Holder: “I’m not sure” how many times I’ve approved seizing reporter phone records

posted at 8:01 am on May 15, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday, Jay Carney held a news briefing in which he repeatedly claimed that the White House really has no idea what happens in executive branch agencies, which certainly stoked all sorts of confidence in Barack Obama’s executive abilities.  At one point, when asked about whether the Department of Justice might have seized records of other news organizations, Carney told the reporter posing the question that he’d have to ask someone at the DoJ.

NPR did just that with Attorney General Eric Holder, the top man at Justice.  And Holder says he can’t quite recall how many times he’s seized reporter phone records (via David Freddoso and Drudge on Twitter):

As his Justice Department faces bipartisan outrage for searching phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors, Attorney Gen. Eric Holder says he is not sure how many times such information has been seized by government investigators in the four years he’s led Justice.

During an interview with NPR’s Carrie Johnson on Tuesday, Holder was asked how often his department has obtained such records of journalists’ work.

“I’m not sure how many of those cases … I have actually signed off on,” Holder said. “I take them very seriously. I know that I have refused to sign a few [and] pushed a few back for modifications.”

Er … he’s refused to sign “a few” but isn’t sure how many he’s approved?  Presumably, the few modifications for which he “pushed” resulted in approval eventually.  That seems to strongly imply that this is a rather normal course of action at the Department of Justice — and for Holder. And note that Holder isn’t saying that he’s unclear about the operations within his executive purview, as Carney tried yesterday on Obama’s behalf — he’s unclear on how many times he himself has approved those seizures.

How legal is that?  Signatories to a letter from Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to Holder argue that the DoJ broke the law in seizing the massive amount of records they did just in the current leak case:

Subpoenas of the news media for testimony and evidence are governed by theAttorney General’s guidelines found at 28 C.F.R. § 50.10 and incorporated into the U.S. Attorney’s Manual. See § 9-13.400. These guidelines were enacted in 1972 and were expanded specifically to cover telephone records in1980. They were developed to accommodate both the interests of the government in prosecuting crime and the First Amendment interests in reporting on issues of public concern. We know this to be true because theReporters Committee played a role in their promulgation. In this instance,where the Department subpoenaed two months of records related to 20telephone lines, including records from major AP bureaus and the home phone and cell phone records of individual journalists, the Department appears to have ignored or brushed aside almost every aspect of the guidelines. Each one merits specific review.

Narrow scope of the subpoena: Section 50.10(g)(1) requires that a subpoena “should be as narrowly drawn as possible; it should be directed at relevant information regarding a limited subject matter and should cover a reasonably limited time period.” The available evidence shows that no such constraints were applied here. Instead of being directed at relevant records on a limited topic for a closely circumscribed time period, the subpoena appears to have covered all records that could be relevant so that prosecutors could  plunder two months of newsgathering materials to seek information that might interest them.

Seeking information from alternative sources: Sections 50.10(b) and 50.10(g)(1) require the Department to take “all reasonable alternative investigative steps” before subpoenaing phone records. Although the public is not in a position to know what alternatives were pursued, the sheer breadth of this subpoena suggests that it was an initial investigative step taken as part of a prosecutor’s desire to gather up even the most remote materialwhen beginning an investigation.

Obligation to inform and negotiate: Section 50.10(d) requires federal prosecutors to disclose their intent to pursue a subpoena and negotiate with the news media in “all cases” involving telephone records. Only if prosecutors determine that such negotiationswould “pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation” are these obligations removed. The purpose of such an exception is to ensure, in the rare inquiry where there is a reason to be concerned about the preservation of evidence, that records are not lost or destroyed. By deciding in this case involving one of the nation’s oldest and most respected news organizations that a subpoena would pose such a threat, the Department has severely harmed its working relationship with the news media, which time and time again have undertaken good-faith efforts to cooperate with government lawyers in a way that protects the public’s interest both in law enforcement and in independent and autonomous newsgathering.

And now Holder himself seems to admit that he has a pattern of seizing these records, rather than having the AP seizure be the exception to the rule.  Amazingly, Holder seems to think that his caveat of having refused to approve this kind of secret warrant and seizure “a few times” makes it look better.

Just imagine if this had happened during a Republican administration.  Will the media finally begin to shake off its ideological affinity for an administration that snoops through its records, or has the transformation to lapdog industry become irreversible?

Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air



Trackback URL


So, let me get this straight…..Holder will investigate the IRS to see if “laws were broken”, recused himself of the AP wiretapping scandal, because “laws may have been broken” by his department, and attacking Hillary for her performance, (lying to just about everyone that “it was a video”) on the Benghazi scandal “is a side-show”, AND Barack Obama knows absolutely nothing about what’s going on in his administration! Does this just about cover it?

