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

U.S. & World

FILE – In this June 28, 2018, file photo, a police officer stands outside The New York Times building in New York. The Trump Justice Department secretly obtained the phone records of four New York Times journalists as part of a leak investigation, the newspaper said Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department said Saturday that it no longer will secretly obtain reporters’ records during leak investigations, a policy shift that abandons a practice decried by news organizations and press freedom groups.

The reversal follows a pledge last month by President Joe Biden, who had said it was “simply, simply wrong” to seize journalists’ records and that his Justice Department would halt the practice.

The tactic was used by Democratic and Republican administrations alike in an effort to identify sources who revealed classified information to journalists. The policy had received renewed scrutiny over the past month as Justice Department officials had alerted reporters at three different news organizations — The Washington Post, CNN and The New York Times — that their phone records had been obtained.

“Going forward, consistent with the President’s direction, this Department of Justice — in a change to its longstanding practice — will not seek compulsory legal process in leak investigations to obtain source information from members of the news media doing their jobs,” department spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement.

He added that the “department strongly values a free press, protecting First Amendment values, and is committed to taking all appropriate steps to ensure the independence of journalists.”

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