US Gov’t Secretly Seized Journalist Phone Records

by Christopher Freeburn | May 14, 2013 10:09 am

white house 630[1]On Monday, the Associated Press (AP) published a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder criticizing the Justice Department for obtaining records of phone calls made to AP reporters and editors[2].

The AP said the government had disclosed subpoenas allowing it to obtain the phone data on Friday. More than 20 telephone lines belonging to AP staffers, editors and bureaus were probed by the government. The president of the AP, Gary Pruitt, called the subpoenas a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” against its First Amendment rights by the government and demanded that all data collected by federal agents be destroyed, CNN notes.

The Justice Department did not say why it obtained the records. However, the AP said the federal investigators were probing the leak of information regarding a failed 2012 bomb plot targeting aircraft heading to the U.S.

In a statement, the U.S. attorney’s office said that it valued freedom of the press and obtained the records only after exhausting other alternatives. The White House denied that it had any involvement in the investigation and referred questions to the Department of Justice.

One legal commentator noted that the Obama administration had been “aggressive” in pursuing leaks and that he had never seen an administration go so far to pursue them.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Congressional leaders have demanded that the Department of Justice explain its reasons for seeking the subpoenas.

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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