WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sen. Charles Grassley has asked Attorney General John Ashcroft for documents related to the government subpoena of an Associated Press reporter's telephone records.

The Justice Department subpoenaed the personal phone records of reporter John Solomon while trying to identify unidentified law enforcement officials who told the AP about a wiretap intercept of Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J.

The department received the records just 10 days after the May 4 AP story ran. Grassley, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the government must now justify the subpoena.

``I know you share with me the belief that the protection of the freedom of the press is a central pillar of our democracy,'' Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a letter to Ashcroft on Tuesday. ``There is no question that efforts by the Justice Department to subpoena the records of a reporter should be done with caution and only when the needs of justice are great.''

Grassley asked for a ``timeline of all relevant events regarding the subpoena, all related documents, and a listing of all individuals who were involved or advised in the decision to issue the subpoena, their title and a brief description of their role.''

Grassley requested that the Justice Department reveal whether any other information on Solomon was obtained and what technology was used to retrieve the telephone records.

Justice Department officials declined to comment on the letter.

A private group that defends government whistleblowers urged Congress to investigate the Justice Department for the subpoena last week.

The Justice Department's actions will have ``a profound and lasting `chilling' effect on the legitimate flow of information,'' the National Whistleblower Center said in a letter to the chairmen of the Senate and House judiciary committees.