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. smith

    this guy needs to go now! he`s worse than Janet Reno

    May 30, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  2. Joshua

    Why is he still around? Everyone hates this guy. It doesn't matter if you are fascist Republican or weak-spined Democrat. Wait...did I just answer my own question? It sucks I cannot vote Republican until the Tea Party members finish dying.

    May 30, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  3. charles

    I love how CNN "forgot" to include that Fox News also declined.........Fox included CNN's declien intheir article.
    Is this reporting for real....

    May 30, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  4. 111Dave111

    Read Wash. Post, Walter Pincus
    in WP (/WP comments) SeriousLee says:
    "Pincus makes two important points: The first is that the media protects its own. If you go to the Newseum (which, I would not recommend - it's expensive and suggests that journalists are superheros), Judith Miller is prominently displayed as a hero for going to jail rather than reveal a source. Nowhere in that display does it show that she was also a hack for the Bush Administration – publishing their talking points without checking any of the information they reported. She was subsequently fired because of her inability to display basic journalistic integrity.

    The second point is far more important and, unfortunately, appears in the last paragraph: There is a difference between being a whistleblower (legal, protected) and leaking classified information (illegal, not protected). Leaking puts sources and methods at risk. In the case of the AP, the British had a person in place in AQ in Yemen. That person is no longer there, and the West has lost the ability to get detailed information on plots BEFORE they are put in place.

    I fully understand the need to balance transparency with secrecy, and a good argument can be made the US has gone classified-crazy and no longer engages in thoughtful deliberation over what should be classified. However, once classified anyone with access to it knows full-well that the government will investigate, arrest, and prosecute. And if the media doesn't know they will be part of that process, they're not particularly bright." (he means Fox: Rosen)

    May 30, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  5. 111Dave111

    'smith' you are part of the GOP cliche: Grudge, Obstruction & Paranoia.

    Never a creative idea or plan.

    May 30, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  6. Just Me

    So much for clear transparency!

    May 30, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  7. Crusty Habnerpants

    "off the record"? regarding the freedom of the press?? and cleaning up the trampling of the 1rst amendment???
    These guys are really dumb. They may have inflated IQs and have nice reading voices, but "stupid is as stupid does".

    May 30, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  8. mokondis

    "Off the record" ? This guy is so crooked he has to screw his socks on!!!

    May 30, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  9. Poof

    I firmly believe the reason Holder wants the meeting to be "off record" is so he can threaten the news editors with stuff he has illegally found out about them....ie.....you WILL let me skate on this or I WILL see to it that this "stuff" gets out in the public....In effect..blackmailing them.

    May 30, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  10. LoserInTheMiddle

    CNN, go ahead and go to the meeting, but be sure to go "wired". :0)

    May 30, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  11. Taroya

    And nobody remembers when Faux tapped the phones of British political and celebrity members.
    What goes around, comes around.

    May 30, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  12. bTeri

    Both Politico and the Washington Post talk about off the record meetings being routine as the rationale for their attendance at Holder's joke of an apology tour. HOWEVER.... the entire reason this meeting is necessary is that trust has been violated because of secrecy and dishonesty and untrustworthy questionable practices by Holder and his DOJ. Have a secret meetiing to discuss the problem with secrets...... a six year old would see the problem with that.

    May 30, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  13. Ted

    Shame on anyone who actually attends this clown show. They ought to show well-deserved contempt towards violators of essential liberties.

    May 30, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  14. Oh For Pete's Sake!

    If there's one thing that I truly hate, it's people like Holder, Obama, Hilary Clinton and the IRS saying – "LET'S FORGET OUR CRIMES and see how we can prevent this happening in the future!!!!!".

    We can prevent this happening in the future by sacking these lying, creepy criminals NOW.

    May 30, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  15. Alpha Deus

    Because the press never attends off the record meetings...so if they don't want to then make it illegal for off the record meetings and that reporters can be held liable for everything they write from now on..no 'commentary' get off clause..we'll see how long it takes them to have a 'moment of clarity' and decide off the record is fine by them

    May 30, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  16. mindie from indie

    oh geez. reminds me of when Cheney wanted an off the record testimony before congress...closed door – no notes taken. Get a grip people –

    May 30, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  17. Oh For Pete's Sake!

    Surely people AREN'T moaning that some reporters let classified information slip??????

    Oh, silly me – I thought that was FINE with the American people! After all, the President BLABBED Seal team 6's name on world TV and no-one said a dicky bird?

    The PRESIDENT is supposed to lead by example.......................ANOTHER fail for O' Shifty.

    May 30, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  18. James Freas

    The attorney general has a "longstanding belief that protecting and defending the First Amendment is essential to our democracy," suggests there was a time when the attorney general did not abide in that belief.

    May 30, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  19. OldJoe

    How about a source, unauthorized, unidentified just leaking the news?
    Saves the trouble of a meeting.

    May 30, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  20. Tony Smitt

    This guy looks and acts like a MEERKAT..

    May 30, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  21. Heywood Jablowmi

    Maybe Jimmy Carters nephew can secretly tape this "off the record" session and then Fox will play it back without his knowledge? Wonder if the media who actually do attend will be frisked so no recording devices are present? Wonder if the WH staff photographer will capture this special moment after they missed the Benghazi photo Op while Obama was sleeping and our people were being slaughtered while he dreamed of campaign cash and begnets in New Orleans.

    May 30, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  22. Uvaldo Garcia

    Sounds like a set-up. The government was initially trying to catch someone leaking secret information so they looked into call logs. Now they are having an "off-the-record" meeting. My guess is the government will keep checking call logs to see if anyone leaks the information from this "off-the-record" meeting, kind of testing the integrity of the journalists present. Holder will probably say something extremely shocking that everyone will want to report. Like a reverse sting operation.

    May 30, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  23. Csharp

    Yep Tony T. This administration wants a controlled room to allow for a "free exchange" of THREATS!

    May 30, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  24. KB

    Once again, the most transparent administration hard at work!

    May 30, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  25. Paul

    I am forever calling this guy the "Artful Dodger". I have never seen anyone LESS in charge of something than this man. President Obama does not hold a candle to this guy in the slippery category.

    May 30, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
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