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Justice Department defends journalist email search

Attorney General Eric Holder testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the United States Department of Justice"
Attorney General Eric Holder testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the United States Department of Justice"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Justice Department said on Friday that senior officials including Attorney General Eric Holder vetted a decision to search an email account belonging to a Fox News reporter whose story on North Korea prompted a leak investigation.

In a statement emailed to Reuters, the department said the search warrant for the reporter's email account followed all laws and policies and won the independent approval of a federal magistrate judge.

The May 2010 search warrant for a Google email account belonging to James Rosen was revealed on Monday by The Washington Post and drew immediate concern from journalists because it describes Rosen as a suspected "co-conspirator" in the leak of secret government information.

Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes said in a statement on Thursday that the Obama administration was attempting to intimidate Fox News and its employees.

Rosen's alleged source, former State Department analyst Stephen Kim, is scheduled to go to trial as soon as next year on charges that he violated an anti-espionage law. Rosen was not charged.

Prompted by the Rosen search and a separate seizure of Associated Press phone records, President Barack Obama said on Thursday that Holder would begin a new review of Justice Department procedures related to media records.

The latest Justice Department statement said the highest levels of the department were involved in the search warrant used in Kim's case. The process included discussions Holder took part in, according to the statement.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay reviewed and issued the search warrant at the department's request.

(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Eric Walsh and Jim Loney)

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