Attorney General Eric Holder personally signed off on the warrant that allowed the Justice Department to search Fox News reporter James Rosen's personal email, NBC News' Michael Isikoff reported Thursday.
The report places Holder at the center of one of the most controversial clashes between the press and the government in recent memory. The warrant he approved named Rosen as a "co-conspirator" in a leak investigation, causing many to warn that the Justice Department was potentially criminalizing journalism. The warrant also approved the tracking of Rosen's movements in and out of the State Department, as well as his communications with his source, Stephen Kim.
The Justice Department later said that it did not intend to press any charges against Rosen.
The attorney general is usually required to approve requests to search journalists' materials, but that rule does not extend to email records.
(Holder recused himself from the investigation into the Associated Press, meaning that he absolved himself of that responsibility.) Holder has previously said that he was not sure how many times he had authorized the search of journalists' records.
The revelation came hours after President Obama said in a speech that he was concerned about the potential implications of the Fox News and AP investigations. Obama said that Holder would be reviewing the department's rules for investigations that involve reporters.
Fox News chief Roger Ailes responded to the Justice Department's investigation on Thursday, sending a staff memo condemning the Obama administration's choices.
"We reject the government’s efforts to criminalize the pursuit of investigative journalism and falsely characterize a Fox News reporter to a Federal judge as a “co-conspirator” in a crime," Ailes wrote. "I know how concerned you are because so many of you have asked me: why should the government make me afraid to use a work phone or email account to gather news or even call a friend or family member? Well, they shouldn’t have done it."
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