The journalist group Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has penned a letter of complaint to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder after revelations that the Department of Justice obtained the phone records of some 100 reporters from the Associated Press.
The letter informs Holder that the group was “stunned” to learn of the DOJ’s actions against the Associated Press and notes that none of them could “remember an instance where such an overreaching dragnet for news gathering materials was deployed by the Department.”
“The scope of this action calls into question the very integrity of Department of Justice policies toward the press and its ability to balance, on its own, its police powers against the First Amendment rights of the news media and the public’s interest in reporting on all manner of government conduct, including matters touching on national security which lie at the heart of this case,” the letter states.
The letter continues to outline the legal implications, processes, and the law governing the DOJ’s requests for such records and ends by demanding that the Dept. of Justice “immediately return the telephone toll records obtained and destroy all copies” it holds.
The letter ends with a few final demands.
[The Dept. of Justice] should explain how government lawyers overreached so egregiously in this matter and describe what the Department will do to mitigate the impact of these actions. Additionally, the Department must also publicly disclose more information on who has had access to the records and what protections were taken to ensure that information unrelated to a specific criminal investigation was not utilized by any Department employees…
And finally, the Department should announce whether it has served any other pendingnews media-related subpoenas that have not yet been disclosed.
The letter is signed by such media outlets as Atlantic Media, CNN, Cox Media, Forbes, Gannett, McClatchy, The New York Times, Politico, NPR, and more.