Rovin on May 15, 2013 at 9:42 AM

Whatever happened to “Question Authority”?

kirkill on May 15, 2013 at 9:50 AM

Will the media finally begin to shake off its ideological affinity for an administration that snoops through its records, or has the transformation to lapdog industry become irreversible?

Gravity will be reverse before that happens. They will contort themselves into insanity over the next few days and weeks. And after accepting things the way they are for the greater good, they will be right back to licking Obamas………boots.

oldroy on May 15, 2013 at 9:54 AM

Whatever happened to “Question Authority”?

kirkill on May 15, 2013 at 9:50 AM

“Four legs good, two legs bad better.”

Kenosha Kid on May 15, 2013 at 10:05 AM

Will the media finally begin to shake off its ideological affinity for an administration that snoops through its records, or has the transformation to lapdog industry become irreversible?

Administration intimidation. If even the lefty media outlets have their phone records seized, they will be afraid of saying something that could be used against them in a court of law, and take the Fifth Amendment.

Obama and Holder are channeling Hugo Chavez, while it’s OK for New Black Panther thugs to scare little old ladies from the polls in Philly.

Sharyl Attkisson probably needs some new burly bodyguards…

Steve Z on May 15, 2013 at 10:06 AM

The MSM whores will complain for a few days, then things will get back to worshiping the Obamassiah on bended knee once again.

GarandFan on May 15, 2013 at 10:09 AM

Hillary doesn’t read memos, Holder doesn’t sign all requests or doesn’t know what’s in them, Oblamo can’t see any problems in his regime, Big Sis declares the border secure, and Sebellius is shaking down asking for donations from those she regulates to support a failed piece of legislation that none of us wants. The Sgt. Schultz defense has been stretched beyond the breaking point. Look out for the stuff to hit the fan, soon.

Kissmygrits on May 15, 2013 at 10:10 AM

I wonder if Obama will still be the Mushroom King by the end of today?
txhsmom on May 15, 2013 at 8:35 AM
WTH is that?
Bishop on May 15, 2013 at 9:04 AM

You know, he’s kept in the dark and fed crap all day.

txhsmom on May 15, 2013 at 10:11 AM

Media Matters makes major mis-step?

Media Matters Distributes Talking Points To Defend DOJ Spying On AP Reporters

Wednesday morning, Media Matters for America (MMFA) openly sided against the media in favor of the Obama Administration. In what might be a major tipping point against them, the hard-left, Soros-funded, 501 (c)(3) welfare queens released a set of pro-Obama talking points that take the Department of Justice’s side in the case where they seized the phone records of upwards of 20 Associated Press reporters

petefrt on May 15, 2013 at 10:12 AM

Holder: All your phone records are belong to us.

kpguru on May 15, 2013 at 10:16 AM

Whatever happened to “Question Authority”?

kirkill on May 15, 2013 at 9:50 AM

They didn’t mean their authority.

ghostwalker1 on May 15, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Holder seems to think that his caveat of having refused to approve this kind of secret warrant and seizure “a few times” makes it look better.

Just makes me wonder how outrageous those “few” were that he rejected. Or maybe more interesting to see if those he rejected had anything to do with ‘friends” of the administration.

taznar on May 15, 2013 at 10:26 AM

I can’t WAIT for President Cruz, Rudio, Paul or one of our guys to get control of DOJ and IRS!
We’ll show ’em then!

questionmark on May 15, 2013 at 10:28 AM

What do you mean I wasn’t supposed to say that out loud?

questionmark on May 15, 2013 at 10:28 AM

Media Matters should lose their c(3) over this. I hope they realize that they will undergo “increased scrutiny” when a Republican is back in office, too.

alwaysfiredup on May 15, 2013 at 10:30 AM

This story will be forgotten and forgiven within a few weeks. The Press still loves the cause more then they love their constitutional rights.

Egfrow on May 15, 2013 at 10:59 AM

Done it so many times he can’t remember how many?

Sounds like Special Prosecutor time…

ajacksonian on May 15, 2013 at 11:02 AM

If he can’t remember how many, it was clearly more than 1 time. Were all those other seizures related to the case in Yemen as well? I doubt it.

