|NMU||WASHINGTON, D.C.||Confidentiality/Privilege||Jul 17, 2002|
Senator, congressman demand explanation for detention of reporter
- Sen. Charles Grassley and Rep. Dave Weldon want Secretary of State Colin Powell to explain why a National Review reporter was detained and questioned for a half-hour about a classified cable.
A senator and congressman are demanding an explanation from Secretary of State Colin Powell for the detention and questioning of a National Review reporter after a press briefing.
In letter to Powell dated July 16, Sen. Charles E. Grassley and Rep. Dave Weldon ask for a full accounting of how and why security guards at the State Department detained reporter Joel Mowbray on July 12.
“We have concerns that government agencies not take inappropriate actions that cast a shadow over our free press,” the letter says.
“We are troubled that the actions of State Department security officials effectively chilled the work of the media and the whistleblowers who are so vital to exposing problems in our government.”
Guards and a federal agent detained Mowbray for 30 minutes and demanded that he answer questions about his reporting on a classified cable concerning the Saudi visa-issuing system. They wanted to know who gave him the confidential cable, Mowbray said.
Grassley (R-Iowa), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Weldon (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Civil Service, want Powell to explain who made the decision to detain and question Mowbray, to name the officials involved and to state whether they were armed.
Grassley and Weldon also want to know the legal basis for the questioning, why Mowbray was singled out when other journalists had reported the contents of the classified cable, and why the cable was classified in the first place.
“We have seen too often that documents are routinely, and unnecessarily, classified as confidential or above — particularly in cases where the information does not involve national security but instead is embarrassing to a government agency,” their letter says.
Finally, Grassley and Weldon ask for the State Department’s policy on detaining and questioning reporters regarding sources and information, who decides when to do so and how often it has been done in the last five years. They said that they want an answer in 14 days.
© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press