Updated 11:20 p.m.
The U.S. Justice Department is defending its review of two months of phone records for a group of reporters and editors at the Associated Press, which called the government action "a massive and unprecedented intrusion" into newsgathering.
The news agency publicly disclosed the Justice Department's review of the phone records in a protest letter to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. "There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters," Gary Pruitt, president and chief executive officer of the AP, wrote.
"That the Department undertook this unprecedented step without providing any notice to the AP, and without taking any steps to narrow the scope of its subpoenas to matters actually relevant to an ongoing investigation, is particularly troubling," Pruitt said. Prosecutors collected records on 20 separate phone lines.
A statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia did not reveal the nature of the investigation. The Justice Department, however, has previously disclosed that the Maryland and District of Columbia U.S. attorneys are investigating, among other national security matters, the leak of information that provided the substance of an Associated Press story, published in May 2012, about an alleged terrorist plot that was thwarted.
Members of Congress on Wednesday will get a chance to question Holder about the rare move to subpoena newspaper reporters' phone records. Holder is scheduled to testify at the House Judiciary Committee for an oversight hearing.