U.S. media say the Trump administration had secretly tried to obtain recordings of journalists as part of the leaked investigations.
The U.S. Department of Justice has said it will stop obtaining secret journalists’ records in leak investigations, following recent revelations that the administration of former President Donald Trump had secretly obtained phone and email records. of journalists.
In a statement on Saturday, Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said that “in a change to its long-standing practice,” the department will not seek a mandatory legal process in leak investigations to obtain information from the source of the members of the media who do their job. “
“The department strongly values the free press, protecting the values of the First Amendment, and is committed to taking all appropriate steps to ensure the independence of journalists,” Coley said.
The announcement comes after U.S. media CNN and The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration had secretly tried to get the phone records of some of its journalists for the work they did in 2017.
The New York Times on Friday also reported that the Justice Department with Trump and current U.S. President Joe Biden waged “a secret legal battle to obtain the email records of four New York Times journalists.” including a gag order to executives.
The legal battle to access the email records of four of the journalists began in the final weeks of Trump’s presidency and tried to reveal sources from journalists, the newspaper said.
“Although the Trump administration never informed The Times about the effort, the Biden administration continued the fight this year, explaining it to a handful of top Times executives, but imposing a gag order to protect -the public vision, “the report said, citing Time Attorney David McCraw.
In an apart statement on Saturday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said no one in the White House knew about the gag order until Friday night.
“The issuance of subpoenas for journalists’ records in leak investigations is not consistent with the president’s political direction in the Department and the Justice Department has confirmed that it will not be used to advance, ”Psaki said.
Last month, Biden said it was “simply wrong” to seize journalists’ records and that his Justice Department would stop the practice.
Bruce D Brown, executive director of the Reporters’ Committee on Press Freedom, said he congratulated the Justice Department’s policy change, but left serious questions unanswered about what happened in each of those cases. .
“To ensure that it does not happen again, we hope to pursue further policy reforms with the Biden administration to further safeguard these essential rights,” it said in a statement.
“This is a welcome step in protecting the ability of the press to provide the public with essential information about what their government is doing,” New York Times editor AG Sulzberger said in a statement.
“However, much more needs to be done and we are still waiting for an explanation as to why the Justice Department moved so aggressively to seize journalists’ records.”
Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee said the newspaper called on the Biden administration and the Department of Justice “to provide full account of the chain of events in both administrations and to implement lasting protections to prevent future recurrence “.
The tactic of using subpoenas and court orders to obtain records of journalists has been used by Democratic and Republican administrations that want to identify sources of classified information.
The practice had received renewed scrutiny over the past month, as Justice Department officials had alerted reporters at The Washington Post, CNN, and the New York Times that their phone records had been obtained during the Trump administration.
American journalists had denounced Trump for what they called him a “sustained attack” in media during his time in office. The former Republican president journalists attacked regularly as “fake news” trafficking and being “an enemy of the people”.