Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. defended the seizure of AP journalists’ telephone records, calling an article one of “the top two or three most serious leaks” in decades.
El Procurador General de EEUU, Eric H. Holder Jr. defendió el martes al Departamento de Justicia por la obtención de dos meses de registros telefónicos
de los periodistas de Associated Press, argumentando que un artículo de AP constituyó una de "las dos o tres filtraciones más graves que había visto" en una carrera de 35
"Se puso al pueblo estadounidense en peligro, y eso no es una exageración", dijo en una aparente referencia a un artículo del 7 de mayo de 2012, que
reveló la develación de un complot terrorista por la rama de Al Qaeda en Yemen para bombardear un avión de pasajeros.
El presidente de la AP y director ejecutivo, Gary Pruitt, en un comunicado, en respuesta, negó que la publicación del artículo pusiera la seguridad en
"Retuvimos la historia hasta que el gobierno nos aseguró que ya habían pasado las preocupaciones de seguridad nacional", dijo. "De hecho, la Casa Blanca
se preparaba para anunciar públicamente que el complot había sido frustrado". Pruitt dijo que el artículo era importante, en parte, porque refutó la afirmación de la Casa Blanca respecto a que no
habían habido complots de Al Qaeda alrededor del primer aniversario de la muerte de Osama bin Laden.
En una conferencia de prensa en el Departamento de Justicia, el Sr. Holder también reveló que él se excusó el año pasado de atender los requerimientos
del FBI a cargo del caso después de que los agentes lo entrevistaron como parte de su investigación. Sin embargo, su adjunto en AP, James M. Cole, aprobó la busqueda de registros de llamadas para
20 oficinas y líneas telefónicas personales de los periodistas y editores de AP.
15/5/2013 - El Procurador General de Estados Unidos, Eric Holder, respondió el martes a las duras críticas de la violación de los derechos de los medios de prensa, luego de que la agencia de
noticias Associated Press denunciara que el Departamento de Justicia norteamericano había obtenido secretamente dos meses de los registros telefónicos de sus operaciones de noticias.
Holder sostuvo que en sus 35 años de carrera como fiscal, la filtración que dio lugar a que se pincharan los teléfonos de periodistas de AP era “una de las dos o tres fugas más graves que
"Esta fue una fuga muy, muy seria", dijo Holder a periodistas en una rueda de prensa. "Esto no es una exageración. Pone al pueblo estadounidense en peligro. Y tratar de determinar quien es
responsable de eso, creo, requiere de una acción muy agresiva", aseveró.
El despacho de AP que puso en alerta a las autoridades norteamericanas fue al parecer un cable que revelaba detalles de una operación de la CIA en Yemen que logró detener un complot de la red
Al Qaida en la primavera de 2012 para detonar una bomba en un avión con destino a Estados Unidos.
Erin Madigan White, de la AP, dijo en un blog que la agencia se enteró el viernes de que las autoridades estadounidenses habían "obtenido en secreto registros telefónicos de más de 20 líneas
telefónicas separadas asignadas a los periodistas y oficinas, incluyendo celulares y líneas telefónicas fijas" de los empleados.
Por su parte, el director ejecutivo de AP, Gary Pruitt, dijo en la carta dirigida a Holder que la agencia de noticias objetó "en los términos más enérgicos posibles una intrusión masiva y sin
precedentes (...) en las actividades de archivo de noticias de The Associated Press."
Pruitt acusó al gobierno de realizar las escuchas "sin aviso previo" a la Agencia, lo cual constituye "una seria interferencia con los derechos constitucionales de AP de investigar y reportar
Justice Dept. Defends Seizure of Phone Records
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. defended the seizure of journalists’ telephone records, calling an article one of “the top two or three most serious leaks” in decades.
DOUG MILLS / THE NEW YORK TIMES
By CHARLIE SAVAGE and SCOTT SHANE
May 14, 2013 - WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Tuesday defended the Justice Department’s sweeping seizure of telephone records of Associated Press journalists, describing the
article by The A.P. that prompted a criminal investigation as among “the top two or three most serious leaks that I’ve ever seen” in a 35-year career.
“It put the American people at risk, and that is not hyperbole,” he said in an apparent reference to an article on May 7, 2012, that disclosed the foiling of a terrorist plot by Al Qaeda’s branch
in Yemen to bomb an airliner. “And trying to determine who was responsible for that, I think, required very aggressive action.”
In a statement in response, The A.P.’s president and chief executive, Gary Pruitt, disputed that the publication of the article endangered security.
“We held that story until the government assured us that the national security concerns had passed,” he said. “Indeed, the White House was preparing to publicly announce that the bomb plot had
been foiled.” Mr. Pruitt said the article was important in part because it refuted White House claims that there had been no Qaeda plots around the first anniversary of the killing of Osama bin
At a news conference at the Justice Department, Mr. Holder also disclosed that he recused himself last year from overseeing the case after F.B.I. agents interviewed him as part of their
investigation. His deputy, James M. Cole, approved the subpoena seeking call records for 20 office and personal phone lines of A.P. reporters and editors.
