President Barack Obama has asked his friend Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate Holder’s unprecedented investigation of a Fox News reporter.
Holder approved the Justice Department’s extraordinary 2010 investigation of contacts between a Fox News reporter and a State Department official who has since been charged with leaking classified information, according to NBC.
The Justice Department searched the reporter’s e-mails and phone calls under the legal claim that he may have contributed to a crime.
The Fox News revelation followed the news that the Justice Department had investigated the phone records of reporters working for The Associated Press.
On May 24, however, Obama reacted to growing alarm in the media by asking Holder to review the Justice Department’s procedures for investigating the media.
“We must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field,” the president said at a speech in Washington D.C.
“But a free press is also essential for our democracy [and] I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable,” he said.
“Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs … [and] I have raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concern. So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and will convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review,” he said.
“I have directed the Attorney General to report back to me by July 12th.”
The president’s announcement contradicts numerous statements by his press secretary that the president does not comment on current investigations. The uproar over media surveillance has soured the frequently adulatory news coverage Obama received over his first term, and the administration is under pressure to minimize the damage.