With its latest leak indictment last week, the Department of Justice under Donald Trump is now on pace to break the previous record for prosecutions of journalists’ sources, just two and a half years into its administration. A new report, released for the first time today, shows just how dangerous such cases can be to journalists.
In 2013, the Justice Department launched a brazen attack on press freedom, issuing sweeping subpoenas for the phone records of the Associated Press and several of its reporters and editors as part of a leak investigation. At the time, the subpoenas were widely seen as a massive intrusion into newsgathering operations. Last month, we learned that they told only part of the story.
A new report obtained by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Freedom of the Press Foundation (where the authors work) under the Freedom of Information Act shows that the DOJ’s actions against the AP were broader than previously known, and that the DOJ considered subpoenaing the phone records of other news organizations, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and ABC News. Moreover, they reveal how narrowly the DOJ interprets the Media Guidelines, the agency’s internal rules for obtaining reporters’ data.