First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Friday, July 12, 2013

DOJ's New Guidelines for Snooping on Reporters

A few hours ago, the US Department of Justice issued its revised report on news media policies.  The report comes after recent revelations that the DOJ was spying on reporters and after closed door meetings between Attorney General Eric Holder and media advocates.

A few bullet points and highlights from the Report:
  • "It remains the Department's policy that members of the news media will not be subject to prosecution based solely on newsgathering activity."  
  • DOJ "views the use of tools to seek evidence from or involving the news media as an extraordinary measure ... [and] a last resort."
  • The Administration will continue to support efforts to pass a federal reporter's shield law that would provide protection for the media from having to reveal sources and unpublished material.
  • DOJ will give notice to the media before seeking access to their records "in all but the most exceptional cases," and such cases could include "a clear and substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation."
  • It will further limit the already very limited circumstances where the government can search newsrooms.
  • There is a vague reference to double-checking that there really is a potential harm before "media-related records" are sought in "investigations of unauthorized disclosures of national defense information."
BUT, there are ironies and problems:
  1. The DOJ's brazen spying on reporters came during the administration of President Obama, a former professor of constitutional law.
  2. The secret investigation of reporters may never have come to light had it not been for ... good investigative journalism.
  3. When discussing the issues that led to this Report, Attorney General Holder wanted to have the discussion behind closed doors, rather than on the record before the media.
  4. The new policy leaves open a big loophole for the Attorney General to forgo notice if he or she determines that telling the media about the investigation would interfere with the investigation of the media. Sound circular?  I think so too.
  5. A new pseudo-independent "News Media Review Committee" will be formed to advise the Attorney General, but the Committee is composed entirely of DOJ officials.
  6. When the DOJ does get its hands on the media's "communications records" it promises to keep them confidential.  Hopefully, another Edward Snowden type won't be getting those records.

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