AP Chief: DOJ Grab of Reporter Phone Records Unconstitutional

On Face the Nation Sunday, AP’s president and executive said that the government’s seizure of AP reporters phone records was unconstitutional.  Gary Pruitt “called the Justice Department’s actions ‘unconstitutional’ and said the AP hasn’t ruled out legal action.”

Pruitt went on to say that sources were less willing to talk to AP journalists, which would limit information coming from news outlets.  

“And if they restrict that apparatus … the people of the United States will only know what the government wants them to know and that’s not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment,” he said.

Legal action has not been ruled out, “It’s too early to know if we’ll take legal action but I can tell you we are positively displeased and we do feel that our constitutional rights have been violated.”

The Department of Justice obtained phone records from AP after a story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen on the one-year anniversary of Osama Bin Laden’s death.  The AP delayed publishing their story when government officials said that the story would endanger national security.  

Pruitt said the AP published the story only after officials from two government entities said the threat had passed. He said the administration still asked that the story be held until an official announcement the next day, a request the AP rejected.

Publicly, the White House and Homeland Security said there was no “credible evidence” of a terrorist threat. “So that was misleading to the American public. We felt the American public needed to know this story,” Pruitt said.

“We’re not going to be intimidated by the abusive tactics of the Justice Department,” he said.

Take a number, Mr. Pruitt.