Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales knows the kind of dilemma the Department of Justice faced while investigating government leaks.
As George W. Bush’s Attorney General, Gonzales said he faced a similar choices while prosecuting national security leaks during his time in the Department of Justice.
“There was at least one occasion in which we were engaged in a very serious leak investigation and we had to make some very difficult choices about whether or not to move forward going after the reporters in order to try to find out where the source of the leak is,” Gonzales said Wednesday.
Gonzales joined the Morning Joe panel to shed light on the recent news that the Department of Justice secretly seized two months of Associated Press reporter phone records.
But Gonzales said he chose not to subpoena the reporters involved at that time: “We ultimately decided not to move forward.”
Gonzales did subpoena journalists during his time as Attorney General; he was particularly criticized for subpoenaing San Francisco Chronicle journalists who used leaked grand jury transcripts for a story on steroid use in baseball. He also famously hinted that he would prosecute journalists for espionage for printing national security information.
Gonzales said subpoenaing a reporter is a last ditch effort “where they have exhausted all means.”
But as Talking Points Memo’s Brian Beutler points out, the DOJ under Gonzales actually skipped protocol altogether while prosecuting leaks, convincing telephone companies to disclose phone records without a subpoena.
He also added that the Department of Justice would likely give the White House a “heads up” over a such a move, because of the bad press it would likely incur. The White House has denied knowing about secret subpoena of Associated Press phone records.
Watch the interview below.