The Ministry of Justice quietly seized telephone tapes and attempted to obtain emails from three Washington Post reporters, apparently due to their coverage of then-US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election, according to government officials and letters reviewed by the post office.
Department of Justice regulations generally require news agencies to be notified when citing such documents. However, although the Trump administration approved the decision, officials apparently left the notification part with the Biden administration. I guess they never figured it out. Probably too busy inspiring an insurgency and trying to overthrow the presidential election.
In three separate letters dated May 3 to reporters Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller and former reporter Adam Entous, the Justice Department wrote that they had been “hereby notified that, pursuant to legal process, the The United States Department of Justice had received toll statements associated with the following telephone numbers for the period April 15, 2017 to July 31, 2017, ”according to the Post. Miller’s work and cell phone numbers, Entous’ cell phone number, and Nakashima’s work, cell phone and home numbers were listed. These recordings included all calls to and from the phones as well as the duration of each call, but did not reveal what had been said.
According to the letters, the Post reports that prosecutors also obtained a court order to seize “tapes of communications without content” for journalists’ email accounts, which would allow disclosure of who sent to whom and when. the emails were sent, but not their content. However, officials ultimately did not get those records, the outlet said.
“We are deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to journalists’ communications,” said Post’s acting editor Cameron Barr. “The Department of Justice should immediately make clear the reasons for this intrusion into the activities of journalists doing their job, an activity protected by the First Amendment.”
Frustratingly, the letters apparently don’t fit Why the Department of Justice entered this data. A spokesperson for the department told the outlet that the decision to do so was made in 2020 under the Trump administration. (It should be noted that former President Donald Trump has made it clear that he despises the news media and the government runaways who provide them with their scoops.)
Based on the time period cited in the letters and what reporters covered in those months, the Post speculates that their investigations into the sessions and Russian interference could explain why the ministry wanted to get their hands on their data. telephone.
During this period, the three journalists published a story detailing federal correspondence that then indicated-Sen. Sessions from Alabama discussed the Trump campaign in 2016 with Sergey Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the United States at the time. During this same period, journalists also wrote on how the Obama administration struggled to counter Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Sessions, which then served as Trump’s attorney general from 2017 to 2018, were held a press conference in August 2017, just four days after the period mentioned in the letters, where he pledged to redouble his efforts to spot and prosecute government leaks.
“This culture of flight must stop,” Sessions said at the time.
In order for the Justice Department to subpoena journalists’ files, it must have exhausted all possible avenues to obtain such information and obtained approval from the Attorney General, in accordance with agency regulations. Friday, Ministry of Justice Spokesman Marc Raimondi told the Post the move was seen as a last resort which the agency does not take lightly:
“Although rare, the Department follows the procedures set out in its Media Guidelines policy when seeking a legal process to obtain telephone toll statements and e-mails without content from members of the media in connection with an investigation. criminal investigation into unauthorized disclosure of classified information. The targets of these investigations are not the recipients of the news media, but rather those who have access to the national defense information which provided it to the media and who therefore failed to protect it as legally required. “
Regardless, the news drew fierce condemnation from media organizations, which argued that the actions of the Justice Department may have violated the First Amendment. Bruce Brown, the executive director of the Reporters’ Committee for Press Freedom, called it “imperative” that the Justice Department explain its reasoning and explain why the agency only notifies the Post a few months after the decision has been made.
“It is imperative that the new leadership of the Ministry of Justice explain exactly when prosecutors seized these cases, why they are only now informing the Post Office, and on what basis the Ministry of Justice decided to waive the presumption prior notification under its own guidelines when the investigation apparently involves reporting more than three years in the past, ”he said A declaration published Friday.