Holder says he did not mislead Congress over reporter leak probe

Story highlights

  • Attorney General Eric Holder responds in writing to congressional questions
  • House Republicans suggested he may have been misleading in May testimony
  • Holder said he had never been involved in the potential prosecution of the media
  • He said authorizing record search did not mean Justice Department was prosecuting journalist
Attorney General Eric Holder says his testimony to Congress about a leak investigation involving a reporter was not misleading and that the Justice Department never considered prosecuting the television journalist.
Holder wrote House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, on Wednesday defending comments before the panel in May in which he said he had never been involved in the "potential prosecution of the press."
Goodlatte and other Republican members of the panel have questioned whether that statement was possibly untruthful and sought an explanation from Holder.
Holder said in his response that conducting a thorough investigation, including a 2010 search warrant for e-mail correspondence between Fox News reporter James Rosen and a former State Department contractor accused of leaking Rosen classified material, was "necessary and appropriate."
"I do not agree that characterizations establishing probable cause for a search warrant for materials from a member of the news media during an ongoing investigation constitute an intent to prosecute that member of the news media," said Holder.
Goodlatte had challenged Holder's May statement since the affidavit supporting a warrant referred to the reporter, later identified as Rosen, as a possible co-conspirator.
The only person charged in the case was former State Department contractor Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, who allegedly leaked a classified report concerning North Korea to Rosen.
He pleaded not guilty and has not yet gone to trial.
Holder said in the letter that he hadn't read the affidavit but had been briefed on the case and authorized the search warrant. Holder said it was legally required to say there was probable cause that a crime had been committed in order to obtain the warrant.
"As I have explained, the decision to seek a search warrant in this matter was an investigative step that is separate from charging decisions," Holder told Goodlatte.
"When I testified before the committee, I stated that I was unaware of the (Justice) Department ever charging a reporter with a crime simply for publishing material, and that remains my understanding today."
The lawmaker said he was glad that Holder finally replied, but noted that it was "perplexing that he found it necessary to dodge our questions for so long."
Goodlatte still has questions about Justice Department guidelines covering investigations involving reporters.
Holder is expected to meet with members of the Judiciary Committee privately to discuss further the controversy about his remarks. Goodlatte wants that to happen before Congress leaves on its July 4th recess, but no date has been set.
The Fox case is one of two media leak controversies buffeting the Justice Department.
It subpoenaed and subsequently obtained two months of AP phone records as part of an investigation of its May 2012 coverage of a foiled airline bomb plot in Yemen.
No reporters were singled out as potential criminals, but the scope of that action also provoked outrage among media and concern from civil libertarians, privacy advocates and some members of Congress.