Attorney General Signs New Rules to Limit Access to Journalists’ Records


Coverage Type: reporting
Location:
Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 20530-0001, United States

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr, who drew fire last spring over the Justice Department’s aggressive tactics for secretly obtaining reporters’ phone logs and e-mails as part of leak investigations, on Feb 21 signed new guidelines narrowing the circumstances in which law enforcement officials may obtain journalists’ records.

The rules, which will be published in the Federal Register soon, carry out a set of changes that AG Holder announced last July and described in a six-page report at the time. A preamble described the revisions as intended to ensure that the department “strikes the proper balance among several vital interests,” like protecting national security and “safeguarding the essential role of the free press in fostering government accountability and an open society.” The rules also address a law forbidding search warrants for journalists’ work materials, except when the reporter is a criminal suspect. It says that the exception cannot be invoked for conduct based on “ordinary news-gathering activities.” Associated Press President and CEO Gary Pruitt issued a statement cautiously commending the Justice Department's new press regulations, saying they should provide "significantly greater protection for journalists."

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