Attorney General Eric Holder praised the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General for strengthening his department’s “ability to protect the safety and the sacred rights” of Americans.
Holder addressed an award ceremony for DOJ’s watchdog office as he prepares to face Washington bureau chiefs from national media outlets amid a scandal over the seizing of reporters’ records.
“Together, you’ve strengthened our ability to protect the safety and the sacred rights of our fellow citizens. And you’ve made tremendous progress in promoting efficiency, accountability and fairness at every level of the department, by improving transparency, by helping us to save precious taxpayer resources and by guarding against all forms of waste, fraud and abuse,” said Holder on Wednesday.
“Despite significant challenges, the scope of what you’ve accomplished is nothing short of extraordinary. By implementing key measures to streamline department practices, by identifying new strategies for guarding against misconduct and by providing support and assistance in sensitive personnel matters and in criminal cases, you’ve really had an enduring impact on the department’s operations.”
Holder congratulated the IG office for “carrying out” some of the “most difficult and sensitive work” in the federal government while dealing with across-the-board automatic budget cuts or “sequestration.”
“In a time of budgetary uncertainty, when sequestration has imposed untenable cuts across every federal agency, I realize that many of you have been called upon to do much more with much less. You have been asked to make sacrifices, to put in long hours and to spend time away from your friends and from your loved ones,” Holder said of the IG office.
“Now, it’s a credit to this office and to its employees that you’ve responded to these adverse circumstances not with frustration but with resolve. And despite the fact that you’re charged with carrying out some of the most difficult and sensitive work in all of government, today’s awardees have displayed an inspiring commitment to doing not merely what is easy but what is right.”
He added that through “conducting comprehensive audits, oversight investigations and reviews of policies and procedures” DOJ’s IG office has helped the department “function more effectively and more efficiently.”
Holder remains in hot water with Congress as the House Judiciary Committee investigates his role in seizing the e-mails and phone records of AP reporters and Fox News correspondent James Rosen.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin wrote a letter to Holder on Wednesday.
In a press release, the lawmakers alleged that there is a “discrepancy between his sworn testimony before the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month and the Department of Justice’s decision to obtain a search warrant.”
In his May 15 sworn testimony, Holder said, “With regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something that I have ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be a wise policy.”
“In the days following your sworn testimony, media reports circulated revealing that in May, 2010, the Justice Department had sought and obtained a search warrant for emails belonging to Mr. James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent for FOX News. The search warrant was issued in the investigation of the publication of an article by Mr. Rosen in June, 2009, that allegedly contained classified material,” the letter says.
“The New Yorker magazine obtained a copy of the forty-four page search warrant affidavit, which alleged that the source of the material was Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a Lawrence Liverpool National Laboratory employee detailed to the State Department. In the affidavit in support of the search warrant, FBI Agent Reginald B. Reyes, stated, ‘…there is probable cause to believe that the Reporter [Rosen] has committed a violation” of 18 USC §793(d) [the Espionage Act] ‘at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator of Mr. Kim.’”
The letter requests that DOJ “provide all regulations and internal Justice Department policies that govern the issuance of search warrants for the email communications of members of the media” no later than June 5.
The lawmakers ask Holder in the letter, “If you believe, as you testified, that prosecutions of members of the media ‘have not fared well in American history,’ why did you permit the Department to investigate Mr. Rosen as a co-conspirator or aider/abettor?”
Holder will reportedly meet Washington bureau chiefs from several major news outlets this week to review DOJ’s guidelines for investigating journalists.
Members of Congress on both sides of the political spectrum have expressed concern with DOJ over the AP and Fox News controversies.
In addition, former Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod said he is “disturbed” by the scandal.
“I do think there are real issues regarding the relationship with the media on this leak matter,” Axelrod said Tuesday on MSNBC. “The notion of naming a journalist as a co-conspirator for receiving information is something that I find very disturbing.”