WASHINGTON A senior Justice Department official told two Republican congressmen Monday that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has never been involved in the prosecution of a journalist for the publication of classified information.
In an effort to mollify Republican lawmakers who have accused Holder of perjury, Peter J. Kadzik, the principal deputy assistant attorney general, sent a letter to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Virginia’s Robert W. Goodlatte, R-6th, and Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis. The letter emphasized that an investigation is different than a prosecution and that any attempt to obtain a search warrant comes before any final decision about prosecution.
“We are unaware of an instance when the department has prosecuted a journalist for the mere publication of classified information,” Kadzik wrote.
Kadzik’s letter is in response to accusations by Republican congressmen that Holder perjured himself when he testified May 15 that the potential prosecution of a journalist reporting sensitive information is “not something that I have ever been involved in, or would think would be a wise policy.”
A subsequent report about a Justice Department investigation into possible leaks of classified information about North Korea to Fox News led Republicans to question Holder’s statement. In that case, law enforcement officials characterized reporter James Rosen as a possible “co-conspirator” in a crime.
Holder was consulted and approved the application for the Rosen search warrant in that probe.
Goodlatte and Sensenbrenner wrote to Holder last week asking for clarification of his remarks.
Kadzik wrote in his letter that the government applied for a search warrant for information in Rosen’s email account only after “exhausting all reasonable options.”
Under the Privacy Protection Act, the government may seek a journalist’s documents or work product only when there is probable cause to believe that the journalist has committed a crime, including unlawfully disclosing national defense or classified information.
On Monday, Goodlatte and Sensenbrenner criticized Holder for not responding to them directly and instead sending a letter from a subordinate.
Sensenbrenner said the letter from Kadzik “fails to answer the questions” raised by Holder’s testimony.