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The AP story was published a day before Mr. Obama planned to announce publicly that the terrorist attack had been foiled. Al Qaeda planned the attack to coincide with the first anniversary of the May 2, 2011, killing of Osama bin Laden.

In response to revelations that the Justice Department had seized two months’ worth of phone records from members of the AP without their knowledge, Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, sent a letter to Mr. Holder on Wednesday seeking more information on the attorney general’s involvement in the matter and the department’s rationale for doing so.

“The regulations — important guarantees of press freedom — should result in modest use of such subpoenas. … I want to understand fully your involvement in this matter: what you knew, when you knew, what you authorized and what basis you had for making the decisions you did,” he said. “What we are seeing now is an aggressive investigation into the journalists who reported the leaked information.”

Mr. Cornyn, a member of both the Senate Finance and Judiciary committees, said the Justice Department should be more aggressive in its investigation of the leak, and out of proper regard for the First Amendment, less sweeping in its intrusion into the constitutionally protected activity of those who reported the leak.