The office of U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White said in an August 20 letter that the government obtained records of calls made to and from reporter John Solomon’s home from May 2 to May 7.
During that time, Solomon wrote a story that quoted unidentified law enforcement personnel as saying Torricelli had been heard on a 1996 federal wiretap talking to a relative of a suspected organized crime figure in Chicago.
Solomon’s story said prosecutors were re-examining that wiretap and other information during an investigation of alleged illegal donations to Torricelli’s 1996 Senate campaign.
Torricelli is accused of stretching campaign finance laws and accepting unreported gifts.
Law enforcement officials are prohibited from disclosing information obtained under federal wiretaps, and can face criminal penalties for doing so.
AP President and CEO Louis Boccardi said his organization is “outraged” by the move and “will seek any available legal redress” for the Justice Department’s move.
“Their actions fly in the face of long-standing policy that recognizes what a serious step it is to go after a reporter’s phone records,” Boccardi said. “We hope that this secret assault on the press is not an indication of the Bush administration’s attitude toward a press free of government interference.”
Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson approved the subpoena of Solomon’s records, according to the AP. Attorney General John Ashcroft has recused himself from the Torricelli investigation.
So far, the Justice Department and White’s office have declined to comment on the subpoenas.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that prosecutors are seeking records from bookstores in several states for purchases made by Torricelli and others. An attorney for one of the bookstores told the Post that prosecutors requested information dating back to 1995.