DOJ Says It Won’t Use Subpoenas to Obtain Reporters’ Records

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The Department of Justice will no longer use subpoenas to secretly access reporters’ records when investigating leaks, it said Saturday, following through on a recent pledge from President Joe Biden.

Biden on May 21 said it was “simply wrong” to obtain the telephone and email records of journalists, and that he wouldn’t let it happen. The president commented after reports that the department had obtained the records of journalists from various news organizations during the Trump administration.

“Consistent with the President’s direction” the DOJ “will not seek compulsory legal process in leak investigations to obtain source information from members of the news media doing their jobs,” department spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement on Saturday reported by the Associated Press. He termed it a change to “longstanding practice.”

The move followed a New York Times report late Friday that it had been under a gag order by the DOJ regarding the agency’s efforts to obtain email logs of four reporters.

In response, Biden press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House was unaware of the gag order until Friday night, “as appropriate given the independence of the Justice Department in specific criminal cases.”

“The issuing of subpoenas for the records of reporters in leak investigations is not consistent with the President’s policy direction to the Department, and the Department of Justice has reconfirmed it will not be used moving forward,” Psaki said in a statement.

In May, the Washington Post reported that the Department of Justice obtained telephone records and attempted to get email records of three of its reporters who were looking into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The records of CNN correspondent Barbara Starr were also reportedly accessed.

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