The Week (US)
Spying on investigative reporters
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.