U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) supports the Justice Department's probe of a security leak. (Photo courtesy of Sen. Durbin's Facebook)
By Eric Stock
BLOOMINGTON - U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the government is working within its legal authority to secretly subpoena reporters' phone records as it tries to get to the bottom of a security leak.
The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a massive and unprecedented intrusion into how news organizations gather the news.
"There are some people, friends of the United States, who risk their lives in countries around the world to get us information, in order to keep us safe," Durbin said. "And, if we compromise them, if we endanger them, or cost them their lives in the process, it's a very serious thing."
But Durbin calls it a case of competing interests, saying he understands the Associated Press feeling the subpoenas are an infringement on a free press. The AP is considering legal action against the Justice Department.
AP officials think the story was about a CIA operation in Yemen and said nothing was reported until the danger had passed. Durbin said he supports the Justice Department's probe of a security leak.
"What the government has done so far, subpoenaing this information is within its power and within its authority. Ultimately we have to decide if we find that the identity of this leaker, if there should be criminal penalties brought down against them," Durbin said.
Attorney General Eric Holder removed himself from the decision.