UPDATEDAssociated Press President and CEO Gary Pruitt today called the Justice Department seizure “a massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news. According to attorneys for the AP, the DOJ secretly obtained two months of telephone records of its reporters and editors. The information included a list of outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, CT, and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery. Records were seized for more than 20 separate phone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Pruitt demanded the return of the phone records and destruction of all copies, saying the seizure was far beyond anything that could be justified by any specific investigation. The government would not say why it sought the records, according to the AP.News organizations normally are notified ahead of time that the government wants phone records and enter into negotiations over the requested information. In this case, however, the government, in its letter to the AP, cited an exemption to those rules that holds that prior notification can be waived if such notice, in the exemption’s wording, might “pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation”, the AP said. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney released the following statement in response: “Other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the AP. We are not involved in decisions made in connection with criminal investigations, as those matters are handled independently by the Justice Department. Any questions about an ongoing criminal investigation should be directed to the Department of Justice.”

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