(Recasts, adding context and details)
By David Ingram
WASHINGTON May 24 The U.S. Justice Department
said on Friday that Attorney General Eric Holder and other
senior officials vetted a decision to search an email account
belonging to a Fox News reporter whose story on North Korea
prompted a leak investigation.
In a statement, the department said the search warrant for
the reporter's email account followed all laws and policies and
won the independent approval of a federal magistrate judge.
The May 2010 search warrant for a Google email account
belonging to James Rosen of Fox News was revealed on Monday by
the Washington Post and drew immediate concern from journalists
because it described Rosen as a suspected "co-conspirator" in
the leak of secret government information.
Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes said in a statement on
Thursday that the Obama administration was attempting to
intimidate Fox News and its employees.
Rosen reported in June 2009 that U.S. intelligence officials
believed North Korea would conduct more nuclear tests in
response to U.N. sanctions.
Rosen's alleged source, former State Department analyst
Stephen Kim, is scheduled to go to trial as soon as next year on
charges that he violated an anti-espionage law. Rosen was not
charged and prosecutors have given no indication they plan to
Holder told a congressional committee this month that
criminal prosecutions of the media have "not fared well in
Some journalists said they were not reassured.
"The Justice Department's decision to treat routine news
gathering efforts as evidence of criminality is extremely
troubling," said Bruce Brown, executive director of the
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a journalist
Prompted by the Rosen search and a separate seizure of
Associated Press phone records, President Barack Obama said on
Thursday that Holder would begin a review of Justice Department
procedures related to media records.
Obama and Holder also said they favor a "shield law" for the
media that would protect journalists from compelled disclosure
of their records in most cases.
The latest Justice Department statement said the highest
levels of the department were involved in the search warrant
used in Kim's case. The process included discussions Holder took
part in, according to the statement.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay reviewed and issued the
search warrant at the department's request.
Kay ordered the search warrant to be unsealed and put on the
public record in November 2011, but it remained hidden from view
until this month because of errors by court clerks, Judge Royce
Lamberth, the chief judge of U.S. District Court in Washington,
said in a memorandum this week.
Justice Department guidelines have for decades required the
personal involvement of the attorney general when prosecutors
are considering a subpoena to the media. The seizures of media
records have occurred most often when the government is
investigating a leak of classified information.
Holder told radio network NPR this month that he did not
know how many times the Justice Department has obtained
journalists' records since Obama appointed him attorney general
in 2009. He said he has refused to approve a few subpoenas that
In the case of the AP's phone records, Holder ceded
authority to his deputy, James Cole, after Holder disqualified
himself from an investigation into how the AP acquired secret
information about U.S. operations in Yemen.
Holder's involvement in the search warrant for Rosen's
emails was first reported on Thursday by NBC News.
(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Eric Walsh, Jim Loney
and Bill Trott)