The Associated Press is reporting that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months' worth of its phone records in what it calls a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into its newsgathering process.
According to the news organization, the phone records obtained stemmed from a May 7, 2012, story about a CIA operation that thwarted a terror attack in Yemen. While the news media are generally informed when their phone records are subpoenaed, the Justice Department reportedly claimed an exemption that allows them not to avoid notification if it threatens the integrity of the investigation.
Here's the story from AP:
The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news.
The records obtained by the Justice Department listed incoming and outgoing calls, and the duration of each call, for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP.
In all, the government seized those records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices whose phone records were targeted on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.
In a letter of protest sent to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday, AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt said the government sought and obtained information far beyond anything that could be justified by any specific investigation. He demanded the return of the phone records and destruction of all copies.
In 2008, the FBI apologized for improperly obtaining the phone records of Washington Post and New York Times reporters in Indonesia.