White House: ‘No Knowledge’ Of DOJ Collecting AP Phone Records

The White House has “no knowledge of any attempt” by the Department of Justice to collect the phone records of Associated Press journalists, press secretary Jay Carney said Monday night.

“Other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the AP,” Carney said in a statement, per a White House pool report.“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,” he added.

The news organization announced on Monday that DOJ “secretly obtained” two months of telephone records from reporters and editors employed at the international news agency in April and May of 2012, characterizing the action as a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into its news gathering. The records listed incoming and outgoing calls and the duration of each call made on the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn.

Although DOJ has not yet said why it subpoenaed the records, the AP suggests it involves a probe on the leaking of government information about a foiled terror plot in Yemen last year.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said Monday night that he was “very troubled” by the allegations and maintained that the government owed an explanation as to why it obtained the phone records.

“The burden is always on the government when they go after private information – especially information regarding the press or its confidential sources,” he said in a statement. “I want to know more about this case, but on the face of it, I am concerned that the government may not have met that burden. I am very troubled by these allegations and want to hear the government’s explanation.”

Attorney General Eric Holder, whom the AP said would have been required to sign off on any such subpoena, is coincidentally scheduled to testify before a DOJ oversight committee on Wednesday.