In response to criticism of the Department of Justice's secret surveillance of and seizure of records from reporters, Eric Holder will testify on Thursday that no reporters have been or will be prosecuted for doing their job during his service as attorney general.
"The Department has not prosecuted, and as long as I’m Attorney General, will not prosecute any reporter for doing his or her job," Holder will say at a Senate budget hearing on Thursday morning, according to his prepared remarks. "With these guiding principles in mind, we are updating our internal guidelines to ensure that in every case the Department’s actions are clear and consistent with our most sacred values."
Holder is set to appear before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science to discuss the Justice Department's FY 2014 budget proposed by President Barack Obama.
But Holder's role as head of a department that secretly monitored Fox News reporter James Rosen and seized the phone records of The Associated Press, as well as a report Wednesday from the Guardian that the administration is secretly gathering phone records from Verizon customers, are expected to factor prominently into questioning by members of Congress.
Holder faces criticism from Republicans over testimony he made before a House committee last month that he has never been involved in "potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material" even though media reports indicate the search warrant application for Rosen's private emails was approved “at the highest levels” of the Justice Department, including through “discussions” with Holder.
Holder plans on Thursday to defend his review of the Justice Department's leak investigation policies—which Obama directed Holder to undertake—citing a desire to protect the freedom of the press amid concerns about a potential chilling effect this type of surveillance could have on journalism.
He plans to say that he appreciates "the opportunity to engage members of the media and national security professionals in this effort to improve our guidelines, policies and processes—and to renew the important conversation, that is as old as our Republic, about how to balance our security with our dearest civil liberties."
Holder last week invited multiple Washington bureau chiefs to meet with him to discuss the issue, but many refused due to the meetings' off-the-record status.