Biden's pledge on media freedom may be easier said than done

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.

WASHINGTON — The Trump Justice Department secretly obtained the phone records of four New York Times reporters as part of a leak investigation, the newspaper reported Wednesday.

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 for national security stories published during President Donald Trump’s administration.

President Joe Biden has said he would not allow the Justice Department to continue the practice of obtaining reporters’ records, calling it “simply, simply wrong.”

Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said the department notified the four reporters on Wednesday that it had obtained their phone toll records last year 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 newspaper said the records that were seized covered a nearly four-month period in 2017 and belonged to reporters Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eric Lichtblau and Michael S. Schmidt. Lichtblau has since left the newspaper.

The journalists are neither the subjects nor the targets of the investigation, Coley said.

“Forthcoming annual public reports from the Department covering 2019 and 2020 will indicate that members of the news media have now been notified in every instance in this period in which their records were sought or obtained in such circumstances,” Coley said.

The Justice Department did not disclose which article it was investigating, according to the newspaper.

But the period covered by the phone record seizure encompasses an April 2017 story from the four journalists that described the decision-making of then-FBI Director James Comey during the conclusion of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and that referenced a classified document obtained by Russian hackers.

Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement published by the newspaper that seizing reporters’ phone records “profoundly undermines press freedom.

“It threatens to silence the sources we depend on to provide the public with essential information about what the government is doing,” Baquet said.

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

After those disclosures, Biden told a reporter he would not allow the Justice Department to persist in obtaining reporter phone records. That would mark a break from Democratic and Republican predecessors alike, whose administrations have seized reporter call logs in an effort to identify sources of classified information.

The Justice Department under former Attorney General Eric Holder announced revised guidelines for leak investigations, requiring additional levels of review before a journalist could be subpoenaed — though it did not end the practice.

Jeff Sessions, who served as Trump’s first attorney general, announced in 2017 an aggressive government crackdown on leaks.

(9) comments

gjthuro

Oh no not that ...the sky is falling again for the ultra lefty press

DickD

Only when you have something to hide do you worry about what a reporter might say in print.

shiftless88

This is bad. Really bad.

bosco

Yessir, it ranks right up there with Obama's IRS targeting conservative political action groups and Obama's FBI obtaining false FISA warrants to spy on a presidential candidate and American citizens. There's a reason they call DC the swamp and the politicians excel at proving it - and the people keep electing swamp dwellers.

olefool

Bosco, or whatever: False equivalencies... not even close... what's worse, trying to protect democracy or keeping your sorry arse out of the penitentiary? Stop trying to deflect your heroes malfeasance and criminality,

shiftless88

Ah; the old IRS scandal canard. Clearly you only read the initial headlines and skip the follow up: "In late September 2017, an exhaustive report by the Treasury Department's inspector general found that from 2004 to 2013, the IRS used both conservative and liberal keywords to choose targets for further scrutiny, blunting claims that the issue had been an Obama-era partisan scandal.[2][3] The 115 page report confirmed the findings of the prior 2013 report that some conservative organizations had been unfairly targeted, but also found that the pattern of misconduct had been ongoing since 2004 and was non-partisan in nature."

pdl603

You mean like Obama jailing a Fox reporter?

Awteam2021

Which Fox reporter was that?

public-redux

Fox has reporters?

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