WASHINGTON (AP) — The leaders of a House panel told Attorney General Eric Holder today they had serious concerns about the Justice Department’s gathering of phone records at The Associated Press.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he worries about any infringement on freedom of the press in light of the Justice Department’s actions in the investigation of national security leaks.
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said he was “troubled by the notion that our government would pursue a broad array of phone records over a period of time.”
Holder is certain to face aggressive questioning by the Republican-led committee on topics ranging from the Justice Department’s gathering of AP phone records to the government’s handling of intelligence before the Boston Marathon bombings.
Goodlatte said he was concerned about the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service, now the focus of an investigation by Holder’s Justice Department.
Responding to news of the gathering of AP records, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., planned to revive a 2009 media shield bill that protects journalists and their employers from having to reveal information, including the identity of sources who had been promised confidentiality.
The law does contain some exceptions in instances of national security.
Ed Pagano, President Barack Obama’s liaison to the Senate, placed a call this morning to Schumer’s office to ask him to revive the bill, a move the senator had planned to make.
Obama’s support for the bill signaled an effort by the White House to show action in the face of heated criticism from lawmakers from both parties and news organizations about his commitment to protecting civil liberties and freedom of the press.
Holder has said the collection of AP phone records stems from an investigation into national security leaks. Republicans and some Democrats had pressed for an investigation last year, with many contending that the leaks were designed to enhance President Barack Obama’s reputation as he sought re-election.
Holder Tuesday defended the move to collect AP phone records to hunt down sources of information for a May 7, 2012, AP story that disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen to stop an airliner bombing plot around the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. Holder called the story the result of “a very serious leak, a very grave leak.”