New US Guidelines Vow to Limit Anti-Press Probes

Justice Dept to Only Seize Journalists' Files for 'Criminal Investigations'

by Jason Ditz, July 12, 2013

A new US Justice Department report details for the first time guidelines under which the administration will seize the data of journalists, saying such moves will only be done as a “last resort” or during criminal investigations of those journalists.

Attorney General Eric Holder presented the guidelines as making a “meaningful difference” with respect to anti-media probes, but the guidelines themselves by and large insist that the policies were already in place and are just being codified into law.

The Justice Department did promise to create a “News Media Review Committee” that will advise officials on their probes, though the White House downplayed the impact of the new rules, saying that they still remain committed to preventing journalists from committing “dangerous leaks of classified national security information.”

The vagueness of the pledges, along with the focus on whistleblowers, suggests that the administration’s policy change is a distinction, but not a real difference, and the goal is still to scare government employees away from talking to the media.

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