Tuesday, 28 September, 2021

Justice Dept. says it'll no longer seize reporters' records

Biden's pledge on media freedom may be easier said than done Justice Dept. Says It'll No Longer Seize Reporters' Records
Deanna Wagner | 05 June, 2021, 20:56

Last month, Biden said he would not allow his Justice Department to seize the phone or email records of reporters, saying any such move would be "simply wrong".

The Justice Department (DOJ) on Saturday said it will no longer secretly obtain reporters' records during investigations into leaks of classified information, after the New York Times revealed that it had been the subject of a gag order amid a court fight over efforts to obtain its reporters' email records.

It is the third instance over the last month in which a news media organization has disclosed that federal authorities seized the records of its journalists in an effort to identify sources leaking national security information during President Donald Trump's administration.

The Justice Department did not say which article was being investigated. Lichtblau has since left the newspaper.

The legal battle to gain access to the email logs of four of the journalists started in the last weeks of Trump's presidency and sought to reveal reporters' sources, the Times said.

The journalists are neither the subjects nor the targets of the investigation, Coley said. Though Biden's comments in an interview were not immediately accompanied by any change in policy, a pair of statements from the White House and Justice Department on Saturday signaled an official turnabout from an investigative tactic that has persisted for years.

Memorial growing after remains of 215 children found at residential school site
The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission has records of at least 51 children dying at the school between 1914 and 1963. It was operated by the Catholic church on behalf of the Canadian government from 1890 to 1969.

The Washington Post disclosed last month that the Justice Department had previous year obtained phone records belonging to three of its journalists who covered the investigation into 2016 Russian election interference and CNN later revealed that the department had seized phone records of its Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

The newspaper said the timing of the seized records and the reporters involved in the investigation suggest that the leak probe involved an April 22, 2017, Times report about former FBI Director James Comey's handling of different investigations during the 2016 election. "Clearly, Google did the right thing, but it should never have come to this", New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet told the newspaper, which reported that the gag order prevented executives from telling him about the issue.

The practice of using court orders to obtain records has been used by multiple administrations, both Republican and Democrat, as they sought to root out the sources of leaked classified information to the media.

The Trump administration announced a crackdown on leaks in 2017 as part of an aggressive stance.

After blowback, Holder announced a revised set of guidelines for leak investigations, including requiring the authorization of the highest levels of the department before subpoenas for news media records could be issued.