Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder is overseeing revisions to news media guidelines that make it “significantly harder, though not impossible, to demand phone records, notes or emails from news organizations,” according to a New York Times report. Specifically, “Mr. Holder prevented the F.B.I. from portraying a reporter as a co-conspirator as a way to get around a ban on getting search warrants for reporting materials. That rule would have prevented the subpoena in Mr. Rosen’s case. He also made it harder for prosecutors to seize records in secret, as he did in the A.P. case. And he expanded that protection beyond phone records to cover emails and reporting work product, protections that did not exist previously.”
During Holder’s tenure as Attorney General, the Department of Justice secretly seized two months of phone records for 20 phone lines of Associated Press editors and reporters to investigate a leak to the news service. According to mic.com, “unnamed officials” were sources in a May 7, 2012 story that reported the CIA had “thwarted an ambitious plot by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden.”
Holder defended the seizures in a tense back-and-forth with Congress in May 2013, but the aforementioned Times piece notes he has recently admitted the effort to clamp officials from speaking to the press without approval went too far at times.