(By Deutsche Welle) The US Department of Justice secretly seized two months of telephone records from the Associated Press (AP) in 2012. This comes amid a crackdown by the Obama administration on whistleblowers and leaks.
AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt has accused the Justice Department of infringing on the freedom of the press, after the department revealed that it had seized records from more than 20 separate AP phone lines.
“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of telephone communications of the Associated Press and its reporters,” Pruitt wrote in a letter addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday (13.05.2013).
“These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to the AP’s newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know,” Pruitt went on to say.
The records seized by the Justice Department cover the period of April and May 2012, listing outgoing calls from the work and personal phone numbers of AP reporters. AP offices in New York, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Connecticut were affected by the records seizures.
It’s unclear whether the government also obtained records of incoming calls and how many journalists were affected, according to the AP. More than 100 journalists work in the offices where records were targeted.
Pruitt said the Justice Department informed the AP of the seizures in a letter received on Friday. But the notification came after the subpoena had already been issued and the phone records seized. That means the AP had no chance to challenge the Justice Department’s move.
“To be secretly seizing two months of phone records for reporters and editors at the AP is just a serious interference with First Amendment, freedom of the press, and constitutional rights that are enshrined in our constitution,” Jesselyn Radack, the national security and human rights director at the Government Accountability Project, told DW.