Eric Holder asked to clarify congressional testimony about prosecuting journalists

May 29, 2013

The House Judiciary Committee is seeking to determine whether Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. lied under oath during recent testimony before the panel when he discussed a Justice Department investigation into the newsgathering efforts of a Fox News reporter.


Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The committee sent a letter to Holder on Wednesday asking that he clarify the department's policy on obtaining search warrants for the e-mails of journalists and to explain what he knew about the investigation into Fox News Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen at the time that he testified before the committee May 15.

Holder's testimony before the panel came just days after the Justice Department confirmed that it had obtained the telephone records of several Associated Press reporters. During the hearing, Holder was asked about the use of the Espionage Act to prosecute journalists, and Holder said that prosecutions against reporters usually do not succeed. He also said that he had never been personally involved in the potential prosecution of a journalist who disclosed sensitive material.

"That is not something that I have ever been involved in, or would think would be a wise policy," Holder told the panel.

But just days later, The Washington Post reported that when the Justice Department began investigating possible leaks of classified information about North Korea in 2009, investigators tracked Rosen's telephone and e-mail and security access records at the State Department. As part of the probe, law enforcement officials characterized Rosen as a possible “co-conspirator” for allegedly soliciting classified information from former State Department arms expert Stephen Jin-Woo Kim.

Subsequent news reports have confirmed that Holder was personally involved in signing off on the Rosen warrant.

In the letter, Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who chairs a subcommittee on crime and terrorism, said they have "great concern" about what Holder said during the hearing. They ask him to clarify whether the Justice Department ever planned to prosecute Rosen under the Espionage Act; to explain his personal involvement in approving the search warrants for Rosen; and to clarify why he said under oath that he had never been involved in the potential prosecution of journalists.

The committee asked Holder to respond by next Wednesday.

President Obama has ordered Holder to review department guidelines for conducting investigations into reporters and Holder is scheduled to meet this week with news executives to explain how the department is revising its policies. The department said in a statement Wednesday that Holder plans to meet over the coming weeks with “a diverse and representative group of news media organizations,” including print, wires, radio, television, online media and news and trade associations.

Follow Ed O'Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.
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