The Justice Department secretly seized two months of phone records from the Associated Press. Typically, news organizations are given advance notice, but this case was deemed an exception.
Journalists and free-press advocates reacted with outrage Monday after the Associated Press reported the US Department of Justice had secretly seized two months of the organization’s phone records, which the AP called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”
Lawyers for the AP received a letter Friday from US Attorney Ronald Machen, notifying the not-for-profit journalism organization that the Justice Department used subpoenas to obtain April and May 2012 phone records from its New York; Washington, D.C.; and Hartford, Conn., offices.
“What is stunning is the breadth of the seizure!” Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren said in an e-mail to Politico, referring to the 20 phone lines used by more than 100 reporters over the two-month period. “That doesn’t sound like a criminal investigation, that sounds like a dragnet to intimidate the media.”
The letter did not specify why the department wanted the phone records, but AP suggested that it is related to a May 7, 2012, story that detailed a Central Intelligence Agency operation to stop an airline bomb plot in Yemen. The AP held the story at the request of the government until concerns over the story’s national-security impact had been allayed. But during a congressional hearing in February, CIA Director John Brennan said the story was an “unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information.”