Nightly News   |  May 26, 2013

The chilling impact of Obama’s crackdown on leaks

The Obama administration’s crackdown on leaks could have chilling implications for the journalists who cover the White House. NBC’s Michael Isikoff reports.

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>>> there was no escape for the president from his critics today especially those hammering the administration for its crackdown on leaks to the media. new york senator charles schumer today says he's organizing a group of eight senators to work on setting rules on how media leaks about government secrets are investigated. more from nbc's michael isikoff .

>> reporter: journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.

>> reporter: that was the president last week announcing the justice department will institute internal guidelines to the news media. after the government secretly seized the phone records of ap reporters and the private e-mails of after fox news journalist. new questions today about the role of attorney general eric holder , hiding the review.

>> you cannot investigate yourself. i think it is a total conflict of interest.

>> reporter: on friday the justice department confirmed an be in report that holder had personally approved a 2010 sealed search warrant for fox news reporter james rosen 's e-mails. in court papers an fbi agent says rosen asked, solicited and encouraged a source to give him sensitive information about north korea and that he was a possible co-conspirator for violations of the espionage act .

>> what the public must never condone is efforts to shut down reporters in asking the questions they need to ask.

>> this amounts to a campaign against journalism in my mind.

>> reporter: a justice official says a search of rosen 's e-mails followed extensive deliberations within the department and that a federal judge made an independent finding that probable cause existed. past government efforts to go after leakers have sometimes backfired, most notably with the pentagon papers and watergate in the '70s. bob woodward 's meeting with deep throat in a parking garage made for cinema drama. but today technology has changed the game.

>> it is easier to track these leaks now than it used to be. if you e-mail someone, if you call on your cell phone it is much easier to establish that then than if you leave a flower pot on your stoop and go meet in a basement.

>> reporter: there could be more to come. sources familiar with the case tell nbc news that prosecutors may be closing in on another suspected leaker who allegedly provided classified information to "the new york times" about the computer virus used to disrupt the iranian nuclear program .

>> michael isikoff at our washington newsroom, thank you.