Holder plan for off-the-record meetings hits snag

WASHINGTON (AP) — A plan by Attorney General Eric Holder to hold meetings with news organizations about guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters has run into snags over the terms of discussions.

The Justice Department wants the meetings to be off the record. The Associated Press 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.

The review of the guidelines called for last week by President Barack Obama come as the Justice Department deals with an outcry over its secret gathering of AP reporters’ phone records and the emails of a Fox News journalist.

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.

New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson said in a statement: “It 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.”

The planned meetings are to take place over the coming weeks. The department said Holder plans to engage with news media organizations, including print media, wire services, radio, television, online media and news and trade associations. Discussions are to include news media executives and general counsels as well as government experts in intelligence and investigative agencies.

The initial meetings over the next two days are to be with several Washington bureau chiefs of national news organizations.

Obama has asked Holder to report to him on any recommended policy changes by July 12.

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