Revealed: Holder personally vetted Rosen warrant, DOJ fought for prolonged secret monitoring of accounts

It’s 4 p.m. ET as I’m writing this. If you had that time plus “deeper complicity for Holder in the Rosen investigation” in the pool, congrats.

We already knew that he signed the warrant for Rosen’s e-mails. Now we know for sure that it wasn’t pro forma. President Good Government announced yesterday that he’s ordered the Attorney General to review the DOJ’s guidelines for snooping on reporters. Imagine how dismayed Eric Holder will be when he finds out what Eric Holder’s done.

The Justice Department said on Friday that officials up to Attorney General Eric Holder vetted a decision to search an email account belonging to a Fox News reporter whose report on North Korea prompted a leak investigation.

In a statement emailed to Reuters, the department said the search warrant for the reporter’s email account followed all laws and policies and won the independent approval of a federal magistrate judge.

That’s not all. Per Ryan Lizza, the DOJ appealed and won in 2010 after a district court judge ruled that they couldn’t keep their e-mail snooping a secret from Rosen. Why was the DOJ so worried about Rosen finding out? Because: They wanted to maintain access to his e-mail accounts, indefinitely if necessary, to flush out more evidence of leaking. And that’s why Rosen didn’t find out until a few days ago that he was being spied on.

Machen added that “some investigations are continued for many years because, while the evidence is not yet sufficient to bring charges, it is sufficient to have identified criminal subjects and/or criminal activity serious enough to justify continuation of the investigation.”

Machen insisted the investigation would be compromised if Rosen was informed of the warrant, and also asked the court to order Google not to notify Rosen that the company had handed over Rosen’s e-mails to the government. Rosen, according to recent reports, did not learn that the government seized his e-mail records until it was reported in the Washington Post last week.

The new details indicate that the government wanted the option to search Rosen’s e-mails repeatedly if the F.B.I. found further evidence implicating the reporter in what prosecutors argued was a conspiracy to commit espionage.

“Machen,” by the way, is U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen. If his name sounds familiar, that’s because he’s the guy who was charged with deciding whether to pursue the House’s contempt citation against his boss, Eric Holder, over Fast & Furious. Holder’s deputy, James Cole, wrote a letter to Machen — before he’d even received the citation — to let him know that the Department determined Holder had done nothing wrong and therefore shouldn’t be prosecuted. Machen also happens to be leading the FBI investigation into the leak that involved the DOJ subpoenaing AP reporters’ phone records. The man who authorized those subpoenas was, of course, James Cole, acting as AG after Holder recused himself. Machen’s a loyal soldier, in other words, with a track record of aggressively pursuing access to journalists’ private data to sniff out leaks. If he was asking a judge to give the DOJ prolonged access to Rosen’s accounts, it’s reasonable to assume that it was at Holder’s behest. Especially now that we know Holder personally vetted the warrant.

Tough exit question from Conor Friedersdorf: How much damage to national security did Rosen’s story featuring the big leak about North Korea really do? It’s impossible to know for sure right now, but it might be significant.