Garland Formally Bars DOJ From Seizing Reporters’ Records In Major Policy Shift

by | Oct 27, 2022 | Politics

The Department of Justice issued new rules barring the agency from using subpoenas, search warrants and certain court orders to seize information or records from journalists as it probes leaks of government information, a major policy shift promised last year by Attorney General Merrick Garland.Garland first put in place temporary policies in July 2021 amid reports the DOJ, under then-Attorney General William Barr, had secretly sought email records of reporters from several news outlets that reported critically on the Trump administration. Targets included journalists at CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times, and the revelations prompted fury from advocates for the free press.AdvertisementThe formal adoption of the new regulations represents a major policy shift for the Justice Department and will limit the agency’s ability to pursue investigations into leaks from within the government.“These regulations recognize the crucial role that a free and independent press plays in our democracy,” Garland said in a statement Wednesday. “Because freedom of the press requires that members of the news media have the freedom to investigate and report the news, the new regulations are intended to provide enhanced protection to members of the news media from certain law enforcement tools and actions that might unreasonably impair newsgathering.”President Joe Biden also vowed that he would not allow the seizure of reporters’ records to continue, calling the practice “simply wrong.”AdvertisementThe change was hailed by free press advocates.“This is a watershed moment,” Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said in a statement. “The new policy marks a historic shift in protecting the rights of news organizations reporting on stories of critical public importance.” There are some carve-outs to the new policies. The DOJ would still be able to seize the records of reporters suspected of committing crimes, or in other highly specific circumstances. …

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