US attorney general under pressure to open more leak inquiries

Updated: 2013-06-09 10:26


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US attorney general under pressure to open more leak inquiries

US Attorney General Eric Holder testifies before a Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies subcommittee on the Justice Department's FY2014 Budget Request in Washington June 6, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - Attorney General Eric Holder appears to have little choice but to launch a new round of investigations into media leaks, the very issue that consumed him for the last month and led to renewed calls for his resignation.

US officials said Holder will undoubtedly be called upon to identify leakers who gave a secret court order to Britain's Guardian newspaper and a document describing surveillance methods to both the Guardian and the Washington Post.

US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Saturday blamed the outlets for what he called "reckless disclosures" of classified spy agency material. It was unclear on Saturday whether the National Security Agency had formally requested that the Justice Department track the leaks.

The test for Holder comes as he deals with fierce bipartisan criticism for his agency's tactics in pursuing media records in other leak investigations. President Barack Obama ordered him last month to review Justice Department procedures for handling media cases, leading Holder to conduct a series of private meetings with news executives and lawyers.

Those sessions focused on two Justice Department leak inquiries that brought an outcry after media records were seized without advance notice and one news reporter was labeled a criminal co-conspirator in documents seeking his records.

Clapper on Saturday aggressively defended secret US data collection, blasting the Guardian and the Post for disclosing the highly classified spy agency project code-named PRISM.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

"It will be an interesting chance to see if the Justice Department has learned anything," said Gregg Leslie, legal defense director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a journalists' advocacy group.

Even after the Guardian unveiled its exclusive story on the court order, Holder was reassuring news outlets on Thursday that he would not prosecute working reporters for doing their jobs.

But the publication of NSA materials - and Clapper's strong condemnation of it - puts Holder back in the position of having to evaluate whether the leaks compromised valuable sources of information used to protect the public.

"I don't see how they couldn't pursue leak investigations in the case of the disclosures this week," said Carrie Cordero, a former Justice Department national security lawyer.

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