Justice Department’s secret seizure of AP reporters’ and editors’ phone records

May 14, 2013

Attorney General Holder Testifies To House Appropriations Committee On Justice Dept. Budget

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has been criticized for federal investigations into the A.P. that included seizures of phone records. ; Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Federal investigators secretly seized the phone records from editors and reporters for the Associated Press. Two months of office, home, and cell phone records were taken without notice – the A.P. is calling the seizure “serious interference with A.P.’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.” Justice Department regulations require subpoenas for journalist records, and usually news organizations are given a chance to challenge these in court.

While investigators did have subpoenas for the A.P. records, the seizures were not disclosed – the Associated press was not informed until last Friday about the investigations. The A.P. and several other news organizations have spoken out against the Justice Department’s actions, saying that the widespread seizures violate the freedom of the press protected in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Should the federal government have the right to seized records from journalists? Was the nondisclosure in this incident a violation of the freedom of the press? How should these situations be handled in the future?

Josh Gerstein, White House Reporter for POLITICO

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