Attorney General Eric Holder will meet with several media bureau chiefs over the next two days as part of a review of Justice Department policies, a department official confirmed on Wednesday. The review was ordered last week by President Barack Obama after recent controversies over leak investigations.
From the official:
These meetings will begin a series of discussions that will continue to take place over the coming weeks. During these sessions, the Attorney General will engage with a diverse and representative group of news media organizations, including print, wires, radio, television, online media and news and trade associations. Further discussions will include news media executives and general counsels as well as government experts in intelligence and investigative agencies.
No further details were offered by the Justice Department regarding news outlets chosen.
The official confirmed that the meetings will be off the record.
The review follows criticism over the department's secret monitoring of Fox News reporter James Rosen and seizure of Associated Press reporters' and editors' phone records in connection to two separate investigations of security leaks.
After reports of those cases this month, the White House defended the Justice Department, with press secretary Jay Carney repeatedly contending that the president supports a balance between freedom of the press and safeguarding against leaks that could potentially put lives at risk. Public concern at the White House over the potential chilling effect these investigations could have on the press was limited to the administration's support for a Senate-backed media shield law.
Obama went a step further last week during a counterterrorism speech at National Defense University, expressing personal concern over the incidents.
"I'm troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable. Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law," Obama said.
"I’ve raised these issues with the attorney general, who shares my concerns," he added. "So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and he’ll convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review."
The president directed Holder to report his findings by July 12.
Holder, who has long been targeted by the GOP, is the subject of a new probe opened on Wednesday by two House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee.
Reps. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin wrote a letter to Holder asking for materials and clarification regarding Holder's May 15 testimony that he has never been involved in "potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material." Goodlatte and Sensenbrenner question whether that testimony contradicts media reports that the search warrant application for Rosen's private emails was approved “at the highest levels” of the Justice Department, including through “discussions” with Holder.
Carney said at Wednesday's briefing that there is no apparent conflict between Holder's testimony and news reports. "You guys are conflating the subpoena with prosecution," Carney said to reporters asking about the probe. Carney referred further questions to the Department of Justice.