Associated Press reporter Matt Lee challenged Ventrell on the procedures surrounding the release of journalists' movements within the State Department to outside agencies. Ventrell said he wasn't sure but that it was his understanding "a legal process is followed:"
QUESTION: Last week, I think you took this question.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: It was about what you guys do when the Department of Justice comes knocking on the door asking for records of people’s comings and goings from this building. So did you get an answer? Do you just hand them over blithely, or do you make them get a – some kind of a court order?
MR. VENTRELL: So, the Department of State cooperates in criminal investigations in a variety of ways, Matt, including by providing various records in support of DOJ investigations when requested. In general, no court order is required for such cooperation to take place.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. VENTRELL: Having said that, I do point you of course to the President’s speech, which was just a couple hours after I was up at the podium on Thursday, where he was very clear that a free press is essential for our democracy and that he is troubled by the possibility that investigations may chill investigative journalism, and that journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. So the President of the United States was very clear about that.
QUESTION: Well, I don’t see how that’s very clear about you guys just handing over entry and egress records. He didn’t say anything about that. So, is this --
MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, this is a federal building, and we cooperate --
QUESTION: -- is it – no, yeah, yeah, but --
MR. VENTRELL: -- with other federal agencies.
QUESTION: Right, for federal employees, presumably. But what about private citizens like journalists who come and go to this building? Is having a badge – and I don’t know, maybe it is – does the privilege of having a badge mean that your – that any of our records can just be opened up and looked at at any time without any kind of a court saying this?
MR. VENTRELL: The information that I have is that in general, no court order is required --
QUESTION: Okay, but --
MR. VENTRELL: -- for such cooperation --
MR. VENTRELL: -- with the Department of Justice --
QUESTION: Okay, but does that apply --
MR. VENTRELL: -- on ongoing law enforcement investigations.
QUESTION: Does that apply to federal employees’ badges, or journalists’, or both?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have any information one way or another.
QUESTION: So there’s no distinction made between an employee of the State Department who signs agreements to protect and keep confident – keep classified information confidential, and someone like any of us? There’s no distinction between that? Those records are --
MR. VENTRELL: According to the information I have --
QUESTION: -- wide open?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, we share them with the Department of Justice or other law enforcement agencies on a case-by-case basis.
QUESTION: Okay. So you are aware that they came in this case and asked for the --
MR. VENTRELL: Well, in some federal buildings they publish every --
MR. VENTRELL: -- entry and exit of --
QUESTION: I know. Listen, I’m not --
MR. VENTRELL: -- outside visitors, so --
QUESTION: -- I just want to know what the policy is. I’m not saying – I am not suggesting that there’s anything wrong, necessarily, with it. I just wanted to know what the policy was.
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, we’re a federal building and we share information as necessary with other federal agencies on law enforcement matters.