AP chief: DOJ seizure an ‘unconstitutional act’

Associated Press CEO Gary Pruitt on Sunday slammed the Justice Department’s (DOJ) seizure of the wire service’s phone records as an “unconstitutional act.”

“We don’t question their right to conduct these sort of investigations, we just think they went about it the wrong way. So sweeping, so secretively, so abusively and harassingly and overbroad that it is an unconstitutional act,” Pruitt said Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation.

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Pruitt was commenting on DOJ’s decision to take phone records involving “thousands” of AP calls in an investigation of a security leak regarding a 2012 terrorist attack foiled by the CIA.

AP had found out about the thwarted attack and ran with the story, citing administration officials.

Pruitt said the Obama administration was aware that AP had an accurate account of the episode. He noted the White House asked the wire service to hold the story for five days out of national security concerns, to which AP agreed.

“I really don’t know what their motive is. I know what the message being sent is — it’s that, ‘If you talk to the press, we’re going to go after you,’” Pruitt said.

Pruitt said DOJ did not inform AP of its investigation, and said the agency violated its own rules by failing to narrow its records request as much as possible.

“Under their own rules, they are required to narrow this request as narrowly as possible so as to not tread upon the First Amendment. And yet they had a broad, sweeping collection. And they did it secretly,” Pruitt said.

He said it’s already had an effect by making sources skittish about talking to journalists.

“I think it will hurt journalists,” Pruitt said of the matter.