The seizure of the phone records appears linked to an investigation into who provided information to AP in 2012 about a foiled terrorist plot. The Justice Department has strict rules meant to limit snooping into journalists' records, including a requirement that the attorney general approval all such requests.
Such intrusions can be made only after "all reasonable attempts" have been made to obtain information in other ways, and any subpoena of the media must be drawn narrowly. News organizations normally are notified in advance that the government is seeking phone records, and negotiations usually ensue over the scope of the search. But that didn't happen in the AP case, with the government citing an exception that allows waiver of such notice when the notice might "pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation."
The Obama administration has provided precious little information to justify such a drastic step. Coming from an administration that has pursued leak investigations with a zeal not seen in decades, the lack of information is worrisome.
When added to recent disclosures that the Internal Revenue Service targeted nonprofit applications by conservative groups for extra scrutiny, the Obama administration has a full-fledged abuse of power mess on its hands.
Holder must quickly provide Congress and the public with a thorough explanation of why such an extreme intrusion into First Amendment activity was warranted. Congress must aggressively assert its oversight authority to review the Justice Department's actions.
—El Paso Times