Under fire for the Justice Department’s broad investigations of the news media, President Obama said Thursday he has called on Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to review the probes and convene a meeting with media representatives.
“Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs,” Mr. Obama said during a speech on national security. “Our focus must be on those who break the law.”
The president’s comments came as NBC News reported that Mr. Holder signed off on at least one of the controversial search warrants that identified a Fox News reporter as a “possible co-conspirator.”
The president said he is “troubled” by the possibility that Justice probes into leaks of classified government information “may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable.”
“A free press is also essential for our democracy,” Mr. Obama said.
“I have raised these issues with the attorney general, who shares my concern.”
In a probe involving Fox News reporter James Rosen and his source at the State Department, a Justice investigator stated that the journalist might be involved in criminal activity for revealing sensitive information. NBC reported that Mr. Holder signed off on the warrant that allowed investigators to seize the reporter’s emails.
Another leak investigation involving The Associated Press resulted in the seizure of some 20 journalists’ phone records.
The president said journalists should not be the focus of such investigations, although he cautioned that the government also must guard against leaks.
“As commander in chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field,” Mr. Obama said. “To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to protect classified information.”
Mr. Holder is to report back to the president on his findings by July 12.