Top House Democrat demands more information on national security leaks

A top House Democrat is pushing the U.S. Attorney’s Office to give the public more information about its investigation into a series of national security leaks.

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Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said the Justice Department’s secret subpoena of two months worth of phone records from the Associated Press was “chilling.”

As the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Cummings called on U.S. Attorney Ron Machen to explain in more detail why the news organization’s information was key to the investigation.

“It’s very chilling when the government reaches its hand into the press like this. It concerns me,” said Cummings in a brief interview off the House floor on Tuesday evening.

“The D.C. U.S. Attorney has got to present as much evidence as possible without jeopardizing the case.

“If you reach into the press and its daily operations like that, and if you are claiming that it’s a life and death situation for Americans, I think you’ve got to give as much information as possible without harming the case.”

Attorney General Eric Holder last year appointed Machen and U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein to investigate a series of leaks to news outlets dealing with sensitive information concerning the U.S. government’s counter-terrorism and foreign policies.

After conducting more than 550 interviews, the two attorneys subpoenaed the phone records for 20 AP employees, raising a furor on Capitol Hill about whether the department overstepped its legal bounds.

Cummings said the case was unusual and pointed to Holder’s comments earlier in the day in which the nation’s top cop explained the severity of the national security leaks that his department is investigating.

“This was a very serious leak. A very, very serious leak,” Holder said at a press conference. “It put the American people at risk, and that is not hyperbole. It put the American people at risk.”

Cummings also said that a grand jury and a judge had signed off on the subpoenas for the AP’s phone records, which Deputy Attorney General James Cole authorized.

“The thing that causes me to say, 'let’s wait and see for a moment,' is that these were grand jury subpoenas and they were overseen by a judge, so that’s a check on that,” said Cummings.

“We have to wait and try to figure out exactly what this is all about.”

It has previously not been known whether a grand jury and judge signed off on the subpoenas and a request for comment to the DOJ was not immediately returned.