The DOJ investigation of AP is a serious threat to Freedom of the Press

The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press. The news cooperative filed a letter of protest on Monday calling the broad search of records “unprecedented.”

Here is a link to the article that started it all: “US: CIA thwarts new al-Qaida underwear bomb plot

“Today the Associated Press reported that the Department of Justice has collected the telephone calling records of many of its reporters and editors. By obtaining these records, the DOJ has struck a terrible blow against the freedom of the press and the ability of reporters to investigate and report the news. As James Madison understood, “a popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or tragedy, or perhaps both.” AP had it right when it told Attorney General Holder that it was “a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.”

The DOJ’s decision to dive deep into these call records also shows the growing need to update our privacy laws to eliminate the outmoded Third Party Doctrine and to recognize that datamining has now reached the point where it no longer makes sense to treat calling records and other metadata related to our communications as if they aren’t fully protected by the Constitution.”  – EFF

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ACLU/AP Press Release:

NEW YORK – The Department of Justice secretly obtained two months’ worth of phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors, according to an AP story.

The following statement can be attributed to Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office:

“The media’s purpose is to keep the public informed and it should be free to do so without the threat of unwarranted surveillance. The Attorney General must explain the Justice Department’s actions to the public so that we can make sure this kind of press intimidation does not happen again.”

The following statement can be attributed to Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project:

“Obtaining a broad range of telephone records in order to ferret out a government leaker is an unacceptable abuse of power. Freedom of the press is a pillar of our democracy, and that freedom often depends on confidential communications between reporters and their sources. – ACLU

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“In a letter of protest sent to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday, AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt said the government sought and obtained information far beyond anything that could be justified by any specific investigation. He demanded the return of the phone records and destruction of all copies.

“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. 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 AP’s newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know,” Pruitt said.”Yahoo News

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