investigation into the release of information about an active intelligence operation.
Holder “will consult a diverse and representative group of media organizations,” the Justice Department said in statement. “In the coming days, he looks forward to meaningful engagement with these media representatives as well as other experts inside and outside of government.”
Holder has recused himself from the department’s investigation into leaks to the AP because he was interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as part of the probe. He has said he is confident that Justice Department prosecutors made the proper decision. Deputy Attorney General James Cole has supervised the probe in Holder’s absence and signed off on the subpoenas.
Fourteen Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Cole yesterday requesting details of the decision to seize the AP’s telephone records, including questions about the size and scope of the subpoena, which covered more than 20 phone lines over portions of a two-month period.
Bipartisan groups of House and Senate lawmakers have introduced “media shield” legislation designed to protect media source material from government investigators. The bills include national security exemptions. Obama said he supports a media shield law in today’s speech.