Hello journalists! How you respond to this case could determine whether or not we devolve into a dictatorship. And you’re getting a taste of what that will mean for your jobs.

hawksruleva on May 15, 2013 at 11:08 AM

They didn’t mean their authority.

ghostwalker1 on May 15, 2013 at 10:20 AM

That’s one thing liberals don’t understand. “We” is pretty ambiguous. You can be on the side of the folks in power one moment, and find yourself destroyed by those same folks the next.

hawksruleva on May 15, 2013 at 11:09 AM

So Atty General Eric Holder attempts to save his own arse by recusing himself while blaming his Deputy, attempting to convince America that at no time did he EVER know about the idea, the planning, the request to wire tap, any approval of such, or the actual wire-tapping….

After all, Holder has never given us cause to doubt his integrity or question his ethics or morality…right?

Consider Holder’s past for the answer to that question:

Holder has proven to be a friend & protector, sympathizer and defender, of Criminals who have engaged in massive fraud resulting in Americans being bilked out of their life savings – their lives destroyed – while ensuring the perpetrators escape justice by either fleeing the company or never being charged in the 1st place, of terrorists who have attacked/bombed/mutilated/killed Americans, of racist militant organizations that have engaged in voter intimidation, of Illegals who crossed our borders only to commit crimes – ensuring no accountability, & of Presidents – covering their backside scandal after scandal – even perpetrating multiple Felony counts of Perjury to do so.

Eric Holder lobbied on behalf of Global Crossing, one of the 10 largest corporate bankruptcies since 1980, on a level with Enron and WorldCom. It was the 7th largest filing in American history. While Global Crossing was accumulating debt like mad, its executives were spending like mad, taking tens of millions in personal loans from the company, operating corporate jets, and selling as much inside stock as Enron. Meanwhile Global Crossing executives were covering their asses with a million dollar donation to Bill Clinton’s library. The same bribe route used by Marc Rich, another Eric Holder beneficiary.

Holder played a part in the pardoning of Marc Rich, the billionaire fugitive-from-American-justice who fled to Switzerland in 1983 after being charged with tax evasion, racketeering, and trading with the enemy – It was one of Slick Willey’s controversial pardons on his last day in office.

John Corzine ‘lost $1.6 Billion in MF Global scandal…and was never punished in any way. “I don’t know what happened to it’ were the magic words that got him off free & clear. Corzine’s MF Global was a client of Atty General Eric Holder’s Law Firm….what a coincidence…
Holder knew about the Patraeus scandal but ‘supposedly’ never told Obama about it until it hit the news…“Bad judgment on a matter of large consequence,”

Holder perpetrated 3 Felony Counts of Perjury before Congress over Fast-and-Furious, 2 oral & 1 written; was protected by his hand-picked DOJ who refused to charge him with his crimes, leaving Congress the only option of Censuring Holder – Holder became the 1st Atty General to be Censure in US History.
— This was not the 1st time Obama’s DOJ refused to do its job. Obama ordered Holder NOT to detain/arrest/sentence/jail/deport any Illegal who perpetrates any crime less than a Felony, creating a ‘right’ that American citizens don’t even have.

Holder also worked on other controversial pardons, to include the pardoning of Weathermen Underground terrorists Linda Evans & Susan Rosenberg who were transporting 740 pounds of explosives for use in bombings here in the U.S. (The explosives were intended to be used to blow up the U.S. Capitol building, the National War College, the Navy Yard Computer Center, the Navy Yard Officers Club, Israeli Aircraft Industries, the FBI and the New York Patrolman’s Benevolent Association.)

Holder also backed clemency for 16 FALN terrorists, withholding information from Congress and even Attorney General Janet Reno and overriding the FBI’s own opposition to clemency for the FALN terrorists who were part of a terrorist campaign that included a wave of terror carrying out 130 bombings over nearly a decade. (A list of FALN documents withheld from Congress shows that many memos on the FALN clemency decision went directly to Holder, while Reno’s role was minimal.) Holder was working on freeing the FALN terrorists, even though they had not made any such request… and was actually passing messages along to them to make a show of remorse in order to move the process along. Eric Holder’s work on behalf of FALN resulted in a special congressional measure to reform the process, preventing such actions taken by Holder to be done in the future. (I encourage people to research this group, their heinous actions, & consider why Holder would work so hard to free such terrorists…)

As Debbie Schlussel points out, Eric Holder’s appointment along with Greg Craig reunites 2/3rds of the Elian Gonzalez kidnapping team. (Remember how armed agents barged into a US home in the middle of the night & took a little boy at gun-point to send him off to Cuba?)

