The Justice Department acknowledged late Friday that Attorney General Eric Holder was on board with a search warrant to obtain the personal emails of a Fox News reporter, as media and civil liberties groups continued to raise concerns about the case.
Following prior reports indicating that Holder had likely signed off on the search warrant, the Justice Department acknowledged Holder’s involvement and defended the decision. It insisted the call to seek these files — in the course of an investigation into a leak allegedly made by State Department contractor Stephen Jin-Woo Kim — was legal.
“The Department takes seriously the First Amendment right to freedom of the press,” the department said in a written statement, provided late Friday at the start of the holiday weekend. “In recognition of this, the Department took great care in deciding that a search warrant was necessary in the Kim matter, vetting the decision at the highest levels of the Department, including discussions with the Attorney General.
“After extensive deliberations, and after following all applicable laws, regulations and policies, the Department sought an appropriately tailored search warrant under the Privacy Protection Act. And a federal magistrate judge made an independent finding that probable cause existed to approve the search warrant,” the statement said.
Whatever excuse Holder’s DOJ comes up with next, it won’t fly. This leak did not involve any information so serious that it put Americans at risk, which was Holder’s excuse to sweep up the AP’s phone records. He has no excuse for claiming under oath that he had never heard of or been involved in potentially prosecuting members of the press. He not only had heard of it, he signed off on it. And tried to hide it.
Barack Obama now faces a test: Will he be more loyal to one man or to the American people and the law?