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Posted May 20, 2013, 1:43 pm
A Justice Department (DOJ) investigation into phone records of Associated Press journalists has damaged the wire agency's ability to report and cover the news, said AP chief Gary Pruitt on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"Officials that would normally talk to us and people we talk to in the normal course of news gathering are already saying to us that they're a little reluctant to talk to us," Pruitt said on Sunday. "They fear that they will be monitored by the government."
Pruitt said the phone probe - part of an investigation into leaks related to a failed terrorism plot in Yemen - had monitored "approximately a hundred journalists" that use its telephone lines.
"And over the course of the two months of the records that they swept up, thousands upon thousands of news-gathering calls were made," Pruitt added.
The DOJ notified the AP of its activates via a letter on May 10, saying it had taken phone records from more than 20 lines for April and May 2012. Usually, the government would notify the AP, but in this case the DOJ is claiming that doing so would have threatened their investigation.
But according to Pruitt, the DOJ has not yet explained why it refused to notify the AP. "We never even had possession of these records, they were in the possession of our telephone service company and they couldn't be tampered with."
Here's Pruitt's interview on "Face the Nation:"
Unidentified government officials told Reuters the record seizure was part of an inquiry into a foiled plot to bomb a United States airliner, which the AP reported on May 7, 2012.
"We don't question their right to conduct these sort of investigations," Pruitt said. "We think they went about it the wrong way, so sweeping, so secretively, so abusively and harassingly." Pruitt said if the AP had been notified, they would have sought in court a smaller record seizure.
About 50 news organizations have voiced their opposition to the probe and the way it was conducted, sending a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.