TODAY

TODAY   |  May 14, 2013

AP: DOJ secretly obtained journalists’ phone records

The Associated Press has revealed that it’s been notified by the Justice Department that investigators obtained records on more than 20 phone lines used by AP reporters and editors last April and May. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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>>> new developments this morning on several developing scandals facing the obama administration. the latest, the justice department secretly obtaining phone records of associated press reporters and editors. justice correspondent, pete williams has details on that. welcome to new york .

>> thank you. members of both parties are saying they want to know more about this unusually broad government effort. the ap disclosed the tracking itself reporting federal investigators were tracking phone numbers of two dozen of its journalists.

>> reporter: the ap has been notified by justice department it was secretly recording phone lines of two dozen editors. it doesn't say why but it was to see who leaked details of a terror plot.

>> officials tell us cia thwarted an al qaeda plot in yemen to detonate a bomb of a powerful explosive.

>> reporter: at the time, fbi director robert mueller strongly condemned the atlantic.

>> tlantic like this is ex-splo -- a leak like this is explosive.

>> reporter: they got the home numbers and cell phone numbers and main numbers used by the u.s. house of representatives . there was no actual listening in on calls, the ap says. ap gary pruitt says it's serious. evacuates for journalists agree.

>> the fact it was so broad, so many phone lines over a two month period and they made no attempt to negotiate to get any kind of information beforehand is outrageous.

>> reporter: a former cia spokesman said leak investigations are demanding but he's surprised by the scope of this one.

>> it tells me this is a very significant case in the government's eyes and willing to take the heat they will take from the news media in order to track down the leakers.

>> the obama administration has been more aggressive tracking down leaks than any previous one. a spokesman in washington doing the investigation said prosecutors considered alternatives before subpoenaing the records and believe its actions strike a balance between protecting press freedoms and administering the criminal laws.