Five Changes to Justice Department Guidelines Designed To Protect Reporters

Accused of criminalizing journalism, Holder releases new rules for leak cases

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Mark Wilson / Getty Images

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the Justice Department on June 25, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Weeks after an uproar over its aggressive surveillance of reporters in two national security leak probes—including accusations that it had criminalized journalism—the Justice Department on Friday released new guidelines designed to protect the media.

In one case, revealed in May, prosecutors obtained months of records for business and personal phones of dozens of Associated Press reporters during its investigation into a leak about a thwarted al Qaeda bomb plot in Yemen. Under the new guidelines announced by Attorney General Eric Holder, investigators must provide notice and negotiate with media outlets when they seek access to records in nearly all cases. Currently, notification can be delayed for months or longer if an Assistant Attorney General finds that it might endanger the investigation. The burden of proof is now reversed, requiring the Attorney General to determine affirmatively that advance notice will harm the investigation or national security. Only the Attorney General can delay notification, and only for a period of 45 days at a time. No delays are permitted after 90 days. Still, nothing in the new regulations outright prohibits the seizure of media records.

“The Department of Justice is firmly committed to ensuring our nation’s security, and protecting the American people, while at the same time safeguarding the freedom of the press,” Holder said in a statement accompanying the report. “These revised guidelines will help ensure the proper balance is struck when pursuing investigations into unauthorized disclosures.”

Holder also announced a change pertinent to another high-profile leak probe, in which Justice Department attorneys obtained warrants for phone and email records of Fox News reporter James Rosen, who reported classified details about North Korea provided by a State Department source. Prosecutors had identified Rosen as a “criminal co-conspirator” in court documents to enable their access to those records. Holder announced Friday that warrants cannot be sought under the so-called “suspect exemption,” as in Rosen’s case, when the activity in question is directly related to news gathering. Additionally, the Attorney General must now personally approve any search warrants targeting members of the news media.

The changes seem likely to please President Barack Obama, who has presided over the aggressive federal prosecution of leaks, but who also said in a May speech that he was “troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable. Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. “

Adding yet another layer of protection for journalists chasing government secrets, Holder said the new guidelines require the intelligence community to show that any information triggering a leak case was properly classified in the first place. And the Justice Department is tightening control over news media records it obtains, limiting disclosure only to those who have a need to know; using them only in relation to the specific investigation or judicial proceeding; and storing them in a secure, unsearchable facility. Only the Deputy Attorney General may allow pertinent records to be used in a separate case — and in particularly serious cases.

The Justice Department will also keep closer track of its own actions involving reporters.  A “News Media Review Committee” will review all prosecutor requests for media records. (Committee members will include the Justice Department’s public affairs director and the department’s chief privacy and civil liberties officer.) The department will also publish annual data on requests and warrants for news media records. And it will create a “News Media Dialogue Group,” which will include news representatives and DOJ attorneys, and which will meet annually to assess the changes.

The early response from Washington reporters was positive. “Encouraging,” tweeted the New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza, who has closely followed the issue. David Lauter, Washington bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune tweeted that “our lawyers… are pretty excited” and that the guidelines “look like significant improvements.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama was briefed by Holder on the new guidelines Friday morning and that the President “accepted” the report.

The full report is below:

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9 comments
Yoshi
Yoshi

How about just ONE change. Stop meddling with the press. The only reason to meddle with it is to control it and keep the people (at least those who actually care) from knowing what's actually going on.

ahandout
ahandout

Obama and Holder prosecute more whistle blowers and leakers than all administrations ever; they accuse a journalist of a crime in order to get a phony search warrant, not stopping at just the reporter, but seize his parents records.  Obama has made it a criminal act to be a journalist (a real journalist, not the parrots that make up the MSM). 

Time's headline: Five Changes to Justice Department Guidelines Designed To Protect Reporters

This conveys several things:  Time thinks its readers are stupid.  Time's readers and reporters are stupid.  If this is the future of journalism we are screwed as a nation of free people.

TyPollard
TyPollard

@ahandout 

Handy, 

We could make real progress if you and other opponents focused on true weaknesses of Obama like this instead of the multitude of bogus "scandals" invented by FOX and Republican strategists. I mean this sincerely. The idea that the left are hero worshiping Obamabots couldn't be any farther from the truth. It's just that we want to focus on reality instead of correcting mis-information like Benghazi or Birth certificates or arguing Global Warming or whether Democrats are the real racists because Lincoln was a Republican and a 100 years ago Dems started the KKK and many fought the Civil Rights Act.