It might be too early to say, but it might be time for Holder to don an orange jumpsuit for a few years…of course Obama is bound to pardon his arse. Of course, if Holder was tried AFTER OBAMA WAS IMPEACHED////just saying…

easyt65 on May 15, 2013 at 11:12 AM

We are supposed to believe:

Obama knew nothing about Benghazi because:
1) Sect of State Clinton didn’t tell him anything
— 1.1) Hillary didn’t know anything because those who worked for her didn’t tell HER anythig

2) Sec of Defense Panetta didn’t tell him anythnig
— 2.1) Panetta didn’t tell Obama anything because his workers/generals/Intel told him nothing

Obama knew nothing about the IRS Scandal because:
1) Holder never told him anything
— 1.1) Holder didn’t tell him anything because his people said nothing & the Inspector General who had discovered the CRIMES did not think to tell the Atty General about it

2) The Inspector General informed the WH on 22 Apr that a report on the IRS was coming out soon but did not tell him anything about what the report entailed – that there was a massive crime perpetrated against the American people – As Pelosi said, Obama says the report had to be passed/posted before he found out what was in it…

3) Obama’s campaign co-chair did not tell Obama that the IRS leaked info about Romney’s tax returns to him & that he used that info to attack Romney during the campaign

Obama knew nothing about the Wire-Tapping Scandal because:
1) Holder never told him about it…
— Holder didn’t tell him, though, because his DEPUTY was running the entire wire-tap plan and execution & never once mentioned it to his boss

THOUGHTS: If all this is true…
1) This is the MOST INCOMPETENT, INGNORANT, INEFFICIENT & SCANDALOUS administration in U.S. History!

2) For not having an ounce of control over his hand-picked cabinet, for being the guy/place where the buck stops, for campaigning & going on vacation every month instead of being more ‘dialed in’ & knowing what the h#ll is going on in his administration…Obama should be IMPEACHED immediately. On his watch his own administration has left Americans un-protected after several previous terrorist attacks & left them to die. On his watch criminals have been protected by the Justice Department stepping in & dropping charges on millions of criminals – from ‘lowly’ Illegals to Billion dollar con men like Corzine. On his watch Americans have been targeted, intimidated, villainized, & punished by the IRS for their political (TEA Party) & religious (Jewish groups) affiliations/beliefs. On his watch the Justice Dept has illegally, unethically, immorally spied on a news agency (or agencies).

3) For having no control of their Departments, for complete incompetence * failed leadership, & for the massive crimes committed by & failures of their departments , Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, & Leon Panetta should be fired (& those who already stepped down should be punished to the full extent possible).

easyt65 on May 15, 2013 at 11:34 AM

Will the media finally begin to shake off its ideological affinity for an administration that snoops through its records, or has the transformation to lapdog industry become irreversible?

They will put on a very gossamer thin vineer of illusory distance, and continue to be the administration’s fluffers (all the while wondering what they could have done to make their lord so unhappy with them).

krome on May 15, 2013 at 11:42 AM

May most of the media, those who lived in Obama’s azz for so long, all suffocate from what they fed on, not Beluga caviar, utter fools.

Schadenfreude on May 15, 2013 at 11:45 AM

easyt65 on May 15, 2013 at 11:34 AM

THE Most Powerful Man on Earth!

Obama simply does not want to be bothered with governing. (snort)

Sir Napsalot on May 15, 2013 at 12:05 PM

All this is nothing more than fuel for blogs and sites like this. But the low information voters don’t read blogs because THEY DON’T READ. Period. They watch Honey Boo Boo, the Kardashians, Real Housewives, Hillbilly Handfishing, etc. All this stuff — they know nothing about it. Nothing.

SunSword on May 15, 2013 at 12:30 PM

From the headline:

“Big Brother is watching. And reading. And…?”

…doesn’t remember what he’s watched, or read, but by golly he sure did something about it in order to make our kids safer in the future! But he doesn’t remember what he did, either, whenever someone asks….

easyt65 on May 15, 2013 at 11:34 AM

But just remember, for 5 7 years, this inexperienced chief executive has been telling us to trust him because he cares more than W did.

So if his entire administration has proven to be untrustworthy, by his own definition it is because he cares less than he should have.

Which is 100% true, though your logic is better than his.

rwenger43 on May 15, 2013 at 2:13 PM

The illegal actions that were conducted by the IRS were intentional. This is the shitcargo way of doing things. You attack your opposition in every way possible. When will justice finally be done and the domestic terrorists in DC be sent to Gitmo with the other terrorists. Everybody involved in helping Odumba get so-called elected should be charged with treason if they knowingly permitted the non natural citizen to run for office. This is the worst crime ever perpetrated in our history. When the mudslime domestic terrorists get in office what is the first thing he does? He appoints members of the mudslime brotherhood ( our enemies ) to high security clearance job so they can give the confidential data to the people that are killing our military personnel.

harvey1 on May 15, 2013 at 2:45 PM