Trump Justice Department Obtained Phone And Email Recordings From CNN Reporter
WASHINGTON – The Trump administration’s Justice Department has secretly obtained 2017 phone records from a CNN correspondent, the network said Thursday, revealing the existence of another apparent leak investigation aimed at identifying sources of ‘a journalist.
The revelation comes two weeks after The Washington Post revealed that the Justice Department seized telephone tapes belonging to three of its reporters last year covering the Russia investigation.
CNN said the Justice Department informed Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr in a May 13 letter that it had obtained telephone and electronic records covering a two-month period between June 1 and July 31. 2017.
“CNN strongly condemns the covert collection of any aspect of a journalist’s correspondence, which is clearly protected by the First Amendment,” CNN Chairman Jeff Zucker said in a statement released by the network. “We are asking for an immediate meeting with the Justice Department for an explanation.”
The Justice Department confirmed that the files were formally searched last year, although it did not reveal anything else about the investigation and what story might relate. CNN said that during the two-month period indicated in the letter, Starr’s reporting included articles on Syria and Afghanistan and coverage of US military options in North Korea that were being offered to President Donald Trump. .
“The cases in question relate to 2017 and the legal procedure to search for these cases was approved in 2020,” Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement. “Ministry leadership will meet with reporters soon to hear their concerns about recent opinions and to further convey Attorney General (Merrick) Garland’s unwavering support and commitment to a free and independent press.”
The letter said the government had searched for records of Starr’s Pentagon phone extension, the CNN Pentagon booth phone number, and records of his home and cell phone. The government also said it had obtained “non-content information” from its emails, which would include information about senders and recipients, but not the actual content of the communications.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department announced revised guidelines for obtaining documents from news media during criminal leak investigations, removing terms that news agencies deemed ambiguous and requiring additional levels of review before a reporter can be subpoenaed.
The updated policy was a response to outrage among news outlets at the Obama administration’s tactics seen as overly aggressive and hostile to news gathering.
Bruce Brown, executive director of the Journalists’ Committee for Freedom of the Press, said Thursday the seizure of a telephone recording was a “big story that just got bigger.”
“The fact that a reporter from another news organization had communications materials seized by Trump’s Justice Department suggests that the last administration’s efforts to interfere with the relationship between the reporters and the source and news gathering are more radical than originally thought, ”Brown said.
He called on the Ministry of Justice to explain exactly what happened and “how it plans to strengthen protections for the free flow of information to the public”.