Published: Sun, June 06, 2021
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Justice Dept. to no longer seize reporters' records for leak probes

Justice Dept. to no longer seize reporters' records for leak probes

"While the Trump administration never informed The Times about the effort, the Biden administration continued waging the fight this year, telling a handful of top Times executives about it but imposing a gag order to shield it from public view", the report said, citing Times lawyer David McCraw.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Saturday that the White House was unaware of the gag order until Friday while reiterating the DOJ's commitment to reforming its tactics.

"While the White House does not intervene in criminal investigations, the issuing of subpoenas for the records of reporters in leak investigations is not consistent with the President's policy direction to the Department, and the Department of Justice has reconfirmed it will not be used moving forward", Psaki said in the statement. McCraw said he was allowed to speak about the matter after a federal court lifted the gag order, which had been in effect since March 3, according to the New York Times.

Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said the department notified the four reporters on Wednesday that it had obtained their phone call records a year ago and that it had sought to obtain non-content email records as part of 'a criminal investigation into the unauthorized disclosure of classified information'.

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.

"DOJ has now completed a review to determine all instances in which the Department had pending compulsory requests from reporters in leak investigations".

News of the seized phone records marks just the latest disclosure about the Trump administration's heavy-handed tactics toward leak investigations involving journalists.

The Times was not informed of the attempt by the Trump administration, according to the report. "It threatens to silence the sources we depend on to provide the public with essential information about what the government is doing".

Even so, it marked a startling reversal concerning a practice that has persisted across multiple presidential administrations. "Seizing the phone records of journalists profoundly undermines press freedom", Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement.

Holder's DOJ had changed guidelines for obtaining records during criminal leak probes, and added additional hurdles, but had not ended the practice. The subpoena sought the IP addresses and mobile phone identification information of readers who clicked on the article for a period of about 35 minutes on the day after the shooting. The prosecutor's email was included in a court filing by Gannett.

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