WASHINGTON – Addressing the aggressive government leak probes that have angered the news media, Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday a better balance needs to be struck between press freedom and safeguarding national secrets.
The attorney general has been conducting a series of meetings with news organizations to review how the Justice Department treats the media when the government investigates national security leaks. The department secretly subpoenaed some phone records of The Associated Press without prior notification. It also obtained a search warrant to secretly gather emails of Fox News journalist James Rosen.
In an interview with NBC, Holder said the Justice Department will come up with ways in which notice can be given to the media. The attorney general held out the possibility of involving the judiciary in such cases.
"I'm a little concerned that things have gotten a little out of whack," Holder said. "I think that we can do a better job than we have. We can reform those regulations, reform those guidelines, to better reflect that balance."
The attorney general also spoke out against a legal requirement that arose in the Fox News case.
In addressing the requirement for obtaining a search warrant for Rosen's emails, the government characterized the journalist as a probable co-conspirator of a State Department contractor who was suspected of leaking classified information to Rosen.
Holder said he doesn't like that requirement because it means that Holder is in the position as a government official of branding a journalist as a criminal.
"I'm just not comfortable with that and we're going to change that," he told NBC.
Holder signed off on the search warrant application for the emails of the Fox News journalist.
Holder said that he has no intention of stepping down now and that he still has things that he wants to do and has discussed them with President Barack Obama. He said that once he's finished with those tasks, he and the president will determine when it's time to transition to a new attorney general.