Justice Dept. Secretly Makes 'Massive and Unprecedented' Grab of AP Phone Records

Another scandal dropped on the Obama administration today as the Associated Press revealed a "massive and unprecedented" grab of phone records from the news wire by the Justice Department.

The AP reported that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors dated April and May 2012, including incoming and outgoing calls, and the duration of each call, for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery.

AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt fired off a letter of protest to Attorney General Eric Holder today demanding the return of the phone records and destruction of all copies.

"There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP's newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP's activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know," Pruitt said.

The DoJ notified the AP on Friday but included no explanation for the seizure.

It included phone numbers for five reporters and an editor who were involved in this May 7, 2012, story on the thwarting of a new underwear bombing plot.

The plot was significant because the White House had told the public it had "no credible information that terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, are plotting attacks in the U.S. to coincide with the (May 2) anniversary of bin Laden's death," the AP noted today.

UPDATE: White House press secretary Jay Carney, traveling on a fundraising swing through New York with President Obama, remarks to the White House press pool: “Other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the AP. We are not involved in decisions made in connection with criminal investigations, as those matters are handled independently by the Justice Department. Any questions about an ongoing criminal investigation should be directed to the Department of Justice.”

UPDATE: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) weighs in: “This is obviously disturbing. Coming within a week of revelations that the White House lied to the American people about the Benghazi attacks and the IRS targeted conservative Americans for their political beliefs, Americans should take notice that top Obama Administration officials increasingly see themselves as above the law and emboldened by the belief that they don’t have to answer to anyone. I will work with my fellow House Chairmen on an appropriate response to Obama Administration officials.”