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Government seized AP’s reporters’ and editors’ phone records

News organization calls the seizure a violation of its constitutional rights

The Associated Press (AP) is seething. Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) informed the news organization that it had seized two months of its reporters’ and editors’ phone records—an act AP President Gary Pruitt is calling a “serious interference with A.P.’s constitutional rights to gather and report news.”

On Friday, the DOJ told the AP that at some point this year, officials had seized two months’ worth of phone records from more than 20 lines used by AP journalists, including the organization’s offices and individuals’ homes and cell phones. The DOJ withheld the reason for the seizure, but considering the timing, the AP speculates it was related to the government’s investigation into the leaking of information about the Central Intelligent Agency’s disruption of a terrorist plot to bomb an airplane in Yemen.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Pruitt called the seizure a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into the AP’s activity. “There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” Pruitt wrote in the letter. “These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the news gathering activities undertaken by The A.P. during a two-month period, provide a road map to A.P.’s news gathering operations, and disclose information about A.P.’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”

The DOJ sometimes requests journalists’ phone records, but only as a last resort in an investigation. Usually, the DOJ gives the organization advanced notice, allowing it to challenge the request in court.

Read more about this story in the New York Times.

For more InsideCounsel stories about media companies in legal battles see:

Bloomberg admits to snooping scandal

Former Hearst interns can’t pursue class action, thanks to Duke

Unpaid Huffington Post bloggers lose appeals court bid

News Corp. agrees to $139 million shareholder settlement

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Cathleen Flahardy

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