WASHINGTON — The Associated Press on Monday said the U.S. government seized records from phone lines assigned to AP offices and its reporters over a period of two months in 2012, which the news service described as a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”
AP CEO Gary Pruitt, in a letter posted on the agency’s website, said the AP was informed last Friday that the Justice Department gathered records for more than 20 lines assigned to the agency and its reporters.
Phone lines at AP bureaus in New York, Hartford and Washington were among those affected by the records seizure, as well as an AP phone at the U.S. House of Representatives, the AP said.
“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” Pruitt said in the letter, which was addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia, which notified the AP of the seizure, issued a statement on Monday saying it was “careful and deliberative” when dealing with issues around freedom of the press.
“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,” the office said.
The letter did not state a reason for the seizure, but the AP noted that prosecutors have previously said they are conducting a leaks investigation into how the news cooperative learned about an al Qaeda bomb plot in Yemen before it was made public last year.