US says it will no longer seize reporters' records in leak probes

The US Department of Justice had previously fought a covert legal battle to access email logs of four of The New York Times' reporters in a hunt for leak sources.
The US Department of Justice had previously fought a covert legal battle to access email logs of four of The New York Times' reporters in a hunt for leak sources.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States government said on Saturday (June 5) that it would stop secretly obtaining reporters' phone and e-mail records during investigations into political leaks, ending a practice that was often criticised as undermining press freedom.

The New York Times this week reported that under Mr Donald Trump's administration and continuing under President Joe Biden, the Justice Department fought a covert legal battle to access e-mail logs of four of its reporters in a hunt for leak sources.

The Department of Justice said in a statement that "in a change to its longstanding practice - (it) will not seek compulsory legal process in leak investigations to obtain source information from members of the news media".

It added that it had "completed a review to determine all instances in which the Department had pending compulsory requests from reporters in leak investigations.

"All reporters involved have now been notified". White House press secretary Jen Psaki said "the issuing of subpoenas for the records of reporters in leak investigations is not consistent with the president's policy direction".

Among other media outlets, CNN reported last month that the Trump administration had secretly sought and obtained phone and e-mail records of one of its correspondents.