Mr. Pruitt disclosed the seizure of the phone records on Monday in a letter to Mr. Holder protesting the action as overly broad and “a serious interference with A.P.’s constitutional rights to
gather and report the news.”
But in a letter to The A.P. on Tuesday, Mr. Cole portrayed the search as justified and disputed a detail in the wire service’s account of the Justice Department action. While the news
organization had said that records from “a full two-month period” had been taken, Mr. Cole said that the seizure covered only “a portion” of two calendar months.
“We understand your position that these subpoenas should have been more narrowly drawn, but in fact, consistent with Department policy, the subpoenas were limited in both time and scope,” he
wrote. He added that “there was a basis to believe the numbers were associated with A.P. personnel involved in the reporting of classified information. The subpoenas were limited to a reasonable
period of time and did not seek the content of any calls.”
The dispute centered on an ambiguous description in the original notice to The A.P., which an employee of the news organization said was sent as an attachment to an e-mail on May 10 from Jonathan
M. Malis, a federal prosecutor, to several A.P. employees.
The attached letter, the employee said, consisted of a single sentence citing the Justice Department regulation for obtaining journalists’ telephone records, and saying that The A.P. “is hereby
notified that the United States Department of Justice has received toll records from April and May 2012 in response to subpoenas issued” for 20 phone numbers in five area codes and three states.
The regulation requires subpoenas for reporters’ tolling records — logs of calls made and received — to be narrowly focused and undertaken only after other ways of obtaining information are
exhausted. Under normal circumstances, news organizations are to be notified ahead of time so they can negotiate or ask a judge to quash the subpoena, but the regulation allows exceptions, in
which case journalists must be notified no later than 90 days afterward.
Mr. Cole said the department had undertaken “a comprehensive investigation” before seeking the phone records, including more than 550 interviews and a review of “tens of thousands of documents.”
The calling records, he added, “have been closely held and reviewed solely for the purposes of this ongoing criminal investigation” and would not be used in any other case.
The A.P. on Tuesday was still examining whether any telephone companies had tried to challenge the subpoena on its behalf before cooperating. But at least two of the journalists’ personal
cellphone records were provided to the government by Verizon Wireless without any attempt to obtain permission to tell them so the reporters could ask a court to quash the subpoena, the employee
said. Debra Lewis, a Verizon Wireless spokeswoman, said the company “complies with legal processes for requests for information by law enforcement,” but would not comment on any specific case.
Lucy Dalglish, dean of the journalism school at the University of Maryland, criticized the Justice Department’s broad seizure of phone records, saying it would chill the ability of reporters to
report the news. The subpoena came against the backdrop of six prosecutions of officials in leak-related cases under President Obama — twice the number prosecuted under all previous presidents
“The message is loud and clear that if you work for the federal government and talk to a reporter that we will find you,” she said.
Jay Carney, a White House spokesman, on Tuesday reiterated that the White House had no involvement in the subpoena and portrayed Mr. Obama as “a strong defender of the First Amendment and a firm
believer in the need for the press to be unfettered in its ability to conduct investigative reporting and facilitate a free flow of information.”
Justice Department regulations do not cover information about journalists’ e-mails. But the A.P. employee said the company operates its own internal e-mail server and had determined that the
e-mails were not subpoenaed and no one at The A.P. had supplied information about them to the government.
One unanswered question is why investigators seized phone logs for The A.P.’s bureau in Hartford in addition to its New York and Washington offices. One of the reporters who worked on the bomb
plot article, Matt Apuzzo, formerly worked in Hartford but moved to another bureau in 2005.
The leak investigation involving The A.P. is being run by Ronald C. Machen Jr., the United States attorney for the District of Columbia. In June, amid a Congressional uproar over disclosures in
the news media of national security information, Mr. Holder assigned Mr. Machen and his counterpart in Maryland to lead two leak investigations.
The other investigation is believed to be focusing on disclosures made by David E. Sanger, a New York Times journalist, in a book and in articles in The Times about a joint American-Israeli
effort to sabotage Iranian nuclear centrifuges with computer viruses. The Justice Department has declined to say whether it has issued a similar subpoena in that case, and Mr. Holder would not
say on Tuesday if he is also recused from that investigation.
The May 2012 A.P. article disclosed that the Central Intelligence Agency had foiled a plot by the Qaeda branch in Yemen to destroy an airliner using an underwear bomb the government by then had
in its possession. The next day, The Los Angeles Times and several other news organizations, including The New York Times, reported that the intended attacker had been a double agent.
By then, officials said, the double agent, who had reported to British, Saudi and American intelligence, had left Yemen and was not in danger. But both American and foreign intelligence officials
were furious at the disclosures, which they said alerted terrorists prematurely that the plot was compromised and might discourage potential agents from working against Al Qaeda.
Christine Haughney contributed reporting from New York.