The Justice Department has secretly obtained two months of telephone records of journalists for The Associated Press in what AP's top executive says is an "unprecedented intrusion" into newsgathering.
The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn. The government also seized the records for the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery. Attorneys for the AP says it's not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of calls.
The Justice Department disclosed the seizure in a letter the AP received Friday. The letter did not state a reason, but prosecutors have previously said they are conducting a leaks investigation into how the AP learned about an al-Qaida bomb plot in Yemen before it was made public last year.
Prosecutors have sought records from reporters before, but the seizure of records from such a wide array of AP offices is unusual.
The chairman of the Republican National Committee says Attorney General Eric Holder should resign over the decision by the Justice Department to secretly obtain two months of telephone records of reporters and editors.
RNC chairman Reince Priebus says Holder has "trampled on the First Amendment" by allowing the Justice Department to issue secret subpoenas to "spy" on The AP.
At the same time, the American Society of News Editors called the actions "outrageous" and "appalling."