Eric Holder is desperately trying to generate support within the mainstream media, it doesn’t seem to be working very well. The attorney general who is under suspicion for lying to congress about the James Rosen-Fox News Scandal has suggested a meeting with the press to explain his position about pres-related search warrants and the SHIELD law.

Yesterday, members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder explaining they are worried he committed perjury when he testified before Congress on May 15. That day, Holder testified he had nothing to do with “the potential prosecution of the press for disclosure of material.” Nine days later, a Department of Justice release demonstrated he personally signed off on a search warrant which says that Rosen was under investigation for violating the 1917 Espionage Act.  The court document stated that Rosen may be charged with the crime itself or aiding and abetting, a direct contradiction to what Holder said to Congress?

Barack Obama directed the attorney general to review guidelines for
investigations involving leaks to the media and said Holder would be
meeting with journalists to get their views. A Justice Department official said yesterday these sessions (held today and tomorrow) would be off the record to encourage a full exchange of ideas.

Some major press organizations “aren’t buying it.”

Almost immediately after the DOJ announced the invitations New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson issued a statement saying in part: 

isn’t appropriate for us to attend an off the record meeting with the
attorney general. Our Washington bureau is aggressively covering the
department’s handling of leak investigations at this time.”

Abramson said the Times would attend if the off the record restrictions are lifted.

The Associated Press, who was the first announced victim of the DOJ overreach issued a statement saying it wants any meeting to be on the record, meaning it could be the subject of news stories. And The New York Times said it won’t attend because of the department’s off-the-record ground rules.

AP media relations manager Erin Madigan White said that if the session is not on the record, the news cooperative will offer its views in an open letter on how Justice Department regulations should be updated.

If the AP’s meeting with the attorney general is on the record, AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll will attend, White said. She said AP expects its attorneys to be included in any planned meetings between the attorney general’s office and media lawyers on the legal specifics.

Like the New York Times and the
Associated Press, CNN will decline the invitation for an off-the-record
meeting. A CNN spokesperson says if the meeting with the attorney
general is on the record, CNN would plan to participate.

Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief, Ryan Grim, also said he will
not attend unless the meeting is on the record. “A conversation
specifically about the freedom of the press should be an open one. We
have a responsibility not to betray that,” Grim told CNN.

But Politico often seen as a mouthpiece for this White House posted an item on its website saying editor-in-chief John Harris plans to attend one of the meetings with Holder.

editor-in-chief, I routinely have off-the-record conversations with
people who have questions or grievances about our coverage or our
newsgathering practices,” Harris said in the Politico item. “I feel
anyone – whether an official or ordinary reader – should be able to have
an unguarded conversation with someone in a position of accountability
for a news organization when there is good reason.”

Fox was invited to meet up with Holder on Friday but  Executive Vice President Michael Clemente says they will be among those media outlets not attending meetings with Attorney General Eric Holder if it is “off the record.”

It is normal for interviews/meetings to be “off the record,” (yes I have participated in these kinds of meetings) and they have their value depending on the circumstances. There are various levels of secrecy that a reporter may be asked by a source to keep:

  • “Unattributable”:  Reporter can use the information but cant tell where it came from. 
  • “Off-the-record”: the information is provided to inform or provide a confidential explanation, but both the name of the source and the information provided cannot be used
  • “Deep background”  (Remember Woodward and Bernstein’s Deep Throat ? )  “Deep background” means that the information may not be included in the article but is used by the journalist to confirm what’s already known, or to act as a guide to other leads or sources. 

As this is a conversation about the Freedom of the Press, conducted by an attorney general who has not only attacked that freedom but lied to congress trying to cover it up it would be disingenuous for “the most transparent administration in history” to hold these meetings “off the record.” This is a public issue that voters need to hear discussed.