City Desk

D.C. U.S. Attorney Ron Machen Oversaw Seizure of AP Phone Records

While Ron Machen's investigation of Mayor Vince Gray's 2010 campaign drags into its second year—and leads to some public awkwardness when the two appear together—the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia has now found himself in the middle of another controversy. In a letter Friday to the Associated Press, Machen revealed that the Department of Justice had seized two months of the news agency's phone records with subpoenas.

The phone records were seized, according to an AP report today, as part of an investigation into the leak of news about a foiled bomb plot in Yemen, which Machen and U.S. Attorney for Maryland Ron Rosenstein have been leading. The AP's CEO, in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, said there was "no possible justification" for the seizure of the phone records.

In a statement, Machen's office said that it had tried to exhaust other methods before subpoenaing the AP's records. "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 statement reads.

Full statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia:

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. Those regulations 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. 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.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • noodlez

    THE AP CAN NOT HIDE FOLK THAT BROKE THE LAW REGARDLESS OF THEIR CODE WITH RESPECT TO KEEPING THEIR SOURCES HIDDEN.

    SOMEONE GAVE UP SECRETS AND THE FEDERAL GOV'T WANT TO KNOW WHO!I DOWN WITH THAT.

    THE AP, MSNBC, CNN WHOEVA!! THE PRESS ISNT SPECIAL IN THAT WAY WHEN IT COMES TO NAT'L SECURITY.

  • truth hurts

    My gut tells me this isn't going to end well for Machen. Only a major national security threat should warrant spying on a free press. It seems that Machen went too far. Hope I'm wrong.

  • Ward-8

    Yes AP and all of those other news Agencies will be yelling violation of free press yet, none will admit in this instance you had a top secret operation with only a limited number of people privy to, yet you have an AP reporter whom I doubt was involved in the operation was able to obtain and print information from a top secret mission and then claim and refuse to reveal the source due to some type of press privilege. The leaker who violated his/her security code,need to be found, stripped of his/her top level clearance and shown the door, I am sure AP will have a job available for him/her.

  • Green Eyeshade

    This is the same BS that forced a House committee to adopt articles of impeachment against Nixon. It is irrelevant what excuse the prosecutors use, Congress will not tolerate this dictatorship tactic. Incidentally, before anyone gets all excited trying to prove that Machen's subpoena was legal, remember: he refused to ask a federal judge for permission to do this. It was WARRANTLESS WIRETAPPING, exactly what Nixon did. When Nixon tried to cover up his BS, he committed numerous crimes for which he was impeached by the House Judiciary Committee. (The full House never got to vote on impeachment because Nixon resigned 8/4/1974.)

    Machen has been mired in this unconstitutional disgraceful BS for the past two years. It is now obvious he will not be around to finish the indictment of the Mayor and Jeffrey Thompson. If Machen is forced out, other senior levels in the DOJ criminal division and possibly the AG himself could be forced out.

  • Green Eyeshade

    Anybody who writes that the AP is a target of Machen's investigation doesn't know anything about the first amendment and either doesn't remember or isn't old enough to know why President Nixon was forced out of the White House in 1974. Reporters are not guilty of anything if they receive information. Period. Regardless of what the information is or where it came from. Machen refused to seek authorization from a federal district judge to sweep up months' worth of phone contacts by AP reporters. What Machen did is known as WARRANTLESS WIRETAPPING. When Nixon did that, he realized he would have been impeached for it, so he committed crimes to cover up his WARRANTLESS WIRETAPPING, and it was the cover-up crimes that convinced the House Judiciary Committee to issue articles of impeachment against Nixon. (The full House never voted on impeachment because Nixon quit before the House voted.)

  • Typical DC BS

    Love Democrats trying to justify this nonsense. It has all been done before - Green Eyeshade is hitting this nail on the head repeatedly. Wonder if Holder will refuse to acknowledge a problem again - he needs to go if he was aware of this coming fiasco.

