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While Ron Machen‘s investigation of Mayor Vince Gray‘s 2010 campaign drags into its second year—-and leads to some public awkwardness when the two appear together—-the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia has now found himself in the middle of another controversy. In a letter Friday to the Associated Press, Machen revealed that the Department of Justice had seized two months of the news agency’s phone records with subpoenas.
The phone records were seized, according to an AP report today, as part of an investigation into the leak of news about a foiled bomb plot in Yemen, which Machen and U.S. Attorney for Maryland Ron Rosenstein have been leading. The AP’s CEO, in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, said there was “no possible justification” for the seizure of the phone records.
In a statement, Machen’s office said that it had tried to exhaust other methods before subpoenaing the AP’s records. “Because we value the freedom of the press, we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the public interest in the free flow of information and the public interest in the fair and effective administration of our criminal laws,” the statement reads.
Full statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia:
We 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. Those regulations require us to make every reasonable effort to obtain information through alternative means before even considering a subpoena for the phone records of a member of the media. We must notify the media organization in advance unless doing so would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation. Because we value the freedom of the press, we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the public interest in the free flow of information and the public interest in the fair and effective administration of our criminal laws.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery