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13/05/2013 |Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson in New York and Richard McGregor in WashingtonFinancial Times
AP accuses US officials over press freedom

The Associated Press accused the US Department of Justice of “serious interference” with press freedoms after it secretly obtained records of its journalists’ office, mobile and home phones as part of a leak inquiry.

The news agency said it had been alerted to the seizure in a letter from the office of Ronald Machen, US attorney for the District of Columbia, on Friday. It said the department had obtained “telephone toll records” for more than 20 lines, including its bureaus in New York, Washington and the House of Representatives.

The Obama administration has launched at least six prosecutions over the unauthorised disclosure of information, more than any other administration, and the AP investigation will add to disquiet about its tactics in pursuing sources of leaks.

“We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news,” Gary Pruitt, AP’s chief executive, protested in a letter to Eric Holder, the US attorney-general.

The AP, a co-operative owned by newspapers and broadcasters, reported that the DoJ had not stated a reason, but noted that prosecutors had said they were investigating how the agency broke the news that the CIA had thwarted a plot by an al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen.

Mr Pruitt expressed alarm about the scope of the “overbroad” DoJ investigation. “These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period,” he said, disclosing information “that the government has no conceivable right to know”.

US regulations require that subpoenas for a reporter’s phone records must be “as narrowly drawn as possible”, his letter noted.

Leak inquiries are usually launched after a referral by an agency, such as the CIA, to the justice department, which then assigns the case to a US attorney.

Government officials said that in leak inquiries journalists were usually the last group targeted because investigators assume that reporters will not provide any information about their sources.

In a statement, the US attorney’s office said it took seriously regulations that require it to “make every reasonable effort to obtain information through alternative means before even considering a subpoena for the phone records of a member of the media”.

It added: “We must notify the media organisation in advance unless doing so would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.” The AP said it had not been given notice of the subpoenas.

“Because we value the freedom of the press, we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the public interest in the free flow of information and the public interest,” the US attorney’s office said.

The AP has demanded an immediate explanation and called on the DoJ to return the telephone records to the AP and destroy all copies.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said: “Other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the justice department to seek phone records of the AP.
“We are not involved in decisions made in connection with criminal investigations, as those matters are handled independently by the justice department.”

13/05/2013 |美国之音





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