In an interview, Holder acknowledged that there was considerable room for improvement in how Justice handles leak cases, casting the episode as a kind of teaching moment for his department and himself. “While both of these cases were handled within the law and according to Justice Department guidelines,” he told The Daily Beast, “they are reminders of the unique role the news media plays in our democratic system, and signal that both our laws and guidelines need to be updated.” He added, “This is an opportunity for the department to consider how we strike the right balance between the interests of law enforcement and freedom of the press.”

To begin the process of recalibrating that balance, Holder is initiating a dialogue with representatives of major media organizations. Invitations go out today, with the first meeting taking place possibly as early as this week. Holder’s aides say he is encouraging a no-holds-barred conversation with the goal of updating and strengthening DOJ guidelines. But Holder’s own personal soul searching has already begun, with, among other things, the question of why he signed off on an affidavit that in retrospect he believed may have crossed the line…

But ultimately none of that fully explains why Holder would have signed off on such a controversial search warrant. Holder, his aides say, believes there may also be a cultural factor at the root of his decision. Prosecutors tend to have a somewhat insular mindset, not always able to see clearly beyond the walls of their cases. They are often dogged investigators, trained to vacuum up as much evidence as possible to sustain convictions in courts of law. That sometimes means taking maximum advantage of every law and procedural rule. It also can mean seeing every activity of those in their sights through a more sinister lens than may be justified.