Miller: Intel leak in AP probe "embarrassing, bad" for CIA


(CBS News) Attorney General Eric Holder strongly defended the Justice Department's seizure of two-months-worth of Associated Press phone records on Tuesday, saying the leak of secret information to the AP created a national security threat.

The Justice Department obtained the phone records of the AP -- from April and May in 2012 -- in an effort to determine who leaked confidential information regarding a Saudi double agent who had infiltrated al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In a letter to Holder, Associated Press CEO Gary Pruitt said there is "no possible justification" for the gathering of AP records and the AP has suggested the investigation was likely linked to a May 7, 2012 report about the CIA foiling an al Qaeda plot, similar to the so-called underwear bomb plot in 2009, to blow up an airliner heading for the U.S.

CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former associate deputy Director of National Intelligence, said the leak was likely damaging to U.S. relations with Britain, an American ally involved in the mission.

Before the AP released the story, Miller said, "The government ask[ed] the AP to hold the story for a period of time and they do and then they go with the story." However, "even at the time they go with the story, the operation isn't finished."

"And, it's not all our operation," Miller added, noting the involvement of British intelligence teams. "The Brits were involved, there was an agent there ... the agent was out of the danger zone but there were other things, including his debriefing, other targets, people involved in try to blow aircraft out of the sky ... [the agent's] family hadn't been moved."

"From an intelligence standpoint and from an operations standpoint," Miller said, explaining that the CIA's British counterparts were likely saying, "'can we at least get through this without it all being in the newspapers?'"

"It was dangerous, it was embarrassing, it was bad," he added.

Holder: "I wasn't involved in AP secret phone probe"
Justice Department obtains two months of AP phone records in probe

The case is expected to raise new questions about the regulations and scope of subpoenas issued in investigations of news organizations and reporters, a matter that according to Miller "would be handled on the level of the attorney general." 

Holder said Tuesday that he had removed himself from the decision regarding the seizure of the AP records and that it was directed by Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole. Holder said he recused himself because he had been interviewed by the FBI in connection with the investigation. For more from Miller on the upcoming probe into the leak and the potential fallout for the U.S. government relations with the U.K. and the media, watch the video.