DOJ releases new rules about obtaining media orgs’ records

The New York Times | Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Justice Friday released new rules for how it will try to obtain records from journalists in the future. They “create a presumption that prosecutors generally will provide advance notice to the news media when seeking to obtain their communications records,” Charlie Savage reports.

The Justice Department didn’t win rave reviews last May, when news broke it had seized AP phone records without notifying the organization.

These new regulations should provide significantly greater protection for journalists,” AP CEO and President Gary Pruitt told AP’s Pete Yost. “We are hopeful that these regulations will be enforced as intended and that Congress will pass a federal shield law to further protect journalists.”

University of Minnesota professor Jane Kirtley “was troubled that there remain instances under the new rules in which the government might not notify news organizations of plans to obtain records, such as when the government believes notice would threaten national security,” Yost writes.

“It seems that in times of crisis, there’s a tendency to see everything as a major national security breach,” she said. “Obviously the intelligence community is always going to represent security breaches as a big deal. My question is, are they all created equal? Do they all rise to the level of severity to justify what I see as an intrusion into press independence?”

The rules have been promised for a while and sprang in part from conversations DOJ had with representatives from news organizations, though some boycotted the meetings because they were off-the-record.

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