The Washington Post was one of the few news organizations in Washington DC to attend the off the record briefing by the Department of Justice to address the recent concerns over the DOJ’s heavy-handed use of search warrants on reporters. According to their account of the meeting, the “off the record” provisions were modified and some elements of the meeting were permitted to be disclosed:
The 90-minute meeting was attended by a small group of journalists after several news organizations objected to the Justice Department’s insistence that it be held off the record. The participants, however, reached an agreement with the Justice Department under which they could describe what occurred during the meeting in general terms.
DOJ representatives continue to insist that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the actions of Attorney General Eric Holder in characterizing reporters as “potential criminals” and “flight risks” in order to obtain subpoenas for extensive phone record and email surveillance. But, according to the Washington Post‘s account of the briefing, Holder described all of the ways that he intends to behave differently in the future:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. pledged Thursday to take concrete steps to address concerns that the Justice Department has overreached in its leak investigations and said officials would seek procedural and possibly legislative changes to protect journalists’ First Amendment rights…
…”I think it’s constructive that they are willing to address the criticisms of the department. But what will really matter is if they follow through and make some changes,” said Jane Mayer, a staff writer at the New Yorker who attended the meeting.
A perfect example of the current state of the media in Washington DC: An off the record briefing is “allowed” to be semi-sort-of “on the record,” and the Attorney General insists he did nothing wrong and vows to put new provisions in place to keep himself from ever doing it again.
And everyone seems to be just fine with all of this. Welcome to Washington.