J-Groups: Justice Dept. "Dragnet" Threatens All Reporting on Government

Major news and journalism organizations, including the Society of Environmental Journalists, have condemned the Justice Department's seizure of Associated Press phone records as a threat to journalists' ability to report on government conduct.

"The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and major news organizations are calling on the U.S. Justice Department to return secretly subpoenaed phone records of more than 100 Associated Press journalists, to explain how such an egregious overreach could happen and outline what will be done to mitigate the damage.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, the Reporters Committee and 50 news organizations stated, 'In the 30 years since the Department issued guidelines governing its subpoena practice as it relates to phone records from journalists, none of us can remember an instance where such an overreaching dragnet for newsgathering materials was deployed by the Department, particularly without notice to the affected reporters or an opportunity to seek judicial review.'

The Reporters Committee letter explained that the Attorney General’s guidelines for subpoenas to the news media are very specific in requiring the approval of the attorney general; a narrow scope of inquiry; the need to exhaust all alternative means to obtaining the information; and the balancing of law enforcement needs against the public’s right to know."

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press press release of May 14, 2013.


SEJ Statement of May 14, 2013, on Justice Department Subpoena

Letter from news organizations to Justice Department

"House Will Grill Eric Holder on AP and IRS Wednesday" (Washington Post)

Source: RCFP, 05/15/2013