Attorney General Eric Holder has recused himself from an investigation into why the U.S. Justice Department secretly gathered records on phone calls made by reporters at the Associated Press.
The AP says Justice Department officials secretly gathered records on outgoing calls made by reporters and editors in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn. over two months last year.
The records include calls from staffers' personal and work phones.
Officials, including Holder, are not saying what case prompted them to seek the records.
The Bronx-born attorney general said Justice Department officials had to find out who leaked information to the AP, as a matter of national security.
"It put the American people at risk and trying to determine who was responsible for that, I think, required very aggressive action," said Holder.
There is a criminal investigation underway dealing with leaks to the AP for a story on the foiling of a terror plot originating in Yemen.
The White House says it had no knowledge of any investigation into the AP.