WASHINGTON — Attorney General Dick Thornburgh is under fire for saying that investigators may subpoena telephone records of reporters who have been leaked government information. ``While we feel strongly about leaks, forcing reporters to disclose their sources is anathema to the First Amendment,'' Reps. Don Edwards, (D) of California, and Charles Schumer, (D) of New York, said Aug. 21 in a letter to Mr. Thornburgh.
Thornburgh's contention Aug. 20 on NBC-TV's ``Meet the Press'' that Supreme Court actions indicate such a search would be permitted under the First Amendment also drew criticism from Jane Kirtley, executive director of the Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press.
The Justice Department has been investigating a news leak this spring that led to a CBS News report on an FBI investigation involving Rep. William Gray III (D) of Pennsylvania.
As stories about Representative Gray abounded in the midst of the House party leadership election, the Justice Department took the unusual step of announcing that he was not the subject of an investigation.
Gray was elected House Democratic whip.
A source said on Aug. 21 that the Justice Department was considering subpoenaing the telephone records of CBS reporter Rita Braver, who first reported the story.
Representative Edwards, chairman of the subcommittee on civil and constitutional rights, and Representative Schumer, who chairs the subcommittee on criminal justice, also denounced the department's plan to prosecute government officials for leaking information.
``You are invoking the statute on theft of government property which really has nothing to do with leaks,'' Edwards and Schumer wrote.
The revision of the department's 11-year-old policy, intended to protect whistle-blowers and reporters from prosecution, was announced Aug. 2 in testimony submitted to Congress.