Eric Holder Stung by Leak Scandals and Starts Proactive Measures to Improve Guidelines

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testifies during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice May 15, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Holder faced questions on reports of the subpoena of two months worth of Associated Press journalists’ phone records and the Internal Revenue Services’ scrutiny of conservative organization’s tax exemption requests. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Attorney General Eric Holder has been under intense fire lately, having to answer for his involvement in several scandals, including two separate media cases with the Associated Press and a Fox News reporter. But now a new report paints him as deeply convicted — even sorry — over at least one of them.

Although Holder had recused himself of the case where phone records of several Associates Press editors and reporters were obtained, he personally signed off on the search warrant that allowed emails from Fox News’ James Rosen to be released. Rosen was not made aware of the warrant for his emails, which were part of an investigation of State Department adviser Stephen Kim, who faces charges of leaking secret information about North Korea.

The Daily Beast in a recent feature said Holder is “soul searching,” wondering if he should have signed for Rosen’s emails in the first place. It stated the “gravity of the situation” to Holder didn’t really hit him until Monday last week when he read the Washington Post’s report exposing the affidavit that labeled Rosen as “at the very least … an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator.”

“Holder knew that Justice would be besieged by the twin leak probes; but, according to aides, he was also beginning to feel a creeping sense of personal remorse,” the Daily Beast reported of Holder after he had read the Washington Post’s article.

It stated that sources close to Holder claim he is “stung by the leak controversy.”

Ideas — not excuses — for why he did sign off on the warrant for Rosen’s emails are offered by the Daily Beast, such as the pressure to investigate and prevent leaks by the administration and gaps in the DOJ’s guidelines:

But ultimately none of that fully explains why Holder would have signed off on such a controversial search warrant. Holder, his aides say, believes there may also be a cultural factor at the root of his decision. Prosecutors tend to have a somewhat insular mindset, not always able to see clearly beyond the walls of their cases. They are often dogged investigators, trained to vacuum up as much evidence as possible to sustain convictions in courts of law. That sometimes means taking maximum advantage of every law and procedural rule. It also can mean seeing every activity of those in their sights through a more sinister lens than may be justified.

Holder and the Justice Department have said they will be conducting investigations into both cases and are taking more proactive measures to restore the Justice Department’s reputation.

“While both of these cases were handled within the law and according to Justice Department guidelines,” Holder told The Daily Beast, “they are reminders of the unique role the news media plays in our democratic system, and signal that both our laws and guidelines need to be updated.”

“This is an opportunity for the department to consider how we strike the right balance between the interests of law enforcement and freedom of the press,” he said.

To start, Holder is inviting major media representatives to meet, perhaps this week, in an effort to get their thoughts and ideas about updating the department’s leak investigation guidelines.

“Look, Eric sees himself fundamentally as a progressive, not some Torquemada out to silence the press,” an unidentified friend said, referencing a famous chief inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition.

Read more of the featured on Holder’s state amid the scandals here.

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