Justice admits FBI subpoenas were inappropriate
- A Justice Department spokesman said that the FBI agent who told reporters they were going to be subpoenaed in a criminal case against a computer hacker had not followed the proper procedures.
Oct. 7, 2003 — A Justice Department spokesman said Monday that an FBI agent who had notified a number of journalists to preserve notes pending the issuance of subpoenas did not follow proper procedures, according to an Associated Press report. The journalists had all talked to or written about a hacker who had illegally gained access to the computer system of The New York Times and is awaiting trial on charges stemming from his actions.
“There are very few instances in which media subpoenas are granted,” Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said, according to the report. “In this case, as in any case, we expect the investigators to exhaust all other avenues before they seek approval for any subpoena or any formal requests for records.” Subpoenas of journalists, which must be approved by the Attorney General or his designee, are to be used only as a last resort, Corallo said.
In addition, the guidelines encourage negotiation with the news media to avoid unnecessary conflicts.
The AP quoted another unnamed Justice official as saying that the FBI agent did not notify the U.S. attorney in New York and did not go through proper channels at the Justice Department.
© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press