In an Op-Ed column in this morning’s New York Times entitled Stop the Leaks, former Attorney General William P. Barr, former Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick and former Assistant Attorney General for National Security and NAFUSA board member Kenneth L. Wainstein, published an Op-Ed joining the current debate over the disclosure that the Justice Department obtained the telephone records of Associated Press journalists, stating:
As former Justice Department officials who served in the three administrations preceding President Obama’s, we are worried that the criticism of the decision to subpoena telephone toll records of A.P. journalists in an important leak investigation sends the wrong message to the government officials who are responsible for our national security.
While neither we nor the critics know the circumstances behind the prosecutors’ decision to issue this subpoena, we do know from the government’s public disclosures that the prosecutors were right to investigate this leak vigorously. The leak — which resulted in a May 2012 article by The A.P. about the disruption of a Yemen-based terrorist plot to bomb an airliner — significantly damaged our national security.
As for the process which led to a warrant for telephone toll log records for about 20 phone lines that the leaker might have used in conversations with A.P journalists, the former DOJ officials argued:
The decision was made at the highest levels of the Justice Department, under longstanding regulations that are well within the boundaries of the Constitution. Having participated in similar decisions, we know that they are made after careful deliberation, because the government does not lightly seek information about a reporter’s work. Along with the obligation to investigate and prosecute government employees who violate their duty to protect operational secrets, Justice Department officials recognize the need to minimize any intrusion into the operations of the free press.