I think these distractions cost Republicans the White House and hold back our Nation from progress that we could all agree on.

Thank you.

ahandout
ahandout

@TyPollard @ahandout  I don't know who "we" is to you.  

Obama is making progress.  The scandals aren't bogus; the reporting is.  It should never be OK to lie to the American people, spy on them, coverup, pass a massive tax increase disguised as healthcare reform, punish your enemies using the IRS, FBI, NSA, EPA...

All of the scandals are yelling that Obama is a disaster for a free people.  Make that formerly free with the fundamental changey thing.  

Seriously, when you claim that Benghazi was "invented," you make yourself sound ridiculous.  Nobody invented the death of our ambassador and the following coverup by the White House.  

The IRS ITSELF appologized for its behavior.  But, you think that was just an illusion produced by FOX.  

Americans died from Fast and Furious; NOT an illusion. Holder lied; nobody made that up, except Holder himself.

Obama promised to not spy on Americans and then he turns the NSA into his own private KGB.  J. Edgar Hoover would love it. 

Or arguing Global Warming...you realize that REAL science welcomes challenge? NO? no, you don't.

Given all this, you expect people to take you seriously, to not think that you are just an Obamabot.

My question is, are you kidding?

ahandout
ahandout

Does this sound anything like a  REAL scientist who wants others to review his work? No, because he's not a real scientist.

“I’ve been told that IPCC is above national FOI [Freedom of Information] Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 would be to delete all emails at the end of the process,”writes Phil Jones, a scientist working with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in a newly released email.

“Any work we have done in the past is done on the back of the research grants we get – and has to be well hidden,” Jones writes in another newly released email. “I’ve discussed this with the main funder (U.S. Dept of Energy) in the past and they are happy about not releasing the original station data.”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2011/11/23/climategate-2-0-new-e-mails-rock-the-global-warming-debate/



ahandout
ahandout

@TyPollard@ahandout  OK, I'll play one more time.  Here is what you and many of you that believe in the "science" behind global warming do not understand.  You do not have to be a specialist in a field to audit a data set and the way that is manipulated in order to display a set of results.  Data, in the form of numbers is universal across science, math, and statistical analysis.  Anyone, who has been trained (that means knows math and statistics) can audit how a "scientist" manipulates his data.

That's what the IPCC did, manipulated data.  Again, it's not hard to see.  Instead of researching the correlation of the INCREASE of CO2 on temperature, they assumed that there was a correlation and built computer models based on that assumption and the computer predictions failed.  Meaning that they are wrong.  

The earth has been warming for thousands of years in a cyclical pattern, like waves on the ocean: hot and cold with a bias to the up side: getting hotter.  Taking a small fraction of that time period and magnifying it is another way of manipulating data.  

Data manipulation

Informally called "fudging the data," this practice includes selective reporting (see also publication bias) and even simply making up false data.

Examples of selective reporting abound. The easiest and most common examples involve choosing a group of results that follow a pattern consistent with the preferred hypothesis while ignoring other results or "data runs" that contradict the hypothesis...

...Scientists, in general, question the validity of study results that cannot be reproduced by other investigators. However, some scientists refuse to publish their data and methods.[5]

In addition, the earth's atmosphere has had levels of 500, 1000, 3000, and 5000 ppm of CO2 in eons past.  The climate did NOT spin out of control and become hotter and hotter.  The history of the earth's climate  disproves the alarmist theory. 

TyPollard
TyPollard

@ahandout @TyPollard 

OK

I tried.

I respond to one point. Yes, Scientists welcome challenges... From other TRAINED scientist who are experts in the field being debated. They even welcome challenges from novices that provide verifiable and repeatable experiments and data. 

I was pointing out an area of AGREEMENT. 

There are others like the NSA (which is a bi-partisan scandal)

if you could focus we (you ,I and other Americans) could make progress...but you can't, so I won't waste my time again.

Good luck with your unfocused and incoherent rage.

emtb11
emtb11

Holder is a walking, talking disaster.

destor23
destor23

It took way too long.  DOJ also needs to apologize to AP and Fox as well as strike and return all seized records.