MOSCOW, May 14 (RAPSI) - As part of a “massive and unprecedented intrusion,” the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has obtained telephone records for more than 20 separate lines assigned to the AP and its journalists, according to a letter written to US Attorney General Eric Holder by AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt Monday.

According to Pruitt’s letter: “Last Friday afternoon, AP General Counsel Laura Malone received a letter from the office of United States Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. advising that, at some unidentified time earlier this year, the Department obtained telephone toll records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to the AP and its journalists.” 

The obtained records reportedly covered a two-month period in early 2012 and included records from the AP’s general line as well as its bureaus in New York City, Washington DC, Hartford, Connecticut, and at the House of Representatives. 

Asserting that the entire operation was carried out without notice, the letter asserts that: “even after the fact no notice has been sent to individual journalists whose home phones and cell phone records were seized by the Department.” 

Phone record acquisitions are dealt with in the US Code of Federal Regulations, which states in part that in the case of a request for the Attorney General’s authorization for a subpoena for journalists’ telephone toll records, there should be “reasonable ground to believe that a crime has been committed and that the information sought is essential to the successful investigation of that crime. The subpoena should be as narrowly drawn as possible; it should be directed at relevant information regarding a limited subject matter and should cover a reasonably limited time period.”

To this point, Pruitt noted in his letter to Holder that the volume of records obtained, and their lack of connection for the most part with any ongoing investigation point to the conclusion that the investigation should not have moved forward as planned.

He further billed the intrusion as a “serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.”

Although, according to the letter, the AP has not yet decided on a course of action, Pruitt urged the DOJ to return all records and destroy all copies, as well as to explain itself immediately.