Attorney General Eric Holder released a revised policy on surveillance of reporters, but the new plan does not entirely preclude the secret seizure of journalists’ emails, though an internal “News Media Review Committee” will help Holder decide when to do so.
The government can subpoena reporter records but delay informing the media that it has done so for 45 days, but only in the “most exceptional cases.” From the DOJ report:
If a determination is made by the attorney general to delay notification for an initial 45-day period, only the attorney general may authorize a delay of notification for up to an additional 45 days, and even then, only if the attorney general again determines, after an additional review by the News Media Review Committee, that, for compelling reasons, notice would post a clear and substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation, grave harm to national security, or imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm. No further delays may be sought beyond the 90-day period.
The report states that “the possibility that notice and negotiations with the media, and potential judicial review, may delay the investigation will not, on its own, be considered a compelling reason [for delayed notification] under this updated policy.”
The News Media Review Committee will be comprised of “senior Department officials . . . who are neither directly involved nor play a supervisory role in the investigations involved, [who] are engaged in the consideration of the use of investigative tools that involve members of the news media.”
The Washington Post reported in May that DOJ had designated Fox News’ James Rosen a “co-conspirator” during an investigation into a national security leak and subpoenaed his personal email records. DOJ also monitored Associated Press records while attempting to track down the source of a leak.
“The Department of Justice is firmly committed to ensuring our nation’s security, and protecting the American people, while at the same time safeguarding the freedom of the press,” Holder said today in a statement. “These revised guidelines will help ensure the proper balance is struck when pursuing investigations into unauthorized disclosures.”