Who in Obama administration leaked to AP in the first place?

obama holder
Photo Credit: American Ranger

Though the outrage continues over the news that the U.S. Department of Justice secretly seized two months worth of 2012 phone records from the Associated Press, let us not forget the true target of the investigation is who in the Obama administration released possible classified information on an ongoing terrorist investigation involving national security to the AP.

In May 2012, two AP reporters went forward with a story about how the CIA stopped a Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula plot to detonate an underwear type bomb on an airplane headed to the U.S.

Other classified information was later revealed that intelligence agency spies had successfully penetrated AQAP which put an end to a highly sensitive joint undercover operation between the U.S., Britain and Saudi Arabia. An investigation that the U.S. and our allies “hoped could have continued for weeks or longer,” Reuters reported on May 18, 2012.

In June 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder called for an investigation into who leaked the information to the AP, including questioning then Obama counterterrorism director and now CIA director John Brennan.

According to the Washington Post, “inquiries were started after Republicans in Congress accused the Obama administration of orchestrating news stories intended to demonstrate the president’s toughness on terrorism and improve his chance for reelection.

A Washington D.C. federal grand jury has been investigating the leak for months, a source told the Post.

“Law enforcement officials say leak cases are difficult because hundreds of people often have access to the classified information,” the article noted. “In the AP case, knowledge of the details of the al-Qaeda plot would have been highly compartmentalized, which would limit the number of people with access to it. A former government investigator said telephone records could be valuable in narrowing the pool of suspected leakers.”

The two months worth of phone records subpoenaed by the Justice Department were from April and May 2012, on 20 different phone lines of AP journalists and an editor.

“The AP reported that the DOJ obtained lists of  ‘incoming and outgoing calls, and the duration of each call, for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery,’” the Huffington Post reported Tuesday.

And though AP president Gary Pruitt was duly outraged by what he called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” by the government, “leaking classified information is a crime, and there are usually only two parties who know who committed the crime, the leaker and the reporter,” Matthew Miller, a former top spokesman for Holder, told the Huffington Post. “Getting access to phone records allows investigators to see who the possible source might have been and confront them with evidence of a crime

According to the Huffington Post:

Bill Williams, a spokesman in the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office, which along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland has taken the lead in investigating the leaks, said in his statement that federal prosecutors “take seriously our obligations to follow all applicable laws, federal regulations, and Department of Justice policies when issuing subpoenas for phone records of media organizations.”

Regulations, Williams stated, require DOJ to make “every reasonable effort” to obtain information another way before considering subpoenaing reporter phone records. Members of the media, he said, must be notified in advance unless doing so “would pose a substantial threat” to the investigation. Williams had no further comment on whether the government attempted to negotiate with the AP.

The “alternative option would have been to subpoena reporters themselves and ask for the identity of their sources, a tactic that would have been almost assuredly rejected by the AP,” Miller said, according to the article.

More from the Washington Post and Huffington Post.


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