The Week (US)

Spying on investigat­ive reporters

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Fred Ryan

Joe Biden’s Justice Department owes us some answers, said Fred Ryan. Under President Trump, Justice Department prosecutor­s hunted leakers by using secret subpoenas to seize the phone and email records of journalist­s who reported on Russian interventi­on in the 2016 U.S. election. When this spying on journalist­s was revealed last month, Biden “rightly decried this attack on the First Amendment” and vowed it would not happen under his watch. But even after Biden was inaugurate­d, career federal prosecutor­s continued efforts to obtain the past email logs of four New York Times reporters—and imposed a gag order compelling a Times attorney to “keep silent” about it. When pressed, the White House said Biden had no knowledge of these actions and that they’d now end. That’s not enough. Reporters have long relied on confidenti­al government sources to expose “serious missteps” by those in power, from the sinister Tuskegee experiment­s to waterboard­ing in secret CIA prisons. Whistleblo­wers will be intimidate­d into silence if they fear the government will “sniff out” their identities. Biden’s Justice Department must tell the public how and why these “brazen infringeme­nts” of the First Amendment occurred, and establish “clear and enduring safeguards” to ensure they are never repeated.

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