The Justice Department's controversial decision to search phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors while investigating the source of a leak has not shaken his trust in Attorney Gen. Eric Holder, President Obama said Thursday.
He has "complete confidence in Eric Holder as attorney general," the president said at a joint White House news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Obama also said that while Americans live "in a democracy where a free press, free expression and the open flow of information helps hold me accountable," the men and women in the armed forces and the nation's security agencies need to know "folks back at home have their backs."
As we wrote Wednesday, the May 7, 2012, story by the AP that sparked the investigation cited unnamed sources who told the news agency that the CIA had thwarted a plan by a Yemeni affiliate of al-Qaida to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner."
NPR's Dina Temple-Raston has reported that "as we understood it then and still understand it, that suicide bomber that AP refers to in its story was actually a double agent working with Western intelligence agencies." American intelligence officials, she says, "had hoped the agent could do more [and] ... one consequence of the story is that this agent's identity was blown."
News organizations, including NPR, have joined in a letter sent to Holder by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. In it, the news outlets ask that the Justice Department:
— "Immediately return the telephone toll records obtained and destroy all copies, as requested by The Associated Press."
— "Announce whether it has served any other pending news media-related subpoenas that have not yet been disclosed."
Holder told NPR on Tuesday that he is not sure how many times such information has been seized by government investigators in the four years he's led Justice.