WASHINGTON, D. C.: The US administration pushed back on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) after being accused of undermining press freedom by seizing reporters’ phone records, claiming officials took the drastic steps to protect American lives.
Amid a barrage of criticism, Attorney General Eric Holder said telephone logs were secretly taken from US news agency the Associated Press (AP) as part of a probe into a security breach, which had put the American people at risk.
“I’ve been a prosecutor since 1976. And I have to say that this is among, if not the most serious . . . a . . . very, very serious leak,” Holder said.
“That’s not hyperbole. Puts the American people at risk. And trying to determine who is responsible for that, I think, required very aggressive action,” he declared.
The comments came as President Barack Obama’s administration faced heavy criticism over the Justice Department’s decision to seize two months of phone records from the news operations of the Associated Press. The investigators’ action is believed to be linked to a probe into a story on a foiled terror plot, which they suspect contained leaked information.
The AP said its story disclosed details of a Central Intelligence Agency operation in Yemen that stopped an Al-Qaeda plot in 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.
Holder said that he had recused himself from the probe because he was interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about unauthorized disclosures in the matter. A Justice department statement said that, since Holder’s recusal in June 2012, the investigation “has been conducted by the FBI under the direction of the US Attorney and the supervision of the deputy attorney general.”