Government Flips on Seizure of Reporters' Phone Records

It won't happen again, Justice Department says after Biden intervenes
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 5, 2021 2:26 PM CDT
Government Flips on Seizure of Reporters' Phone Records
FILE - In this May 14, 2013, file photo, the Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington is photographed early in the morning. CNN says the Trump administration Justice Department secretly obtained the 2017 phone records of CNN correspondent Barbara Starr.   (AP Photo/J. David Ake, File)

After President Biden called the practice "simply wrong," the Justice Department announced Saturday that it will stop secretly seizing the records of reporters. The New York Times reported this week that it was informed by the administration this week that the phone records of four reporters were pulled as part of a leak investigation. The Times also said its executives had been under a gag order that began during the Trump administration over a secret legal fight over reporters' emails, Axios reports. "No one at the White House was aware of the gag order until Friday night," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Saturday. She said using subpoenas to obtain reporters' records in leak investigations "is not consistent with the president's policy direction to the department."

That's what the Justice Department said in a statement about changing what it called a longstanding practice to be "consistent with the president's direction," per CNN. From now on, the department "will not seek compulsory legal process" to learn information about reporters' sources "from members of the news media doing their jobs," a spokesman said. Reporters from CNN, the Washington Post, and other outlets had faced the same tactics. The Times reporters involved are Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eric Lichtblau, and Michael Schmidt. The statement didn't rule out continuing leak investigations without confiscating reporters' records, per the AP. In addition, no formal rules were changed, so a future administration could resume the practice. (More press leaks stories.)

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