On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that the Justice Department under former President Donald Trump secretly seized phone records from four Times reporters from Jan. 14 to April 30, 2017, as part of a “leak” investigation.
This marks the third notification from the Biden Justice Department that the Trump administration authorized prosecutors in 2020 to seize metadata from reporters, without advance notification, in an effort to identify their confidential sources. It follows letters from the Justice Department in May to reporters at the Washington Post and CNN stating that they were also targeted by no-notice records demands.
Bruce D. Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, made the following statement:
“President Biden said recently that the seizure of reporters’ phone records is ‘simply, simply wrong,’ and it is. For his Justice Department, this is a crucial early test of its stated commitment to press freedom and transparency.
“It is urgent that we hear from the attorney general about all three Trump-era records seizures, including the purported reasoning behind them and the rationale for not notifying the journalists in advance. The goal must be to ensure that such abuses never occur again.”
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.
Photo by Peter E