Grassley: Obama Administration Needs to Explain AP Phone Record Collection

Says attorney general should have to approve such actions when free press is at stake
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Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate
Judiciary Committee, says the Obama Administration needs to explain how its
gathering of phone records of AP journalists can be justified.

"The department's regulations state that prosecutors
should obtain the Attorney General's personal sign off when a free press is at
stake, so the Obama administration needs to be transparent with its rationale
for such a sweeping intrusion and detail whether the process outlined in
regulation and the U.S. Attorney's manual were followed and justified for
national security," he said.

Grassley released the statement late Tuesday following
reports that the Justice Department was part of an ongoing probe of leaks and secretly
obtained the records of reporters and editors for the news organization. The AP
called it a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into newsgathering.

Journalists and some legislators have for years been trying
to pass a federal shield law to afford journalists some protection from
overzealous government investigations into news organizations that could chill
a free press. But even in the case of those bills there was a carve-out for
national security.

According to AP, the government has not told it
why it wanted the phone records, but government officials have previously said
they are investigating a leak to AP in a May 2012 story about a failed
terrorist bombing plot.

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