Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress Wednesday that a serious national security leak required the secret gathering of telephone records at The Associated Press as he stood by an investigation in which he insisted he had no involvement.
Pestered by Republicans and some Democrats, Holder testified that he has faith in the individuals conducting the broad investigation, driven in large part by GOP outrage last year over the possibility that administration officials leaked information to enhance President Barack Obama’s national security reputation in an election year.
Holder said he had recused himself from the case because “I am a possessor of information eventually leaked.” He said he was unable to answer questions on the subpoenas and why the Justice Department failed to negotiate with the AP prior to the subpoenas, a standard practice.
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.
“This kind of law would balance national security needs against the public’s right to the free flow of information,” Schumer said in a statement. “At minimum, our bill would have ensured a fairer, more deliberate process in this case.”
The White House threw its support behind the push Wednesday morning, with Ed Pagano, President Barack Obama’s liaison to the Senate, placing a call to Schumer’s office to ask him to revive the bill — a step the senator had planned to take. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama “believes strongly we need to provide the protection to the media that this legislation would do.”