The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news.
The White House has "no knowledge" of the Justice Department's efforts to obtain phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors, press secretary Jay Carney said Monday.
“Other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the AP," he said in a statement.
"We are not involved in decisions made in connection with criminal investigations, as those matters are handled independently by the Justice Department," he added. "Any questions about an ongoing criminal investigation should be directed to the Department of Justice.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman referred a request for comment to Bill Miller, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington, which is conducting a probe on the leaking of information about Syria to the AP.
"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," Miller said in a statement.
The Justice Department's rules "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," Miller said. "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."
The Obama administration has aggressively investigated disclosures of classified information to the media and has brought six cases against people suspected of leaking classified information, more than under all previous presidents combined.
Justice Department published rules require that subpoenas of records from news organizations must be personally approved by the attorney general but it was not known if that happened in this case.