WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin, D-Md., today sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to end its practice of spying on reporters to secretly identify their sources.
The Members’ letter follows recent news that the Trump administration, under former Attorney General William Barr, secretly obtained phone records and attempted to obtain email records from three Washington Post reporters between April 15, 2017 and July 31, 2017. During this time period, the reporters were investigating links between Trump officials and Russia.
“The Biden Administration has the opportunity to voluntarily leave behind the thuggish and Orwellian abuses of power of the last administration, and stand up as a world leader for press freedoms,” Wyden and Raskin wrote. “To that end, we urge you to revise DOJ’s guidelines for investigations of journalists. Simply put, the government should not collect journalists’ communications records unless it’s investigating them for a crime or as part of an investigation into foreign espionage, in which case it should get a warrant.”
While previous administrations have sought to obtain reporters’ communications records in efforts to identify the source of leaked information, it’s past time that the United States end this invasive practice that threatens freedom of the press. Wyden and Raskin plan to introduce new legislation in the coming months to protect reporters from being forced to disclose their sources. In 2017, Rep. Raskin introduced bipartisan legislation that would shield journalists from being compelled to revealconfidential sources and ensure that they can do their jobs without fear of imprisonment or intimidation.
The Members also requested thay DOJ provide reports for 2019 and 2020 on surveillance of media members under former-AG Barr, which have not been made public. DOJ began posting surveillance reports online in 2017, following a request by Wyden. Reports for 2016, 2017 and 2018 are all available online.
Read the full letter here.