WASHINGTON — Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. strongly defended the far-reaching probe in the disclosure of security information by the Associated Press and said American lives were jeopardized when the wire service revealed details of a foiled plot to detonate a bomb on a U.S.-bound airplane last year.
“It put the American people at risk,” he said, “and that is not hyperbole. And trying to determine who is responsible for that requires aggressive action.” He added that this was one of the “top two or three most serious leaks I’ve ever seen.”
The attorney general appointed Ronald C. Machen Jr., the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., to investigate the national security leak. Holder said he recused himself from the matter after the FBI interviewed him in the case last May or June. In his place, he said, Deputy Atty. Gen. James M. Cole has been overseeing the investigation at the Department of Justice.
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Because he stepped aside, Holder said he was not familiar with the status or details of the ongoing probe, but defended it nevertheless. He said it is being carried out “in conformance with DOJ regulations” and added, “I’m confident the people who are involved in this investigation followed all of the Justice Department regulations and did things according to DOJ rules.”
The AP, however, and a growing number of other media outlets have demanded that Justice officials return the phone toll logs from AP reporters and editors, and immediately explain why this “extraordinary action” was taken.
Federal prosecutors seized records of incoming calls from more than 20 telephone lines at the Associated Press, the wire service said.
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