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It's No Shield Law, But These New DOJ Guidelines Will Help Protect Journalists It's No Shield Law, But These New DOJ Guidelines Will Help Protect Jou...

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Policy

It's No Shield Law, But These New DOJ Guidelines Will Help Protect Journalists

Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to reveal new department guidelines on leak investigations Friday.(Charles Dharapak/AP)

photo of Brian Fung
July 12, 2013

The Justice Department is preparing to release a new set of guidelines today for dealing with leaks of information to the press.

The new rules are aimed at clarifying what information DOJ is allowed to request during law enforcement investigations involving journalists. In recent months, the Justice Department has come under fire for secretly seizing telephone metadata from Associated Press reporters as well as the content of individual emails in the case of Fox News reporter James Rosen.

The department's revised guidelines, which were hand-delivered to President Obama this morning by Attorney General Eric Holder, could legitimize the seizure of emails and "other data" owned or created by journalists in the course of speaking to sensitive administration sources. But according to MSNBC, the Justice Department will also introduce a few new checks on itself.

 

Per MSNBC, DOJ plans to begin publishing annual reports listing government requests for journalists' data—which sounds similar to the transparency reports compiled by tech companies like Google. In addition, journalists will also be able to fight those requests in court.

It's unclear whether that means reporters will be able to challenge requests if they aren't the direct recipient. If so, that'd be a big deal.

An unnamed DOJ official told Reuters that the new guidelines require the department to tell a news outlet in advance if its phone records or other data are being subpoenaed. No search warrants will be served to journalists engaged in "ordinary news-gathering activities." And, in a direct response to the case involving Rosen, the new guidelines prohibit the FBI from naming any journalist as a co-conspirator to leak government information.

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