WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday defended the Justice Department’s secret examination of Associated Press phone records though he declared he had played no role in it, saying it was justified as part of an investigation into a grave national security leak.

The government’s wide-ranging information gathering from the news cooperative has created a bipartisan political headache for President Barack Obama, with prominent Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill expressing outrage, along with press freedom groups.

The government obtained the records from April and May of 2012 for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists, including main offices. AP’s top executive called the action a massive and unprecedented intrusion into how news organizations do their work.

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