Department of Justice adopts new restrictions on obtaining journalists’ records
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Department of Justice adopts new restrictions on obtaining journalists’ records

The Department of Justice on Monday formally adopted policies sharply restricting the instances in which prosecutors can seek records or testimony from reporters.

The agency’s new policies were outlined in a memo issued by Attorney General Merrick Garland.

“This new prohibition applies to compulsory legal process issued to reporters directly, to their publishers or employers, and to third-party service providers of any of the foregoing,” Garland said in the memo.

“As with the current regulations, this prohibition on compulsory process does not apply to obtaining information from or records of a member of the news media who is subject or target of an investigation when that status is not based on or within the scope of news gathering activities,” Garland added.

The news comes after The Washington Post, CNN, and The New York Times learned earlier this year that the Trump Justice Department had seized records of some of their reporters.

CNN’s general counsel, David Vigilante, was even bound for nearly a year by a gag order that prohibited him from discussing or acknowledging that the government was seeking to compel the disclosure of emails from Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

A similar gag order was also placed on The Times.

When news organizations first reported publicly what had happened, President Joe Biden vowed to end the practice.

Press advocates have called for regulations to be codified into law so that future administrations do not resume the practice of targeting journalists.

Garland noted in his Monday memo that he has asked Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco to conduct a review to develop regulations for that purpose.

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