Holder runs into roadblocks on off-the-record meetings on leaks
May 29th, 2013
11:20 PM ET
10 years ago

Holder runs into roadblocks on off-the-record meetings on leaks

Updated at 12:38 p.m. ET on Thursday 5/30

Washington (CNN) - Attorney General Eric Holder's plans to sit down with media representatives to discuss guidelines for handling investigations into leaks to the news media have run into trouble.

The Associated Press issued a statement Wednesday objecting to plans for the meetings to be off the record. "If it is not on the record, AP will not attend and instead will offer our views on how the regulations should be updated in an open letter," said Erin Madigan White, the AP's media relations manager.

The New York Times is taking the same position. "It isn't appropriate for us to attend an off-the-record meeting with the attorney general," executive editor Jill Abramson said in a statement.

Like the New York Times and the Associated Press, CNN will decline the invitation for an off-the-record meeting. A CNN spokesperson says if the meeting with the attorney general is on the record, CNN would plan to participate.

The Huffington Post's Washington bureau chief, Ryan Grim, also said he will not attend unless the meeting is on the record. "A conversation specifically about the freedom of the press should be an open one. We have a responsibility not to betray that," Grim told CNN.

But Politico posted an item on its website saying editor-in-chief John Harris plans to attend one of the meetings with Holder.

"As editor-in-chief, I routinely have off-the-record conversations with people who have questions or grievances about our coverage or our newsgathering practices," Harris said in the Politico item. "I feel anyone - whether an official or ordinary reader - should be able to have an unguarded conversation with someone in a position of accountability for a news organization when there is good reason."

Representatives for the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post will both attend the meeting.

“I prefer that any meeting be on the record," said Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron. "That said, journalists routinely participate in off-the-record sessions, whether they prefer those conditions or not, and then continue to report on events. I am going to this meeting in order to represent our interests as journalists and to raise our concerns. I'll also listen to what the Attorney General has to say. I trust that our journalists will report on this as vigorously as they would any other subject.”

MORE: DOJ says e-mails, letter prove it notified Fox of subpoenas

A Justice Department official said Wednesday the sessions would be off the record to encourage a full exchange of ideas.

President Barack Obama directed the attorney general to review guidelines for investigations involving leaks to the media and said Holder would be meeting with journalists to get their views.

This comes in the wake of disclosures that the government obtained AP phone records after the news organization reported classified details of a thwarted 2012 plot in Yemen to try to blow up a plane with a bomb. The government also obtained e-mails and phone records for a Fox journalist who allegedly received a classified report on North Korea from a former State Department contractor.

A Justice Department official said Holder would hold his first meetings with the media on Thursday and Friday.

Kerry must answer Benghazi questions, House GOP says

The official said the attorney general has a "longstanding belief that protecting and defending the First Amendment is essential to our democracy."

The official said the sessions would include print, television, radio, wire services and online media.

–Jesse Solomon, Jim Acosta and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

MORE: 5 things about the controversy surrounding AG Eric Holder

Filed under: Eric Holder • Justice Department
soundoff (684 Responses)
  1. Also Patrick

    The media is starting to realize that they will still be around after Obama's second term goes down in flames so it might be a good time to throw the dead weight surrounding Obama overboard and appear to be journalists again, if only briefly.

    May 30, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  2. Dan5404

    I don't believe such open conversations can cover everything without revealing more sensitive information about US spy procedures. That's what the whole thing is about ; Is the first amendment so absolute that it exonerates people from obtaining and publicizing secret information that exposes people and secret procedures? They are creating life threatening situations and destruction of spy networks that can save American lives. I worked in journalism and have always believed the answer is an emphatic NO. At one time, serious jail time would have resulted. What's different now?

    May 30, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  3. Snarky MacFee

    For those who think any government in any time in history on any part of this planet will or gave "transparency" needs to spend a month in detention in the library. Dont promise it , politicians and dont expect it, voters and "media". Tell me, when will the "media" have transparency? Look all of you cook it to feed us drivel that keeps us out of the loop, stupid, and content. No one has clean hands in this since Neolithic times. Why attack media? Because you tell us one minute women are underpaid THEN you tell us we are and (expected to) make more money than our men. You make it TOP HEADLINE when an actress has her ta-ta's removed, but put stories about fraud from our banks and removal of civil rights by our leaders in the bottom footnotes. Every five years eggs are good for us then bad again. You plaster photos of mass murders all over for weeks but not the phots of their victims and survivors. So I seriously doubt anyone's claim to the moral highground here. Most of Mary and Mark Public are really not interested in your beefs with politicians that dont give a rip about us anyway. Move on. please.

    May 30, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  4. tj1000

    Funny, all of a sudden the media has ethics? They must have opened the wrong Kool Aide package.

    May 30, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  5. Tom1940

    Atty Gen'l Holder still doesn't get it. The Peoples Right To Know (i.e. 1st Amendment), "shall not be abridged"!
    What is it the "Top Cop" in the U.S. doesn't understand about the "clear and precise" language of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. What a duffuss!

    May 30, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  6. deepsix

    Tone Deaf: Politico posted an item on its website saying editor-in-chief John Harris plans to attend one of the meetings with Holder.