  • Green Eyeshade

    Holder Was just on MSNBC live for about 15 minutes facing questions from the press about this fiasco. He announced he has recused himself from the "AP investigation," but we need to wait for some written explanation to figure out if that means the "investigation of the investigation," in other words, the clusterfrack caused by Machen's ridiculous warrantless surveillance, or the actual underlying "leak investigation" that was the pretext for Machen to spy on 20 reporters' phone calls for two solid months.

    Either way, looking worse for Machen by the minute. Never good when your boss is forced to go on cable teevee and splain himself for 15 minutes. OTOH, what do we do in DC if Machen is forced out? Who finishes indicting the Mayor and Jeffrey Thompson?

  • ANC Commissioner

    I'm tired of people saying that liberals or Obama supporters aren't outraged over this. Personally, every person I have spoken to about this is an Obama supporter and completely outraged by Ron Machen's tactics in this case. The public needs more answers because what we know already looks really bad.

  • noodlez

    THE PRESS IS NOT PROTECTED BY THE 1ST AMENDMENT WHEN IT COMES TO THIS ISSUE!

    THEY BROKE THE LAW. PERIOD!
    ENOUGH OF THE BULLSHIT AND BELLYACHING!

    I WOULD BE SHOCKED IF MACHEN IS BREAKING ANY LAWS REGARDING THIS MATTER. IF THE AP WANNA BREAK STORIES THAT COULD EVEN POSSIBLY CAUSE PEOPLE THEIR LIVES THEN THEY WILL HAVE TO SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES ON THE BACK END.

    HOLDER CLAMMING UP BECAUSE OF THE FRENZY.
    NOTHING MORE NOTHING LESS.

    IM WITH MACHEN AND D.O.J. ON THIS BECAUSE IF THE AP OR ANY OTHER NEWS ORGANIZATION ARE SO PRESSED TO GET OUT IN FRONT OF STORIES THAT HAVE LIFE OR DEATH IMPLICATIONS THEN THE OLD ADAGE OF LAYING DOWN WITH DOGS GETTING FLEAS APPLIES.

  • Typical DC BS

    Sorry noodlez. The press is protected. This was all fought over decades ago. If someone brings them the information, they have no obligation to assist the US government in tracking down the leak. Pentagon Papers ring a bell?

  • noodlez

    YOU ARE RIGHT THE PRESS IS UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO ASSIST U.S. GOV'T JUST LIKE THE U.S. GOV'Y IS UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO ASSIST THE PRESS IN KEEPING ITS SNITCHES SECRET.

    THE PRESS USES ITS SOURCES TO UNHATCH SHIT AND SO DOES THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

    IT IS A TWO WAY STREET PAL!

    STAY OFF THE PHONE!

  • SEis4ME

    Not really. The press is charged w/getting the info that the govt has a legal obligation to provide...w/few exceptions.

  • noodlez

    @SE-I WOULD SUSPECT THIS IS ONE OF THOSE EXCEPTIONS.

  • Typical DC BS

    There are NO EXCEPTIONS noodlez. Unless the Obama adminstration is trying to create a new exception, which it will get crucified for. Sorry, this is a HUGE screw-up. Machen is as good as done. Doubt he made the decision all by his lonesome, so buckle up for the ride.

  • noodlez

    @TYP-THAT HOOPTIE YOU RIDING IN "A WING AND A PRAYER" STILL STARTS UP? I WOULD RATHER RIDE IN A 1000 SERIES METRO CAR THAN TO BUCKLE UP IN YOUR CRASH TEST DUMMY WORLD! YOUR SENSATIONALISM OR THE ATTEMPT AT IT PROVES THIS IS ALL HYPERBOLE AT THE VERY LEAST.

    YOU AND SE4ME ARE ABOUT AS CONFUSED AS GEORGE BUSH IN A 1ST GRADE SPELLING BEE. NO ONE SCREWED UP, BROKE THE LAW AND THERE IS NOTHING THERE! THIS IS BEING DRIVEN BY AND FOR THE MEDIA. BROTHER MACHEN WILL BE JUST FINE.

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