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May 15, 2013

Lawmakers Press US Attorney General About Subpoenas to AP

by VOA News

U.S. lawmakers have questioned Attorney General Eric Holder about the Justice Department's secret seizure of Associated Press telephone records, as the White House said it would support a bid to pass legislation to strengthen journalists' rights to protect sources.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday challenged Holder about the seizure, which took place last year in connection with a criminal investigation into the leak of classified government information.  Authorities are trying to determine who may have provided information for a May 2012 AP story about a CIA operation in Yemen that thwarted an al-Qaida bomb plot.

But under questioning, Holder said he recused himself from the investigation after the FBI interviewed him about the leaks.  The top law enforcement official also said he did not formally recuse himself from the case in writing and could not provide the exact date as to when he removed himself from the investigation.  

The Justice Department subpoenaed two months' worth of telephone records from AP news reporters and editors.  Holder said the department's No. 2 official, Deputy Attorney General James Cole, made the decision to seek the phone logs.  The seizure of the AP phone records has drawn sharp criticism from the AP and news media groups as over-reaching by the government.

Meanwhile, White House officials say the Obama administration is seeking to revive a 2009 media shield bill that had been sponsored by New York Senator Charles Schumer.  Spokesman Jay Carney says the White House has been in contact with Schumer about the issue.  The bill is known as the Free Flow of Information Act.   
 

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.