David Axelrod said Tuesday the government and media have to decide "how we deal with national security leaks and how we protect the freedom of the press and the freedom of reporters to operate," The Hill reported.
Speaking on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Axelrod said the naming of James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, as a co-conspirator for receiving information "is something that I find very disturbing."
Justice investigators have implicated Rosen after seizing his emails, examining his phone records and tracking his visits to the State Department.
Federal authorities say he may have acted as "an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator" in leaking a story that U.S. intelligence officials believed North Korea would test more nuclear weapons as a possible response to new U.N. sanctions.
Axelrod said journalists need a shield law to prevent the federal government from abusing the First Amendment.
"I don't think reporters should be considered criminals for doing their jobs and it's the job of reporters to uncover fact," he said.
"A judge ought to make that decision [about national security issues] because it's too easy for an administration to manipulate that."