Jul 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

DOJ limits federal prosecutors from seizing reporters' records

Merrick Garland, U.S. attorney general, speaks during a news conference.

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced new guidelines Monday limiting Justice Department and FBI investigators from seizing materials from reporters and news outlets except in extreme cases.

Why it matters: The new policy follows disclosures that the DOJ, under the Trump administration, secretly obtained records of several journalists, including one at CNN, three at the Washington Post and four from the New York Times.

  • In May, President Biden said he wouldn't allow the Justice Department to seize journalists' email or phone records.

The big picture: The new policy aims to resolve the issue of Justice Department prosecutors trying to weigh the media's First Amendment rights against the government's desire to protect classified information, the Associated Press notes.

  • Federal prosecutors can, in some cases, seize journalists’ records if the reporters are suspected of working for agents of a foreign power or terrorist organization or in situations with imminent risks, like kidnappings or crimes against children, AP reports.

What they're saying: "To further protect members of the news media in a manner that will be enduring, [Garland] asked the Deputy Attorney General to undertake a review process to further explain, develop, and codify the policy announced today into Department regulations," the DOJ announcement reads.

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