‘Holder’ing the bag
By GEOFF EARLE Bureau Chief
Last Updated: 3:24 AM, May 25, 2013
Posted: 2:02 AM, May 25, 2013
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder’s fingerprints are all over an FBI warrant that authorized snooping on Fox News reporter James Rosen, the Justice Department confirmed yesterday.
The FBI warrant that sought Rosen’s private e-mails as part of a leak investigation and called him a possible “co-conspirator” in a crime was authorized “at the highest levels of the department, including discussions with the Attorney General,” according to the Justice Department.
“The Department takes seriously the First Amendment right to freedom of the press,” the agency said in the statement, saying it took “great care” in deciding to seek a judge’s approval to get a warrant.
“After extensive deliberations, and after following all applicable laws, regulations and policies, the Department sought an appropriately tailored search warrant under the Privacy Protection Act,” Justice said.
The stunning statement came a day after NBC reported on Holder’s involvement, and after President Obama said in a major speech that “journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.”
He tasked Holder, who signed off on seeking the warrant, with meeting with a group of journalists and reporting back in July on recommendations to protect press freedoms.
Phone records for Rosen and Fox News’ Washington bureau also were seized, according to additional court documents in a leak investigation of Rosen’s alleged government source, State Department contractor Stephen Kim.
Yesterday’s acknowledgment is likely to bring added scrutiny to Holder’s own testimony before the House Judiciary Committee two weeks ago about a different leak investigation where the feds seized phone records used by up to 100 Associated Press reporters.
Holder, who said he had recused himself from the AP investigation, seemed to broadly rule out prosecuting any reporters in his remarks.
“With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy,” Holder said.
“The focus should be on those people who break their oath and put the American people at risk, not reporters who gather this information. That should not be the focus . . . of these investigations,” he continued.
The government hasn’t charged Rosen with any crime in relation with his 2009 article, which cited intelligence material about North Korea.
But the 2010 search warrant Holder green-lighted called Rosen an “aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” in an alleged crime — violating the Espionage Act. It stated there was “probable cause to believe that the reporter has committed or is committing a violation” of the law, and said Rosen’s e-mail account contained “evidence, fruits, and instrumentalities of that violation.”
Lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees told The Post they want to press the administration to find out how and why that designation got made.
Retired Gen. Colin Powell yesterday told Bloomberg’s Al Hunt the AP and Fox investigations were “over the line.”