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'Unprecedented': Obama administration seizes many Associated Press phone records

Published: Tuesday, May 14 2013 11:35 a.m. MDT

The Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington is photographed early in the morning Tuesday, May 14, 2013. The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news.

J. David Ake, Associated Press

Anonymous leaks to the media have long been the bane of politicians in Washington, D.C. But no administration has ever taken the drastic measures that President Barack Obama’s Justice Department recently employed by seizing a wide swath of phone records from the Associated Press.

Mark Sherman wrote for AP, “The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a ‘massive and unprecedented intrusion’ into how news organizations gather the news. …

“The government would not say why it sought the records. U.S. officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have leaked information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.

“Prosecutors have sought phone records from reporters before, but the seizure of records from such a wide array of AP offices, including general AP switchboards numbers and an office-wide shared fax line, is unusual and largely unprecedented.”

Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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