    May 30, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  7. Sniffit

    Well, I guess we now know which "news" organizations are currently in possession of additional leaked national security information.

    May 30, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  8. ldcj

    Of course POLITICO will be there. Must get their required talking points.

    May 30, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  9. SuperD

    Where are all the flaming Liberals? You know, the ones where they jump on the grenades heading towards this administration?

    Where's Sniffit? He must be playing with his tin foil hats? Sniffie, tell me this is some misunderstanding and I need to listen to Holder and Obama because they are looking out for me? I'm sure there's justification for this corrupt and criminal administration.

    May 30, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  10. Chassoo

    Our freedom of speech is under attack and most people don't realize it yet. Obama is a socialist! Nothing more and nothing less.

    May 30, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  11. AZ Dave

    Wow ... this has to hurt .... no media blow job for Eric ... don't worry ... they probably just have a toothache .... invite them back next week for AK's and Spanish lessons ... they'll show up ...

    May 30, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  12. ldcj

    Guess whose former law firm the new FBI Director designate comes? Hint: E.H.'s

    May 30, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  13. Noah

    Only if they cared about protecting the 2nd amendment so much...Hypocrites

    May 30, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  14. Dude

    Holder needs to contact Ezra Klein, Markos and the rest of the journolist. They have no problem with secret meetings.

    May 30, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  15. Mike Verkuylen

    Why do we need to have new regulations regarding the first amendment??? Free speech is free speech, not coerced speech, not OTR speech, freedom of speech and freedom of the press is protected. We do not need to create new government entities, new reg, new anything, just follow the constitution, pretty simple for most Americans, just not for this administration.

    May 30, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  16. Pouncekitty

    Politico is reckless to take this meeting. They are as corrupt and sneaky as Holder. This is suicide for Politico.

    May 30, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  17. Rodger

    The Laws have already been determined, decades ago on how this is to be handled. The 1st Amendment was provided by the Founding Fathers.

    So Holder, Tell U.S. exactly what it is you do not Understand as Attorney General and upholding and obeying these Laws?????

    Or do you think you can Shuck & Jive your way around the Laws on the Books because you think they don't apply to you........!!!!!

    All Law Breakers need to be put in Prison, Between Obama and Holder they have damaged the Credibility of the U.S. Government that a Revolution is being called for, To over throw bring down to Clean House This Corrupt Institution.......!

    God help us all........!!!!!!

    May 30, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  18. Just me

    To think obama is not behind all this is not realistic. We MUST get rid of irs,. go to a flat or fair tax, and most imporant we MUST get rid of obamacare, it would be the same with any gov't agency. Our govt. has taken too much power away from the poeple for itself.

    May 30, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  19. Sniffit

    " "A conversation specifically about the freedom of the press should be an open one. We have a responsibility not to betray that," Grim told CNN."

    Yawn. Freedom of the press includes the freedom to have private conversations of all kinds. It is entirely disingenuous for them to insist upon the right to keep all sorts of information secret, even with respect to leaked classified national security intelligence, and then turn around and pretend that any conversations they have with the AG must be publicized in full. It's a blatant double-standard and shows that the MSM is just butthurt over the idea that...*gasp*...there might be some limitations on their ability to solicit criminal leaks of sensitive information...or, more to the point, that those who would consider dong the leaking might have to think twice about just how immune they are to prosecution for their crimes just because they went to the press to commit them. It's entirely backwards: the crime here is leaking the information AND they did so by going to the one entity (taking the MSM as a whole) that has the power to broadcast the secrets to the entire world. There must be balance and, as we know, that is the LAST thing the MSM actually wants.

    May 30, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  20. Kevin

    Holder lied under oath

    May 30, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  21. Doramin

    This is a very old trick. Holder gets them in a room together and "off-the-record". Then he confesses EVERYTHING. Every dirty detail. Which they now have agreed not to publish.

    Then–in the days, weeks, months to come–when their reporters start to uncover the dirt on their own, the pressies feel constrained by their "off-the-record" agreement not to publish any of it.

    Nice and neat (for the culprits).

    May 30, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  22. camaro guy

    Ever wonder why government officials still use their older style Blackberry phones.... Because the texts between users are not stored, or can be accessed by the media or public domain.

    May 30, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  23. Dave in Sacramento

    Oh dear. The press is going to prove they've still have some very basic journalism principles and do a no-show to Holders strategy session. And that's what all this is, in the end. An invitation for complicity in cover-up.

    Now then, can you just imagine the firestorm that would now be raging had John Ashcroft or Roberto Gonzalez tried a stunt like this when Bush was in the White House???

    May 30, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  24. CWW

    Weren't theses same media summoned to the Whitehouse hours before the additional scandals hit the fan just a couple weeks ago? Yeah, they were.

    They were eager to meet then at their President's orders... What's different now? What was said to these media outlets then?

    May 30, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  25. Sniffit

    "What Holder did was criminal and should be held accountable."

    Name the crime. Is it now a crime for the DOJ to use proper procedures and the full authority granted to them by statutes enacted by both Dems and GOPers in order to investigate someone leaking national security secrets?

    There's no crime here unless we're talking about just how misinformed and undereducated the MSM wants to keep you in order to make you more susceptible to their controversy manufacture.

    May 30, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
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