The Justice Department obtained a portfolio of information about a Fox News correspondent's conversations and visits as part of an investigation into a possible leak, The Washington Post reported Monday -- in the latest example of the government seizing records of journalists.
This follows the charge that the department secretly obtained two months of phone records from Associated Press journalists as part of a separate leak probe. The department in this case, though, went a step further, as an FBI agent reportedly claimed there's evidence the journalist in question -- Fox News' James Rosen -- broke the law "at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator."
That detail would potentially send the case into unprecedented territory. No reporter has been prosecuted for seeking information. Such cases often target the suspected leaker, but not the journalist who published sensitive or classified information.
Michael Clemente, Fox News' executive vice president of news, defended Rosen in a statement issued Monday afternoon.
"We are outraged to learn today that James Rosen was named a criminal co-conspirator for simply doing his job as a reporter," Clemente said. "In fact, it is downright chilling. We will unequivocally defend his right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press."
The case has also caught the attention of Congress. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a statement Monday he was "very concerned" about the reports of "possible criminal prosecution for doing what appears to be normal news-gathering protected by the First Amendment."
He added: "The sort of reporting by James Rosen detailed in the report is the same sort of reporting that helped Mr. Rosen aggressively pursue questions about the Administration's handling of Benghazi. National security leaks are criminal and put American lives on the line, and federal prosecutors should, of course, vigorously investigate. But we expect that they do so within the bounds of the law, and that the investigations focus on the leakers within the government -- not on media organizations that have First Amendment protections and serve vital function in our democracy."
In the case involving Rosen, a government adviser was accused of leaking information after a 2009 story was published online which said North Korea planned to respond to looming U.N. sanctions with another nuclear test.
The Post reported that federal investigators, in pursuing the case, obtained email records from Rosen -- but also records of his visits to the State Department headquarters by tracking security-badge information. According to the article, a court affidavit said they used the badge records to log his visits as well as the movements of the adviser, Stephen Jim-Woo Kim.
An FBI agent said in the affidavit that the visits suggested a "face-to-face" meeting.
The documents reportedly show investigators seized two days of Rosen's personal emails, including exchanges with Kim, as well as two months of phone records from Kim's office.
The seizure of records from the AP offices also spanned two months.
AP President Gary Pruitt said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday that the AP records grab was not only unconstitutional but damaging to the operation of the press.
"It will hurt," he said. "We're already seeing some impact. Officials are saying they're reluctant to talk."