By Caleb Gasteiger | Staff Writers |
In an aggressive move to stop additional leaks from occurring, the Obama administration secretly seized two months of phone records from the Associated Press (AP).
The seizures were accomplished without the AP’s knowledge by bypassing the AP and going directly to the phone companies where they subpoenaed 20 phone lines including its offices, home phones and cellphones of journalists, according to The New York Times.
Chief Executive of the AP, Gary Pruitt, addressed the situation in a public statement about what this means to his publication and America.
“We don’t question their right to conduct these sorts of investigations,” said Pruitt, to “Face the Nation” on CBS.
The Justice Department’s regulations on subpoenas state that, “subpoenas for journalists’ phone records should be a last resort, made when there would be a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation in notifying a news organization in advance.”
Pruitt disagrees with their actions and even goes as far as accusing them of being “unconstitutional.”
As a result of the incident, the AP’s credibility has been threatened with many of its outside sources who chose not to share information based on the fear of the government monitoring them.
“Officials who would normally talk to us, and people we would talk to in the normal course of news gathering, are already saying to us that they’re a little reluctant to talk to us; they fear that they will be monitored by the government,” said Pruitt to The New York Times.
Pruitt claims the government is sending a message to officials; “if you talk to the press, we’re going to go after you.”
“It’s too early to know if we’ll take legal action, but I can tell you we are positively displeased and we do feel that our constitutional rights have been violated,” said Pruitt.
Reasoning for the Justice Department’s actions stems from an incident on May 7, 2012 when a CIA operation successfully stopped an airliner bombing through access of the phone records.
Although the government information was labeled classified, someone leaked it to the AP, a disclosure of information CIA Director John Brennan says is, “unauthorized and dangerous.”
The AP withheld the information at the request of the White House and the CIA until government officials said the threat had passed.
Even after the officials believed that the threat had passed, they requested that the story be printed only after an official announcement was made from the White House.
The Sun reported that news services found it was important to publish because the White House and Department of Homeland Security told the American public there was “no credible evidence of a terrorist threat to the U.S.”
In response to this statement, Pruitt felt the public was misled. “We felt the American public needed to know this story,” said Pruitt.
In response to the criticism surrounding the unauthorized access of the phone records, President Obama announced a review of the guidelines exercising investigations for journalists last Thursday.