Prosecutors targeted the Associated Press in an attempt to learn who leaked information about the CIA and an apparent terrorist plot in Yemen.

Government secretly probed AP phone records
By Richard A. Serrano, Washington Bureau
May 13, 2013, 9:33 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors secretly obtained telephone records from more than 20 lines belonging to the Associated Press and its journalists in an attempt to learn who leaked information on how the CIA thwarted an apparent terrorist plot hatched in Yemen.

The Associated Press on Monday called the action a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into news gathering. The government subpoenaed records covering a two-month period in early 2012 from telephones in the wire service’s offices in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., as well as the homes and cellphones of at least five reporters and an editor.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the subpoenas “an unacceptable abuse of power.”

In the past, prosecutors have obtained telephone records from individual journalists, but subpoenas directed at so many telephone lines in a single leak investigation are unusual.

The records would not have included the contents of the calls, but would have shown the phone numbers of people or agencies that reporters called, and could have included numbers of those who called reporters and the length of the conversations.

Prosecutors are known to be investigating who tipped the Associated Press about a secret CIA operation that foiled a plot to bomb an airplane bound for the U.S., an attack that would have coincided with the one-year anniversary of the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

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